Archive for Academics

Course Recommendations by Concentration and Specialization

If you’re in NYC and have some time to visit SIPA, sit in on a class! As some of you have read in my self-introduction, the class I sat in on way back in Spring 2017 was what made me send in that deposit and come to SIPA. Here are some second-year students’ recommendations for which classes to sit in by concentration and some specializations! While not all of these classes may be available for Spring 2019, this is a good framework to consider what you want to explore.

CONCENTRATION

Economic and Political Development

“As an EPD student specializing in Sub-Saharan Africa, I vividly recommend Yvette Christianse’s “Unheard Voices” class. Professor Christianse manages to blend emotions and knowledge. She listens to and cares about all her students. Attending this class enables you to combine creative writing with literary reviews. Contrarily to previous “African” classes I attended, Yvette Christianse manages to make a distinction between all Sub-Saharan African states and to develop strong arguments on each region, while remaining intrinsically open-minded about students’ perspectives and opinions.” — Claire Pictet

Energy and Environment

“I would definitely recommend ‘INAF U6326: Renewable Energy Project Finance Modelling.’ It’s a 1.5 credit course that does not require a finance background. The course-load is heavy, but definitely a worthwhile learning experience. Students can gain a snapshot of the contracts, financial models and risks associated with renewable infrastructure projects. The financial modelling skills are very practical and marketable for various careers opportunities in the energy sector.” — Katie Choi

Human Rights and Humanitarian Policy

“I would recommend ‘Politics of History and Reconciliation’ with Professor Barkan. The class is about historical memory and the extent to which it plays a role in grappling with atrocities and human rights abuses. Sessions are always very animated, and almost every topic we look at– from collective trauma, to the interplay between court cases and historical records– inspires real-time reflection and debate. It is also a great class to take if you want to take a look at human rights and their violations over time from an unorthodox perspective.” – Amir Khouzam

International Finance and Economic Policy

“For IFEP students interested in taking specific regional banking class, i would recommend taking up ‘European Banking INAF 6021’ with Prof. Irene Finel-Honigman. Professor Honigman provides great insight into European banking history with her vast knowledge on the region. The class will consist of weekly discussions on specific European countries and their banking industry. There will also be a few cases on the large European banks and how they are crucial to the world economy. And if you are lucky enough, there are several guest speakers that come to the class to further enrich the students’ knowledge.” — Panji Caraka Djani

International Security Policy

“‘Methods of Defense Analysis (U6825): Defense Policy Analysis’ is one of the most important skills sought by employers in the Defense and Security sector. The Methods of Defense Analysis course is designed to teach students the skills necessary to handle the responsibilities of an entry-level defense analyst within the government as well as think-tanks. The course emphasizes research design and defense analysis methodologies and throughout the course, students will conduct a number of case studies published by various think-tanks. The course also affords students an opportunity to apply the basics of quantitative analysis to a course relevant to the ISP concentration. Of equal importance, the course professor, Dr. Stephen Biddle, is an accomplished academic and an amazing professor that makes a tough subject enjoyable.” — Clayton J. Dixon

Urban and Social Policy

“One of the more unique courses at SIPA, ‘GIS For International Studies’ helps students develop practical skills with Geographic Information Systems (GIS), Global Positioning Systems (GPS), and remote sensing technologies. The class is fairly hands on and has some real applications for policy analysis and practices at global and also regional levels. Particularly recommended for those interested in land use, population trends, and urban planning.” — Molly Dow

SPECIALIZATION

Gender and Public Policy

“‘HPMN P8578 Money, Politics & Law: Public Health & Abortion: I chose the course because I had no context or knowledge of abortion policy in the United States beyond what I’d read in the media, or what I knew about Roe V. Wade. The class was incredi’bly informative and probably one of the best classes I took at Columbia. The history of abortion policy extends far beyond Roe. V. Wade and the course explored every aspect of abortion policy from a political and legal perspective. I highly recommend this course, though it is only offered in the Fall semester. I loved the class so much I briefly considered going to law school because of it (very briefly).” — Niara Valério

International Organization & UN Studies

“The class (‘Governance and Management in the UN System (INAF U8560)’) taught by Professor Bruce Jenks exposed me to the managerial and administrative aspects of the United Nations. It was an eye-opening class for me that offered more realistic views on the Organization’s function and working methods. It also forced me to think about innovative and feasible ways to transform the UN to respond to today’s complex challenges worldwide. With his incredible expertise, knowledge, and experience having worked in UNDP, Professor Jenks provides honest perspectives on the future of the UN–and multilateralism–in this class. And I believe this class is one of the most critical classes for anyone aspiring to work for a multilateral organization to take to think beyond theories and to prepare themselves to tackle real-life challenges in a practical manner.” — June Ban

