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Highlights from the 2016-17 academic year

A lot happened at SIPA this year that our incoming Fall 2017 Seeples may need to know about prior to joining the program in September. We welcomed some amazing new faculty and community leaders to campus, created capstone projects with institutions in more than 38 countries, celebrated our 70th anniversary, and added to our summer reading lists with new books by SIPA authors, among other activities.

As told by Dean Merit Janow, here’s a look at what happened with our Seeples during the 2016-17 academic year.

New and Visiting Faculty

We were delighted to welcome some truly exceptional faculty to SIPA this past academic year. Former U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew joined us as a Visiting Professor starting in February 2017.  This spring he taught a very popular short course on leadership and international economic policy and will teach an expanded version in the fall.

Visiting faculty included Israeli historian Shlomo Ben Ami, who served as the McGovern Professor in the Fall of 2016, and delivered the McGovern lecture on the subject of The Politics of Conflict – the Mideast and Beyond; and Ronaldo Lemos, co-founder and Director of the Institute for Technology & Society of Rio de Janeiro, taught a new course, “Tech Policy and Culture in the Developing World: Living on the Edge.”

Among our new full-time faculty members, Rodrigo Soares, a Brazilian economist, joined us as the inaugural Lemann Professor of Brazilian Public Policy; and Alexander Hertel-Fernandez, a specialist in U.S. political economy and the politics of organized interests, joined us as assistant professor of international and public affairs.

Capstones and Courses

SIPA’s capstone program is the largest and most diverse of any public policy school. This year SIPA students participated in 63 capstone and 18 EPD workshops, working with institutions in the public, private and non-profit sectors in more than 38 countries.  The projects ranged from cybersecurity and ICT for development to sustainable finance and refugee workforce integration. (You may view a full list here.)

I invite you to watch two brief videos about capstone projects this year that addressed issues of social conflict and the mining industry in Peru, and a new digital medical “library” in the Dominican Republic. (They can be found here.)

The SIPA curriculum also covers a wide range of critical public policy issues as well as many other important fields. In 2016-17, we added 45 courses in areas such as environmental finance, the Panama papers, gender armed conflict, forced migration, macro-prudential policy, China and India, and tech, policy and culture in the developing world. A full list with descriptions is available on the SIPA website.

Student Teaching Award

Each year our students and faculty receive numerous awards for their achievements. One University award that bears mention is the one given to PhD student Jason Chun Yu Wong who was a recipient of the 2017 Presidential Award for Graduate Students. This is a highly selective award given to only three graduate students each year from across the University who demonstrate a commitment to excellent and innovative teaching, as recognized by the Columbia community.  Please join me in congratulating him.

A Convening Hub for Leaders

As is the case every year at SIPA, we welcomed literally hundreds of high-profile speakers and leaders to campus to share their views and interact with students and faculty. This year featured a particularly diverse and accomplished roster. A few highlights by month:

  • On September 21st SIPA hosted the first-ever “Transatlantic Citizens Dialogue” featuring Margrethe Vestager, the EU competition commissioner, speaking about Tax Avoidance and Privacy in the Digital Age.  A live audience in Milan, Italy was connected to SIPA via a video link.
  • On October 26th, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon delivered the Gabriel Silver Memorial Lecture on “Turmoil, Transition, and Opportunity: The United Nations in a Changing World.”
  • On November 15th, George Osborne, former Chancellor of the Exchequer for the United Kingdom, spoke on “Brexit, the U.S. Elections, and the Global Economy.”
  • On December 5th, Emmanuel Macron, the recently elected President of France, shared his thoughts on “Re-forging Transatlantic Bonds.”
  • Toomas Hendrik Ilves, former President of Estonia, delivered a keynote address and participated in a panel discussion on March 2nd with SIPA and Columbia faculty on the subject, “Russia and Cyber – The Way Forward.”
  • On April 17th, Stanley Fischer, Federal Reserve Vice Chair, delivered the inaugural lecture on central banking, and on April 24th Urjit Patel, Governor of the Reserve Bank of India, delivered the 3rd Kotak Family Lecture on India’s economy.
  • On May 5th Eric Schmidt, Executive Chairman of Alphabet, Inc. headlined the 2017 Global Digital Futures Forum, an annual conference with more than 25 expert speakers organized by SIPA’s Tech and Policy Initiative, with a focus this year on digital technology, fragmentation of the internet, and globalization.

SIPA Center Activities

Our SIPA Centers continued to undertake cutting edge research and host major events in areas such as global energy policy, global economic governance, economic development, war and peace studies, and the Indian economy.

