I came across an email while I was searching my inbox for something else and I decided to take a moment to dispel some rumors because there seems to be a lot of misinformation floating around. I know nothing about the specifics of other programs other than what I’ve heard through admitted students, but I do know a thing or two about SIPA.
First off, SIPA Professors are incredibly accessible. Like, amazingly so. In addition to an outstanding ivy league academic faculty, one difference between our Professors and some more remotely located schools is that a lot of our Profs are practitioners as well as lecturers. For example I have taken classes from the preeminent pollster in United States politics, a gender mainstreaming expert at UN Women, a human rights expert for the OECD and UNESCO, an Executive and Ernst and Young, and the Washington Post senior political reporter and those are just off the top of my head. (Keep in mind I focused on gender and domestic elections so you will have the opportunity to interact with the equivalent experts in your field.) Having practitioner professors is a huge advantage both in terms of the networking opportunities and because they can better prepare you for a career in the real world.
That said, all SIPA Professors keep office hours and in my experience are extremely responsive over email even when they are traveling. Obviously this varies from professor to professor but in my experience the faculty at SIPA is not only interested with helping you develop academically through coursework but also in engaging with students on current events, or helping us develop outside projects. For example I worked with one Professor to get my final paper from her class last year published in an academic journal. Honestly, I have been blown away with the availability and interest level of my professors. Everyone I have met seems genuinely interested in developing their students as their future colleagues. I can only imagine that either I was incredibly lucky or that “inaccessibility” is the kind of rumor that other schools spread because they can’t compete for faculty with the draw of an ivy league institution in New York.
Second, most class sizes are small. The one glaring exception is the Politics and Policy Making (for MPA’s) and Conceptual Foundations (for MIA’s) are plenary sessions for the degree so all first year MPA students take POP and all first year MIA’s take CF. Those also break down into weekly recitations of about 15 students. Other than that core courses tend to have about 20-30 students per section. For example, even though most students take micro econ at the same time, there are several sections for both the 4000 and 6000 level. (Some professors allow you to come to any section that meets that week which is good news if you, like me, are a perpetual late sleeper). All core courses also have recitations, professors office hours and TA office hours. My electives (which are MOST of my courses) have had about 8-15 students per class. Having a bigger school does not mean larger class size, it simply means that a wider variety of electives are offered, which to me is a HUGE ADVANTAGE. Again, giant class size seems to me like a misconception that exists at smaller schools.
We want happy classmates and I don’t want you to come here if SIPA is not the right fit for you, but I also don’t want you to miss out on a SIPA education for the wrong reasons.
posted by Nancy Leeds, MPA 2013 alumnae