Juan Masullo, IBEI alumni 2010-2011
1. Why did you choose the IBEI Master’s?
Grad school in Barcelona, with a Fundación Carolina scholarship, seemed a great opportunity to get to know European academia (and Europe!) from the inside. By the time I applied to IBEI, I was quite convinced that I wanted to give academia a chance, but I only had a sense of what political science and international relations looked like in Colombia and the US. Taking a year to explore the discipline in Spain/Europe before applying to PhD programs in the US seemed like a good plan – especially because I had not been in Europe before. Embarking on a PhD is a big deal, so I followed the advice of exploring different academic cultures and approaches before making a final choice – even if then I was quite settled on the idea of going to grad school in the US.
2. What is your experience at IBEI?
IBEI was a great experience overall and it had a strong impact on my subsequent choices. After living in Barcelona for a year, I understood that if I was not going to be in Colombia for a while, I wanted to be in Europe. Even if some years later I did go back to the US for my postdoc and I regularly visit Colombia for my research, I have lived in Europe since then.
3. Describe your career path since graduating from the IBEI
After IBEI I went on with grad school. I completed a second masters (in comparative politics) at the Central European University in Budapest and then a PhD in Political Science at the European University Institute in Florence. Two extremely stimulating places. From Florence I moved to the US as a Research Fellow at the Order, Conflict and Violence (OCV) program at Yale University. I am now a Lecturer at the University of Oxford and will soon join Leiden University as an Assistant Professor.
4. What is your professional experience (your current position, your main functions)?
As a Lecture at Oxford’s Department of Politics and International Relations I teach research design and research methods to IR graduate students, mentor grad students mainly in the area of conflict studies and contentious politics, and conduct individual and collective research on political and criminal violence, mainly in Latin America. At Oxford I’m part of Nuffield College, the Latin American Centre and the Changing Character of War Centre. At Leiden I will continue with my research agenda and will support the Institute of Political Science teaching research design and methods, comparative politics and conflict studies to both undergrad and grad students.
5. How did the master programme prepare you for the work you're doing now?
My research (and teaching) falls at the intersection of international relations and comparative politics. My fundamental knowledge of IR comes from the last year of my Bachelor at Javeriana University (Colombia), but, mostly, from the master program at IBEI. The program gave me opportunity to devote almost a full year to strengthen my conceptual and theoretical foundations in the field of international relations – something that ended opening some doors down the road. At IBEI I also meet faculty members that gave me great advice and inspired me. For example, the mentorship of Matthias Vom Hau, the teaching style of Pablo Pareja and the support of Nicole Jenne have had a clear impact on the choices I have made since and the work I do today. While clearly not part of the curriculum, witnessing the emergence and evolution of the Indignats movement from Plaça de Catalunya definitely shaped my substantive academic interests.
6. Is this more or less what you pictured yourself doing after the master programme?
Yes, pretty much – even if I must reckon that then I had a somehow romanticized idea of what academic work was and how the academic job market worked.
7. What advice would you give to current students who want to follow this career path? / Some advice to future IBEI students?
If you want to follow an academic career, get as much training (especially in research design and methods) as you can while in gradschool. IBEI is a good starting point. Yet, don’t forget that intellectually intriguing and/or policy relevant questions should be the driving force. To enjoy a journey in which you devote years of hard work to a topic/question, you better care about it genuinely. Follow your drive, not (only) what is trendy and marketable at the moment. Think of (and practice) political science / IR as an intellectual endeavour, not only as a technical one!
8. What do you miss most about IBEI?
Barcelona. Hanging out with classmates down the streets of El Raval or La Barceloneta, intensely discussing about the topics we cared the most and building (without really knowing it) long-lasting friendships. IBEI brings great people together in a great place, making the experience not only an academic one.