Archive for Meet Seeples

SIPA alumni on Forbes 30 Under 30; new Columbia Displaced Student Scholarship

The U.S. celebrated Thanksgiving last week, and wherever you are, I hope you were able to spend some time with loved ones and eat a good meal together. Now that we’re back, here’s a SIPA news roundup:

SIPA Alumni Featured on Forbes 30 Under 30

Forbes just released their 30 Under 30 list, which includes co-founders of education-tech startup Learnabi Rahel Tekola MPA ’18 and Niara Valerio MPA ’19! We are so excited that Rahel and Niara are being recognized for their amazing work, especially since we got to know them when they were program assistants at the Office of Admissions and Financial Aid! They shared how they met as students at SIPA and started Learnabi in this blog post from February 2019.

Congratulations Rahel and Niara!

First University-Wide Scholarship Program for Displaced Students

The United Nations estimates that more than 70 million people are currently living as refugees or asylum-seekers, or have been internally displaced due to wars and natural calamity – the largest such population in human history. We’re proud that prospective SIPA students can apply for the world’s first university-wide scholarship for displaced students. Hear from Warda Sahtout MIA ’20 and other Columbia University in the City of New York students about the impact of this scholarship and learn more about applying at

Warda Sahtout MIA ’20

Upcoming Scholarship Opportunities

The SIPA Financial Aid Office maintains a database of external funding opportunities, and we wanted to alert students to some with upcoming application deadlines.  For more external scholarship awards, go to our External Fellowships and Funding Sources page.

Margaret McNamara Education Grants

Requirements: Applicants must be at least 25 years old at the time of the application deadline, a national of a country listed on the MMEG Country Eligibility list, enrolled for a full academic term after award and not related to a World Bank Group, IMF or Inter-American Development Bank.

Deadline: January 15, 2020

Boren Graduate Fellowships

Requirements: Applicants must be US citizens planning an overseas program that meets home institution standards in a country outside of Western Europe, Canada, Australia or New Zealand.

Deadline: January 29, 2020

Lint Center for National Security Scholarships

Requirements: Scholarships provided to Counterintelligence and National Security Workers, their children and scholars, and to advance the study of National Security, cross-cultural studies, and global understanding.

Deadline: January 31, 2020

Straus Historical Society Scholarship

Requirements: Applicants must be U.S. citizens preparing for a career in public service.
Deadline: January 31, 2020

Finlandia Foundation National Scholarships

Requirements: Applicants must be U.S. or Finnish citizens with a minimum GPA 3.0.
Deadline: February 1, 2020

Kappa Kappa Gamma Foundation Scholarships

Requirements: Applicants must be members of Kappa Kappa Gamma.
Deadline: February 1, 2020

Zeta Phi Beta National Education Foundation Scholarship

Requirements: Applicants need not be members of Zeta Phi Beta. Eligibility criteria and award amounts vary, and some are available for international students.

Deadline: February 1, 2020

A week in the life of a 2nd year student

If you haven’t guessed it by now, the 2nd year student is none other than moi (aka Steven, who is writing this post). Some things to keep in mind while reading this:

  1. I’m not a morning person and like to sleep in so my days begin a little later.
  2. I’m taking 16.5 credits and working this semester so I’m doing a quite bit of running around. Talk to enough people at SIPA and you will hear some pretty hectic schedules (i.e 2 jobs, 5 classes and is in 3 groups 😯 )

Everyone at SIPA (especially 2nd years) has a “rough day”…and for me, a rough day is the day that most of your classes are on. All that intro to say that my rough day is Monday:

3 classes…..

6 hours……..

2 sips of water (if I’m lucky).


2:10pm: I start my Mondays off with Decision Models and Management, a super interesting operations management class with a lot of excel optimization model building. This is one of my favorite classes this semester, and I’m learning a lot. The professor, Lucius Riccio, is funny and smart. Homework every week though so I spend a lot of time working on that — despite that, highly recommended class.

4:00pm: I walk about 20 steps to my next class Cyber Threat Intelligence. Another interesting class, lots of insightful reading. I find myself looking up random malware and Youtube-ing videos on how to hack and learn more about vulnerabilities or past hacking incidents. LOTS of Acronyms.

