May 2019 Student Spotlight
May Student Spotlight with Ken Silverman MIA ‘20
Why did an award-winning Senior News Producer at the New York Bureau of Fuji TV Network News (Japan), Ken Silverman come back to school mid-career? For the challenges and opportunities. Ken discusses his professional pivot, the Marxe MIA program, his study away experience at SciencesPo in Paris, and more.
You came back to school mid-career; why did you choose the Marxe Master of International Affairs program? What are some key takeaways thus far?
I half-jokingly tell people that I came back to school because I wanted to have a productive mid-life crisis, and that I chose to purchase a post-graduate education instead of a convertible (also, the one that doesn’t depreciate!). On a more serious note, I fully understand how returning to school after such a long time can present added challenges. Hopefully I can be proof that it’s never too late. Having reported on international news and events for 13 years as a journalist for a Japanese news network, I longed for the chance to become more directly involved in the policy world. I arrived at the realization that the path to my career pivot would run through an international affairs program, and chose the Marxe MIA program precisely for the opportunity to be part of its first incoming class. I was drawn to the school’s dedication to public service, its focus on arming students with real-world marketable skills, and its emphasis on accommodating the needs of motivated working professionals.
I am constantly awed by the sheer volume of opportunities offered at Marxe, and by all of the support in place to ensure that its students can succeed (even if they have been away from academia for an extended period). I also feel very fortunate to be a part of our small but growing community of MIA students. We are a pretty resourceful bunch from all over the world with a wide variety of experiences, and are always sharing information on upcoming events, job postings, internships, fellowships, etc. For me, this network has been one of the great hidden treasures of joining the Marxe School.
What projects have you worked on as Researcher at CUNY’s Research Foundation?
This has been another great opportunity offered by Marxe: the chance to gain hands-on research experience working directly with faculty on funded projects. I am currently working on two separate research projects, both with Marxe professors. The first one I joined is a federally-funded study on security and illicit governance in Colombia. We have been collecting and analyzing data from Colombian news sources, so it has really deepened my understanding of the institutional challenges still faced in many post-conflict rural areas, despite the 2016 peace agreement with FARC.
The other project is about decision-making in New York City’s participatory budgeting (PB). For those unfamiliar with PB, residents age 11 and up in a given city council district can participate in how a portion of the district’s budget is used—by designing, planning and voting for various local projects (typically up to $1 million). This used to be something that only a handful of NYC city council districts had, but just this past November was made city-wide. We have been conducting primary field research on how these projects are selected and funded, and it has been a great foray into exploring the political dynamics of local civic engagement in NYC.
You went abroad via one of Marxe’s global programs. Can you tell us about that experience?
Yes, yet another amazing opportunity that I hope more students can take advantage of. Given that our degree emphasizes an international perspective—and if it can be worked into your schedule—studying abroad is an important educational experience that’s also great for developing communication skills and other tools integral to an internationally-focused career. Thanks to the support of the global initiatives staff and financial sponsorship from Marxe, I had the opportunity to become the first MIA student to attend SciencesPo in Paris, France last summer semester. I received credits towards my degree, and I really hope others can benefit from it as I did. This is not only for the sake of what you stand to gain as a student, but also because you will have the chance to represent Baruch, NYC, and the US to your classmates and professors.
Also, in my previous career, I reported from all over Latin America for a Japanese audience, so I was far more familiar with East Asian and Western Hemisphere geopolitics than with those of Europe. This was my first extended stay in a post-Brexit EU, and it really did feel like France in general, and Paris in particular, had come to recognize its own growing leadership role as a progressive counterweight within Europe.
What other experiences has the Marxe School afforded you?
I’m just very thankful for the experience I’ve had to meet and work with so many great people at Marxe and at Baruch, especially fellow students, faculty and the people working in advisement, global initiatives, the career center, the writing center, study abroad office, the library, and the list goes on. It has been a wonderful experience to be part of this community. I would also say that I am most grateful to the Marxe School for the opportunity to continue to challenge myself and to never stop growing intellectually. I would encourage other mid-career professionals who may be in search of their own next steps to give consideration to this path.