April 2016 Student Spotlight
April Student Spotlight with Diana Arias, BSPA ’16
It’s not often students accomplish so much in so little time and have such energy and love for what they do. Diana Arias is a perfect example, embodying this spirit as she makes her way through the BSPA program. She tells us about her time at the School of Public Affairs, her internship at the Clinton Foundation, and where she sees the next decade taking her.
Congratulations on your acceptance as an intern at the Clinton Foundation! Why do you think you were chosen? What are you working on there?
Finding out that I would be interning at the Clinton Foundation was a uniquely exciting moment, but it was really a work in the making. One of the strongest cases that I made for myself when going through the interview process was my robust background in the nonprofit, government and corporate world. I also participated in a BSPA program that allowed me to stand out amongst the other applicants. I knew that my desire to pursue a career with nonprofit organizations, as well as my understanding of the field, made me great candidate.
Currently I am a Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) Commitment Track intern, assisting with the progress reports from each commitment track. It is exciting to know that I will be able to learn so much about the work CGI commitment-makers are doing around the world, as well as the partnering organizations. In addition, I get to interact with students and graduates from schools all over the world with very diverse backgrounds.
Can you tell us about your time at the School of Public Affairs? What is it about the BSPA that attracted you? Did it deliver?
As a freshman I was immediately drawn to the School of Public Affairs because it allowed me to pursue my desire to help conserve the environment through policy and activism. I know I made the right decision because the program went above and beyond my expectations; never have I felt so sure about my career path. The professors were more than helpful each step of the way, and the coursework was not only relevant but interesting. The real bonus was the internship courses with Professor Michael Feller and Professor Stephen DiBrienza. These courses gave me the necessary experience to stand out as a candidate for any internship. As I get closer to graduation, I feel satisfied with all the work I put in school as well as outside of it. Being in a city atmosphere facilitated my desire to work hard on my future career goals.
You’ve had a great deal of internships over the course of the last few years at companies as diverse as Pfizer and Brooks Brothers, as well as in service of a New York City Council member. How did the BSPA prepare you for each of these disparate experiences?
The BSPA program required me to take an introduction to business and economics course, which helped me better understand the corporate world. The classes helped me understand the fast-paced market I was in and learning about policy really helped me understand the amount of influence corporations have on the government. When working for Council Member Donovan Richards gave me a front row seat on witnessing how powerful nonprofits and corporations were when it came to the process of making large policy decisions. One of my very first public affairs classes taught me the “triad of political actors”; and at this point in my academic career I have worked for all of them.
Where do you see yourself in five years? Ten years?
In five years I hope to have attained my MPA and be working either at a corporate foundation or perhaps a nonprofit. Either way, I want to make sure that I will be working towards making the world more sustainable, helping to empower women, and making quality education more accessible to all children.
Ten years on the other hand, seems like a very long time. My ultimate goal will continue to be the same which is to diversify my portfolio with different organizations and overcoming new challenges along the way. I do not want to marry a single idea, instead I want to explore my options as they come. All I know is that I feel confident to face any challenge head on. Who knows, maybe I will be running my own nonprofit, working in the government, or creating innovative sustainability methods for large corporations.