Archive for Academics

Students take part in symposium on gender law and constitutions

A group of students in the Gender, Globalization and Human Rights class taught by Yasmine Ergas in spring 2017 took part in last month’s Second International Symposium on Gender, Law and Constitutions, held April 12 and 13 in Washington, D.C.

The conference was organized by UN Women and the United States Institute of Peace; one SIPA student, Ashleigh Montgomery, MIA ’17, had worked on the conference as a Women, Peace, and Security intern for UN Women last summer.

The theme of the conference was “Equitable Constitutions,” and programming focused on constitutions and gender equality policy. A series of panels featuring speakers from UN Women and other NGOs, Many students presented on constitutions and other aspects of gender policy—including the SIPA delegation, which addressed the gender politics of populist and nationalist movements and governments.

Two things that especially distinguished the event, Ergas said, were the geographic range of participants—who represented universities in the United States, Europe, Middle East, and Africa—and the deep engagement of audience members in the students’ research. Both students and participating faculty gave extensive feedback to student presenters.

But the conference was noteworthy for another reason as well, Ergas said.

“I learned a lot, but I also saw an international network start to take shape,” she said. “A cohort of students, scholars, and practitioners came together to work on gender and equality from the perspectives of law and public policy, and I think their combined contributions are going to expand, and have a determining impact for years to come.”

In addition to Columbia, universities represented at the symposium included Adam Mikckiewicz University (Poland); Hebrew University of Jerusalem (Israel); Universidad de Alcala (Spain); Universita Bocconi (Italy), Universita’ degli Studi di Milano (Italy); University of Birmingham (UK); University of Chicago; University of Malawi; University of Pennsylvania; and University of Westminster (UK).

Pictured: Yasmine Ergas (center) is surrounded by student participants

No finance background? No problem, says Sadia Afreen, about her renewable energy course

The course I most enjoyed in my SIPA career is INAF U6326: Renewable Energy Project Finance Modeling. It is a 1.5 credit course and an Energy and Environment elective, usually offered during the spring semester and is taught by Daniel Gross. Professor Gross has extensive experience in the renewable and clean energy financing space, working previously for companies like Goldman Sachs and GE Capital. He is currently the Managing Director at Pegasus Capital Advisors, which is a private equity fund manager with $1.8 billion in asset under management. With all the expertise that Prof. Gross brings to the table, he has also designed the course in such a way where students get to learn the theoretical and practical aspects of project finance that are niche subject area and very specific to renewable energy projects.

The course can be broken down into two main categories and both are tackled during the semester simultaneously and one builds on the other. On the one hand, we reviewed and analyzed different contracts between stakeholders involved in the financing, operations, construction and other aspects of the project. We use the information and assumptions extracted from these to build the financial model. This exercise continues through the life of the course and we continue building the model as we learn new levels of complexities in class. 

Professor Gross was very considerate of the fact that the class was a mix of students (like me) with little or no background in financial modeling and others who had comparatively more expertise in the area (including five Business school students). The teaching team arranged for additional modeling workshop to help students who needed it. There were two workshops and Bartosz Garbaczewski, a recently graduated SIPA alum graciously agreed to invest his time after work to conduct these. There were countless best practices for modeling in Excel that were covered during these two workshops and on class proved to be invaluable to our learning process.

SIPA offers a range of amazing courses within itself and across other graduate schools in Columbia. Besides the core courses for my program and concentration, I had the option to chose from a huge list of electives. As an energy concentrator, I found out my passion for energy finance after I came to SIPA and have decided to pursue a career in the field. Not having a finance/business studies background was particularly concerning for me at the beginning, and hence I looked for courses that would enhance my skills in this aspect. Although I took other courses in the same subject matter, none was as rigorous as INAF U6326, and I would recommend this class to anyone who is interested in project finance for renewable energy.

Read more about INAF U6326 in the February 2016 issue of EE Quarterly.

