Author Archive for Columbia SIPA

A View From the Class: Andres Ochoa Toasa & James Schalkwyk

The SIPA Office of Alumni and Development is excited to share A View from the Class, a SIPA stories series, featuring current SIPA students, recently graduated alumni, and SIPA faculty.

Headshot of AndresAndres Ochoa Toasa

Andres graduated from SIPA in May 2017 with a Master in International Affairs, concentrating in Economic and Political Development (EPD) with a specialization in Advanced Economic and Policy Analysis. Here, Andres discusses his EPD workshop project and how it impacted his SIPA experience.

Why did you choose SIPA and the EPD Concentration?
I chose SIPA over four other graduate schools to which I was accepted because of SIPA’s international public policy focus and because SIPA has built a community that reflects global perspectives through its faculty and students. My interest in the EPD concentration grew more organically. I have a law degree specializing in human rights and my professional experience is mainly in international development. I was drawn to the EPD program, not only for the strength of its courses, but also for the depth of the workshop projects, which stand out as practical and impactful. 

How did you decide on your EPD Workshop? What was the process like?
It was a difficult decision because there were so many choices. My development background is in youth engagement; however, at SIPA, I chose to focus my studies on courses related to monitoring and evaluation, the United Nations, and management. I applied for projects that combined these topics and were outside of my regional area of Latin America. I applied for projects based in Kosovo, Nepal, Cote d’Ivoire, and Myanmar; ultimately, choosing the project based in Kosovo. In the end, it was a very fun process because it showed me how much I had grown in two years and what continues to drive me as a development professional.

How did you spend your time in Kosovo? What were some highlight experiences?
In Kosovo, I worked very hard with another SIPA student on a project mobilizing young Kosovars to pursue sustainable development goals (SDGs).  We conducted all of the stakeholder analysis and interview processes, laying the groundwork for a second student group. We reached out to ministers, ambassadors, NGOs, youth movements, human right activists, journalists, and even artists to see how youth could begin mainstreaming the SDGs. One highlight experience occurred during our last meeting with an official who complimented us on our impressive understanding of youth engagement in Kosovo.

In what direction do you see your career moving? How do you think the EPD Workshop contributed to your future goals?
My career is now moving rapidly into international development. Through the workshop, I developed many tools and greater experience that complement my development background and professional experience and will allow me to address and take on global challenges.

 James Schalkwyk

James is a SIPA Fund Fellow and a second year student pursuing his Master of Public Administration, concentrating in Urban and Social Policy (USP) and specializing in Advanced Policy and Economic Analysis (APEA) and the U.S. Region. Here, James discusses his motivation for attending SIPA and his SIPA experience thus far.

What did you do prior to attending SIPA?
I grew up in Cape Town, South Africa, and studied music and English literature at the University of Cape Town. After interning with DARPA in Washington, DC, which focused on how to encourage private investment in interstellar space travel, I became interested in how governments and the private sector can work together to achieve technological and social breakthroughs. This led me to NASA Ames in Silicon Valley, where I worked in public-private partnerships and public and governmental affairs. In addition to putting together agreements touching all aspects of NASA’s work, my group focused on encouraging the emerging “NewSpace” industry in and around Silicon Valley. My office devised the innovative funding mechanism that gave rise to SpaceX and the Orbital Sciences Corporation, which helped renew the ability of the U.S. to service the International Space Station. The summer before coming to SIPA, I worked for the former director of NASA Ames on The Breakthrough Initiatives, a new program funded by Silicon Valley billionaire Yuri Milner, aimed at sending a probe to Alpha Centauri within a generation.

Why did you choose SIPA?
Several things influenced my decision to attend SIPA: I spoke to an alumnus who was extremely enthusiastic about his time at SIPA; I attended an event in San Francisco where Nobel Laureate and Columbia University Professor Joseph Stiglitz spoke to a small group about his work and our interests; and finally, and probably most importantly, I received a fellowship offer. Graduate school is a huge investment, and I cannot understate the importance of any level of financial assistance. This assistance made SIPA possible for me.

