Archive for Meet Seeples

Join Seeple Groups for the camaraderie

The fall 2017 class has around 400 students (MPA/MIA) from around the world with different skills, ideas, and professional backgrounds. Do you appreciate the diversity of perspectives, but are concerned about becoming being just another a number? If that’s a “yes,” then that’s exactly why SIPA came up with Seeple Groups (SIPA + People = Seeple). As a Seeple Groups leader, I wanted to share with all of you the value of this initiative. Launched last year for the Class of 2018, the program is designed to do two things: provide incoming students with dedicated support and to foster interdisciplinary camaraderie that cuts across degree programs (MPA and MIA) and areas of study (concentrations and specializations).

Each Seeple Group consists of around 40 first-year MPA/MIA students, and they are led by select second-year students, known as SIPA Peer Advisors (SPA). Advising deans are also paired up with each group. SPAs, like me, provide wisdom from experience on university resources, course selection, and student life. In other words, we’ll tell you where the least-crowded libraries are; how to navigate the school bureaucracy; how tough a professor is; where to find free food; and where the best happy hours are at. (You know, the important stuff.) In all seriousness, if you’re running into issues as a student, the chances are high that someone else has been through it and resolved it. And if the SPA don’t have the answer, they’ll find someone that does.

For example, during orientation week, we had a first-year student from Asia who discovered that his initial housing plans fell through due to circumstances beyond his control. His family was also due to arrive two weeks later. I don’t think we would have learned how dire the situation was if we hadn’t approached him. Leveraging the network of the SPAs, we managed to find a unit that fit his needs. Result: crisis averted.

The groups as a whole build community within the unit through various events planned by SPAs and their group members. The events range from community service and house parties to ice skating in Midtown and secret Seeples gift exchanges. The ultimate goal of Seeple Groups is to provide a vector for students to build meaningful and life-long friendships. It’ll be one of the first networking platforms you’ll encounter at SIPA. You’ll likely form into problem set teams for Quant and Econ. And even if you feel like it’s not working out, there are countless other opportunities to build new relationships (concentration/specialization happy hours, student organizations events, and student-led cultural and policy excursions around the world to name a few).

I was in Seeples Group B aka “the Rumble Bees” (the groups are named after animals/insects). My favorite part about being a SPA is watching the bonds form within the group. I remember meeting the gang during orientation week and doing ice breakers to get everyone to loosen up. Now, I see them lounging together on campus and tagging each other on Facebook during late-night study sessions. When I was deciding between graduate schools, the strength of a school’s network was a key factor for me. SIPA created Seeple Groups to do exactly this.

[Photo courtesy of Gloria Oh (Seeple Group B Peer Advisor) | Andrew Liu (first row, left) attempting to buzz like a bee with Seeple Group B aka “the Rumble Bees”]

GEN Day 2017 at SIPA

In solidarity with the Columbia undergraduate First-Generation Low Income Partnership (FLIP), SIPA students celebrated GEN Day 2017 on April 10, 2017, to honor and highlight the experiences of first-generation students at Columbia University and at SIPA.

As defined by FLIP, first-generation typically refers to being the first generation of one’s family to achieve the level of education one is pursuing, however, due to distinctions in how one defines family and status, being first-generation can be defined as having a different intellectual, emotional, and academic support system.

Here are brief snapshots into the lives of SIPA first-generation students, as compiled by current student Alejandra Bz.

(Can’t see the images below? You can access them on Facebook here.)

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Social empowerment through pizza

In a video interview with Al Jazeera, pizzeria owner Alejandro Souza, MPA-DP 2013, shares how he’s “teaching people to fish” instead of giving handouts to Mexico City’s homeless population.

Watch the video on Al Jazeera’s website here.

