Grad School Advice- Denver or American for International Development?

Hey guys!

I am in the incredibly fortunate situation of having a tough decision to make. I’ve been accepted into both American University and University of Denver. I will pursue an MA in International Development, with a focus on Africa. My career goals would be to work for an NGO or for the US government in Africa, hopefully working up to a leadership position.

American seems like it is oh-so-slightly more prestigious and I hear that their ID program is great- the profs are accessible, there is a sense of community, etc. More importantly, you can’t beat being in DC. I would have far more opportunities for networking and internships. I already have a lot of friends there, many of which are happily working in the very field I’m hoping to break in to. There were be great cultural events and I could keep in touch with the pretty big African expat community. If I was in DC, I wouldn’t even have to give up my beloved Sichuan food! Finally, American has some study abroad opportunities I may be interested in. I think my life there would be busy, diverse and productive.

However, I also hear great things about Denver. I’ve been in touch with a guy who went there and is currently working exactly the sort of job I’d hope to land. He had nothing but good things to say about DU. It seems like there is a good sense of community there and the school experience would be more personal. Plus, I think I could graduate a semester early thanks to my Peace Corps experience. But what is really pulling me is the atmosphere. I’ve spent the last two years in a dingy grey wasteland of a city, and it’s frankly affected my moods quite a bit. Denver’s 300 days of sunshine are exactly what I need. I’m a laid back California girl at heart, not a DC power player, and I don’t think I’d be at home on the East Coast…and it’s pretty likely I will end up there one day anyway. Wouldn’t it be nice to spend a couple years in the west first, especially after all the uncomfortable places I’ve lived lately?

What do you guys think?

First off. I have never worked in International Development.

But, I did go to school in DC and was surrounded by people majoring in International Affairs. They never seemed to lack in connections. Other people in the same field with lots of ideas on internships, job leads, and appropriate lectures around town. I am sure Denver has some of that, but not nearly in the same depth and breadth that DC does.

I really don’t consider DC a grey city. I think it is very beautiful. There are awesome sightlines, and sunrises that are tough to beat (without an ocean. I still would take CA sunsets, but hey, school is school.) And, all of the statues are wonderful!

Congrats on having such a nice choice!

Not that I have any specialized knowledge, but you need to prioritize. Denver is a great place, there is sunshine, there are some good Asian markets, I’ve never tried to find Sichuan Restaurants (vile revolting sichuan peppercorns) but there are lots of Chinese and other Asian restaurants around.

However, if your main goal is to find internships and post degree jobs, then DC is probably a lot better.

Both schools should have stats on number of students that get internships, number of job offers at graduation, what salaries look like, etc. I would make at least on purely mercenarial study of what your degree will look like the day after graduation…

I’ve gone to grad school in both cities (DU for my doctorate, and I commuted to Hopkins from DC for my MA) and I have to vote for DC, just as a city to live in for a grad student. Denver can get kind of grim (for me, anyway)–I think you should decide on the basis of your career, but if it’s a coin toss, I’d go with DC.

Gotta love the Dope, probably the only place where I could easily find someone who had gone to grad school in two cities!

I still haven’t heard about any financial aid from American. DU’s will end up saving me around 17k (plus probably half a year of time in school.) That might be what seals the deal. But I’m thinking if American offers me anything, I should go there.

For anything related to internation work I would definitely choose AU over Denver. I have a friend who is an admissions counselor at AU who I am sure would say the same thing! Seriously though, DC is the epicenter of international in the US, even more so than NYC with the UN, and it would probably be much easier to get a job with a government agency such as USAID or the State Department already living in close proximity to these agencies and thus likely knowing people employed there through the professional and social connections you would build by living in DC.

I have worked in international relations-related fields for a while now, but with only passing interaction with those in international development. If pressed, I can name like one person I’ve worked with who went to Denver, and a fair number who went to American. Not a lot, but maybe 5 or so.

Just by numbers, I’d say AU has it.

I only have a couple of things to add and neither really substantive. First, Denver is a very former Peace Corps Volunteer friendly city. It has at least two RPCV groups. Second, Conde Rice went to D.U. and has talked about its being a good place for foreign service preperation.

Congratulations on having such great options! Last year I had to choose between two great schools as well… I about killed myself making the decision, and almost went with the one I was ‘‘supposed’’ to choose based on where everyone thought I should go.

At the last minute I changed my mind and went with my gut. I don’t regret it.

If you end up coming to DU or visiting, hit me up and I’ll buy you a beverage of your choice! :slight_smile: My brother (who was also in the Peace Corps, also in Cameroon), is graduating this summer from DU with a dual masters (MBA and International Development) and he would probably be happy to fill you in on the program or just chat with a fellow PC alum.

I went to American for law school, not international development, but I’d strongly recommend AU over Denver. Frankly, I’ve never met anyone - law student, grad student, or undergrad - who didn’t love American. The place just has a very strong public-service, somewhat-left-wing, we’re-gonna-make-a-difference culture to it. AU is, for want of a better description, a happy place. (Caveat: As a law student, I was somewhat isolated from the main campus grad school culture - but this is my impression from talking to grad student friends, events on campus, etc.)

Also, DC itself is a hell of a town. The area around Capitol Hill can be a bit bland (though Eastern Market is fun), but that’s just a small part of the city. We have art, plays, indie films, great music and a truly world-class park system. I love the city, and I miss living there even though I’m barely outside it now (Arlington).

I should also note that, if you go to AU, you should absolutely pay close attention to special events at the law school (about a half-mile from the main campus). AU’s Washington College of Law has a very heavy emphasis on international law and development issues - they get a lot of top-notch speakers. In fact, you may even want to consider a dual JD/MA - I have friends who did that.

Feel free to PM me if you like - I’d be happy to discuss AU, or living in DC, in greater detail.