Some noteworthy activities include the Center on Global Energy Policy’s annual Columbia Global Energy Summit, which took place on April 13th, and the Center for Development Economics and Policy’s Clyde Wu Visiting Fellows Program. On October 13th the Saltzman Institute convened the National Security Scholars Conference featuring Deborah Lee James, U.S. Secretary of the Air Force and SIPA alumna (MIA ’81).  The Center on Global Economic Governance hosted major conferences in Brazil and China as part of its “Strategies for Growth: The Changing Role of the State” initiative.  And the Deepak and Neera Raj Center on Indian Economic Policies sponsored a one-day conference on Trade Issues Today on October 3rd, 2016.

Explore the Center websites for even more programming as the new academic year begins.

SIPA’s 70th Anniversary

Many of you participated in our 70th anniversary events and activities throughout the year. It ended with a 70th Celebration Weekend from March 30th to April 2nd, during which we had the largest gathering of SIPA alumni in the School’s history, a terrific all-day SIPA Forum on substantive policy issues, and the Global Leadership Awards Gala – attended by more than 700 guests.

Below are a few links to the weekend’s activities:

The 70th anniversary fundraising efforts helped us achieve an important outcome by generating $1.2 million in new student financial aid and creating 80 new student fellowships.

New Books by SIPA Authors – Great Summer Reading!

Lastly, SIPA faculty published a number of new books this year. These include Guillermo Calvo’s Macroeconomics in Times of Liquidity Crises (2016, MIT Press); Daniel Corstange’s The Price of a Vote in the Middle East (2016, Cambridge University Press); Robert Jervis’ How Statesmen Think: The Psychology of International Politics (2017, Princeton University Press); and Sara Tjossem’s Fostering Internationalism through Marine Science (2017, Springer).

Students take part in symposium on gender law and constitutions

A group of students in the Gender, Globalization and Human Rights class taught by Yasmine Ergas in spring 2017 took part in last month’s Second International Symposium on Gender, Law and Constitutions, held April 12 and 13 in Washington, D.C.

The conference was organized by UN Women and the United States Institute of Peace; one SIPA student, Ashleigh Montgomery, MIA ’17, had worked on the conference as a Women, Peace, and Security intern for UN Women last summer.

The theme of the conference was “Equitable Constitutions,” and programming focused on constitutions and gender equality policy. A series of panels featuring speakers from UN Women and other NGOs, Many students presented on constitutions and other aspects of gender policy—including the SIPA delegation, which addressed the gender politics of populist and nationalist movements and governments.

Two things that especially distinguished the event, Ergas said, were the geographic range of participants—who represented universities in the United States, Europe, Middle East, and Africa—and the deep engagement of audience members in the students’ research. Both students and participating faculty gave extensive feedback to student presenters.

But the conference was noteworthy for another reason as well, Ergas said.

“I learned a lot, but I also saw an international network start to take shape,” she said. “A cohort of students, scholars, and practitioners came together to work on gender and equality from the perspectives of law and public policy, and I think their combined contributions are going to expand, and have a determining impact for years to come.”

In addition to Columbia, universities represented at the symposium included Adam Mikckiewicz University (Poland); Hebrew University of Jerusalem (Israel); Universidad de Alcala (Spain); Universita Bocconi (Italy), Universita’ degli Studi di Milano (Italy); University of Birmingham (UK); University of Chicago; University of Malawi; University of Pennsylvania; and University of Westminster (UK).

Pictured: Yasmine Ergas (center) is surrounded by student participants

Gillian Tee, MIA/MBA ’12, creates senior care start-up in Singapore

Barely 10 minutes into the interview, Miss Gillian Tee is asking for time out and a drink of water.

The 34-year-old had no problems handling the cut and thrust of New York and Silicon Valley technopreneurship for a decade, but talking about her late nanny and maternal grandmother is making her teary and a tad emotional.

“You’re good,” she says, sheepishly dabbing the tears at the corner of her eyes.

Her late nanny, then a 60-something woman from Kuala Lumpur, practically raised her until she was 10, while her maternal grandmother lovingly cocooned her from the turbulence of her parents’ divorce during her teens.

“It was rough, but they were a source of comfort. They had a huge impact on my life,” says Ms Tee, adding that she developed a soft spot for the elderly as a result.

This affinity is one of the reasons she gave up a heady career in New York City and Silicon Valley, where she co-founded Rocketrip, a start-up to reduce travel costs, which has raised US$18 million (S$25 million) in funding.

She is now home in Singapore where she has set up Homage, a start-up which connects professional caregivers with seniors who need help.

Read the rest of the interview at Straitstimes.com.

[Video still courtesy of Straitstime.com]

Columbia University unveils new campus sustainability plan

Just in time for Earth Day last week, Columbia University pledged to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 35 percent in the next three years through a mix of energy conservation and efficiency measures under its first campus sustainability plan.