[Image adaptation courtesy of EE Quarterly | Daniel Gross]

I chose SIPA for its students

The school’s reputation and the world-class faculty weren’t the only reasons I chose to attend SIPA. In fact, one of the main reasons I decided on SIPA was for the student body: it’s made of top talent from around the world driven by one goal – to make a positive impact. How does SIPA ensure you get the most out of this environment while contributing to society? Through social entrepreneurial competitions like the SIPA Dean’s Public Policy Challenge Grant and Global Public Policy Network (GPPN) Conferences.

The Dean’s Public Policy Grant Program allows students to propose self-designed projects and ideas that use ICTs (information communication technologies) and/or data analytics to address policy challenges in the world. It grants funding to winning teams “to identify and support projects that have high potential to be implemented and produce a meaningful impact on the target problem in relatively near term”.[1] Competing teams are formed of students from across the schools (engineering, computer science, public policy, business etc.) of the university.

Past competition winners include:

In 2014, $25,000 was awarded to PaisaBack (Swami Ganesan and Jaivardhan Singh), a mobile application addressing public health issues in India by incentivizing health-care seeking behavior in women. “Women earn digital points for seeking preventative care such as immunizations and anemia screening for themselves and their children. They can then exchange these points at participating retailers for mobile talk time and other products and services. PaisaBack will generate revenue by monetizing this exclusive group of technology empowered women and the network of retailers who accept digital points. Maternal and infant mortality rates are 2-4 times higher in India than in other developing countries. 75% of Indian women are malnourished. PaisaBack will help break this status quo.[2]

Another $25,000 was awarded to Terranga (Tammy Lewin and Lindsay Litowitz), a “mobile app connecting travelers seeking unique experiences to locals offering insights into their lives. With Terranga, you can see the cities you visit through a local’s eyes: join a pickup soccer game, check out street food or go salsa dancing. But we’re much more than an app. Terranga believes in the power of tourism dollars. Instead of paying for a packaged tour, travelers have more meaningful experiences and can help fund locals’ dreams. [They] envision a world made better by travel and travel made more impactful by contributing to the lives of thousands of locals.” (Both teams are pictured above.)

In 2015, RemitMas (Maelis Carraro, Lina Henao, Daniela Hernandez, Felipe Pacheco, and Steven Pallickal ) team received $30,000, as first place winners, to support their project. “The team aims to build a cash-to-savings digital money transfer service that allows Latino immigrants in the United States to send money and deposit it into savings ‘wallets’ in their home countries; deposits can be designated for specific purposes like education or health care. Using a proposed tagline of ‘Send. Save. Support,’ the planned pilot program will focus on the 1 million Colombians living in the United States.”[3]

The second place team, Spokey (George Hampton, David Santos de Padua, and Gemma Peacocke), received $20,000. The Spokey team envisions an “online hub that will allow social, sporting, charitable, and community groups to list their vacant spaces that can be rented for special events to generate extra income. The team is developing an application with a two-way rating system—first in New York, with plans to expand to Philadelphia, Boston, and Washington by 2016.”[4]

[Photo courtesy of SIPA | Team I-Care pictured (from left): Kasumi Sugimoto, Fang Liu, Yue Wang, Xinwei Gao]

SIPA students also compete in the GPPN Conferences, where student teams from the GPPN member schools (London School of Economics and Political Science in Paris, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore, the FGV-EAESP in São Paulo, Graduate School of Public Policy [GraSPP] at the University of Tokyo, and the Hertie School of Governance in Berlin) present ideas and approaches toward themed policy issues that vary each year. At this year’s conference in Paris, teams presented “solution-oriented ideas or prototypes” to address policy issues identified by the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).[5] A SIPA team, I-Care, won the competition this year for creating an online platform which connects senior citizens and their families to health care and social services through technology and medical data.

Even though I did not participate in these initiatives, I’ve had the privilege of collaborating with these brilliant minds on class projects and problems sets and call them friends at the end of the day. I’m a firm believer in the idea that success is very much affected by the people you surround yourself with; the growth-fostering environment at SIPA is designed to provide exactly this.

