Archive for Meet Seeples

Summer Stories: Saiful Salihudin MIA ’21 at the United Nations, Princeton, and with AOC

Thanks to Saiful Salihudin MIA ’21, concentrating in Economic and Political Development, for this post.


Apart from learning the culinary art of my native land of Malaysia, I spend my COVID summer days as a Political Affairs intern, at the United Nations Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs, in the Security Council Practices and Charter Research Branch. There, I conduct research on political issues and countries, as they relate to the mandates of the Security Council.

Since March, I attended and covered various Security Council meetings on agendas including the Middle East and the Palestinian Question, Afghanistan, Non-proliferation, and Threats to International Peace and Security; analyze the evolution of the discussion and the working methods of the Security Council; and contribute to the drafting of the Repertoire of the Security Council.

I have also been working as a Researcher at Princeton University’s Empirical Studies of Conflict (ESOC) for their joint project with Microsoft Research Group. I research and analyze various misinformation narratives emerging globally surrounding COVID-19, led by Professor Jacob Shapiro, ESOC co-director and professor of politics and international affairs, at Princeton School of Public and International Affairs. The project aims to contribute ground truth on narratives to help researchers develop better knowledge about the source and impact of misinformation. This also helps industry to develop better tools to prevent their systems from spreading it.

An article I co-authored with my colleagues, as well as ESOC specialist, Jan Oledan, and Prof. Shapiro, based on this analysis, has been published and is now available on the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

I also spent some time working with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez re-election campaign doing check-in calls with the residents of the Bronx and Queens during COVID-19, phonebanking, tabling, and (socially-distanced) canvassing during the primaries. It was a fun experience and I learned a lot about community organizing and political campaign management during this period.

Eduarda Zoghbi MPA ’21 is helping Brazil shape its Green New Deal

Thanks to Eduarda Zoghbi MPA ’21, concentrating in Energy and Environment, for this post.


I decided to study energy and environment at SIPA because I knew it would be the best institution to offer me the opportunity to connect with world-renowned and international faculty experienced in climate negotiations and advising governments. Growing up, I always considered climate change to be the world’s most pressing challenge, and my goal going to SIPA was to learn from the best and make an impactful contribution to my country – Brazil.

This summer I had an opportunity that took me one step closer to this goal. It all started in February, when I learned Brazilian Senator Jaques Wagner was coming to New York to showcase his new mandate to drive the ECLAC/UN Big Push for Sustainability in the Federal Senate. Through the student group “Brazil Talk”, we decided to organize an event and I invited my two employers – the Institute of Latin American Studies (ILAS) and the Center on Global Energy Policy (CGEP) – to host a discussion about the Brazilian Green New Deal for students.

During this event, Jonathan Elkind and Mauricio Cardenas, Senior Research Scholars at CGEP, highlighted the importance of international cooperation as he moderated the senator’s presentation on the potential of renewable energy in Brazil to generate jobs and foster economic development. After meeting the senator and his team, I offered to support the Big Push framework in Congress by providing research and policy recommendations based on the US and the EU Green Deals to ensure a cohesive climate strategy that conformed with Brazil’s political context.

The Senator’s team welcomed my idea and I started seeking for financial support within SIPA. I was thrilled to go back to Brasilia – my home city and capital of Brazil – to interview legislators and work inside Congress. Then, COVID-19 changed everything. Even though I couldn’t travel to Brazil, I was still fully committed to this work. Thanks to Columbia University, I was honored to receive CGEP’s Women in Energy and the Whitman Family Foundation grants to help Senator Jaques Wagner and enhance Brazil’s environmental legislation.

Over the course of this summer, I have broken down the Big Push framework down into concrete action points, identified which were aligned to US/EU Green Deal targets and categorized them into short, medium, and long-term priorities for the country. Next, I carried out a robust legislative mapping of all existing congressional bills in alignment with these priorities. Finally, I recommended a strategy to help his team prioritize voting and sponsoring new pieces of climate legislation.

