The University of Iowa

UI student Mark Schoen awarded Fulbright to Indonesia

April 11th, 2020

Mark Schoen, who will receive a BS in economics and a BA in studio arts from the University of Iowa this May, is the winner of a Fulbright Study/Research grant in economics to Indonesia for 2020-21 (photo credit: Bella Volfson)

Hometown: Cedar Rapids, IA
Award: 2020-21 Fulbright Study/Research grant in Economics to Indonesia
Degree: BS economics and BA studio art 

Could you give me a brief synopsis of what you'll be doing with your Fulbright?  
Through the coming year, my Indonesian research partners and I will evaluate the economic influence of a tax amnesty program the Indonesian government conducted in 2016. The program was designed to repatriate money held by Indonesians abroad. Money being held abroad by citizens is not an Indonesian issue but a global one affecting many countries. However, Indonesia’s tax amnesty program represents one of the largest programs in the world to tackle the issue. It's relatively unknown how tax amnesty programs affect modern economies. Most economic literature on repatriation tax amnesty programs is out of date, typically revolving around data from tax amnesty programs conducted 20 to 40 years ago and lacking key perspectives, such as the impacts on inequality. We hope that our research will shed light on the subject. 

What drew you to this field of study?
Prior to coming to the University of Iowa, I spent three years studying in Singapore. At my new school, a new type of classmate surrounded me. These classmates were international, having spent their lives bouncing between Amsterdam, Lagos, and Tokyo, their parents lifelong foreign service officers or international bankers. Fascinated by the lives of my classmates, I traded running cross-country for Model United Nations so I could learn more about the world. To stay current, my history teacher prescribed The Economist cover to cover every week. It was between the pages where I found economics.

Within the articles, I found a borderless language for describing the world–economics. The more I read, the more I craved using this new language and soon enough I met my first economist. Our ensuing discussions on economics and the world fed my cravings and created new ones. By the time I got to the University of Iowa, I was homed in on studying economics.

After taking many courses at the University of Iowa I realized the interconnected and international nature of economics. What happens to cotton farmers in India affects cotton prices on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange on the opposite side of the world. The intersection of local and global is what initially drew me in and has kept me perusing the field of economics.

"The Stanley Undergraduate and Graduate Award for International Research was particularly helpful for me because it gave me confidence and experience of conducting international research before going into the Fulbright. If you are thinking about a Fulbright Research Grant in the next couple of years, I would highly recommend applying for a Stanley."

How do you envision this will influence your life/future career?
One of my life and career goals is to collapse the perceived distance between the U.S. and Asia. So much is lost to misinformation, stereotyping, and a lack of real interaction between the two. Having spent a great deal of time in both, it is my belief we are far more similar than different. Unchecked, each of these percolates to the forefront of our policy and business relations. With the opportunity to spend an entire year learning, working, and collaborating with Indonesian peers, I will hopefully come away with a deeper understanding of how I can work to close the gap. From a project perspective, I hope to show there is a lot the world and the U.S. can learn from Indonesia. 

What advice do you have for future students interested in applying for a Fulbright? or What experiences at the UI inspired you to pursue a Fulbright?
Three things. First, keep your feet to the fire. When you have re-written one sentence fifteen times in one hour, you might want to curl up into a ball or throw your computer against a wall. Don’t do it! Let out an expletive, run around your room, or take a deep breath. Reflecting a person into paper is one of the most challenging feats. In the end, learning about yourself may be a bigger reward than the Fulbright itself. Second, ask for help. Friends, professors, colleagues, your cat. Sometimes just asking the question leads you to your own answer. Third, look for opportunities in the university that will prepare you years in advance for the Fulbright. Opportunities like on-campus research through Iowa Center for Research by Undergraduates, teaching English through the Friendship Community Project in Iowa City, and grants such as the Stanley Undergraduate and Graduate Award for International Research will give you a better sense of what you’ll be doing on a Fulbright and make you a more attractive candidate. The Stanley was particularly helpful for me because it gave me confidence and experience of conducting international research before going into the Fulbright. If you are thinking about a Fulbright Research Grant in the next couple of years, I would highly recommend applying for a Stanley.

Are there individuals you'd like to thank for their investment in this process?
I don’t know where to start and I apologize if this runs long. First and foremost, I’d like to thank my parents and family for their support and encouragement. Every year I have brought them increasingly outlandish ideas about where I want my life to go and they have steadfastly supported me. Pam Bourjaily, thank you for showing me the value and means for following a spark into action. Gene Savin, thank you for exposing me to the human side of economics. Jo Butterfield, thank you for exemplifying compassion, dedication, and perseverance. Your presence these past three years has made me a more considerate and determined human. My friends, thank you for being my family away from home. Your support and faith in me have kept me sane and (hopefully) fun. Last but not least, Karen Wachsmuth, I owe you a tremendous amount of gratitude. Six weeks into freshman year I set foot in your office with one wish: I wanted to see the world. Between research in Hong Kong, language learning in Indonesia, and now research in Indonesia I’d say that wish came true. Thank you.

explore the many funding opportunities available to UI students and alumni 

Students are encouraged to begin their funding searches and applications at least six months to one year in advance.  Schedule an advising appointment with Karen Wachsmuth to discuss your interest in an international fellowship or begin an application (as a UI undergraduate student, graduate student, or alumna/us).

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