Archive for Columbia University

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.

Podcast Recommendations by Concentration

As a SIPA student, your time is probably preoccupied with group meetings, scheduling group meetings, studying, rescheduling that group meeting because it coincides with that other group meeting, and reading for classes. This in itself is very time consuming, but like any curious-minded individual, you still want to make room for additional learning. It is common practice for professors to discuss current events and relate it to coursework material and it’s important to stay up-to-date. 

Below is a list of podcast recommendations by concentration; feel free to share your own in the comments below.

International Finance and Economic Policy (IFEP)

Recommendations: Planet Money from NPR and Bloomberg Benchmark by Bloomberg. 

Why: Planet Money does a really fantastic job of explaining current economic events in a very accessible and entertaining way. Case in point: this episode on the Argentinian debt crisis, “A Hedge Fund, A Country, And A Big Sailboat.” Definitely worth listening to, even if you have no background in finance or economics.

Urban and Social Policy (USP)

Recommendations: Justice in America”  by Josie Duffy Rice and Clint Smith, and “Stay Tuned with Preet”, by Preet Bharara.

Why: Admittedly, both podcasts are very U.S.-centered but given the current political climate in America, there is something noteworthy to discuss every day. Preet Bharara is the Former United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York and was fired from his post earlier this year (that is reason enough to listen in itself). Preet uses his career and background to provide insight into events, and frankly, its hard to keep up. For example, this episode on the testimony by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and Brett Kavanaugh which was recorded on Thursday, prior to Jeff Flake’s announcement on Friday that he would only support Kavanaugh’s confirmation following an FBI investigation. And for those international students who are having a hard time keeping track of all these developments — honestly, we are too.

Human Rights & Humanitarian Policy

Recommendations: Declarations: The Human Rights Podcast by Cambridge Centre of Governance and Human Rights. And “Ending Human Trafficking” by Sandra Morgan & Dave Stachowiak. 

Why: Both podcasts do a really great job of covering various human rights issues in a thought provoking way. Declarations is recorded at the Cambridge Centre of Governance and Human Rights and is equal parts academic and practical. “Ending Human Trafficking” is more narrow in it’s focus but is remarkably in depth, for example, this episode, “How to Champion Advocacy in Government”, which discusses how electing more women to government is essential for crafting policy to eliminate human trafficking.

Energy and Environment

Recommendations:  The Energy Transition Show by Chris Nelder and Columbia Energy Exchange by Professor Jason Bordoff

Why: The first podcast was recommended by current and former SIPA Energy and Environment concentrators. Chris Nelder discusses global challenges in energy  and depending on the episode, they are fairly easy to understand if you have no background or knowledge in Energy. The podcast conveniently ranks episodes on a “Geek rating”, with a scale of 10 being suitable to individuals with highly specialized and technical knowledge in Energy (aka EE SIPA Students). The only downfall is that the podcast isn’t free, but I’ve been told that the quality of the content is good and well worth the subscription if you can afford it, or are are willing to forego one Halal cart meal per month. The second podcast is co-hosted by Professor Jason Bordoff (also founder of the Center on Global Energy Policy).

International Security Policy (ISP)

Recommendations: War on The Rocks by Ryan Evans and Lawfare by the Lawfare Institute

Why: Both podcasts were recommended by a former ISP student, and given my very limited knowledge of the topic, I will let this direct quote – which was definitely not sent via text – speak for itself “…they have journalists and people working in the defense and intelligence communities discussing the most pressing national security issues of the day.”

Economic and Political Development (EPD)

Recommendations: Pod Save the World by Crooked Media and Global Dispatches by Mark Goldberg (editor of the UN blog UN Dispatch) 

Why: If you are an EPD concentrator and not yet listening to Pod Save the World, what are you even doing?! The co-host, Tommy Vietor, hails from the Obama Administration, where he worked for President Obama’s National Security Council. Again, somewhat U.S.-centered –I am starting to see a theme here — but it does a great job of discussing foreign policy and the impressive guest list alone is reason enough to listen. Episodes are weekly and cover anything from Syria, to the politics of the World Cup.

Notable mentions that didn’t quite fit into any category:

99% invisible: if you enjoy learning a great deal of incredibly specific information on the most esoteric topics as much as I do, then this podcast is for you! For example, did you know that nearly every statue in New York is modeled after Audrey Munson, an early 1900’s model who went on to live a very eccentric life in upstate New York? Have you ever looked at a straw and wondered about its tragic ties to contemporary capitalism? Well, if you have, you needn’t worry much longer! 99% invisible has you covered with this episode on the history of the straw. To be fair, the podcast is predominantly focused on design, architecture, and the history of things we wouldn’t ordinarily think about (hence the name 99% invisible). Either way, you’d be surprised at just how fascinating the history of the ballpoint is. Fun fact: the Bic pen accounts for the largest percentage of ballpoint pens currently on the market (this is a great conversation starter at SIPA parties, btw — you are welcome!).

Why I Chose to Apply to SIPA

Note from Admissions: The Spring application deadline is coming up, and we hope applicants feel like they’re making good progress with the admissions process. Current student Dylan Hoey has been in your position and reflects on why he applied to SIPA in the first place. 

We encourage you to reach out to us at the Admissions office if you have any questions about the application or just want to talk it over. And if you want to talk to Dylan or other SIPA students about their experience, we can make that happen.


