The SIPA Office of Alumni and Development is pleased to share another installment of A View from the Class, a SIPA stories series, featuring current SIPA students, recently graduated alumni, and SIPA faculty.
In the September issue, we featured current SIPA student, Alana Plaus MPA ’18. Alana is a SIPA Fund Fellow and a second-year student pursuing her Master of Public Administration, concentrating in Urban and Social Policy (USP) and specializing in Gender and Public Policy (GPPS). Here, Alana discusses why she chose her particular areas of study, her internship and capstone experiences, and the importance of her fellowship.
Why did you choose to concentrate in Urban and Social Policy and specialize in Gender and Public Policy?
I selected USP and GPPS because I am interested in the societal power dynamics and limitations that exist for people of color, women, those who identify as LGBTQ, etc. Within my Social Policy courses, I am able to see how this marginalization translates into problems within social welfare, education policies, housing access, infrastructure, healthcare, etc. I ultimately hope to enter state level politics (perhaps even national someday!) in my home state of Colorado, where many of these issues are particularly relevant with a rapidly increasing urban population. Because of this, I feel as though my USP and GPPS courses have created a solid foundation from which I can jump into my professional path.
What are some highlights from your first year at SIPA?
I have greatly enjoyed my SIPA experience thus far. I am constantly amazed by the expertise and approachability of my professors. They all have an incredible humility when it comes to meeting with, and mentoring students. They are experts in their fields, have accomplished incredible achievements throughout their careers, are decorated scholars, and yet they are willing to drop everything to meet with a student. I have been blown away by each and every professor I have had. Beyond my academic experiences, I have also had rewarding internship experiences. This past summer, I pursued two internships simultaneously. To gain a deeper understanding of legislative processes in Colorado, I worked for a national advocacy organization that focuses on policy and legislation related to workplace equity and economic sustainability for women, especially women of color. To gain on-the-ground experience and learn more of the existing public services outside of the capital, I also interned with one of the largest refugee resettlement agencies in the country. This was a fascinating experience not only because of the people I was able to meet, but it was also a chance for me to see the trickle-down effect of federal policies on direct-service NGOs.
Tell us about your internship or capstone plans for your second year?
In the coming year, I will be interning with two political campaigns: a City Council candidate in NYC, and for a candidate running for Governor in Colorado. I am excited to take what I have learned about governance and policymaking, and see how it relates to the political process. I will also be working on my capstone this upcoming fall with The Brookings Institution. The capstone project will analyze the mechanics, processes, metrics, and outcomes of girls’ life skills programs that aim to encourage girls in the developing world to pursue higher levels of education.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
The fellowship I received due to the generosity of SIPA donors has allowed me to attend this fantastic institution and to pursue a career to serve others. Fellowships are so important because for many like me, the idea of living in a city like New York and attending a private institution like Columbia, would have been an impossibility otherwise. SIPA is known for its international diversity, but because of fellowships, socioeconomic diversity can also enhance class discussions. This better prepares students to understand the role that public service can play in the lives of many.