Archive for Columbia University

Juneteenth, June 19, 2020, will be a University holiday

Columbia University President Bollinger made this announcement on June 17, 2020:

Dear fellow members of the Columbia community:

I write to announce that Juneteenth, June 19, 2020, will be a University holiday for all students, faculty, and staff. As I have said many times before, Columbia University is not innocent of the structures of racism that have afflicted America. Yet we also have a history of confronting invidious discrimination and anti-Black racism. There is still much more to do. A reinvigorated Civil Rights Movement is possible, and we need to summon our better traditions as we recognize Juneteenth and commemorate the emancipation of enslaved people in the United States. I will have more to say in the coming weeks, months, and years.

Sincerely,

Lee C. Bollinger

Upcoming virtual events on Black Lives Matter, Protests, and Justice Reform

University Life Forum: Black Lives Matter, Protest and Creating Change

Columbia University is hosting a University Life Forum: Black Lives Matter, Protest and Creating Change today. While this is a bit of a late invite, this event will be recorded and posted to the University Life website. Find more details here: universitylife.columbia.edu/BLM-forum

This virtual Columbia University community gathering will focus on addressing racial injustice in our society and the ways in which we can individually and collectively achieve transformative change. It will feature the following experts from across Columbia University:

  • Jelani Cobb, Ira A. Lipman Professor of Journalism, Columbia School of Journalism
  • Courtney D. Cogburn, Associate Professor, Columbia School of Social Work
  • Robert Fullilove, Professor of Sociomedical Sciences, Columbia University Medical Center, and Associate Dean, Community and Minority Affairs, Mailman School of Public Health
  • Frank Guridy, Associate Professor of History and of African American and African Diaspora Studies, Faculty of Arts and Sciences
  • Olatunde C. Johnson, Jerome B. Sherman Professor of Law, Columbia Law School

Food for Thought Speaker Series

This summer, the Picker Center and the Executive MPA program are launching a new initiative to keep students and prospective applicants attuned to and thinking critically about life after COVID-19. We are in a pivotal moment full of opportunities for policymakers to transform lessons from the crisis into concrete benefits for their communities. While we cannot come together physically to exchange ideas, we believe we can leverage the virtual tools at our disposal to approach the crisis and its aftermath from all the angles the SIPA Faculty has to offer.

The next topic in our ongoing Food for Thought speaker series with the Executive MPA program at SIPA is The Politics of Justice Reform: Thoughts on recent proposals and the politics of adoption and implementation. This reflects a change in the previously published lineup because we feel that it is important to address the recent events surrounding the protests, the BLM movement, and the resulting rapid policy changes. You can view the videos from past events and downloaded the topic papers here.

The Politics of Justice Reform: Thoughts on recent proposals and the politics of adoption and implementation [RSVP here]
Tuesday, June 16 at 11am with Prof. Basil Smikle

Schooling myself at SIPA

Every Wednesday during the semester, I would make the four-block stroll from SIPA to PS 36 Margaret Douglas, a primary school in Morningside Heights. If the children were in the playground, I could hear their unbridled laughter and shouts from almost a block away, and it would always make me smile. My 45-minute sessions with my mentee, who was in kindergarten in my first year and then Year One in my second year, quickly became the highlight of my week and my time in New York City. 

I first learned of the opportunity to volunteer in my first weeks at SIPA, through a standard university-wide email asking for students to sign up. I was excited by the chance to continue benefiting from volunteering and start building connections to my new local community. Read Ahead had a vision I was keen to contribute to: ‘students have the opportunity to unlock their full potential through mentoring relationships based on a love of reading.’

Columbia University has partnered with Read Ahead for almost 22 years and has two schools in the area specifically set up to better accommodate the university calendar. The partnership makes volunteering as a university student easier because the Read Ahead Coordinators are familiar with semester breaks and you get to see friends who are also mentoring and meet new ones. Once I was accepted into the program, there was a tailored volunteer training at Columbia before I first wandered into the brightly decorated corridors of PS 36 to meet the child I’d been paired with.

At first, she was very shy and I would get only monosyllabic answers to any questions. So I spent the first few weeks reading different books and seeing if anything piqued her interest. We eventually found a book that she became obsessed with, and at last count, we had read it together at least 50 times (sometimes multiple times a week) and she had memorized most of the words to ‘Clay Mates’ by Dev Petty. Every week we read, drew, colored and played games together. I was often the victim of a very unfair game of Uno or Headbandz but she repaid my silent suffering a thousand times over with great portraits and artwork, like the two pictured in this blog.

