Archive for Meet Seeples

A View from the Class: Basbibi Kakar MIA ’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, recently graduated alumni, and faculty. In this issue, we feature current SIPA student, Basbibi Kakar MIA ’20. Basbibi is a KUMA/Kuznetsov Fellow and a first year Master of International Affairs candidate, concentrating in Economic and Political Development and specializing in Advanced Policy and Economic Analysis.

What were you doing prior to attending SIPA?

After graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in business from Montclair State University in New Jersey, I worked as a finance and operations intern at the Rockefeller Brothers Fund for a year. During that time, I also interned with the Malala Fund, focusing on grant writing, philanthropic outreach, and support to country representatives from Pakistan, India, Turkey, Nigeria, and Afghanistan in preparation for the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in London. I also managed language translations of the Girl Advocacy Guide, a help guide for advocating for girls education and human rights, and the Fund’s partnership with NaTakallam, a service which pairs Arabic-speaking displaced persons with learners around the world for language practice over Skype.

I also volunteered with the Rutgers Presbyterian Church to provide translation services for the Refugees Task Force, help to resettle Afghan refugee families, cultural orientation for volunteers working with refugees, and student tutoring.

What was your experience working at the School of Leadership, Afghanistan (SOLA) in Kabul?

I was born in Afghanistan, but grew up in Pakistan as a refugee after my family fled the Taliban. I returned to Afghanistan in 2008. Before attending Montclair State, I worked full-time as Assistant Head of School at the School of Leadership, Afghanistan (SOLA), the only secondary boarding school for girls in Afghanistan. At SOLA, I helped design a curriculum that included cross-cultural exchanges and distance learning via a virtual exchange program. In partnership with the Global Nomads Group, an organization leveraging technology to connect middle and high school students with peers from around the world, we connected SOLA students and teachers with U.S. classrooms to promote empathy, awareness, and agency to tackle pressing issues. It was a privilege working at SOLA, watching ambitious 12 to 19 year old girls have the opportunity to receive an education and listening to the remarkable stories of parents who, after living with forty years of war, finally had hope for the futures of their children.

Why did you decide to pursue a graduate degree and attend SIPA?

Growing up and working in Afghanistan, I have experienced firsthand the need for better development policies and policymakers. I believe those who have lived in the country will be most effective in making those changes. I decided to attend graduate school so that I can be one of those changemakers, and I chose SIPA because of its international focus and policy concentrations and opportunities for practical as well as classroom experiences.

Why have you chosen to concentrate in Economic and Political Development? 

There is a dire need for educated people in all sectors in Afghanistan, and women play an important role in conflict and post-conflict recovery. However, women are underrepresented in Afghanistan’s economic and business sector. I want to be a positive force in improving Afghanistan’s economy, reducing the effects of war, and preventing further violence. Positive economic initiatives will provide job opportunities for younger generations, moving the country towards peace and prosperity.

What has been your experience thus far in your first semester at SIPA?

I have enjoyed my first semester and meeting students from all over the world. The professors are highly competent, delivering great lectures and providing support with assignments and constructive guidance. I have been challenged from the start, but am confident that the experience will help me develop both personally and professionally.

Is there anything else that you would like to add?

It has been hard for me to leave my family and other loved ones back in Afghanistan, especially given the unrest and violence that occurs on a daily basis. However, I am determined to stay strong, completing my degree at SIPA and making the most of my experience.

What does voting mean to SIPA students during this midterm election?

SIPA is closed today for the 2018 U.S. elections. This is a midterm election, meaning it takes place halfway through a president’s four-year term. Today, voters across the country will go to the polls to for positions from Congress all the way to local school board members.

Over the last few weeks, SIPA students have been incredibly involved in get out the vote efforts, including student organization Civic & Voter Engagement Coalition (CiVEC). They’ve been phone banking, canvassing, registering voters, and most recently flew out to Florida, Texas, and Georgia to help get civically engaged. Many are staying in the New York and New Jersey area to help get out the vote.

Why? Here’s what voting means to them:

“Civic Engagement is a quintessential element of what makes our American democracy so beautiful and appealing to many. It is important, now more than ever, to exercise our right to vote and amplify the voices of those who believe that decency and hard work can overcome hate and polarization.” — Andres Chong-Qui Torres ’19, SIPA CiVEC Co-Founder and President

“To me, voting is about more than making my own voice heard. I vote because as a CiVEC member, SIPA student, and a progressive, I know my voice is loudest when it comes together with the voices of my friends and neighbors.” — Alexandra Yellin ’20, SIPA CiVEC Member

CiVEC students have been working to get out the vote in Florida, Texas, Georgia, New York, and New Jersey.

