The opportunities to learn quantitative skills in an international context and to study Thai brought Ryan Hohler to the La Follette School of Public Affairs.
While an undergraduate at Michigan State University, Hohler interned with the U.S. State Department's Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs at the U.S. Consulate General in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
"I have developed a strong interest in mainland Southeast Asia, mainly Thailand, Laos, Burma, Vietnam and southwestern China," says Hohler, who attended Chiang Mai University and National Taiwan University in Taipei. He graduated from Michigan State in fall 2011.
His interest in the region grew from his travels in northern Thailand for study abroad, his time with the State Department and his interactions with the Hmong refugee population in the United States.
"I chose to pursue an international affairs degree to bolster my understanding of international development, trade, economics, finance, business and diplomacy," Hohler says. "The Master of International Public Affairs degree offers the best opportunity for me to learn about the larger, underlying forces at play in the world (diplomacy, financial systems, globalization). The knowledge and skills that I am gaining at La Follette will be helpful whether I pursue a career with the government, non-profit or private sector."
Hohler received a fellowship for his first year at La Follette. For the 2013-14 academic year, he will have a project assistantship with professor Melanie Manion. The fellowship and PAship mean he can pay in-state tuition. "These opportunities make a world of difference," Hohler says. "The fellowship last year allowed me to focus 100 percent on my academic studies. I am so grateful for the support and take pride in being affiliated with the La Follette School. The fact that the school supports me and places trust in me being a successful student and leading a successful career means lot and provides me with motivation to perform well in my classes."
Hohler is focusing his studies on international development, trade and finance. He values the freedom the La Follette program offers students to choose elective courses that suit their policy interests. He is taking courses in the University of Wisconsin–Madison's economics and finance departments, and he is building on his undergraduate background in civil engineering by taking Management of Civil Infrastructure Systems and a mechanical engineering course called Design of Machine Elements.
Hohler is also taking advantage of the university's vast offering of language studies. "I am improving my Thai language skills by taking two advanced courses with professor Robert Bickner, who is a leading scholar in Thai linguistics," says Hohler, who won a Foreign Language and Area Studies fellowship to study Uzbek with UW's Central Eurasian Studies Summer Institute. The eight-week session is the equivalent of one year of study. He studied Thai with the Southeast Asian Studies Summer Institute at UW-Madison in 2006 and Hmong in 2008.
Hohler notes that the La Follette program offers "rigorous courses that force you to learn the material well. Also, they teach you skills that are useful in the real world."
He plans to apply to the Foreign Service with the U.S. State Department and would like ultimately to work as a political or economic officer. "I believe America is the best country in the world," Hohler says, "and I want to serve by being a representative of what our country stands for abroad."