Concentration Consternation

During a few recent conversations with prospective applicants some questions have been asked about admission and how it relates to the field of study at SIPA.  Specifically applicants have asked if we have admission targets for specific fields of study.  The short answer is “No,” however this does require a bit of explanation.

First, let me go over some nomenclature.  At SIPA we have degree programs, core requirements, concentrations, specializations, and electives.  What you will find below is a description of these different items as it relates to our full-time, two-year MIA and MPA programs (this does not include our MPA in Development Practice).

1. Degree Programs:  For the purpose of this entry there are two degree programs, the MIA and MPA. Applicants may apply for one program or the other, not both.  We have general admission targets for the two programs however the numbers are not fixed.  The admission rate is roughly the same for both programs.

2.  Core Requirements:  Core requirements are classes that are required to complete your degree program.  Our core requirements include coursework or projects in the following areas:

  • Politics
  • Economics
  • Statistics
  • Management
  • Financial Management
  • Internship
  • Professional Development
  • Workshop (group project)
  • Foreign Language Proficiency: Required for MIA, not required for MPA students unless the concentration is Economic and Political Development

3.  Concentrations:  A concentration is a policy field or the area of study you are most passionate about studying.  In traditional academic terms you can think of your concentration as your major.  We have six concentrations:

  • Economic and Political Development
  • Energy and Environment
  • Human Rights
  • International Finance and Economic Policy
  • International Security Policy
  • Urban and Social Policy

4.  Specializations:  A specialization is an area of study that seeks to provide students with a specific skill set.  Our specializations can generally be divided into what are called functional skills courses or regional skills courses.  In traditional academic terms you can think of a specializations as a minor.  Our specializations are:

  • Advanced Policy and Economic Analysis
  • Applied Science
  • International Media, Advocacy, and Communications
  • International Organization
  • Management
  • Regional Specializations:  Africa – Europe – Latin America – Middle East – Russia, Eurasia, and Eastern Europe – South Asia – United States

5.  Electives:  Classes students will chose to round out their schedule.  Electives can be taken at SIPA or students can cross register for coursework across the University. Popular elective options at SIPA are classes taken as a part of our co-curricular programs which include the following areas of study:

  • Gender Policy
  • Humanitarian Affairs
  • UN Studies

The elective courses sponsored by these programs may be used, when appropriate, to satisfy course requirements of a student’s policy concentration or specialization.

With all of this in mind, applicants do apply for a degree program (either the MIA or MPA)  and we do ask that applicants list the  intended concentration and specialization on the admission application from a drop down list.  However, as funny as it might sound, we do not have targets for either concentrations or specializations.   There are two important things to consider.

First, we are looking for focus in an admission application.  Thus it is wise for applicants to choose a theme if you will and be as specific as possible concerning their proposed course of study in our program.  We encourage applicants to tie together the personal statement and the choice of concentration and specialization listed on the application.

Second, we do understand that individuals might only come to understand the best pathway to accomplish their goals in our program after enrolling.  Thus someone who indicated a concentration of Economic and Political Development on their admission application may come to learn during their first semester of study after speaking with alumni, faculty, second year students, and the Office of Career Services that a concentration in Urban and Social Policy might actually be the best pathway to accomplish their goals.  Can a student change their concentration from the one listed on the admission application?  Absolutely.  We do not require that students stay with the same concentration listed on the application.

So to sum everything up, applicants apply to a degree program and are required to list a concentration and specialization on the admission application but, we do not have specific admission targets for concentrations and specializations.  We look to admit driven, passionate, focused, creative, capable, and interesting people and we do not set targets for field of study.

Thus applicants should be concerned with putting together a clear and focused personal statement, however applicants should not stress out thinking that there are admission targets associated with our concentrations.  A good portion of our students will find that a different concentration will serve them best after enrolling and thus the Admissions Committee does not set targets for different fields of study.