Author Archive for George-Ann Ryan

“What makes an ideal SIPA student?”

One question we get asked a lot as students and as program assistants in admissions is “What is the PERFECT SIPA student?” This is normally levied by applicants who are ready to mold themselves into whatever they need to go to guarantee admission.

Although we appreciate the passion, it is a hard question to answer! SIPA’s students come with such a wide variety of experiences — from theatre to investment banking — that there is no one way to characterize what the perfect Seeple is. Below are student stories that give some contact as to how wide the gamut spreads in backgrounds, career goals, and approach. 

George-Ann:

What skills did you come to SIPA with/aim to improve here?

I came to SIPA with some experience and knowledge in Economics and Economic research but not much of a policy background. In a lot of ways I was a jack of multiple small trades but truly a Master of none.  So, SIPA is where I came to add skill sets like policy expertise and formalized,non-academic writing to my repertoire and truly become a well-rounded individual. 

How do you think you signaled your unique worth as a potential Seeple?

Was it the fact that I, being extremely international, spelled colour with a “u” and said “learnt” rather than “learned”? Was it my quantitative experience? Who really knows. For me, a large part of my application was communicating both my worth as a student, a potential member of the student and student leader community, and a valuable alumna. 

What would you tell yourself if you were applying now?

The application reviewers are people too. Explain anything you think may be a weakness in your application and they’d be more than willing to take that into account. There’s no such thing as the “perfect” SIPA student but there is such a thing as a student for whom SIPA is the perfect school for. Communicate why you think SIPA is the one for you. 

Steven:

What skills did you come to SIPA with/aim to improve here?

I came to SIPA with the aim of improving my economic analysis and quantitative skills. During my undergraduate years, I took a couple of economics classes and liked them but was always scared to do more difficult economic courses. I came to SIPA to stop dodging economics and dive head-first into it. I also came to SIPA to learn about urban/housing policy a bit.

How do you think you signaled your unique worth as a potential Seeple?

Truth be told, I’m not sure. I just told SIPA who I was and the experiences I have had. Of course, I thought they were unique because I’m the person that is living them, but I wasn’t sure since SIPA gets loads of applications and there could have been someone with a similar background/story. I also spoke on how SIPA fit into my long-term plans.

What would you tell yourself if you were applying now?

Probably the same thing I told myself back then: Just be yourself. There were times I felt that I was unsure of myself, that I didn’t fit the SIPA profile. I ignored that idea and just applied. The backgrounds of people at SIPA vary so much that you will stand out and not even realize it.

Stuart:

What skills did you come to SIPA with/aim to improve here?

I came to SIPA to build some subject matter expertise in cyber policy as well as to generally improve my quantitative analysis skills. My undergraduate and professional experiences provided a strong background in international relations and national security, as well as strong writing skills. I didn’t, however, have a strong grounding in economics and quantitative analysis, nor did I have much experience in how technology and cybersecurity impacts the private sector.

How do you think you signaled your unique worth as a potential Seeple?

As everyone else has noted, you just never know. The community is so diverse here that there can be so many ways to stand out. The key thing I focused on was ensuring that my personal statement clearly explained my professional goals and how SIPA fit into that, as well as how I could contribute not only to academic life but to the community as well. I also carefully selected recommenders that could speak to different strengths (academic and professional) to provide the admissions committee with a holistic view.

What would you tell yourself if you were applying now?

I would tell myself to find mentors and friends to review my materials and point out my strengths and weaknesses. I did this when I applied, and it was so helpful to have a sounding board. You may be inclined to be too humble, or you may forget to mention an impressive part of your background, and a friend or mentor can point that out and help you articulate the things that may not be apparent on your resume or transcript.

Nabila:

What skills did you come to SIPA with/aim to improve here?

Like Steven, I came to SIPA to build my quantitative and economic analysis skills. I came to SIPA with stronger skills in writing and communications and wanted to complement that by building out my quant skills (even though it terrifies me!), as I felt that it put me at a disadvantage in the workplace. I also wanted to learn more about policy analysis and the intersection between technology and policy. 

How do you think you signaled your unique worth as a potential Seeple?

I have no idea! Maybe it was my work experience? Maybe my letters of recommendation? Maybe what I hope to accomplish post SIPA? In reality, it’s probably a combination of those things but to be honest, I have no idea but I’m grateful to be here! I hope it was the passion that they could sense from my personal essay but again, no clue…

What would you tell yourself if you were applying now?

Be you, be yourself and be honest about what you hope to accomplish. Those were the things I told myself when I was doing the application and that hasn’t changed because graduate school is an investment of both time and money so you want to be you! I’m not sure I have the “right” SIPA profile, but looking around at my classmates, we have such diverse backgrounds and experiences that I don’t think there is such as thing as the “right” or “ideal” SIPA student. 

Demystified: The Quantitative and Language Resume

One of the most challenging parts of the application process at SIPA is the Quantitative and Language Resume (judged by the amount of questions we get about how to craft it). Although there is a helpful template on our website, it won’t help you know exactly what do put in it, which is what this post is for.

What is the Quantitative and Language Resume for?

The Quantitative and Language Resume is basically a tally of, in your own words, the quantitative experience (both academic and professional) and linguistic exposure you posses. Your content should show you can keep up with the required courses for the degree program you are applying to.