See more photos of SIPA CiVEC on Facebook.

Identity @ SIPA: Defining Who We Are

On October 25th, SIPA hosted a discussion on identity within the school. Seven fellow second-year students and I, all holding a multitude of salient identities, gathered around a table to discuss how identity plays an integral role in their experience at SIPA. Surrounded by an audience of our peers, we discussed the importance of diversity in higher education, how our identities have shifted since coming to SIPA, and the misconceptions people place on them because of their identities. The hour-long discussion ended with a Q&A session where students in the audience asked questions on the shaping of identity and shared stories of how their identities have interacted and interplayed as students at SIPA.

L-R: Katy Swartz, Karla Henriquez, Mike Drake, Maria Fernanda Avila Ruiz, Kier Joy, Maggie Wang, Lindsay Horne, Nitin Magima

One of the themes that revealed themselves over the discussion focused around many international students’ reconciliation with coming from racially/ethnically homogeneous spaces to the diversity that SIPA holds. One student discussed how in her home country in Latin America, she has always been seen as white but upon moving to America, she was seen as a person of color. Another student talked about how her citizenship identity became emphasized when she moved to SIPA. Even as a domestic student who hasn’t been in as diverse of spaces as SIPA, I can say I experienced a shift in identity where my Americanism has been emphasized as it contrasts with the dozens of different nationalities SIPA has to offer.

Students also discussed how community at SIPA has been one of their strongest support structures when facing the difficulties of grad school at SIPA. Many shared moments where they were able to lean on fellow SIPA students during hard times. This ultimately led to a discussion on the importance of allyship – for those with privilege to be able to listen, support, and advocate for those who are historically underserved and underrepresented. As the President of the Student of Color organization at our school, I’ve found that there are always non-person of color allies always willing to support our initiatives. The support system embedded within the student body at SIPA has been one of the most rewarding features of my grad school experience.

One of the coolest parts of the Identity @ SIPA event was the playlist that was created to play as students entered and left the discussion. Each student panelists contributed two songs that represented their identity. I chose “F.U.B.U.” by Solange and “Born This Way” by Lady Gaga. You can hear the entire playlist here on Spotify.

Meeting Africa’s funding gap to meet the SDGs and how an MDP student is part of this ambitious objective

Africa faces an annual funding gap of $1.3 trillion if it is to meet the SDGs by 2030. MPA-DP student Ji Qi traveled to Kigali, Rwanda, as part of the program’s summer placement, to work at The Sustainable Development Goals Center for Africa and look at how development banks can improve their performance against international best practices and benchmarks to contribute to the achievement of the #SDGs in the continent. In his own words “I’m really glad to be part of this ambitious continent-wide initiative which can help turn the development banks into the true driving force behind Africa’s sustainable development.”

 

Camille Laurente MIA ’16 Defines “Interdisciplinary”

We often talk about SIPA’s interdisciplinary curriculum as a major benefit of our program for candidates. SIPA alumni go into government, international affairs, and policy positions (see: Eric Garcetti, Bill de Blasio), and many also do work that exemplify “interdisciplinary.”

Camille Laurente MIA ’16, is the creator and host of Sincerely, Hueman, a podcast that tells the “remarkable, diverse tales of advocates, philanthropists and everyday people who started local and global movements for social good.”

Formerly a corporate lawyer, Camille credits SIPA with expanding her perspective on how to use media as a tool for social good. Camille specialized in Technology, Media and Communications, an area for those interested in digital technology and writing skills among many other, well, interdisciplinary fields. We hope that readers of this blog are familiar with the numerous real-world examples of the intersection of media, communications, and policy (as well as advocacy, public affairs, and international organizations, just to name a few).

Sincerely, Hueman is now on Season 2, and its already caught the attention of Bill Gates. (You can listen to that episode here.) You can find Sincerely, Hueman wherever you get your podcasts. If you’re part of the Columbia University / SIPA community and are interested in connecting with Camille and her company, check out Hueman Group Media.

If you’re interested in learning more about SIPA’s interdisciplinary curriculum, you can come to an info session or find us at a city near you. If you’re sure that SIPA will help you where you need to go, remember that our 2019 application is open.

"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

Boiler Image