Archive for Student 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.

Seeples Spotlight: Kier Joy

Everyone, we have a new work study joining us for the remainder of this fall semester. Please welcome Kier Joy! He is a first-year student at SIPA, studying economic and political development and international conflict resolution. He was raised a military brat, having lived all over the U.S. and in the UK. He graduated from the University of Georgia in 2017 with a dual bachelor degree in International Affairs and Political Science. During undergrad, Kier worked as the director of a state-level legislative research fellowship, applying his passion for policy and progressiveness to legislative issues. Also in undergrad, he studied abroad at the University College London and spent a summer in Washington D.C. as a Rangel Scholar. Kier is also a 2017 Charles B. Rangel International Affairs Fellowship recipient under the United States Department of State. Upon graduating from SIPA, Kier will join the Foreign Service as a Political Foreign Service Officer.

What were you doing before you came to SIPA?
Before SIPA, I was in undergrad at the University of Georgia. Though I was studying rigorously, I made sure to also gain as much professional experience as possible. After studying abroad in London the summer before my junior year, I was accepted into a state-level legislative research fellowship. In this position, I met with dozens of NGOs in Northeast Georgia to learn how to create, study, and advocate for progressive policy changes in the Georgia State Legislature. Through this opportunity, I worked as legislative aide under a state representative. After being in the fellowship for a year, I was promoted to director and had the chance to lead my own team in policy research. In November of my senior year, I was selected as a 2017 Charles B. Rangel International Affairs Fellow. As part of the Rangel Fellowship, I worked on Capitol Hill as a foreign policy fellow for the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs, Western Hemisphere Subcommittee. From there, I came to SIPA.

What attracted you to SIPA and Columbia University?
Two things really attracted me to SIPA and Columbia University: the large international student body and professor faculty. First, I wanted to attend a diverse grad school, not only in domestic populations but also international. As I am to join the Foreign Service after graduating, I wanted to be in a place where I was confronted by many different perspectives on global and regional issues to mimic the experiences I’ll have around the world as a diplomat. Second, Columbia University has some of the most renowned professors and practitioners in international affairs. To be able to learn from their research and experiences is such an invaluable honor that I couldn’t afford to miss out on.

SIPA features lots of events for students to attend. Is there any interesting presentation that you have attended that you could comment upon?
I attended a discussion on white nationalism in the past, present, and future. The discussion was lead by professors from schools all over campus – from SIPA to the School of Journalism to the Department of Sociology. It was incredibly interesting to hear from these scholars on where they believe this current uptick in white nationalism is coming from and where it is headed. Also, I’m glad that Columbia has opportunities to discuss current events with faculty.

What advice do you have for current applicants?
I think nailing a great statement of interest is incredibly important for the application. Given the concise nature of the essay, an applicant must be able to explain three things in very little words: their passion, their interest in Columbia, and why they believe a graduate degree from Columbia can aid them in their career. This can be very difficult. So I recommend starting the statement of interest very early. I started mine 4 months before the application deadline and had many professors and professionals review it. Then I also conducted a lot of research on SIPA, the MIA program, and the faculty so I could express what specifically in SIPA could aid me in my career. But overall, give yourself time to work on the statement. It’s incredibly important.

Did you have a lot of quantitative experience when you applied to SIPA? Why or why not? How did you perform in those classes?
I had taken 5 quantitative classes in undergrad before SIPA: political economy, microeconomics, macroeconomics, research design and quantitative analysis, and algebra. The only requirements for my undergrad degrees were algebra and macroeconomics. But through a summer program with the State Department, I took political economy. When I was looking into grad schools though and saw that they wanted a higher level of quantitative experience, I made sure to take microeconomics and research design and quantitative analysis. I performed well in all of the classes, though it did take quite a lot of work since I’m not math-minded whatsoever.

What advice would you give a first-year student?
Many of the core courses have recitation sessions you must attend. A recitation session is an additional “class” you must attend to discuss the topic of the week in the lecture core course. This can add an additional 2 hours per recitation course to your weekly school schedule. Because of this, it’s imperative that you can manage your time well. I suggest getting a planner and filling it out at the beginning of the semester of all the class times, tests, homework, and recitations. This has helped me to visualize how much time I have available to work (and play) outside of class.

