Author Archive for Columbia SIPA

Join the Columbia Journal of International Affairs

I’m Shalaka Joshi, second-year Masters of Public Administration student with a concentration in International Security Policy and a specialization in Technology, Media, and Communications. Prior to graduate school, I was an Associate at the public affairs firm Dewey Square Group in Washington, D.C, and I have an undergraduate Political Science degree from the University of Texas at Austin. While my family is from India, and I was born there, I grew up in the suburbs of Houston, Texas.

When applying to graduate school, I knew I was looking for an institution where I would not only learn about the important issues of the day, but would also prepare me to be forward thinking about the challenges that we face. Being at SIPA has sparked my interest in the intersection of technology, policy, and politics, and how this nexus of ideas is impacting our lives. It has also provided me opportunity for growth, intellectual fulfilment, and close friendships with my wonderful peers.

The Columbia Journal of International Affairs has been around since 1947, making it the oldest student-run academic publication in the world. I first learned of it when a flyer announcing that the Journal was looking for assistant editors caught my eye early in my first semester at SIPA. Because I was intrigued with the idea of students leading the conversation on the public policy challenges of the future, I applied to join the board as an assistant editor on the digital team.

Currently, I am the Managing Editor of the Digital and Online Team, where I help to manage our website and social media presence. My goal for the past year has been to build the Journal’s digital presence so that more people know of the work we do, and we can further share the ideas in our pages. We have done this by livestreaming the launch events for our two most recent issues: “Contentious Narratives” and “The Fourth Industrial Revolution,” by developing our social media presence, and by publishing interesting analysis around important events both current and historical, such as the Brazilian elections last year and the centenary of the end of World War I in 2018.

We live in a world in which policy discussions have become divorced from the public conversation. It is my hope that the Journal continues to try to break through this divide and engage with everyone, and leads the conversation on the public policy challenges of our time.

The next issue of the Journal will examine “The Dynamics of Global Feminism.” For this issue, we have announced a student essay contest and a visual arts contest, a great way for SIPA students to win money and be published alongside experts, academics and policymakers. We invite everyone, including future SIPA students, to engage with us and carry the legacy of the Journal forward for the next 70 years.

Follow us on social media on Facebook and Twitter for the latest issue of the Journal, and as an example of how you can get further involved with life at SIPA.

Photo Credit: Shalaka Joshi and the JIA, including the header photo of the JIA special launch event.

Why SIPA? New York City is where the world comes together.

Decisions came out earlier this week, and we’re excited to welcome our admitted students to Columbia SIPA. Admitted students will have a multitude of global events and webinars to get more information about what it’s like to be at SIPA. (To our Fall 2019 applicants, regardless of your decision, check back with the blog next week for next steps to consider.)

Congratulations again to all of the admitted students. We leave you with this video featuring Kier Joy MIA ’19.

Happy weekend, everyone.

Release the (MIA, MPA, and MPA-DP Fall 2019) Decisions!

We’re excited to announce that admissions decisions have been released for the MIA, MPA, and MPA-DP programs. Applicants are notified by an email asking them to check their Status Page.

To all of our applicants, regardless of your decision, be sure to check back here for updates on next steps over the next few weeks.

A huge congratulations to the admitted students among all of the SIPA programs! Connect with your SIPA community at @columbia.sipa.

On financial aid, the JJWBGSP Scholarship, and student loan scams

To our Fall 2019 MIA, MPA and MPA-DP applicants: Thank you for your patience as the Admissions Committee reads your applications. Decisions will be released in mid-March (so, soon!), and you’ll receive an email telling you to check your Status Page.

We’ve already been receiving some questions about financial aid and wanted to give a few updates about that:

First, we’ll have a number of admitted students events, online and in-person, that will fully cover financial aid options at SIPA. A reminder that your financial aid information is confidential, and often the best way to get personal information tailored to you is by contacting our Office of Financial Aid at sipa_finaid@columbia.edu.

Second is a scholarship reminder: In case you didn’t mark your calendars last time we posted about it, the 2019 Joint Japan/World Bank Graduate Scholarship Program application opens tomorrow, March 7th, and closes on April 11, 2019. Find the full information for the JJWBGSP Scholarship on their website.

Finally, if you have a phone number, there’s a good chance that you have recently received numerous calls from someone telling you that your student loans are eligible for reduced monthly payments and/or forgiveness. There are a number of ways that student loan borrowers may be able to reduce monthly payments and/or qualify for partial forgiveness of their loan, but please be aware that these phone calls are all scams.

