Archive for Meet Seeples

A View from the Class: Cortney Newell

Hoping everyone stays safe and warm as the winter storm approaches New York!

The SIPA Office of Alumni and Development is pleased to share another installment of A View from the Class, a SIPA stories series featuring current SIPA students, recently graduated alumni, and SIPA faculty. In this issue, we feature current SIPA student, Cortney Newell MPA ’18. Cortney is a second year Master of Public Administration in Development Practice candidate. She is this year’s Trangucci Family Fellow and an International Fellows Program (IFP) Fellow.

What were you doing prior to attending SIPA?

After graduating from the University of Virginia, I spent two years as a journalist for the Knoxville News Sentinel in Tennessee. In 2011, motivated by a desire to work in development, I moved to Siguatepeque, Honduras, where I worked for a bilingual primary and secondary school. Shortly thereafter, I transitioned to Amigos for Christ, a nonprofit organization in Chinandega, Nicaragua, gaining experience in integrated, sustainable community development, and eventually, serving as the Director of Communications.

Why did you choose SIPA?

The MPA-DP program is focused on all the right things: practical professional experiences, interdisciplinary approaches, strong connections to leading professionals and organizations in the sector, and a heavy emphasis on empowering students to shape their own experience.

Please describe some of the work-experience opportunities you’ve had at SIPA.

Since arriving at Columbia, I have focused my studies on humanitarian policy and programming, with a particular interest in how gender affects the experience of different populations in the midst of emergencies. Along those lines, my first year I worked as a research assistant for MADRE, a nonprofit human rights advocacy organization, drafting and editing human rights reports on gender based violence in Iraq and Syria.

This past summer, I worked with Mercy Corps’ humanitarian response in West Nile, Uganda, leading the design and implementation of a new, market-driven mobile phone program targeting 20,000 South Sudanese refugees and Ugandan host community members across the region.

During the fall semester, I worked with the American Red Cross of Greater New York’s Mass Care team to develop a strategic plan for their Emergency Response Vehicles. This semester, I am interning with the International Rescue Committee (IRC), helping the Emergency Preparedness team develop a Communications Strategy that will ensure they are maximizing the impact of their communications both within the Emergency Unit and across the IRC as a whole.

And, finally, I am serving as the Project Manager for an EPD Workshop team which is developing a white paper on gender and intersectionality in the humanitarian sector for the Women’s Refugee Commission.

How has SIPA and your SIPA experiences affected you?

SIPA has taught me how to translate a long career of experiences and a growing set of skills into a cohesive professional profile, while at the same time enabling me to continually expand that catalogue of experiences and skills through the courses and professional experiences I’ve accessed while here. I know that upon graduation I will be empowered to do the work I love much more effectively and at a significantly higher level.

What are your plans after SIPA?

After SIPA, I plan to continue my work in humanitarian aid, working in frontline program management and implementation – most likely in cash, protection, or education programming with a large, international NGO. The nature of the sector means I don’t necessarily know exactly where I’ll be, but I have my eye on developing crises in Latin America and the ongoing emergencies in the Middle East.

A View from the Class: Weyni Tadesse Berhe

The SIPA Office of Alumni and Development is pleased to share another installment of A View from the Class, a SIPA stories series featuring current SIPA students, recently graduated alumni, and SIPA faculty. In this issue, we feature current SIPA student Weyni Tadesse Berhe MIA ’18. Weyni is a second year Master of International Affairs candidate, concentrating in International Finance and Economic Policy with a specialization in Advanced Policy & Economic Analysis, and Management.

What were you doing prior to attending SIPA?

After graduating from the College of Wooster in 2014, I worked as an Adviser at the Permanent Observer Mission of the African Union to the United Nations. During my tenure, I participated in the yearlong intergovernmental negotiations of the Sustainable Development Goals and Financing for Development, G77 and China consultations, UN Economic and Financial Committee meetings, and UN Security Council consultations at the United Nations Headquarters in New York.

Why did you choose SIPA?

