New Student Series Part 8: Neelanjana Gupta

Neelanjana Gupta is the newest edition to the Class of 2017. Neelanjana double majored in economics and international studies at Brandeis University in Massachusetts. After graduation, she went back home to India to work as a policy analyst at Jana Urban Foundation, a think tank tied to one of the largest urban microfinance organizations in India. At SIPA, she hopes to learn even more about finding solutions to issues plaguing the development world, including helping young girls earn an education. Everybody, welcome Neelanjana to the class!

Full Name: Neelanjana Gupta
Program: Master of International Affairs
Concentration: Economic and Political Development
Specialization: Advanced Policy and Economic Analysis
Anticipated Graduation Year: 2017
Hometown: New Delhi, India

Undergraduate university, major and graduation year:
Brandeis University (Waltham, MA), Double Major: Economics and International & Global Studies (sp. Global Economy), 2013+                                     

What’s your professional background?
Soon after graduating from Brandeis, I discovered my first real-world work opportunity back home in India itself (a logical setting, after all). I worked as a Policy Analyst at Jana Urban Foundation (JUF), an urban-inclusion think tank and sister concern of Janalakshmi Financial Services Pvt. Ltd, the largest urban microfinance organization in India. At JUF, I conducted field investigations, carried out quantitative and qualitative social-science research, and did advocacy work with the Central and State government agencies. I was also involved in several policy-related projects that impact the lives of poor households in urban India.

Did you apply to SIPA to change careers or to gain experience in a career path you already have experience in?
My time at Jana has opened for me a big window to reach out to the masses and understand the true causes of their deprivation and misery; I have been able to unravel a lot. However, I have yet to acquire an in-depth knowledge of the subject that can help me in working towards finding scalable and sustainable solutions to the problems of the developing world. I am confident that SIPA will equip me with exceptional quantitative and qualitative skills that I need to enhance my analytical competency.

What was your reaction when you found out you were accepted to SIPA?
I cried in disbelief! I was speechless and could not breath for a few seconds. The animated streamers that showed up on the computer screen sent the message loud and clear: it was time for celebration. I am grateful to God and to my parents. An Ivy League education was my father’s dream, and the fact that it is happening now is surreal for me.

Why did you say “yes” to SIPA?
Since the day I realized that I want to pursue a career in the field of development and policy-making, SIPA [has been] my “dream school.”  After receiving my acceptance letter, I never saw things turning any other way. My heart was with SIPA. 

What do you most look forward to as a graduate student at SIPA?
Engaging in dialogue with world-class faculty, making friends from countries all over the world, being in a city that has become the hub for international development work and organizations, and living in New York City.

Do you have any apprehensions about starting graduate school?
I have spent a good 4 years in the US during my undergraduate studies, so I am feeling confident and excited to return to the environment. I am looking forward to the entire experience of living [in] the great city of New York! In the same breath, I would like to extend help to my fellow classmates (especially from abroad)—please do reach out if you need pointers on housing, etc. I understand that culture shock can be nerve wrecking for many of us, so don’t hesitate and do get in touch.

What are your goals after SIPA?
In a few years time, I see myself working in the field of development, more specifically for the cause of children and women.

If you could change one small thing about your community, country or the world, what would it be?
I have always believed that the much of the backwardness of communities in poor countries (and countries like my own) is [due] to gender discrimination against women and [young girls] in the field of education. I wish to change the way [young girls are] treated in India and other underdeveloped and developing countries worldwide. I feel confident that the education and exposure at SIPA will equip me with the skills I need to empower the lives of underserved women throughout the world.

Tell us something interesting about yourself:
My name is a portmanteau, a linguistic blend of my parents’ names.

If you’d like to participate in the series, please email us at sipa_new@columbia.edu to share your personal admissions story, what your summer vacation will entail/did entail, or anything else you think your peers would enjoy reading about! You may submit a blog post of your choosing, or submit the New Student Survey with pre-populated questions to get you started. And don’t forget to submit a photo or two to help us visualize your story! (And if you send along your social media usernames—e.g. Twitter and Instagram—we’ll tag you when it’s live.)

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