We are excited to welcome our two newest Associate Directors of Admission, Brianne Kain and Gina Malara, to the SIPA Admission Team! You may recognize them from various admitted or prospective student events over the course of the last few months. We had the opportunity to sit down with both our new team members and get to know them and what they love about SIPA.

Brianne Kain began working at SIPA in January 2022 as an Associate Director of Admission. Originally from New Jersey, she pursued her Bachelor’s Degree at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, NY. At Marist, she studied Spanish and Secondary Education and spent a semester abroad in Sevilla, Spain at la Universidad de Sevilla. Later, she earned her Masters in Management at Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, NJ where she notes her proudest educational accomplishment was competing and winning the University of New Mexico’s International Global Scaling Competition with recognition in strategy opportunity identification and strategy scaling.

Brianne has spent her career exploring higher education, particularly college admissions. She is beyond thrilled to have found her new home here at SIPA with an incredible team of colleagues. In her free time, you can find her talking about her love of musical theatre, discussing the latest episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race, or spending time with her close friends, family, and favorite goldendoodle puppy, Norwood.

What drew you to working at SIPA?
I was fascinated by the work that SIPA students are doing and I found the opportunity to play a small role in their educational journey by working in admissions is inspiring. SIPA prepares our next class of global leaders and I could not be more blessed to work with these students everyday. On a personal note, I credit my parents for giving me the opportunity to see the world through a global lens at a young age. My mom studied foreign language and economics and my father studied law – they both helped pave the way for me to recognize the need for public policy and advocacy led by the most driven cultural leaders.

Most influential SIPA alumni/figure?
I’ll have to echo Leslie Knope from Parks and Rec and select the late (and great) Madeleine Albright. She was a trailblazing leader in paving the way for more women in power serving as the first female Secretary of State.

Course you would want to take at SIPA?
I mean how do you pick just one!? There are so many, but I’d probably have to say INAF U6372 Women’s Leadership: Impact of Policy or INAF U6905 Fundamentals of Podcast Interviews. Both are socially relevant and I think would challenge inspiring discussions.

Best recommendation for SIPA applicants?
Aside from what we recommend on our website, I advise students to have fun with the application and be yourself. Why should we want to admit you? How will you change the world? What are your goals to do so? You are the best at being yourself so work that to your advantage. Be proud of the work that you have done so far to get to this place. Lastly, as a personal plug, use this blog as a resource! There’s so much helpful content on here that can really help enhance your application.

Gina Malara is from a small town in New York, moving away to study English Literature and Creative Writing at Bucknell University in Pennsylvania and then Victorian Literature at the University of Glasgow in Scotland before returning to NYC. Gina came to SIPA from the SPS Admissions team. Prior to starting at Columbia, Gina has roles in both Digital Communications and Talent Acquisition at PepsiCo in Purchase, NY. Gina loves to travel with her husband, bake, eat baked goods and listen to podcasts.

Course you would want to take at SIPA?
If I were a SIPA student, I would likely be drawn to the Technology, Media, and Communications (TMaC) specialization courses due to my background in communications and social media. Particularly, I would be excited to sit in on INAF U6129 – Storytelling and the Art of Creating Social Impact Campaigns. I think we can overlook how powerful stories and storytelling are in our society, especially as our ways of communication become more efficient and more global. Something that we always hear from our SIPA students is: the hardest part of any program is usually choosing what courses you’ll take during your time with us, since there are so many interesting topics and classes available!

Favorite spot to eat near SIPA?
My favorite lunch spot near SIPA has to be Milano Deli on Broadway between 112th and 113th street. The sandwiches there are out of this world delicious, and the menu is so big that you could probably eat there for an entire year without repeating your lunch. My advice to new Milano-goers would be to look at the menu before you walk in – otherwise you might be there for an hour trying to decide!

Best recommendation for SIPA applicants?
One of the largest challenges that all prospective students face is something called “imposter syndrome.” This is a real feeling of self-doubt that overcomes applicants as they begin to go through the process of researching schools, understanding application requirements and looking at student demographics. The one thing that I would recommend would be to take a deep breath and remember that you have zero chance of being accepted to SIPA, or to any school, if you don’t apply! So put pen to paper, do your research, make a plan and definitely give yourself a little boost of confidence, because SIPA students come in a wide variety!

Favorite random fact about SIPA?
My favorite random fact is actually about Columbia University, and more specifically about the statue that sits on our main campus in Morningside Heights. Lovingly called “Alma Mater”, she was sculpted by Daniel Chester French and unveiled on the steps of Low Library in 1903. There is something really small sculpted inside the folds of her robe, and there is much speculation about what this object represents, as well as so much lore surrounding what might happen if you’re the first to spot it. You’ll have to come visit campus to find out what’s hidden there!