Admissions Blog

Program Assistant Introduction: Davira Chairunnisa MPA ‘24

By Davira Chairunnisa '24
Posted Sep 13 2023

Note from Admissions: We're excited to welcome our new group of program assistants (PAs) working with us here in the SIPA Office of Admissions and Financial Aid. They’ll specifically be helping you through the application and decision process over the next few months through answering your emails, calls, and writing relevant blog posts to help you during this admission process.


Davira Chairunnisa is a second-year MPA student concentrating in Economic and Political Development (EPD) and specializing in Data Analytics and Quantitative Analysis (DAQA). She is originally from Indonesia and has lived abroad in the U.S. and Australia. She completed double bachelor's degrees from the University of Indonesia and the University of Melbourne, studying accounting. Prior to SIPA, Davira was working as a tax practitioner and building Indonesia Rice Sharing Community, an NGO providing rice assistance to orphanages across Indonesian provinces. Her research interests include inequality reduction through tax policies and social entrepreneurship, where SIPA has enabled her to learn about evidence-based policymaking to create better-informed policies. Davira loves communicating with new people! In her free time, she enjoys traveling, cooking, and running in Central Park :)

What attracted you to SIPA and Columbia University?

I had several considerations when applying for graduate school, and SIPA has much to offer to fulfill what I was looking for. First, the SIPA curriculum is remarkably flexible and allows seeples with diverse interests to enroll in various courses both in SIPA and other Columbia schools. Second, the SIPA professors are well-respected academicians and practitioners, so learning from the community in SIPA would be a life-changing experience. Third, SIPA is located in New York City, one of the most culturally diverse cities in the world—a Muslim-friendly city to many!

What was the most challenging aspect of the application process?

The most challenging part of the application process is the essay. As a non-native English speaker, I found it quite difficult to write essays quickly. Finding the best “hook” and explaining the “why” coherently for my personal statement to let the the admissions office who I am and what my why is were also two of my struggles. One recommendation I have if you are a non-English speaker is to identify outside resources in your community. For example, EducationUSA Indonesia was a great resource when it came to applying to US based institutions.

Did you have significant quantitative experience when you applied to SIPA?

I took a few quantitative courses, including economics and statistics, throughout my undergraduate degree. Still, I felt like I was learning something new when I came to SIPA. Ienjoyed the core classes very much; Microeconomics and Macroeconomics with Professor Bubula were my favorite classes of my first year in SIPA. He has made economics so much more bearable. The quantitative analysis courses also provided me with the knowledge to evaluate policies using statistical software, which I really wanted to learn before coming to graduate school.

What has been the best part of your SIPA experience?

Going to SIPA gives me opportunities to explore myself and connect with incredible individuals from different backgrounds and perspectives. I always look forward to sitting in the class and hearing from my classmates about their experiences and aspirations regarding the topics discussed in class. The professors are also supportive and accommodating. Going to their office hours would be very helpful, and they would not hesitate to assist students if any difficulties arise during the course. Also, I felt like class in SIPA is a great mix of theory and practice, making it easy to learn the courses both conceptually and practically.

What are your goals for the final year?

My goal for the final year is to maximize the learning opportunities in SIPA and explore New York City more often. I am taking classes in Data Analytics this year to build up my coding skills and also social impact classes, which will be beneficial for expanding the Indonesia Rice Sharing Community. As someone who loves traveling, I am excited for the EPD Capstone Project and to travel outside the States. Certainly, going to places I have never been to in New York City would be on my list.