Archive for SIPA Love Stories

Wishing Everyone a Happy Valentine’s – and Galentine’s! – Day

A Look Back on SIPA Love Stories

SIPA is the most global policy school that attracts a diverse, accomplished, interesting, and curious community of students, and it’s no surprise that many of them get interested in each other.

Our collection of SIPA Love Stories will warm your heart in this winter cold. Dyanna met her wife Miki on Valentine’s Day at a campus “LGBT Intergraduate School Speed Dating Mixer,” while SIPA graduates Carole and Matthew met while swimming laps at Uris Pool.

A recent addition to the SIPA Love Stories is Katherine Duceman MPA ’15 and Bryan Plummer MIA ’15, who met at Columbia SIPA and were married in December 2019 – congratulations!

Celebrating phenomenal women on Galentine’s Day

“February 13th marks a very special day — not only is it the 44th day of the year in the Gregorian calendar, and the day Earl Hines and his Orchestra recorded “Boogie Woogie on St. Louis Blues” in 1940; it is also Galentine’s Day! For those of you unfamiliar with Galentine’s Day, it is a national – and I may be using this term liberally – holiday in the U.S. Galentine’s Day is a day for us to celebrate female friendship, and what could possibly be better than female friendship?! Where would we be without the incredible women in our lives, who inspire and support us everyday.

Here is a shoutout to my fellow Seeples, celebrating and appreciating some pretty phenomenal women: Rahel Tekola MPA ’18, Anais Tongoi MPA ’18, Erin Lue-Ling MIA ’18, Fatimah Martin MPA ’18, Jaynice Del Rosario, MPA ’18, Rachael Sullivan ’18, Hermila Yifter, MPA-DP, and Michelle Joseph MPA – DP ’18.”

Niara Valerio, MPA ’19 — Recent SIPA graduate and former Program Assistant at the Office of Admissions and Financial Aid.



SIPA Love Stories 2018: A Life-Changing Experience for Anisa and Len

Happy Valentine’s Day! We’re sharing new SIPA Love Stories from our alumni – check out our first installment with these world-traveling Seeples.

We’re closing this series out with two alumni that found expansive education opportunities, lifelong friends – and each other – at SIPA.

Anisa (MIA ’98) and Len (MIA ’98)

Anisa and Len visit the Taj Mahal with their two sons Jatin (L) and Ravi (R).

Anisa and Len first first met at a party at International House and became friends. They were later assigned to the same study group in accounting, and ultimately starting dating toward the end of their second year at SIPA.

They both chose SIPA because of their mutual interests in faraway places, their curiosities about politics and policy, and their desires to pursue careers with a strong international component. For Len, SIPA was an opportunity to study global economic and business issues as part of his training to become a financial journalist, and Anisa studied economics with a view toward a career in global banking.

The breadth of their graduate education and the ability to understand inter-dependencies has served them well: after working for more than a decade as a magazine journalist at Fortune, Worth and Institutional Investor, Len moved into digital media and digital strategy. Today he is a partner at boutique communications consultancy RooneyPartners, based in New York, where he works with a range of corporate and nonprofit clients. Anisa pivoted from banking to philanthropy early in her post-SIPA career, working first for the Rockefeller Brothers Fund and then joining Tiffany & Co., where today she serves as Chairman and President of the Tiffany & Co. Foundation and Chief Sustainability Officer of Tiffany & Co.

Looking back, Len and Anisa agree that SIPA was a life-changing experience:
“…Certainly in terms of the education we received and the doors that our education has opened for both of us, but also the experience of SIPA itself. Our classmates came from all corners of the globe, and we count many of them as our friends today. The opportunity to learn from them, and with them, is part of what made SIPA such a unique experience for us.

One interesting fact about our statistics class, which we both took together in the political science department: we were just one of three soon-to-be couples in the class who went on to get married!

We both believe strongly in SIPA’s mission, which is arguably more vital today than ever before. We remain awed by the caliber of students that attend the School, the incredibly diverse and interesting projects they’re working on, and the breadth of their ambition — all united by a strong desire to make a difference in the world. We’d like more of our fellow alums to reflect on what SIPA has meant for them – and find ways to engage with and support the School.”

Len and Anisa at SIPA graduation day, 1998.

Len and Anisa celebrate a recent wedding anniversary.

You can find our archives of SIPA Love Stories here.

SIPA Love Stories 2018: Seeples Exploring the World Together

There are many reasons to love Columbia SIPA: Innovative classes, an international community, the global hub that is New York City. But these Seeples have an extra reason – they found their better halves here. For Valentine’s Day, we’re sharing three new SIPA Love Stories from our alumni.