For example, if you are applying to the Economic and Political Development concentration at SIPA as an MIA/MPA candidate, you might want to show proficiency in a second language. While it’s not needed to apply, you will need proficiency to graduate. Depending on your specialization, you might need to take upper-level quantitative analysis and economics courses at SIPA. Therefore, your Quantitative and Language Resume should include the relevant courses taken during prior study and details like the grade you received, textbooks and other materials used, and a brief summary of what was covered in the class.

If it’s been a few years, the Admissions Committee understands! If you want to be exact, information like what the course covered could be found in your university’s course catalog if you struggle with providing these details from memory. You can supplement your course experience, or lack thereof, with any quantitative experience you may have accrued at work such as visualizing data for presentations or doing preliminary analysis for a report.

What should I submit if I’m changing careers or don’t have a background in economics?

If time at SIPA is a vehicle for switching career direction from the more qualitative to quantitative, some applicants take a few courses in economics or statistics at a community college or university, or request more quantitative projects at work to beef up quantitative skills and application. Planning ahead will increase your probability of being able to show to the Admissions Committee that you will be able to keep up with the economics and quantitative core at SIPA. If you have plentiful quantitative coursework or experience, parse out what is useful. Courses in Chemical Engineering are applicable, but if you have statistics and programming experience in STATA and Python under your belt, prioritize that.

I don’t need a language to apply, so what do I put in this resume?

The language portion of the Quantitative Language Resume can strike fear in those of us who haven’t taken a Spanish class since High School. If you know that you are going to apply to a program without a language requirement ( e.g. an MPA in the Urban and Social Policy concentration), the language section can just be a elucidating footnote on your cultural competency. Even if you are applying for a course where language is a core component of the core, such as the MIA program or the Economic and Political Development concentration (regardless of degree), fluency is not a prerequisite.

What this section of the Quantitative and Language Resume is trying to suss out is how exposure and commitment to the language or culture you’d like to commit time to at SIPA. For programs that require it, in your two years at SIPA you should be able to test out or achieve a B or higher in the upper-intermediate language of your choice. You can come to SIPA with little or know background in a language and learn it here — it will just take time. In fact, Amanda Schmitt ’19 gave some tips on how to maneuver that in a blog post earlier this year.

If you have a rich background in foreign languages, either through self-study, life experience, or taking up to 300-level courses during your undergraduate study, please elaborate on it to show off your international experience or outlook. Remember, fluency doesn’t come from just listening to a few foreign language songs or watching movies, but from a concerted effort to learn or develop structured exposure. Put only what will show what foundation you have to build on through coursework.

The Quantitative and Language Resume is one of the ways in which SIPA practices holistic admissions and how all of your experiences make you into a competent candidate with the potential to thrive here. Use it as an opportunity to show the steps you’ve taken to ready yourself for graduate school, your ability to follow our curriculum, and, most importantly, your potential as a Seeple.

Program Assistant Introduction: George-Ann Ryan MIA ’20

George-Ann grew up on the island of Antigua in the West Indies with roots in the nearby island of Montserrat. After graduating from Pace University in New York with a BA in Economics focusing on quantitative research methods, George-Ann worked in research and administration roles for nonprofits and government organizations dedicated to economic and social equity. She was set to apply to PhD programs before SIPA caught her eye as a program where she could explore her passions for studying international economic inequality, maintain and develop quantitative skills, and supplement her work experience with solid public policy knowledge.

Alongside her academic exploits at SIPA, she is Steering Community Coordinator at RISE: Working Group on Race, Inequality, Solidarity, and Economics ( a student group) and is a founding member and Chief Financial Officer of The Sadie Collective — a nonprofit aimed at mentoring, empowering, and equipping Black women in economics, public policy, and related fields. 

What were you doing before you came to SIPA?

I was an Economic Scholar at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas and a Research and Administrative Associate at the Economic Security Project — a nonprofit with a mission to explore and advocate for cash-transfers as an important tool for fighting inequality. 

Did you choose to attend SIPA to change careers, or to gain experience in a career path you already had experience in?

A little bit of both. I have always loved economics for both its theory and mathematical elements, but before coming to SIPA I was dead-set on a path for a PhD in economics. However, my job experience in the nonprofit sector really showed me that value of a more well-rounded education that prizes both the quantitative and the more policy and communications oriented side of economics and economic research. I came to SIPA in order to get a bit more of that in my repertoire.

What has been the best part of your SIPA experience?

I’ve enjoyed the diversity of experiences I’ve encountered here and meeting people from countries I never thought I would such as Afghanistan and Mongolia. SIPA has really broadened my horizons and frames of reference when looking at international policy problems. Through student organizations (and some pretty fun parties) you will meet people who will become lifelong friends and hopefully have couches to surf all over the globe.

What kind of work do you hope to do when you graduate? 

After graduation, I hope to return home to Antigua and work in the private sector for a bit before eventually establishing my own think tank focused on economic development and governmental accountability. 

What’s your internship experience been like?

My internship experience has been pretty interesting. I spent the summer in Washington D.C. at the Brookings Institution working in The Hamilton Project — an organization housed within Brookings’ Economic Studies Department — as a Summer Research Intern. There, I called on many of the skills I’ve honed both at SIPA and elsewhere through using STATA for data preparation and analysis to contributing to reports by compiling relevant literature for Fellows. It was challenging but I enjoyed it wholeheartedly. 

What do you think makes a good SIPA student? What qualities do stellar SIPA students typically possess?

To me, a good SIPA student is passionate about the world around them and is buzzing with ideas about how to make it better. For the most part, many of my colleagues are internationally focused with aspirations to work toward making the world a better place through sound policy, whatever the arena. 

Photo credit: Mathematica Policy Research

"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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