Workshops at SIPA

The following post was written by current SIPA student Lacey Ramirez.  Workshops are an exciting, practical, and professional part of the SIPA experience which provide an excellent way to merge classroom learning with real world involvement.


I know the Admissions Committee has started reading and I’ve been thinking about what advice I could give prospective students that would help them make a decision regarding schools. In other words, what makes SIPA different than the other graduate schools in international and public affairs?

One major component is the workshop requirement for all SIPA students.  Workshops require students apply the practical skills and analytical knowledge they have learned at SIPA to a real-world challenge. Students are organized into small consulting teams and assigned a substantive, policy-oriented project with an external client.  Clients include public agencies (from the local to national level), international NGOs and multi-national organizations, and major firms in the private sector.

Student teams, working under the supervision of a faculty expert, answer a carefully defined problem posed by the client.  Most of the teams will travel to the country in order to conduct the work necessary to produce an actionable report at the end of the workshop that will hopefully translate into real change on the ground.

Examples of MPA workshops can be found here.

Here you also find links to other concentration workshops, and please note to find examples of EPD workshops you’ll need to click here.

Okay, now on to my personal experience.  I am currently working on a randomized control trial measuring the effects of an education incentives program and parental involvement interventions on students’ performance and school attendance in Chiapas, Mexico. During my time at SIPA I’ve focused my studies on developing my quantitative analysis skills, and it is incredibly exciting to be able to apply what I’ve learned to a real world project.

Additionally, it is important to note that before we participate in the workshop it is mostly required that we prepare for it by taking an intensive Methods for Development Practice course that covers a wide variety of tools used by development practitioners. Tools are learned and applied in the Methods course through the use of case studies to give students an opportunity to practice before the workshop.  You can find a further description of the Methods course here.

In the last few weeks of the Methods course, the students (we) apply for the workshop we are interested in and they cover a wide variety of topics, including supply chain analysis, health, education and monitoring and evaluation.  Once we are assigned to our teams, we work very intensely to prepare a schedule that we will implement the following semester to meet our client’s objectives.

As I write this, my workshop team has members in Mexico conducting interviews, focus groups and observational studies to gather data that will prepare a team to go back in a couple of months to pilot a final survey.  It is very, very exciting and we hope that ultimately all our hard work will be used to serve the people of Chiapas to improve education programs and communities.