How did you choose the Urban and Social Policy (USP) Concentration?
Despite my experience in aerospace, I was becoming increasingly interested in domestic policy. I originally applied to the Economic and Political Development concentration; however, during my first semester, I found myself drawn to topics related to local governance. The outcome of the November U.S. elections also helped guide my decision, highlighting the importance of ensuring that government provides services and protections to the people who need them most. After choosing my classes for the spring semester, I found that almost all of them were in the USP concentration, cementing my decision to switch.

What has been your experience at SIPA so far?
I’ve made friends from all over the world and discovered a love for economics and statistics. This past summer, I worked with the San Francisco Mayor’s Office of Civic Innovation on city partnership programs with private companies and startups, which allowed me to get to know city government from the inside and increased my interest in “Smart Cities” and the “GovTech” space. Thanks to an opportunity through USP, this fall I will begin working part-time with the Citizen’s Budget Commission, a nonpartisan, nonprofit civic organization that attempts to influence change in the finances and services of New York City and New York State government. SIPA has both deepened my existing interests and opened up brand new vistas, and I feel more confident, engaged, and excited about the future.

The Beatles and the Dawn of Global Culture

In this day of anti-immigration, anti-science, ‘America First,’ and less-than-subtle racism, I found a welcome arrival recently with Ron Howard’s film The Beatles: Eight Days a Week — The Touring Years. Like many people my age, I grew up with the Beatles, and their music, values and image are deeply ingrained in my view of how the world works. I remember the day in early 1964 when they flew into New York’s Idlewild (now JFK) airport. I was home from school with the flu, but listening to their progress on a transistor radio, and hearing the song, “I Want to Hold Your Hand”, so many times that I could play each Beatles’ part. But more than hearing the pieces, I remember the sheer rush of emotion that washed over me whenever I heard the song begin and the deep sense of wellbeing I felt as the song ended. Their music was an emotional experience for a ten-year-old school boy in Brooklyn. As they evolved through the 1960s, we grew up along with them.

Growing up in Brooklyn I knew many people from other countries and I knew we weren’t alone in the world, but I suppose I saw Europe and Asia as places where people were from, not as a place we were going. Europe was where they tattooed numbers on the arms of old people I saw sitting on Brighton Beach in the summer: the survivors of the Holocaust. Or as my father once told me after one of his many business trips to Europe: “Europe is an overrated old place. New York City is the best place in the world, America is the best country, and my parents were right to leave that place.” I remember reminding him that like most Jews in the early 20th century, they were chased out of Europe, but he correctly focused on the wisdom of their leaving. There wasn’t a lot of sympathy for the “old country” when I was a kid. The point I often heard was that America was the future and nothing interesting could come from someplace else.

But the Beatles were proof that something absolutely spectacular could be grown outside of America. It turned out that the music they made was a global mix of sounds from England, Ireland, the Caribbean, Africa, Germany and America. Later on, they added the sitar and other sounds from Asia. In 1964, the Beatles’ chief musical influences were Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Elvis Presley and even Brooklyn’s own Carol King. But when the Beatles covered American rock ‘n roll hits and started to write their own songs, they brought their personal history and collective memory to the sounds they made and created something new and fresh that had never been heard before.

Read the rest on HuffingtonPost.com.

[Image courtesy of US National Archives, via Giphy]

Some minor updates to SIPA’s programs

SIPA’s undergoing some small changes this summer that you should know about; especially if you’re planning to apply to one of our degree programs this year. While this blog focuses on the two-year programs, it never hurts to learn more about our part-time and one-year master’s degree programs as well. So here’s a look at what’s going on with each program.

MPA-EPM (formerly PEPM) Updates

The MPA in Economic Policy Management (MPA-EPM), formerly known as Program in Economic Policy Management (PEPM), provides highly accomplished policymakers and professionals with the skills required for the design and implementation of economic policy in market economies, with a strong emphasis on the economic problems of developing and transition economies in a global context. MPA-EPM is highly specialized to accommodate the demands of mid-career professionals and policymakers in both the public and private sectors. The course of study applies the theoretical rigor of the social sciences to the practical lessons of economics and management science through the intensive study of actual economic policy successes and failures. The demanding curriculum presupposes that students possess some measure of intellectual maturity and professional exposure to the problems of economic decision making.

