Note from Emily: We have two new program assistants adding their voices to the blog this semester, Aaron and Zulpha!


Aaron is a second year MPA-candidate concentrating in Energy and Environment and specializing in Management. He was in born in India and raised in South Jersey. Prior to coming to SIPA, he worked on USAID development projects focused on East and Southern Africa. His work supporting the management of energy and wildlife trafficking projects motivated him to come to SIPA to deepen his knowledge in energy and environmental policy. He is also an alumna of the University of Maryland, College Park, where he danced on and managed an Indian folk dance team. Since joining SIPA, he interned with the U.S. Embassy in Hanoi, Vietnam, and served as Treasurer of SIPA Students of Color. In his free time, he loves to try new recipes and make chai for his friends. He often daydreams about the delicious khao soi he ate every day during his study abroad in Thailand.

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

Both! I wanted to shift careers into the U.S. Foreign Service as an economic officer. Having worked in international development, I gained experience managing large foreign aid projects in areas of education and private public partnerships. After receiving the Rangel Fellowship, I knew I wanted to focus on macroeconomic policies and country level economic growth. I also wanted to deepen my understanding of how the private and public sector interact and cooperate. I have been able to explore these topics at SIPA.

How did you find the core curriculum at SIPA?

In acknowledging the multidisciplinary nature of many careers in policy, SIPA’s core enabled me to refresh and hone my skills and knowledge in economics, budgeting, management, and writing. I think it prepares you to take on a range of roles including policy experts, managers, advisors, and maybe even finance gurus. For example, the “Analysis of Public Sector Organizations” core course combines behavioral economics, public sector development history, and management strategy. This class helped me conceptually understand why management and bureaucratic structures fail and what strategies a public sector organization can take to remedy them. We then worked in groups to analyze and propose strategies to tackle a real-world management issue. I also have a Bachelor’s in Economics, but needed SIPA’s core classes to get a refresher on the concepts and apply them to international trade and environmental regulatory policy issues.

What advice do you have for current applicants?

The hustle and bustle of applying to schools can be stressful. Take a moment to reflect on why you specifically want to go to SIPA. How will it help you achieve your career goals? The more specific you can be in your answer, the better and stronger your application will be. This seems like general advice, but if you truly take a moment to reflect and strengthen your “why”, you will be able to understand your own professional journey better and relay that to the admissions committee through your application.