[Featured photo courtesy of SIPA | Pictured (L-R): PaisaBack and Terranga]
[1] SIPA website https://sipa.columbia.edu/challenge-grant
[2] https://sipa.columbia.edu/sipa-deans-public-policy-challenge-grant
[3] https://sipa.columbia.edu/news-center/article/remitmas-spokey-win-dean-s-public-policy-challenge-grants
[4] https://sipa.columbia.edu/news-center/article/remitmas-spokey-win-dean-s-public-policy-challenge-grants
[5] GPPN Website http://www.gppnetwork.org/conferences

 

My Capstone experience with Barclays Capital

Capstone is a semester-long, mandatory project for Master of International Affairs (MIA) or Master of Public Affairs (MPA) candidates at SIPA. Like most of my peers, I have registered for my Capstone in the final semester. My client is the Public Finance Division of Barclays Capital and I have five other colleagues with me in the team. We are the consultants and our academic orientation at SIPA is either Finance (IFEP) or Energy (EE). We all have a background working for public-sector organizations or private entities that engage in public-sector financial management. I am an MPA candidate, concentrating on EE and my team members are Isaac Rauch (MPA, IFEP), Cathy Chen (MPA, EE), Yidai Zhao (MPA, IFEP), Aly Waleed El Salmi (MPA, IFEP), and Jay Shin (MIA, IFEP). My faculty adviser for the project is John C. Liu, former Comptroller of the City of New York (2010-2013) and former member of the New York City Council (2002-2009). He also teaches municipal finance and public policy in master’s programs at the City University of New York and Columbia University.

Spring 2017 Capstone typically go live a semester before the assignments begin. So I applied for and received my Capstone assignment last fall. This project was my first choice because of my previous professional experience in the sector and my interest in learning more about public-private partnerships in green infrastructure investment. The scope of my team’s Capstone is to conduct an agency-wide research on opportunities for Barclays to provide lending, underwriting, consulting, and advisory services for green bonds to finance public infrastructure in the state of New York. Our first meeting with the client occurred in December 2016, where they briefed us on what they are looking to get out of this project. Coming back from the winter break, my team met with our faculty adviser to assign roles and responsibilities so that we could delve into content research. Currently, we are doing a comprehensive study of federal, state and municipal level agencies and programs in New York, and are reviewing their previous borrowing trends and deals, while identifying opportunities for our client. The research part truly requires a lot of time and constant coordination between client and consultants. But due to the very practical nature of the project, this is a huge opportunity for us to design a deliverable that would add substantial value to our client’s business.

Before starting the project, I was concerned about the workload that a Capstone would entail, and I thought of it much like a part-time job. The final semester is often stressful for graduating students, with the added pressure of job search, in addition to most people having internships on top of everything else. What helped all of us this semester is having clearly defined roles and responsibilities and a monitoring framework to track outcomes and activities. But most importantly, I felt getting comfortable with my team members was crucial since we will be working closely with each other for a whole semester. In that regard, we had a lot of fun taking a personality test (I am supposedly the ‘Virtuoso’!) and sharing our results with each other over drinks on a weeknight. Who says Capstone is all work and no play?

[Photo courtesy of Professor John C. Li | Sadia (bottom right) takes a Seeples selfie with her Capstone team and Professor Liu.]

Next steps for Fall 2017 admitted students

This post was adapted from a previous version.

Most of you reading this blog post received the admission decision you were hoping to get when you applied to SIPA this year. You should be proud of your achievement. There was a competitive applicant pool and your application was exemplary. And now that the celebrations have died down a bit, I wanted to recap a few things that every newly-admitted student should know going forward.

The Welcome Portal

The Welcome Portal has everything you need regarding next steps. It tells you about upcoming deadlines and special events, offers advice on how to apply for student housing, includes details about Admitted Students’ Day in April, and even explains the visa process and ALP requirement for international students. So review the Welcome Portal to explore the many benefits of being a Columbia University student. This is also where you’ll go to accept your admissions offer by April 15/May 1, depending on what your admission letter says. (Log-in details for the Welcome Portal may be found in your admissions letter.)

