Ali, first-year Urban and Social Planning Concentrator and Gender and Public Policy specializer, just managed to get her application in before the fall deadline. The spark which ignited her dormant desire to attend graduate school had come just in time.
One year ago, Ali was working in New York at a radio station. This was her fifth job after graduating in 2013. Since then, she lived in France working as a nanny; in St. Louis working at a modern art museum; in Araraquara, Brazil teaching English; in Tucson, Arizona teaching middle school; and in New York working at an education non-profit. While Ali had been thinking about going back to graduate school for a while, she “did not want to go back to school before [she] had an idea what that meant exactly, because school is expensive.” This would soon change.
While Ali was at the radio, the country was gearing up for a historic election between the seasoned female politician, Hillary Clinton and the business-man-styled Donald Trump whose rhetoric against women forced a larger discussion of sexism in the country. In August 2015, Trump suggested that Megyn Kelly’s “ridiculous” tough line of questioning during a debate was a result of the “blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her… wherever.” He criticized fellow Republican candidate for president Carly Fiorina, jeering, “Would anyone vote for that? Can you imagine that, the face of our next president?!” As the official candidate, he encouraged his supporters to chant “lock her up” in reference to Ms. Clinton and declared she was a “nasty woman” during a debate. In the runup to the election, a past Access Hollywood tape leaked, which caught Trump bragging and joking about sexually assaulting women. However, despite this pattern of comments, Donald Trump was elected the 45th president of the United States.
For Ali, the 2016 campaign and election suggested two clear, if not equally troubling, views about the American voting population. A majority either believed in what Trump said about women, or they thought that his sexism was not germane to his ability to lead. Confronting these two narratives meant confronting an America that still did not firmly believe in gender equality. This was an idea that many women in the U.S. and the world grappled with as they took to the streets January 21st in the largest protest in United States history.
This was also the understanding that made Ali think now was the right time to come to SIPA.
“I had heard about the program through a friend at SIPA and liked the way that it allowed me to choose a concentration and specialization that was more tailored to the track I wanted to follow, which was gender policy.”
That being said, was Trump the only reason Ali came here? Well, in short, no. She expressed a “long held desire to study politics, international relations, and gain the tools to promote social change and policy advocacy,” but the election told her that now was the right time to return to school.
“After the election, I felt like I had to do something, to be more a part of the larger dialogue. Until then, I assumed we were moving in the right direction towards equality, but this made me realize that equality only happens through the clear, focused work of hundreds of actors. I wanted to make sure I had all the skills to be one.”
About a month into the program, she is happy with her decision. Although she is not sure what specific way she wants to contribute to furthering a discussion on gender, she is happy to be tackling these meaningful issues. Trump compelled her to action. We will see if he regrets it later.