Our 12-month program has three different curricular focuses: the traditional Economic Policy Management focus (EPM), the Global Energy Management and Policy focus (GEMP) and the Central Banking and Financial Markets focus (CBFM).  The EPM focus builds students’ technical competence with the tools of economic management and policymaking, the GEMP focus teaches the fundamentals of the energy industry, including international energy systems and business organizations involved in the production, transportation, and marketing of energy products and the CBFM focus teaches the latest techniques in capital market development and macroprudential policy.

MPA-EPM was formed in cooperation with the World Bank and still maintains its connection to the Bank, through our Joint Japan/World Bank Graduate Scholarship program, providing full scholarships each year for up to 12 students from emerging economies; https://sipa.columbia.edu/the-joint-japanworld-bank-graduate-scholarship-program

The MPA-EPM is best suited for professionals with 4-10 years of working experience from institutions such as central banks, finance ministries, national and international development agencies and international financial institutions. Professionals from financial, consulting and energy backgrounds are also encouraged to apply. Applicants should also hold an undergraduate degree with a record of superior academic accomplishment, and preferably with strong economics or mathematics content.

For more information about MPA-EPM please click here or email mpa-epm@sipa.columbia.edu.

—David Caughlin, Associate Director, MPA-EPM & Center on Global Economic Governance

MPA-ESP Updates

The MPA in Environmental Science and Policy is a one year, full time immersive program specifically designed to prepare you to take a leadership role as a sustainability professional in the public or private sectors.  Our program is the only program in the US that includes a unique environmental science curricula designed to inform policy and management decisions, in addition to sustainability management and environmental policy courses. Our Workshop in Applied Earth Systems Management course offers students an opportunity to serve as a sustainability consultant to a real client, so we have an internship-like experience built into the curricula. Our practical training will teach students how to develop effective proposals; analyze, design and implement policy and programs; create efficient master calendars and budgets; communicate with and manage stakeholders;  measure organizational capacity and impact; and present effective briefings and other presentations.

For more information about MPA-ESP please click here or email Associate Director Laura Piraino at lpiraino@ei.columbia.edu.

— Laura Piraino, Associate Director, MPA-ESP

Executive MPA Updates

Having just passed the July 1 application deadline, the Executive Master of Public Administration (EMPA) program is gearing up for the Fall 2017 orientation on August 19. Once more, we will have a strong cohort of mid-career professionals representing the public, nonprofit and private sectors and several countries. Due to increased demand, the EMPA program will once more have a spring class, and the Spring 2018 application will be available in mid-August. Our commitment to high quality digital education is evident in our innovative digital video case studies, created by the video production team at the Picker Center for Executive Education.

This year several new cases were added to the collection, filmed on location in Ghana, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. These cases explored issues of development and Aid, as well as technology in government. Examples of cases from the collection can be seen below:

Digital India
Password: sipa2017

eDoctors
Password: sipa2017

For more information about EMPA please click here or email empa@columbia.edu.

—Valerie Zimmer, Associate Director of Recruitment and Marketing, EMPA

MIA/MPA/MPA-DP Updates

Starting this term, you’ll notice a shift in MIA/MPA concentration directors. Travis Bradford stepped down as director of the Energy and Environment Concentration. Bradford, who is widely recognized for his expertise in clean energy markets and finance, will continue to hold the position of Professor of Professional Practice in International and Public Affairs and will teach the Concentration’s required course on energy fundamentals.

Wolfram Schlenker, Professor of International and Public Affairs, and David Sandalow, Inaugural Fellow at the Center on Global Energy Policy, have been appointed as Co-Directors of E&E. Professor Schlenker, who is an internationally recognized expert in environmental economics teaches, “Economic Analysis of Environmental Policies”, one of the core courses in the environmental policy and management focus area. He currently serves on the Steering Committee of the Environmental and Energy Economics Program at the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) and the Board of Reviewing Editors at Science. Sandalow, who leads the Center’s China research, writes widely on energy policy, including most recently on energy geopolitics and renewable energy finance. He has served in senior positions at the White House, State Department and U.S. Department of Energy.

