There are several advantages to the Master of International Affairs program, and applicants choose the program for a variety of reasons.
For me, the MIA provides a strong foundation for working in any industry that intersects with global issues. I wanted to learn how to marry my digital-media experience with advocacy work on behalf of social-justice issues and nonprofits working in the field. And I believed the MIA program best complemented my previous experience and that it would help me achieve my future career goals.
One of my favorite things about the degree is that there are about 450 MIA/MPA students in a graduating class and we are all so unique in both our backgrounds and what we want to do with our SIPA degree. The culture within the program is very supportive as many of us will be working together in the future, across organizations and fields, and not competing for the same specific jobs, which I appreciate.
The program also provides flexibility. While we all have to choose a concentration and specialization, I know many students in the MIA and MPA programs have switched their focus after being exposed to new fields through the classroom or discussions with their peers. This flexibility is valuable if you are interested in exploring different fields or if you would like to market yourself to future employers as having a unique combination of skills. Mixing and matching specializations with certain concentrations allows MIA and MPA students to carve out an expertise in certain fields. And with the chance to take classes at Columbia University’s eight other graduate schools, students can really customize their degree plans.
Another reason I chose the MIA program over the MPA program was that I was interested in reviving my language skills. I had studied Portuguese and gained in-country experience in Brazil, but after several years of not practicing, I was frustrated that I was no longer as fluent as I once was. So when I applied to SIPA, I decided that the required language component of the MIA degree would be the perfect way for me to renew my Portuguese. Many students come to SIPA already speaking several languages, and for me, honing my language skills is another way to round out my experience as I pursue working with and for global organizations.
In my second year here, I have also been pleased with my Capstone experience. Capstone Workshops are specifically developed for MIA and MPA students and are formulated to build upon the concentrations within the programs. Most Capstones take place in the spring semester, but a few are created for the fall. Capstones partner a team of students with an external organization or government agency to work on real issues they are dealing with. I applied to a unique opportunity to do a year-long Business and Human Rights Clinic that will count as my project. Thus far, it has been a great way to get hands on experience working on projects that intersect with both my Human Rights concentration and my International Media, Advocacy, and Communications specialization.
Ultimately, when applying to SIPA, prospective students should choose the program that best reflects their interests and what is driving them to return to school. The MIA program has proven to be the right choice for me as it has provided a solid academic foundation for working in a global context through the core requirements, while also giving me the flexibility to combine my interest in digital media advocacy with a human rights focus.
To learn more about the MIA program from the student perspective, submit the Connect With A Current Student form.