Every semester the Office of Admissions welcomes new Program Assistants (PAs) to our team. We’ve asked them to introduce themselves in the form of self-interviews for a real-life look at a current Seeple and how they ended up at SIPA and Columbia University.

Today we’re introducing Tedros Abraham, a second-year MIA student from Boston concentrating in International Security Policy and specializing in International Conflict Resolution. At SIPA, his focus has been on nuclear non-proliferation and violent non-state actors. Before graduate school, he served as a legislative aide in the U.S. Senate with a portfolio encompassing foreign affairs, defense, intelligence, veterans’ affairs, and judiciary issues. Tedros’s experience working on the Iran nuclear deal was a central motivation for his graduate study of International Security Policy.

Before working in the Senate, Tedros managed an 8th to 9th grade transition program in Portland, OR, first as an AmeriCorps member and later as full-time staff. Employing data-backed metrics, this program identified the students in 8th grade who were most likely to drop out of high school. This allowed for early targeting of resources and interventions to these students before their high school careers began.

Check back on Friday to meet our other new PA, Sebastian! –– SIPA Office of Admissions

What experiences do you think prepared you to attend Columbia SIPA?
I have been fortunate to work in multiple areas of public policy and at different levels of government. This exposure was critical in helping me develop a narrow focus while at SIPA. Four semesters does not offer a lot of time to explore a wide range of interests, and this time is further constrained by the graduation requirements. Bringing a narrowly defined interest allows students to build relationships with professors in that field, use their electives for relevant classes, and build up the academic background to improve their competitive advantage when looking for jobs after school.

What do you hope to gain from earning a master’s degree at SIPA?
I decided to pursue a master’s degree because I felt I had hit a professional ceiling. I knew that attending SIPA would bolster my subject area expertise, provide a professional cohort that would grow with me, and give me access to a faculty that would be able to provide me valuable guidance as I plan for my career. I have gained all of this and more. What I could not have predicted were the opportunities to meet and work with leaders.

Did you have a lot of quantitative experience when you applied to SIPA? 
While I had taken statistics and introductory economics in college, it had been over 10 years ago by the time I started at SIPA and I did not feel confident in my quantitative skills. To bolster my application and better prepare for the quantitative coursework, I took courses in calculus and microeconomics immediately before applying to SIPA. While I found the economics and quantitative analysis coursework challenging, there were significant resources available to help us.

What attracted you to SIPA?
I chose to attend SIPA because of the school’s academic reputation, the diversity of the student body, it’s New York location, and because of the access to the rest of Columbia University. It was initially difficult to pick between SIPA and its competitors but I now know I made the right decision.

Any advice for applicants?
By taking advantage of the information sessions and the opportunities to talk to current students, you can get a sense of the strengths and weaknesses in your application. By starting early, you can take classes to improve your quantitative background, retake standardized tests, or find ways to gain needed experience in your field.