Author Archive for Kaitlyn Wells – Page 2

2018 Charles B. Rangel International Affairs Program applications are live

The Charles B. Rangel International Affairs Program is now accepting applications for the 2018 Rangel International Affairs Graduate Fellowship Program at The Rangel Graduate Fellowship is a U.S. Department of State program, administered by Howard University that seeks to attract and prepare outstanding young people for careers as Foreign Service Officers in the U.S. Department of State. Candidates must be graduating seniors or college graduates with strong academic records and a desire to promote positive change in the world. The program encourages the application of members of minority groups historically underrepresented in the Foreign Service, women and those with financial need. Applicants with any undergraduate major are welcome to apply. Selected fellows will receive support for graduate school and will enter into exciting and rewarding careers representing the United States overseas.

Program Benefits

  • An orientation to the Program and the Foreign Service at Howard University in Washington, D.C. in late spring 2018
  • Two summer internships, one on Capitol Hill in summer 2018 and one overseas at a U.S. embassy or consulate in summer 2019.
  • Up to $37,500 annually toward tuition, fees and living expenses for a two-year master’s degree in fields related to the Foreign Service such as Business Administration, Economics, Public Policy, and International Relations at a U.S.-based institution.
  • Mentoring from a Foreign Service Officer throughout the duration of the fellowship.
  • Employment in the State Department Foreign Service for those who successfully complete the program and meet Foreign Service entry requirements, in accordance with applicable law and State Department policy, with each Rangel Fellow committing to a minimum of five years of service.

Eligibility requirements

  • U.S. citizenship
  • Seeking admission to graduate school in fall 2018 for a two-year program in an area of relevance to the Foreign Service at a U.S.-based institution
  • Cumulative grade point average of 3.2 or higher on a 4.0 scale at the time of application

About the U.S. Foreign Service
Foreign Service Officers in the U.S. Department of State are responsible for formulating, implementing and supporting U.S. foreign policy. Their work includes analyzing political and economic events around the world; negotiating with foreign governments; assisting U.S. citizens abroad; educating foreign audiences about American culture and values; and managing an embassy’s operations. They are engaged in foreign policy issues such as conflict resolution, human rights, environmental and health issues, nuclear nonproliferation, and educational exchange. A Foreign Service career is much more than just a job; it is a uniquely demanding and rewarding way of life. Foreign Service Officers work in Washington and in more than 250 diplomatic posts worldwide. As representatives of the United States, Foreign Service Officers have a direct impact on people’s lives, witness history in the making, and help create and implement U.S. policy.

Application Deadline
September 21, 2017

Program Contact
202-806-4367 or 877-633-0002


Learn more at

Meryl Streep was on campus last week and I totally missed it

Last week I was walking like a lighting bug across campus in between meetings. I silently cursed my luck as a traffic jam of pedestrians appeared up ahead along College Walk (the main drag off 116th Street). But the really the large group of students stopping to take selfies and apply Snapchat filters weren’t the normal parade of sight seekers. In fact, there was a special event on campus that day.

“Filming in Progress” signs were posted at each entry point and large sections of walkways were chained off. In the far distance at the top of Low Library steps I squinted and saw a film crew doing something flim-y. I nodded, felt slightly interested but not enough to stick around, and went on my way. It wasn’t until I got home that night I decided to use my detective skills to figure out what project was being shot. It turns out The Papers, a film directed by Steven Spielberg and staring Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep was on the docket. It’s a retelling of the real-life drama faced by The Washington Post when it was challenging the federal government for the right to publish classified information from 1971. You and I know this as “the Pentagon Papers.”

Don’t believe me at least one of America’s biggest stars was on campus? Our sister school Teachers College tweeted out the evidence:

Forget about New York City — Columbia University is the place to be for some real star sightings. Throughout the summer the block bordering the Admissions Office is always filming scenes for locally-based television series and major-motion pictures featuring faux faculty — they like to use our classrooms and campus grounds as backdrops for their character’s lesson plans. For an exhaustive list, here’s a Wikipedia page on CU in popular culture. Outside of television and film, President Barack Obama gave the commencement address at Barnard College in 2012, former first lady Michelle and daughter Malia were spotted visiting the campus back in 2015, and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave the keynote address at SIPA’s annual David N. Dinkins Leadership and Public Policy Forum. And let’s not forget Affan Javed’s, MPA ’16, groupie moment when he met various policy superstars while studying at SIPA.

If I were you, the next time you’re in town make sure you pack an extra celebrity sighting signature booklet just for your visits to Columbia’s campus. 🙂

Fall 2017 New Students Series: Sukirti Vinayak

In today’s installment of our New Students Series, we’re welcoming Sukirti Vinayak, from Delhi, India. He studied engineering at the University of Delhi in 2011, and is currently working pro bono for the Common People’s Party. He joined SIPA (instead of another policy school we won’t mention) to gain stronger quantitative skills. While he’s not sure which employment sector he wants to work in next, he looks forward to learning from SIPA’s world renowned faculty and all about governance innovations in NYC. Using a gambling analogy, he’s a self-described “Jack” and believes there are no winners when it comes to climate change.

