Archive for Columbia University

A Quick Guide to New York City Airports

New York is famous for many things; however, having great airports is not one of them. As some of you consider traveling to New York for Admitted Students Day, or are planning your own vacation to the city, here’s are some things to keep in mind before stepping on the plane.

1. John F. Kennedy International Airport
New York City is serviced by three main airports, two of which are located in the city itself. For international travelers, you will likely fly into John F. Kennedy International Airport, which is located in one of Queens most industrial (and distant) neighborhoods.

JFK is about an hour by car into Manhattan and depending on your arrival time, it may take up to an hour and a half with traffic. Expect to pay anywhere between $70-100 for a taxi or Uber one-way.

For the more economical traveler, JFK is serviced by the AirTrain and the A/E trains. The AirTrain is a local line that connects travelers to NYC’s subway system. You will find signs in the JFK baggage area directing you to the AirTrain.

I personally suggest taking the JFK Airtrain Green Line to Howard Beach station. There, you can transfer to the A-Train and take it straight into Manhattan. Depending on where you are staying it will take a little over an hour, but there are no transfers and service is reliable.

2. Newark Liberty International Airport
For international travelers that are not routed to JFK, it is almost a guarantee that you will be flying into Newark. Located just across the Hudson River in New Jersey, Newark is actually a pretty modern and easy airport to navigate.

From my experience, a lot of flights arriving late at night or from East/South Asia tend to head straight to Newark.

Taxis/Ubers from Newark airport into Manhattan are relatively comparable to JFK prices, although at times it may be a bit cheaper.

Travelers that wish to use public transit can take the AirTrain to the Newark Liberty Airport station on the New Jersey Coast line.

You can take the line into Penn Station in Manhattan, which is on 34th St. It is one of New York’s busiest subway/transit stations and you can find connecting subways to pretty much anywhere in the city.

3. LaGuardia Airport
LaGuardia is the most conveniently located of New York’s three airports, as it is located right across the Queens Bridge in the sleepy neighborhood of Astoria. I have almost exclusively flown American carriers (cough, Southwest) into LaGuardia and it’s essentially the airport for domestic travel.

For international travelers flying American airlines or connecting through a major US city (Miami for Caribbean/Central/South American travelers, Houston/Dallas for Mexican and Central American travelers or Los Angeles for travelers from Asia) may have a connecting flight that ends up stopping in LaGuardia.

Depending on where you’re staying, taxis will likely be significantly cheaper and somewhere in the $30-60 range.

That being said, LaGuardia has the absolute best bus line in the city. For those that don’t mind lugging their carry-ons onto a bus, the M60-SBS picks up passengers from the airport and goes right across the Queens Bridge into Harlem.

You can hop off on the stop by the Apollo Theater to take any of the ABCD trains to most places in Manhattan or you can continue riding until Columbia University! The whole trip takes about 30 minutes to an hour, depending on traffic conditions.

While trains do run from LaGuardia, I cannot recommend the bus route enough. Particularly because it costs like 2 dollars.

 

For those that have more general questions about travel, airport conditions or navigating taxis/Ubers/trains in New York from the airport, feel free to reach out! Safe travels!

Beyond a Reasonable Doubt: MPA/MIA v. JD

This piece was co-authored by Julia Chung, my fellow program assistant at the Admissions Office.

RBG
Image result for shrug emojiMadeleine Albright

For those of you who don’t know the International Affairs Building, where SIPA is housed, is directly attached to Columbia Law School. It is a very subtle reminder of the decision we, Julia and Samantha, made two years ago before they started graduate school. Julia, studied for the LSAT for a year after graduating undergrad, fully anticipating a career in law. Samantha, worked as a legal assistant for three years at a law firm in Washington, D.C., and similarly thought law was in her future.

Today, both Julia and Samantha are SIPA second-year MPA and MIA students respectively, and both made the crucial decision to pick graduate school over law school. We recently had a conversation about the decision to go with public policy instead of a legal degree:

Why did you want to go to law school in the first place?

Julia: In undergrad I thought that if I wanted to do public service and civil rights, the path was a law degree. I thought that to make the change I wanted to see in the world, I needed to do it through litigation. With this limited perspective on career paths, I studied for the LSAT in my senior year in undergrad and the year after graduating. (As a side note, my family told me that because I was good at arguing, I should be a lawyer. Don’t think that was sound career advice though!)

Samantha: I wanted to go to law school because I wanted to work in policy, and had met a lot of people in the industry, who happenstance all had law degrees. I thought that was the way it worked. After I graduated undergrad, I took a job with a law firm in Washington D.C. in order to gain experience in the field. It was sort of a test run, which I recommend everyone interested in law do before deciding on whether to go or not. It was long hours, a lot of work, but I loved it. Despite the intensity at times, the experience really made me think the life was for me, but I still was not 100% sold. I wanted to do policy, and I had yet to work with someone that was doing work in that realm.

What changed?

