IROnline Alumni Profile: Sichao Ni

Meet Sichao, an International Relations Online alumnus currently serving in Singapore who is applying his experience in the program to his daily work as a member of the U.S. Foreign Service.

Sichao NiSichao NiSichao Ni


Current Location: Singapore

What is your field of study and what line of work are you in?

My degree program is the Master of Arts in International Relations (MAIR) with a concentration in U.S. Foreign Policy and National Security. I am currently a proud member of the United States Foreign Service serving in Singapore.

Why did you choose International Relations Online?

I chose International Relations Online to pursue my master’s degree because I wanted to initiate a career change after working seven years in the private sector to become a member of the United States Foreign Service. I wanted to continue to develop problem solving skills, lead innovation, and drive growth in the healthcare industry while pursuing a rigorous yet flexible MA program that is top notch. American University’s School of International Service became an obvious solution to address this need.

How do you see yourself making a difference in the world?

I see myself making a positive difference in the world by contributing peace and stability to an increasingly turbulent world that we live in so that young entrepreneurs of my generation and future generations may have a stable environment in which they can realize and fulfill their own dreams.

How is the School of International Service (SIS) making a difference in your world?

SIS prepared me for a career change to become a member of the U.S. Foreign Service through opportunities to engage with professionals and scholars in the field of international relations. Many of my professors came from the policy world before academia and shared with me real-world insights into how policies are made, helped me understand bureaucracies, and provided me with skills such as writing op-eds, budgeting, making decisions at the table based on multiple and often competing priorities. The connection and emphasis on how international relations theories and behavioral biases influence policy and decision-making is what I took away from SIS.

What makes the School of International Service special?

I think SIS has a good balance of theory and practice. There is an extraordinarily strong support system, both on-campus and online. While rigorous in nature, the program builds a certain amount of flexibility for working professionals like me to take full advantage of study abroad trips, on-campus immersions, and advising by a renowned expert for my master Substantial Research Paper. SIS and the International Relations Online program took a genuine interest in me, were extremely interested in my background and experiences, and made my experience here the best it can be.

What does the word “service” mean to you?

Service for me means devoting a portion of my life to doing the work of national importance in executing and influencing our national security and foreign policy objectives. To put it into action today, it requires harnessing new models, frameworks, and developments particularly in data science and technology and tackle the most pressing and challenging issues of our times. Ultimately, it means making the most of your time to advance the initiatives that will better the lives of people around the world. Along the way, you will inspire many others and leave something valuable for those that come after you to continue to build upon.

What world issue or current event is of interest to you?

I am interested in designing a new framework for the future of commercial diplomacy—the intersection between international business and international relations. I think the current field is poorly structured, underdeveloped, and narrowly defined to mainly trade and investments. I see a huge opportunity to take it further. We must think more broadly to include new developments in economics and finance, digital innovations in addition to physical goods, and building the type of network and platforms we want the future to be. The future belongs to those who can imagine it today. To realize this vision will require a new definition of the state-market relationship, the heart of commercial diplomacy.

Geographically, I am interested in the future of U.S.-China relations. The last 40 years has exceeded the expectations of both countries. U.S. and China evolved from an adversarial relationship to one based on geopolitical and strategic interests to one now based primarily on economics. The question is in the absence of real strategic interests and trust between the two countries, can U.S.-China work to avoid the Thucydides Trap? The answer to that question will require a new framework to manage the bilateral relationship going forward.

Who is your professional role model?

For diplomacy, Otto von Bismarck and Henry Kissinger are two of my favorite statesmen. These two individuals were brilliant strategists that shaped the world of their time and made significant contributions to advance their state interests. I strive not to be just a good diplomat but an exceptional one to leave my own legacy. 

What is your favorite class?

My favorite class was Global Governance. The class was co-taught by David Bosco, who specialized in the United Nations, and Kim Moloney, who specialized in the World Bank. The class stimulated my interest in the three big theories of international relations—realism, liberalism, and constructivism—while helping me to realize the shortfalls of international organizations.

How has the program helped you to achieve your career goals? What is your next step?

The International Relations Online program has helped me achieve my dream of becoming a member of the United States Foreign Service.

About the Immersion

What was it like to finally connect with your classmates face to face?

A lot of them were so much more into their craft than I had realized in our online sessions, where much of the time was spent on coursework and little on personal interactions. The immersion provided such opportunity to connect and really get to know my classmates in person.

What was your site visit like?

The site visit was well organized and very structured in a format that was a good blend of getting to know the consulting field while understanding the amount of work required to advance in the career.

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