Two times of year always get me really pumped up: orientation and graduation. For all but a few months of my entire life I have either been in school or worked for a school. Orientation is particularly great for me because I get the rush of starting school, but I do not actually have to go to class and do the work. Graduation is a rush for obvious reasons.
SIPA students participate in two ceremonies. The first is a school specific ceremony and the second is a combined graduation ceremony for all of the schools at the university. At the SIPA graduation on Monday I was reminded of how close SIPA students become. Recently I was contacted by an applicant who had a question about the atmosphere at SIPA. The question was something along the lines of, “Is SIPA more competitive or more community oriented.”
I posed this question to a graduating student and she said, “I think SIPA can best be described as collaborative.” As she elaborated she talked about the fact that students at SIPA typically represent close to 100 different countries, do a great deal of group work, and share many common goals. She talked about the fact that since so many students are from so many different places, it is likely you will find someone who has lived or done something very similar to what you wish to do. Through group work, student groups, and workshops, friendships are formed that will last for a lifetime. The opportunity to study in one of the most diverse cities in the world with a community of diverse students is a unique attribute that is hard to duplicate.
I am still in close touch with several of the people I went to graduate school with and I witnessed the same type of bond at graduation this week. Yes, a strong sense of community does exist at SIPA and it is clear to see it. It binds people through subject matter, career goals, sense of purpose, and genuine friendship.
The main Columbia graduation takes place in the campus quad and from the top of the SIPA building there is a great view. The picture I took with my Blackberry is not the best, but it gives you an idea of what a unique ceremony it is. And the weather was fabulous!