During my time at the African Union (AU) Observer Mission to the UN, through collaborations among SIPA, the AU, and the UN, I had opportunities to organize conferences at SIPA and meet SIPA professors and students. I was drawn by the nuanced discussions, the plethora of opportunities to which students have access, and the caliber of students and professors.

Also, my experience at UN intergovernmental negotiations and Security Council deliberations revealed that despite the sizable membership of countries of the Global South, their development priorities and voice within the UN were mitigated by their economic limitations and political uncertainties, and that any policy could not be formulated without taking into account the economic and political realities of each country. I knew that SIPA’s MIA program would provide me with the theoretical tools and practical knowledge to investigate the complimentary nexus among financial markets, economic development, political structures, and policymaking.

What are some experiences outside of the classroom that you have had at SIPA?

During summer 2017, I worked for both Deloitte’s Corporate Finance and GE’s Capital and Healthcare business units. As a Financial Analyst – Consultant at GE, I developed execution plans for on-book and off-book financing for GE’s second and third quarter healthcare portfolio. And, as a Summer Associate at Deloitte, I prepared a real estate industry report for a Deloitte institutional investor that is diversifying its investments from the commodity industry to the real estate market.

This spring, my SIPA Capstone Workshop team and I are working with Morgan Stanley’s Global Financial Crimes unit to revamp the firm’s Anti-Money Laundering – Transaction Monitoring System. I am also involved in different social ventures at Columbia University. I was the President of the SIPA Pan-African Network, and I am the Co-Chair of the 15th Annual African Economic Forum, which is the largest Africa centered conference at Columbia University organized by the African student networks at SIPA, Columbia Business School, and Columbia Law School.

How has SIPA impacted you?

I was born in the midst of an Ethiopian civil war in a small makeshift tent in a battleground to two freedom fighter parents who joined the anti-communist resistance movement to ensure freedom, equality, and liberty for all Ethiopians. Service and the quest for a just, equitable, and free world have been the cornerstone of my upbringing and experience. Being surrounded by like-minded, rising professionals who have committed their lives to uplift the lives of their communities has made my SIPA experience enriching and humbling.

What are your plans after SIPA?

I am keen on exploring innovative and sustainable investment platforms that assist investors in realizing environmentally, socially, and financially driven investments that enhance communities’ quality of life.

Seeples Spotlight: Sebastian Osorio

The Office of Admissions is introducing our semester’s new Program Assistants (PAs) to you in the form of self-interviews.

Today meet Sebastian Osorio, who is currently pursuing his MPA with a concentration in Economic and Political Development. With a BA in Economics and a Graduate Certificate in Regional Development, his strong technical background allows him to move comfortably between sectors and organizations. 

Originally from Colombia, Sebastian started his career as a research assistant at the Colombian Central Bank where he understood the importance of public institutions to foster development. Wanting to have a more active role on policy decisions, he joined in 2009 the presidential campaign of Sergio Fajardo, an independent candidate who was the runner up in the 2010 presidential election. Since then, he has been working as a consultant, policy advisor and public servant helping to find solutions to inequality, violence and illegality, the main problems of his country. After SIPA, he plans to go back to Colombia to keep bringing about social change through an engagement in politics and public service.

What were you doing before you came to SIPA?

I did two things: I traveled the six months before coming to SIPA in an incredible experience through Oceania, Asia, America and Europe. And, I worked the previous three years as the Advisor/Assistant to Sergio Fajardo when he was the Governor of Antioquia, my home State (he is now running for President).

I was in charge of managing Fajardo’s agenda, briefing him for all his meetings and visits around the state, and being with him at events. It was an incredible and exciting experience where I had the chance to learn the political, economic and social context of my region. It was a very demanding job, as I had to be everywhere with the Governor, leaving almost no room to actually sit down and work. However, I learned from a great politician about how to manage a public office successfully.

What attracted you to SIPA and Columbia University?

