Getting to Know the IS Program with Daniel Kim and David Hamburger

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For our second edition of “Getting to Know the IS Program”, we are featuring two current juniors, Daniel Kim and David Hamburger. They are both in the 5 year School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) BA/MA program and co-chairs of the International Studies Leadership Council (ISLC).

Daniel is from Goyangsi, South Korea, and an International Studies and Sociology double major, Economics minor and on the Global Social Change and Development Track. He is in his third year of Chinese and heavily involved on campus. Other than ISLC, he is the Chair of the Speakers’ Committee for the East Asian Student Advisory Committee, the Finance Director for the Inter-Asian Council (IAC), Treasurer for Sigma Iota Rho and until most recently, JHUMUNC XX as Chair of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP).

David is from Baltimore County, Maryland,  and an International Studies and Medicine, Science and the Humanities double major focusing on Medical Diplomacy. He is currently taking Spanish and like Daniel, David is also extremely involved on campus. He is a member of JHU Politik and helped organize the inaugural MedHacks event.

Here is what they had to say:

Why do you think International Studies is important?

Daniel: IS is important due to the simple fact that no one is ‘alone’ in the world today; that, virtually all persons are interconnected through vast telecommunications networks, multinational institutions, and social webs that span across continents and oceans. Studying these linkages is crucial to bringing about comprehensive change and development to those whose plights are made more conspicuous through these global channels

David: International Studies is important because of its unique ability to offer students exposure to a diversity of disciplines – economics, political theory, history, and foreign languages – that each offer insights on their own, but then meld them into a unified understanding of the world and the way it works (or should work). International Studies at Hopkins is important because it draws on all that is best about the university – faculty committed to undergraduates, a terrific humanities program, a unique emphasis on research that promotes thinking and doing – and offers the package to students curious and ready to put their learning into practice.

What are your favorite aspects of the International Studies major?

Daniel: The customizability of the IS major is perhaps the most attractive; the fact that I can double major with Sociology with relative ease and convenience while pursuing an independent study that works towards completion of my major allows me to freely experiment with various academic disciplines and create a track that is uniquely tailored to my interests. The gung-ho and supportive attitude of the small but incredibly competent staff of the IS program is also conducive for further exploration, whether inside or outside the classroom; whether domestic or abroad; whether economical or costly – as long as we clearly evidence the drive and passion for the topic at hand.

David: My favorite aspects of the international studies major are the opportunities for customizing the major to our interests, ranging from the popular to the more esoteric (Medical Diplomacy probably falls into the latter). This is part of a broader independence the Program offers to its students – giving them the opportunity to pursue independent research abroad, or discuss with world leaders at a round-table with 15 students – that reflects the remarkable level of confidence Hopkins and the Program places in each of us as undergraduates.

What has been your favorite class so far? Favorite professor? Favorite advisor?

Daniel: My favorite classes so far have been all my International Development courses. Professor Michael Levien’s “Issues in International Development” was my first exposure to the extremely broad but relevant subject that is development, and taking his pilot “Sociology of Dispossession” class helped solidify my interest in the field. “Migration and Development” with Professor Lingxin Hao and Rina Agarwala as well as “Colonialism and Anti-Colonialism” with my research PI, Professor Huei-Ying Kuo, have also been a pleasure, as they illuminated different facets of development that definitely required their own elaboration.

David: Really hard to say – so many have been terrific, though very different. Most unique was undoubtedly ‘The Arab Spring and the New Revolution,’ a riveting course taught by Ambassador Robert Ford, who had just returned from serving as the last US Ambassador to Syria before he taught the class. It was an incredible opportunity to hear from a world-renowned practitioner about the situation ‘on the ground’, but Ambassador Ford impressed most with his ability to put events into broader perspective and his personal dedication to each of the 30 of us in class (while juggling international media requests and Capitol Hill testimonies!). In a different way, Professor De Vries’ course on ‘Obama and Philosophy’ offered a glimpse at analyzing political theology and philosophy in the present day that was as thought-provoking as it was revelatory. It completely changed how I think about politics and diplomacy. And, coming during the 2016 election season, it allowed us to filter our thoughts about the politics of the moment through a humanistic and comparative lens that made for richer, more insightful, and more constructive conversation.

I’ve been tremendously lucky to have had uniformly generous and caring advisors, though Professors Steven David and Robert Freedman have supported me from the days when I was still deciding on Hopkins. And, of course, Dr. Van Morgan, Director of the International Studies Program, has made the Program a home for me – like she has for so many others – and never ceases to encourage me to learn more and explore further. Ms. Bruffett and Alex Kwon (and formerly Ms. Fedderly) have all contributed greatly to making my time in the Program so terrific.

Anything you would like to share about International Studies in general at Hopkins (how it affected you, people you have meet, programs you have attended):

Daniel: One word of advice for aspiring IS-majors: Beware of walking the well-trodden path – seriously. While that may be a safe and stable road, the invaluable tools with which we learn as IS majors are suited best for challenging, deconstructing, and ransacking pre-existing codes and structures – and aspiring for better, more sustainable, more efficient, more comprehensive ones. Experiment and explore; investigate and question; search, and you will find the lifelong career best suited for your natural abilities and passions.

David: Ask questions early and frequently. Apply for research – the experience is as important than the ‘result,’ if not more so. There are many opportunities to put what we learn into practice, to build on it, and to develop remarkable relationships with peers, faculty, and citizens across the world while doing so. And it’s fun!

I can’t imagine a more fulfilling and supportive experience than the one I’ve been fortunate to have with the International Studies Program, and at Hopkins more generally. That is almost exclusively due to the people – interesting and interested peers, committed faculty, and the supportive ISP team.

Daniel and David are wonderful representatives of the major and we wish them the best of luck at SAIS D.C. next year! Though we are sad to see them go, we are extremely grateful for their dedication to the improvement of international studies at Hopkins.

If you know of a student, faculty member or academic program that you think should be featured or other general comments and questions, please contact Sarah Fauska at