Rodin’s “The Thinker” outside Philosophy Hall [Wikimedia Commons]

During undergrad, like most first year students, I was unsure of what I wanted to major in. At first I was confident that environmental science was the right choice. Within a semester, I was disabused of that idea. After taking an amazing introduction to international relations course, I thought I had settled on international relations. When my second year started, I changed my mind once again and declared as a Government and History dual major, which finally stuck. While I had formally decided on a major, my interest in other subjects did not wane. Thanks to a great liberal arts education, I was able to dabble in almost every major subject, from religious studies to mathematics. Throughout my undergraduate career, I developed an interest in urban studies, post-colonial history and theory, continental philosophy, and film, amongst others.

In turn, when I decided to apply to graduate school, I knew I wanted to be at a place that engaged all of these interests, while also providing me with a central skill set that would allow me to be successful in any industry. I knew that my ideal school would be in a large city, with plenty of extracurricular opportunities to pursue my interest in the arts. Naturally, that narrowed my list of schools down quite considerably.

SIPA had always been on my radar just based off its name recognition, but when I researched more into its curriculum and Columbia’s own resources, I became more and more interested in applying. First of all, I appreciated that SIPA stresses both theory and ‘practical’ applications of course material. As a future U.S. diplomat, I valued SIPA’s diversity, which is unrivaled. I also liked that SIPA has a distinctly international focus, with an emphasis on urban politics and culture. When I looked through SIPA’s course offerings and faculty, I was similarly impressed by the broad array of fields and disciplines represented. I remember also coming across a couple ‘superstar’ professors, including former Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, former New York City Mayor David Dinkins and Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz. On more comprehensive faculty lists outside of SIPA, I saw that one of my favorite authors, Turkish Nobel Laureate Orhan Pamuk, was also listed as a member of Columbia’s faculty. Another search led me to discover that leading Indian post-colonial theorist Gayatri Spivak was a resident faculty member.

When I looked at the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences’ website, I found that the events section was full of film series that I was interested, including a few where the directors themselves were there to answer questions. At the Journalism School, I saw Jelani Cobb, one of the New Yorker’s most prolific and insightful contributors, listed as a professor. While I was certainly drawn in by SIPA’s course offerings, I really fell in love with the idea of Columbia being a place of such great academic diversity. I knew that at SIPA I would receive a world-class education in policy analysis and public management; I had no doubts about that. But I relished the idea of being on a campus where it would be easy to meet people engaged in other fields, and to pursue a truly holistic education. When it was time to finally apply, I was excited at the prospect of enrolling at SIPA, an excitement that has never left me, even as a second year student now.

Current Events Roundup, September

We are currently in week four of the Fall 2018 semester, and its already been a busy four weeks for fellow Seeple students. Between the General Assembly this week, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez visiting Columbia to speak with Professor Joseph Stiglitz and SIPA’s Director of the Technologies Specialization, Anya Schiffrin, and the “Rise of the Rest” – Entrepreneurship Across America event, there have been plenty of things to discuss and attend.

Below is a roundup of some notable September events:

The UN General Assembly

The UN General Assembly is certainly an eventful time in New York. Aside from the bumper to bumper traffic and multiple street closures that take over Midtown East, it is one of the few instances where there is such a high concentration of world leaders in New York City at once. This is, of course, a significant point of interest for SIPA students, who in addition to taking geographic advantage are able to participate in the many intersections of SIPA and the United Nations, including classes and events. This year, the General Assembly has been an especially notable one, much of the conversations will center around three key issues: the Rohingya crisis, Syria, and the Iran Nuclear Deal. The UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres called for an implementation of the Paris climate change agreement. Coverage of the UN General Assembly has varied, but a few key moments have stood out, in particular, the President of The United States’ decision to not meet with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, among other things. Either way, SIPA students have been busy discussing the General Assembly and keeping a close eye as it will continue to be a key topic in classrooms through the semester.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez visits Columbia University 

On June 26th, 2018 Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez became a household name as a Congressional candidate who won the Democratic primary in New York’s 14th Congressional District and beat the incumbent Congressman, Joe Crowley. On September 24th, 2018 she joined Columbia Business School Professor and Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz and SIPA’s Director of the Technologies Specialization, Anya Schiffrin at the Roone Arledge Auditorium at the Riverside Church for a discussion panel. Students were able to attend and ask questions. Much of the conversation centered around grassroots efforts and Ocasio-Cortez spoke of an increasingly mobilized progressive base and encouraged students to engage in on-campus activism. She also spoke to the Democratic party’s increasing isolation of marginalized communities. She stated that it was important for Democrats to engage minority voters through a renewed commitment to their communities. SIPA students were also in attendance.

“The Rise of the Rest” – Entrepreneurship Across America 

On September 12th, 2018 Dean Merit E. Janow, Steve Case, and Secretary Jacob J. Lew sat down for a fireside-chat discussion on entrepreneurship in America. Case, Chairman, and CEO of Revolution and the Co-founder of AOL talked about his “Rise of the Rest” initiative to support entrepreneurship across America. Secretary Lew spoke of policy changes to encourage entrepreneurship, improving immigration policies, for example, can promote entrepreneurship given the high percentage of immigrant founders. They also touched on the impact of a healthy economy on the development of ideas — as long as ideas are strong and people are motivated, the health of the economy becomes less important. The fireside chat ended with a discussion on the regulation of online businesses — is it possible to apply the same levels of regulations that are applied to brick and mortar businesses?

"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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