I also invite you to follow us on Instagram (@Columbia.SIPA) and share your admissions story with us!

Your Status Page

Before the academic term starts, you’re going to get sick and tired of me mentioning the Status Page (especially through reminder emails). But I only bug you because I care, and I want you to start off the school year without any delays. Your Status Page is where you go to review your Application Checklist. There are a few items on your checklist that we must have in order to finalize your academic record before August 2017. And if your record isn’t finalized, you won’t be able to register for classes during Fall 2017 orientation. (Gasp!)

Official Documents
When you review the Welcome Portal, you’ll notice a section that outlines upcoming deadlines for the Application Checklist materials, also known as official documents. These are hard deadlines for the Admissions Office to receive your official documents, mainly transcripts and test scores. I can guarantee that 90% of you have not submitted all of your official documents to our office. Here’s what I mean: You applied to SIPA. You submitted a scanned copy of your college transcript(s). You were admitted to SIPA with that scanned transcript(s). But guess what, it’s still a scan of a transcript, which means it is an unofficial copy. Even if your college registrar’s office handed you an official transcript, since you opened it and scanned it, we must consider it as an unofficial copy. It’s technically been altered, so it doesn’t count as an official document.

To help you remember that fact, I added these nifty little notifications at the top of your Status Page that tells you which documents we’re missing.

teaser-officialdocumentsmissing

But wait, your Status Page has a green checkmark next to your transcript(s) and you’re still seeing these notifications. Well, chances are the notifications are there for a reason. The checklist is referring to your unofficial copy tied to your admissions application: just cross check the upload date and hover over the checkmark to see if the pop-up text reads “Received Copy” or “Received.” Still confused? Then read this blog post,  “Dissecting the Application Checklist.” (And yes, the blog post is highlighted in yellow on your Status Page for all time.) (P.S. These messages may not appear on your Status Page until after you have responded to your admission offer and paid the enrollment deposit.)

Hover over the check mark to confirm to see if the document was an unofficial or official copy.

 

Got it now? Good! The process for sending us your official transcripts and test scores is outlined in the Welcome Portal. I’ve also included it below:

Official transcripts and test scores are due by July 1, 2017, unless instructed otherwise. (International students who won’t have conferred degrees until after the deadline can email us and we’ll make a note in their account.)

Official test scores must be sent to us by the testing company (e.g., ETS, GMAC).

  • GRE/TOEFL ibt school code: 2161 (no department code)
  • GMAT school code: MIA is QF8-64-56; MPA is QF8-64-99

You may mail your official transcripts to:

Columbia University | SIPA
Office of Admissions & Financial Aid
514 West 113th Street
New York, New York 10025

Or email to sipa_admission@sipa.columbia.edu, but the transcripts must be sent from the registrar’s office through a service like eSCRIP-SAFE in order to be considered official.

Official Test Scores
The same rules outlined above apply to your official test scores. But if you truly know you sent us your official scores, there may be a workaround from re-ordering your test scores. Chances are your application name and email address are not recorded the same as the name and email address you registered to take the GRE/GMAT or TOEFL/IELTS with a few months ago. (You may recall us warning against this in the application instructions.) Thus, we couldn’t match the exam to your account because of the mismatch. If that’s the case, contact the testing center and confirm your full name, date of birth and email address associated with your account. You’ll need to send us that information, along with the batch number/cycle number for GRE and TOEFL scores; the appointment number and identification number for GMAT scores; or send us the official score report for IELTS scores.

Conditional Admission

Supplemental Quant

Some students are required to take additional quantitative preparation prior to enrolling at SIPA. Follow the instructions in your admission letter, but it basically says this:

To complete this requirement (as described in the admission letter/Welcome Portal), you must take two courses in Principles of Microeconomics and Principles of Macroeconomics or a single combined course in Principles of Economics.

