Author Archive for Dylan Hoey

Life as a Program Assistant: It’s Pretty Sweet

Note from Admissions: Congratulations to the students that walked across the stage at SIPA’s graduation yesterday – including our program assistants! We’re extremely happy for, and proud of, the graduates of the SIPA Class of 2019.


Hello everyone! Congratulations to all our readers who were recently admitted to SIPA and welcome to those who are considering applying during the next cycle.

I am writing this post to shed some light on the work of Program Assistants and to talk about what you can expect if you receive an Assistantship while at SIPA!

First of all, program assistants (PAs) are SIPA students that work in SIPA affiliated offices to support full-time staff with daily operations, program management, event planning, etc.

Assistantships are only open to students during their second year; in Spring semester of your first year, you will receive an application form that will let you apply en masse to all open assistantship positions. These positions are competitive, so I encourage students to develop relationships with the people you are interested in working for.

So What Do PAs Do?

Again, it is very much dependent on where you end up working! At Admissions, I assist full-time Admissions staff with daily administrative tasks and the processing of student applications. I also help with communications, by documenting things on campus, writing for the Admissions Blog and occasionally featuring on Columbia SIPA social media accounts!

As an admissions representative, I also meet with prospective students and answer questions from applicants throughout the year.

If you attended Admitted Students Day, I also helped plan and staff the event!

Other friends of mine work for a variety of other offices on campus. For example, one of my good friends works for SIPA News and is a veritable journalist; his job is to attend SIPA events and to write reports for the website. Another one of my friends is the PA for the Urban and Social Policy concentration, and he works with USP faculty to plan events, speaker series and monthly happy hours/mixers.

In general, we all work about anywhere from 12-20 hours a week, depending on our time commitments and the demands of our work. Ultimately, it’s a great way to earn extra money and to connect with new students and staff here at SIPA. So if you’re about to attend SIPA or are considering applying, definitely start thinking about PAships!

L-R: Julia, Sam, Dylan, and Kier

Special shoutout to Fall 2019 PA Niara Valerio! You can see what she and another former PA, Rahel Tekola, are up to here.

Your Frequently Asked Questions, Answered by Current SIPA Students!

Hello! The Admissions team would like to say congratulations to all Admitted Students! We have been receiving a lot of questions on a variety of topics, from housing options to SIPA’s quantitative coursework. We decided to compile our answers to some of your most frequently asked questions. Feel free to drop other questions in the comment!

What is SIPA’s quantitative coursework like? Will I be able to pass macro/micro economics?

Samantha: The quantitative coursework for the core courses at SIPA consist of three courses: Microeconomics, Macroeconomics, and Quantitative Analysis (statistics). Usually students take Micro in the fall semester, and Macro in the spring semester. However, Quant can be taken in any of the four semesters, but most students complete it in either of their first two. The workload is going to be a bit heavy, as you have homework, recitation, lecture and exams for all of these quantitative courses, but it’s all doable. You don’t need to be an expert in either of the three areas in order to do well in them, but getting in some practice before hand can’t hurt. In order to prepare yourself for the coursework I recommend completing the summer math tutorial SIPA provides, as well as attending the Math Boot-camp during orientation. However, If you’re still panicked about the fact that you’re going to see numbers and have instantaneously forgotten all the math(s) you’ve ever learned, remember you are going to be ok and I guarantee you will pass.

Julia: I would also say that the weekly homework are done in groups so some of the stress is shared. Many students don’t have an economics or statistics background (like me!) so you won’t be alone! The professors are also very approachable and helpful if you are struggling.

What is the SIPA community like as a whole? Or for a specific concentration?
Dylan: The SIPA community is generally very open and welcoming. Before arriving at SIPA, I assumed that most people would be very competitive and serious. While everyone here cares about their academics and career, I have found the opposite to be true; in general, people are very supportive and friendly. I think one of the other benefits of having such huge incoming classes is that you are always meeting new students. So on top of it being a friendly, collaborative environment, I’ve never really felt like I lacked opportunities to meet new people.

