I have combed through several pages of this thread, and have found all commentary infinitely helpful. As such, I would be greatly appreciative of any feedback regarding the details of my particular predicament below. I have come to the conclusion that an advanced degree is required for my career advancement (and I am over the moon at the prospect of going back to school), but have had a difficult time determining the best trajectory for my graduate studies.
Program/Institution: I have vacillated between an MPA or an MIA (or an MBA ... depending on what day of the week you ask me). I have a preference to stay in New York City, which narrows my options considerably to Columbia SIPA and NYU. I am also open to anybody's thoughts concerning other programs it would be worth exploring.
Interests: Foreign Policy, International Relations, Eastern European Studies, Linguistics, Youth Programming / Education and more generally non-profit management.
Undergrad Institution: Midwestern Liberal Arts College (top 20 liberal arts ranking) Undergraduate Major: Political Science, Russian Language
Undergraduate GPA: 3.7
Undergraduate Quantitative Courses: Intro to Economics (B), Calculus I (B), Intro to Statistics (A), and a Seminar in American Politics with an emphasis in quantitative research methodologies (A).
GRE: 163V, 159Q, 5.0 AW
Years of Work Experience: Around 6, total. Four full years as the Assistant Director of Youth Initiatives at a non-profit in Manhattan that specializes in Russian-American cultural cooperation / sports diplomacy (I have been involved with the organization since 2008, however, working summers at the cultural arts exchange program for which I was later promoted to Director). I recently left the organization on good terms, and after a two month search for a vertical move within the non-profit sector, ended up at a corporate job managing business relations at a publicly traded IT solutions company (I had totally blown through my savings during my search and pretty much jumped at the first decent-paying offer that was extended to me). The role is primarily operations focused, but I am also charged with some data analysis, specifically creating / interpreting bookings reports for the executive team on a daily basis.
Undergraduate Activities: Student educational policy committee for the Political Science Department, Research Assistant for the Political Science Department (translated / collated Gallup poll data from Russian-English), mentored advanced project in Russian Language (representations of government / law enforcement in Soviet literature), independent research project (I approached a professor when I was dissatisfied with the breadth of offerings for advanced language study) regarding Russian political identity in Putin's Russia.
Languages: Very advanced Russian - 3 years in college and a semester of study (and later research) in Russia and briefly in Ukraine. I returned after graduation to live in Moscow working as an English language teacher, Russian-English translator, and admissions consultant for a private high school for close to an academic year. I've worked as a Russian-English translator and simultaneous interpreter, and used my Russian pretty much daily in my past job at the non-profit. Also, two years of college French with relatively advanced comprehension but intermediate speaking abilities.
LORs: 1 from the VP of the Russian American non-profit, 2 others from my Political Science and Russian department mentors from college. I suppose I could also ask my current supervisor who has been nothing but pleased with my performance over the last 6 months, but she barely knows me (I work at the corporate headquarters, and she works remotely most of the time and is pretty hands-off in her management style).
1) My less-than-stellar quantitative background and performance on the GRE. I'm concerned about my grades in Calc and Econ (although at this point that was nearly a decade ago) - would it behoove me to take an online community college economics course this fall (I am applying for Spring 2018)? I suppose microeconomics is typically next in the progression, but would macro make more sense given my interests and profile? Similarly, these GRE scores are actually from my second time taking the test - my first scores were 161V, 158Q, and 5.5AW. I actually made a considerable effort (took a Princeton Review class and can confidently say prepared as much as I could) and only marginally improved. Frustrating, as I did significantly better on several of the practice tests I took. Is it worth it to endeavor to bump that quant score up?
2) My corporate career move. As briefly touched upon above, my move to the private sector was more of a move made out of financial desperation than a conscious career decision. I suppose I could play up to the transferable skills (office operations management, budget analysis, etc.) that are also applicable to the public sector. My impression is that as long as I have a cohesive SOP and clearly delineated career objectives / academic interests, any one part of my experience can be massaged into fitting that narrative?
Your thoughts and insights are invaluable - thank you in advance for your time!