The Office of Admissions is introducing our semester’s new Program Assistants (PAs) to you in the form of self-interviews.
Today meet Sebastian Osorio, who is currently pursuing his MPA with a concentration in Economic and Political Development. With a BA in Economics and a Graduate Certificate in Regional Development, his strong technical background allows him to move comfortably between sectors and organizations.
Originally from Colombia, Sebastian started his career as a research assistant at the Colombian Central Bank where he understood the importance of public institutions to foster development. Wanting to have a more active role on policy decisions, he joined in 2009 the presidential campaign of Sergio Fajardo, an independent candidate who was the runner up in the 2010 presidential election. Since then, he has been working as a consultant, policy advisor and public servant helping to find solutions to inequality, violence and illegality, the main problems of his country. After SIPA, he plans to go back to Colombia to keep bringing about social change through an engagement in politics and public service.
What were you doing before you came to SIPA?
I did two things: I traveled the six months before coming to SIPA in an incredible experience through Oceania, Asia, America and Europe. And, I worked the previous three years as the Advisor/Assistant to Sergio Fajardo when he was the Governor of Antioquia, my home State (he is now running for President).
I was in charge of managing Fajardo’s agenda, briefing him for all his meetings and visits around the state, and being with him at events. It was an incredible and exciting experience where I had the chance to learn the political, economic and social context of my region. It was a very demanding job, as I had to be everywhere with the Governor, leaving almost no room to actually sit down and work. However, I learned from a great politician about how to manage a public office successfully.
What attracted you to SIPA and Columbia University?
Three things attracted me to SIPA and Columbia University. First, the example of supervisors, coworkers and friends who had also been through a MPA here or in other Ivy Leagues school. They all thank their institutions for what they have achieved. Second, because I wanted to be in a cosmopolitan big city like New York. I did not see myself in a school in little town in the middle of nowhere. Third, SIPA offered a program where international students are half of the student body allowing me to meet people from everywhere in the world and connect with them.
What experiences do you think prepared you at attend SIPA?
On one end, having lived abroad in Australia and France before allowed me to open my mind. I do not struggle when I have to meet people from other nationalities or in other languages; I actually enjoy it and I love the diversity. On another front, an extended professional experience (compared to the SIPA average) that allowed me to learn from people with different skills, backgrounds and personalities. I’m able to better understand other people’s needs and concerns, and my experience gave me a better understanding of what classes to take and how to get the most from the MPA program.
Have you taken classes at other Columbia Schools?
I have taken two classes at Columbia Business School, Managerial Negotiations with Michael Slepian, and Power and Influence with Mabel Abraham. They both have been great. I highly recommend anyone at Columbia taking classes in a different school. You get a fresh and different perspective on many issues, you meet new people, and you explore the campus. I took both at CBS because I was very interested in how to build and manage relationships, and they have great faculty there.
What’s your internship experience been like?
I did my internship in Liberia in a grassroots organization called Camp for Peace. I got the internship through a class at SIPA called Applied Peacebuilding, where you are assigned a project from the beginning of the semester and work on it until you have your field trip in the summer. I lived there for 10 weeks and it was really challenging to be in one of the poorest countries in the world, working in very basic conditions. Nevertheless, it was incredibly gratifying to be able to help the organization to build their strategy to help war affected youth to become self-sufficient. I traveled around the country and I learned several things that can be applied to the peace process in Colombia.
What has been the best part of your SIPA experience?
The people I meet is the highlight of the experience. Yes, New York is incredible. Yes, SIPA and Columbia are amazing institutions. Yet, the people I have met at SIPA are the real treasure. I have an incredible and smart group of friends with a lot of diversity of countries, background and interests. Every day they have something interesting to do and to talk about. The academic experiences, the trips we have made, the parties, the discussions, the company we make to each other is what I will remember the most from SIPA.