Sunday, January 30, 2011

Understanding the US Visa System

I read a lot of my wife's Chemical Engineering magazines, I find it really fascinating to learn about their values, debates, methods, tools, and culture.

I found this article especially useful, an article by someone at the US Department of State as to how the US visa system works, why people are rejected (apparently 3/4 of visa applications are approved), and how best to prepare for a visa application. Very useful.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Why I Don't Live in South Carolina

My old high school, the South Carolina Governor's School for Science and Math (SCGSSM), sent out a survey to understand what it would take to get more of its alumni to live and work in the state.

I think there are a lot of serious structural issues with SC that make it virtually impossible for me to live there. To a large extent, SCGSSM is a victim of its own success. Here, we have a fantastic, top-caliber high school that has trained scholars who can operate on the world stage. In my graduating class, there is a speechwriter for a politician, several lawyers, multiple doctors, and a large number of teachers.

The problem is that many of these top-notch jobs simply aren't in SC. SC doesn't have a thriving high-tech, biotech, financial, or engineering base. It's simply dominated by Atlanta to the west, and North Carolina to the north. The same is true for its universities. God bless Clemson's football team, but the universities in SC can't compete at the international level, let alone the regional level. For engineering and computer science, the region is dominated by Georgia Tech, Duke, and VA Tech. These factors put SC at a tremendous competitive disadvantage.

And then there's the issue of race. I pretty much always cringe whenever I hear SC in the news, since most often it's because some politician called the now governor of SC a "raghead", or because SC refuses to disassociate itself from the Confederate flag, or some frat boys make blatantly racist and sexist comments which appear in the Borat movie. David Beasley, a former governor of SC (who I had the honor of meeting on a plane once), even won an award for opposing having the Confederate flag on the state capitol. SC simply isn't doing itself any favors.

While I loved growing up in Charleston, and while I fondly reminisce about my time at SCGSSM, I just don't see a good way forward for my home state. The problems it faces are ones that will take 50-100 years to fix, and that's only if there is the political willpower and vision to carry it out.