Program Assistant Introduction: Allison Walker

Over the last few days, you’ve met some talented Seeple who are passionate about public service. Today, I’m introducing you to PA Allison Walker, MIA 2016, who is no exception. Allison has found a way to combine her passion for digital media international relations while at SIPA. See what she has to say about the curriculum in her Q&A below.

Allison is a second year MIA student focusing on Human Rights and specializing in International Media, Advocacy, and Communications. Allison worked as a digital media and webcast specialist in the nonprofit sector in New York before going back to school. She double majored in Film and International Relations for her undergraduate degree at Northwestern University , and worked for documentary production companies and nonprofits in Chicago, D.C., Nashville and New York.

What attracted you to SIPA and Columbia University?
“The International Media, Advocacy, and Communications specialization was what caught my attention and why I applied to SIPA. I have always been interested in combining my technical and creative media skills with advocacy, so IMAC seemed like a perfect fit. Even though it is a specialization, which has fewer requirements than a concentration, the program is very robust and the classes cover a range of topics that are going to be useful in the field. Some courses are a little more theoretical, but most of them teach skills that will actually be used in a job—whether that’s writing, new media, or video.”

Did you choose to attend SIPA to change careers, or to gain experience in a career path you already had experience in?
“I chose to attend SIPA because the combination of the Human Rights concentration and the IMAC specialization seemed tailored to the type of work I hoped to pursue. It was not a career change for me, since I was already working in media at nonprofits and for social justice causes, but I would add that coming to SIPA has broadened my horizons in ways I didn’t foresee. Learning about organizations and endeavors in my courses and hearing all the different, amazing work my peers have done has made me see that there are many ways to use the skills I am building at SIPA.”

What’s your internship experience been like?
“This summer I interned at WITNESS, a nonprofit in Brooklyn that trains and supports activists on how to safely and smartly use video to combat human rights abuses. It was a great opportunity for me to see how the role video and multimedia can play in exposing abuses. WITNESS was a great fit because my background informed the work I was doing, but I was also learning how to research, curate, and present case studies of video’s role in recent cases of police violence.”

How did you obtain your internship?
“I learned about WITNESS through peers at SIPA and became very interested in their work. I signed up for the organization’s listservs and checked the website often. I specifically checked the internship opportunities page throughout the spring to see if there were openings, and when one for a Video Curation Intern for the new WITNESS Media Lab popped up, I applied the same day I saw it. In my application, I emphasized why I thought my background would help support their work and outlined how I thought the internship would complement my studies at SIPA. I conducted a Skype interview within the next few weeks and heard back about a week later that I would be working with them for the summer.”

What advice do you have for current applicants?
“I would advise anyone thinking of applying to SIPA to reach out to someone at the university to set up a phone or Skype call. While I was applying, I talked to multiple people in the concentrations and specializations I was interested in, and it was immensely helpful to get a current student’s perspective. I asked them all my questions, large and small, and appreciated their honesty and encouragement. I am always happy to set up phone calls to talk with prospective students because I know it was invaluable for me to hear how students handled the core requirements and navigated returning to school after working for a few years.”

[Photo courtesy of Allison Walker]
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