Archive for SIPA

Seeples Spotlight: Rahel Tekola

This semester the Office of Admissions welcomed four new Program Assistants (PAs) to the team. This week and next, I’m introducing you to each of them in the form of self-interviews. Up first, Rahel Tekola. She’s studying Urban and Social Policy, worked as Chief of Staff to the CEO of an organization focused on domestic violence and poverty, and served on the Mayor’s Star Council to revitalize Southern Dallas and the City of Dallas Domestic Violence Task Force. Here’s what she has to say about her time at SIPA.

What attracted you to SIPA and Columbia University?

I had a lot of personally compelling reasons for why I chose SIPA, but here are a few of my top reasons:

  1. SIPA is quantitatively challenging and this is a skill-set I wanted to hone in and work on post-working in the real world for three years.
  2. The great thing about SIPA is it’s not a generalist program. This graduate school allows you to delve into an area of passion through concentration and specialization selections. I was incredibly interested in domestic urban development issues and also management and business like classes, and the good thing is SIPA has allowed me to do both.
  3. The professors are as impressive as they look online. I remember coming to visit Columbia the week of Student Admitted Day and sitting in on a class called Venture Capital for Entrepreneurs, and I was absolutely blown away by the practitioner who was teaching the class. The students taking the class were equally just as impressive and fully engaged in the discussion. I really enjoyed that experience and it was instrumental in me choosing SIPA.
  4. Location!! Being in the heart of New York City, SIPA students have access to so many businesses, multilateral organizations, local government and non-profits. I love having the opportunity to catch a train to midtown and network with practitioners in the field any time of the week. The world is truly your backyard here! 

What experiences do you think prepared you to attend SIPA?
When I graduated from my undergraduate institution in Texas I had always planned on going straight through and going to graduate school. Many mentors and people I had worked with gave some great advice, and told me to take time and work before pursuing my master’s degree. So, this is exactly what I did. This time off from school and working in the field allowed me to realize the things I really am passionate about and the things I want to learn to continue building my skill-set. Working at a domestic violence agency for three years imparted me with so much knowledge I was also able to bring this experience to the discussions within classes.   

What has been the best part of your SIPA experience?
For the longest time I didn’t want to leave Texas, because it is my home, it is where my friends and family are, I was comfortable and had a great job I loved, however, once I made the plunge to move and attend grad school, I know I made one of the best decisions of my life. I have been able to meet phenomenal classmates and made friends who challenge me every day and allow me to not get comfortable. 

Can you comment on the quantitative rigor in the curriculum?
My head was definitely spinning the first week of school! I knew SIPA is known to be quantitatively challenging, but I, whew – I was not ready. The good thing is most of these classes ask you to do your homework in groups so you will not suffer alone.

How was your internship experience been like?
I worked with the John A. Reisenbach Foundation this summer. I absolutely loved my experience at the foundation, the mission and the people that we serve, and my boss was amazing. I was tasked with board of director development work, drafting their new strategic plan and conducting site visits to grantee non-profits all over NYC. We work with great companies like Facebook so it was neat getting to be in their office and working with their staff, as well. After the completion of my internship, they offered me a position as Program Officer. 

How did you obtain your internship?
SIPA has a jobs portal called SIPALink where employers will post jobs and internships to recruit SIPA students. I applied to directly through the link and the rest is history!


[Photo courtesy of Rahel Tekola | Rahel (left) working this summer ’17 at the Facebook New York Office]

This could be your Capstone project one day

SIPA’s signature Capstone Workshops give students the opportunity to apply the practical skills and analytical knowledge learned at SIPA to a real-world issue for client organizations in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors. Students from the Master of International Affairs and Master of Public Administration degree programs, working under the guidance of an expert faculty advisor, are organized into small consulting teams (generally about six students per team) across more than 80 projects each year.

While students won’t complete their MIA/MPA Capstone Workshop until their final semester at SIPA, there are ways to preview what the assignments are like. Here are two Capstone Workshops highlighting some of the compelling work that our Seeples do.

Preventing Social Conflict in the Peruvian Mining Industry

Capstone Client #1: Government of Peru, President of the Council of Minister’s Office

Faculty Advisor: Jenik Radon

Team: Ayaka Ishida Amano, Lidia Cano, Filippo Ghersini, Ana Gabriela Gonzalez, Marisol Grau, Jordan Grimshaw, Vidyu Kishor, Emmanuel Laboy, Alessandra Mistura, Joshua Trinidad, Clara Young Thiemann

Mining is one of Peru’s most important industries, responsible for a considerable portion of the country’s economic growth since the 1990s. However, this growth has come at a financial, environmental and human cost. Work stoppages and deaths have resulted from social conflicts that arise when members of the communities impacted by mining projects are excluded from the approval processes and the economic benefits. Government regulations aimed at preventing and mitigating the causes of these social conflicts have been largely ineffective. With renewed government focus on this issue in 2017, the team’s report harnessed the current political momentum and provided a guide for the new administration through the process of filling legal gaps, mapping administrative processes, improving state engagement with communities, and ensuring implementation and compliance with robust social license policies.

