Niara Valerio, 2nd year MPA - IFEP & GPP student
Niara Valerio, 2nd year MPA – IFEP & GPP student

Class has officially started for the 2018-2019 academic year! With this semester, we have a brand new group of program assistants who will be assisting the SIPA Office of Admissions. We’ll be featuring our new PA’s over the next couple of weeks. For today’s post, let’s give a warm welcome to Niara Valerio!


Niara is a current graduate student at Columbia University studying International Finance and Economic Policy with a specialization in Gender and Public Policy. Niara grew up in New York City and completed her undergraduate degree at Harvard University where she studied Economics and Government. Prior to enrolling at SIPA, Niara worked as an Investment Intern at Women’s World Banking Capital Partners and served as Economic Affairs Adviser to the Permanent Observer Mission of the African Union. Niara has a strong interest in women’s economic empowerment and hopes to work for either a venture capital or private equity fund after graduation. She recently started her own ed-tech company, Purpose Tutors, which provides test prep and mentorship to underserved students in the South Bronx. Her hope is to gain the experience to one day start her own fund to invest in female and minority led companies.

What were you doing before you came to SIPA?

I was working as an Economic Affairs Advisor at the Permanent Observer Mission of the African Union to the United Nations.

What attracted you to SIPA and Columbia University?

I wanted to come to SIPA because I was attracted to all the different course offerings and how international the school is. I was especially interested in the Gender and Public Policy Specialization. My focus is on Women’s Economic Empowerment and I wanted to attend a school that allowed me to pursue my interests in both finance and gender.

Have you taken classes at other Columbia Schools?

Yes, I’ve taken several courses outside of SIPA, I took a class at the Mailman School of Public Health “Public Health and Abortion Policy” and one at the Institute for Research in African-American Studies (IRAAS), “Gender, Sexuality and Labor in the Caribbean.” I really valued the opportunity to get to know other students and professors within the Columbia community and outside of SIPA.

Did you choose to attend SIPA to change careers, or to gain experience in a career path you already had experience in?

A little bit of both, I already had some exposure to finance and economics prior to attending SIPA but I wanted to get more experience in Gender and Public Policy. I think SIPA is a great place to blend different interest areas because the course offerings are so diverse. You can really tailor your coursework to suit your own interests.

How did you obtain your internship?

My internship last year was with Accion EAST in their SBA Lending division, I actually applied via SIPA Link and heard back pretty quickly, I was offered the position on the spot, but I think I was very lucky in that regard, that doesn’t usually happen.

What has been the best part of your SIPA experience?

The people I’ve met for sure! I think SIPA attracts a really dynamic, interesting group of people with unique perspectives; you have the opportunity to be exposed to so many different cultures and backgrounds. I definitely appreciate how much I’ve learned from my classmates.

[Photo courtesy of Niara Valerio]