Archive for SIPA

5 pieces of advice for incoming students

Planning out your first steps at SIPA can seem daunting, and it’s likely you’ll forget a step or two. As you finalize your plans to join the ranks of Seeples in August, there are some things I recommend you add to your to-do list when you get here.

Business Cards. When you arrive at SIPA, you may want to get a head start on your networking by heading over to the School of Journalism to order a set of business cards. They sure come in handy during conferences, alumni events, and interviews.

Be Open to New Classes. As you prepare to register for courses, be open-minded and consider a class out of your comfort zone. You can even take a class with a grading option of Pass/Fail or register to Audit a class; these are invaluable ways to learn a new topic without the pressure of a grade. Check out Vergil during Orientation Week, the University’s course listings database, and look out for special registration periods with the Business School, Law School, School of Journalism, Teachers College, Mailman School of Public Health, or the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation. (As for your first semester, your OSA advisor will register you for your classes!)

Meet Your Professors. Don’t be shy to meet outside of the classroom with your professors. Take the time to go to office hours for both your professors and your teaching assistants. Better yet, get a few students together for a meal with your professor and apply to SIPA for up to $150 in TimeOut Funding for it.

Learn a Language.  If you have the time, learn a new language. Many of our classmates took a language course every semester at SIPA and it helps make your resume more attractive to know more than one language. Apply for funding for the academic year or for a summer program through the highly coveted Foreign Language Area Studies Fellowship, which offers generous tuition and stipends; the deadline is usually in February. If you don’t have the time to fit in an entire class, consider brushing up on your language skills or become a language tutor through the Language Maintenance Tutorial Program at the Language Resource Center with 10, 90-minute meetings through the semester. For students who want to maintain Arabic, Farsi, Hebrew or Turkish, apply for a $300 grant to be a part of the program.

Find a SIPA Career Coach. Through the Office of Career Services, you can sign up to meet with a Career Coach, professionals from a variety of organizations who have agreed to sit down with students or take a call to offer guidance about entering into and working in a particular industry. It’s a sure way to get an informational interview and build your confidence. In addition to resume reviewing and workshops, the Office of Career Services also provides other great resources like mock interviews and the MBTI personality testing.

[Photo by Amir Safa]

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).

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]

Career Coaches: another perk for our Seeples

If you did any research before applying to graduate school, you’re probably aware that SIPA has its own career office dedicated to SIPA students. That means that SIPA’s Office of Career Services (OCS) has only one job: to help current SIPA students enhance their networking skills and job/internship hunt. For me, the key takeaway is that OCS is just here to assist SIPA students. Not Law School students, not Teachers College students, and not Columbia College (undergraduate) students. And that’s a big deal.

You may recall yesterday years from undergrad when you were fighting for face time with your Office of Career Services. (I know I did!) You had to schedule appointments weeks in advance and they were impossible to reach via phone. That’s not an issue at SIPA. OCS is just here for its Seeples and we wouldn’t have it any other way. The offer a variety of services to help current students and alumni find their career paths, such as networking events, on-campus recruitment sessions, career advising, and internship grants.

One service that I believe is often overlooked, is SIPA Career Coaching (SIPACC) by experts in the field. SIPACCs are full-time professionals who volunteer throughout the year to offer industry-specific knowledge to current students who just don’t know which direction to go. Sessions run 30 minutes and current students can sign up for them in SIPAlink, our job and internship database. Typically, you can expect to pay $100 or more for a one-on-one career coaching session, but the wonderful volunteers with SIPACC offer this service for free!

In the sessions they’ll:

  • Dispense industry-specific job advice in their field(s).
  • Share their knowledge about various career opportunities related to the advisee’s SIPA concentration or specialization.
  • Establish steps that should be undertaken by the advisee in order to advance in a particular industry.
  • Offer other career advice at their discretion.

On another note: this isn’t a one-time thing. SIPA students and alumni can sign up for three coaching sessions per semester! So add this to the “win” column for why SIPA is the place for you. We hope to see you in the fall.

Join Seeple Groups for the camaraderie

The fall 2017 class has around 400 students (MPA/MIA) from around the world with different skills, ideas, and professional backgrounds. Do you appreciate the diversity of perspectives, but are concerned about becoming being just another a number? If that’s a “yes,” then that’s exactly why SIPA came up with Seeple Groups (SIPA + People = Seeple). As a Seeple Groups leader, I wanted to share with all of you the value of this initiative. Launched last year for the Class of 2018, the program is designed to do two things: provide incoming students with dedicated support and to foster interdisciplinary camaraderie that cuts across degree programs (MPA and MIA) and areas of study (concentrations and specializations).

Each Seeple Group consists of around 40 first-year MPA/MIA students, and they are led by select second-year students, known as SIPA Peer Advisors (SPA). Advising deans are also paired up with each group. SPAs, like me, provide wisdom from experience on university resources, course selection, and student life. In other words, we’ll tell you where the least-crowded libraries are; how to navigate the school bureaucracy; how tough a professor is; where to find free food; and where the best happy hours are at. (You know, the important stuff.) In all seriousness, if you’re running into issues as a student, the chances are high that someone else has been through it and resolved it. And if the SPA don’t have the answer, they’ll find someone that does.

For example, during orientation week, we had a first-year student from Asia who discovered that his initial housing plans fell through due to circumstances beyond his control. His family was also due to arrive two weeks later. I don’t think we would have learned how dire the situation was if we hadn’t approached him. Leveraging the network of the SPAs, we managed to find a unit that fit his needs. Result: crisis averted.

The groups as a whole build community within the unit through various events planned by SPAs and their group members. The events range from community service and house parties to ice skating in Midtown and secret Seeples gift exchanges. The ultimate goal of Seeple Groups is to provide a vector for students to build meaningful and life-long friendships. It’ll be one of the first networking platforms you’ll encounter at SIPA. You’ll likely form into problem set teams for Quant and Econ. And even if you feel like it’s not working out, there are countless other opportunities to build new relationships (concentration/specialization happy hours, student organizations events, and student-led cultural and policy excursions around the world to name a few).

I was in Seeples Group B aka “the Rumble Bees” (the groups are named after animals/insects). My favorite part about being a SPA is watching the bonds form within the group. I remember meeting the gang during orientation week and doing ice breakers to get everyone to loosen up. Now, I see them lounging together on campus and tagging each other on Facebook during late-night study sessions. When I was deciding between graduate schools, the strength of a school’s network was a key factor for me. SIPA created Seeple Groups to do exactly this.

[Photo courtesy of Gloria Oh (Seeple Group B Peer Advisor) | Andrew Liu (first row, left) attempting to buzz like a bee with Seeple Group B aka “the Rumble Bees”]

"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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