4:05pm: Stomach loudly grumbling in class.

4:10pm: Get some gummy snacks from the vending machine. (PRO TIP: Get a locker and put snacks in it or bring snacks in your bag for your rough days. #dontstarve)

6:10pm: I crawl to my last class, Community Economic Development. I learn all the things about how affordable housing is financed.

8:00pm: Fin

tired arrested development GIF


A WAY LIGHTER DAY THAN MONDAY!!!! My school day doesn’t start until 6:00pm (International Trade)! I usually spend Tuesdays working on Decision Models and cleaning out my inbox (email inboxes fill fast at SIPA. There is A LOT going on). Two days into the week and I’m already fatigued.

I burn my incense and play a lot of R&B at home. After Mondays, I need a day to decompress and exfoliate.


From 11am to 5pm: I am at Admissions working and writing blog posts for all you beautiful people, as I am currently doing right now as I write this.

After work @ 6:10: International Political Economy class

6:15pm: Stomach growling again.

8:00pm again:

tired arrested development GIF


Just working at Admissions from 11am to 5pm, writing more posts and answering all your questions on SIPA!


black lives matter freedom GIF

Friday through Sunday:

A mix of more incense, more R&B, endless readings and problem sets, more sips of water, more gummy snacks and building up the will and core strength to do it all again next week.

brain studying GIF

Note from Admissions: For those applying, Steven will be online to answer your admissions and student life questions on Wednesday, December 4. Check your email to RSVP for our live Q&A.

A View from the Class: Zulpha Styer MPA ’20

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

Hi, I am Zulpha Styer, a second-year Master of Public Administration candidate, concentrating in Urban and Social Policy with a specialization in Management. This year, I’m excited to be participating in the International Fellows Program. I’m also a Global Public Policy Network Sustainable Development Goals Fellow and honored to be a recipient of the General Sir John Monash Foundation scholarship, Australia’s most prestigious scholarship for graduate study overseas.

What were you doing prior to attending SIPA?

I graduated from the University of New South Wales in Sydney in 2013 with a combined Bachelor of Laws and Bachelor of Arts in Politics and International Relations, and Development Studies. For almost six years, I served as a senior policy advisor to the Australian government at the federal and state levels, including as a legal officer on the Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) team in the Australian Attorney-General’s Department and as a policy officer in CVE and indigenous policy with the Department of Premier and Cabinet. While working, I completed a Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice and a Master of Laws with Merit from the Australian National University, and was admitted as a solicitor to the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory. I was also appointed to the Multicultural NSW Regional Advisory Council for South West Sydney, advising the Minister for Multiculturalism on one of the state’s most culturally diverse areas.

Why did you choose SIPA?

I wanted a school with international credibility and renown without a college town experience. It was very important for me to continue to live in a city and be embedded in a community that was more than university students. I also valued SIPA’s much larger international cohort, and the opportunities for practical engagement through capstone projects and practitioner-led courses.

How has your experience at SIPA been so far?

My time at SIPA has been full of incredible experiences in the classroom, in New York City, and abroad. This past summer, I interned with Internews at their Regional Headquarters for Asia. Internews is an international non-profit that supports local communities to participate and make more informed decisions by producing, disseminating, and promoting high quality and trustworthy news. This internship was the fieldwork component of the Applied Peacebuilding and Conflict Resolution course I completed in the spring with Professor Zachary Metz. My specific role focused on projects on peaceful pluralism, religious freedom, and violent extremism in Asia, particularly in Sri Lanka and Myanmar.

What are you looking forward to studying this semester?

This semester, I’m the Teaching Assistant for Professor Horst Fischer’s International Law course, and I’m excited to also be taking a course through the law school which studies Post-9/11, the Trump Administration, and the Rights of Non-Citizens. I’m also excited about Professor Stephen Friedman’s The Art of Social Impact Campaigns course. With the help of Professor Friedman, my team is developing our own campaign on gender-based violence, and I’ll have the opportunity to explore issues I’m passionate about in my country of birth, South Africa.

How has SIPA affected your life?

