Columbia Government Affairs’ Matt Orama Is One of ‘City & State's’ 40 Under 40

Editor's note:

The following is an excerpt of City & State's 40 Under 40 Rising Stars.

October 12, 2020

Matthew Orama 

Deputy Director for Government Affairs, Columbia University

“I remember telling my mom I don’t want to do politics – why would I want to do politics?” Matthew Orama recalls. Yet at the age of 18, the East Harlem native got his start in government, interning with the office of then-City Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito. At the time, Orama’s interests lay in civil engineering, but at the urging of his mother, a community nonprofit leader, Orama applied for the city’s Summer Youth Employment Program and eventually landed in Mark-Viverito’s office.

After his internship, Orama studied sociology at Ithaca College. When he graduated in 2014, Mark-Viverito had been elevated to council speaker. Orama returned to her team as an intern again, which quickly led to a full-time position as a special projects manager. During this time, Orama completed the master of urban planning program at Hunter College. 

When Mark-Viverito’s term as council speaker ended, Orama spent two months as a financial analyst at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority before moving into a district manager position at Manhattan Community Board 8. In September of 2019, Orama joined Columbia University as its assistant director of government affairs, managing the university’s relationships with city and state officials. 

In January, he helped secure $1.5 million in funding for small business development centers throughout the state, which has also benefited Columbia’s own small business development center. “I do think that wealthier and more powerful institutions do have an obligation,” Orama says, “to help their local community and to add their voice to real community issues.”

Read about the other 39 honorees at City & State NY.