Next, please welcome Mark Jamias! He is studying Economic and Political Development with a specialization in International Conflict Resolution (ICR). As a five-year student between Columbia College and SIPA, Mark will be graduating in May 2018. Before SIPA, Mark worked at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations during the annual sessions of the UN General Assembly. Prior to that, he also worked for a major U.S. airline, and most recently gained experience in the maritime shipping industry.
What were you doing before you came to SIPA?
Before SIPA, I was an undergraduate at Columbia College, majoring in Political Science. During my junior and senior years, I was working at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations for the duration of the annual sessions of the United Nations General Assembly. I briefly interned with NYC Councilwoman Helen Rosenthal, and I spent my summers working for a major U.S. airline at JFK International Airport.
What attracted you to SIPA and Columbia University?
The Five-Year program was one of my primary motivations when I applied to Columbia. The scope of schools to which I was applying was fairly small, and one of my high school teachers encouraged me to apply to Columbia. I read about this opportunity for undergraduates to pursue graduate study during their four years, finishing their Master’s degree after five years. Furthermore, I knew New York would be brimming full of opportunities, whether cultural, professional, or just pure fun, all of which would teach me a lot about how the world works. Like many current Columbia students, however, I didn’t think I would get in; by chance and luck, I arrived on campus in August 2013.
How did you find the core curriculum at SIPA?
Love Core! The Core Curriculum is a quintessential part of the Columbia experience. This school invented Core. Every school within the university has some derivative of the Core. These aren’t gen-ed classes that you choose off a list to fulfill a requisite. The Core classes are specific classes almost everyone in a program takes. You know that every Master of International Affairs student watched the lively debates of a Conceptual Foundations lecture, and every Master of Public Administration sat through Politics of Policymaking. I was by no means an advocate of the Core when I came to Columbia; I didn’t even know I had a set of courses I had to take. After four, going on five, years of this place, I’ve come to appreciate the Core, a fundamental and time-honored academic tradition that links each and every SIPA student.
Do you feel like you have gotten to know some of the faculty members?
For sure! In fact, I used to run into many faculty members while working at the UN! I’d catch Professor Jean Krasno sitting in a lobby or coffee shop chatting about the prospects of a female Secretary-General. My former colleague from the U.S. Mission, Walter Miller, was recently here leading SIPA students on their Capstone Projects on Peacebuilding in the Middle East. I’ve also had the pleasure of learning from Prof. Edward Luck and Richard Gowan, both of who are esteemed practitioners in the field of Conflict Resolution and Mediation. I’ll be reading an article and their names would suddenly pop-up, likely speaking from their offices right upstairs in IAB.
SIPA features lots of events for students to attend. Is there any interesting presentation that you have attended that you could comment upon?
The World Leaders Forum is an amazing opportunity to hear and learn from international heads of state in town for the annual UN General Assembly. I make it a point to attend at least one speech in each year’s series.
Have you taken classes at other Columbia Schools?
Something I highly encourage students to do is to take courses outside SIPA. While SIPA has tremendous resources, taking advantage of the Columbia University community at-large ensures getting the most out of one’s two years on-campus. My first class at SIPA was a joint SIPA-Columbia Law School class. Taking classes outside of SIPA allows students to gain new insights and perspectives from peers with different understandings, priorities, and concerns; our shared challenge is to find the best common solution.
What advice do you have for current applicants?
When writing your application materials, tell us a story. We know what you did, where you worked, and what you studied; tell us why you did the amazing things you accomplished. What drove you? What did you learn? Where did you fail? Don’t leave out the good and the bad bits. Last, tell us how you’re going to use your future SIPA education. What do you hope to do? What do you hope to not do? Will you use your newfound superpowers for good or for evil? Each and every person at SIPA has a story; share yours with us.