Technology, Media, and Communications

“The Technology, Media and Communications Specialization provides students several different paths to study the increasingly relevant and headline defining policy issues connected to how technology is impacting our media and politics. For those interested in cyber-security issues, a great way to be introduced to the topic is through Professor Healy’s ‘Dynamics of Cyber Power and Conflict,’ where he teaches about the national security threats, challenges, and policy responses to a major cyber incident. Additionally, for students interested in media and communications, ‘Media Campaigning and Social Change,’ taught by Professor Anya Schiffrin, the director of the program, examines how media, social media and NGOs can take on a campaigning role in raising awareness about social problems and holding authorities accountable.” — Shalaka Joshi

Class visits for the Spring 2019 semester are now open, and you can sign up here! This blog post may help you with decoding SIPA courses.

ISP, Will You Be Mine?

In honor of Galentine’s Day and as an International Security Policy (ISP) concentrator, I thought I would write a blog post that not only gives incoming students interested in ISP a glimpse in to the concentration, but also provides some perspective on being a woman in a field that is often thought of as a patriarchal space. To do this, I enlisted the help of Ana Guerrero, Brit Felsen-Parsons and Caitlin Strawder, three current ISP concentrator SIPA students to discuss the topic and give advice. But before I dive in, let me introduce you to these ISP women.

Ana Guerrero MIA’19 is a second year, MIA, ISP concentrator, specializing in International Conflict Resolution. Ana completed her undergraduate degree at Middlebury College with a Bachelors in Spanish and Italian literature, and a minor in Portuguese. Prior to SIPA, she worked for an Italian petroleum company where got to explore her interest in geopolitics.  Ana is interested in Middle East conflicts, and during her time at SIPA, she interned for the Global Security department at NBC Universal, and is currently a Terrorism Analyst where she is learning the hard skills necessary to supplement her Theoretical education.

Brit Felsen-Parsons MPA ’20 is a first year, MPA, ISP concentrator, specializing in International Conflict Resolution.  Before SIPA, Brit served for two years as a shooting instructor to the infantry and commander in the Shooting School of the Israeli Defense Forces.  Brit then went on to complete her Bachelor’s degree at the College at Columbia University, double-majoring in Political Science and Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies.  She also held research assistantships at the National Defense University, the Institute of World Politics, the Columbia University Political Science Department, and the International Center for Cooperation and Conflict Resolution at Teacher’s College, Columbia University.  While at SIPA, Brit supplements her studies as a research assistant at the Saltz man Institute of War and Peace Studies at SIPA.

Caitlin Strawder MPA ’19 is a second year, MPA, ISP concentrator, specializing in International Conflict Resolution. Caitlin completed her undergraduate degree at Florida State University where she earned a B.A. in Political Science.  Upon graduation in 2013, she received two consecutive Fulbright English Teaching grants to serve in Colombia and while teaching she studied romantic languages, economic development, the then-present negotiations with the FARC, and conducted research on indigenous rights in Silvia, Cauca.  While at SIPA, Caitlin interned on the Colombia Desk at the State Department 2018, and maintains a position as a conflict resolution practitioner and operations analyst at New York Peace Institute.

Now that you know a bit about these ladies, let’s jump in:

Why did you choose to apply to SIPA, and specifically the International Security Policy concentration?

Brit: I fell in love with SIPA, and specifically with ISP, when I took the infamous ISP core class – Professor Richard Betts’ “War, Peace and Strategy” (WPS) – as a sophomore in college.  Since I did my BA at Columbia as well, I had the opportunity to explore SIPA, and I found myself most drawn to ISP courses and events.  In my first year of undergrad I was still torn between studying political science and neuroscience, but with that first ISP course I was hooked. A few courses later, I had decided that for me it was SIPA or bust, so I applied to the MPA program. It’s been three years since WPS, and I can honestly say I keep loving SIPA – and ISP – more and more.