Julia: After taking the LSAT, I spoke to a Vassar alum who was a lawyer and he said: Only go to law school if you actually want to practice law or if you have $150k to spare. He said that I seemed to have passions other than law and I should pursue those first. Taking that advice and knowing that my heart was in civil rights, I started working at a community-based organization in Flushing, Queens, doing civic engagement work. After two years of working with many lawyers, I decided that the great work they did was not for me. I realized that law wasn’t my tool to make the changes in the world I wanted to see. I didn’t want to be worrying about legal precedence or writing briefs. I wanted to be more on-the-ground and not limited to finding solutions through law.

Samantha: A coworker was talking to me about how he was going to graduate school for a degree in international affairs, and this really piqued my interest. I started researching graduate institutions around the world, to see what kinds of programs were out there for international affairs and security policy. That’s when I came across a couple of schools whose programs really spoke to me. I ended up speaking to one of the partners I worked for about my career trajectory, and he told me not to go to law school unless I was 100% sure it was for me. He also said that we no longer live in the days where you need a law degree to inform policy. Since I was not 100% sure of whether law school was for me, despite my experience, I chose to apply to graduate school.

Why did you choose Columbia SIPA?

Julia: I looked at graduate school to switch career paths. I wanted to shift from community organizing to something else, even though I wasn’t sure exactly what “something else” was when I applied to graduate school. I came to SIPA because it is a full-time program that is academically rigorous with a strong student community, and has a strong Urban and Social Policy program with practitioners teaching courses. I sat in on Mark Steitz’s “Data Driven Approaches to Campaigns and Advocacy” and knew instantaneously that SIPA was right for me. I knew that SIPA would teach me the hard skills I needed to take the next step in my career.

Samantha: I chose SIPA because I felt the MIA program and the International Security Concentration would provide me with both the theoretical and practical foundation I needed to pursue my future career goals. I also liked the fact that SIPA’s cohorts are very diverse, and that I would be studying with students from all around the world. I felt very welcomed at SIPA when I came to visit during the application process.  I think I had some preconceived notions of what SIPA and Columbia University in general were going to be like; however, everyone was very welcoming and I just had a feeling that I was in the right place.

How will an MPA/MIA degree work towards your future?

Julia: I came to SIPA knowing that I needed more hard skills – policy analysis, data analysis, memo writing, program evaluation, etc. SIPA provided those hard skills and the opportunity to explore different policy areas. I came to SIPA only interested in civil rights, but will be leaving in May with knowledge on urban sustainability, design thinking in the public sector, and technology used in international crisis response. I think my MPA degree prepares me to think critically on today’s most pressing issues, but also gives me tools and the network to be able to address them. I also think that with a MPA degree, I have more flexibility to create the career path I want than I would have if I went to law school.

Samantha: I believe the MIA will help me in my future endeavors because it helped me develop both hard and soft skills which can be applied to the jobs I am seeking in the foreign policy and international security fields. In law school I would not have been required to take a quantitative analysis course, or a cyber-security course, and I think these courses have really helped inform the way in which I evaluate the world around me. While law school would be useful in terms of understanding legality and jurisdiction for policy, I believe the MIA program has given me the opportunity to think critically about current international security policy issues, in order to better understand the nuances the make them complex and challenging to resolve.   

Do you have any regrets about your graduate school decision?

Julia: None – I’m excited to graduate and put all that I’ve learned to test!

Samantha:  I have no regrets about choosing to get my MIA at SIPA.  Every now and then I do think about law school and reflect back on when I made the decision to not pursue a JD. I remember where I was in life, and what career goals I had at the time that made me think I was not 100% ready to get my JD. If you asked me today if I think law school is in my future, I would say “yes.” But if you asked me if I could go back in time and remake the choice between and MIA and JD again, would I choose differently? I would say “no.” This has been a life-changing experience for me, and I would not change a thing.

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.

And don’t worry, if you decide that you want both an MPA/MIA and a JD, you can also apply for a SIPA/Law School dual degree. For more information, you can take a look at the website here.

Avery Library: Everything a Study Space Should Be

Before coming to SIPA, when I thought of the Ivy League I would immediately picture immense, neoclassical and gothic style buildings, foreboding structures made to resemble the campuses of Oxford and Cambridge. This style has always been appealing to me; something about the brick buildings and carved names of famous alumni and scholars is particularly conducive to studying, reminding you of how little you know and how much farther you have to go.

When you first step foot on campus, your eyes are immediately drawn to Butler and Low Libraries that sit on the edges of main campus like two enormous bookends. They’re pretty to look at it and they entirely live up to one’s expectations about what an Ivy library is supposed to be. However, if you take the steps up by Low and round the corner, you’ll pass by a hundred year old chapel, its humble Byzantine stylings immediately drawing you in towards the altar. A little ways more down the footpath and you’ll pass by an unassuming brick building that happens to be Avery Library, the largest architectural library in the world.

Whenever I am doing readings or looking for inspiration, I’ll try and find a seat at Avery. It’s often hard as there are a limited number of seats and the library enforces a strict no coffee or tea rule that sometimes discourages me from going. But every time I do happen to find a space I am reminded of why I love studying there. First of all, the library is essentially one large narrow hall. Long tables line the middle of the hall, while the walls are full of books up to two stories high. Great big windows along the entire building provide plenty of natural light and a view of the campus. For this reason, Avery strikes a perfect balance in terms of ambiance; it’s warm and inviting, without the stuffy feeling that other old libraries tend to have.

