Choose SIPA for the United Nations Studies Working Group, says Camilo Lizarralde, MIA ’15

Everyone here at the Admissions Office knows that many of our newly-admitted students are still torn between enrolling at SIPA or another public policy program this upcoming fall. With enrollment deadlines looming, I wanted to share with you a post by one of our Admissions Ambassadors, Camilo Lizarralde. Camilo, MIA ’15, is in the International Security Policy concentration and United Nations specialization. Since many of you are interested in SIPA’s ties with the United Nations, I thought Camilo’s story was pertinent to share. As one of the first UN Studies specializers, he has a lot of passion for SIPA and its connection to the United Nations. Here’s why Camilo chose SIPA.

UNSWG 2014 co-presidents at the UN

[Photo Courtesy of Camilo Lizarralde] UNSWG 2014 co-presidents at the United Nations.

There were many reasons I decided to enroll at SIPA—such as location (having lived in NYC for 10+ years) and the variety of class offerings and events that the school offers—but personally, I thought the diversity of the student population and the close ties that the school has with the United Nations were the reasons that made me decide to go for SIPA. Nearly two years later, I can attest that SIPA did indeed live up to my diversity and UN-related expectations.

Back in September 2013, during my first month at SIPA, I began meeting a lot of students from many countries, backgrounds and cultures. It was great to hear about their different perspectives and personal and professional backgrounds. We (the Class of 2015) were all eager to meet everyone else during our first few weeks at SIPA.

Advice: For the too soon-to-be Seeples: Be open to talking to everyone and make an effort to talk to as many people as you can during your first weeks of school. It will change soon after as school work increases and everyone establishes their close circle of friends.

I ended up making friends with other students who were also interested in learning more about the UN. We became very close after going through the process of being “newbies” and learning how to navigate the system. My first semester went by really fast, perhaps because of the excitement of being at SIPA and the many new experiences I had.

Advice: In addition to your school work, try to get involved in other activities such as social events and outings as much as you can. It will be overwhelming since school work is heavy and you are getting used to the system, but those months are key for establishing connections with other students. During your second year, your mindset may change to focus on what’s next, i.e. job hunting.

At the end of my first semester, elections were announced for first-year students to become the next board members of SIPA’s student-led organizations. Since many of my friends were also interested in the UN, a few of us decided to run for the different board positions of the United Nations Studies Working Group (UNSWG). I decided to run for co-president and was lucky to win the elections!

[Photo Courtesy of Camilo Lizarralde] The newly-elected 2014 UNSWG Board.

[Photo Courtesy of Camilo Lizarralde] The newly-elected 2014 UNSWG Board.

At the start our second semester, we took over the organization, and now that I reflect back, it was a great experience. Not only because it gave me the opportunity to meet more Seeples interested in UN-related events, but also because it gave me a leadership position with the responsibility to keep the group visible at SIPA. Additionally, we had the responsibility to keep the ties to the UN and strengthen that SIPA-UN bridge.

The members of the group, dubbed “UNSWGers,” had different interests—such as international security, human rights, economic and political development or environmental issues—so it was challenging to keep all members of the group interested and involved. Looking back, (and based on the positive feedback received from students, faculty, alumni and UN staff) all who participated in panels, discussions, brown bag lunches, seminars and outings, we are pleased to have had such an active student group.

Thus, for future Seeples, my advice is to get involved as much as you can during your first year to fully immerse in the SIPA experience. Being part of a student group, as a board member or as an active member, will make your experience more enjoyable. I guarantee you will have the opportunity to listen to new perspectives of issues you may already know about, and you will be able to bring your own perspective to the conversation as well.

As a co-president and leader of UNSWG, I established many connections at SIPA. It also provided me with opportunities to establish seamless connections with SIPA professors and SIPA alumni (some who now work at the UN), and it even opened doors with UN staff who attended our UNSWG events as panelists or lecturers. The overall experience was very rewarding (I met and talked to high-level diplomats like Kofi Annan) and I established true friendships with fellow Seeples. A year later, in December 2014, we left the board pleased and proud of our accomplishments; specifically the legacy that we left behind. We worked with SIPA students, faculty and leadership to make the former UN Studies track a specialization, which was approved by the Dean and institutionalized within the last year, giving the opportunity to future Seeples to take UN Studies as a specialization. And I am happy to be one of the first UN specializers!


Join Camilo Lizarralde as both a Seeple and future UNSWGer by accepting your admission offer today. If you received a SIPA fellowship/scholarship, the deadline to accept your offer is April 15, 2015; all other applicants have until May 1, 2015 to respond to their offer.