Speaking of courses, we’ve also expanded our curriculum offerings. To date there are 14 new courses being offered in Fall 2017: they include “Climate Change: Israel and the Middle East,” “State Formation, Deformation and Failure,” and “Crime, Journalism, and Public Policy,” among others. (Spring 2018 additions will be announced in mid-July.)

The Professional Development Career Conference is also experiencing some changes. The course now meets three times over three weeks. Previously, the course was completed in either two or five class meetings, but the Office of Career Services adjusted the program based on feedback from students and professionals in the field. It is a requirement for all students in the MIA, MPA and MPA-DP programs, and should be completed during the first year of study. The PD Conference is designed to help students clarify career goals, shape viable strategies for pursuing internship and job opportunities, and develop skills to compete effectively in the international and public affairs job markets.

If anything else develops we’ll announce them on the SIPA Admissions Blog. As always, browse this Blog or visit the SIPA website to learn more about the two-year programs. You may also email us at sipa_admission@columbia.edu.

—Kaitlyn Wells, Assistant Director of Admissions, SIPA

 

Interested in applying to our programs? The applications for MPA-ESP and MPA-EPM are live today! (The two-year MIA/MPA and EMPA programs will open in mid-August 2017.) Visit https://apply.sipa.columbia.edu/apply/ to start your application.

What admitted students want to know about paying for SIPA

Have questions about billing and payments, work study, or student loans? Our financial aid staff compiled a list of commonly-asked questions and answers to help alleviate some of these concerns.

Student Loan Questions:

I was only awarded the Direct Unsubsidized Loan for $20,500 but I need more funding. What are my options?
When you submit the FAFSA, we can package you with the Direct Unsubsidized Loan because it does not require a credit check or additional application. For graduate students, the annual cap for the Unsubsidized Loan is $20,500,  however, you can also apply for a Graduate PLUS loan.  If you have already received your award notification, please see the Messages tab of NetPartner (https://studentviewer.finaid.columbia.edu).  Beneath the section labeled “Unmet Financial Need,” you will find the application and you will see your remaining amount of need which is the maximum you can borrow in a Graduate PLUS or similar private loan.

When do I need to apply for loans/complete entrance counseling/sign the promissory notes?
We recommend you have your aid in place no later than early August. Please log in to NetPartner and be sure to accept your awards on the Accept Awards tab and review the Messages and Documents tabs for any outstanding materials.

When and how will the loan be disbursed?
Loans are divided evenly between the terms you are enrolled and disbursed to your Columbia student account at the beginning of each semester.

If I borrowed loans to cover living expenses, how and when will that money be refunded to me?
We strongly encourage you to set up direct deposit (see http://sfs.columbia.edu/billing/payments-to-students#how_to_enroll for instructions).  Any amount you borrowed in excess of the tuition and fees for the semester will be issued as a refund to you by the second week of classes after the loan has disbursed to your student bill and after you have registered for classes (assuming you have also completed all the necessary steps on NetPartner).

Can international students borrow student loans?
There are private lenders who make loans available to international students, but most require a US citizen to co-sign. Go to http://sfs.columbia.edu/financial-aid/private-loans#suggested_lenders for more information. We have learned of two lenders who will make loans to international students without a co-signer requirement:  mpowerfinancing.com and www.prodigyfinance.com.

Work Study Questions:

Do I have to accept Federal Work Study? How does it work? Will it be paid towards the bill? How do I find a job?  Should I wait until I know my class schedule to look for a job?
If you were eligible for work study, it was included in your financial aid notification. You are not required to accept it. You will need to find an eligible position and then the money will be paid out to you like a regular salary subject to taxes (it is not applied to your bill). We recommend you start searching for positions and then you can work out the specific schedule after you are hired. More info including how to search for positions is at: http://sfs.columbia.edu/content/work-study-overview.

