The SIPA Office of Alumni and Development is pleased to share A View from the Class, a SIPA stories series featuring current SIPA students, recently graduated alumni, and faculty. 

Hello, I am Erika Bañuelos, a Master of International Affairs (MIA) candidate, concentrating in International Security Policy (ISP) with a specialization in Technology, Media, and Communications (TMaC).

What were you doing prior to attending SIPA?

I graduated from Brown University with a degree in Science, Technology, and Society (STS). Upon graduation, I was selected as a Fulbright grantee, working for nine months as an English teaching assistant helping to implement the Global Classrooms, a Model UN program, in a middle school/high school in Madrid, Spain. After returning to the U.S. in May 2019 and before starting at SIPA that fall, I interned for a U.S. Representative from Arizona on Capitol Hill, where I performed research and wrote memos concerning healthcare technology and research, foreign affairs, and legal frameworks and regulation around blockchain technology.

Why did you choose to attend SIPA?

I chose SIPA because I want to pursue an interdisciplinary graduate degree that will fill the gaps in my existing knowledge of world politics and economics, while further pursuing my interests in science and technology policy, specifically cybersecurity. I also want to have the opportunity to live in New York City to gain an understanding of how numerous sectors collaborate to address issues at various scales – whether at the municipal, state, federal level, and beyond.

Why did you choose to concentration in ISP and specialize in TMaC?

I chose ISP and TMaC because they are related to what I studied as an undergraduate, that is, my concentration in STS. A large focus of my STS concentration was theory based – examining the process of scientific discovery and discussing the establishment of scientific policies. Pursuing a MIA with a focus in ISP and specialization in TMaC takes my studies a step forward, away from the theoretical frameworks I had studied to being able to understand the manner in which various policies in the scientific and technology realm affect people and governments on a day-to-day basis. One of my undergraduate professors emphasized the importance for policymakers to become well versed in the technological realm, and conversely, for technologists to develop the skills to write and talk to diverse public audiences about complex subject matters. My goal as a graduate student at SIPA is to develop the skills and confidence to be able to do both.

How has your SIPA experience been so far?

SIPA students strive to create a collaborative environment. My recent experience as a participant in the annual NYC Cyber 9/12 Student Challenge, hosted in cooperation with the Atlantic Council and run by students in SIPA’s Digital and Cyber Group, showed me just that. Thirty-two teams from across the country came together to compete in a cyber policy and strategy competition to develop policy recommendations for tackling a fictional cyber catastrophe. I was part of a team that really tried to teach and learn from one another in order to work together on a policy challenge consisting of hypothetical cyberattacks on various infrastructure and services across New York City.  Because of this competition, I learned about the New York City Cyber Command (NYC3) – an agency that leads the City’s cyber defense efforts to prevent, detect, respond, and recover from cyber threats. This initial interaction and exposure to the agency’s role in protecting one of the most populous municipalities in the country paved the way for my current internship with NYC3 as a policy intern. My internship will allow me to refine my policy development tradecraft; develop practical, policy-related research skills; confidently communicate on security topics, terms, technologies, and concepts; and have a practical understanding of computer networking concepts.