I’d say most people end up befriending people within their concentration. Makes sense right? You take a lot of classes with them, you probably end up at the same events, and you naturally share a lot of similar interests. As a USP concentrator, I met most of my USP friends my first semester and we’ve remained close since then.

What is the recruitment/job-hunt like at SIPA? Does the Office of Career Services, or SIPA in general, support students?

Julia: SIPA students have very diverse interests, so there isn’t a standard way students go through the internship or job search. When I was looking for my summer internship last year, I used the Office of Career Services internship database, which is a detailed account of all the internships previous students have done, to give me an idea what I could be interested in doing. I then applied for internships through the job/internship portal on SIPAlink. I would also say the info sessions that OCS organize are helpful as well. I just went to an ACLU panel discussion last week that was inspiring and exactly I needed to motivate me in my current job search!

What is something you wish you knew about SIPA before attending?
Dylan: I wish I knew more about cross-registration and dual-degree options at SIPA. That was more me not doing my due diligence on researching SIPA’s program offerings before attending, but it is something all students can do if they prepare in advance.

What has been the best/worst part of your time at SIPA?
Dylan: The best part has been developing my interest in anti-corruption policy and journalism. I came from a very theory focused Political Science background, and SIPA was the first place where I was able to really dive into policy.

Worst time has definitely been the quantitative coursework. I appreciate it and I begrudgingly recognize its importance. But it can be an enormous pain! That being said, everyone who comes to SIPA will pass the core quantitative classes. Do not fear!!

Julia: My best time was traveling with other Seeples on student trips. Last summer I went to Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, and this winter break I went to Israel. It’s a great way to learn more about the politics and history of the region, but also spend quality time with your fellow Seeples.

What are the housing options like in the Columbia area? How much can I expect to pay and where should I generally look?

Samantha: I would say that most students who do not get Columbia student housing generally live near or north of campus. Most of us live in shared apartments in Morningside Heights, Harlem, and Washington Heights. Living with roommates helps keep the cost down, and living near or north of campus is 1. Convenient and 2. More affordable. While rents vary, I say students usually pay anywhere from $900-$1500 a month in rent. The farther north you go from campus the less expensive apartments become, so if you’re looking to cut costs I recommend looking uptown. The benefit of living near campus is that it is close enough for you to walk to, so you wouldn’t have to pay for transit expenses to get to school like you might need to if you live further north.

How do you manage time between classes and internships/work?

Dylan: This is a hard question to answer because it really depends on the classes I’m taking and the way assignments are structured for each class. Some weeks, I’ll have no assignments due besides reading for class. During those weeks, I obviously attend classes, work around 15 hours at SIPA Admissions as a program assistant, and do my readings either in the afternoon after classes or in between classes while I’m still on campus.

Other weeks, it’ll feel like my professors conspired to absolutely slam me with assignments. In those cases, I’ll usually plan on working 11am – 5/6pm-ish on weekends (at least) and then work in the afternoons after classes are finished and in between classes. If I’m particularly stressed with my program assistantship work, I may ask to take a few hours off and make them up at a later date. Most SIPA jobs are understanding and flexible with students.

A Quick Guide to New York City Airports

New York is famous for many things; however, having great airports is not one of them. As some of you consider traveling to New York for Admitted Students Day, or are planning your own vacation to the city, here’s are some things to keep in mind before stepping on the plane.

1. John F. Kennedy International Airport
New York City is serviced by three main airports, two of which are located in the city itself. For international travelers, you will likely fly into John F. Kennedy International Airport, which is located in one of Queens most industrial (and distant) neighborhoods.

JFK is about an hour by car into Manhattan and depending on your arrival time, it may take up to an hour and a half with traffic. Expect to pay anywhere between $70-100 for a taxi or Uber one-way.