Caitlin: I applied to SIPA blindly following the Top Ten online rankings for international affairs degrees (like so many of my peers) and was delighted to get in. Joking aside, I had been living in New York for a few years and wanted to start the MPA adventure without sacrificing the family I found, my job, my apartment, or saying goodbye to the greatest city in the world. I was originally attracted to the program because of the International Conflict Resolution specialization, and I saw the ISP concentration as an ideal complement. I also thought it was important to study ISP particularly because I knew so little about it, while cognizant of its importance.

What are some misconceptions you have faced about the ISP concentration, in general, and as a woman in the ISP concentration at SIPA?

Ana: Students not in ISP think everyone in the concentration is either active or former military and male. They are very surprised I am neither of those, which always proves interesting.

Brit: I think some students might have the impression that ISP is very militaristic and masculine, and to a degree I can understand why. It’s true that many of SIPA’s military veterans (though certainly not all!) are studying ISP.  Additionally, I know a lot of women studying ISP, and we make a unique, significant, and highly valued contribution to our classes and to the ISP community.  I recognize that I might feel more at home in ISP because I’m a military veteran, but I think the non-vets in ISP have no trouble holding their own in the classroom or in conversation, because we all recognize that we bring different experiences and skills to the table. Although I may be biased, I think ISP is one of the most familial and welcoming concentrations at SIPA, in part because it is influenced by the military culture of camaraderie and toughing it out together.

Have there been any challenging aspects to being a woman going into the ISP field?  If so how did/do you address them?

Caitlin: In terms of diversity, so much of getting the opportunity to work in some environments is the compromise of waiting until you have experience and standing before being able to authoritatively question assumptions of gender and roles in the workplace. 

Ana: I think traditionally the ISP field has been seen as a “boy’s club”. To combat this, I am trying to learn as much as I can, both in classes and in internships, in order to compete. Additionally, I believe it’s important to foster a strong female network within ISP in order to help each other succeed in the field. For me it’s a double whammy: I knew being a first-generation woman of color in a traditionally white male field would be tough. But I also knew that would be the case regardless of the field.

What do you recommend those students who are interested in International Security Policy consider before they attend SIPA?

Brit: I would recommend that students sit in on a few lectures or events if they can, and that they talk to current SIPA students to get an impression of the culture, the workload, and the opportunities here. Columbia University has a distinct culture, and SIPA has a culture-within-a-culture all its own, which you can only get a sense of by talking to people who are part of it. Also, reading course descriptions probably won’t be as informative as hearing a lecture or two, in terms of getting a feel for SIPA classes. For those for whom that’s not possible, I would recommend reading up on SIPA’s faculty and centers/institutes (Saltzman, Harriman, the Middle East Institute, etc.) to get a sense of the kind of research being done in-house.

Ana: Think about what you want to do after graduation and where you want to work—and work backwards from there. If you’re thinking of working for the government with some level of clearance you should start looking at those applications (if they’re available) even before you arrive on campus for orientation. Also look into fellowships for federal service and keep an eye on those deadlines!  Additionally, knowing where you want to end up will help you plan your course list so you get the most out of your precious two years at SIPA.

Are there any words of wisdom you have for women looking to go into the ISP field, and/or pursue the ISP concentration at SIPA?

Ana: As with anything we set out to accomplish — once you set out to achieve your goals, don’t take no BS!

Caitlin: Constantly look for networking events, career panels, and mentorship match-ups so that you have a chance to connect with different practitioners.  Especially for women—give prospective employers a preview that the nature of the field is changing and they should anticipate a high number of specialists in technology, geopolitical conflict, and analysis who happen to be women.

Brit: First and foremost, don’t be intimidated by security studies or by ISP. It’s not all machismo all the time, or all military lingo all the time. Some of my closest friends (and the best people I know) at SIPA study ISP, and the concentration draws a diverse crowd from all walks of life. I’ll be honest: the workload can be heavy. The readings can be loooooong and dense. But if you are passionate about security studies, and about studying them in an incredibly diverse and cosmopolitan setting, then the ISP concentration at SIPA is the place for you. And if you are a woman interested in security studies, then I highly encourage you to apply. ISP is a pretty close-knit and supportive community here at SIPA, and it’s a great place to challenge yourself academically in order to best prepare yourself professionally. I love it, and I hope you will too!

I want to give a big thanks to Ana, Brit and Caitlin for their advice, and I hope you found it useful. I’d like to leave you with one final thought:  ISPer’s at SIPA are diverse in nationality, experience, and gender; and while the ratio is not 100% perfect, it is evening out.

