We’re introducing our new group of program assistants with the Office of Admissions. You’ve already met Niara and Kier, so now please meet Julia!


Julia Chung was born and raised in New Jersey but hopes to be considered an honorary New Yorker. She is a second-year MPA student concentrating in Urban and Social Policy and specializing in Technology, Media, and Communications. After graduating from Vassar College with a BA in Sociology and a minor in Asian Studies, Julia worked at various nonprofits in New York City on issues including housing, immigration, education, and civic engagement.

Photo courtesy of: Sandy Zhang

What were you doing before you came to SIPA?
Before SIPA, I spent four years working at various nonprofits in New York City, focusing on immigration advocacy and civic engagement. After working on various grassroots-level campaigns, I realized that I needed more knowledge and expertise. I decided that the best way to serve my community was to first learn how to create better policies and how to better include multiple voices and communities in policy-making.

What attracted you to SIPA and Columbia University?
When looking at graduate schools, the two factors that were most important to me were the classes and professors and where the school was located. I wanted to be in a city so I could remain involved in local issues and I wanted professors that had expertise on social policy and municipal governments. After my acceptance, I sat in on Mark Steitz’s Data Driven Approaches to Campaigns and Advocacy class. Less than half way through the class, I knew that SIPA was the school for me. It was clear that SIPA would not only provide the theory and best-practices about policymaking, but also teach the practical skills I needed to further my career.

How did you find the core curriculum at SIPA?
With no previous quantitative experience, I was apprehensive about the economics and quantitative analysis series. However, in the end, I found both to be extremely useful. Microeconomics and macroeconomics provided me greater insight in why governments make certain decisions around monetary and fiscal policy. And having enjoyed Quantitative Analysis I, I enrolled in Quantitative Analysis II, which is not required, the next semester. Now I highly recommend all students to take Quantitative Analysis II because I think it’s crucial for all policymakers to know how critique the methods of an academic journal article.

How did you obtain your internship?
I found the general internship posting for NYC Department of Transportation on SIPAlink, our platform for career resources. Having had mainly nonprofit experience, I was looking for opportunities in municipal government. Soon after sending in my resume and cover letter, I was invited to interview with the Grants Management team and offered a College Aid position.

What are your goals for the second year?
Having completed all my core classes for my degree and concentration in my first year, almost all my second year classes will be elective courses. My goal for the second year is to continue building my skills in design thinking and data analysis. I also want to take classes in other Columbia University schools, such as Mailman School of Public Health and Columbia Business School.

What do you think makes a good SIPA student or what qualities do stellar SIPA students typically possess?
I think stellar SIPA students typically are:

  • Skilled in time management. There’s quite a bit to juggle between lectures, recitations, office hours, club meetings, networking events, group projects, and life in general! A stellar student knows exactly how much they can take on, where to allocate their energy and when they need to say no and have some self-care time.
  • Open minded and willing to listen to other perspectives. Classmates are from all walks of life with different personal and professional experiences. We don’t always agree on the merits of certain policies or hold similar political views, but we have to respectfully hear the other perspective.
  • Proactive in getting involved in SIPA and off campus. There are so many events and opportunities at SIPA, but also in New York City. Stellar students do their research and get involved!