Personal Statement

By: Jacob Taylor
on for GS300L

I was born twenty-something years ago on-time but very sick. Health and family problems drove my early existence. I lived in 3 different places in Illinois, 2 in Ohio, and I'm now on my 5th in California. I've lived everywhere from government subsidized apartments to a beautiful 2 story victorian house. Because my mother went to college after the early few years, we had the summers off. We traveled. We camped in almost every state and national park west of the Mississippi. When you go out for months at a time, you quickly learn self-reliance.

By the time Junior High School rolled around, I had picked up an interest in computers. I built them myself using parts from trash bins, set them up with operating systems, and wrote the occasional bit of software for them. Above all, though, I tinkered. As a result of extensive tinkering, I joined my school's FIRST Robotics club, and participated for three years, maintaining the website and working on the mechanical team who constructed the robot. We had to fundraise to participate, and several team members (myself included) worked for the USGS to that end. I got asked to come back and work for the USGS after the fundraising was done to assist with imaging embedded monitoring systems, pre- deployment. After several process revisions, we had created a deployment technique that worked perfectly every time. I was also interested in politics, and going on the Close Up trip to Washington DC was a great opportunity to learn more about the workings of the US government and political system. Through a grant and fundraising, I paid for the trip in its entirety.

The high-school I went to was a New Tech High school, based around group work, presentations, contractual obligations, professionalism, and digitally native work. Public speaking, team leadership, and successful delegation are natural to me. The crowning achievement at my school was completion of a complete mock presidential election, a project which lasted 10 full weeks. During my senior year the teachers tried to create a press corps, of which I was a member. We were only given one requirement, that we produce a 5-minute video every week covering the political parties. Instead, we made 10 minute videos every week, launched a series of video interviews, wrote investigative journalism articles about the parties, and published 1-2 of those per day for the 10 week period in addition to "glad-handing" events where we did public outreach for our "programs". We decided the requirements were too low (and were given this flexibility by our teachers), so we strove to faithfully represent the fourth estate.

After I completed HighSchool, I went on to community college not entirely sure what I wanted to do with my life. I dabbled in computer science, politics, and economics, and ended up getting a degree in International Studies. The lead up to getting that degree was the result of a world politics class, where I discovered my interest in studying large systems. It was the class where I figured out that playing with large, generalized theoretical frameworks was tons of fun, and subsequently discovered that applying those frameworks to real situations was just as exciting. Through most of that time I studied theoretical analysis frameworks on my own (until my comparative politics class). I decided that we'd become too narrow in our interests, too specific in our study. This is good, else we'd never learn how systems work when you dive all the way down, but it also leads to a tunnel vision about the world. Furious misapplication of frameworks, a la Maslow's Hammer Syndrome. I'm excited to be in Global Studies because it's a field that really is large enough. There's always a global scale event or movement to study. In it, you are really only limited by how many frameworks you know the debugging information for. We need an old-guard of sorts who has studied broadly and in an interdisciplinary way, and can cross apply those frameworks as needed, and I think Global Studies is that old-guard.

For the future, I'd like to make global scale changes. If you could only change the default situation from bad to slightly less bad, that still ends up being a massive change for billions of people. If it's possible to do better than that, you may change the world proper. This is what I seek to do. The interdisciplinary cross-application of theoretical frameworks to the world.