Author Archive for Columbia SIPA

Energy & Environment Concentration Q&A

We’re just about halfway through our SIPA Concentration Webinar Series, where each Concentration Director gives an overview of their area of study, what they look for in strong SIPA candidates, and answer questions about their concentration. Professor David Sandalow and Concentration Manager Elora Ditton took the time to answer some extra questions about the Energy & Environment concentration from prospective students:

Q: Do you think the policy nature of the program would be valuable to someone who does not want to commit to only in the public sector? Are there any components of the program that address business concepts in energy and how they interact with policy?
A: Absolutely. Our graduates are equally employed by the private and public sectors. Particularly when studying energy and environment, it’s important to consider policy, business, technology and science and the interactions of these sectors. As such, our curriculum focuses on giving students a comprehensive understanding of how all the key stakeholders interact, while giving students the flexibility to cater the curriculum to their specific interests.

A handful of EE students come into the program looking for employment in the private sector, specific to energy. These students tend to take courses on financial modeling and markets related to energy, and intern at financial institutions or consulting firms.

With this said, you can’t work in energy and not know the regulatory policies that affect business decisions, and similarly, you can’t work in policy and not consider markets or the financial tools needed to fund projects/infrastructure. Considering this, though we are a policy school, many courses apply concepts from business/finance to energy issues.

Q: What are some of the career outcomes of SIPA EE graduates? Especially some of the climate policy graduates – do you see the majority of them working in NGOs, industry, finance, directly in governments, or some combination of these post-graduation?
A: A mix, particularly since we offer a broad range of courses which allows students to tweak the curriculum based on their career objectives.

For example, if a student knew they wanted to work in energy finance, we have a lot of courses specific to this (e.g. corporate finance, renewable energy project finance, international energy finance), so many of the students who go down this track end up in private sector jobs. If a student wants to focus in climate policy, we have equally the number of courses and opportunities here (e.g. climate change policy, environmental conflict resolution, environmental economics). These students might apply to be EDF fellows for an internship and may end up in local/federal government and/or NGO positions post-SIPA.

In other words, where students end up post-SIPA is largely determined by what their focus is during their time here. A benefit of SIPA EE is that we have the courses/curriculum to support a broad range of interests and outcomes. It also depends on if students are trying to stay in the U.S. or are going to work internationally (particularly for placement in government and the political landscape for climate policy).

Here are a few examples of recent employers: Rystad Energy, NYSERDA, International Finance Corporation, Connecticut Green Bank, Lazard, Bloomberg, Citibank, UNDP, The World Bank, Deloitte, Accenture, McKinsey & Company, ICF, ConEdison, GE, PG & E, EDF, the Earth Institute, the Nature Conservancy, WWF, ExxonMobil, CohnReznick Capital, Powerbridge, US DOE, USDS, and more…

Q: Hi there, can you talk about how the EE concentration would vary from the MPA-DP program? How does it break down within the MPA and MIA tracks? On a different note, I notice many policy professionals have a law degree. Please convince me that SIPA is a better option! Thanks so much!
A: The MPA-DP program is going to give you more exposure to hard sciences while EE focuses more on quantitative skills (e.g. economics, financial modeling, etc.). There will be more flexibility to fine-tune the curriculum to your interests in the MIA/MPA track whereas the DP curriculum is pretty set.

MIA/MPA gives you tools to design, incentivize, implement, and assess policies so you have more flexibility in application of the degree over a law degree, which is going to give you a very specific skill set. It really depends on your career goals and what you think makes the most sense for you.

Also, you can take law classes as a SIPA student! Environmental Law, for example, counts towards our EE policy requirement.

Q: Can you talk about SIPA Energy and Environment concentration as it relates specifically to energy in international development?
A: SIPA in general offers many courses in international economic and political development, and in EE, you will consider sustainability and other geopolitical and security issues related to energy and the environment.

Q: Is it difficult to catch up in SIPA for the Science and engineering part? I have not been exposed to professional undergraduate environment and energy knowledge.
A: Nope! We have many career switchers where this is their first exposure to energy and/or environment. Our classes are designed to give you the basic technical and topical foundation to address energy and environment with a policy and/or business application. With that said, since we are a policy school, though some of our courses expose you to science and technology, none of our courses are solely in the hard sciences or engineering (though you have access to these types of courses through the other schools at Columbia).


