Author Archive for Columbia SIPA

Fundación Sergio from Colombia visited Columbia as part of the MPA-DP Seminars to talk about Bullying and Discrimination

Alba Reyes, founder of Fundación Sergio Urrego a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting tolerance and ending school bullying, along with other representatives from the organization, visited SIPA this semester as part of the MDP seminar.

Ms. Reyes shared how her personal tragedy sparked the nationwide movement that now goes beyond Colombia’s borders. The format of the seminar was in the form of the discussion, and participants of the seminar had an opportunity to ask numerous questions. Questions included how the organization tackles homophobic attitudes present in the country, how they brought anti-discrimination provisions into legislation, and how they cooperate with other organizations of the world with similar agendas. Our guests from the organization were delighted to share that recently they launched suicide prevention hotline for youth.

Even after the formal part of the seminar ended the students surrounded Ms. Reyes to ask additional questions on the topic.

Learn more about MPA-DP seminars here:

Learn more about the MPA-DP Program:

Cassia Moraes MPA-DP ’15 of Youth Climate Leaders

As CEO and partnerships lead at Youth Climate Leaders, Cassia Moraes MPA-DP ’15 is working to build the next generation of climate leaders through a unique around the world experience. Participants learn about climate change in theory, understand it in practice and work on hands-on projects with other young people, ultimately building a community of climate champions.

While at SIPA, she became interested in entrepreneurship and took classes to further that interest. She worked with an international NGO after SIPA, but it was only when she was actively looking for jobs again that she decided to launch her own organization: the Youth Climate Leaders (YCL). SIPA not only provided her a great education but a network that she still relies on at YCL.

As Cassia puts it: “SIPA is one of the best schools in the world which is empowering. You are so privileged to have this experience and, because of it, it is your duty to give back to the world what you learned.”

Learn more about this and other organizations fostered and founded by our Development Practice students here.

Learn more about the MPA-DP Program:

UNANY Summer Scholars 2019 Winners

Our second-year MPA-DP ’20 students Fatène Ben-Hamza and Emily Boytinck were invited to the annual 2019 UN Day Humanitarian Awards Gala Dinner. The event commemorating the work of the United Nations has also became an elegant celebration of the work of our UNANY  Summer Scholars 2019 Winners.

Fatène Ben-Hamza spent her summer working at the UNICEF Middle East and North Africa Regional Office in the ADAP section (adolescent development and participation) in Amman, Jordan. During summer she focused on developing materials for improving the engagement of young people in humanitarian settings, an analysis of young people participation in social movements and finally on building a case for participatory budgeting in Jordan.

Emily Boytinck, had her summer placement at UNFPA country office in Dakar, Senegal. Under the authority of the Representative and the direct supervision of the Reproductive Health Program Officer, Emily worked with the reproductive health team to advance Senegal’s country program. As a UNANY Summer Scholar, she collaborated with office staff and national partners, and contributed to data collection, analysis and produce reports related to reproductive health (RH) with a focus on the topics of adolescent sexual and reproductive health and menstrual health in emergencies.

Emily’s and Fatène’s achievements while working in country offices located in Jordan and Senegal immeasurably added to a deeper appreciation of what UNFPA and UNICEF do towards a more just and sustainable future.

Learn more about the MPA-DP Program:

Completing your FAFSA and Budgeting

Thanks to Cecilia Granda, Associate Director of Financial Aid, for this guest post. 

The idea of budgeting makes everyone cringe. Picture days of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches followed by nights of staying at home staring at a spreadsheet wondering where all your money has gone. But take it from a lifelong New Yorker who has lived in the Upper West Side, Gramercy, Inwood, and the Bronx — by creating budgeting plans, I have been able to continue to call New York my home, raise a family, create an emergency fund, and enjoy the occasional Sunday brunch.

The FAFSA and federal student aid

If you are a U.S. citizen or permanent resident applying to SIPA and would like to be considered for a scholarship, you must submit your FAFSA with your SIPA application. The FAFSA for 2020-21 is available as of October 1st, so you can complete it before you submit the SIPA application. The SIPA school code is 002707. Be sure to input your 2018 income information; do not include your parent’s information.

Once this is done, you will have at least put yourself in the running for any potential SIPA scholarship funding.  But don’t stop there.  Start researching external funding sources to determine if you are eligible.  Keep track of application deadlines and requirements so that you don’t miss opportunities.

Photo: FAFSA Facebook page


For me, budgeting is all about planning ahead, self-awareness, and adjusting habits in order to save small amounts of money that can add up fast to help me reach my goal. When budgeting, I like to prioritize needs versus wants. Everyone’s priorities are going to be different. For graduate students the top three needs are clear: food, shelter, and education.

The first step is an inventory check. How much money do you have? How much do you spend in one week or one month? Keep all your receipts and calculate how much you spent. Categorize your expenses between essential and discretionary; then priorities your expenses. If you are considering a graduate program, you can start early in transitioning your lifestyle from “working” to “grad student.”

Next, set your goals. Once you’ve determined how much you have and how much you are currently spending, decide how much you need to save. Become familiar with the tuition and fees associated with each program you’re considering. Consider how you will manage these costs and how much you need to save now in order to achieve your educational goals. You can start small by calculating how much you need to save on a weekly basis. It might be $50 a week, which becomes $200 a month, and turns into $2,400 a year. Once you find the right number, see if you can find ways to increase your weekly savings. One easy way to save, and a habit that you can bring to the big city, is shopping generic brands. Non-perishables like tissues, toilet paper, medicine, paper towels, toothpaste, toothbrushes, cleaning products, detergents, shampoo, and soap are all great options. This small change in purchasing can save you hundreds of dollars.

