When you’re looking at schools as an undergraduate, there are books websites, and guidance counselors to help you choose the right “fit” for you. Large or small, urban or rural, there are a bevy of resources to help you navigate what these features will mean in terms of your education and extracurricular activities. As a grad student, you’re left mostly on your own to discern the differences between the most competitive foreign and public policy schools, so I wanted to share five things that I feel make SIPA stand out among its competitors.
- Location. You already know that SIPA has a close relationship with the United Nations, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the resources available to public policy students in New York City. Hundreds of non-profits, private companies, the New York Stock Exchange and the government of the largest city in the United States are all located here, providing limitless consulting and internship opportunities. In addition, everyone who’s anyone in global politics and commerce travels through New York City, and more likely than not they come to speak at our school. In any given day we might have Japan’s Minister of Finance, the Executive Director of Habitat for Humanity, and the CEO of Bloomberg in our building. The trouble isn’t finding a lecture that you want to attend, the trouble is fitting them all in!
- Professors. Due to the school’s prestige and location, we have some of the best Professors in the world. From Nobel Prize winning economist, Joseph Stiglitz to sustainable development expert Jeff Sachs to associate Professors who are leaders in the real world. Last year I look Campaign Management from Jef Pollock, American Association of Political Consultants’ Pollster of the Year and Women and Power from Ernst and Young Executive and Healthcare Business Association’s Woman of the Year, Carolyn Buck-Luce. Whatever your interest, a SIPA education practically guarantees you access to experts in your field.
- Columbia University. In addition to all that’s available to students at SIPA itself, a SIPA education means you are part of the Columbia University network. This means an introduction to literally thousands of alumni all over the world. It also means the opportunity to take classes at any of Columbia’s distinguished graduate schools for credit toward your degree. This year I am taking a class on Elections with Political Science PhD students, a class on Election Law at the prestigious Columbia Law School and a class at Columbia School of Journalism with Washington Post reporter Thomas Edsall. My area of public policy is pretty clear but whether you are passionate about education, defense strategy, health care or development opportunities await you all across our university.
- Size. I have to admit, I was a little nervous about finding my place at one of the biggest public policy schools in the world, but it turned out to be one of the things I like best about SIPA. I get to study alongside and learn from over 1000 professionals from 52 countries. When a practical or policy question arises and I need an answer; I am almost guaranteed to find an expert among my classmates. When a candidate I was working for had an event with Bill Clinton, I was able to reach out to one of his interns at the Clinton Global Initiative to find an address to send a thank you note. When my blog went viral in the campaign world, my more technologically inclined classmates helped teach me best practices for social media. SIPA’s size allows us to offer the most classes, clubs, and extracurricular opportunities of any of the top public or foreign policy schools as well as the wealth of information that is the SIPA community itself.
- Flexibility. Compared to other public policy programs, SIPA’s MPA curriculum is extremely flexible. SIPA students graduate with a solid foundation in economics, statistics, and management practice, but are free to choose the subjects that most interest them within these fields, as well as from one of the country’s largest selections of electives. For students like me who enter SIPA with a very specific interest, for me it was election systems and civic engagement, this means we are always able to take classes in our field. For students who enter with a broader interest, this means they are free to explore no matter where their interests take them.
This post was contributed by Nancy Leeds. Nancy is a Democratic Campaign Operative and blogger pursuing her MPA in Social Policy and Management at SIPA.