Author Archive for Gregory Joy

Identity @ SIPA: Defining Who We Are

On October 25th, SIPA hosted a discussion on identity within the school. Seven fellow second-year students and I, all holding a multitude of salient identities, gathered around a table to discuss how identity plays an integral role in their experience at SIPA. Surrounded by an audience of our peers, we discussed the importance of diversity in higher education, how our identities have shifted since coming to SIPA, and the misconceptions people place on them because of their identities. The hour-long discussion ended with a Q&A session where students in the audience asked questions on the shaping of identity and shared stories of how their identities have interacted and interplayed as students at SIPA.

L-R: Katy Swartz, Karla Henriquez, Mike Drake, Maria Fernanda Avila Ruiz, Kier Joy, Maggie Wang, Lindsay Horne, Nitin Magima

One of the themes that revealed themselves over the discussion focused around many international students’ reconciliation with coming from racially/ethnically homogeneous spaces to the diversity that SIPA holds. One student discussed how in her home country in Latin America, she has always been seen as white but upon moving to America, she was seen as a person of color. Another student talked about how her citizenship identity became emphasized when she moved to SIPA. Even as a domestic student who hasn’t been in as diverse of spaces as SIPA, I can say I experienced a shift in identity where my Americanism has been emphasized as it contrasts with the dozens of different nationalities SIPA has to offer.

Students also discussed how community at SIPA has been one of their strongest support structures when facing the difficulties of grad school at SIPA. Many shared moments where they were able to lean on fellow SIPA students during hard times. This ultimately led to a discussion on the importance of allyship – for those with privilege to be able to listen, support, and advocate for those who are historically underserved and underrepresented. As the President of the Student of Color organization at our school, I’ve found that there are always non-person of color allies always willing to support our initiatives. The support system embedded within the student body at SIPA has been one of the most rewarding features of my grad school experience.

One of the coolest parts of the Identity @ SIPA event was the playlist that was created to play as students entered and left the discussion. Each student panelists contributed two songs that represented their identity. I chose “F.U.B.U.” by Solange and “Born This Way” by Lady Gaga. You can hear the entire playlist here on Spotify.

How to Ask for a Recommendation Letter

As part of the SIPA application, applicants are required to submit at two letters of recommendation. When it comes to submitting these letters, applicants often ask what makes a “good” letter of recommendation. Who should I ask? How do I approach a potential recommender? Well no more fretting. SIPA Admissions is here to help you answer all those questions with a comprehensive guide to letters of recommendation.

Who should I ask?

The SIPA application is looking for students who show an ability to thrive in a policy grad school and into their future careers. A letter of recommendation is the perfect submission for a person to help create that narrative for an applicant. The letter of recommendation should be completed by someone who knows an applicant’s ability and potential in the work place and academically. That person can be anyone who’s worked with you in a professional manner including former professors, bosses, colleagues, or even people you supervised. We don’t suggest that recommenders be people who know you personally but not professionally.

How should I ask a recommender?

The ask can be the hardest part of the recommendation letter process. During the ask, you want to be able to provide your recommender with as much information needed to write a recommendation letter that shows why you would be a good fit for SIPA and your prospective career. So preparing for the information is just as important as actually asking. This can include information on the SIPA website on the type of student the school is looking for, information on the type of career you will be seeking after SIPA, and much more. It would also be helpful to provide your recommender with a resume when asking them to write a letter so can get the full breadth of who you are as a professional and see parts of your professionalism they may not get the chance to know in the aspect that they work with you.

So you’ve gathered all the information and now it’s time to actually ask your recommender to write a letter for you. When you ask, you can email but it may be better to meet with them in person so you can explain why you are asking them specifically, why you are applying to SIPA, and what you’re hoping to gain from SIPA that can bring you to your future career. No matter the medium of your request, be sure to explain your interest in the program and provide them with copies of useful information.

Reminding a recommender?

If a recommender hasn’t sent in their letter yet and it’s close to the deadline, it is always fine to remind them to send it in. You can send them an email and remind them of the date your application is due. Be sure to explicitly remind them that they have a recommendation letter to send. Feel free to have a few back up options for recommenders if you’re cutting it close on the application deadline.

"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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