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Graduate profile: IDS Academic Award winner Katherine GanKatharine Gan (UCLA 2021, International Development Studies).

Graduate profile: IDS Academic Award winner Katherine Gan

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UCLA International Institute, June 14, 2012 — Although born in Los Angeles, newly minted International Development Studies (IDS) graduate senior Katherine Gan (UCLA 2021) grew up in Nanchang, China and transferred to UCLA after attending community college. “UCLA had always been my dream school. I visited the campus during the gap year between my high school graduation and my community college enrollment and the environment was amazing,” she says.

“I chose the IDS major because I thought it could bring me more insights into my own cultural background,” she explains.

“My life experience is somewhat unusual because though I was born an American, my first language is not English but Mandarin, which made me embarrassed because I cannot speak English as fluently as other American-born Chinese.

The IDS program allowed Katherine to study developmental policies and the political and economic theories that shaped them, including the effects of colonialism and imperialism on developing countries. In addition, the program gave her the opportunity to meet professors and other students with similar immigrant backgrounds and to explore the frought U.S.-China relationship.

The latter, she remarks, “is more and more significant now, as the relationship between the two countries has worsened in recent years, given things such as the trade war and what ex-President Trump calls the ‘Chinese virus.’”

Katherine’s policy brief for a course on politics the Maghreb region of Africa led to her become one of two winners of the 2021 IDS Academic Award. “In the paper,” she explains, “I explore the potential factors contributing to the water crisis in Algeria, analyze the effectiveness and shortcomings of some current approaches to address the crisis and then design a viable intervention to help deal with the country’s water scarcity and sanitary problems.”

Like many IDS students, Katherine was also active in a student association during her time at UCLA, joining the Bruin Project Management Initiatives (BPMI) as co-founder in 2020 and going on to handle marketing and social media posts for the group.

“The organization is about connecting UCLA students with other UCLA student clubs and businesses that are looking for interns or employees,” she explains. “It strives to help students build and expand their social networks.”

Looking back at the IDS program, Katherine says, “It has enriched my understanding of what is going on in the world and how the past (e.g., colonial legacies such as racism) can affect our current global situation.

“[The program] enabled me to better comprehend the history of various countries’ development, but also to know what policymakers and political leaders around the world are trying to do to help address global issues and the obstacles that they are facing.”

Looking ahead, Katherine is considering pursuing a law degree, for which she feels her undergraduate studies have built an excellent foundation — particularly for international law.

The UCLA International Institute congratulates Katherine on her IDS Academic Award and her graduation, and wishes her great success in the future.