Alumni Q&A: Diana Ming Zeng

Diana Zeng graduated from CIPA in May of 2016 with a concentration in environmental policy. She currently works  for the Government of Canada in the Advanced Policy Analyst Program, based in Ottawa, Ontario.

Why CIPA?  There are a lot of MPA programs around—what made you choose CIPA over other programs you were considering?

I was deciding between two graduate programs when I was looking at graduate schools. I chose CIPA because it offered the best combination of flexibility and academic rigor of all the programs I was looking at. Many MPA programs require that you need a certain number of years working in a particular kind of position to apply, ensuring that students are homogenous. At CIPA, everyone comes from a broad range of backgrounds: there are Fellows who have come straight through from undergrad; Fellows who have worked 2 years before coming to CIPA and those who have worked 10+ years; Fellows who had been engineers, lawyers, judges, scientists before coming to CIPA. It is a diverse program: you learn so much from other Fellows, and it expands your network to people you wouldn’t otherwise meet. 

Are there any particular “stand out” experiences at CIPA that made a lasting impact on you?

I participated in the SMART program in 2015 on a project working with a micro-social enterprise in Indonesia, which grew softwood trees to sell for lumber and to prevent soil erosion. This was a great experience to work in an emerging market setting. I also participated in the CIPA Capstone, working on a consulting project for the Inter-American Development Bank and the Salud MesoAmerica Initiative. We developed a set of recommendations for desiging a program to reduce the prevalence of adolescent pregnancy in rural Costa Rica. Additionally, for my summer internship, I worked at the Enabling the Business of Agriculture branch of the World Bank where I collected data and conducted research in support of the annual Enabling the Business of Agriculture publication. I learned a lot from these experiences and acquired a lot of skills that I was able to talk about during job interviews.

What would you tell a prospective student who asked you to list the top three reasons that CIPA was a good fit for you?

  • Flexibility in the program to match it to your particular career goals/academic interests
  • Availability of resources from CIPA and the entire Cornell campus for research projects, internships, etc.
  • The community of CIPA and the general Cornell community

How would you describe the sense of community you find at CIPA?  How did that figure into your experience of the last two years?  How do you see it figuring into your future experiences?

There is a great community at CIPA and I have made incredible friends. Everyone comes from a different background and has different interests; it is great to be a part of such a diverse community. It is also a very supportive environment: I always found that current Fellows and Alumni are eager to help one another out, whether it’s advice on courses to take, internship placements, or even just how school can get stressful at times.

What are your long-term career goals?  How did CIPA help prepare you for these?

My long term career goal is to work in the public sector. I am very happy with the position I was able to obtain after CIPA; and I feel well prepared with the skills and experiences I’ve gained from my time at CIPA to explore my future career.

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