My work supported the consolidation of three major environmental campaigns: the ECLAC/UN Big Push for Sustainability, the Sustainable Development Goals, and the Paris Agreement. I am very thankful to Senator Jaques Wagner’s team for trusting me with this work and for undertaking such a crucial program to advance climate targets in Congress. Furthermore, I deeply appreciate Columbia University and SIPA for seeing the potential impact of this work and supporting my academic and professional goals. I hope they will continue to support internships and projects promoting a sustainable future for the next generation, and I can’t wait to learn more about the new Climate School!

Ruby Khan (MPA EPD – MA Quantitative Methods ‘21) is uncovering key trends among impact investors during the covid-19 crisis as a Summer Research Associate at The Global Impact Investing Network (GIIN) and pursuing her passion for impact investing at SIPA.

The coronavirus pandemic unexpectedly changed and challenged the way we planned to live, work, and learn in 2020. And internships are no exception to that. The National Association of Colleges and Employers found that 22% of employers rescinded internship offers in light of COVID-19. The pandemic, financial crisis, and social justice movements have presented a challenging time for us. While vulnerable groups have suffered more than others during this distressing time. 

My peers at SIPA and I have very candidly discussed how we are struggling to reconcile the feeling that we are not doing enough, with the reality that under these circumstances, we are doing the best we can. Therefore, before I jump into highlighting my job experience over the summer, I’d like to acknowledge that our normal expectations to be productive at school or work are only secondary to our mental, emotional and physical well-being during this unprecedented time. 

After endlessly scrolling through SIPA’s online portal for applying to jobs and internships (SIPA Link), cold emailing, speaking to professors, virtually connecting with SIPA alumni, and submitting countless applications — I landed a summer associateship at The Global Impact Investing Network (GIIN). I was thrilled to land a summer job in a space I am passionate about, and within an organization I have long admired. 

At the GIIN, I am working with their dynamic Research department on measuring the financial performance of impact investments, conducting research on the impact of impact investments in agriculture and financial inclusion, and performing qualitative and quantitative analyses on how impact investors are responding to COVID-19. 

We recently issued our second brief in a series of sector first reports entitled “The Impact Investing Market in the COVID-19 Context”. This series of reports aims to deliver market intelligence on strategies and financing needs to impact investors. As impact investors are needed now more than ever to address the socio-economic consequences of this pandemic. This series of reports is being published in association with the R3 Investment Coalition, Ford Foundation, The David and Lucile Packard Foundation, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Open Society Foundations, Rockefeller Foundation, and Sorenson Impact Foundation.

Before my summer associateship, as someone who already has a finance degree under her belt, I found the Methods for Development Practice class taught by Professor Eugenia McGill instrumental in expanding my views on impact investing. The course helped me go beyond traditional financial metrics and apply key socio-economic frameworks to impact investing.

In addition to my summer associateship and the classroom, I have continually been able to engage with my passion for impact investing, SRI, and social finance after being selected to serve as an Advisor to Columbia University’s Advisory Committee on Socially Responsible Investing. In this role,  I advise Columbia University’s Trustees on ethical and social issues that may affect investments of the University’s endowment ($10 Billion), review selected shareholder proxies, and monitor the divest/non-invest lists for Sudan, tobacco, private prison operators, and thermal coal.

My time at The GIIN, SIPA, and Columbia at-large has opened doors to resources and opportunities to pursue my passions within impact investing and actively engage with the most challenging questions of our times that have been amplified due to the pandemic. During such challenging times, many SIPA students and I are being called on to serve beyond ourselves and actively engage with organizing, protesting, policy-making, researching, writing, and speaking out on the most pressing issues. And I hope we show up to do so!


Thanks to Ruby Khan, an MPA ’21 and M.S. Quantitative Methods in Social Sciences ’21 dual-degree candidate, for this post.