The winter only accentuates all of Avery’s best features, as the large windows give you a view of the snow outside, while the wood interior makes you feel like you’re at home in your study. During the cold season, I’ll often step outside and walk around the corner to the chapel, just to unwind and destress for a few moments. Then I’ll walk back, feeling refreshed and ready to dive back into my work.

On top of all of its natural charm, the basement of the library also has a nice cafe that offers food and a full range of beverages. The seating is cafeteria style and it is almost always buzzing with people. The library also hosts one of the world’s leading architectural art collections, with over two million drawings, sketches, photographs, and other historical artifacts related to the field of design and architecture. Sometimes I’ll catch an event at the library as well, since it regularly hosts visiting exhibitions and relevant speaker series events.

Whether you decide to go to Avery to study or just to grab coffee, it is always a welcome respite from the busyness of everyday life. If you decide to visit Columbia, take an opportunity to step inside and envision yourself here!

Note from Admissions: SIPA’s expert faculty and theory-meets-practice curriculum is part of what sets our programs apart. Register for Spring 2019 SIPA class visits here and experience it for yourself.

A Definitive List of the Best Libraries on Campus

Although Lehman Library is the default place of study for the majority of SIPA students, there are plenty of libraries on campus that are worth exploring. Butler Library, is of course, the quintessential image featured on every other postcard sold at the bookstore but there are other, equally picturesque places to study on campus and your Columbia Student ID card is a veritable passport to each and everyone of these locations. See below for a list of my personal favorites. 

  1. Avery Library at the School of Architecture: Avery Library is by far one of my favorite places to study on campus. As soon as you walk in you are greeted with large windows and plenty of sunlight. Although finals and midterms season makes this a popular location, there are generally plenty of seats available throughout the semester. Unfortunately, you are only able to print with Paw Print, which means you are limited to a $2.00 quota per day, but this is usually the case for printing anywhere outside of SIPA. Plus, Avery is located above Brownies Cafe, so you can easily grab lunch.
  2. Science and Engineering Library: The Science and Engineering Library is another great location to study. The upstairs area is located right next to large windows overlooking the Engineering School, with views of the Business school as well. There are always plenty of seats and computers available. Plus, it is conveniently located next to one of the best cafe’s on campus – Joe’s Coffee.
  1.  Mathematics Library: located in the Mathematics building, this library is small and generally isolated. Although the library itself may be a little quieter and smaller than the other items on this list, it has some really great views of Broadway and Barnard College. The views alone make it worth the trip from SIPA.
  1. Gabe M. Weiner Music and Arts Library: this library is located above Dodge Hall and also has some great views of Columbia University. Additionally, due to its location, you will generally find it emptier than other libraries on campus. Although a little further out of the way than other items on this list, it is one of the quieter places to study, it also doesn’t get as packed during finals and midterms like other libraries generally do.

Note from Admissions: If you have the chance to visit Columbia University in person, you should also look into visiting SIPA and sitting in on a class.

My Experience with Cross Registration

One of the great things about SIPA are the many course offerings across concentrations and specializations. Although the majority of students spend their first year focusing on the core curriculum, by your second year there are plenty of opportunities to branch out and take electives. One of the great things about SIPA is that it allows you to cross register at other schools within Columbia University. This is a really great add in because it allows you to mix and match across a variety of fields and courses. The process itself is fairly straightforward and varies between each individual school. For example, Columbia Business School offers two cross registration phases during the semester. There are a limited number of seats available for SIPA students in specific business school courses; however, there are a lot of courses to choose from. In my experience, you will generally get your first choice if you apply. SIPA students are able to cross register at several schools at Columbia University, including Teachers College, Columbia Law School, and the Mailman School of Public Health.

Overall, my experience with cross registration has been very positive. I’ve taken courses at the Mailman School of Public Health, the Institute for Research in African American Studies (IRAAS) and Columbia Business School. At IRAAS, I took “Gender, Labor and Sexuality in the Caribbean” with Dr. Pinnock. The course explored the concepts of gender, sexuality and labor and the historical and contemporary perspectives of work in an increasingly globalized society. Taking the course in my second year was really beneficial, as I’d spent my first year at SIPA focusing on the core curriculum and taking classes in my concentration, International Finance and Economic Policy, which gave me a strong background in macroeconomic theory and analysis. The course allowed me to combine my two interests, gender and economic policy and apply my coursework from SIPA in my final paper in the class, which was on Sex Work and the Dollarization of the Economy in Contemporary Cuba.

I highly recommend cross registration and taking advantage of the many courses across Columbia. It is especially important for those of us who are interested in public policy to gain a breadth of experience across a variety of sectors.

Note from Admissions: Graduate school is a big commitment and “fit” is hugely important. Take advantage of SIPA class visits and register here.

"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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