First and foremost, my SIPA experiences have helped me to refine my personal values, articulate my concerns and hopes, and plan for my personal and professional future. I’ve also learned so much about U.S. politics and society, which I look forward to continuing to explore through the International Fellows Program. While I know I’ve barely scraped the surface, it has been invaluable to reflect on current events with professors with a wealth of knowledge and diverse perspectives, like Mayor Michael Nutter and Professor Christina Greer. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, I’ve developed a strong network of inspiring classmates and generous mentors who will be life-long friends. I am deeply grateful for the community I have at SIPA and already saddened by the prospect of having to say farewell to some of them at the end of this academic year.

Is there a particular SIPA experience that stands out?

Professor Yumiko Shimabukuro’s Comparative Social Welfare Policy course was transformative. A phenomenally talented, dedicated, and thoughtful teacher, Professor Shimabukuro is invested in the success of her students. I’m looking forward to taking her Urban and Social Policy course in my final semester at SIPA, as she is exactly the teacher I need as I prepare to head back out into the world.

What are your plans after SIPA?

In the short-term, I hope to be involved in the 2020 U.S. presidential campaign, working for a candidate or on issue-based advocacy. Afterwards, I plan to spend time working in Cape Town or return to the Australian public sector, ideally working on social cohesion or violence prevention programs.

Getting Involved in Campus – Inside and Outside SIPA

Of course, you’re thinking of applying to SIPA for all the great classes climate policy and impact investing we have and all the super smart professors butttttt…….you might be forgetting something……


The people at SIPA is one of SIPA’s best attributes. The people here are awesome and one very important way to meet more people is getting involved in campus groups and student life!!!! I myself, am the Communications and Marketing Chair of SIPA Students of Color, aka, I tell people in SIPA about the events and talks we are having as well as spending a lot of time looking up memes for newsletters. Due to this role, I have met some cool people who I am glad to say are very good friends (awwww <33).

There are many great student organizations here, some of which include Digital & Cyber Group, Migration Working Group and SIPA Pan-African Network. Anything you are interested in policy-wise, you can find it at SIPA. And if you can’t find it, you can start a new group. You’ll soon be drowning in events with interesting guests including diplomats, CEOs, managers, policymakers and more!

Now SIPA is lovely and all, but you may need a break from the International Affairs Building – seriously, we spend a lot of time here – and it’s important to get out of the SIPA bubble and meet people from other schools.

Columbia University Life is always throwing events that bring together students from different graduate schools. Last year, I met students from Columbia Business School and Columbia Law School at a Latin Student Mixer. Every now and then, I go to talks/events/panels at Maison Francaise/Journalism School/Law School/[other schools that are not SIPA] to meet students from other fields of study and get a feel of something other than international affairs and economics. There are so many cool things going at SIPA that it is easy to forget how much is happening across Columbia University and at the other schools here. I sign up for a lot of experiments so I have met postdocs at the Zuckerman Institute as well.

This is all to say that class is great, but don’t forget that a big part of your grad school experience will be the people you meet. SIPA and Columbia in general have A LOT of interesting people to meet. Remember to take a break from schoolwork and wander around campus, go to different buildings and explore. The University Life app will keep you up to date about what is going on around campus so pay attention to it!

Cassia Moraes MPA-DP ’15 of Youth Climate Leaders

As CEO and partnerships lead at Youth Climate Leaders, Cassia Moraes MPA-DP ’15 is working to build the next generation of climate leaders through a unique around the world experience. Participants learn about climate change in theory, understand it in practice and work on hands-on projects with other young people, ultimately building a community of climate champions.

While at SIPA, she became interested in entrepreneurship and took classes to further that interest. She worked with an international NGO after SIPA, but it was only when she was actively looking for jobs again that she decided to launch her own organization: the Youth Climate Leaders (YCL). SIPA not only provided her a great education but a network that she still relies on at YCL.

As Cassia puts it: “SIPA is one of the best schools in the world which is empowering. You are so privileged to have this experience and, because of it, it is your duty to give back to the world what you learned.”

Learn more about this and other organizations fostered and founded by our Development Practice students here.

Learn more about the MPA-DP Program:

"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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