Now you want to be sure your able to track and not touch your savings. Be honest with yourself. This is where self-awareness comes in handy. Can you set aside $50 each week? Do you need a budgeting app like Mint or Digit that will help you manage your money, track your spending, and force you to save? You might decide to give yourself an allowance for the week, only spend the amount in your wallet, and not use a credit card. Find a method that you can stick to and hold yourself accountable.

Remember, you don’t have to do this alone. You most likely have friends who have similar financial goals. Make a pact! Agree to only go out to dinner once a week. This will help you transition to graduate school life. Many Seeples are very responsible about their finances. Some share a Costco membership so they can buy food in bulk and split the quantities (there’s a Costco in East Harlem). Others put together meal prep plans, share recipes, and organize pot lucks. One great thing about Seeples is they come from all over the world and have wonderful cuisine to share!

I hope this information is helpful and don’t fret if you aren’t able to do it all. Even the smallest change in habit or savings will help you prepare for your next step.

*Disclaimer: The applications identified in this article are based on personal recommendations, and SIPA is not receiving any form of compensation for mentioning them in this blog post.

Ten Tips on Managing Stress During the Application Process

Thanks to Melanie Pagan, Assistant Dean for Student Affairs and Wellness at the Office of Student Affairs (OSA) at SIPA, for this post in response to Patricia H. Dean Pagan earned her MSEd in Higher Education Administration at Baruch College’s School of Public and International Affairs and has more than 10 years of experience in higher education supporting undergraduate and graduate students at various institutions including Yale University, Connecticut College and Columbia University. Her pronouns are she/her/hers.

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Applying to graduate school can be as stressful as much as it is exciting. It’s normal for one to experience anxiety at some point of the process but there are ways to manage that stress while (and after) you apply. Here are my ten tips on how to stay relaxed, productive, and positive during the application process.

Tip #1: Start Early!

Graduate school applications can be quite involved. At SIPA, application requirements include a personal statement, letters of recommendation, official transcripts, the GRE/GMAT or TOEFL, and a video essay. Each of these requirements can take some time to complete so starting early can not only help you feel less stressed, but it will allow for any potential bumps in the road that could derail the process.

Tip #2: Get organized.

In addition to starting early, getting organized is key to managing anxiety while applying. Regardless of how many programs you are applying to, there is a lot of information to keep track of. Whether you use pen and paper or digital organization system, my suggestion is to create a grid with each school, their requirements and deadlines. When I applied to master’s programs, I used a notebook where I created a grid with each school’s application components and checked off things as I completed them. I also added deadlines to my calendar on my phone and set reminders for a week and a day before a deadline.

Tip #3: Take Breaks.

Although it may be tempting to spend all your time on your application or power through it due to time restraints, it’s important to take breaks for yourself (and for your application). Rest your eyes of the blue light from your computer screen. Step away from your writing for a bit. This allows you to come back with a fresh perspective. Your best work comes from your best self and taking a break helps. Take a walk, listen to music, dance at home, have dinner with a friend, watch an episode (not the entire series) of your favorite show.

Tip #4: Sleep, Eat, and Stay Active!

When we are stressed, we sometimes neglect the things that our body and mind need like drinking water, sleeping well, eating well, and staying active. In addition to taking breaks, it is important that you participate and maintain healthy habits. Unhealthy behaviors like sleep deprivation, remaining inactive for days at a time and drinking a lot of coffee can lead to burnout, forgetfulness, and loss of creativity.

Tip #5: Seek Support from Friends and Family.

Talk to your support system. Whether is it a friend, a coworker or a family member. Let them know if you feel overwhelmed or stressed. They’ve supported you through other stressful times and they will do so again.

Tip #6: Talk to a Counselor, Advisor or Mentor.

Talking to a professional counselor, trusted advisor or mentor can also be helpful, especially if you do not have someone in your support system who has gone through the graduate school application process. Talk to your therapist, reach out to mentor at work or a college advisor from your undergraduate studies. They can help you with any anxiety that you are experiencing and can share with you any advice they might have.

Tip #7: Limit the Amount of People You Have Look at Your Application.

It’s important to reach out to people you trust to look over your application. They can help you with writing edits, studying for the GRE/GMAT and/or TOEFL/IELTS/PTE or give you feedback on your video essay. However, try to limit how many people you have look over your essays, especially as you are making final edits. It can cause unnecessary stress and lead you to feel overwhelmed right as you are getting ready to hit submit. Additionally, if you have found a GRE or TOEFL study course/books that work well for you, do not look into new programs or testing techniques right before you take the exam. Stick to what you know works and go into the exam room with confidence.

Tip #8: Keep Yourself Occupied While You Wait.

Once you have submitted your application, find ways to keep your mind occupied as you wait for a decision. This was especially important for me when I submitted my graduate school applications. I reached out to friends I hadn’t seen in a while and attended events I had to skip while studying for the GRE. I also started going to the gym more which helped tremendously as endorphins help you feel happy and stay positive.

Tip #9: Resist the Temptation to Constantly Check Your Email (or call the Admission Office)

It is so easy to constantly check your email, especially now that our inbox is literally at out fingertips. One way to help with the temptation of constantly checking your email is to disable email notifications on your phone. This is a general tip I give to anyone trying to have a better work-life balance, but it is also helpful during the waiting period. Admissions offices will mostly likely not email you after business hours, so limit checking your email to that time frame and turn off the notifications that make you run to your phone with every “ping” you hear. This also goes for constantly checking graduate school forums or calling the admissions office repeatedly. Be patient. The admissions office will reach out in due time.

Tip #10: Most Importantly, Remain Positive!

You are smart, capable, and have so much to offer. You will find the right graduate school match and you will go on to be successful in whichever program you pursue. If you shift your thoughts towards gratitude, you will be in a better mood through out the day and sleep better. Stay positive. You got this.

"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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