Assessing Offline Internet Technology as a Development Tool to Connect the Unconnected

Capstone Client #2: Wikimedia Foundation, Mount Sinai—Wikipedia Project for Offline Education in Medicine (POEM) in the Dominican Republic

Faculty Advisor: Anne Nelson

Team: Lucia Haro, Maria Gonzalez Millan, Katie Nelson, Jorge Salem Suito

Offline internet technology is an emerging ICT4D tool to expand access to information to the 60% of the world’s population who lack internet connectivity. Wikipedia is interested in expanding the use of their open source encyclopedia content around the globe, and assessing its usefulness in low-resource settings. The Dominican Republic, a country with an under-resourced health system and limited internet connectivity, is an ideal laboratory to test offline internet as a tool for development. The team interviewed healthcare providers in the Dominican Republic to learn what kinds of information they require, and to assess the usefulness of the ‘internet-in-a-box’ as a low-cost offline internet-enabled data storage device that allows users to wirelessly access open-source content. The project’s findings are that offline internet has considerable potential to bridge information gaps, especially in rural, low-resource settings. The team’s recommendations are being incorporated into a pilot project to field-test the device during summer 2017.

7 Student groups you may not know about

You’ve done your research about the application requirements and you’ve studied up on the GRE/GMAT, but did you know there’s more to SIPA than just “getting in”? Once you’re here you’ll have access to an astonishing amount of resources, from periodicals and professors to courses and classmates. A surprising extension of SIPA’s resources actually lies within its groups. These student-run organizations offer our Seeples the freedom to explore Columbia’s and New York City’s resources in a relaxed setting. Some groups invite visiting dignitaries to campus for informal discussions, while others coordinate research-focused Spring Break trips abroad. (In all, SIPA has more than 40 student groups you can join.) No matter your interests, there are ways to get involved at SIPA without getting lost in a sea of textbooks and policy memos.

Here are 7 SIPA student groups you may not know exist.

Columbia SIPA Veterans Association
CSVA’s foundation is to assist new students assimilate to SIPA by sharing critical information about the GI Bill ®, the VA, and general student life. Host prospective student veterans during campus visits, provide mentors to new student veterans during orientation, and host a website information session to circulate student veteran information. They provide a forum for discussion of military and veteran issues, facilitate opportunities for student veterans to interact with other student veterans and students interested in military and veteran issues, and highlight veteran perspectives within the SIPA discourse.

Columbia Impact Investing Initiative
Founded in September 2010, CI3 now has over 200 graduate student members from Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA), Columbia Business School, Columbia Law School, the Earth Institute and the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. The third power in our name reflects CI3’s belief in the vast potential of mobilizing private and public finance to scale up sustainable enterprises designed to achieve triple bottom line results: financial return, social impact, and environmental impact. The organization is dedicated to learning about and contributing to the advancement of impact investing and social entrepreneurship around the world.

Journal of International Affairs
Established in 1947, the Journal of International Affairs is the second-oldest publication in the field of international relations, affiliated with and run by students at SIPA. It is the premier university-affiliated periodical in the field and has earned worldwide recognition for framing the heated debates that define global events and foreign policy. In the aftermath of World War II, the founders of the journal saw a need for a publication that would serve as a forum for exploring issues and offering innovative solutions to problems of global concern. The journal has featured leading minds in the field of international affairs since its inception.

SIPA Pan African Network
As its mission, SPAN creates a vibrant community of support for students within SIPA and Columbia concerned with Africa and its Diaspora. Annual flagship events include the African Economic Forum, African Development Forum, and Taste of Africa. Core objectives include creating a platform for African students and all other students interested in Africa to share ideas beneficial to development in Africa, and organizing events focused on development, and connect members with organizations for internship and post-graduation employment opportunities. 

