SIPA in the Time of COVID-19

As many of you have heard, Columbia University switched to online classes and limited most university functions, other than the most necessary ones. Social distancing policies ask us to self-quarantine, limit going out to getting necessities, and keep at least a six-foot distance from others to protect not just us, but also the most vulnerable individuals among us. During this time, we would like to share how our current students have been dealing with the situation, including online classes, group projects, Capstone projects, and everyday life. 

Online Classes

Our classes are now held on Zoom and there is definitely a learning curve with it. There were some funny moments where students forgot to mute their microphones or an awkward pause between asking questions, but overall my professors have made it seem as easy a transition as possible. I much prefer in person classes at SIPA where there’s personal interaction with my professors, friends, and peers.  However, as a second-year who wants to graduate on time, I appreciate the efforts made to finish up my classes.

~MPA 2020

For me, my online class experience has been a little turbulent — professors who are from nations that are especially hard hit by coronavirus such as Italy and France have had to cancel some lectures as they care for professional or personal needs in their home countries. Others have had to restructure their grading or assessment base as their curriculum revolved around in-person assessments. It has been difficult but the professors are all really learning alongside us how to adjust to this new normal with diligence and humour. 

~George-Ann, MIA 2020

Capstone Projects

Capstone projects that included travel for research or meetings with clients have certainly been disrupted, but SIPA students have been adapting in this area just as they have in others. Students are conducting interviews over the phone or video conferencing solutions, and capstones continue to meet with their faculty advisors using Zoom. While the situation is not ideal, students are driving ahead with their research and remain committed to providing innovative research and solutions to their capstone clients. 

~Stuart, MIA 2020

Extracurriculars

While SIPA students can’t meet in person and student activities have been put on hold, the SIPA student body has stayed very active! Students shared petitions in solidarity with undergraduates and other vulnerable students to present to the Administration. Our student leaders also spoke with our SIPA Administrators to ensure student concerns were taken into consideration when decisions were made that impacted student life during this time. I’m sad that our active SIPA student leaders won’t be able to hold the amazing events bringing esteemed international leaders, activists, and scholars to this university, but I’m also honored to be a part of a community that keeps on keeping, even in difficult times. 

~MPA 2020

Columbia Community

During this time of uncertainty, the SIPA and broader Columbia community have really come together. Students based in New York are offering places to stay, fellow students are organizing virtual meet ups and conversation with friends as they practise social distancing. Things have been changing rapidly but the communication has been as good as it can be. 

The administration, cognizant of everyone’s different economic and other mobility constraints, have allowed those who can’t leave to stay on campus and are keeping meal options available. They are also offering financial support by way of keeping student workers’ wages stable until the end of the semester and other supports. 

In these times, the Columbia Community has really shown the spirit of resilience and one of justice in ensuring that the most vulnerable members of our community are taken care of. 

~George-Ann, MIA 2020