In today’s installment of our New Students Series, wave your virtual hand at Katy Swartz. Katy is a Texan (ditto!) who moved to the frigid north in Massachusetts to attend Smith College. She has a degree in Jewish Studies, and taught English in Bulgaria for a year. Today, she lives in Brooklyn and works for the NYC Department of Education as a data specialist. Overall, she’s lived in five U.S. states and three different countries. I’m sure her experience abroad will serve her well in a future career as a Foreign Service Officer. Hook ’em, Katy!

Full Name: Katy Swartz
Age: 26
Degree Program: Master of International Affairs
Concentration: Economic and Political Development
Hometown: Colleyville, Texas, United States

Undergraduate University: Smith College
Undergraduate Major: Jewish Studies
Undergraduate Graduation Year: 2013

What’s your professional background?
My professional background thus far has been in education and operations. I lived in Bulgaria for a year after graduating from Smith College, where I was a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant in the capital city, Sofia. After this experience, I moved to Brooklyn, NY where I have been working at a NYC Dept of Education high school for 3 years. I am currently the School Business Manager and Data Specialist, which translates to the director of operations. I oversee all operational aspects of the school including budget, purchasing, student and teacher scheduling, technology, data collection, and compliance.

Did you apply to SIPA to change careers or to gain experience in a career path you already have experience in?
I think it is a little bit of both. I realized while living in Bulgaria that I wanted to go into the field of international affairs, but I could not imagine what exact position or job duties most excited me. Over the last two years in my current role, I have been able to realize that my true talents lie in operations and management. Therefore, while I will be changing from the field of education to international affairs, I hope to remain in positions that allow for similar roles as my current job. I am excited that SIPA offers many management courses which will give me the academic background I need to continue in this career path.

What was your reaction when you found out you were accepted to SIPA?
For the two weeks leading up to learning I was accepted, I stalked the SIPA blog and application portal daily. The morning I found out was a Friday, and I had concluded (earlier that morning) that decisions would not come out until the following week, based on the timeline the previous year. I was sitting at my desk at work when I suddenly saw the email from SIPA saying my decision was ready to be viewed. Thank goodness I had saved all my passwords in the application portal already, because I was too nervous to remember anything that was happening. I screamed quite audibly when I saw the confetti coming down the screen and definitely scared my office-mate!

Why did you say “yes” to SIPA?
I was either incredibly bold or incredibly naïve in applying to graduate school, as I chose to only apply to SIPA. SIPA was the only school that had such a robust institute dedicated to the study of Eastern Europe (and specifically allowed for study of the Balkans), as well as rigorous coursework alongside practical hands-on experience through the Capstone workshop & internship opportunities. Therefore, my decision to attend was natural upon finding out I was accepted!

What do you most look forward to as a graduate student at SIPA?
I am most excited to gain an academic background in what has been a personal interest for so long. While I have done much independent learning and reading, I can’t wait to gain a deeper understanding in political development within the field of international affairs. Specifically, I can’t wait to student more about my regions of interest– East Central Europe and Russia/Former Soviet States.

Do you have any apprehensions about starting graduate school?
Of course! Any change comes with many apprehensions, but my excitement far outweighs them. I am most nervous about being back in school and keeping up with the rigorous coursework. I am also worried about balancing the life I’ve established already here in New York with my new life at SIPA.

What are your goals after SIPA?
After SIPA, I hope to join the US Department of State and work as a Foreign Service Officer in the Management Track.

If you could change one small thing about your community, country or the world, what would it be?
It’s hard to name just one! I think it would be nice if more people were willing to take a break from their various mobile devices and spend some time just talking to others the old-fashioned way. I think that so much of the way we interact with others stems from our constant distractions, as well as the fact that we can now structure so much of our lives in a way that prevents interacting with those who are different than us. Perhaps if more people took the time to talk to those outside their immediate communities, we would see less of the xenophobia emerging across the world.

Tell us something interesting about yourself:
I’ve lived in 5 US States, 3 different countries, and, by my last count, a total of 17 different apartments/homes (not including many dorm moves during college!). Perhaps my desire to join the Foreign Service stems from the many moves I’ve made in my life.

[Photos courtesy of Katy Swartz | In the hallways of the school where I work, Brooklyn, NY, May 2017]
*Note: This series is published in its original form with no editing.