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Special Assistant

School of International and Public Affairs

Special Assistant

  • 533297
  • Morningside
  • School of International and Public Affairs
  • Full Time
  • Opening on: Jan 18 2023
  • Grade 14
  • Job Type: Officer of Administration
  • Bargaining Unit:
  • Regular/Temporary: Regular
  • End Date if Temporary:
  • Hours Per Week: 35
  • Salary Range: $120,000 - $150,000
The salary of the finalist selected for this role will be set based on a variety of factors, including but not limited to departmental budgets, qualifications, experience, education, licenses, specialty, and training. The above hiring range represents the University's good faith and reasonable estimate of the range of possible compensation at the time of posting.

Position Summary

The Special Assistant will be a key liaison for the principal with the various offices at SIPA, Columbia World Projects, and Columbia more broadly to help navigate the university system and processes and facilitate their participation with SIPA as well as their engagement with Columbia World Projects and the broader Columbia community.

The Special Assistant will provide executive-level support to a new principal at the School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA), who is a major public figure, and coordinate a variety of communications and activities for a newly-established Institute of Global Politics, as well as the principal’s activities with Columbia World Projects and the university more generally. The Special Assistant acts as the principal’s primary liaison to the University and external communities, interfacing with senior and professional staff members and a wide array of University offices, as well as faculty, the media, political and industry leaders and other distinguished guests and affiliates.

The Special Assistant will be responsible for managing a complex network, handling correspondence with a wide range of VIP contacts and assisting with any other day-to-day responsibilities as needed. They will ensure the principal is prepared for all engagements, that logistics are sorted, and participation confirmed. They will coordinate a wide range of communications on the principal’s behalf, using sound judgment, discretion and professionalism.

In particular, the Special Assistant will work in close collaboration with the university leadership and SIPA’s senior leadership, including the Dean’s Chief of Staff, the COO, the Communications team, Academic Affairs and other School-wide operational units, as well as the administration of Columbia World Projects and the university as a whole. The Special Assistant may also manage one or more casual student workers as needed to assist with the principal’s other responsibilities.

In addition to supporting the principal, the Special Assistant will support key administrative functions of the IGPP, a new institute at SIPA. This will include internal and external correspondence and communication, as well as coordination of various Institute activities and initiatives. The Special Assistant may accompany the principal or other key leaders at the Institute to meetings as requested to track actionable items that require follow up. They will work closely with the Dean’s personal Chief of Staff and SIPA’s COO to ensure appropriate communication between SIPA and the Institute on administrative and strategic matters relating to the principal.

The Special Assistant  will work closely with SIPA’s events staff, to provide high-level coordination of the Institute’s event portfolio; duties include providing close supervision of all aspects including space booking, catering, managing invitation lists, liaising with speakers, supervising advertising efforts and on-site logistics.


  • Prepare principal for all engagements during their work with SIPA, Columbia World Projects, and the university more broadly with appropriate materials and briefings. Conserve the principal’s time by reading, researching, collecting and analyzing information as needed, in advance.
  • Prepare Word, Excel, PowerPoint presentations, agendas, reports, special projects and other documents on behalf of the principal or in support of the institute.
  • Screen incoming telephone calls; take and deliver accurate messages; respond to requests by gathering and providing information and referring calls to the appropriate staff.
  • Draft and prepare internal paperwork, announcements, and other correspondence as needed for principal and their work with SIPA, Columbia World Projects, and the university more generally.
  • Be responsive to emails/texts/phone calls, with contact outside normal business hours
  • Welcome the principal’s guests by greeting them, in person or on the phone; answering or directing inquiries.
  • Represent the school and the principal in a positive light through great follow-through skills and sound judgment.
  • Arrange travel and accommodations. Prepare expense reports.
  • Attend meetings with principal or on their behalf, take notes and manage necessary follow up.
  • Handle front-line correspondence for the Institute and coordinate follow up internally.
  • Coordinate Institute events and meetings, including logistics, bookings, communications, and attendance.
  • Use discretion, confidentiality, and good judgment in all matters.
  • Perform related duties and responsibilities as assigned/requested.

Minimum Qualifications

  • Bachelor's degree or equivalent, and a minimum of 5 years of related professional experience in a complex, inter-disciplinary setting.
  • Substantive knowledge of international affairs and public policy.
  • Exceptional professional writing ability across a range of applications, including email correspondence, invitations, briefing memos, presentations and reports; must be able to write quickly and well, with minimal need for revisions.
  • Strong interpersonal and oral communication skills, with the capacity to be a positive and knowledgeable representative for the principal and their activities within the university.
  • Experience managing the schedule of a high-level individual and providing other forms of executive administrative assistance.
  • Ability to exercise discretion and handle confidential information.
  • Ability to function well in a high-paced environment, balance competing priorities, problem-solve and exercise good judgement.
  • Ability to work on projects independently as well as part of a collaborative team.
  • Fluency with Google Suite and MS Office, including Outlook, Excel, Powerpoint, Teams, and other related systems and web content management platforms.
  • Excellent time management skills; proven ability to meet deadlines.

Preferred Qualifications

  • Master's degree or other relevant graduate degree; advanced degree in public policy, law, social sciences or related field desirable.
  • Related professional experience in an academic setting desirable.

Equal Opportunity Employer / Disability / Veteran

Columbia University is committed to the hiring of qualified local residents.

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