Three things attracted me to SIPA and Columbia University. First, the example of supervisors, coworkers and friends who had also been through a MPA here or in other Ivy Leagues school. They all thank their institutions for what they have achieved. Second, because I wanted to be in a cosmopolitan big city like New York. I did not see myself in a school in little town in the middle of nowhere. Third, SIPA offered a program where international students are half of the student body allowing me to meet people from everywhere in the world and connect with them.

What experiences do you think prepared you at attend SIPA?

On one end, having lived abroad in Australia and France before allowed me to open my mind. I do not struggle when I have to meet people from other nationalities or in other languages; I actually enjoy it and I love the diversity. On another front, an extended professional experience (compared to the SIPA average) that allowed me to learn from people with different skills, backgrounds and personalities. I’m able to better understand other people’s needs and concerns, and my experience gave me a better understanding of what classes to take and how to get the most from the MPA program.

Have you taken classes at other Columbia Schools?

I have taken two classes at Columbia Business School, Managerial Negotiations with Michael Slepian, and Power and Influence with Mabel Abraham. They both have been great. I highly recommend anyone at Columbia taking classes in a different school. You get a fresh and different perspective on many issues, you meet new people, and you explore the campus. I took both at CBS because I was very interested in how to build and manage relationships, and they have great faculty there.

What’s your internship experience been like?

I did my internship in Liberia in a grassroots organization called Camp for Peace. I got the internship through a class at SIPA called Applied Peacebuilding, where you are assigned a project from the beginning of the semester and work on it until you have your field trip in the summer. I lived there for 10 weeks and it was really challenging to be in one of the poorest countries in the world, working in very basic conditions. Nevertheless, it was incredibly gratifying to be able to help the organization to build their strategy to help war affected youth to become self-sufficient. I traveled around the country and I learned several things that can be applied to the peace process in Colombia.

What has been the best part of your SIPA experience?

The people I meet is the highlight of the experience. Yes, New York is incredible. Yes, SIPA and Columbia are amazing institutions. Yet, the people I have met at SIPA are the real treasure. I have an incredible and smart group of friends with a lot of diversity of countries, background and interests. Every day they have something interesting to do and to talk about. The academic experiences, the trips we have made, the parties, the discussions, the company we make to each other is what I will remember the most from SIPA.


Click here to meet our other new PA, Tedros!

Seeples Spotlight: Tedros Abraham

Every semester the Office of Admissions welcomes new Program Assistants (PAs) to our team. We’ve asked them to introduce themselves in the form of self-interviews for a real-life look at a current Seeple and how they ended up at SIPA and Columbia University.

Today we’re introducing Tedros Abraham, a second-year MIA student from Boston concentrating in International Security Policy and specializing in International Conflict Resolution. At SIPA, his focus has been on nuclear non-proliferation and violent non-state actors. Before graduate school, he served as a legislative aide in the U.S. Senate with a portfolio encompassing foreign affairs, defense, intelligence, veterans’ affairs, and judiciary issues. Tedros’s experience working on the Iran nuclear deal was a central motivation for his graduate study of International Security Policy.

Before working in the Senate, Tedros managed an 8th to 9th grade transition program in Portland, OR, first as an AmeriCorps member and later as full-time staff. Employing data-backed metrics, this program identified the students in 8th grade who were most likely to drop out of high school. This allowed for early targeting of resources and interventions to these students before their high school careers began.

Check back on Friday to meet our other new PA, Sebastian! –– SIPA Office of Admissions

What experiences do you think prepared you to attend Columbia SIPA?
I have been fortunate to work in multiple areas of public policy and at different levels of government. This exposure was critical in helping me develop a narrow focus while at SIPA. Four semesters does not offer a lot of time to explore a wide range of interests, and this time is further constrained by the graduation requirements. Bringing a narrowly defined interest allows students to build relationships with professors in that field, use their electives for relevant classes, and build up the academic background to improve their competitive advantage when looking for jobs after school.

