Archive for Academics

A View from the Class: The 2018 Award-Winning Capstone Workshop Team

The SIPA Office of Alumni and Development is pleased to share another installment of A View from the Class, a SIPA stories series featuring current SIPA students, recently graduated alumni, and SIPA faculty.

Here, we feature the Capstone workshop team that was awarded this year’s Dr. Susan Aurelia Gitelson Award for Human Values in International Affairs for their work with UN Women on the project “Using Twitter Data Combined with Traditional Survey Data to Measure Societal Dynamics Related to Violence Against Women in Brazil.” Awarded annually, the Gitelson award was created by SIPA alumna, Dr. Susan Gitelson to recognize outstanding work by SIPA students related to human values in international affairs.

For this project, six SIPA students were partnered with faculty advisor, David Dabscheck. UN Women was interested in the use of Big Data; specifically, to understand the potential of using Twitter data combined with traditional survey data to measure societal dynamics related to violence against women in Brazil, where the rates of homicide have continued to increase since 2007.

Alejandra Baez MIA’18: At SIPA, Alejandra concentrated in Human Rights and Humanitarian Policy with specializations in Latin America and Technology, Media, and Communications. A Thomas R. Pickering Foreign Affairs Fellow, she will join the U.S. State Department in September 2018 as a Foreign Service Officer.

Wajeeha Bajwa MIA’18: Wajeeha grew up in Tokyo and Moscow and completed her undergraduate education in Germany before returning home to Pakistan to pursue a career in independent consulting. At SIPA, she specialized in Gender and Public Policy to complement her international field experience. She hopes to join an international organization working for women’s empowerment globally.

Gabriel Barrientos MPA-DP’18: At SIPA, Gabriel focused on quantitative analysis, education policies, and behavioral economics. Recently graduated, Gabriel is joining Concordia in New York City as a Partnership Development Manager, working with key partners, industry leaders, and other stakeholders to foster and strengthen public-private partnerships for social impact.

Veronique Ehamo MIA’18: At SIPA, Veronique concentrated in Human Rights and Humanitarian Policy with a dual specialization in Gender and Public Policy and Regional African Studies. From the Democratic Republic of Congo, she  will begin PhD studies in the United Kingdom this fall, focusing her research on the utilization of rape as a weapon of war in the North Kivu Region of Eastern DRC.

Lilah Greenberg MPA’19: A dual degree student at SIPA and the Columbia School of Social Work (CSSW), Lilah is pursuing her MPA, concentrating in Human Rights with a specialization in Gender and Public Policy. In fall 2018, she will continue her studies at CSSW, focusing on human rights and contemporary social issues in the U.S.

Marie Wavre MPA’18: An attorney and MPA graduate in Development and Gender Policy, Marie received a Master in Public International Law from Université Paris Assas and an LL.M. in International Law and Justice from Fordham University School of Law. Marie is currently legal counsel for an immigration law office representing Tibetan refugees seeking asylum in the United States.

An Upfront Look at SIPA Capstone Projects

The SIPA community is diverse and broad in many areas, including where they end up after Columbia. Students are prepared to work in a variety of private, public, and nonprofit places after they graduate. The rigorous but flexible curriculum prepares students for professional success in private, public, and nonprofit spaces through analytical knowledge and practical skills.

One crucial part of this experience is the Capstone workshop, where students apply what they are learning at SIPA to a real-world issue. You can think of the Capstone as a live consulting project where students partner with an external client and work on teams of 6-8 students with a faculty advisor.

The Morningside Post, the student-run newspaper at SIPA, wrote an overview of Capstone projects. In it, they quote Capstone project director Suzanne Hollmann, who joined SIPA in 2008 and has overseen the entire evolution of capstone workshops:

[Hollmann] says, “SIPA offers the largest number of capstone projects in the United States and probably in the world,” and with many satisfied clients returning the next year, the school came to a point where it has to “carefully select clients to make a good combination of options available for students.” One more amazing aspect of the SIPA capstone, she notes, is that every project has one faculty adviser.

