Scholars plan to add perspective to research at London School of Economics

Jeff Rice
April 22, 2019

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Two Penn State Schreyer Honors Scholars and Presidential Leadership Academy members will pursue their globally minded educational goals this fall at the London School of Economics and Political Science.

Ezra Gershanok, a sophomore majoring in economics, and Charles Ryan, a sophomore majoring in political science, will attend the university’s study abroad program, The General Course, from September through June. They will take a leave of absence from Penn State for that duration but will receive course credit for the classes they take in London and will select those classes based on their respective academic interests from among 300 undergraduate courses offered by the university.

“What I really wanted to study at Penn State was behavioral economics, and I had to build my own major to create that as a reality,” Gershanok said. “If I was already taking the liberty to do that, this sort of program, where you pick your own classes and you create your own study, would be perfect.”

Gershanok plans to focus his studies on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and believes learning alongside students from a variety of other nations will help expand his perspective and supplement his coursework.

“I always go back to principles of economics in terms of trying to solve complex problems — incentives, opportunity cost, different ways to view the world through an economic lens,” he said. “And the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is something near and dear to my heart, because I believe that if the status quo continues, the prospects of a long-lasting Jewish state are dim.

“I really need to hear different narratives, especially blended international narratives, to be able to approach a problem in a way that’s not just the West telling the East or the Middle East what to do,” he said. “Because that doesn’t work.”

Ryan was inspired by a book he read by journalist, author, and London School of Economics alumnus Christian Parenti, "Tropic of Chaos: Climate Change and the New Geography of Violence," which examines the interaction between extreme weather and economic and social factors and how they produce violence around the world.

“I wrote my personal statement about climate migration and how I’m interested in insuring that the international legal apparatus recognizes these community values and people’s individual sovereignty,” Ryan said, “as well as the political legitimacy of the countries who are vulnerable to inundation as a result of climate change.”

Ryan plans to work with the LSE’s Migration Studies Unit and the Grantham Institute for Climate Change and the Environment as he studies the way geographic boundaries influence groups of people. He hopes to use the experience to generate ideas and research for his honors thesis.

Like Gershanok, Ryan is excited to meet and work with students from a variety of countries while they continue their studies.

“I’m looking forward to just diving into this intellectual environment,” Ryan said.

About the Schreyer Honors College

The Schreyer Honors College promotes academic excellence with integrity, the building of a global perspective, and creation of opportunities for leadership and civic engagement. Schreyer Honors Scholars total more than 2,000 students at University Park and 20 Commonwealth Campuses. They represent the top 2 percent of students at Penn State who excel academically and lead on campus.

Last Updated April 26, 2019