Author Archive for Andrew Liu

Join Seeple Groups for the camaraderie

The fall 2017 class has around 400 students (MPA/MIA) from around the world with different skills, ideas, and professional backgrounds. Do you appreciate the diversity of perspectives, but are concerned about becoming being just another a number? If that’s a “yes,” then that’s exactly why SIPA came up with Seeple Groups (SIPA + People = Seeple). As a Seeple Groups leader, I wanted to share with all of you the value of this initiative. Launched last year for the Class of 2018, the program is designed to do two things: provide incoming students with dedicated support and to foster interdisciplinary camaraderie that cuts across degree programs (MPA and MIA) and areas of study (concentrations and specializations).

Each Seeple Group consists of around 40 first-year MPA/MIA students, and they are led by select second-year students, known as SIPA Peer Advisors (SPA). Advising deans are also paired up with each group. SPAs, like me, provide wisdom from experience on university resources, course selection, and student life. In other words, we’ll tell you where the least-crowded libraries are; how to navigate the school bureaucracy; how tough a professor is; where to find free food; and where the best happy hours are at. (You know, the important stuff.) In all seriousness, if you’re running into issues as a student, the chances are high that someone else has been through it and resolved it. And if the SPA don’t have the answer, they’ll find someone that does.

For example, during orientation week, we had a first-year student from Asia who discovered that his initial housing plans fell through due to circumstances beyond his control. His family was also due to arrive two weeks later. I don’t think we would have learned how dire the situation was if we hadn’t approached him. Leveraging the network of the SPAs, we managed to find a unit that fit his needs. Result: crisis averted.

The groups as a whole build community within the unit through various events planned by SPAs and their group members. The events range from community service and house parties to ice skating in Midtown and secret Seeples gift exchanges. The ultimate goal of Seeple Groups is to provide a vector for students to build meaningful and life-long friendships. It’ll be one of the first networking platforms you’ll encounter at SIPA. You’ll likely form into problem set teams for Quant and Econ. And even if you feel like it’s not working out, there are countless other opportunities to build new relationships (concentration/specialization happy hours, student organizations events, and student-led cultural and policy excursions around the world to name a few).

I was in Seeples Group B aka “the Rumble Bees” (the groups are named after animals/insects). My favorite part about being a SPA is watching the bonds form within the group. I remember meeting the gang during orientation week and doing ice breakers to get everyone to loosen up. Now, I see them lounging together on campus and tagging each other on Facebook during late-night study sessions. When I was deciding between graduate schools, the strength of a school’s network was a key factor for me. SIPA created Seeple Groups to do exactly this.

[Photo courtesy of Gloria Oh (Seeple Group B Peer Advisor) | Andrew Liu (first row, left) attempting to buzz like a bee with Seeple Group B aka “the Rumble Bees”]

I chose SIPA for its students

The school’s reputation and the world-class faculty weren’t the only reasons I chose to attend SIPA. In fact, one of the main reasons I decided on SIPA was for the student body: it’s made of top talent from around the world driven by one goal – to make a positive impact. How does SIPA ensure you get the most out of this environment while contributing to society? Through social entrepreneurial competitions like the SIPA Dean’s Public Policy Challenge Grant and Global Public Policy Network (GPPN) Conferences.

The Dean’s Public Policy Grant Program allows students to propose self-designed projects and ideas that use ICTs (information communication technologies) and/or data analytics to address policy challenges in the world. It grants funding to winning teams “to identify and support projects that have high potential to be implemented and produce a meaningful impact on the target problem in relatively near term”.[1] Competing teams are formed of students from across the schools (engineering, computer science, public policy, business etc.) of the university.

Past competition winners include:

In 2014, $25,000 was awarded to PaisaBack (Swami Ganesan and Jaivardhan Singh), a mobile application addressing public health issues in India by incentivizing health-care seeking behavior in women. “Women earn digital points for seeking preventative care such as immunizations and anemia screening for themselves and their children. They can then exchange these points at participating retailers for mobile talk time and other products and services. PaisaBack will generate revenue by monetizing this exclusive group of technology empowered women and the network of retailers who accept digital points. Maternal and infant mortality rates are 2-4 times higher in India than in other developing countries. 75% of Indian women are malnourished. PaisaBack will help break this status quo.[2]

Another $25,000 was awarded to Terranga (Tammy Lewin and Lindsay Litowitz), a “mobile app connecting travelers seeking unique experiences to locals offering insights into their lives. With Terranga, you can see the cities you visit through a local’s eyes: join a pickup soccer game, check out street food or go salsa dancing. But we’re much more than an app. Terranga believes in the power of tourism dollars. Instead of paying for a packaged tour, travelers have more meaningful experiences and can help fund locals’ dreams. [They] envision a world made better by travel and travel made more impactful by contributing to the lives of thousands of locals.” (Both teams are pictured above.)

