Author Archive for Amir Safa

5 pieces of advice for incoming students

Planning out your first steps at SIPA can seem daunting, and it’s likely you’ll forget a step or two. As you finalize your plans to join the ranks of Seeples in August, there are some things I recommend you add to your to-do list when you get here.

Business Cards. When you arrive at SIPA, you may want to get a head start on your networking by heading over to the School of Journalism to order a set of business cards. They sure come in handy during conferences, alumni events, and interviews.

Be Open to New Classes. As you prepare to register for courses, be open-minded and consider a class out of your comfort zone. You can even take a class with a grading option of Pass/Fail or register to Audit a class; these are invaluable ways to learn a new topic without the pressure of a grade. Check out Vergil during Orientation Week, the University’s course listings database, and look out for special registration periods with the Business School, Law School, School of Journalism, Teachers College, Mailman School of Public Health, or the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation. (As for your first semester, your OSA advisor will register you for your classes!)

Meet Your Professors. Don’t be shy to meet outside of the classroom with your professors. Take the time to go to office hours for both your professors and your teaching assistants. Better yet, get a few students together for a meal with your professor and apply to SIPA for up to $150 in TimeOut Funding for it.

Learn a Language.  If you have the time, learn a new language. Many of our classmates took a language course every semester at SIPA and it helps make your resume more attractive to know more than one language. Apply for funding for the academic year or for a summer program through the highly coveted Foreign Language Area Studies Fellowship, which offers generous tuition and stipends; the deadline is usually in February. If you don’t have the time to fit in an entire class, consider brushing up on your language skills or become a language tutor through the Language Maintenance Tutorial Program at the Language Resource Center with 10, 90-minute meetings through the semester. For students who want to maintain Arabic, Farsi, Hebrew or Turkish, apply for a $300 grant to be a part of the program.

Find a SIPA Career Coach. Through the Office of Career Services, you can sign up to meet with a Career Coach, professionals from a variety of organizations who have agreed to sit down with students or take a call to offer guidance about entering into and working in a particular industry. It’s a sure way to get an informational interview and build your confidence. In addition to resume reviewing and workshops, the Office of Career Services also provides other great resources like mock interviews and the MBTI personality testing.

[Photo by Amir Safa]

What it’s like taking a class with the 76th U.S. Treasury Secretary

Former U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob “Jack” Lew, serving under President Obama’s second term, joined Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs in Spring 2017 as Visiting Professor to teach the new course INAF U6092: “Leadership and Policy Development.”

How did I find out about the class?
Early in the semester, Dean Janow made an announcement to students welcoming Secretary Lew as a visiting professor and about a month before the class started, I received an email from SIPA Academic Affairs revealing Secretary Lew’s first course.

Did the class have any prerequisites?
Yes, to be eligible, students had to have taken SIPA U6401 Macroeconomic Analysis taught by Professor Andrea Bubula, which is now offered in both semesters of the academic year. An online application was also required including a resume and a statement of interest. The class was capped at twenty students as a seminar which allowed an intimate setting for candid questions and discussion.

What did the class cover?
The special five-week, one-unit course entitled “Leadership and Policy Development” aimed to familiarize students with current issues in economic policy development and the domestic and international factors influencing public sector decision-making.  The class discussed a number of contemporary issues including those in which the US has played a significant role or has a substantial interest:

  • Policy Practice and Business Tax Reform
  • Ukraine and IMF Quota Reform
  • Managing the US Debt Limit
  • Exchange Rate Management and Financial Stability Coordination
  • Financial Crisis in Puerto Rico

In the class, we discussed the types of dilemmas leaders can be expected to face: unavoidable issues with looming deadlines; managing to avoid a potential crisis and affirmative initiatives where policy leaders choose a policy objective to advance. Students also learned lessons of leadership, hearing stories from behind-the-scenes including from Secretary Lew’s moments in the White House sitting with President Obama.

What assignments were required?
As with most SIPA courses, Secretary Lew assigned required and recommended readings each week. Readings ranged from expert reports drafted in the White House, the US Treasury, and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to analysis offered by pieces in the Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Economist, and academic journals including articles authored by Secretary Lew himself in the Harvard Journal on Legislation.

Students also drafted a concise 4-6 page policy memorandum addressing one of the course topics. To prepare for this assignment, Secretary Lew met with every student in a one-on-one meeting to discuss and flesh out key points and to formulate an argument.

Why did you take the class?
Why not? It is not everyday one gets to sit down with a former U.S.Treasury Secretary.