Billing & Payment Questions:

Please note the SIPA Financial Aid Office does not charge tuition or collect payment. The office responsible for these procedures is the Student Financial Services Office. More info is: http://sfs.columbia.edu/billing-basics.  

When will I receive my first bill?
The fall statement will be issued August 14 and due September 15. The full schedule is here.

What happens with the admission deposit I paid?
It will be applied towards the charges for the first semester you are enrolled and you will see the credit on SSOL when you review your student account.

Is there a payment plan?
Yes, for the fall and spring terms (it is not available for the summer).

Can I wire money from a foreign bank to pay my bill?
Yes, please see http://sfs.columbia.edu/content/pay-wire.

Can I waive the health insurance and health services fee?
Domestic full-time students can waive the insurance if they have alternate coverage that meets the criteria. The waiver for the fall term will not be available until July 15 and will be due September 30.  Students cannot waive the health services fee.

If I’m living in Columbia housing, will my rent be on the bill?
Most students in University housing will need to pay their rent separately.

My employer/sponsor is going to pay my bill and needs to receive an invoice from Columbia.  What do I do?   
You will need to set up third party billing.  Please also email our office with a copy of your sponsorship letter.

I’m receiving an external scholarship.  Do I notify you?  Where can they send the payment?
Please email our office the details. They can mail the check to:

Student Financial Services
210 Kent Hall
Attn: Cashiers office
1140 Amsterdam Avenue
New York, NY 10027

Other Helpful Resources at Columbia University:

Info for International Students: https://isso.columbia.edu/

Office of Military and Veterans Affairs: http://sfs.columbia.edu/departments/veterans-service

Working Seeples: Yasmina Dardari MIA ’17

In addition to taking 14 to 16 credits a semester and participating in student groups, some SIPA students also work part-time jobs or internships. Earlier this semester, SIPA News spoke with Yasmina Dardari MIA ’17 to discuss how she manages the demands of school, her social life, and her internship at Unbendable Media.

What did you do before coming to SIPA?

I worked in D.C. for a few years at public-interest communications firm that did work for nonprofits and governments. I decided to attend SIPA to dig deeper into my own interests in media and human rights and also explore some of the the policy issues my clients were working on.

I’m really into media, politics, public relations, strategic campaigning, and human rights. My specialization in Technology, Media, and Communications and my concentration in Human Rights and Humanitarian Policy allows me to combine all of these interests.

What do you do at Unbendable Media?

Unbendable Media is a team of communications practitioners that do campaign strategy and public relations work for organizations that aim to build a better, more progressive world. A former colleague started the company and and reached out to me to join his team. I do much of the same work I did with the firm in D.C.—providing campaign strategy and public relations works for organizations working for the public interest.

Having this particular part-time job has really informed my SIPA education. My clients work on the same policy problems that we work on at SIPA, so my work informs school and school informs my work. It’s like a two-way symbiotic relationship that makes me a better employee and student.

Why Unbendable Media?

I wanted to keep myself sharp in the field that I care about, so I started interning at the organization last summer. They liked my work and asked me to stay on as a part-time worker. I enjoy the work, so it was a no-brainer to accept the offer. It will allow me to work in media and politics, which is where my heart is.

How do you balance your school and work commitments?

It’s not easy. It’s give and take. Ideally I wouldn’t have to work while attending school, but financially I can’t afford not to.

I didn’t work my first semester, which allowed me to throw myself into my studies. I was able to go to lectures and fully dedicate myself to schoolwork. It became difficult after that because I was the co-president for the Middle East Dialogue Group and had an assistantship in addition to my part-time work at Unbendable Media. Sometimes I feel like I’m missing out on the full SIPA experience.

My schedule is exhausting but it’s taught me the value of self-care. I know now how important it is to keep my stamina up, so I’m smarter about taking breaks and making efforts to spend time on my hobbies and see friends. Also, my time management skills have improved so much because of this experience. I make sure I’m on track and hit my benchmarks. My life would be a lot less stressful [if I didn’t work outside SIPA], but you can make it work if you have structure.

This interview, conducted by Serina Bellamy MIA ’17, has been condensed and edited.

"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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