When Aissata M. B. Camara (’11) came to New York City from the Republic of Guinea, West Africa, it was supposed to be a temporary thing. She was 13 years old, undocumented, and didn’t speak a word of English. Over the course of the next 22 years, she would become a vital part of the fabric of New York City political life.

She began to learn the language, culling a few phrases from children’s shows like Blue’s Clues and Dora the Explorer, and eventually earned her U.S. citizenship and two college degrees. She has since gone on to become the deputy commissioner for policy and strategic initiatives in the NYC Mayor’s Office for International Affairs—making her one of the youngest deputy commissioners in the city’s history and the first Black African woman to hold that position in the office.

Camara cites her experience as an undergraduate at Baruch’s Weissman School of Arts and Sciences as a crucial moment in her development.

“I wouldn’t be who I am today without the professors and advisors who poured their love and support into me,” she says.

Like many students who attend Baruch, Camara was initially attracted to the College’s reputation in the financial sector. But the economic recession of 2008 made her consider other directions.

She quickly pivoted to assembling an ad-hoc major within the Weissman School, combining coursework in Psychology, English, and International Affairs. During her time there she founded a nonprofit, the There Is No Limit Foundation, which strives to empower people living in extreme poverty especially women and girls, and people with disabilities.

After completing a Master’s degree at New York University, she happened upon a job opening in the Mayor’s Office for International Affairs. Having worked on global issues for most of her career, Camara was intrigued by the fact that the office sat at the nexus of global and local issues. At the urging of a mentor who encouraged Camara to apply her expertise to the challenges facing New York City, she applied and landed the job.

Within the first three weeks of her tenure, she had already launched a new program, NYC Junior Ambassadors, which brings students from across all five boroughs to the United Nations and connects them to global issues through in-depth tours, talks, and classes. This award-winning program has impacted more than 4,000 young people and educators in NYC. She soon found herself promoted to deputy commissioner of her department—which she refers to as being “kind of like the State Department of NYC”—and has since been named chief of staff as well.

When asked why she is so passionate about helping young people, her thoughts turn towards Dr. Wendy Heyman, a psychologist in Baruch’s Starr Career Development Center for over 40 years, who passed away in 2018. Camara remembers that Dr. Heyman always took her dreams and goals seriously and was one of the first who encouraged her to seriously pursue politics.

Years later, Dr. Heyman attended an event that Camara hosted at the United Nations.

“I looked over and saw that, all these years later, she was watching me work alongside the mayor,” Camara says. “I’ll never forget it. She said she couldn’t have been prouder of me. “