Meet Francisco Martinez MIA ’20, Officer in the Chilean Navy

My name is Francisco Martinez, a Class of 2020 graduate of the Master of International Affairs (MIA) program with a International Security Policy (ISP) concentration and specializing in East Asia.

What did you do before attending SIPA?

I am an officer in the Chilean Navy. I was posted in the Naval Polytechnic Academy in Vina del Mar, Chile. My job there was to make sure the naval undergraduates succeed in their professional and technical careers. I was also sent as liaison to an Argentinian navy ship to patrol the Antarctic. Been in the Antarctic was an experience out of this world. Sealife, low temperatures, and Scientifics doing research showed how humankind could work under extreme conditions while also taking care of the environment. The mix of nationalities of all of us there in the Antarctic made me think that working in a multicultural environment is a challenge that I would love to take.

Why did you choose the ISP concentration and East Asia regional specialization?

I have been in the Navy for twenty years. During all those years, I was intrigued by Defense topics like Great Power competition and the different flashpoints around the world. Also, I like History, so I wanted to study how History has shaped security issues until today.

Before accepting the admission offer to join Columbia University, I thought about going to East Asia or Europe, perhaps to study. Still, then I realized that the U.S. had experienced professors in all security and regional studies, so I thought that I definitely wanted to join ISP here at SIPA.

About the specialization, I wasn’t sure about it. I changed halfway through my second year. I wanted to take more security courses, but the specialization requirement forced me to look for the one that contains more security studies, that’s why I chose East Asia. Before joining SIPA, I thought I knew about that part of the world. Still, after taking classes with professors Christensen, Scott, Hikotami, and Noerper, I realized that I had to be humble about my “knowledge.”

What are some of your most memorable SIPA experiences?

Definitely the D.C. Conference and the ISP Crisis simulation. In the former, I realized the importance that SIPA gives to the networking event. The most prominent place to shape policy is Washington D.C. I was amazed about the interaction between alumni and current SIPA students. I never thought about a networking event like that, but at the same time, it made complete sense to me. The ISP crisis simulation was a helpful way to prepare students to interact with each other in a crisis simulation environment. I took part in the organizing team, and it was interesting to see how some teams immersed themselves in their role and start acting like the countries they were representing. Even though we had a script about the simulation, the students’ ingenuity never stopped to amaze us during the event.

The next event that was memorable to me was the Staff ride to Gettysburg. Professor Stephen Biddle led the trip. He showed us the different perspectives from the soldiers on the ground that day, like how the trees affect the line of sight of cannons, or the effort required to prepare the scenario for battle with short notice. I realized that, as a Navy guy, my knowledge about inland operations was quite limited. I saw that in the field, the battle is much different than in the planning process. This may sound obvious to some of the readers, but for future leaders, it is crucial. You cannot successfully lead teams when you don’t know what the challenges they will face are. That was the main takeaway from my experience on that trip.

How did SIPA affect you?

SIPA change the way I saw the University. Before coming to SIPA, I was thinking about just to study, like sitting in a classroom and then going to the library. However, I was amazed at the opportunities for networking with different organizations or alumni. The other big part was the challenges, conferences, and simulations. On these occasions, students could participate as active members of teams and develop ideas or new policies to have a big impact on the challenge ahead.

The other aspect was that different perspectives shared in classes for the students. In some issues, I learned how the same problem could be seen from the different approaches. Accordingly, new policies could be implemented from those perspectives to be more effective at making the world a better place.

What did you do after SIPA?

I returned to the Navy. These are hard times, social unrest, and the Coronavirus pandemic made me think that, after all, that I learned at SIPA, I could apply the theory and be useful to Chile, contributing to make it a better place for everyone. During the last days of the Spring semester, I spent roughly one month at home, just finishing exams, while many people around the world were risking their lives to save their fellow citizens. It was then when I felt the need to act and do something. Now, after graduation from SIPA, I am doing something for my compatriots.

SIPA CERV – SIPA’s Newest Student Organization

This post is co-authored by Jacob Stern MPA ‘21 and Matthew Miller MPA ’21 (pictured on the far left, and third from the left respectively).

