[ STE Relay Column : Narratives 090]
Peter Chai 「Participation in MicroMBA Program as a Research Assistant and Teaching Assistant at the School of Political Science and Economics, Waseda University」

Peter Chai / Research Assistant and Teaching Assistant at the School of Political Science and Economics, Waseda University

[Profile] A third-year undergraduate student who is majoring in Economics, from the SPSE (School of Political Science and Economics), Waseda University, and will start an exchange program at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology from this September. Right now, he is working as both a Research Assistant of Prof. Shuhei Kurizaki (栗崎周平), who specializes in international relations, on his diplomatic data collection and coding project and the Teaching Assistant of Prof. Willy Jou, who specializes in comparative politics, for his lecture course Comparative Politics of East Asia. As a hard-working and creative individual, he is constantly seeking more opportunities to expand his knowledge base and practical skills for future research. His hobbies include piano, singing, drama, and British literature, and He is interested in development and environmental issues and has been volunteering in Japanese rural areas.


Brief Introduction of My Academic Background
Working as a Research Assistant (RA) and Teaching Assistant (TA), my research interests have been centered around the East Asian political economy, welfare regimes, and diplomatic relations during my undergraduate years. Before entering Waseda University, I learned Cambridge A levels in high school and the A level subject Business Studies became the center of my learning because of its interdisciplinary nature (e.g., economics, psychology, and engineering, etc.) and its close connection to the real life. Since then, my interests in management science have strengthened and expanded, especially regarding marketing and HRM (human resource management). Upon graduation, I obtained the highest grade in A level Business Studies in China and received offers from UCL (University College London), University of Edinburgh, Warwick, and Bristol, etc.

Reasons to Come to Waseda University and Major in Economics
Finally, I came to Waseda University (with a partial tuition waiver scholarship) because of two major reasons. First, I have always wanted to study Japanese as the third foreign language and to undertake research related to East Asia. Second, Waseda University, which is located in Central Tokyo, has a good reputation in Asia. Moreover, I chose Economics as my major because I wanted to lay down a solid knowledge base in economic principles and theories (e.g., game theory, behavioral economics, development and environmental economics, etc.) and to build a range of practical skills in mathematical, statistical and experimental methodologies so that I could apply them to my research in the fields of political science and international relations (e.g., social institutions, power structures, civic cultures, and public policies, etc.), capturing more socio-economic factors in the analyses and making them more realistic and comprehensive. That was my research goal: to analyze politics through the lenses of economics.

Through engaging in both quantitative and qualitative approaches of research, I believe I am gradually moving towards the accomplishment of this goal. Until now, I have tried my best to incorporate economic frameworks into my research and I have written papers centered around Confucianism and political institutions in East Asia, democratic freedom level and income inequality across the OECD (The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) member states, labor and capital transformations during Japanese Meiji Restoration, and development and UN SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) analysis of infrastructure and health care in China, etc.

Reasons to Join the MicroMBA Program and My Experiences
I signed up for this MicroMBA course co-hosted by the Institute for Business and Finance, Waseda University and Rady School of Management, UCSD (University of California, San Diego) for two main reasons. First, I am aware of the importance of the behaviors of MNCs (multinational corporations), NGOs (Non-governmental organizations), and NPOs (nonprofit organizations) in today’s increasingly globalized community, and second, I have understood the significance of industrial organization and labor economics as subfields of Economics. Although I learned Business Studies systematically in my high school, I wanted to investigate more into the internal frameworks of organizations, especially the driving forces and dynamics for innovation and R&D (research and development) in response to external pressures and changes. I hoped that this MicroMBA course could bring me up to a new level in learning business management, and it definitely did. It was very informative and well-structured.

During the MicroMBA course, the professors from WBS (Waseda Business School) and Rady School of Management, UCSD provided us many insights from their areas of expertise (finance, marketing, strategy, and experiment, etc.). During the six sessions, they have integrated the lecture materials with their personal research and work experiences to promote our understanding. Furthermore, they often assigned supplementary case readings (The Langer Lab, Topera, and Starbucks) and pre-assignments for us to prepare before each class and challenging post-assignments for us to work on after each class.

The post-assignments included the construction of a value proposition table and formulation of a positioning statement, the analysis of cash flows and the financial condition from an income statement and balance sheet, and the designing of an RCT (randomized controlled trial). To complete these assignments, we not only got to revise lecture materials and the techniques we have learned in class, but also were motivated to conduct external research about the companies, markets, and industries in which we have interests. These exercises have largely stimulated our interests in business management and boosted our understanding of some complex business concepts with an emphasis on their connections to the reality. Therefore, I treated the lectures and assignments very seriously.

The Uniqueness of the MicroMBA Program and My Study Outcomes
I have learned a lot of graduate-level concepts and theories in management science, and with the case studies from the real world discussed in class, I became much more familiar with applying management techniques to analyze various firms’ decisions and strategies and industry and market competition. The professors have demonstrated very professional teaching skills and led us to engage in intense discussions throughout the program. Because the participants of the program are from various backgrounds and participate with different purposes, i.e., some are undergraduate students, some are graduate students, and some are working; some are from Asia and others from western countries; some participate for their future research and some participate for their own startup firms, we were able to exchange our ideas and perspectives and learn from each other with respect. Rather than just a series of lectures, I felt like the program was composed of academic seminars that had a global outlook, through which international networks between the participants could be established.

Therefore, I not only gained a lot from the well-structured lectures and the well-designed assignments, but also from the interactions that happened extensively between the participants. We have brought our own knowledge and understanding into the program, making it diverse, interactive and meaningful. The planners and organizers have been very responsible and supportive in responding to our inquiries before, during, and after each class. With the efficient use of online platforms (Slack and Zoom), we were able to communicate effectively and connect closely with each other. As a result, the program has become so much more than just an online course, but an academic platform where the participants could make full use of their creativity.

As a participant, I want to express my gratitude for Prof. Kanetaka Maki and all the other professors and organizers of the MicroMBA program. It has greatly enriched my spring break and made my past few weeks fulfilling especially during the special time of Coronavirus in Japan when it is better to avoid going outside and the start of the spring semester is postponed. In general, I believe this MicroMBA course is very suitable for undergraduate students who are planning to continue their studies in graduate schools and for entrepreneurs working in various careers because it provides a wide range of useful information about industries and companies for individuals in different fields and academic disciplines.