Archive for Career Services

Watch: The 43rd Annual SIPA D.C. Career Conference

Ana Guerrero MIA ’19 gave a micro view of the SIPA D.C. Career Conference; check out the video below for a macro view. More than 220 SIPA students took part this year, joined by over 200 SIPA alumni throughout the Conference’s panels, site visits, and networking events from January 16-18, 2019.

Read the full recap here.

A recap of the 2019 SIPA D.C. Career Conference

SIPA’s 43rd Annual D.C. Career Conference & Alumni/Student Networking Reception was held on January 16 – 18, 2019.

My name is Ana Guerrero, and I am a second-year MIA student, concentrating in International Security Policy and specializing in International Conflict Resolution. I am originally from the Dominican Republic but I grew up in Brooklyn. I had a myriad of jobs before SIPA, and I am hoping to use my degree to pivot into the Security sector.

For that reason, I was really looking forward to the 43rd annual SIPA D.C. Career Conference, so much so that I successfully applied to be the panel coordinator for the Security & Political Risk session. (I couldn’t attend last year because a group of classmates and I organized a relief trip to Puerto Rico to help clean up after Hurricane Maria.) Needless to say, for someone who doesn’t have direct work experience in the field, I felt that I couldn’t miss the D.C. Career Conference *Don Corleone voice* on this the year of my graduation.

I am very glad I made the most of my time at the conference. I had two coffee chats with SIPA alumnae in D.C., and I managed to make a connection with each of my panelists. My favorite panel – aside from my own – was the Foreign and Civil Service session, where we heard from people from the State Department, the FBI, and a former CIA employee. Their insights into government work and the fellowships to apply for were invaluable.

Panels aside, the site visits are another excellent resource because I got to see the workplace and talk to people I otherwise would not have met if I just attended the conference day’s events. I went to the National Counterterrorism Center, Elizabeth Warren’s Senate office, Albright Stonebridge Group (ASG), and led the site visit and panel of State Department employees. At the ASG session, a human resources representative talked about internship and employment opportunities to look out for in the coming months. Additionally, the networking reception on the last night allowed me to follow up on connections I had made throughout the week. THIS is why you attend a conference like this!

My one piece of advice to prospective students is to absolutely attend the SIPA D.C. Career Conference if they are open to working in Washington D.C. And if you want to work in D.C. and can attend both years as a SIPA student, do it!

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:

Jumping from NYC to DC; My advice to students who want to work outside of NYC

Note from Admissions: Congratulations to the eight SIPA students selected to join the Presidential Management Fellows Class of 2019! Only ~8.7 percent of applicants were selected to become finalists in this prestigious U.S. government development program for 2019. We thought this would be a good opportunity to check in with other SIPA students who are heading to Washington D.C.


When I first considered applying to the State Department’s Pickering Fellowship, I was unsure whether it was worth my time. I assumed that students from D.C. studying International Affairs would have a considerable advantage, since I attended a small liberal arts college in Los Angeles where I studied History and Government. However, when speaking with alumni of the fellowship, I was told that my non-D.C. background could help my application for the State Department and other employers throughout my career. After receiving the fellowship, and having worked in D.C., I would agree with this sentiment.

Ultimately, I believe that employers look for talent and people with new and interesting ideas, regardless of where an applicant is from. Therefore, I would urge anyone considering SIPA to apply, even if they want to pursue a career in D.C. afterwards; here at SIPA, you’ll learn and grow in ways that will make you competitive for any job in any city.

SIPA’s greatest resource is New York City. As a student of policy, you will have endless opportunities to engage with experts and leading organizations in your field who are working in arguably the world’s most dynamic city. Because of SIPA’s location, you will also have access to world class faculty and students who are pursuing careers in everything from finance to humanitarian work.

SIPA also offers a very holistic curriculum and attracts students from the around the world who want to study in a global city. I can honestly say that I have learned as much from my peers as I have from my classes.

In turn, you may actually have an advantage over students who are in D.C. or any other city, partly because of everything that SIPA students are exposed to in New York.

Personally, I know of many students who are fully committed to working in D.C. after graduating, myself included. Many of these students use their summer in between their first and second year to pursue an internship in DC, as an opportunity to build a relationship with a potential employer and to get an idea of what they would ideally like to do full-time.

SIPA has relationships with almost every major organization in D.C. and therefore students are made aware of internship and full-time job opportunities available in D.C. all the time. Almost any employer in D.C. will recognize Columbia University and SIPA, and you will not be at a disadvantage during the recruiting process.

In terms of community in D.C., SIPA students end up all over; some work for the State Department, some work for think tanks like The Brookings Institution, and others end up at NGOs like Human Rights Campaign. Since SIPA’s Office of Career Services has strong relationships with alumni and organizations with heavy SIPA representation, it is easy to get in contact with alumni, who are always happy to offer advice or maybe even an opportunity at an interview.