Full Name: Sukirti Vinayak
Age: 28
Degree Program: Master of Public Administration
Concentration: Economic and Political Development

Hometown: New Delhi, Delhi India
Undergraduate University: University of Delhi
Undergraduate Major: Engineering
Undergraduate Graduation Year: 2011

What’s your professional background?
I have been working full time on a pro bono basis with the young, crowd funded Indian political unit, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) or Common People’s Party, which was overwhelmingly elected to govern India’s national capital territory in 2015. I had the opportunity to design Delhi Government’s current strategies for combating air and river pollution. I also actively contributed to two election campaigns with my role ranging from developing the manifesto to managing polling booths to monitoring all campaign activities for the National Convenor of the party. I have previously worked with public, private and non-profit stakeholders including McKinsey (past employer), Safe Water Network (past employer), USAID, Indian Ministry of Mines, Energy and various urban local bodies. My focus almost all throughout has remained on policies, their implementation and the politics of all of this!

Did you apply to SIPA to change careers or to gain experience in a career path you already have experience in?
I applied to SIPA to gain quantitative skills and learn from academicians and practitioners. I also wish to use this time to figure out which broad sector I’d like to go back to- private or non-profit or government, given my personal preferences (work routine, financial security, scope of impact, etc.).

What was your reaction when you found out you were accepted to SIPA?
I was quite ecstatic! Plus New Yoork! 🙂

Why did you say “yes” to SIPA?
Better financial aid in comparison to HKS made me choose SIPA. New York CIty is also a big reason why I said ‘yes’! My interactions with everyone at SIPA throughout the process have been very warm, which I think has also subtly played a part 🙂

What do you most look forward to as a graduate student at SIPA?
As a Delhite and with some understanding of urban issues, I look forward to stumbling upon governance innovations in NYC. I also look forward to understanding how the academic circle copes with fake news, baseless rhetoric and democratic backsliding. Its a hot trend in my country too!

Do you have any apprehensions about starting graduate school?
Yes indeed! I haven’t studied Maths after 2008 and I have never studied Economics!

What are your goals after SIPA?
When I was making up my mind to quit McKinsey, in 2014, and become a public servant (of some sort) I met people from diverse backgrounds- policy think thanks, bureaucracy, non profits, and I realized that there aren’t a lot of people who honestly have mid/long term clarity. And that people who are at peace with this are leading more satisfying professional lives. I belong to this category of people now. I greatly look forward to 2 years at SIPA and the only part of my goal I am sure of, as of now, is that I will continue to work for changing people’s lives. What agent and what channel are details that I will figure out! 🙂

If you could change one small thing about your community, country or the world, what would it be?
Make them understand that climate change is real and everyone is going to be a loser sooner than later. There aren’t going to be any winners with this one.

Tell us something interesting about yourself:
I believe in experiencing and pursuing diverse activities. Aspirationally, I lean more towards being a Jack than being an Ace. I was an amateur bassist, photographer and actor. Now I look forward to getting back to them artistic realms! 😀

[Photos courtesy of Sukirti Vinayak | Seen here with Arvind Kejriwal, who is sort of like the Indian version of Bernie Sanders. We’ve both lost weight since that day!]
*Note: This series is published in its original form with no editing.

Fall 2017 New Students Series: Katy Swartz

In today’s installment of our New Students Series, wave your virtual hand at Katy Swartz. Katy is a Texan (ditto!) who moved to the frigid north in Massachusetts to attend Smith College. She has a degree in Jewish Studies, and taught English in Bulgaria for a year. Today, she lives in Brooklyn and works for the NYC Department of Education as a data specialist. Overall, she’s lived in five U.S. states and three different countries. I’m sure her experience abroad will serve her well in a future career as a Foreign Service Officer. Hook ’em, Katy!

Full Name: Katy Swartz
Age: 26
Degree Program: Master of International Affairs
Concentration: Economic and Political Development
Hometown: Colleyville, Texas, United States

Undergraduate University: Smith College
Undergraduate Major: Jewish Studies
Undergraduate Graduation Year: 2013

What’s your professional background?
My professional background thus far has been in education and operations. I lived in Bulgaria for a year after graduating from Smith College, where I was a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant in the capital city, Sofia. After this experience, I moved to Brooklyn, NY where I have been working at a NYC Dept of Education high school for 3 years. I am currently the School Business Manager and Data Specialist, which translates to the director of operations. I oversee all operational aspects of the school including budget, purchasing, student and teacher scheduling, technology, data collection, and compliance.

Did you apply to SIPA to change careers or to gain experience in a career path you already have experience in?
I think it is a little bit of both. I realized while living in Bulgaria that I wanted to go into the field of international affairs, but I could not imagine what exact position or job duties most excited me. Over the last two years in my current role, I have been able to realize that my true talents lie in operations and management. Therefore, while I will be changing from the field of education to international affairs, I hope to remain in positions that allow for similar roles as my current job. I am excited that SIPA offers many management courses which will give me the academic background I need to continue in this career path.

