Meet the GPS Admissions team

6 Mins read

Get to know some of the first people our prospective students work with at the school

Applying to the UC San Diego School of Global Policy and Strategy (GPS) is a strategic step forward in students’ education and career development. But choosing the right graduate degree and knowing exactly where to start can be daunting. 

That’s where GPS Admissions comes in. 

The GPS master’s degree offers the opportunity to study the salient policy challenges of our time with world-class scholars: U.S.-China relations, border issues such as trade and migration, democracy, technology and climate action. And our admissions officers guide prospective students through what can feel like a complex or overwhelming admissions process and help to set students up for success. 

Learn more about the team – and their interests outside of GPS – below!

Sonja Steinbrech

Sonja Steinbrech on a skiing trip in the Italian Alps. | Contributed photo

Director of Degree Program Enrollment Sonja Steinbrech has worked at GPS for the past 12 years. 

In her position, she leads the admissions office, counseling students about graduate degrees in international affairs and public policy and the opportunities they provide. 

“Our team works to help applicants put together the strongest file possible,” she said. 

Steinbrech shared she finds it rewarding to help applicants take steps toward becoming more effective professionals by pursuing their master’s degrees at GPS.

“One of my favorite parts of the job is getting to know the diverse people interested in this field, while at the same time introducing them to our dynamic faculty and students who truly embody the ‘work hard, play hard’ ethos,” Steinbrech said. “People at GPS care deeply about making a positive impact in the world, which makes my job more joy than labor.”

When she isn’t guiding prospective students through the application process, Steinbrech, who is a dual citizen of the U.S. and Italy, enjoys a number of outdoor activities. 

“I love spending time in the Italian Alps skiing and hiking,” she said. “I’m also a competitive swimmer.”

Marina Bruce

Marina Bruce is an assistant director of GPS Admissions. First joining GPS in 2004, Bruce has worked at UC San Diego for 28 years total in a variety of roles, including in UC San Diego Athletics, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, Rady School of Management and Revelle College.

Marina Bruce with her partner and two dogs. | Contributed photo

Bruce’s current role focuses on the working with applicants to the eight degree programs at GPS, as well as recruitment and outreach activities – in particular helping demystify the process of applying to graduate school and ensure applicants have access to helpful resources.

“I work with applicants from beginning to end in navigating the application process,” Bruce said. “One of the things I try to do is ensure prospective students are aware of the resources available to empower them to make informed decisions on where to apply and how they will finance their education.

Bruce added that she does her part to ensure applicants understand the curriculum and the career opportunities they can pursue with a GPS degree.

“When a student is making a decision to attend GPS, I want them to be able to convey those reasons to their family in a concrete, confident and succinct way,” she said. “They need to have a reasonable idea of what they’re getting into.”

Bruce’s connection with students who pursue degrees at GPS doesn’t end as soon as they set foot in the classroom; in fact, Bruce has maintained relationships with a large network of alumni across the world.

“I love being able to reach out to IR/PS or GPS alumni in different cities or countries and asking if they can join me at a recruitment event,” Bruce said. “Their conversation with a prospective student is a pretty powerful testament to why GPS should be on their list of schools to consider.”

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Bruce has turned to new methods of connecting with alumni as so many remain at home and are traveling less. For example, last fall Bruce, an avid baker, connected with an alumna living in Italy over video chat, and the two baked conchas – a type of soft, sweet Mexican bread – together. 

Bruce is also an active lap swimmer and said she is grateful to be able to get back in the water as COVID restrictions are lifting in many areas.

“I finally went back to the pool recently, and that was glorious,” Bruce said. “When I’m not in the office, I love going to Canyonview Pool for a swim.”

Andrew Alsoraimi-Espiritu

Andrew Alsoraimi-Espiritu and his children. | Contributed photo

Andrew Alsoraimi-Espiritu, who has worked at GPS since November 2021, focuses specifically on the marketing and communication aspects in his role as assistant director of admissions and marketing.  

“I’m looking at the messaging and advertising that goes out to our prospective and admitted students and how we brand ourselves to anyone looking at attending GPS,” he said. 

