Introducing SIPA Love Stories

Did you know that Columbia-couples make up 5% or more of our alumni population? To celebrate the connections our students make here, we’ve teamed up with Columbia Alumni Association to share a SIPA love story every day this week. Then on Saturday, February 14—yes, Valentine’s Day—return to the blog to discover new connections Seeple are currently making!

So here’s our first story highlighting a SIPA connection, as submitted by our alumni themselves and told in their own voices.


Jimmy and Vilma’s SIPA love story:

“It was 2005 and I was a newly arrived SIPA student, trolling the classrooms listening to directors pitch their concentrations to earnest and debt-laden students, most us past our prime and returning to school for a second shot at glory, when I noticed her sitting in the first row, all dark features, a bit stand-offish and brooding. The professor had us introduce ourselves and when she said she was from Kosovo it made sense, and I had an angle. I approached her after the lecture, quickly mentioning my time in Bosnia as a way to open up the conversation. She responded with the kind of insult that I continue to find attractive to this day, almost a decade later. Some weeks after, while on a school trip to DC, I ran into her again behind the Treasury admiring the statue of Alexander Hamilton. I explained why he was my favorite Founding Father too, and from that moment forward not even Dr. Betts’ strict rules against fraternization could keep us apart. We were the best of friends, debating Clausewitz on the floor of the philosophy section at Barnes and Noble on Broadway and 86th, attending evening lectures on the existential nature of French historical writing from the 17th century, and collaborating on statistics projects. Our first real fight was over U.S. bombing policy in Kosovo, and even though I walked out of the bar in anger, I respected her position on the dynamics of coercion as a valid foreign policy tool; she had me at Melian Dialogue. Eventually we joined the real world and one day as her work authorization was about to run out, I asked that Balkan princess to marry me, putting an end to the incomprehensible discussions about the byzantine U.S. visa system. Today our adventure continues, overseas for almost four years now, with a dog and a child, and I am reminded every time that I receive a student loan bill from Sallie Mae that whatever the cost, and however long it takes to pay it off, it was more than worth it. Columbia provided me with much more than a degree. Happy Valentine’s Day, Vilma.”

– Jimmy F. & Vilma S., SIPA 2007


Find the entire Love Stories collection in Columbia Alumni Association’s Facebook album.