Seeples Spotlight: Ayanda Francis

This semester the Office of Admissions welcomed three new Program Assistants (PAs) to the team. This week I’m introducing you to each of them in the form of self-interviews. It’s ladies first, so say “hello” to Ayanda Francis. Ayanda is Jamaican-American, and she’s from Atlanta, Georgia. Before attending SIPA she was Fulbright ETA in Turkey, and after SIPA she plans to join the US Foreign Service. She’s concentrating in Economic and Political Development and specializing in International Conflict Resolution and Asia. At SIPA, she has been involved in SIPA Students of Color as the former finance chair, Women in Peace and Security as the former Vice President, and has spent her summer in Timor-Leste with UN Women.

What attracted you to SIPA and Columbia University?
My reasons can be split into two categories: personal and professional. Personally, my mother came to Columbia for graduate school and loved every minute of it. As a result, I had visited campus many times with her and have wanted to come to Columbia since I was around 10 years old. Professionally, SIPA happens to have an academic program that matches my desires exactly. I wanted to study both development and conflict resolution, and while many programs force you to choose between the two, SIPA has allowed me to study both in depth. The fact that Columbia is located in NYC doesn’t hurt either. 🙂

What experiences do you think prepared you to attend SIPA?
Attending an engineering school for undergrad definitely helped prepare me for the intensity and rigor of SIPA.  SIPA is hard, y’all! Be prepared.

What has been the best part of your SIPA experience?
Definitely meeting the rest of my classmates. Everyone is brilliant and accomplished and comes from such interesting perspectives that challenge me to look at issues in new ways, but they are also just genuinely awesome people to hang out with. Seeples are also of the work hard play hard mentality, so there’s lots of fun to be had.

Can you comment on the quantitative rigor in the curriculum?
Rigorous! I took the Calc- heavy micro and macro (6400 and 6401), as well as the quant-heavy economic development course. While not entirely murderous, these courses are not for the faint of heart.

What’s your internship experience been like?
I had a FANTASTIC time at UN Women Timor-Leste. I was working with the Women, Peace and Security team on women in the police force– helping the PNTL (national police force) assess themselves on how female officers are treated, what can be done to recruit and retain more women, and how to improve services for women overall. I was doing real and substantive work, representing the UN at governmental meetings, and had the freedom to suggest ideas and projects that would be taken seriously. The office is fantastic and Timor is lovely, so I would beyond highly recommend it!

How did you obtain your internship?
A class called “ Applied Peacebuilding.” I also HIGHLY recommend it. It’s project based, so you are guaranteed an internship if you get into the course. It’s much different than any other SIPA course you’ll take so I would recommend that those interested apply for it!

[Photo courtesy of Ayanda Francis, pictured left]