The three-year plan, released a day before Earth Day, represents a practical fulfillment of the sustainability principles that university President Lee C. Bollinger announced at the beginning of the academic year. It sets clear targets for shrinking Columbia’s carbon footprint and reducing waste by improving efficiencies in campus operations, boosting composting, recycling and public transit-use, and investing in energy-saving technology.

“At Columbia, we have long understood the profound threat climate change poses to the future of our planet and the role our community should play in confronting it,” Bollinger said. “Through our actions, policies, and behavior, we provide a model for the kind of global response we seek. Most significant in this effort is the basic research conducted by Columbia’s faculty and actively engaged student body working in schools and departments across the University.”

More than a year in the making, the plan was produced with extensive input from students, administrators and faculty scientists—many of them world leaders in the sustainability field. The plan’s overarching goal is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by zeroing in on energy use and conservation, transportation and waste management.

“Columbia has led pioneering research on the environment, and how our actions will affect future generations,” said Executive Vice President for University Facilities and Operations David Greenberg. “With this plan, Columbia is taking concrete steps to limit our own contribution to climate change. Setting measurable goals and actionable strategies will allow us to track our progress.”

Read more about Columbia’s sustainability goals and stakeholder involvement here.

Speak up for what’s right, says Congressman John Lewis

Civil rights icon keynotes 20th annual Dinkins Forum

SIPA’s 70th Anniversary festivities kicked off on March 30 as a selection of boldface names from New York City’s political world joined students, faculty, and alumni at Miller Theatre for this year’s David N. Dinkins Leadership and Public Policy Forum. Headlining the event was keynote speaker John Lewis, the civil rights icon and U.S. congressman whose home district is centered on Atlanta, Georgia.

The annual forum, which marked its 20th year, is named for the SIPA professor who served as New York City’s first African-American mayor. The event continues to provide a platform for analysis and dialogue that addresses many of the challenging issues facing urban policies, programs, and initiatives.

Columbia University President Lee C. Bollinger opened the evening, saluting Lewis’s experiences in the civil rights movement and his lifelong support for equal rights. Without such a “lived sense of where we have been,” Bollinger said, “we cannot really understand where we are and where we must go.”

Dean Merit E. Janow of SIPA introduced the forum’s namesake, David Dinkins, who spoke briefly about the history of the forum and past speakers such as Charles Rangel, Al Gore, and Hillary Clinton.

In welcoming Lewis, Dinkins noted that he had “stood on [Lewis’s] broad, strong shoulders for the last 50 years, along with Americans of all races, ages, and creeds.

“And so have you,” he added, addressing the gathered audience.

Relating some of the congressman’s life experience, Dinkins described how Lewis—a son of Alabama sharecroppers—was active in protesting for freedom, as he participated in sit-ins, bus rides, and marches. Most significant was the 1965 march from Selma to Montgomery known as Bloody Sunday, in which Lewis suffered a fractured skull at the hands of police troopers. Lewis would go on to be arrested 40 times between then and today.

Taking the stage, Lewis spoke about how he was told as a child that segregation of the time was just “the way it is” and not to get in the way. However, with encouragement from a schoolteacher, Lewis read everything he could, he said—about Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr., and others.

He was inspired, he said, to “find a way to get in the way, to get in good trouble, necessary trouble. And I’ve been getting in trouble ever since.”

Using the cadences of a preacher and alternating between quiet and booming tones, Lewis said his philosophy is that “when you see something that is not right, not fair, not just, you have a moral obligation—a mission and a mandate—to speak up, to speak out, and get in the way.”

Lewis recounted his memory of the march in Selma, where he thought he was going to die. But he was taken in, he said, by sisters at a nearby Catholic hospital, who took care of him. Recently, he reconnected with three of those sisters, who recognized him, and they hugged.

“We must never, ever forget the bridges that brought us across,” he said.

“Sometimes you’re called to turn things upside down, to set it right side up,” Lewis said as he concluded his remarks. “Teach the students, teach the young, because the young will teach us. And they will lead us to a better place [where] no one is left out or left behind.”

The forum also featured a panel discussion on “Reframing Economic and Political Citizenship,” moderated by Ester Fuchs, director of SIPA’s concentration in Urban and Social Policy. Participants included faculty member Michael A. Nutter and guests David Goodman, Verna Eggleston, and Michael Waldman. The panelists discussed at length the transformations U.S. citizens are experiencing to their civil, economic, and political identities under the Trump administration, and what we need to be doing to preserve the hard-fought victories of the past and expand our vision of rights for the future.

— Matt Terry MIA ’17

Watch complete event

 

"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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