For the more economical traveler, JFK is serviced by the AirTrain and the A/E trains. The AirTrain is a local line that connects travelers to NYC’s subway system. You will find signs in the JFK baggage area directing you to the AirTrain.

I personally suggest taking the JFK Airtrain Green Line to Howard Beach station. There, you can transfer to the A-Train and take it straight into Manhattan. Depending on where you are staying it will take a little over an hour, but there are no transfers and service is reliable.

2. Newark Liberty International Airport
For international travelers that are not routed to JFK, it is almost a guarantee that you will be flying into Newark. Located just across the Hudson River in New Jersey, Newark is actually a pretty modern and easy airport to navigate.

From my experience, a lot of flights arriving late at night or from East/South Asia tend to head straight to Newark.

Taxis/Ubers from Newark airport into Manhattan are relatively comparable to JFK prices, although at times it may be a bit cheaper.

Travelers that wish to use public transit can take the AirTrain to the Newark Liberty Airport station on the New Jersey Coast line.

You can take the line into Penn Station in Manhattan, which is on 34th St. It is one of New York’s busiest subway/transit stations and you can find connecting subways to pretty much anywhere in the city.

3. LaGuardia Airport
LaGuardia is the most conveniently located of New York’s three airports, as it is located right across the Queens Bridge in the sleepy neighborhood of Astoria. I have almost exclusively flown American carriers (cough, Southwest) into LaGuardia and it’s essentially the airport for domestic travel.

For international travelers flying American airlines or connecting through a major US city (Miami for Caribbean/Central/South American travelers, Houston/Dallas for Mexican and Central American travelers or Los Angeles for travelers from Asia) may have a connecting flight that ends up stopping in LaGuardia.

Depending on where you’re staying, taxis will likely be significantly cheaper and somewhere in the $30-60 range.

That being said, LaGuardia has the absolute best bus line in the city. For those that don’t mind lugging their carry-ons onto a bus, the M60-SBS picks up passengers from the airport and goes right across the Queens Bridge into Harlem.

You can hop off on the stop by the Apollo Theater to take any of the ABCD trains to most places in Manhattan or you can continue riding until Columbia University! The whole trip takes about 30 minutes to an hour, depending on traffic conditions.

While trains do run from LaGuardia, I cannot recommend the bus route enough. Particularly because it costs like 2 dollars.

 

For those that have more general questions about travel, airport conditions or navigating taxis/Ubers/trains in New York from the airport, feel free to reach out! Safe travels!

Avery Library: Everything a Study Space Should Be

Before coming to SIPA, when I thought of the Ivy League I would immediately picture immense, neoclassical and gothic style buildings, foreboding structures made to resemble the campuses of Oxford and Cambridge. This style has always been appealing to me; something about the brick buildings and carved names of famous alumni and scholars is particularly conducive to studying, reminding you of how little you know and how much farther you have to go.

When you first step foot on campus, your eyes are immediately drawn to Butler and Low Libraries that sit on the edges of main campus like two enormous bookends. They’re pretty to look at it and they entirely live up to one’s expectations about what an Ivy library is supposed to be. However, if you take the steps up by Low and round the corner, you’ll pass by a hundred year old chapel, its humble Byzantine stylings immediately drawing you in towards the altar. A little ways more down the footpath and you’ll pass by an unassuming brick building that happens to be Avery Library, the largest architectural library in the world.

Whenever I am doing readings or looking for inspiration, I’ll try and find a seat at Avery. It’s often hard as there are a limited number of seats and the library enforces a strict no coffee or tea rule that sometimes discourages me from going. But every time I do happen to find a space I am reminded of why I love studying there. First of all, the library is essentially one large narrow hall. Long tables line the middle of the hall, while the walls are full of books up to two stories high. Great big windows along the entire building provide plenty of natural light and a view of the campus. For this reason, Avery strikes a perfect balance in terms of ambiance; it’s warm and inviting, without the stuffy feeling that other old libraries tend to have.