Madeleine Albright, a SIPA alum, once said, “It took me quite a long time to develop a voice, and now that I have it, I am not going to be silent.” I think this sentiment rings true for many of the women I know in the ISP concentration who continue to move the needle on women’s roles in ISP, and who are not deterred by the stereotypes and misconceptions surrounding the field.

I hope you enjoyed this piece, and Happy Galentine’s Day!

Parks And Rec GIF by NBC

SIPA’S SDG Fellows Team Win 2018 Geneva Challenge!

Do you remember a few weeks ago I wrote, in this blog post here, about how SIPA’s SDG Fellows team (Alonso Flores MPA-EPD ’19, Nigora Isamiddinova MPA-DP ’19, Jessica Arnold MIA ’19, Nitasha Nair MPA ’19, and Ji Qi MPA-DP ’19) made it to the finals of the 2018 Geneva Challenge? Well I am very happy to say that they won first place!

SIPA’s classroom provides an opportunity for you to meet other classmates with various interests and skill sets and collaborate on projects that address some of the worlds’ most pressing and complex issues. Sometimes those collaborations in classroom can lead to solutions implemented out in the real world. The Geneva Challenge is one of the many opportunities at SIPA where students can implement what you learn in the classroom in the real world.

The SIPA team, DASH – Data Analytics for Sustainable Herding, aims to map and analyze the changes in migration patterns, seasonality, and urban and agricultural development using data from satellites, mobile telecommunications, and GPS- enabled systems. It will create a blueprint for utilizing big data and applying machine learning and AI for better policy-making in the in the Sahel region, where competition for increasingly scarce natural resources is driving a rise in conflicts between pastoralists and farmers.

In the award ceremony, the jury explained their decision to award the SSDG Fellows team first place: “The jury believes that this is an excellent and innovative solution. The proposal is well researched and authors a detailed and accurate contextualization. The real-time forecasting model using big data analytics and artificial intelligence techniques is a very ambitious tool to develop that could indeed have a wide and positive impact on the region. The project is also well thought out in terms of needs assessment, risk analysis, and implementation. The team has already taken further steps by having discussions with relevant government agencies by assessing institutional frameworks through laboratory projects.”

The Geneva Challenge, launched in 2014, is an international contest for graduate students that aims to find innovative and pragmatic solutions to a designated international development problem. This year, there were 66 project entries submitted by 258 students from all over the world. Of those projects, 15 teams were chosen as semi-finalists. A jury then selected five finalist teams, one per continent, to defend their project at the the Graduate Institute in Geneva, Switzerland. Other prize winners this year included teams from BRAC University, ETH Zürich, Kenyatta University, and the University of Buenos Aires.

You can learn more about the MPA-Development Practice program that the SDG Fellows team is a part of here. Don’t forget that the January 5 deadline to apply for MPA-DP, MIA and MPA programs is coming up!

Energy & Environment Concentration Q&A

We’re just about halfway through our SIPA Concentration Webinar Series, where each Concentration Director gives an overview of their area of study, what they look for in strong SIPA candidates, and answer questions about their concentration. Professor David Sandalow and Concentration Manager Elora Ditton took the time to answer some extra questions about the Energy & Environment concentration from prospective students:

Q: Do you think the policy nature of the program would be valuable to someone who does not want to commit to only in the public sector? Are there any components of the program that address business concepts in energy and how they interact with policy?
A: Absolutely. Our graduates are equally employed by the private and public sectors. Particularly when studying energy and environment, it’s important to consider policy, business, technology and science and the interactions of these sectors. As such, our curriculum focuses on giving students a comprehensive understanding of how all the key stakeholders interact, while giving students the flexibility to cater the curriculum to their specific interests.

A handful of EE students come into the program looking for employment in the private sector, specific to energy. These students tend to take courses on financial modeling and markets related to energy, and intern at financial institutions or consulting firms.

With this said, you can’t work in energy and not know the regulatory policies that affect business decisions, and similarly, you can’t work in policy and not consider markets or the financial tools needed to fund projects/infrastructure. Considering this, though we are a policy school, many courses apply concepts from business/finance to energy issues.

Q: What are some of the career outcomes of SIPA EE graduates? Especially some of the climate policy graduates – do you see the majority of them working in NGOs, industry, finance, directly in governments, or some combination of these post-graduation?
A: A mix, particularly since we offer a broad range of courses which allows students to tweak the curriculum based on their career objectives.