Today meet Jon (MPA ’13) and Valle (MIA ’14), world travelers that started with first dates exploring New York City, then the United States, and now Spain and Europe. And Tian (MIA ’15) and André (MIA ’15), avid travelers who initially bonded over shared backgrounds in Asia, are looking forward to their next trip – one that will start them on their new life journey together.

Check back tomorrow for another installment of SIPA Love Stories!

Jon (MPA ’13) and Valle (MIA ’14)

Jon and Valle at graduation.

Jon and Valle met during orientation week in August 2012. Jon, an Oregonian, was about to start his second year at SIPA and was tabling to recruit editorial assistants for the Journal of International Affairs. He succeeded in recruiting Valle, an incoming student from Spain. Jon and Valle teamed up in the editing workshops and coincidentally had a class together with Professor Gottlieb.

After arriving in New York City, Valle was in the market for a bike. Jon owned two and attempted to sell her one; instead, Valle started borrowing it for their biking dates across New York, and over time she claimed Jon’s bike as her own. For one of their first dates, they biked from campus all the way to the Cloisters, where Valle survived a dramatic accident – luckily without injuries! Together they explored the city on two wheels having Mexican food in the Bronx, discovering a secret Spanish club in Astoria, Queens, and enjoying Cuban music in Hoboken, NJ.

After New York City, Jon and Valle moved to Washington, D.C., both working in international development. For those few years, they used every weekend and holiday to travel around the United States, visiting over 25 states from Idaho to Ohio to Mississippi.

The two got married in July 2017 and now live in Spain. They live in a beautiful garret in Madrid’s literary quarter, and they are embracing their new weekend getaways across Spain and Europe.

Jon and Valle do miss New York — a place that will always be home for them. They try to visit the city whenever they can and, if possible, stay near Columbia University to reminisce at the Hungarian Pastry Shop about how it all began.

Tian (MIA ’15) and André (MIA ’15)

Tian, a recent college graduate from China, and André, who had just moved back to the U.S. after working in Japan, met at their first class of SIPA’s Fall 2013 semester. They soon came to realize their common passion for global macroeconomics, similar backgrounds in Asia, and shared love for Lord of the Rings and Civilization. During their joint adventures, they’ve had good times, rough times, but never bad times.

Both avid travelers, they are constantly planning their next trip. They are especially excited about the upcoming one in September, where, surrounded by friends and family, Tian and André will celebrate the official beginning of their life journey together.

You can find our archives of SIPA Love Stories here.

SIPA Love Stories: One has smooth moves in the tile store, while the other reviews their cost-benefit analysis

In honor of a day where we publically and privately express our love for our significant other — aka Valentine’s Day — Columbia University is sharing the true love stories of its students and alumni. Every year, we share our own love stories among our Seeples, and have two new stories to share this year. One couple found love in a tile store, although not right away, and the other met in the Peace Corps and reconnected while studying at SIPA.

Looking for more love stories? Check out our archives of SIPA Love Stories here.

Sheethal and Tokumbo’s love story

My husband and I met in a small tile store when we were both renovating our apts.   He asked me for my advice on tile colors as we were both looking at the overwhelming number of choices.  He was wearing a Columbia sweatshirt, which made me at first more comfortable to talk to him.  After emailing about design and picking paint colors, we went on a lunch date and within a year we were engaged.  Now those tiles are my tiles and we’re working on a new renovation project together.  Our 8th wedding anniversary is coming up this year and we have two beautiful boys, 4 and 2.

—Sheethal S. ’02CC, ’06SPS + Tokumbo S. ’99SIPA


Sara and Mike’s love story

We met in Burkina Faso (during Peace Corps) but we fell in love at Columbia! Here’s our story & photo:

[Excerpt & photo from The New York Times] “Sara and I started to blush when we saw each other,” Mr. O’Sullivan said, “and I knew something was happening but wasn’t quite sure what it was.” But when he confessed his feelings for her, Ms. Riese, who described herself as a “logical person,” was shocked. His departure the next day for a two-week research trip in Senegal offered her time to mull it over. The e-mail from her he had been waiting for arrived the day he was to return to New York.

“I wrote in the subject line, “ ‘a cost benefit analysis,’ because that was what we were studying in graduate school,” Ms. Riese said, laughing. “I had weighed my options in terms of risking my really valuable friendship with him, and I had decided pursuing our relationship was worth it.”

—Mike O’Sullivan (MIA ’07)/Sara Riese (MIA/MPH ’07)
read the entire wedding announcement here.

[Photo courtesy of NYT / Emily Heizer]

[Photo courtesy of NYT / Emily Heizer]


SIPA Love Stories: A speed dating match

Valentine’s Day is right around the corner, and this time last year I shared a week’s worth of love stories featuring some of our Seeple.  Read More →

"The most global public policy school, where an international community of students and faculty address world challenges."

—Merit E. Janow, Dean, SIPA, Professor of Practice, International and Economic Law and International Affairs

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