Alsoraimi-Espiritu also leads the GPS Admissions Ambassador program, where admitted students receiving fellowship funding volunteer their time through a number of outreach efforts to prospective students. To cope with ongoing challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, his goal is to reimagine the program’s outreach efforts. He is currently testing new formats for connection, such as student-led Instagram Live chats on the GPS Instagram account

“I really want us to meet students where they’re at,” Alsoraimi-Espiritu said. “I’m looking at new opportunities to form relationships and lines of communication between students who are looking to enhance their educational goals by seeking a degree at GPS.”

In his personal life, Alsoraimi-Espiritu and his family have an unexpected hobby for an urban area – they have been a part of a goat cooperative in City Heights since 2019. 

“As a result, I know how to take care of a goat and milk goats twice a week,” Alsoraimi-Espiritu said. 

With the excess milk that isn’t consumed, Alsoraimi-Espiritu and his family have begun to make a number of goat milk-based products. 

“We’ve been making cheese and soap, and the next step is ice cream,” Alsoraimi-Espiritu said. “Chèvre cheese, which is usually pretty expensive to buy in stores, is the easiest to make and creates the least waste. We’ve made mozzarella before, too, but it creates a lot of waste.”

Caitlin Veneklasen

GPS Admissions Counselor Caitlin Veneklasen has extensive admissions experience in the UC system; she worked at UC Irvine in undergraduate admissions before moving to an international admissions specialist role at UC San Diego in 2016. 

Caitlin Veneklasen and her dog Jax on the way to a camping trip near Kern River. | Contributed photo

“It was a fun time because I got to travel to India two years in a row, touring to different high schools all over the country,” Veneklasen said. 

She joined GPS in 2018 “in search of a new adventure,” she said.

Veneklasen describes herself as a “jack of all trades” for the GPS Admissions office, serving as the first point of contact for visitors; reviewing and evaluating applications; completing data projects; and helping to implement the school’s customer relationship management (CRM) system. 

“There are a lot of parts of my job that I love, but what I love most about GPS is the community. There’s so much diversity here – in people and their lived experiences, in interests and passions, in cultures and nationalities,” Veneklasen said. “I feel really privileged to be in a position where I get to help create and foster how this community grows each year with each new cohort of students.”

Veneklasen, who is a new mom, said that while her hobbies have been eclipsed for now while she cares for her child, she loves baking, exploring the outdoors and painting. She and her family also enjoy spending time with their dog, Jax.

“I’m super looking forward to planning our first camping trip together sometime soon,” Veneklasen said. 

Robert Daquila

Master of International Affairs (MIA) student Robert Daquila has worked as a GPS Admissions intern since January of this year. Daquila, who will graduate in 2023, has a unique insight into the admissions process – as he very recently completed the process himself. 

Robert Daquila on a recent trip to Sedona, Arizona. | Contributed photo

“The team has been so welcoming, and it feels good to work with others who are also passionate about both international relations and global student engagement,” Daquila said. 

Daquila’s main responsibilities at the moment are helping to process graduate and Ph.D. applications and leading live events for prospective students, such as Zoom sessions or Instagram Live chats. 

“We are hopefully broadcasting important information to prospective applicants and current applicants about what to expect when enrolling at GPS, the different aspects of each degree program and other extracurricular offerings,” Daquila said. “We really have a diversified pool of candidates, and it’s been a pleasure for myself and our student ambassadors to share our personal experiences with them.” 

Daquila said he has valued learning about the applicants through these sessions – not to mention the stronger bonds he has formed with those in his cohort who volunteer to cohost these events and share their own personal journeys to graduate school. 

“It’s also been a nice change of pace from the demands of graduate coursework to sit, chat and hear about each person’s individual motivations for coming to GPS,” he added.

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About author
Virginia S. Watson is the Assistant Director of Communications for the School of Global Policy and Strategy. She has spent her entire career in editing, writing and design, both in industry and higher education. She holds a master's in technical and professional communication from Auburn University and a B.S. in journalism from Troy University.
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