Author Archive for Steven Reid

Exploring International Finance and Economic Policy (IFEP)

“Oh, you’re IFEP? You MUST be smart.”

“IFEP? No, I’m good after macro, no more for me.”

“IFEP! You’re going to make so much money!”

These are just a sample of some of the statements one may hear as a SIPA student concentrating in the illustrious International Finance and Economic Policy, also known as IFEP. I’m writing this to answer some common questions and give my general impression of the concentration (DISCLAIMER: I am still doing requirements for the concentration so I’m currently taking International Trade and Theory of International Political Economy…..both are fine….so far).

(DISCLAIMER 2.0: I’m going to use acronyms to make my life easier while typing this. At SIPA, we live in a world of acronyms.)

The IFEP concentration has three main tracks: International Finance (IF), International Economic Policy (IEP) and Central Banking (CB). A majority of the students in IFEP are split between IF and IEP, with a minority of people concentrating in CB.

How good at math do you really have to be to succeed?

It definitely helps to be good at math but in all honesty, I don’t think I’m that good at math, and I have been doing fine. However, I have experience in the quantitative and economic fields, so I am more comfortable with the material. It is still difficult for me and takes some time to grasp it, but I enjoy the challenge.

Why did you choose to concentrate in IFEP?

Economics was a weakness of mine in undergrad, and I chose IFEP to improve my understanding of economic theory and analysis skills. I wanted to change my weakness into a strength. I knew it was going to be a change of pace, but I got tired of dodging economics so I jumped in head-first. Plus, I’m looking into infrastructure investment and development / political risk as potential career fields and strong economic skills can help in those areas.

Do you have to come from finance to succeed in IFEP?

Once again, it definitely helps but it’s not a must. Brushing up on key economic and financial concepts can go a long way to succeeding in IFEP. I’ve seen people with not much quantitative experience do well in IFEP. They spent time going through the material and practicing the logic behind the theory.

Is Quant scary?

In the beginning it is, but once you get used to it and understand how it is used to evaluate policy outcomes, then it is not too bad. When you put in the effort, you’ll have that breakthrough moment when you finally understand a difficult topic. It’s a deep dive into statistics and regressions which after about two months, most people get.

Program Assistant Introduction: Steven Reid MIA ’20

Steven Reid was born and raised in the Bronx, New York. He is a second-year Master of International Affairs student concentrating in International Finance and Economic Policy and specializing in Data Analytics and Quantitative Analysis. After graduating from Villanova University with a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science and Latin American Studies, he worked in government and higher education budgeting and finance in Boston, Massachusetts.

What has been the most challenging part of your SIPA experience?
The constant flow of activity and the time management. There is always something going around campus/assignments due/a speaker you want to see. It took some practice in the beginning of first semester before I got the hang of getting my work done, enjoying all there is to offer on campus and being social with my SIPA classmates. Another challenging aspect of SIPA has been understanding the need to say “no” sometimes. It is stressful and demanding to attend all the events you want to go to, do your assignments and be social, so sometimes its important to say no to certain things. Prioritize and take time for yourself.

What has been the best part of your SIPA experience?
Definitely the people. The demanding nature of SIPA brings people together very quickly. There is a lot of group work in SIPA so the connections you make are very important. I have met some of the coolest people in my life here, and I have gotten very close to them in only a year. The community here is a huge mental resource for me when I feel overwhelmed.

What surprised you most about SIPA after you arrived?
The speed of graduate school. Everything happens much faster than undergraduate. I had been out of school for 5 years before I came to SIPA, so the learning curve for graduate school was steep. Assignments are handed out quickly after class begins and the semester becomes a whirlwind of papers, memos, problem sets and other assignments. The months fly by. At the end of the semester, I was surprised at how much work I had done in three months.

How did you find the core curriculum at SIPA?
It’s intense. It is a lot of quant-heavy coursework. For the person who has not dealt with a lot of quant and economics courses before, it can be daunting. But the professors and TAs provide a lot of support.  I knew that quant and econ were going to take up a lot of my time the first semester, so I focused most on those two classes. I was lucky that my prior experience to SIPA dealt with a lot of math and econ, so I was already kind of comfortable with those topics.

What advice do you have for current applicants?
Don’t worry about trying to be the perfect student profile for SIPA. SIPA is very interested in individuals who have unique stories and histories. Just tell your story. Spend a lot of time on your application as well. SIPA wants to get to know who you are, so the more time you put into your application, the more detail you can give and the better picture SIPA has of you.

What was the most challenging aspect of the application process?
The GRE. I didn’t have the best GRE scores so I thought that I definitely was not getting accepted into SIPA, but lo and behold, I did. Test scores are just one part of the application, so do not worry too much if you didn’t do the best on them.

Did you have a lot of quantitative experience when you applied to SIPA? How did you perform in those classes?
I had taken economics courses during undergrad  so I had some understanding of what we were going to be studying. I had some level of comfort with quantitative subject matter having had worked in the budgeting and finance fields. Even with my experience, the classes were still tough. But I studied hard, asked for help from my professors and TAs and did fine in the quantitative courses.

"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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