Faces of Rhodes

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Jon-Cody Sokoll ′14

Major: Economics and International Studies

Academic interests: Economic development, comparative politics, ethnic conflict, and econometrics

Extracurricular activities: orchestra, Model United Nations coordinator, research fellowship, Common Table Academic Distinction Project, Netflix, long walks on the beach

Tell the story of how you got to Rhodes College.

The international studies program drew me in initially. Rhodes is just one of a few liberal arts colleges that have an international studies department and program that is distinct from other disciplines such as political science. Throughout high school, I had been interested in international relations and economic development, and Rhodes stood out as place where I could explore those interests in an engaging environment. However, the collegiate gothic architecture of the campus inspired an application essay and provided an enticing invitation to academic creativity. How could I say no to writing essays about the subjects I am passionate about while glancing out stained glass windows onto sunny lawns?

How have you changed since beginning your studies at Rhodes College?

Rhodes has helped me refine my academic interests by introducing me to a breadth of theoretical perspectives while developing analytical tools to apply those outlooks to real world cases. My international relations courses introduced me to comparative politics, which focuses on the how and why of political phenomena. Courses such as these challenged my personal development by asking me to develop better analytical thinking. Today when I glance back at old essays, the ideas and analysis which I presented seem very simplistic, but neither my interest in economic development nor the tools I used to talk about economic development would have been fostered without the rigor of my courses. Rhodes has helped me develop analytical tools and theoretical perspectives over time.

How has your involvement with Model UN contributed to your experience at Rhodes?

Model United Nations (MUN) has been a core part of my experience at Rhodes. I served as the MUN coordinator as part of the Rhodes Student Associate Program (RSAP), which allowed me a daily opportunity to delve into current international policy issues. As the moderator and facilitator for the debates over international policy concerns, I became enamored with the endless possible solutions that individuals offered. MUN reinforced that there are multitude of solutions to one problem, but MUN raises questions about the trade-offs between policy efficacy and political motivations. By design, we cannot answer questions about these trade-offs because it is a simulation. MUN introduced me to range of perspectives and solutions, but also inspired me to seek out the evidence to enact the best possible policies.

Can you talk about how your dual concentration on IS and econ at Rhodes has helped you realize your career goals?

I aspire to be able to answer questions about public policy with data-driven answers. The economics and international studies bridge major offered at Rhodes could not have been a better fit for me. International studies courses challenged me to ask questions about the economic and political arrangements that constitute the international system. Economics courses such as statistics and econometrics emphasized and developed quantitative skills to answer those questions with a greater empirical capacity. Both international studies and economics provide a range of theoretical answers to the “why and how” of public policy. Having been offered a job at a social science research firm, the analytical and quantitative skills built during my time at Rhodes will be essential in many of my day-to-day functions: compiling data, analyzing data, and producing written publications about public policy. Without the foundation of my degree, I would not be looking towards a bright future in public policy research.

Compiled by Caroline Ponseti ‘15

Tags: Economics, International Studies