One rainy Thursday night this past fall, we were sitting at a local restaurant waiting for some other friends to arrive. While we were talking about what we wanted to get out of our SIPA experience, one theme that kept coming up was community engagement and public service. Disappointed and surprised to find there was not already a student organization dedicated to community engagement and public service, after an extended brainstorming session, we decided to start our own.

Thus, SIPA Community Engagement and Resource Volunteers (CERV) was born! We began working with the Office of Student Affairs and quickly grew our membership base to what it is today – over 60 members.

If community engagement and public service is something you are passionate about or if it is a topic that you are looking to learn more about, we encourage you to join us this fall. We have some great programming planned!

What is the goal of SIPA CERV?

SIPA CERV was founded on the principle of promoting a sustainable mutually beneficial relationship between the SIPA community and the Harlem/Morningside neighborhood. It is a neighborhood into which we are welcomed for two years, and we believe it is our responsibility to actively support informed and persistent involvement in public service. Columbia and Harlem have often had a difficult relationship and we strongly believe in promoting and fostering understanding and driving positive change in both communities through volunteerism and service.

How does SIPA CERV do this?

SIPA CERV works closely with the Harlem community, student body and the Office of Student Affairs to understand programming needs. On our daily walk from our homes in Harlem to the university, we were struck by the long lines at the neighborhood food bank and pro bono tax prep center. We quickly sensed an opportunity for SIPA students to get involved in and help the local community. SIPA CERV had found its first partner, Food Bank for NYC.

Last Semester’s Events: Partnership with the FoodBank for NYC

In Winter 2020, through our partnership with FoodBank for NYC, which has multiple locations within a few blocks of SIPA’s campus on 116th Street, we were able to offer the SIPA community multiple avenues to pursue service. We were active participants in both their Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) and Community Kitchen programs, and found them immensely rewarding. Being able to help a local resident with their taxes and tell them they would be getting a $10,000 refund was precisely the type of collaboration between SIPA and the community that we had intended when we started CERV.

Despite the FoodBank suspending their programs in March due to COVID-19, CERV members volunteered in aggregate 145 hours and returned $161,000 in tax refunds to the local community this semester.  SIPA CERV members stepped up again in times of need and served over 500 meals at the Harlem Food Bank as local restaurants were closing due to COVID-19.  This feat could not have been accomplished without the dedicated SIPA CERV club members.

Why did you join SIPA CERV?

“I was struck by the visible wealth gap and disconnect between the shiny Columbia University buildings and the neighboring Harlem community, where poverty rates are higher than citywide rates. I also see public service as an integral part of a public policy education and SIPA CERV provided a unique opportunity to give back and help connect with the local community.”
Hon (Xing) Wong MPA Candidate ’21 | Energy and Environment Concentration:

“I joined SIPA CERV as a way to both engage with, and contribute to, the local community that has welcomed me as a resident during my time at SIPA. I know how fortunate I am to be able to attend such a top university as Columbia, and I am also acutely aware that there is a lot of need in our community and that so many of our neighbors have not had the same opportunities in life that I have. Joining SIPA CERV provided a really practical way for me to help the community. It’s quite a simple thing for me to take a few hours out of my day to serve meals at the FoodBank, and it’s so rewarding to see how much that can benefit people who might otherwise go hungry. We are taught at SIPA to be leaders in public policy and volunteering through SIPA CERV is a key part of building that foundation.”
Rachel Adeney MPA Candidate ’21 | International Finance and Economic Policy

What’s Next for SIPA CERV?

Next semester, we will continue to partner with the FoodBank for NYC while exploring new ways to engage with the community. Additionally, we see an opportunity for SIPA to be a leader among peer institutions in community engagement, an area that has taken on an enhanced, yet overdue relevance and importance in light of recent events. Our long-term vision is to integrate diverse forms of community engagement into the SIPA curriculum.

"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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