I also enjoyed being able to visit a school and see the US education system up-close. My mother is a teacher and principal, and I worked in education funding before coming to SIPA, so I’ve always felt connected to schools even after leaving school myself. It was my first experience with US school cafeteria food because we met during lunch so the children ate, and that’s how I first saw chicken and waffles (with maple syrup!). 

As an Australian and South African, my accent leans more towards British-Commonwealth English with distinctly round vowels so I often have to “correct” my pronunciation of words, like “fast” or “park” so that my mentee doesn’t accidentally adopt my strange hybrid accent too. If I forgot to change my pronunciation or word choice, sometimes she would just stare at me blankly, as if I were indeed speaking a foreign language. 

With schools closed, the program is temporarily suspended while the world adjusts to COVID-19. I was delighted to receive an email from the Read Ahead staff this week inviting me to send my mentee a written message along with photos and a video message. So I sent her the YouTube read-aloud version of Clay Mates (watching it made me very nostalgic) and introduced her to my cats, hoping she won’t be too mad at me for not visiting her for so many weeks already.

I wish I could have spent more time as a Read Ahead Mentor, perhaps just long enough for us to read all of the Harry Potter books together. And though we’re now 9,951 miles away from each other, I hope our love of reading will continue.

To Dual-Degree with an MBA or not? MBA vs. MIA/MPA with IFEP

For the people wanting to steer their careers toward economics and finance, a huge question appears very often…..Should I get an MBA?

Then, for those wanting to steer their careers toward economics and finance AND applying to SIPA, a similar question appears……Should I get an MBA OR an MIA/MPA and concentrate in IFEP?

Now while I can’t make the decision for you on which degree to pursue, I can walk you through how I and a fellow SIPA classmate, Laila Fouad went about our decision to get a MIA/MPA in IFEP instead of an MBA. We’ll also be joined by another SIPA classmate, Leslie Conner-Warren who is also a dual degree MIA/MBA student.

Did you want to go business school and if so, why?

Steven: For me, foreign affairs/diplomacy/global policy have been fields that I have wanted to build a career in so that put automatically put my mind towards an international affairs school. I did think about going to business school but only for a couple of days. The idea of an MBA never really interested me. The material that was covered in an MBA program is useful and definitely interesting but I wanted to learn some of that but apply it in a policy context and learn more political economy.

Laila: Even though I had worked in a more corporate field before, I was never interested in getting an MBA. I wanted a degree that had a solid academic and theoretical aspect, as well as practical implications. At the same time, I was more interested in policy and world affairs, since that is more closely linked to what I want to do after graduation. I also wanted more focus on economics and analytical skills, and so thought the MPA was a better choice.

Leslie: I actually didn’t start out as a dual degree student. During my first year at SIPA I grew an interest in the technology industry, especially in tech policy, and I thought an MBA would be a beneficial added perspective in pursuing that as a career after SIPA. I applied to CBS during my second semester at SIPA, and completed my first semester at CBS this fall.

How is business school different from SIPA?

Leslie: There are lots of differences, and pros and cons between the two. Firstly, I think the business school core curriculum is very structured. At SIPA, you are able to choose which courses fulfill certain core requirements, but at CBS there is just one course per core requirement, although the topics are similar between the two. I think for those interested more in the policy making side, the SIPA Economics core would serve you better, but for those interested in the more technical business skills the Finance and Accounting courses at CBS are very beneficial. Socially, the MBA program is structured more around “clusters” which are cohorts, whereas at SIPA the social scene is more structured around student organizations.

Why SIPA?

Steven: Being a native New Yorker, I always wanted to come back home. I also wanted to improve my economic analysis skills while have the flexibility to pursue courses in other areas such as security and energy. Along with this, SIPA has a good balance of coursework that focuses on hard skills and other coursework that focuses on soft skills. Also, I had heard great feedback about the alumni network and the students here and wanted to be a part of that. With all of this combined, I had to choose SIPA.

Leslie: For me, growing up attending little Model UN conferences in a small state, this was exactly how I pictured what I wanted from my education. A school where you can learn about and from people from every corner of the globe has been an absolute gift in my life.

Laila: SIPA provides a good balance of theoretical and practical. At the same time, the course offering is so diverse that you can tailor your degree any way you like. I have been able to take a good balance of advanced economics and quantitative courses, as well as more applied courses in financial policy or emerging markets. The faculty is also excellent, and was a motivating factor behind choosing SIPA at the end.