For example, if a student knew they wanted to work in energy finance, we have a lot of courses specific to this (e.g. corporate finance, renewable energy project finance, international energy finance), so many of the students who go down this track end up in private sector jobs. If a student wants to focus in climate policy, we have equally the number of courses and opportunities here (e.g. climate change policy, environmental conflict resolution, environmental economics). These students might apply to be EDF fellows for an internship and may end up in local/federal government and/or NGO positions post-SIPA.

In other words, where students end up post-SIPA is largely determined by what their focus is during their time here. A benefit of SIPA EE is that we have the courses/curriculum to support a broad range of interests and outcomes. It also depends on if students are trying to stay in the U.S. or are going to work internationally (particularly for placement in government and the political landscape for climate policy).

Here are a few examples of recent employers: Rystad Energy, NYSERDA, International Finance Corporation, Connecticut Green Bank, Lazard, Bloomberg, Citibank, UNDP, The World Bank, Deloitte, Accenture, McKinsey & Company, ICF, ConEdison, GE, PG & E, EDF, the Earth Institute, the Nature Conservancy, WWF, ExxonMobil, CohnReznick Capital, Powerbridge, US DOE, USDS, and more…

Q: Hi there, can you talk about how the EE concentration would vary from the MPA-DP program? How does it break down within the MPA and MIA tracks? On a different note, I notice many policy professionals have a law degree. Please convince me that SIPA is a better option! Thanks so much!
A: The MPA-DP program is going to give you more exposure to hard sciences while EE focuses more on quantitative skills (e.g. economics, financial modeling, etc.). There will be more flexibility to fine-tune the curriculum to your interests in the MIA/MPA track whereas the DP curriculum is pretty set.

MIA/MPA gives you tools to design, incentivize, implement, and assess policies so you have more flexibility in application of the degree over a law degree, which is going to give you a very specific skill set. It really depends on your career goals and what you think makes the most sense for you.

Also, you can take law classes as a SIPA student! Environmental Law, for example, counts towards our EE policy requirement.

Q: Can you talk about SIPA Energy and Environment concentration as it relates specifically to energy in international development?
A: SIPA in general offers many courses in international economic and political development, and in EE, you will consider sustainability and other geopolitical and security issues related to energy and the environment.

Q: Is it difficult to catch up in SIPA for the Science and engineering part? I have not been exposed to professional undergraduate environment and energy knowledge.
A: Nope! We have many career switchers where this is their first exposure to energy and/or environment. Our classes are designed to give you the basic technical and topical foundation to address energy and environment with a policy and/or business application. With that said, since we are a policy school, though some of our courses expose you to science and technology, none of our courses are solely in the hard sciences or engineering (though you have access to these types of courses through the other schools at Columbia).


Two Admissions reminders for you Fall 2019 applicants:

1. It’s less than a month until the January 5th application deadline, and we have a few more admissions information sessions before then:

2. For those who want to hear straight from the Concentration Directors, here are the final webinars coming up:

Why I chose International Finance and Economic Policy as a Concentration

When I was looking at graduate schools initially, I knew I wanted to focus on my three interests: women’s economic empowerment, entrepreneurship and finance. It was very important for me that I found a school that allowed me to pursue all three. The International Finance and Economic Policy concentration was ideal in that it provided me with coursework in both finance and economics.

My first year courses included macroeconomics and microeconomics, as well as corporate finance and international capital markets. All of which gave me a strong background in financial and economic policy and allowed me to apply the skills I learned in the classroom in a real world context. The International Finance and Economic Policy concentration is also ideal in that it has three separate tracks: International Finance, International Economic Policy, and Central Banking. This meant that I could tailor my coursework to focus specifically on international finance.

I chose the International Finance track because I knew that my interest in promoting women’s economic empowerment through entrepreneurship required that I have knowledge of accounting, corporate finance, as well as emerging financial markets. Additionally, the International Finance and Economic Policy concentration had a global focus, which allowed me to look at financial systems and economies on an international scale. This was very important to me considering that my main interest is to help women entrepreneurs and 51% of SME’s globally are owned and operated by women. Additionally, my specialization in Gender and Public Policy was a great way for me to combine my interests in both finance and gender. Much of the work that I did in my IFEP classes served me well in my gender classes, particularly in the realm of evaluating economic and financial systems through a gender lens.

Photo Source: Carol M. HighsmithPublic Domain

"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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