What do you hope to gain from earning a master’s degree at SIPA?
I decided to pursue a master’s degree because I felt I had hit a professional ceiling. I knew that attending SIPA would bolster my subject area expertise, provide a professional cohort that would grow with me, and give me access to a faculty that would be able to provide me valuable guidance as I plan for my career. I have gained all of this and more. What I could not have predicted were the opportunities to meet and work with leaders.

Did you have a lot of quantitative experience when you applied to SIPA? 
While I had taken statistics and introductory economics in college, it had been over 10 years ago by the time I started at SIPA and I did not feel confident in my quantitative skills. To bolster my application and better prepare for the quantitative coursework, I took courses in calculus and microeconomics immediately before applying to SIPA. While I found the economics and quantitative analysis coursework challenging, there were significant resources available to help us.

What attracted you to SIPA?
I chose to attend SIPA because of the school’s academic reputation, the diversity of the student body, it’s New York location, and because of the access to the rest of Columbia University. It was initially difficult to pick between SIPA and its competitors but I now know I made the right decision.

Any advice for applicants?
By taking advantage of the information sessions and the opportunities to talk to current students, you can get a sense of the strengths and weaknesses in your application. By starting early, you can take classes to improve your quantitative background, retake standardized tests, or find ways to gain needed experience in your field.

SIPA Love Stories 2018: Seeples Exploring the World Together

There are many reasons to love Columbia SIPA: Innovative classes, an international community, the global hub that is New York City. But these Seeples have an extra reason – they found their better halves here. For Valentine’s Day, we’re sharing three new SIPA Love Stories from our alumni.

Today meet Jon (MPA ’13) and Valle (MIA ’14), world travelers that started with first dates exploring New York City, then the United States, and now Spain and Europe. And Tian (MIA ’15) and André (MIA ’15), avid travelers who initially bonded over shared backgrounds in Asia, are looking forward to their next trip – one that will start them on their new life journey together.

Check back tomorrow for another installment of SIPA Love Stories!

Jon (MPA ’13) and Valle (MIA ’14)

Jon and Valle at graduation.

Jon and Valle met during orientation week in August 2012. Jon, an Oregonian, was about to start his second year at SIPA and was tabling to recruit editorial assistants for the Journal of International Affairs. He succeeded in recruiting Valle, an incoming student from Spain. Jon and Valle teamed up in the editing workshops and coincidentally had a class together with Professor Gottlieb.

After arriving in New York City, Valle was in the market for a bike. Jon owned two and attempted to sell her one; instead, Valle started borrowing it for their biking dates across New York, and over time she claimed Jon’s bike as her own. For one of their first dates, they biked from campus all the way to the Cloisters, where Valle survived a dramatic accident – luckily without injuries! Together they explored the city on two wheels having Mexican food in the Bronx, discovering a secret Spanish club in Astoria, Queens, and enjoying Cuban music in Hoboken, NJ.

After New York City, Jon and Valle moved to Washington, D.C., both working in international development. For those few years, they used every weekend and holiday to travel around the United States, visiting over 25 states from Idaho to Ohio to Mississippi.

The two got married in July 2017 and now live in Spain. They live in a beautiful garret in Madrid’s literary quarter, and they are embracing their new weekend getaways across Spain and Europe.

Jon and Valle do miss New York — a place that will always be home for them. They try to visit the city whenever they can and, if possible, stay near Columbia University to reminisce at the Hungarian Pastry Shop about how it all began.

Tian (MIA ’15) and André (MIA ’15)

Tian, a recent college graduate from China, and André, who had just moved back to the U.S. after working in Japan, met at their first class of SIPA’s Fall 2013 semester. They soon came to realize their common passion for global macroeconomics, similar backgrounds in Asia, and shared love for Lord of the Rings and Civilization. During their joint adventures, they’ve had good times, rough times, but never bad times.

Both avid travelers, they are constantly planning their next trip. They are especially excited about the upcoming one in September, where, surrounded by friends and family, Tian and André will celebrate the official beginning of their life journey together.

You can find our archives of SIPA Love Stories 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

Boiler Image