I always tell people, living and studying in New York is never a bad choice. If you are interested in SIPA’s program offerings and think it is a good fit academically and socially, then consider applying/enrolling, even if you don’t plan to be here long-term!

Opinion: 4 ways to bring human rights into development work (via APSIA)

We’re resharing this post by the Association of Professional Schools of International Affairs (APSIA), originally posted here.

APSIA brings leading graduate schools around the world which specialize in international affairs – including SIPA! We’ll be at the APSIA graduate fairs in Madrid, Paris and London this week. If you’re in the area, come meet SIPA admissions and find out more about an advanced career in public policy and international affairs.

4 ways to bring human rights into development work

Seventy years ago, the world laid out a common standard of fundamental rights for all people, which they said should be universally defended.

Now, the global environment is shifting. Nations that once led the way in promoting cross-border protections are retrenching. Scandals undercut major international development agencies when they fail to uphold these sentiments. Meanwhile, corporations — once vilified for their behavior — are building human rights into their work.

“Human rights touches every aspect of a company’s operations,” Margaret Jungk, managing director for human rights at Business for Social Responsibility, said in 2016. Today, corporations such as Facebook see “the responsibility [they] have to respect the individual and human rights of the … global community” — and hire accordingly, as stated in a recent job vacancy at the social media network.

Incorporating human rights into development work may require you to consider national politics, social media, sexual discrimination, and everything in between. To successfully navigate a new public, private, and nonprofit development landscape, four traits will be critical.

1. Context is key

Just as in broader questions of global development, human rights considerations are rarely clear-cut. Context matters. Are you trained to understand the economic, political, social, cultural, and historical factors at play? Can you identify the forces influencing a situation? Are you qualified to perform proper due diligence?

“Human rights work has to be focused within the contexts where development is playing out,” said Francisco Bencosme, Asia-Pacific advocacy manager at Amnesty International.

“In Myanmar, an entrenched system of apartheid can change the analysis of a seemingly positive housing project. [For example, under] the guise of development for Rakhine State, we have in the past seen new homes constructed for ethnic minorities on top old homes that used to belong to the Rohingya. It is these kind of development practices that need to take human rights contexts into account,” Bencosme said.

Seek out educational and professional opportunities that develop a flexible framework for evaluating decisions. One size will not fit all.

Mark Maloney, vice dean at the Sciences Po Paris School of International Affairs, explained: “Adaptability is a key skill … [one] even more important in humanitarian work because the stakes can be considerably higher when things go wrong.”

“For that reason, understanding the context, including relationships within and between parties, is a fundamental skill we try to develop through our Master in Human Rights and Humanitarian Action” he added. “This skill also maximizes the likelihood that our graduates will make the ‘right decision at the right moment’ when undertaking action on the ground.”

2. Be ‘client-ready’

Development professionals must tailor their work to many constituencies.

Have you practiced framing a discussion to make sense to diverse groups? Have you learned to persuade people while recognizing their different needs? Do you have the credentials to make people listen to what you have to say?

Learn to write and present arguments in clear, concise, and compelling ways. Work to improve your cross-cultural competencies. Expand proficiency in different languages. Look for opportunities to get close to the communities you want to serve, as well as to the funders, governments, and companies working on the ground.

“The human rights framework brings a human-centered analysis to the work of development professionals,” said Barbara Frey, director of the human rights program at the University of Minnesota Humphrey School of Public Affairs.

“This analysis starts with the question: Who is the rights bearer and who is the duty bearer in a situation? [It] tests how the consequences of actions can help or harm the clients [you] seek to serve.”

3. Develop connections

Access to individuals and information is critical to getting the job done.

With whom have you cultivated connections? From whom can you get critical information? Have you developed academic and professional networks to open doors?

Maintain relationships throughout your career via social media and in-person ties. Seek the counsel of former classmates, professors, or colleagues. Look for undergraduate or graduate schools with close ties to the field.

For example, students at the International Human Rights Center at Korea University’s Graduate School of International Studies incorporate concern for human rights into a wide range of activities. They build networks, workshops, and symposia in partnership with Human Asia, a human rights NGO in South Korea. According to the school, these opportunities prepare students to “serve as productive members of their organizations and to play leadership roles in the international community.”

4. Character is destiny

Easy answers do not always present themselves.

Are you bold enough to choose the difficult route? Can you withstand criticism from naysayers who cannot or will not envision anything beyond the status quo? Do you know how to rejuvenate your spirit when things look bleak?

“Forces larger than yourself will make you face some tough moral choices,” said Reuben Brigety, dean of George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs. From his time at Human Rights Watch and the U.S. State Department, he has counseled young professionals to realize that “your character is your destiny. Have courage!”

To succeed at the intersection of human rights and development, you must ask good questions. Tailor your approach; build diverse networks; and, cultivate an internal moral compass to navigate the changing human rights and global development landscape.

"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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