Katia Diaz

Research Assistant at Teachers College, Columbia University

Research Analyst and Grant Writer at Commonwealth

Why did you choose the MA in Global Thought and how did it prepare you for your current position?

One of the main reasons why I chose the MA in Global Thought program was its research-centered curriculum. Hoping to make a career pivot, I chose the program to help expand on much needed research skills such as building on literature reviews, conducting interviews, and deciphering counter arguments. Additionally, the program helped me understand critical areas in social issues and apply them within a global framework. This helped lay the ground work for the research I’ve been conducting at Teachers College, Columbia University. In this role, I’ve used the research skills I’ve learned to conduct interviews with teachers and policymakers in the Dominican Republic.

Describe your favorite MA in Global Thought course or project, and how it helped your academic, professional, and/or personal growth.

I have always been passionate about providing equitable access to vulnerable communities. The MA in Global Thought program became an avenue by which I could do so. During my time there, I centered my MA essay on critical issues in comparative education including studying socio-economic links in U.S. school laws and special education practices in Latin America and Europe. This gave me the confidence and know-how to pursue a career in research and social impact.

How did you come to work in your current career field and what inspires you about your work?

As an immigrant with a low-income background, I understand what it means to face financial challenges, especially when it comes to gaining educational resources. Aiming to pay it forward, I pursued a career in the non-profit sector. Through the help of my previous connections (yes—networking works!), I landed a position in Communications after graduating from Columbia University at The Rockefeller Foundation. Since then, I have made a transition into research where I will begin my new role as a Research Analyst and Grant Writer at Commonwealth, a non-profit organization dedicated to increasing financial wealth among low-income families. Alongside this venture, I am wrapping up my research project on the Dominican Republic at Teachers College with two publications in place: a country report on its digital learning strategies and an article outlying the impact of remote learning among low-income students and children with special needs. You can check out the first publication in the Teachers College’s academic journal Current Issues in Comparative Education. The country report will be available to read in May 2022.

What advice would you offer current Global Thought students as they prepare for their next steps?

From my 6+ years of experience, I understand how scary and often unpredictable things may be when starting out your career. Just note that everyone goes through similar experiences. My best three pieces of advice are:
1) Be Open To All Opportunities: Careers are never linear. You may start at one field and can completely alter your career path the next. Explore your options and be flexible in learning new skillets you would not otherwise be open to.
2) Learn and Grow From Failures: Use setbacks as a learning and growth opportunity to know what you like, what you are good at, or what your limits are. Everyone has failed at least once in their lifetime—no matter how successful they are.
3) Prioritize Self-Care: Life can get hectic sometimes and it can be tempting to prioritize your work above all else. However, self-care is extremely important for your wellbeing and will help you become more productive.

Anything else you’d like to add?

Regardless of the path you choose, know that you have what it takes to be successful. Your peers and mentors at Columbia University can help you get started but it is up to you on what you will make of your time there. Make the effort to connect outside your circle, challenge yourself with difficult courses, and take the plunge on new projects outside your program. It may sound difficult but you will see that the hard work was definitely worth the effort.

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Katia Diaz, Class of 2020