MA in Global Affairs

Kiren Bansal, 2012

Kiren Bansal

What work are you doing now?

I am currently the Director of Business Operations and Development for the New West Symphony, a professional orchestra that serves as the resident company for the Oxnard Performing Arts Center, Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza, and Barnum Hall in Santa Monica, California. We also strive to be the hub for music education and appreciation in and across Ventura County and the Westside of Los Angeles, filling the gap across area schools. The New West Symphony is an impact-driven performing arts institution in Southern California that is led by award-winning Music Director Marcelo Lehninger. 

What do you like about it? 

I have always enjoyed creating new partnerships that serve a nonprofit’s mission while meeting social responsibility and philanthropic goals of corporate partners and donors. In my current role, I am able to lead this process and develop long- term partners that increase brand awareness and sustainability. By overseeing business operations, I am uniquely positioned to identify challenges in backroom operations, such as information silos, and then convert them into opportunities to innovate and improve the overall stakeholder experience. 

I come from a very global and music-loving family that exposed me to many art forms at a young age. As a result I've become mesmerized by the process of creation and production. In my current position, I am able to participate in the full scope of the artistic process from special event programming to marketing and communications, to business development, education programs, and much more. It is extremely rewarding when you hear the audience response from a sold out concert as they buzz how the music moved them so deeply they were brought to tears. In today’s busy digital world, it's easy to speed by each other; the performing arts provide a space where we can have a unique live and magical shared experience together that is truly transformative. For children, music and the arts provide a safe space for them to stretch their imagination and become critical thinkers, problem solvers, team players and more. 

As a nonprofit, we work hard and long hours with a lean team, but it is rewarding because it never gets old to hear our unbelievably talented orchestra play live each concert night. Each musician of the orchestra comes with years of training and a resume of performance experience that never ceases to amaze me. If music is the soundtrack of life, then I feel fortunate to have a leadership role in bringing it to thousands of people every season across Southern California and beyond! 

How did your degree in the college prepare you to do this work?

When I originally started my MA in Global Affairs at Mason, I was working in a global function at United Way Worldwide headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia. Working during the day and at school in the evenings, I was able to apply my coursework real-time to current international issues we were dealing with at work, such as disaster response and recovery for victims of the earthquake in Haiti. This helped me polish critical thinking skills to analyze and process complex issues that crossed borders and sectors. The degree complemented my real world experience and gave me the confidence to take risks and greater challenges. At the completion of my degree I felt more confident in myself and was ready for a new challenge that would test my skills in a new environment. This knowledge still serves me well today as I work with a very diverse staff team whose goal is to inspire a passion for music from across the globe! 

What advice would you give current students about developing their careers?

As a member of the very first MA Global Affairs class, I also had the pleasure of making wonderful friends and building a network of individuals I keep in touch with and admire today. My classmates are all doing amazing work and it is inspiring to know them. I would highly suggest that current students become sponges and learn as much as possible from their classmates who come from diverse backgrounds. Graduate school is different from undergrad because you learn by osmosis from classmates who have years of experience in different industries and sectors, enhancing your overall understanding of the world. My advice would be to maximize this opportunity to not only build your knowledge but also a strong network of peers who you can turn to for support and advice in the future.