The following post was submitted by Brittney Bailey. Brittney is working in our office this year and she, along with several other students, are contributing posts throughout the year.
As a second-year EPD student, November is arguably the most important month of the year (outside of May for obvious reasons 🙂 Why November? Because it is when we receive our Workshop assignments, one of the most distinctive features of the economic and political development concentration.
The EPD Workshop, otherwise known as the workshop in Development Practice, is a practical culmination to all of the coursework you take as a SIPA student, outside of your summer internship. Usually in the spring of your second-year, you get to engage in a workshop or capstone project in addition to your normal course work. Like the capstone projects, which are usually open to those in other concentrations, the workshop requires that you work directly for a client in your field of interest, along with a SIPA team and faculty advisor; however, the workshop in Development Practice is a requirement for EPD students and generally allows us to gain fieldwork experience. The EPD workshop is quite popular and has expanded rapidly over the years. It is now open to a limited number of Human Rights concentrators and some students specializing in International Media, Advocacy and Communications.
The EPD workshop was one of the biggest reasons why I chose SIPA over other graduate institutions. I kept thinking, “Hold on, this isn’t an internship exactly? I’m guaranteed relevant experience in international development? I get to work as a consultant for a client and with a team of impressive students from diverse backgrounds… all while in school?!” It’s cheesy, but its true…I was eagerly awaiting the day when I’d be assigned more work at SIPA.
Yet, now that day has arrived and honestly, my excitement has not yet subsided. I’ll be working for UNFPA for the next six months, conducting an impact evaluation and cost benefit analysis of the organization’s distribution of “dignity kits” for girls in humanitarian settings across four countries: Indonesia, Haiti, Georgia, and Mozambique. I could not be more thrilled to be working on a project that I am committed to and that would in theory, help me learn how to become a better development practitioner.
It’s likely that my enthusiasm for the workshop experience will decrease in the coming months, after a series of sleepless nights and caffeine-induced group freak outs. Conflict is pretty much inevitable and who knows how things will actually play out on the ground. Whether or not you receive your top choice project or have a phenomenal team, the reality still remains that the Workshop is one of the most unique and practical features of the SIPA experience. It speaks directly to the fact that SIPA is a professional school, built to really enhance a student’s practical- not just academic- knowledge.