We get a lot of questions about what a typical Capstone workshop looks like at SIPA, which is difficult to answer succinctly because of the breadth of clients and workshops. A variety of Capstone workshops are featured on the SIPA website here, and read on for an exciting opportunity to view the Economic and Political Development (EPD) concentration workshops upfront.

You’re Invited: 30th Anniversary of Workshop in Development Practice Final Presentations

This year, the Workshop in Development Practice (EPD Workshop) is celebrating their 30th anniversary, where students in the EPD concentration assisted a diverse range of clients on work related to international development.

The EPD concentration has invited you to their final workshop presentations on April 26-27 and the 30th anniversary celebration on April 30 at the International Affairs Building. Working through almost 400 projects in the last 30 years, you can get a front-row seat to the most recent batch of projects.

Click here to RSVP for the EPD Workshop in Development Practice event.

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New Courses at SIPA: Urban Social Policy & Building Big Renewable Energy Projects

It’s been a busy few weeks for us at admissions. We’ve been speaking with a large number of you about what SIPA can offer, and many of our admitted students will learn just that at our upcoming 2018 Admitted Students’ Day on April 10th. As a reminder, the admissions office will be closed Tuesday for #ASDSIPA2018.

For those who aren’t in New York City, we’re happy to present a glimpse into these new courses at SIPA:

As usual, we encourage you to reach out to us if you have any questions about our innovative courses — and anything else on your mind. We’ll have more in our “New Classes” series soon, and in-person class visits are still available through this month.

We look forward to meeting you on Admitted Students’ Day next week!

Spring Break 2018: SIPA Capstone Workshop Roundup

Are you following @Columbia.SIPA on Instagram yet? SIPA students Rui Li (MIA ’19) and Olivia Haas (MIA ’19) will be leading a live tour of the SIPA building tour and Seeples Q&A on Wednesday! Join us on Instagram on April 4th at 8am EST — and if that’s too early, we’ll be answering questions all day, so DM us.

This week we did an Instagram roundup of SIPA students Spring Break activities — many put their learning into practice for their Capstone workshops. Here’s where their consulting projects brought them:


“I am a part of a capstone team that is working with the Peruvian Ministry of Education, building a feasibility study to navigate ways of implementing offline educational technology into rural schools. This photo was taken in Anta, Cusco, Perú at a public primary “multigrado” school. In Peru, there is a huge emphasis on incorporating technology and robotics into primary and secondary education. In the photo are three 8-year-old girls showing me how to use a computer-based LEGO program that teaches children how to build robots. It was amazing to see, even in the most rural zones of Cusco, that this technology generation is making a significant impact and kids are effortlessly excelling in technology-based learning.” – Justine LaVoye, MPA-DP ’19


Consulting for the Mexican Energy Regulatory Commission, this SIPA capstone team is working on incentivizing more clean energy production for electricity in Mexico.

Costa Rica

This SIPA capstone team worked with Engage Globally and the Monteverde Conservation League.


What I witnessed and experienced in Haiti the past couple of weeks is stuff I’d remember for the rest of my life. The sea of houses on the mountains of Port au Prince is quite the spectacle. Makes me cringe at the thought of what could be of the restavéks here in the city. Restavéks are children from low income households who are sent away to ‘richer’ households in the hope that they get educated and get the chance to lead a better life than their parents. Obviously, this is an institutionalized form of slavery and child trafficking in Haiti today with the locals believing 1 in 5 kids end up as restavéks in their life. All of this is the result of families in the Caribbean island falling into a poverty trap worsened by natural disasters. All the Caribbean countries, all of them and not just ones with picture perfect beaches and fancy resorts, need attention, support and most importantly, investment. #Haiti #PortAuPrince #restavek #restavekfreedom #freetheslaves #endchildslavery #childtrafficking #work #travel #Carribean #carribeanislands #SIPAcapstone #columbiauniversity #SIPA

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“A team of us from SIPA traveled to Haiti to test the M&E tool we developed for Free the Slaves, and organisation fighting to abolish modern forms of slavery. Our tool aims to gauge the Socioeconomic Status (SES) of households, enabling Free the Slaves to monitor changes in a household’s SES over a program’s lifetime.” – Shreya Murali, MPA-DP ’19

And in case you’re concerned that students don’t get any time off to relax – don’t worry, some sightseeing was had.

