Richard Lo is a rising senior in the School of General Studies majoring in Political Science. He has worked at the Weatherhead East Asian Institute as a Student Assistant for two years. Before coming to Columbia, Richard served for four years in the US Navy as a seaman and an operations specialist.
When I was growing up in Taiwan, I had hoped to move to New York for the life experience the city provides. That opportunity became possible when I learned bout the General Studies (GS) program at Columbia. GS is designed for nontraditional students like myself who took time off between high school and college to pursue other ambitions. I was excited to find a program that took my life experience and professional merits into account.
Before starting at Columbia, I served three and a half years aboard the USS George Washington and USS Ronald Reagan, two aircraft carriers based in Yokosuka, Japan. I began my fleet time working as a seaman, which involves a lot of shipboard maintenance work such as painting. About two years in, I became a specialist in air defense operations and radar navigation, and rose to the rank of a Second Class Petty Officer. I enjoyed training other sailors with my knowledge and experience. I also enjoyed the duties as a shipboard announcement maker and our port visits to cities in the Pacific.
As a Chinese-American and a US Navy veteran, I have a personal and professional interest in bridging my heritage and my allegiance, and Columbia provides me with the knowledge and the analytical lens to develop my own judgment on US-China-related issues.
During my first semester in the GS program, I asked for a summer job from Professor Andrew Nathan and he offered me the opportunity to work on a project at Weatherhead. I have worked for the Institute for about two years since then. Working at Weatherhead puts me within steps from most East Asia-related events at Columbia, allowing me to access new information and interesting insights regarding to US-China relations and other topics of interest.
Interacting with Weatherhead faculty also helps challenge my perspective on ongoing developments in China, Taiwan, and Japan, and enriches my scholarship as a Political Science major. Being part of Weatherhead is an integral part of my time at Columbia since I wish to contribute to the best of my abilities in enhancing US relations with East Asian countries in the future.
Having access to many educated perspectives will help me be more judicious in my decision-making when I am a professional. Talented thinkers with a deep understanding of both countries are needed for the future of US-China relations, to protect US interests while at the same time enhancing the bilateral relationship.
After graduating, I am planning on attending law school and practicing law in California. I found myself interested in issues in economic inequality, so I can see myself entering politics and working with experts and leaders to fix it.
This article originally appeared in the May issue of the WEAI 70 Years newsletter.