In 2015, RemitMas (Maelis Carraro, Lina Henao, Daniela Hernandez, Felipe Pacheco, and Steven Pallickal ) team received $30,000, as first place winners, to support their project. “The team aims to build a cash-to-savings digital money transfer service that allows Latino immigrants in the United States to send money and deposit it into savings ‘wallets’ in their home countries; deposits can be designated for specific purposes like education or health care. Using a proposed tagline of ‘Send. Save. Support,’ the planned pilot program will focus on the 1 million Colombians living in the United States.”[3]

The second place team, Spokey (George Hampton, David Santos de Padua, and Gemma Peacocke), received $20,000. The Spokey team envisions an “online hub that will allow social, sporting, charitable, and community groups to list their vacant spaces that can be rented for special events to generate extra income. The team is developing an application with a two-way rating system—first in New York, with plans to expand to Philadelphia, Boston, and Washington by 2016.”[4]

[Photo courtesy of SIPA | Team I-Care pictured (from left): Kasumi Sugimoto, Fang Liu, Yue Wang, Xinwei Gao]

SIPA students also compete in the GPPN Conferences, where student teams from the GPPN member schools (London School of Economics and Political Science in Paris, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore, the FGV-EAESP in São Paulo, Graduate School of Public Policy [GraSPP] at the University of Tokyo, and the Hertie School of Governance in Berlin) present ideas and approaches toward themed policy issues that vary each year. At this year’s conference in Paris, teams presented “solution-oriented ideas or prototypes” to address policy issues identified by the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).[5] A SIPA team, I-Care, won the competition this year for creating an online platform which connects senior citizens and their families to health care and social services through technology and medical data.

Even though I did not participate in these initiatives, I’ve had the privilege of collaborating with these brilliant minds on class projects and problems sets and call them friends at the end of the day. I’m a firm believer in the idea that success is very much affected by the people you surround yourself with; the growth-fostering environment at SIPA is designed to provide exactly this.

[Featured photo courtesy of SIPA | Pictured (L-R): PaisaBack and Terranga]
[1] SIPA website
[5] GPPN Website


2 things you should review prior to selecting your dream school

Congratulations, you’ve been accepted to SIPA! But you have too many offers, and it’s hard to decide. I know many of you are in these shoes so this post is meant to help you decide (and not sway you). To make an informed decision, key elements of the issue must be considered. Two of them will be discussed here: tuition and living costs and relevant employment opportunities.

For tuition and living costs, you’re right. SIPA is up there on the list when it comes to pricey graduate programs, and you pay for what you get. Aside from information you already know (Ivy League prestige with world-class faculty and a campus in one of the greatest cities in the world), you really need to ask yourself if you want to “cheap out” on an investment toward your life. But other programs awarded funding or more funding than SIPA? Consider that dilemma, and ask yourself how significant that number is. It’s one thing to get $10,000 over two years than, say, $80,000 in the same period. In other words, how much will it take for you to give up your dream school?

On that note, if you need some extra help strategizing how you’ll pay for graduate school, join us for the Financial Planning for Your Graduate Education Webinar on March 29 at 10:00 a.m. EST. You can RSVP here.

On relevant employment as a student, you’re probably thinking of paid/non-paid internships in a field where you’ll likely end up. This would be the disadvantage of choosing SIPA if DC is the target (although only to a slight degree). If you’re stuck on this point, you should take an honest look at what you want to get out of graduate school (in the near term). Is it building that academic/theoretical foundation and overloading on coursework, immersing yourself in student life and building meaningful relationships, and/or gaining valuable work experience? If you’re thinking all the above, you must hate sleeping. For some people, going back to school is meant to be a break from professional life. If building experience is a priority, you should consider how much the pay (if any), and exactly how substantive the work will be when going in part-time. Don’t forget about the mind capacity you’ll need for the time-consuming econ/quant problem sets waiting for you afterward.

And if you’re looking for additional insights into where SIPA students work, our Career Services tells you that and more here. For example, roughly one-third of 2016 graduates joined the public sector after graduation.

I had considerable work experience and clear goals coming into SIPA. Believe me, I love having money in my pocket, but going to my dream school mattered more. my biggest fear in life is living with regret. Besides, if I was going into debt regardless, I’d rather do it for something I most wanted. Developing an academic foundation and establishing a tight network were my goals for graduate school. In the end, the decision was easy.

Good luck and congratulations again!

[Photo courtesy of Garrett Coakley | (CC BY-NC 2.0)]

"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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