Two Admissions reminders for you Fall 2019 applicants:

1. It’s less than a month until the January 5th application deadline, and we have a few more admissions information sessions before then:

2. For those who want to hear straight from the Concentration Directors, here are the final webinars coming up:

A View from the Class: Basbibi Kakar MIA ’20

The SIPA Office of Alumni and Development is pleased to share A View from the Class, a SIPA stories series featuring current SIPA students, recently graduated alumni, and faculty. In this issue, we feature current SIPA student, Basbibi Kakar MIA ’20. Basbibi is a KUMA/Kuznetsov Fellow and a first year Master of International Affairs candidate, concentrating in Economic and Political Development and specializing in Advanced Policy and Economic Analysis.

What were you doing prior to attending SIPA?

After graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in business from Montclair State University in New Jersey, I worked as a finance and operations intern at the Rockefeller Brothers Fund for a year. During that time, I also interned with the Malala Fund, focusing on grant writing, philanthropic outreach, and support to country representatives from Pakistan, India, Turkey, Nigeria, and Afghanistan in preparation for the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in London. I also managed language translations of the Girl Advocacy Guide, a help guide for advocating for girls education and human rights, and the Fund’s partnership with NaTakallam, a service which pairs Arabic-speaking displaced persons with learners around the world for language practice over Skype.

I also volunteered with the Rutgers Presbyterian Church to provide translation services for the Refugees Task Force, help to resettle Afghan refugee families, cultural orientation for volunteers working with refugees, and student tutoring.

What was your experience working at the School of Leadership, Afghanistan (SOLA) in Kabul?

I was born in Afghanistan, but grew up in Pakistan as a refugee after my family fled the Taliban. I returned to Afghanistan in 2008. Before attending Montclair State, I worked full-time as Assistant Head of School at the School of Leadership, Afghanistan (SOLA), the only secondary boarding school for girls in Afghanistan. At SOLA, I helped design a curriculum that included cross-cultural exchanges and distance learning via a virtual exchange program. In partnership with the Global Nomads Group, an organization leveraging technology to connect middle and high school students with peers from around the world, we connected SOLA students and teachers with U.S. classrooms to promote empathy, awareness, and agency to tackle pressing issues. It was a privilege working at SOLA, watching ambitious 12 to 19 year old girls have the opportunity to receive an education and listening to the remarkable stories of parents who, after living with forty years of war, finally had hope for the futures of their children.

Why did you decide to pursue a graduate degree and attend SIPA?

Growing up and working in Afghanistan, I have experienced firsthand the need for better development policies and policymakers. I believe those who have lived in the country will be most effective in making those changes. I decided to attend graduate school so that I can be one of those changemakers, and I chose SIPA because of its international focus and policy concentrations and opportunities for practical as well as classroom experiences.

Why have you chosen to concentrate in Economic and Political Development? 

There is a dire need for educated people in all sectors in Afghanistan, and women play an important role in conflict and post-conflict recovery. However, women are underrepresented in Afghanistan’s economic and business sector. I want to be a positive force in improving Afghanistan’s economy, reducing the effects of war, and preventing further violence. Positive economic initiatives will provide job opportunities for younger generations, moving the country towards peace and prosperity.

What has been your experience thus far in your first semester at SIPA?

I have enjoyed my first semester and meeting students from all over the world. The professors are highly competent, delivering great lectures and providing support with assignments and constructive guidance. I have been challenged from the start, but am confident that the experience will help me develop both personally and professionally.

Is there anything else that you would like to add?

It has been hard for me to leave my family and other loved ones back in Afghanistan, especially given the unrest and violence that occurs on a daily basis. However, I am determined to stay strong, completing my degree at SIPA and making the most of my experience.

Scholarship Opportunities of Interest

SIPA’s Office of Financial Aid maintains a searchable database of scholarships and provides links to other free scholarship search sites here. We encourage all applicants to search for these funding opportunities throughout the application process and even once they are enrolled.

Here are upcoming opportunities that may be of interest to some students:

American Association of University Women International Fellowships

Application deadline: November 15, 2018

The AAUW awards international fellowships for full-time graduate study in the U.S. to women who are not U.S. citizens or permanent residents.

Note AAUW also offers other scholarship opportunities to American and international women. More information about this is available here.

P.E.O. International Peace Scholarship (IPS)

Application deadline: December 15, 2018

P.E.O., founded in 1869, has awarded International Peace Scholarships to women from other countries to pursue graduate studies in the U.S. and Canada since 1949.  The maximum amount awarded to a student is $12,500 and award decisions are based on demonstrated need.

Eligibility:

  • International female students pursuing full-time graduate studies at an accredited college or university in the U.S. or Canada.
  • In order to qualify for her first scholarship, an applicant must have a full year of coursework remaining, be enrolled and in residence for the entire school year.
  • U.S. and Canadian citizens and permanent residents are not eligible, however students with residency for tax purposes only are eligible.