What do you believe an MIA/MPA degree can give you that an MBA can’t or vice versa?

Steven: I believe it that a MIA/MPA degree gives me more flexibility in terms of being able to go into private or public industry.  This is not to say that one can’t go into public with a MBA but for me, there was no desire for me to get an MBA. I wanted to get a deeper understanding of policy and SIPA was a better fit for me for that.

Leslie: SIPA offers an incredible opportunity to examine the issues of any industry or public policy field in a completely unique way. In my business courses, I am often able to contribute perspectives from the political and regulatory sphere to our discussions, and many of my MBA classmates want to join the discussions and student group events at SIPA for this reason.

Laila: More focus on the public sector and policy sphere. I also think courses at SIPA help you understand the key concepts behind some of the world’s most pressing economic, financial, and institutional issues, whereas an MBA would more likely take them at face value.

Any regrets?

Steven: No, I’m happy with the choice I made. I got a good balance of policy and business skills such as fundamental accounting, corporate finance and budgeting. If there is any other business skills I want to learn, I can always go to Lynda. In terms of SIPA, I would’ve taken some more time in my first semester trying to plan classes but everything worked out fine.

Leslie: Absolutely not! The dual degree is a great way to get two perspectives and double the number of interesting people you can meet at Columbia. An extra year felt like a huge mental barrier for me in the beginning, but I know it will be worth it in the long run.

Laila: Not planning out my courses from Day 1! I had a general idea of what I wanted to take and figured it out at the beginning of each semester. Totally fine, but a more comprehensive plan from the beginning may have given me better direction. Also, more networking!

Look, if you are a prospective applicant of SIPA and you still can’t make a choice, feel free to call or drop by the Admissions office and talk to a current student or Admissions Officer.

Y no te preocupes (and don’t worry), if you decide that you want both an MPA/MIA and a MBA, you can also apply for a SIPA/Business School dual degree. For more information, you can take a look at the website here.

How to Choose a Graduate School

So now that you’ve submitted your graduate school applications, it’s time to start thinking seriously about choosing a school (after taking a much deserved break, of course). Most of you have applied to several schools, and all of the major schools of international affairs and public policy have so much to offer. How can you possibly decide? I certainly had a tough time with this decision two years ago so I’m going to discuss my decision making process in hopes of making this time just a bit easier for all of you!

  1. Determine your priorities

The first step is to determine your priorities. This is different for everyone, and there is truly no right answer. The specific course offerings, employment outcomes, financial aid opportunities, location, culture, class size, faculty, name recognition, and rankings are just some considerations that students may prioritize. Determine what is most important to you and prioritize those factors in your decision. It is often helpful to discuss these priorities with friends, family, or mentors.

  1. Compare courses and faculty

Of course, the majority of your time in graduate school will be spent in or preparing for courses so it’s vital that you are taking courses that both interest you and provide you with the skills you will need in your career. I found the best way to evaluate this was to create a full semester-by-semester course plan for each school I was considering. Using excel, I inputted each required course and the electives I wanted to take at each school. This provided me an easy way to compare each program in detail. I looked at the excel sheet and asked myself which program I would enjoy most while also developing the skills I would need in my career. In the end, the variety of electives and world-class faculty in international security, cybersecurity, and technology policy, the moderate amount of quantitative coursework, as well as the wide array of skills-based courses (and short courses) available at SIPA won me over.

  1. Location matters

Location has a huge impact on your access to employers, cost of living, and social life, but the most important factor is fit. You’ll be here for at least two years of your life, so you want to ensure you’re in a place that’s right for you. The best way to determine this is to visit the schools you’ve been admitted to. Explore the neighborhood, go out to eat, tour campus, and talk to current students about the quality of life. While I had been to NYC many times before and knew it was a place I wanted to live, attending SIPA’s Admitted Student’s Day assured me that Columbia and NYC would be a great fit for me. I can’t stress enough the importance of visiting campus, sitting in a class, and exploring the city.

  1. Cost

Finally, the least glamorous but still vitally important factor is cost. Research the cost of each school and then make a plan for how you will pay for graduate school. Review the SIPA Financial Aid page for information on costs and additional funding opportunities. You should also check out this blog post on Completing Your FAFSA and Budgeting by SIPA’s Associate Director of Financial Aid.

Choosing a graduate school is an intensely personal and difficult decision. While everyone’s decision making process is different, I found that going through the process I’ve described here enabled me to choose the program that was the best fit for me.

"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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