Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs
Yixuan Shao

Yixuan Shao, MPA ’16

United Nations Development Program, Beijing, China
Program Assistant for Global Partnerships and Liaison
Hometown: Zhoushan Island, Zhejiang Province, China

How has your MPA degree helped you in your current position?

In my work with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in Beijing, China, I’m involved in working through their memorandum of understanding with China to facilitate implementing the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) [a development strategy focusing on connectivity and cooperation among Asia, Europe and Africa], – which now covers more than 68 countries in the region, equivalent to 65% of the world’s population and 40% of the global GDP as of 2017. Our work focuses on ensuring that countries and regions are achieving greater economic growth under the BRI in an environmentally and socially sustainable way.

In the MPA program, I developed solid policy and writing skills, which I use for my policy and advocacy work. I benefited from writing a policy brief on a topic that interested me; it helped me – as an international student – learn how to write effectively in English. And the solid analytical training in economics and statistics helps me to interpret data, and that’s been very meaningful. In evidence-based policy making, it’s so important to have data to support my writing. It was a rich experience to learn from my diverse peers, even outside of the classroom.

How did your MPA consultancy prepare you for your current position?

My consultancy with the institutional law division of the European Central Bank in Frankfurt, Germany was one of the highlights of the MPA program. Learning how to approach and solve problems — skills I developed in my coursework — was especially relevant in my consultancy, where I researched issues that affect the issuance of euro banknotes and coins. This consultancy was a springboard to my current position with UNDP as it was my first time working for an international organization, and I hadn’t realized that international development could be a career path.

How does your work contribute to the Common Good?

The BRI is arguably the most ambitious international development initiatives in the 21st century in both physical and economic scale and geographic spread, and there are real concerns about the initiative, such as whether the BRI can bring real development dividends to those participating countries. As the world’s largest development agency, UNDP is mandated to support developing countries achieve sustainable development goals. If we can stimulate sustainable and inclusive economic growth of these countries and regions along the Belt and Road, more social benefits – such as health care, education, economic equity, gender equality and environmental sustainability – should occur, too.

January 2018