Why Human Rights and Humanitarian Policy concentration is the right “fit” for Jake Sprang MIA ’19

Thanks to SIPA student Jake Sprang MIA ’19, Human Rights and Humanitarian Policy concentration, for this guest post. You can read the case for the Urban and Social Policy concentration from Dylan Hoey MPA’19 here.

When I was applying to graduate school, I focused above all on finding the right “fit.” I was looking for a school and a program that merged my interests in human rights, international development and humanitarian response. When I came to Admitted Students’ Day, I had been accepted into SIPA to study Economic and Political Development, and was torn between three different universities. By the end of the day, I knew I would be going to SIPA and that I would be studying human rights and humanitarian policy.

During Admitted Students’ Day, I had the privilege of hearing from the directors of several of the concentrations. But, when I sat down in the information session with Professor Elazar Barkan and Susannah Friedman, Directors for the Human Rights and Humanitarian Policy concentration, everything clicked. Professor Barkan told the room that, when deciding which program to study, we needed to focus on what we wanted our professional identity to be. It was at that moment, I knew that being “development professional” wasn’t what I wanted. If I wanted to work in humanitarian response, I needed to study humanitarian response. That night, I switched to humanitarian policy, accepted my offer letter, and haven’t looked back. Since I made that decision, I have constantly been validated that I made the right choice for me. While there are many reasons why I’m proud to be in the HRHP concentration, there are three that stand out above the rest.

1. Human Rights and Humanitarian Policy gives students a more cohesive analytical framework that other concentrations. In HRHP, we learn about approaching human rights and humanitarian response from a rights-based approach. Simply put, when we study humanitarian response, we start by focusing on ensuring and upholding the human rights and dignity of people affected by complex emergencies. We focus on the rights they are denied and how we as responders must work with them to ensure their rights as individuals and a community are protected throughout all phases of response. This approach is incredibly unique at SIPA. While many concentrations, especially Economic and Political Development and the MPA in Development Practice, focus on building practical skills, they do not provide the cohesive strategy for analyzing problems that will be faced in human rights careers. It’s like have a bunch of tools without a toolbox. On the other hand, the HRHP program gives students both: the tools to implement humanitarian response, and the toolbox: the analytical framework of a rights-based approach.

2. Human Rights and Humanitarian Policy is the most flexible concentration at SIPA, allowing students to customize the program to their needs. One thing I love about the human rights and humanitarian policy concentration is the fact that I can build experience in the areas that most interest me. For example, if I want to learn about Water and Sanitation in Complex Emergencies, that class is an HRHP elective, cross-listed at the Mailman School of Public Health. Or, if I want to learn about the rights of Refugees, Forced Migration, and Displacement, I can take that course through the Institute for the Study of Human Rights. I can do the same with the Law School, studying Transitional Justice, or Gender Justice. And if I want to take a non-HRHP course, I have the space in my schedule, due to the flexibility offered by the program, which has less core requirements than other concentrations. HRHP gives me the opportunity to seek out the courses that interest me and develop the practical skills that I want to obtain. The program lets me choose the tools that I want in my toolbox.

3. I want my professional identity to be firmly grounded in Human Rights and Humanitarian Policy. At the end of the day, you need to pick the SIPA concentration that fits best for you. For me, I want to identify as someone working in the humanitarian field coming with a strong grounding in human rights. Designing humanitarian response programming is vastly different from development programming. To be a humanitarian, I realized that I needed to study humanitarian response. I’ve seen the importance of this professional identity through some of my cross-listed courses, with both development and humanitarian students. My colleagues have built an amazing set of skills for analyzing and designing international development programs. However, these skills don’t quite fit with the humanitarian field. It’s like asking a plumber to fix your roof. If you want to seek a career in human rights or humanitarian response, you need to make sure that you have the right tools and toolbox for the job. You can only get those through the HRHP concentration.

In closing, I want to make a small plea. When looking at the world today, it’s clear that human rights are under attack. The foundations of the human rights order developed after the Second World War is being eroded by the rise of nationalistic regimes across the globe. While this human rights system was and remains deeply, deeply flawed, it was the only system we had to protect vulnerable people from oppression and the deprivation of their rights and dignity. On the humanitarian side, things are equally grim. Mass displacement of people, driven by conflict, climate change, natural disasters and poverty is leaving millions of people in need of humanitarian relief. With the global North becoming increasingly unwilling to act, lower and middle-income countries are largely footing the bill. The need for humanitarian relief is greater than ever, and will only grow more and more pressing.

We need future policymakers who are passionate, intelligent and dedicated to addressing these growing challenges. Pick the concentration that fits best for you, but I know that I wouldn’t feel as fulfilled studying anywhere – or anything – else.

