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University of Hawaii Anthro vs Cornell Asian Studies


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cross-posted to EALC topic in interdisciplinary studies.

I hope y'all don't mind if I write about my struggle in choosing between University of Hawaii or Cornell.

I was accepted to University of Hawaii's Asian Studies and Anthropology programs -- I thought anthropology was a long-shot, but I got in anyway. Two of my POI at UHM told me I'd fit perfectly in Asian studies, but I eventually want to pursue a PhD in anthropology, so I picked anthro. I was pretty set on going, and was just waiting to hear back from the other schools. I told the anthro department that I would give them my decision on Monday, the 18th. 

I did not expect to get into Cornell's Asian studies program. I basically wrote it off my list, assuming that I had been rejected because I hadn't received anything about my application. I got in today and asked Hawaii for an extension for my decision.

My research interests apply to both Asian studies and anthropology. Basically, I'm interested in studying the experiences of the Chinese diaspora/minorities in Cambodia during the Khmer Rouge, and how that affects their migration experiences and their positions on refugees around the world today.

Pros of Hawaii: It's Hawaii. I would be co-advised by one professor who focuses on Chinese ethnic minorities and another professor who focuses on anthropology in Cambodia. If I take first year Khmer this summer, I will have the FLAS fellowship. I'm also being considered for another fully funded fellowship and a TAship. After my master's, I can continue to a PhD at UHM fairly easily. Because more airlines are servicing Hawaii, tickets are cheaper to and from the mainland than before. Also, Hawaii is fairly diverse and has plenty of Asian food, which I would lpve. If I were to go abroad, airfare to Asia is cheaper from Hawaii. 

Cons: It has a high cost-of-living. For now, I only have the FLAS fellowship, so I would need to find a way to pay for the rest of the tuition. The anthro department does not offer funding. And, it UHM is not as well known for anthropology (in terms of rank, I think?). Moving to Hawaii is expensive (shipping a car from LA is around $1k :/). The traffic is supposedly awful.

Pros of Cornell: It's Cornell. It is highly ranked, an ivy league school. I would be advised by a professor in Cornell's anthropology department (which is one of the PhD programs I am extremely interested in), and I believe he also teaches some courses on China. I would have a solid background and MA degree from Cornell.  The Southeast Asia collection at Cornell is the best in the country (even better than libraries in Cambodia). It's probably cheaper than Hawaii. And it's on the mainland.

Cons of Cornell: FLAS decisions have not been made yet. The department also does not have any funding. It is expensive, and even if I got FLAS, I would still be short ~$12k for tuition per year + living expenses. No word from them about TAships or anything like that yet. I would have to drive from Phoenix all the way to upstate New York. Ithica is not as exciting (probably?). And, f I end up in the anthro PhD program after my MA, I would have to stay there for 5-9 years, which doesn't sound appetizing to me.

Is there anything I need to consider?

Which would you choose? Advice would be appreciated! Thanks in advance!

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Off the cuff?

Cornell. Hawai'i is not a "top tier" anthropology school. Your logistical pro's all make sense, but if you want the pedigree of the degree, Cornell is an Ivy.

Going to an MA you can't really expect much in the way of funding. Generally they exist as a prestige degree (aka revenue stream) unless you earn your MA in the process of chasing the PhD and were admitted to the PhD. Some exceptions exist.

I would also consider whatever faculty you want to work with at both schools and see which departments for the MA and the PhD will have the best qualified people to advise you. Also consider you may or may not be able to "funnel" into the PhD program from the Master's. I know Hawai'i will, and they do require an Anthro MA for the Anthro PhD program there.

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I am in a similar boat, but trying to decide between UHM and Georgetown... I also didnt expect to get accepted to the latter. I focus on Korea and Indo-Pacific Strategy... Moving to Hawaii would put me in a great place for private contracting... but DC is the hub of all. Let me know if you want to chat about it.

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I agree with the poster above--Hawai'i is not a well known anthropology program. You should check out Karen Kelsky (the professor is in blog) and read about her experiences coming out of Hawai'i--it was pretty traumatic. The status of their program has not changed since she left. Also, if you intend to apply to PhD programs in anthropology, it helps to have letters of rec from anthropologists connected to the top anthropology programs.Most people do not stay in the same program from MA to PhD, so I don't think you have to worry about "ending up" in the same place for 5+ years. It's perfectly reasonable to leave for another program in the same university or another university altogether. 