#MachuPicchu #Perú #ElPerú #Inca #mountains #LosAndes #Andes #montaña #archaeology #columbiauniversity #sipacapstone #educaciónPerú #sipa #sipalife #gradschool #gradschoollife ❤️🇵🇪 Machu Picchu (Spanish pronunciation: [ˈmatʃu ˈpitʃu]) (Quechua: Machu Picchu; [ˈmɑtʃu ˈpiktʃu]) is a 15th-century Inca citadel situated on a mountain ridge 2,430 metres (7,970 ft) above sea level. It is located in the #Cusco Region, Urubamba Province, #Machupicchu District in Peru, above the #SacredValley, which is 80 kilometres (50 mi) northwest of Cuzco and through which the Urubamba #River flows. Most archaeologists believe that Machu Picchu was constructed as an estate for the Inca emperor Pachacuti (1438–1472). Often mistakenly referred to as the "Lost City of the Incas" (a title more accurately applied to Vilcabamba), it is the most familiar icon of Inca civilization. The #Incas built the estate around 1450 but abandoned it a century later at the time of the Spanish Conquest. Although known locally, it was not known to the Spanish during the colonial period and remained unknown to the outside world until American historian #HiramBingham brought it to international attention in 1911. Machu Picchu was built in the classical Inca style, with polished dry-stone walls. Its three primary structures are the Intihuatana, the Temple of the Sun, and the Room of the Three Windows. Most of the outlying buildings have been reconstructed in order to give tourists a better idea of how they originally appeared. By 1976, thirty percent of Machu Picchu had been restored and restoration continues. Machu Picchu was declared a Peruvian Historic Sanctuary in 1981 and a #UNESCO #WorldHeritage Site in 1983. In 2007, Machu Picchu was voted one of the New Seven Wonders of the World in a worldwide Internet poll.

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You can learn more about the SIPA MIA, MPA, and MPA-DP capstone workshops here.

Changing Concentrations: You don’t have to stick with the concentration you picked when you first applied.

At SIPA, every MIA and MPA student pursues a concentration and specialization. These are similar to an undergraduate major and minor, respectively. I applied to SIPA expecting to concentrate in International Security Policy (ISP); however I changed my mind during orientation after attending an information session and signed up for the Economic and Political Development concentration (EPD).

I made the initial switch from ISP to EPD largely based on where I thought I wanted to be after graduation. I spent four years in Washington D.C. prior to SIPA and felt that EPD would offer more opportunities to live and work in other cities. While it was true that many ISP students ended up in D.C. after school, ISP was a much better fit with my personal interests and professional ambitions. I changed back to ISP after one semester.

The administrative process of changing from one concentration (or specialization) is easy. It simply requires the student to submit the necessary form to the Office of Student Affairs. The bigger concern when changing concentrations is timing. There are three levels of graduation requirements at SIPA: your degree (MIA/MPA), your concentration, and your specialization. The longer you take to settle on a concentration, the less time you have to complete the requirements.

I focused my first semester on my degree and specialization requirements rather than concentration requirements so I did not lose any classes; however, this becomes harder to avoid if you wait more than one semester to make the change. This is particularly true for the International Finance and Economic Policy concentration and the Advanced Policy and Economic Analysis specialization.

There will be an information session for all of the concentrations and specializations during orientation. If you continue to have questions after these sessions about which concentration to pursue, reach out to a professor or second-year student. And remember, you will not be locked into your initial decision.

Note from Admissions: Information sessions for concentrations and specializations will also be available during Admitted Students’ Day 2018. Admitted students can register for ASD 2018 in the Welcome Portal.

"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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