The winter only accentuates all of Avery’s best features, as the large windows give you a view of the snow outside, while the wood interior makes you feel like you’re at home in your study. During the cold season, I’ll often step outside and walk around the corner to the chapel, just to unwind and destress for a few moments. Then I’ll walk back, feeling refreshed and ready to dive back into my work.

On top of all of its natural charm, the basement of the library also has a nice cafe that offers food and a full range of beverages. The seating is cafeteria style and it is almost always buzzing with people. The library also hosts one of the world’s leading architectural art collections, with over two million drawings, sketches, photographs, and other historical artifacts related to the field of design and architecture. Sometimes I’ll catch an event at the library as well, since it regularly hosts visiting exhibitions and relevant speaker series events.

Whether you decide to go to Avery to study or just to grab coffee, it is always a welcome respite from the busyness of everyday life. If you decide to visit Columbia, take an opportunity to step inside and envision yourself here!

Note from Admissions: SIPA’s expert faculty and theory-meets-practice curriculum is part of what sets our programs apart. Register for Spring 2019 SIPA class visits here and experience it for yourself.

Jumping from NYC to DC; My advice to students who want to work outside of NYC

Note from Admissions: Congratulations to the eight SIPA students selected to join the Presidential Management Fellows Class of 2019! Only ~8.7 percent of applicants were selected to become finalists in this prestigious U.S. government development program for 2019. We thought this would be a good opportunity to check in with other SIPA students who are heading to Washington D.C.


When I first considered applying to the State Department’s Pickering Fellowship, I was unsure whether it was worth my time. I assumed that students from D.C. studying International Affairs would have a considerable advantage, since I attended a small liberal arts college in Los Angeles where I studied History and Government. However, when speaking with alumni of the fellowship, I was told that my non-D.C. background could help my application for the State Department and other employers throughout my career. After receiving the fellowship, and having worked in D.C., I would agree with this sentiment.

Ultimately, I believe that employers look for talent and people with new and interesting ideas, regardless of where an applicant is from. Therefore, I would urge anyone considering SIPA to apply, even if they want to pursue a career in D.C. afterwards; here at SIPA, you’ll learn and grow in ways that will make you competitive for any job in any city.

SIPA’s greatest resource is New York City. As a student of policy, you will have endless opportunities to engage with experts and leading organizations in your field who are working in arguably the world’s most dynamic city. Because of SIPA’s location, you will also have access to world class faculty and students who are pursuing careers in everything from finance to humanitarian work.

SIPA also offers a very holistic curriculum and attracts students from the around the world who want to study in a global city. I can honestly say that I have learned as much from my peers as I have from my classes.

In turn, you may actually have an advantage over students who are in D.C. or any other city, partly because of everything that SIPA students are exposed to in New York.

Personally, I know of many students who are fully committed to working in D.C. after graduating, myself included. Many of these students use their summer in between their first and second year to pursue an internship in DC, as an opportunity to build a relationship with a potential employer and to get an idea of what they would ideally like to do full-time.

SIPA has relationships with almost every major organization in D.C. and therefore students are made aware of internship and full-time job opportunities available in D.C. all the time. Almost any employer in D.C. will recognize Columbia University and SIPA, and you will not be at a disadvantage during the recruiting process.

In terms of community in D.C., SIPA students end up all over; some work for the State Department, some work for think tanks like The Brookings Institution, and others end up at NGOs like Human Rights Campaign. Since SIPA’s Office of Career Services has strong relationships with alumni and organizations with heavy SIPA representation, it is easy to get in contact with alumni, who are always happy to offer advice or maybe even an opportunity at an interview.

I always tell people, living and studying in New York is never a bad choice. If you are interested in SIPA’s program offerings and think it is a good fit academically and socially, then consider applying/enrolling, even if you don’t plan to be here long-term!

"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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