These courses may be physical or virtual (online) but must be from an accredited academic institution. This course can be completed abroad as long as the institution is accredited in its home country. If you’re unsure, check the university’s website for their accreditation notice or consult with World Education Services for assistance. Free courses through Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) or certificate programs through Coursera and other online services do not fulfill this requirement. Successful completion is defined as a letter grade of B or higher or its numerical equivalent.  I can’t recommend any institution over another, so, unfortunately, I can’t offer further guidance on where to complete this requirement.

Please submit final transcripts verifying your successful completion to the Admissions Office by July 1, 2017. If you are completing the economics course(s) during the summer, you must send proof of course registration to the Admissions Office by July 1, 2017; the final transcript must be received by the Admissions Office no later than August 18, 2017. By completing this requirement, your admission to SIPA will become final.

SIPA Summer and/or Fall ALP

Some international students are required to enroll in summer and/or fall ALP as a condition of their admission. Your admission letter states if you are required to complete this coursework. I’ve already gotten several inquiries about waiving this requirement, and the answer is no. This is a policy set by the university and we cannot change it. The only way to waive out of it (as described in the admission letter/Welcome Portal), is to provide new TOEFL or IELTS scores that show at least a score of 110 on the TOEFL or 7.5 on the IELTS. Improved scores must be submitted to the Admissions Office no later than June 1, 2017.

All About Money

Your Admissions Deposit
You have until the date on your admission letter to accept your enrollment offer AND pay the $2,000.00 USD admission deposit. You do not have to pay these items at the same time. So you can submit your response form and select “yes,” and then access your Status Page in a couple weeks to make the deposit payment. However, your deposit payment must be paid in full at once (no partial payments). This should be paid through the online portal. Just click on the corresponding hyperlink to submit your payment. And keep in mind that you’ll  continue to see a lovely reminder (below) on your Status Page until your deposit is paid, and only after you’ve submitted your response form.

Financial Aid & Fellowships
If you received a scholarship or fellowship, you will have received a separate notification letter about your funding along with your letter of admission. (Early-action candidates had to wait until now to learn about their funding status.) For domestic students, we’ll also communicate student loans and work-study details in award letters, but you’ll only receive that letter after you’ve submitted a FAFSA at www.fafsa.ed.gov, using school code 002707. In order to be considered for financial aid, it’s important that you submit your FAFSA as soon as possible. The sooner you submit it, the sooner our financial aid staff can issue your award letter. Most financial aid packages are released one to two weeks after your FAFSA is received.

statusupdate-viewupdate-awardletter

To see your funding letters, go to your Status Page, scroll down to where it says Status Update and click on the View Update link. From there, you’ll be directed to your admission letter (confetti! yay!). Then you’ll need to scroll down to the bottom of your letter. This is where you’ll see if you have one (or several) letters available to read. If there’s an additional dated hyperlink then that means you have another message in your account. So click on it!


All students, whether funded their first year or not, will be able to apply for second-year funding. Most of this funding is in the form of assistantships for second-year students who succeeded in their first year of studies. (You’ll learn more about these opportunities during the spring semester of your first year.)

We also encourage you to visit https://new.sipa.columbia.edu/financial-aid for more information about funding your education, which includes a database of external funding opportunities.

Tuition, Fees, and Billing
Annually, Columbia University releases the estimated cost of attendance. To date, we only have access to 2017-18 figures. You can review them here. We won’t know how much tuition will increase

Regarding your tuition bill: this will be generated closer to the start of the academic term. You also have the option to set up a payment plan or coordinate your payments with a third-party sponsor. For more information on that process, browse the Student Financial Services website. (Note: The Office of Admissions & Financial Aid is not involved in this process.) You can also browse this site to get a historical look at the tuition and fees SIPA (Columbia University) has charged each year.

Contact Us

If any admitted students have any specific financial aid or fellowship inquiries, please email them with a descriptive and informative subject line to sipa_finaid@columbia.edu. Admissions queries can continue to go to sipa_admission@columbia.edu or sipa_new@columbia.edu.

That’s all the advice I have for now. If you need anything give us a call or send an email. And once again, congratulations to our admitted students!

"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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