An article in the morning Metro describes an example; a borrower learns about repayment options that provide some relief, but doesn’t realize that the $50 monthly fee she’s being charged to sign up and remain in that option is completely unnecessary. Student loan borrowers have many options for repayment, and thanks to the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Program, many can get part of their loans forgiven, but all of this can be arranged by working with their loan servicer – completely free of charge. The monthly payments themselves might be a big enough financial obligation; don’t add an extra fee for services that shouldn’t cost anything.

Again, any SIPA students with questions about student loan repayment can always meet with or contact (sipa_finaid@columbia.edu) a member of the Financial Aid Office staff for guidance; we also have information on repayment and PSLF here. We know that student loans can cause stress, but take the time to get all the facts.

Ed tech startup “Learnabi” co-founders met at SIPA

SIPA Class of 2018 alumni Niara Valério and Rahel Tekola (pictured above in the graduation caps) are co-founders of the ed-tech startup, Learnabi. We’re excited to feature their journey from SIPA to startup.

Tell us about your startup, Learnabi.

Niara: We are an NYC-based ed tech company that wants to bring personalized learning to all schools across the U.S. Our approach to personalized learning is a holistic one, where we use data, tech, and engage with key stakeholders to develop individualized learning profiles for students. We provide students with engaging learning experiences that are tailored to their individual needs, preferences and skill level.

Rahel: Our ideal world is one where all students have the resources to do well academically, but more importantly, for them to gain insight into themselves and their personal strengths so that they become lifelong learners. We brought our services to the Bronx initially because we saw a huge need for a personalized format to education, but we’ve discovered that our strategies are applicable to schools across the U.S.

What motivated you to enter the ed tech field?

Niara: I think part of it came from teaching SAT courses in the Bronx, and part from my own personal academic experience. I think most students require more than just time in the classroom to learn and absorb information and schools don’t always have the capacity to do that. The onus falls on the student, but studying and test-taking is a skill in itself, and I think many students don’t really understand how to do so effectively until they get to college. Learnabi was motivated by that. We asked ourselves, “How do we get students to develop these skills early on? How can we fill that gap?”

Rahel: I went to high school in Texas where I was fortunate enough to have access to programs that supported me throughout my journey as a student. However, after moving to NYC I realized that not every student has access to resources to support them and their unique needs in learning. Seeing what our initial impact, prior to starting Learnabi had in our partner school, made me realize that we can have a greater impact on students in NYC and beyond.

How did you balance being grad students and running the startup at the same time?

Niara: Honestly, I look back now and I really have no idea how we were able to pull it off. You end up sacrificing a lot, and it also feels like a huge risk because everyone around you is looking for full-time employment. I would spend all day working in the Bronx then I’d have about an hour to head down to SIPA for classes in the evening, and we were working on Saturdays at the time too. It’s not easy, and I don’t think I’d recommend it haha. But I also think we were lucky in that we didn’t leave jobs to do this full-time, so I think starting a business as a student gives you a safety net and cushion that you wouldn’t have otherwise.

Rahel: Most people in graduate school are juggling multiple priorities, and having a business while in school is a juggling act but a much bigger beast. Achieving balance is easier when you have a co-founder who is equally – if not more – dedicated to you and that was the case for me. You also become comfortable with saying no to things to achieve that balance. So, for example, Niara and I made a lot of sacrifices and said no to enticing opportunities that came up, so we could take that time to focus on Learnabi.

What’s the biggest challenge of running a startup?

Niara: You have to do everything and be everyone, especially when you are starting out and that’s tough. You’re doing marketing, finances, sales, it’s a lot and I think there is a huge risk of burn-out as a result. Rahel and I don’t go home after 5pm and not think about work — you’re always working on some level. So I think it’s really important to take breaks and do frequent check-ins with yourself. I think there is a trend with millennials these days where it’s become a badge of honor to be so busy that you have no time for anything or anyone. But I am really not a fan of this hustle culture we’ve created, I think finding balance is far more important and I try to do that as much as possible. Emphasis on try…

Rahel: Not comparing yourself or your startup to others! It’s easier said than done, but it is so important to remember this. As a founder you want to accomplish a lot of things for your venture to be successful, and we can get caught up in the idea of getting far and quickly. Comparing yourself/startup to others also plays into this notion. However, everyone’s journey looks different. Success is defined differently for each venture, so try not to get caught up in the vicious cycle. Niara and I take the time to surround ourselves with a supportive group of board of directors and advisors who cheer us on with each accomplishment and remind us often that setbacks are inevitable but achievable.

What do you wish you knew when you were first starting?

Niara: You can plan as much as you want but you will inevitably run into challenges you hadn’t thought of, so I think it’s important to stay flexible and open-minded.

Rahel: It’s encouraging to surround yourself with other entrepreneurs, not just those in your niche market. It serves as a reminder that you are not alone in this journey.

"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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