Leorah McGinnis

My undergrad education was in zoology, and after graduating from Colorado State University in 2015 I served in AmeriCorps, did an internship at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center and then spent about 2.5 years managing a biology lab back at CSU. My interest in international affairs began with studying abroad in Taiwan and learning Mandarin in undergrad. I came to SIA as part of a career shift, and despite the losses of starting grad school in a pandemic I’m so happy to be here. Although I came into this program with a loose desire to land eventually in a government role, I’m using this time and opportunities available to me here to explore all the paths the I might not have otherwise considered. Sometimes we surprise ourselves with how well we fit into positions that we didn’t even know existed.

When I was making the choice between SIA and other programs, it came down to analyzing costs and benefits for me. The Ivy Leagues and larger programs were offering the very shiny legacy of name recognition and long-time prestige, but they were also vastly more expensive and had dramatically fewer ways to find funding that would cover those costs. I visited Penn State and my second top choice back to back, and the atmospheres were starkly contrasting between competition and collaboration. I chose Penn State because it felt like a supportive community, and because despite being a relatively young program, the resources, faculty and opportunities they’ve built excited me in ways that lingered long after my visit. My main hobbies are writing and SCUBA diving.

Academic Standing: 
Class of 2022
Course of Study: 
Dispute Resolution