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. Next up, Andrew Liu. He’s studying International Security Policy, worked in the Pentagon’s Office of the Secretary of Defense as a security policy intern last summer, and served as an active duty Marine for about seven years. Here’s what he has to say about his time at SIPA.

What were you doing before you came to SIPA?
Before SIPA, I served in the US military as an active duty Marine for almost seven years. My assignments have taken me from the Quantico Highlands of Virginia to the sunny beaches of Southern California and the hot deserts of Afghanistan. I’ve worked in managerial roles as a platoon commander and in planning and advisory positions as a staff officer.

What attracted you to SIPA and Columbia University?
I was attracted to SIPA and Columbia University for both professional and personal reasons.

I decided on SIPA for its reputation and faculty and its location. I knew the school’s prestige and faculty would best support my career change into policy. Earning a master’s degree from a top-tier program is a major requirement of the field. I knew that being affiliated with certain institutions alone presented career opportunities. I was also impressed by the school’s faculty. To me, a two-year investment in education was only worth it if I was being instructed by a world-class faculty of leading scholars, thinkers, and practitioners.

As a New York native, I wanted to spend more time with my family. At the time of my decision, it had already been seven years since I moved away. I knew that a career in defense and security policy would keep me away from NYC, so I figured I spend as much time as possible with my family beforehand.

What most surprised you about SIPA after you arrived?
I was most surprised by the policy/culture-focused delegations throughout the school year (winter and spring break/summer). These student-led trips are generally planned out by peers native to each destination. For example, this past winter break, there were trips to Israel and Palestine, South Africa, and China. There are trips going to Morocco and Japan this spring. Some of my Russian/Central Asian friends planned a group trip to the Russian Federation last summer and are working on a Central Asia itinerary this year. Imagine visiting a best friend that moved abroad and who happens to work for the government in said country.

How did you find the core curriculum at SIPA?
The core curriculum was rigorous and necessary. I was particularly apprehensive about economics and quantitative analysis since it had been ten years since I’ve done anything related. I realized how necessary it was during my internship at the Pentagon. I was working on the NATO policy team when Brexit happened; I was able to break down and analyze its economic implications for the future of the Alliance.

How did you obtain your internship?
The International Security Policy concentration planned a trip to DC to visit SIPA/Columbia alumni and officials working in the executive and legislative branches of US government. We met with staff from the White House, Department of Defense, State Department, Treasury, Office of Management and Budgeting, and Congress. At the end of the trip, I sent out thank you email which subsequently connected me to an internship.

[Photo courtesy of Andrew Liu | Andrew during a SIPA Israel Delegation trip]