That being said, you need to think about your whole self. It sounds like you might actually want to move to Hawaii because they will fund you, you like the community around the university, it's Hawaii and it's beautiful, and you might be more inclined to stay for either a job or another PhD program in another field. Those are important factors! Ithaca is cold, it's isolated and while upstate NY is beautiful, it's not very diverse or welcoming. I could be reading into your post too much, but it sounds like you can't imagine making a home for yourself there. 

What's more, as someone who has settled for an unfunded degree and deeply regrets it, I can say that funding matters. If you take the unfunded route, you will be paying a lot of money to basically fund the kids in the PhD program, get ignored by your faculty (who will focus on those PhD students) and at the end of it all, have to leave for elsewhere. Funding signifies a university's willingness to invest in you and your future. 

 

Weigh out all your options carefully! Good luck with the decision!

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On 3/19/2019 at 12:00 AM, inception said:

@Fantasmapocalypse Thanks for the advice. If I intend to apply to anthro PhD programs during my masters, will it matter that I didn't go for an anthropology MA?

It can! Manoa requires you to have an MA in anthropology in order to apply to the PhD program. Some departments will accept a related BA or MA. For example an Archaeology or Bio Anth PhD Student may be able to make the argument that having a math degree is acceptable with a minor or no background in Anthropology if they are specializing in regression or statistical analysis.... Marty Biskowski, a deeply loved member of CSU Sacramento's faculty, was a mathematician before he became a Mesoamerican Archaeologist.

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On 3/20/2019 at 6:00 AM, oroanthro said:

I agree with the poster above--Hawai'i is not a well known anthropology program. You should check out Karen Kelsky (the professor is in blog) and read about her experiences coming out of Hawai'i--it was pretty traumatic. The status of their program has not changed since she left. Also, if you intend to apply to PhD programs in anthropology, it helps to have letters of rec from anthropologists connected to the top anthropology programs.Most people do not stay in the same program from MA to PhD, so I don't think you have to worry about "ending up" in the same place for 5+ years. It's perfectly reasonable to leave for another program in the same university or another university altogether. 

That being said, you need to think about your whole self. It sounds like you might actually want to move to Hawaii because they will fund you, you like the community around the university, it's Hawaii and it's beautiful, and you might be more inclined to stay for either a job or another PhD program in another field. Those are important factors! Ithaca is cold, it's isolated and while upstate NY is beautiful, it's not very diverse or welcoming. I could be reading into your post too much, but it sounds like you can't imagine making a home for yourself there. 

What's more, as someone who has settled for an unfunded degree and deeply regrets it, I can say that funding matters. If you take the unfunded route, you will be paying a lot of money to basically fund the kids in the PhD program, get ignored by your faculty (who will focus on those PhD students) and at the end of it all, have to leave for elsewhere. Funding signifies a university's willingness to invest in you and your future. 

 

Weigh out all your options carefully! Good luck with the decision!

Hi...wow. I just read Karen Kelsky's post. I'm speechless. That is definitely something I'll consider, thank you for bringing it to my attention. 

I can better imagine myself in Hawaii, you're right...but it's not that I could never make a home in Cornell. I am perfectly willing to, at least if it's only for two years. I will definitely have to get used to the cold and winter if I end up at Cornell. 

I think I'll ultimately wait to see if I get funding from Cornell. I won't take an unfunded offer.

Thank you so much for the advice!

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On 3/20/2019 at 11:09 PM, Fantasmapocalypse said:

It can! Manoa requires you to have an MA in anthropology in order to apply to the PhD program. Some departments will accept a related BA or MA. For example an Archaeology or Bio Anth PhD Student may be able to make the argument that having a math degree is acceptable with a minor or no background in Anthropology if they are specializing in regression or statistical analysis.... Marty Biskowski, a deeply loved member of CSU Sacramento's faculty, was a mathematician before he became a Mesoamerican Archaeologist.

Well then...I guess that means if I choose Cornell, UH will probably not be an option later when I'm applying for PhD programs. That's good to know though, thank you! 

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On 3/19/2019 at 2:18 PM, Hannahbanana212 said:

I am in a similar boat, but trying to decide between UHM and Georgetown... I also didnt expect to get accepted to the latter. I focus on Korea and Indo-Pacific Strategy... Moving to Hawaii would put me in a great place for private contracting... but DC is the hub of all. Let me know if you want to chat about it.

Congrats on Georgetown! Yes, please DM me :)

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1 hour ago, inception said:

Well then...I guess that means if I choose Cornell, UH will probably not be an option later when I'm applying for PhD programs. That's good to know though, thank you! 

Not unless you want to get a second MA in anthro that is! 

 

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  • 10 months later...

I see that this post is for last application cycle, but what did you decide? I am interested in the Asian Studies program at Cornell as well and would love to hear from you if you accepted!

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