Returned Peace Corps Volunteers
The mission of SIPA RPCVs is to unite a network of Returned Peace Corps Volunteers at SIPA who share a common experience, to provide networking and professional opportunities for students, and to inform the personal and professional development of our members, including those who are recently transitioning from overseas posts. Members of SIPA RPCVs are also committed to Peace Corps’ third goal: “To strengthen America’s understanding of the world and its peoples” by sharing their experiences with both the SIPA and greater NYC communities. SIPA RPCVs also provides opportunities to continue to volunteer in the local community, raises awareness about Peace Corps, and advertises SIPA programs to current and returned PCVs.

SIPA Technology and Innovation Student Association
This group was formed to help increase student knowledge of how technology influences international development and to expand opportunities for students within the information and communication technology (ICTs) for development and public policy. Through projects, panels, case competitions, and events, we aim to create a community around ICT for development and public policy as well as promote practical research and internship opportunities for SIPA students. Additionally, the TechISA supports SIPA curriculum development around technology for development and public policy.  Our students and alumni work globally with organizations such as The Earth Institute, UNICEF, OCHA, Worldbank, Ushahidi, and UNDP.  One of our primary activities is crisis mapping, an international effort to respond to disasters around the globe, and our volunteers provide essential information within the first few essential days following a disaster.

SIPA Spectrum
Spectrum is an organization within which SIPA LGBTQ and straight allies may network, build a community, and hold dialogue on international and domestic issues regarding homosexuality and through which community members may access relevant resources and information.

It’s time…

We’re thrilled to announce that SIPA’s 2018 Application Portal has officially opened. But don’t click the APPLY NOW button just yet. Before wading through the choppy waters of your admission application, we recommend you get your ducks in a row. To get started…

1. Subscribe to the Admissions Blog <– Yes, this blog!

2. Add the Application Deadlines to your calendar <– Absolutely all materials must be submitted by the deadline to be eligible for the entry term.

SPRING 2018 (MIA/MPA only)
October 15, 2017 at 11:59 p.m. EST

FALL 2018
Early Action Deadline: November 2, 2017 at 11:59 p.m. EST
Fellowship Consideration Deadline: January 5, 2018 at 11:59 p.m. EST
Final Application Deadline: February 5, 2018 at 11:59 p.m. EST

3. Register for and attend an in-person or virtual Information Session <– We’ll add more throughout the year, so check back frequently.

4. Practice your Video Essay response <– Yes, it’s required, but don’t stress too much. Just review the link for detailed help.

5. Relax and enjoy this photo of the Admissions Office’s unofficial mascot, Sutton. Yeah, we know she’s adorable. <– The photo up top. No, she’s not for sale.
Want to learn more? Email us at with any questions you have about the application process.

The Beatles and the Dawn of Global Culture

In this day of anti-immigration, anti-science, ‘America First,’ and less-than-subtle racism, I found a welcome arrival recently with Ron Howard’s film The Beatles: Eight Days a Week — The Touring Years. Like many people my age, I grew up with the Beatles, and their music, values and image are deeply ingrained in my view of how the world works. I remember the day in early 1964 when they flew into New York’s Idlewild (now JFK) airport. I was home from school with the flu, but listening to their progress on a transistor radio, and hearing the song, “I Want to Hold Your Hand”, so many times that I could play each Beatles’ part. But more than hearing the pieces, I remember the sheer rush of emotion that washed over me whenever I heard the song begin and the deep sense of wellbeing I felt as the song ended. Their music was an emotional experience for a ten-year-old school boy in Brooklyn. As they evolved through the 1960s, we grew up along with them.

Growing up in Brooklyn I knew many people from other countries and I knew we weren’t alone in the world, but I suppose I saw Europe and Asia as places where people were from, not as a place we were going. Europe was where they tattooed numbers on the arms of old people I saw sitting on Brighton Beach in the summer: the survivors of the Holocaust. Or as my father once told me after one of his many business trips to Europe: “Europe is an overrated old place. New York City is the best place in the world, America is the best country, and my parents were right to leave that place.” I remember reminding him that like most Jews in the early 20th century, they were chased out of Europe, but he correctly focused on the wisdom of their leaving. There wasn’t a lot of sympathy for the “old country” when I was a kid. The point I often heard was that America was the future and nothing interesting could come from someplace else.

But the Beatles were proof that something absolutely spectacular could be grown outside of America. It turned out that the music they made was a global mix of sounds from England, Ireland, the Caribbean, Africa, Germany and America. Later on, they added the sitar and other sounds from Asia. In 1964, the Beatles’ chief musical influences were Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Elvis Presley and even Brooklyn’s own Carol King. But when the Beatles covered American rock ‘n roll hits and started to write their own songs, they brought their personal history and collective memory to the sounds they made and created something new and fresh that had never been heard before.

Read the rest on

[Image courtesy of US National Archives, via Giphy]

"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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