What was your reaction when you found out you were accepted to SIPA?
For the two weeks leading up to learning I was accepted, I stalked the SIPA blog and application portal daily. The morning I found out was a Friday, and I had concluded (earlier that morning) that decisions would not come out until the following week, based on the timeline the previous year. I was sitting at my desk at work when I suddenly saw the email from SIPA saying my decision was ready to be viewed. Thank goodness I had saved all my passwords in the application portal already, because I was too nervous to remember anything that was happening. I screamed quite audibly when I saw the confetti coming down the screen and definitely scared my office-mate!

Why did you say “yes” to SIPA?
I was either incredibly bold or incredibly naïve in applying to graduate school, as I chose to only apply to SIPA. SIPA was the only school that had such a robust institute dedicated to the study of Eastern Europe (and specifically allowed for study of the Balkans), as well as rigorous coursework alongside practical hands-on experience through the Capstone workshop & internship opportunities. Therefore, my decision to attend was natural upon finding out I was accepted!

What do you most look forward to as a graduate student at SIPA?
I am most excited to gain an academic background in what has been a personal interest for so long. While I have done much independent learning and reading, I can’t wait to gain a deeper understanding in political development within the field of international affairs. Specifically, I can’t wait to student more about my regions of interest– East Central Europe and Russia/Former Soviet States.

Do you have any apprehensions about starting graduate school?
Of course! Any change comes with many apprehensions, but my excitement far outweighs them. I am most nervous about being back in school and keeping up with the rigorous coursework. I am also worried about balancing the life I’ve established already here in New York with my new life at SIPA.

What are your goals after SIPA?
After SIPA, I hope to join the US Department of State and work as a Foreign Service Officer in the Management Track.

If you could change one small thing about your community, country or the world, what would it be?
It’s hard to name just one! I think it would be nice if more people were willing to take a break from their various mobile devices and spend some time just talking to others the old-fashioned way. I think that so much of the way we interact with others stems from our constant distractions, as well as the fact that we can now structure so much of our lives in a way that prevents interacting with those who are different than us. Perhaps if more people took the time to talk to those outside their immediate communities, we would see less of the xenophobia emerging across the world.

Tell us something interesting about yourself:
I’ve lived in 5 US States, 3 different countries, and, by my last count, a total of 17 different apartments/homes (not including many dorm moves during college!). Perhaps my desire to join the Foreign Service stems from the many moves I’ve made in my life.

[Photos courtesy of Katy Swartz | In the hallways of the school where I work, Brooklyn, NY, May 2017]
*Note: This series is published in its original form with no editing.

Dilek Kurban, MIA ’04, IF ’04, co-authors working paper on Turkish Civil Society

You often hear of our Seeples doing amazing things in the world and pursuing additional research. This week a 2004 graduate co-authored a paper about how Turkey’s civil society can help the country “confront deep political and social problems.” Dilek Kurban, MIA ’04, IF ’04, worked on the paper — “Trends in Turkish Civil Society” — with the Center for American Progress, the Istanbul Policy Center, and the Istituto Affari Internazionali. (Kurban’s currently a fellow at the Hertie School of Governance in Berlin and member of the European Network of Independent Experts in the nondiscrimination field.) Here’s the working paper’s introduction:

Turkey today is riven by internal polarization and is increasingly estranged from the West. The country faces serious social, economic, and political challenges—particularly a deep division between supporters and opponents of the current government and its more religious, nationalist, and populist agenda. The governing party has undermined checks and balances and consolidated power in a disturbing way, and has aggressively pursued its political agenda with little attempt to seek consensus or include stakeholders from across Turkey’s diverse society.

In this environment, with formal politics relegated to relative insignificance by the majoritarianism of the current government, civil society becomes increasingly important. Civil society offers one of the few remaining checks—however weak—on government overreach. Civil society activists can help address pressing social problems and provide reservoirs of knowledge that can be tapped when political conditions improve. Participation in civil society groups can bridge Turkey’s deep ethnic, religious, and social divisions, and such activity has been shown to help reduce societal tensions and increase ethnic tolerance. Finally, civil society groups provide connective tissue to Europe and the West at a time when such connections have been frayed. For all of these reasons, Turkish civil society deserves support from those who believe in a participatory, democratic future for the country.

This report describes the importance of Turkish civil society and provides historical, political, economic, and legal context for its operation. It addresses the ongoing purge of some civic actors and examines the polarization that continues to divide civil society groups (CSOs) despite their shared predicament. Looking at the major challenges facing Turkey as a whole, the report offers examples of how CSOs can contribute to solutions across the board. Finally, it offers recommendations for how best to support Turkish civil society.

Read the entire paper at

[Photo via Pixabay | CC0 Public Domain]

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—Merit E. Janow, Dean, SIPA, Professor of Practice, International and Economic Law and International Affairs

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The Spring/Fall 2018 MIA, MPA, MPA-DP application period is now live! Apply Today.