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What's it Like to Get Paid to Think About Foreign Policy?

Three questions with Huddle for Global Change speaker Ali Wyne, adjunct staff at the RAND Corporation

Ever wonder how to rise through the ranks in a think tank? Or what it takes to get your research to influence policy? Ali Wyne does just this. 
A graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Ali was a Junior Fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and worked as a research assistant to the influential political scientist Graham Allison. He has also done research for other highly-regarded foreign policy minds, including Henry Kissinger, Robert Blackwill, and Richard Stengel. Other experience includes serving on the transition team of U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power and contributing to two Council on Foreign Relations study groups. 
Presently, he is a member of the adjunct staff at the RAND Corporation, a contributing analyst at Wikistrat, and a global fellow at the Project for the Study of the 21st Century.
Ali will deliver a presentation on whether the United States is in decline at The Huddle for Global Change, which kicks off on October 13.
To the man on the street, how do you describe what you do?
Ali Wyne: I try to think about the different roles America can play in a rapidly evolving world—one in which power is spreading not only between states, but also away from states towards nonstate actors. What goals should America pursue in world affairs? Given the constraints on its time and resources, which regions and threats should it prioritize? What logic should drive that prioritization?
What do you love most about the work that you do and what do you find most challenging?
Ali Wyne: The debate over America's role in the world is vigorous and relentless. As Ian Bremmer demonstrates in his new book Superpower, there are compelling arguments for and against an American foreign policy that (1) focuses on nation-building at home (what he calls "Independent America"); (2) tries to maximize the "returns" on its national interests ("Moneyball America"); and (3) uses all instruments of its power to shape a world order that reflects its values ("Superpower America"). Each of these views has extraordinarily persuasive proponents.
What's your advice to someone who is interested in a career path like yours?
Ali Wyne: I'm always struck by how significantly most people's interests tend to evolve and how large a role serendipity plays in getting them to where they are. It's neither possible—nor, I've come to conclude, especially productive—to try and replicate another person's trajectory.
Speaking for myself, I try to meet as many people as possible in my field whom I admire—academics, policymakers, and scholars-cum-practitioners—and find out where they were and what steps they took when they were my age. I try to stay on top of the main debates over U.S. foreign policy, paying particular attention to arguments that challenge my own.
I also talk as often as possible with people who're in completely different fields: some of the conversations that have most shaped my views have been with friends in math, biology, and philosophy.
Want to learn from Ali and other great global thinkers? Reserve your spot in the best online forum for global changemakers. 
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