Jose Augusto Costa is a second year masters student in the Department of Political Science at Memorial. Born in Argentina, his heart is divided between the place he was born and Brazil, where he lived most of his life. He holds a BA in Social Communications from the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro and an MA in International Relations from the University of Nottingham. His research interests include historical institutionalism, global political economy and environmental political economy. His current research focuses on the role of national institutions in the salmon aquaculture industry in Chile. He is a research assistant working with Dr. Sarah Martin.
How and why did you decide to attend Memorial for your graduate degree?
I was planning on going back to the Academy after years working in the private sector and started looking for universities in Canada, the US and the UK. Canada in general is more open to international students and gives the possibility of part-time work while studying, which for me and my wife was a big consideration. To be honest, I didn’t know much about Newfoundland and Labrador before, so it was a pleasant surprise when I found Memorial in a university ranking. Later, I did some research on the province and on the available courses. After introducing myself to some faculty and being extremely well treated, I decided to apply.
What drew you to explore political science originally?
Political science is a discipline that crosses and speaks with other social science fields, including history, sociology, and economics. Because I already had a masters in international relations and was interested in how political outcomes develop over time in a specific society, it felt like a good match to explore this field even further.
Can you tell us a bit about your current projects?
I am currently finishing my dissertation on the role of national institutions in the creation of the salmon aquaculture industry in Chile. Aquaculture is one of the fastest growing food sectors in the world and with all the talks about using aquaculture to provide protein to feed the world, it is fundamental to understand the politics behind it. Salmon is not native to Chile and in 30 years the country became the second largest producer of farmed salmon in the world. I am studying the historical institutional context behind this growth and the subsequent impacts on the environment.
A supervisor can be key to the success of any grad student. What does your supervisor bring to their role as your advisor and mentor?
Words cannot due justice to describe the role that my supervisor had and has on my performance as a grad student. Dr. Sarah Martin helped me to overcome the burden of being a newcomer, with little experience in the area of study. Dr. Martin goes above and beyond what her job requires to provide a safe environment for students and help them to succeed. Besides dealing with all my questions and doubts, she encouraged me to apply for a travel grant that gave the opportunity to go to Chile and do fieldwork for my dissertation, a unique experience. I couldn’t be happier to have her as an advisor and mentor.
How does studying in the humanities and social sciences affect your worldview?
It makes me think on the impact political decisions (or the lack of) have on the society and what we can learn from historical developments that are still influencing outcomes today. In a time of climate change, environmental degradation and polarization in politics, it is more important than ever to study these topics using a social science lens to understand how we got here, and the consequences of these actions.
What, in your opinion, is one thing Newfoundland and Labrador could do to make the province more attractive for young people and/or immigrants?
This is a topic that I am particularly interested. Not only as a foreigner, but because I really enjoy my time here, and it is sad to see so many friends leave. The university is the main reason that thousands and thousands of talented young people move here every year. Through Memorial, Newfoundland and Labrador provides a great and affordable opportunity for learning. Due to a lack of employment options, most of them leave shortly after graduating. It is not a simple and painless solution, but the province should reduce the cost for new entrepreneurs, startups and provide incentives for companies to move and stay here, without forgetting to incentivize small local business. With more jobs available for recent graduates, people would stay despite the weather. In a world that is heavily investing in new cleaner technologies, the solution for the province cannot be the same old oil.
Are you involved in any organizations on-campus or off? If so, can you explain and detail such involvement (and how it might relate to your studies)?
I am the president of the Political Science Graduate Student Society. Our main goal is to organize the annual Changing Political Landscapes conference for students interested in politics, broadly speaking. This year we had almost 60 attendees with 24 undergrad and graduate students presenting papers. It was a lot of teamwork, but everyone was really satisfied with the results. I’m also the graduate student representative in my department, which allows me to have more contact with faculty and be a student voice and ears on department meetings. And I’m part of the International Political Economy Group, an interdisciplinary forum for students and professors to come together and explore ideas, share personal struggles related to Academy and learn with each other.
What do you like most about being a graduate student at Memorial?
I love how friendly and accessible the faculty and staff in the Department of Political Science are. Having studied in two other countries, it was a pleasant surprise to see the different approach here. Maybe it’s due to the size of the department, but I can always count on people to help with any issue. No one is the same and almost everyone struggles at a certain point during graduate studies. It is great knowing that if you fall you can count on a support network that can help you or point you in the right direction. The only thing that can be improved is opportunities for students to interact outside the classrooms and get to know each other.
What do you hope to do after completing your graduate degree?
I am planning to do a PhD and I would love to do that in Canada.