What did you enjoy from this experience?
Secretary Lew’s course provided the opportunity to apply what I had learned in SIPA courses to today’s issues. Prior to taking this class, I had taken courses driven by theoretical framework and models including Economic Development and Macroeconomics, acquiring the tools to understand problem solving and policy making processes. I had developed a background in how economies function in China, Japan, Latin America, the United States and Europe. When I took Secretary Lew’s course, I heard him speak about real life scenarios that require a policy maker to grapple with theory over practice and how to work toward feasible policies. These nuances of leadership, strategy, and practicality are the real treasurers from his class. No pun intended.

[Photo courtesy of Katarina Luz Mayers | Class photo with Jack Lew in the center, and Amir Safa on the far right.]

The best cafes on campus

If you are visiting SIPA next week for ASD and want to take a coffee break or grab a bite to eat, you have many choices. SIPA students Amir Safa, MIA, 2017, and Roxanne Moin-Safa, MIA, 2017, share their favorites.

Nous Espresso Bar at the Graduate Student Center, Philosophy Building

Hours:
M-Th 8:30 am – 8 pm
F 8:30 am – 6 pm
Sa 10 am – 5 pm
Su 12-5 pm

Nous Espresso Bar awaits you inside the Graduate Student Center of Philosophy Hall, just a few steps across the bridge from SIPA. The sophisticated grad student will appreciate the modern art, high ceilings, and quality coffee found within these walls. Don’t be shy; it’s common to share tables in this popular space. Nous proudly serves responsibly sourced Stumptown Coffee and as well as monthly features from Parlor and Coava. The brewed coffee connoisseur can choose between drip, pour over, or cold brew. Watch the sushi master make magic while you wait in line and ponder over what else you can order: a made-to-order Donburi (Japanese rice bowl), a soup, a salad, or pastries? And if you are wondering, “Nous” refers to Greek philosophical term for the intellect.

Recommended: Organic tea by Rishi especially Coconut Oolong for a light afternoon zing and a decadent brownie

UP Coffee Co. in Pulitzer Hall, School of Journalism

Hours:
M-F 7 am – 8 pm
Sa & Su 9 am – 6pm

If you are into local organic coffees, sustainable snacking, and watching the news, then make a pitstop at the newly opened UP Coffee nestled in the corner of the School of Journalism. The upscale and modern vibe here offers an assortment of sandwiches, made-to-order hot paninis, salads in Mason jars, baked goods, and snacks to go. In addition to espresso, you have your choice of drip, pour over, cold brew, and nitrogen infused cold brew. You will always get natural light from the glass roof, and if the weather is pleasant, you will get to chomp down al-fresco style when the glass patio doors open. If you need your daily fix of news, watch the overhead news ticker or the tv screens broadcasting CNN.

Recommended: Organic coffee roasted locally in Brooklyn; hot Reuben panini.


Publique, School of International and Public Affairs

Hours:
M-Th 8:30 am – 7 pm
F 8:30 am – 5 pm
Sa & Su – Closed

Get a real taste of SIPA life at the newly opened Publique cafe on the 6th floor.  This large lounge space offers students a place to unwind between classes. Publique offers a variety of salads, sandwiches, coffee, tea, baked goods, and snacks for the student on the go.  

Recommended: Sandwich to go

Brownie’s Cafe in Avery Hall, Columbia Graduate School of Architecture, Planning & Preservation

Hours:
M – Th 8 am – 6:30 pm
F 8 am – 5 pm

Is your coffee rendezvous a covert operation? We’ve got you covered. Step into Avery Hall next to the chapel, swing a left down the spiral staircase, through the architecture gallery room, and down another staircase into the tucked away secret of Brownie’s Cafe. This underground hideaway features modern, minimalist furniture with plenty of seating. Brownie’s Cafe features a wide selection of made-to-order and ready-made sandwiches, soups, Mediterranean side dishes, snack packs, baked goods, Toby’s Estate coffee, and Harney & Sons assorted teas.

Recommended: Grilled vegetable sandwich with Havarti cheese and Basil pesto on toasted focaccia bread.

 

Joe Coffee, NW Corner Science Building

Hours:
M – F 8 am – 8 pm
Sa & Su 9 am – 6 pm

Quite possibly the brightest cafe on campus, Joe Coffee is a coveted corner usually buzzing with professors, students, and locals. It’s located on the second floor of the NW Corner Science Building overlooking the gothic beauty of the Union Theological Seminary and the splendor of Teacher’s College. Enjoy the ambiance of ultra-modern, bright white furnishings and stunning marble flooring to boot. Light music spices things up here. Joe Coffee offers a variety of house-roasted coffees, espresso, and teas as well as lite fare including baked goods.

Recommended: Any of the house coffees, cappuccino.

[Photos by Amir Safa]

"The most global public policy school, where an international community of students and faculty address world challenges."

—Merit E. Janow, Dean, SIPA, Professor of Practice, International and Economic Law and International Affairs

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