Everyone, we have a new work study joining us for the remainder of this fall semester. Please welcome Kier Joy! He is a first-year student at SIPA, studying economic and political development and international conflict resolution. He was raised a military brat, having lived all over the U.S. and in the UK. He graduated from the University of Georgia in 2017 with a dual bachelor degree in International Affairs and Political Science. During undergrad, Kier worked as the director of a state-level legislative research fellowship, applying his passion for policy and progressiveness to legislative issues. Also in undergrad, he studied abroad at the University College London and spent a summer in Washington D.C. as a Rangel Scholar. Kier is also a 2017 Charles B. Rangel International Affairs Fellowship recipient under the United States Department of State. Upon graduating from SIPA, Kier will join the Foreign Service as a Political Foreign Service Officer.
What were you doing before you came to SIPA?
Before SIPA, I was in undergrad at the University of Georgia. Though I was studying rigorously, I made sure to also gain as much professional experience as possible. After studying abroad in London the summer before my junior year, I was accepted into a state-level legislative research fellowship. In this position, I met with dozens of NGOs in Northeast Georgia to learn how to create, study, and advocate for progressive policy changes in the Georgia State Legislature. Through this opportunity, I worked as legislative aide under a state representative. After being in the fellowship for a year, I was promoted to director and had the chance to lead my own team in policy research. In November of my senior year, I was selected as a 2017 Charles B. Rangel International Affairs Fellow. As part of the Rangel Fellowship, I worked on Capitol Hill as a foreign policy fellow for the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs, Western Hemisphere Subcommittee. From there, I came to SIPA.
What attracted you to SIPA and Columbia University?
Two things really attracted me to SIPA and Columbia University: the large international student body and professor faculty. First, I wanted to attend a diverse grad school, not only in domestic populations but also international. As I am to join the Foreign Service after graduating, I wanted to be in a place where I was confronted by many different perspectives on global and regional issues to mimic the experiences I’ll have around the world as a diplomat. Second, Columbia University has some of the most renowned professors and practitioners in international affairs. To be able to learn from their research and experiences is such an invaluable honor that I couldn’t afford to miss out on.
SIPA features lots of events for students to attend. Is there any interesting presentation that you have attended that you could comment upon?
I attended a discussion on white nationalism in the past, present, and future. The discussion was lead by professors from schools all over campus – from SIPA to the School of Journalism to the Department of Sociology. It was incredibly interesting to hear from these scholars on where they believe this current uptick in white nationalism is coming from and where it is headed. Also, I’m glad that Columbia has opportunities to discuss current events with faculty.
What advice do you have for current applicants?
I think nailing a great statement of interest is incredibly important for the application. Given the concise nature of the essay, an applicant must be able to explain three things in very little words: their passion, their interest in Columbia, and why they believe a graduate degree from Columbia can aid them in their career. This can be very difficult. So I recommend starting the statement of interest very early. I started mine 4 months before the application deadline and had many professors and professionals review it. Then I also conducted a lot of research on SIPA, the MIA program, and the faculty so I could express what specifically in SIPA could aid me in my career. But overall, give yourself time to work on the statement. It’s incredibly important.
Did you have a lot of quantitative experience when you applied to SIPA? Why or why not? How did you perform in those classes?
I had taken 5 quantitative classes in undergrad before SIPA: political economy, microeconomics, macroeconomics, research design and quantitative analysis, and algebra. The only requirements for my undergrad degrees were algebra and macroeconomics. But through a summer program with the State Department, I took political economy. When I was looking into grad schools though and saw that they wanted a higher level of quantitative experience, I made sure to take microeconomics and research design and quantitative analysis. I performed well in all of the classes, though it did take quite a lot of work since I’m not math-minded whatsoever.
What advice would you give a first-year student?
Many of the core courses have recitation sessions you must attend. A recitation session is an additional “class” you must attend to discuss the topic of the week in the lecture core course. This can add an additional 2 hours per recitation course to your weekly school schedule. Because of this, it’s imperative that you can manage your time well. I suggest getting a planner and filling it out at the beginning of the semester of all the class times, tests, homework, and recitations. This has helped me to visualize how much time I have available to work (and play) outside of class.