Opinion: 4 ways to bring human rights into development work (via APSIA)

We’re resharing this post by the Association of Professional Schools of International Affairs (APSIA), originally posted here.

APSIA brings leading graduate schools around the world which specialize in international affairs – including SIPA! We’ll be at the APSIA graduate fairs in Madrid, Paris and London this week. If you’re in the area, come meet SIPA admissions and find out more about an advanced career in public policy and international affairs.

4 ways to bring human rights into development work

Seventy years ago, the world laid out a common standard of fundamental rights for all people, which they said should be universally defended.

Now, the global environment is shifting. Nations that once led the way in promoting cross-border protections are retrenching. Scandals undercut major international development agencies when they fail to uphold these sentiments. Meanwhile, corporations — once vilified for their behavior — are building human rights into their work.

“Human rights touches every aspect of a company’s operations,” Margaret Jungk, managing director for human rights at Business for Social Responsibility, said in 2016. Today, corporations such as Facebook see “the responsibility [they] have to respect the individual and human rights of the … global community” — and hire accordingly, as stated in a recent job vacancy at the social media network.

Incorporating human rights into development work may require you to consider national politics, social media, sexual discrimination, and everything in between. To successfully navigate a new public, private, and nonprofit development landscape, four traits will be critical.

1. Context is key

Just as in broader questions of global development, human rights considerations are rarely clear-cut. Context matters. Are you trained to understand the economic, political, social, cultural, and historical factors at play? Can you identify the forces influencing a situation? Are you qualified to perform proper due diligence?

“Human rights work has to be focused within the contexts where development is playing out,” said Francisco Bencosme, Asia-Pacific advocacy manager at Amnesty International.

“In Myanmar, an entrenched system of apartheid can change the analysis of a seemingly positive housing project. [For example, under] the guise of development for Rakhine State, we have in the past seen new homes constructed for ethnic minorities on top old homes that used to belong to the Rohingya. It is these kind of development practices that need to take human rights contexts into account,” Bencosme said.

Seek out educational and professional opportunities that develop a flexible framework for evaluating decisions. One size will not fit all.

Mark Maloney, vice dean at the Sciences Po Paris School of International Affairs, explained: “Adaptability is a key skill … [one] even more important in humanitarian work because the stakes can be considerably higher when things go wrong.”

“For that reason, understanding the context, including relationships within and between parties, is a fundamental skill we try to develop through our Master in Human Rights and Humanitarian Action” he added. “This skill also maximizes the likelihood that our graduates will make the ‘right decision at the right moment’ when undertaking action on the ground.”

2. Be ‘client-ready’

Development professionals must tailor their work to many constituencies.

Have you practiced framing a discussion to make sense to diverse groups? Have you learned to persuade people while recognizing their different needs? Do you have the credentials to make people listen to what you have to say?

Learn to write and present arguments in clear, concise, and compelling ways. Work to improve your cross-cultural competencies. Expand proficiency in different languages. Look for opportunities to get close to the communities you want to serve, as well as to the funders, governments, and companies working on the ground.

“The human rights framework brings a human-centered analysis to the work of development professionals,” said Barbara Frey, director of the human rights program at the University of Minnesota Humphrey School of Public Affairs.

“This analysis starts with the question: Who is the rights bearer and who is the duty bearer in a situation? [It] tests how the consequences of actions can help or harm the clients [you] seek to serve.”

3. Develop connections

Access to individuals and information is critical to getting the job done.

With whom have you cultivated connections? From whom can you get critical information? Have you developed academic and professional networks to open doors?

Maintain relationships throughout your career via social media and in-person ties. Seek the counsel of former classmates, professors, or colleagues. Look for undergraduate or graduate schools with close ties to the field.

For example, students at the International Human Rights Center at Korea University’s Graduate School of International Studies incorporate concern for human rights into a wide range of activities. They build networks, workshops, and symposia in partnership with Human Asia, a human rights NGO in South Korea. According to the school, these opportunities prepare students to “serve as productive members of their organizations and to play leadership roles in the international community.”

4. Character is destiny

Easy answers do not always present themselves.

Are you bold enough to choose the difficult route? Can you withstand criticism from naysayers who cannot or will not envision anything beyond the status quo? Do you know how to rejuvenate your spirit when things look bleak?

“Forces larger than yourself will make you face some tough moral choices,” said Reuben Brigety, dean of George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs. From his time at Human Rights Watch and the U.S. State Department, he has counseled young professionals to realize that “your character is your destiny. Have courage!”

To succeed at the intersection of human rights and development, you must ask good questions. Tailor your approach; build diverse networks; and, cultivate an internal moral compass to navigate the changing human rights and global development landscape.

"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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