A New Face at the Office of Student Affairs

Source: SIPA By Meixi Gan Students coming into the Office of Student Affairs for academic advising will see a new face this year. Dean Sara Doyle joined the team as an Assistant Dean last semester, taking over from Mona Khalidi. TMP sat down with Dean Doyle in her office one Friday afternoon to learn more about her, how she came to join SIPA, and what she is working on this year. Doyle’s main focus at SIPA is Student Life, which includes working with student groups and SIPASA. She has heard students raise issues ranging from mundane, everyday gripes about how study space is a scarce resource in Lehman Library, to concerns about whether a concentration and specialization should appear on one’s SIPA diploma. “Many of these matters are still new to me,” said Doyle, “but I’m taking it all in. I’m committed to my role in connecting students with available resources at SIPA.” She is also responsible for planning orientation in the fall, and has been collating student feedback so that she can build on this year to improve the experience for the next crop of SIPA students. The highlight of Doyle’s time at SIPA so far was a brown bag lunch called Free Speech, Free Eats on Oct. 14th last year. The SIPASA-organized event gave a small group of SIPA students the opportunity to meet Doyle, learn about what OSA has planned for the school year and also highlight issues that OSA should raise with university administration. Doyle said she loved how the event was set up to have no formal agenda. “It gave me a chance to hear about the things SIPA students are concerned about and the issues that are important to them.” Advising students, however, is a key reason Doyle came to SIPA and the aspect of her job that she seems most excited about. She speaks enthusiastically about the meetings she has already had. When I asked about a photograph of a familiar-looking old building pinned to a corkboard in her office, she explained, “that’s Earl Hall. This picture was taken by one of our SIPA graduates who decided to pursue his dream of becoming a photographer.” Doyle said she looks forward to meeting more SIPA students over the course of the year and learning more about their work, passions and causes. While she may be new to SIPA, Doyle is no stranger to Columbia University or to New York City. She was born in Brooklyn, where her father is from, but her family moved to the Midwest shortly after. Doyle returned to New York City just over a year ago for a job in the Student Life and Alumni Relations office at Columbia’s School of Continuing Education. She moved to SIPA for the opportunity to take on a portfolio that was a mix of student affairs and advising. Comparing SIPA with her previous role, Doyle said that while students at the School of Continuing Education were very diverse in age and profile and the school itself had a wide range of programs, SIPA’s slightly younger student body and clear focus on international affairs makes for a very different experience. “I’ve always been passionate about education”, Doyle explained. As an undergraduate, she wanted to become a history teacher. Later on she decided that she could make a difference in another way, and got an MA in Student Affairs Administration instead. She also completed a leadership training class at Michigan State University, and worked in various areas of higher education including Residential Education, Parent and Family Programs, Orientation and Student Leadership at Michigan State University, Davenport University and DePaul University before her move back to the East Coast. In spite of her busy schedule, Doyle makes time for some interesting activities outside of work. She is a certified group fitness instructor, and views this as yet another way to be involved in education – teaching people about health and wellness. She is also an avid runner, having completed marathons in Tennessee and Chicago. Will she do the New York City Marathon? “I’ve thought about it,” she said. “Maybe next year.” Meixi Gan is a first-year MIA student concentrating in Energy & Environment. This story first ran in the print edition of The Morningside Post on April 20, 2015.

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