In November’s issue, we are featuring recent SIPA alum, Diego Llosa Velasquez, MIA ’17, and current student, Katarina Mayers, MPA ’18. Here, both discuss why they chose their particular areas of study, internship and capstone experiences, and the importance of fellowship.
Diego Llosa Velasquez, MIA ’17, International Finance and Economic Policy concentration, Advanced Policy and Economic Analysis specialization
Why did you choose SIPA?
I chose SIPA because it balances rigorous quantitative analytical skills with practical and leadership skills. Moreover, I was looking for a school that promotes evidence-based policy making and a wide variety of classes on subjects including international economics and trade, which are my major fields of interest. Before applying to SIPA, I researched the top international affairs schools throughout the world, and SIPA was among the best schools.
Why did you choose your particular areas of study?
Before attending SIPA, I worked for the Ministry of Foreign Trade and Tourism in Peru. While there, I learned about international affairs and specifically about international economic organizations. I decided to go to graduate school to deepen my knowledge of the theory of international affairs, and I wanted a program that included classes on economics and quantitative analysis. Fortunately for me, SIPA’s core curriculum and policy concentration and specialization options offered everything I wanted in a program.
How would you describe your SIPA experience?
My experience at SIPA was incredible. These were two years full of challenging and unforgettable experiences. It is hard to summarize all of the things that made this experience unique, but I would highlight the following: my capstone project in Peru, my trip as part of a SIPA Israel delegation, an internship experience with the United Nations in Thailand, my participation on the board of the Latin American Students Association, working as a teaching assistant and as a departmental research assistant, and meeting committed professors and students.
Was there anything that surprised you about your SIPA experience?
I was surprised by the diversity of the faculty and students, as well as their dedication and commitment to raising awareness and sharing knowledge and experience about issues that mattered most to them. I learned a lot, not only in classes, but also from my peers. They made me pay attention to and learn about issues which weren’t part of my studies but nevertheless present important challenges to the sustainable development of our societies.
What have you been doing since graduating from SIPA in May 2017?
I returned home to Peru in June 2017. After spending time with my family and friends in my hometown of Arequipa, I moved back to Lima to begin my job search. I received some very good job offers, but in the end, decided to return to the organization where I worked before attending SIPA: the Peruvian Ministry of Foreign Trade and Tourism. Since mid-August, I have been working as coordinator on international cooperation for the Vice Ministry of Trade. My responsibilities are two-fold. I am in charge of the negotiation, implementation, administration, and surveillance of the cooperation chapters in Peru’s trade agreements. I also work with donors in order to implement cooperation projects that have a real impact in the development of foreign trade in the country.
In what direction do you see your career moving?
I would like to move my career in the direction of assuming more responsibilities in the Peruvian public administration and exert a leadership role in the development of foreign trade in the country or in an international organization. Also, I would like to teach. My previous experience as a teacher in Peru and my experiences as a departmental research assistant and a teaching assistant at SIPA made me realize that I enjoy explaining theory and putting that theory into context through practical exercises. Through teaching, I would be able to share my knowledge and experience.
Katarina Mayers, MPA ’18, Urban and Social Policy concentration, Management specialization
What brought you to SIPA?
A love of public policy brought me to SIPA. Prior to attending SIPA, I served in the Obama Administration for three years, first in the White House Communications Office, and then, at the U.S. Department of Commerce. As the Department’s Deputy Press Secretary, I oversaw the communications strategy for Deputy Secretary Bruce Andrews and the Department’s 12 bureaus. I also had the opportunity to lead press logistics for Vice President Joe Biden. Before moving to Washington, DC, I lived in Santiago, Chile for a year of service as a Rotary Foundation Ambassadorial Scholar. I worked with local Rotary clubs to initiate service projects, gave speeches in Spanish about U.S.-Chile relations, and earned an academic certificate in Contemporary Latin America.
Why did you choose Urban and Social Policy as your concentration?
I chose to concentrate in Urban and Social Policy (USP) to learn more about governance, navigating institutions and bureaucracy, and how to make the most effective change. I love the energy and passion of USP professors and practitioners. As someone who is returning to public service after graduation, I thrive on learning directly from those who previously served or currently serve others (former Mayor of Philadelphia Michael Nutter and New York City Commissioner of Media and Entertainment Julie Menin, to name a few). I’m also a person of practicality, so having New York City as a living case study of what we learn in class is very exciting.
Outside of class, how has your SIPA experience affected you?
Serving as the President of the SIPA Student Association (SIPASA), I have had the unique opportunity to meet and work with many students outside of class time or group work. Ultimately, my greatest joy has been learning from my peers and making so many new friends who continue to challenge and inspire me. I love SIPA because of its students and the community we have cultivated. While I am from Los Angeles and chose to attend graduate school in New York City, I do not think I will ever have another opportunity like these two years to be surrounded by and learn from such diverse perspectives, cultures, and minds.
Is there a particular SIPA experience that stands out?
I took Mayor Nutter’s class during my first semester. While I enjoyed class time, I also learned that he is an empathetic individual who cares deeply about his students and how they do in their professional and personal lives. Mayor Nutter has become a true mentor, and he has shaped my SIPA experience for the better.
What are you looking forward to in your second year?
I’m looking forward to my capstone project next semester and working with the Los Angeles Mayor’s Office Innovation Team. I will not only have the opportunity to apply what I’ve learned in the classroom but also to serve my hometown!
What are your plans after SIPA?
I plan on returning to public service on the local level. I hope to represent my community and encourage other young women of color to step up and serve.