a city of shining lights: an inside look at urban and social policy

SIPA’s location in New York City provides an ideal opportunity for students to learn about the workings of one of the most dynamic cities in the world. The Urban and Social Policy (USP) concentration attracts a very diverse group of students from the public, private and non-profit sectors who are interested in managing city governments and non-profit organizations, and designing and analyzing policies across a variety of sectors. USP students enter SIPA with backgrounds in teaching, immigration law, non-profit program evaluation, urban transportation systems, public health, and many more areas.

USP classes are taught by faculty members with extensive academic and professional experience. Mayor David Dinkins, the former mayor of New York, offers a unique perspective in the two courses he teaches to USP students every year. Professor Ester Fuchs, the Concentration Director, served as Special Advisor to the Mayor for Governance and Strategic Planning under New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg from 2001 to 2005 in addition to her many years of teaching experience at Columbia. A number of other full-time and adjunct faculty members draw on their experience as city planners, high level officials in city government, and executive directors of non-profit organizations. They are experts in immigration, organizational management, housing policy, social movements and several other fields.

Students can choose between the Urban Policy and the Social Policy track. Both tracks equip students with strong skills in policy analysis, program management and evaluation. The Urban Policy curriculum offers focus areas in the following fields: Urban Politics and Governance; Management in Urban Public Sector or Not for Profits; Urban Social Policy; Urban Economic Development, Planning and Land Use; Sustainability and Environmental Policy; Housing Policy; Education Policy; Health Policy; Crime, Safety and Security Policy; and Employment and Labor Policy. The Social Policy track provides students with the analytical tools, management skills and knowledge needed to design, implement and evaluate the outcomes of social policies that aim to increase access to economic opportunity in marginalized populations and manage economic and social risks, such as unemployment, poverty, social exclusion, crime, recidivism, homelessness and sickness.

The concentration hosts The Global Mayor’s Forum each semester, featuring mayors from cities in the U.S. and around the globe. USP also hosts a series of roundtables, panel discussions, and brown bag events offering students the opportunity to hear from leading practitioners in the field. Additionally, USP hosts field trips for students to local museums, organizations, and historic sites.

USP graduates pursue careers in leadership levels within city, state and federal government, political campaigns, non-profits and NGOs, think tanks, philanthropic foundations, social enterprises, and academia. During their time at SIPA, many students pursue internships with the New York City government as well as with leading non-profit organizations, consulting groups, and think tanks coming up with innovative solutions to urban and social challenges. A sample of employers who hired USP graduates is available here http://new.sipa.columbia.edu/careers/employment-statistics/career-paths-by-concentration.

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