[Photo courtesy of Al Jazeera]

Seeples Spotlight: Amir Safa

This semester the Office of Admissions welcomed three new Program Assistants (PAs) to the team. This week I’m introducing you to each of them in the form of self-interviews. Our last addition to the team is Amir Safa, and he’s concentrating in Economic and Political Development and specializing in Advanced Policy and Economic Analysis. He has a bachelor’s degree from the University College London in archaeology and comes to SIPA with over 10 years experience in the financial industry including investment banking and asset management. For his interview, he elected to write a mini blog post about what SIPA means to him. Here’s what he had to share:

In my final semester here at SIPA studying Economic and Political Development, I offer some thoughts out there about what this experience has meant to me. SIPA has provided me with a wonderful opportunity to refresh myself intellectually after a decade of work experience. The program opened the door for me to meet so many people from all over the world; from countries I only knew from far far away. You can travel the world by walking the corridors of SIPA where you will hear so many languages and stories from people’s lives. The journey continues in the classroom. I decided to take courses that focused on regional economies, including ones examining China, Japan, Latin America and Europe. I am currently learning the nuances of Japanese Economy, not only from Professor Takatoshi Ito but also from my classmates who are visiting from Japan’s Ministry of Finance.

One of my favorite experiences at SIPA was working in an instructional capacity for “Global Energy Policy” with Professor Manuel Pinho, a former IMF Economist and Minister of Economy of Portugal. The students came from all disciplines and departments within the whole university including, SIPA, the Law School, School of Engineering, and the Earth institute. Lectures focused on energy economics, policy, and global trends in renewables. Students learned outside the classroom through problem sets and weekly guest lectures. It was a great opportunity to meet different students from different places and work through the course material together.

I will save the best part for last: I had a pretty unique experience at SIPA. My wife is very understanding of all the time I spend in the library completing group projects, going to class and writing papers into the night. She understands because 90 percent of the time she is right there next me completing her assignments (she is also a student at SIPA!).   

So what is my advice for new students? Break out of your comfort zone, have a coffee with someone from a place you have never been to, and take a class on something you don’t know anything about.

Seeples Spotlight: Ayanda Francis

This semester the Office of Admissions welcomed three new Program Assistants (PAs) to the team. This week I’m introducing you to each of them in the form of self-interviews. It’s ladies first, so say “hello” to Ayanda Francis. Ayanda is Jamaican-American, and she’s from Atlanta, Georgia. Before attending SIPA she was Fulbright ETA in Turkey, and after SIPA she plans to join the US Foreign Service. She’s concentrating in Economic and Political Development and specializing in International Conflict Resolution and Asia. At SIPA, she has been involved in SIPA Students of Color as the former finance chair, Women in Peace and Security as the former Vice President, and has spent her summer in Timor-Leste with UN Women.

What attracted you to SIPA and Columbia University?
My reasons can be split into two categories: personal and professional. Personally, my mother came to Columbia for graduate school and loved every minute of it. As a result, I had visited campus many times with her and have wanted to come to Columbia since I was around 10 years old. Professionally, SIPA happens to have an academic program that matches my desires exactly. I wanted to study both development and conflict resolution, and while many programs force you to choose between the two, SIPA has allowed me to study both in depth. The fact that Columbia is located in NYC doesn’t hurt either. 🙂

What experiences do you think prepared you to attend SIPA?
Attending an engineering school for undergrad definitely helped prepare me for the intensity and rigor of SIPA.  SIPA is hard, y’all! Be prepared.

What has been the best part of your SIPA experience?
Definitely meeting the rest of my classmates. Everyone is brilliant and accomplished and comes from such interesting perspectives that challenge me to look at issues in new ways, but they are also just genuinely awesome people to hang out with. Seeples are also of the work hard play hard mentality, so there’s lots of fun to be had.

Can you comment on the quantitative rigor in the curriculum?
Rigorous! I took the Calc- heavy micro and macro (6400 and 6401), as well as the quant-heavy economic development course. While not entirely murderous, these courses are not for the faint of heart.

What’s your internship experience been like?
I had a FANTASTIC time at UN Women Timor-Leste. I was working with the Women, Peace and Security team on women in the police force– helping the PNTL (national police force) assess themselves on how female officers are treated, what can be done to recruit and retain more women, and how to improve services for women overall. I was doing real and substantive work, representing the UN at governmental meetings, and had the freedom to suggest ideas and projects that would be taken seriously. The office is fantastic and Timor is lovely, so I would beyond highly recommend it!

How did you obtain your internship?
A class called “ Applied Peacebuilding.” I also HIGHLY recommend it. It’s project based, so you are guaranteed an internship if you get into the course. It’s much different than any other SIPA course you’ll take so I would recommend that those interested apply for it!

[Photo courtesy of Ayanda Francis, pictured left]

"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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