SIPA’s course selection, career services offerings are unmatched, says Lauren Podber, MIA ’15

Today, I’m sharing with you a post by another one of our Program Assistants, Lauren Podber, MIA ’15. Lauren is a five-year dual-degree student with Columbia University’s School of General Studies, and her focus has been in International Security Policy, with a specialization in the Middle East. She wanted to share with you two of the opportunities you’ll have as a SIPA student: the opportunity to take coursework in fields you’re passionate about, and the opportunity to pursue a career in your chosen concentration. Here’s what she had to say:

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Students listening to a lecture at SIPA.

A Deeper Knowledge Base
First and foremost, SIPA equips its students with knowledge; like any Ivy League institution should. Having attended Columbia’s School of General Studies (GS) for undergrad, I was really excited at the prospect of spending more time at Columbia, and at SIPA in particular. As an International Security Policy concentrator, I found myself really drawn to courses in the Political Science and Middle Eastern Studies departments. Favorites included International Signaling and Communication with Professor Robert Jervis and Professor Peter Clement, and History of the Modern Middle East with Professor Rashid Khalidi. And although I like both math and statistics, I’m not crazy about the economics or management courses, which are two SIPA requirements.  However, I will admit that I learned more than I thought I would in both classes. For example, material covered in my Macroeconomics class occasionally comes in handy when I’m hanging out with my husband’s friends from Business School. And there are a few sections of The Economist that I used to avoid, but that I now proudly skim.

Other courses I learned a lot in (and have often listed under the “relevant coursework” section of my resume):

  • Intelligence and Foreign Policy with Professor Josh Rovner
  • Understanding Intelligence Operations with Professor Austin Long
  • DoD’s Syria Policy (my capstone) with Professor Colin Jackson

This is not to say that I’ve reached some sort of terminal learning phase. Quite the contrary: The more I read and the more questions I asked (especially in courses I was really excited about), the more I was inspired to keep learning on my own.

New Career Options and Resources
If there is one thing I could emphasize to prospective students, it is that SIPA offers some of the best career resources of any graduate program of its kind. That said, not everybody takes advantage of them. This is an opportunity that I would recommend everyone take full advantage of. Each semester, students are granted three visits with a counselor at the Office of Career Services. Although this is not required, I personally took advantage of this opportunity and found the counselors to be excellent resources. I did a videotaped mock interview, which although cringe-worthy, really helped me prepare for an interview that was important to me. (Update: I’ll be starting at that company in June!)  Additionally, I recommend the annual SIPA Career Conference, which is held in Washington, D.C. every January.  It’s a great opportunity to meet SIPA alumni, and hear about different potential career options.  It’s also a chance to get to know students who may not be in your concentration, but whom you can still relate to as you go through the job search process.

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Admitted Students: What opportunity are you most looking forward to in the fall ? Email us at SIPA_new@columbia.edu with why you decided to attend SIPA and you may see your answers in an upcoming blog post! (Don’t forget to include a photo of you celebrating your acceptance to SIPA!)

P.S. There’s still time to respond to you admission offer!