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Dr Robert Edinger with Son David


PHD Degree Program in Economics, China

My language skills—near native in French, advanced intermediate Spanish, and several years of German and Chinese—are only matched by my dedication to the studies of economic development, especially in Latin America and China. I look forward to dedicating my life to the study of sustainable economic development in the Developing World and I will intend to use the advanced degree that I hope to earn in your program to become a development professional working primarily with NGOs.

 I have lived and studied throughout the world. At age 12, I traveled to Hong Kong to visit relatives, and I toured around essentially unattended for 2 months. I lived in France for 1 year age beginning at the age of 17, studying and perfecting my French language skills. I have travelled to most European countries, and lived and worked in London, UK for one year as a professional chef. I travelled to Mexico 3 times and Cuba once, alone, learning about the culture, staying with families, and perfecting my Spanish language skills. I learned of the insurgence of drug cartels, and of the connection to unemployment and corruption in Mexico. I am fascinated by the study of NAFTA, its impact on unemployment, especially in border cities such as Juarez, and how this is related to the drug war. In Cuba I stayed with an upper class family of doctors and professionals, all living in a one-room apartment. I learned a great deal about the two-currency system and its impact on the fabric of Cuban society.

 My husband is Chinese and we had our wedding in the North of China. As a child and teen I completed my studies in a French Immersion program, which allowed me to be admitted to the French Public University system at 17. As a student in France, I experienced first-hand the joyous freedom and dignity of the French people. Yet, I also played close attention to the vast economic challenges that resulted from French Socialism. My own university courses, for example, would came to a halt as students and public workers launched a massive strike. Furthermore, as a Canadian accustomed to diversity, I was disturbed by the palpable xenophobia within French society, particularly in the face of immigrant workers competing for jobs. I have worked in London, Montreal, Aix-en-Provence, San  Francisco and Vancouver and I have traveled to 18 countries in Europe and 2 countries in Asia. I lived and worked as a manager in French-speaking Quebec for 3 years. Most of my friends and co-workers are from Asia.

 In 2008 I travelled to China for my wedding. As my fiancé proudly toured me around Beijing, I could not help but ask why so many of the brand new office buildings were covered in large cracks and patchwork repairs. I learned about the rampant corruption in China and how it is commonplace in the construction sector for managers to pocket funds destined for materials, rather than building buildings that meet building codes. I saw first-hand the environmental devastation in China, caused by exploding economic growth. In addition to the impact of corruption on the Chinese economy, I am also looking forward to doing research on the generation gap in China, vastly different approaches to saving, spending, and consumption among various age groups. China is rapidly becoming a central point of focus for my professional interests as well. I have a special interest in the role played by China in the development of the world’s poorer countries.

 I especially look forward to studying trends of  “slow capital,” as with the work of the Acumen fund. I am convinced that our dependency on charity has become unsustainable and I would very much like to have a share in the future in the work of arranging low cost loans to viable small business endeavors and to focus on this as a model for the development for some of the world’s most impoverished places; places like Central America where I have studied poverty up very close and have come to appreciate its enormous complexity, as well as the great hope and dignity of the poor themselves.  Charging even a few cents for a mosquito net may appear greedy to a donor in the Developed World, but I am impressed that this strategy is often more effective than the charity model. 

 I am currently very much immersed in the study of labour developments in China. My husband from China is my study partner concerning his country and I have been living through some of the happiest moments of my life these days as we live everything Chinese together, most of it in Mandarin. I read everything that I can find, for example, with respect to how companies like Foxcon and Honda have been in the news concerning worker’s rights issues. There is talk of China’s role as the world’s sweatshop coming to an end as labour standards continue to rise. While this is, of course, far off, it is nonetheless quite exciting. 

 My experience as a banking executive has helped me to learn the importance of my soft skills, my ability to communicate effectively to a group, give speeches, facilitate meetings and lessons. I draw heavily on de-escalation techniques regularly to manage difficult situations.  I have a keen sense for team dynamics and I address any lack of teamwork instantly; my team ranks amongst the highest performers in the country, in part, because I am energized by leading teams and helping others to develop. I love to learn and assist others in their learning. This is my greatest joy. Since 2003, I have also been privileged to be involved with the care of my elderly grandparents. As my grandparents have transitioned from independence to assisted living, I have learned about the cost of care and the costs of ageing. My grandparents, like many of their generation, were debt averse and saved religiously so that they could retire comfortably. I wonder how future generations of Canadians will manage given current levels of indebtedness and our low savings rates.

 I want to immerse myself full time in the study of demographic issues, gender, diversity in economics, outsourcing of jobs, unemployment, to name a few. There are some of the areas in which I hope to make contributions to our understanding and development both as academics and as a society. My independent nature may point me in the direction of a future as a freelance writer, especially for radio, perhaps a community organizer, like the American president when he was starting off. My candidacy to your program is further strengthened by my experience as a volunteer. In addition to annual community involvement spearheading United Way campaigns, I have been involved with a variety of events promoting local arts and cultural services: a soup kitchen, homeless clothing drives. I have held formal volunteer roles at two social advocacy organizations: the anti-poverty Project Genesis in Montreal, and the Dr. Peter Aids Centre in Vancouver.

 I have been working since the age of 15, all through my school years, in order to pay my tuition and costs. I worked in coffee shops, grocery stores, as a private tutor, and as a chef, before joining HSBC Bank as a bank manager, where I have been for the past 10 years. More than anything my work experience has developed in me a certain perseverance and stamina, an ability to meet deadlines and accomplish tasks while juggling a heavy work load and competing demands. I have a proven work record in each role I have assumed because I am responsible, hard working, a quick learner and a strong leader. I have been promoted promptly in nearly every role that I have had because I have always been a top performer.

 My parents and grandparents played a major role in the development of who I am because they have always devoted much of their time and resources to charity and community building activities. My values have been informed by this legacy. Wherever I see injustice, inequality or poverty, my mind grapples onto the problem, and I seek to understand it, looking for possible solutions. I have a creative mind with diverse interests in the arts, sciences, languages, math. The greatest contribution that I might be able to make to society would be to inspire my students to be caring citizens, aware of socio-economic issues and what they can do to impact them through their daily choices and actions, consumption, spending etc. I would like to produce important research which would inform policy and public opinion, improving the lives of people locally as well as  internationally. In business teaching I want to focus on training students and business on the important of positive management for results, thereby increasing competitiveness while reducing stress  I also hope to serve as a positive role model for young women. 

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