Six Ways that SIPA OCS Can Help with Your Career

SIPA Office of Career ServicesThe Office of Career Services (OCS) provides students and alumni with tools to manage their professional development. OCS offers a variety of services to help current students and alumni find their career paths, such as individual career advising; required professional development courses; networking events, on-campus recruitment sessions, professional networking opportunities, and internship grants. Throughout the semester, OCS organizes numerous activities and services aimed at informing students about their options in internships and full time jobs.

As a first year student, you will benefit from the professional panels where you can learn about possible employers and the procedure to apply to future positions. Some of the employers that have participated in these panels are: The Federal Reserve Bank of NY, the Central Intelligence Agency, Human Right Watch, Deloitte, Goldman Sachs, The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), and Eurasia Group.

As career development is a tenet of SIPA’s core curriculum, the OCS supports students’ career paths in the following ways:


The Professional Development class, which is administered through OCS, heightens the awareness and involvement of students in career planning.  This mandatory half-credit course develops the skills needed to compete effectively in the international and public affairs job markets.  Instructors provide direction on writing resumes and cover letters, job search tactics, successful interviewing, networking, negotiating employment offers, and other key career topics.


Students are required to conduct an internship as part of their degree requirement, and this is also administered through OCS.  The internship is typically done in the summer between the first and second year, although it can be completed at any time during the program.


On an individual level, OCS career advisers provide students and alumni with career advice, job search strategy tips, resume and cover letter reviews, and general career information.  OCS also maintains the SIPA Career Coaching (SIPACC) program, which is comprised of alumni working in a variety of jobs who provide industry specific information and advice.  Students can arrange appointments once they have registered for classes in August through SIPAlink, our recruitment software.  (See more )


To update students on programming and services, OCS compiles a weekly newsletter that lists information on career events, fellowship opportunities, upcoming recruitment visits, job/internship postings, and other essential information for their job search.  (See more )


OCS offers a database of current positions, including internships, for both current students and alumni in a variety of professional fields. The database, which can be access through SIPAlink, has proved to be quite useful to current students in helping them to find internships.

If you are curious on what other things OCS does, visit our past blog post or go to the SIPA OCS website:


Finally, SIPA Career Coaching (SIPACC) is offered free of charge by experts in the field. SIPACCs are full-time professionals who volunteer throughout the year to offer industry-specific knowledge to current students. Sessions run 30 minutes and Seeples can sign up for them in SIPAlink, SIPA’s job and internship database. Within the sessions, SIPA Career Coaches will:

  • 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.

SIPA students and alumni can sign up for three coaching sessions per semester.

SIPA’s Office of Career Services is another reason why SIPA may be the place for you. We hope to see you this coming year!

Meet Columbia’s Libraries

The Meet Columbia series aims to expose prospective SIPA students to the larger university-wide experience offered at Columbia. In this post, we explore four of Columbia’s libraries on the Morningside Heights campus. 

It’s Midterm season, and you haven’t started your Conceptual Foundations or Politics of Policymaking papers?! Perhaps buckling down in one of the 21 libraries at Columbia or its affiliates would help! But which one? If you’re looking for a change to your usual study space, here’s a quick run-down of four of the most popular libraries on campus.

The Herman H. Lehman Social Sciences Library

Third Floor of the International Affairs Building (420 W. 118 St.)

Lehman Library


















Photo caption: Lehman Library sits below “the Fishbowl” of the International Affairs Building, the hub of the SIPA Community.

What you need to know: Lehman caters to the Departments of Anthropology, Political Science, and Sociology. It is also the “in-house” library for the School of International and Public Affairs.

What you should know: The library’s three Group Study spaces are wildly popular for students coordinating group assignments, TAs conducting office hours, and informal club meetings. Lehman also hosts a large computer lab, recitation rooms, presentation practice rooms, and scanning services.

What you didn’t know: Lehman houses an extensive map collection that began in 1912. Between over 200,000 geological, topographical, political, nautical, and aeronautical maps, you can find yourself lost in a room full of maps.

Butler Library

South Lawn (535 W. 114 St.)

Butler Library


















Photo caption: Butler 301, colloquially known as the Ref room, is home to soaring chandeliers and hard-working students. This room is one of many that remains open for 24 hours during the academic year.

What you need to know: Butler is Columbia’s largest library, containing over two million volumes works related to the humanities, religion, philosophy, and literature, as well as a large collection of government documents. It originally opened as South Hall in 1934, replacing Low Library as the school’s main library. Fun Fact: Staff used a giant slide to transport books from Low.

What you should know: Butler is the library that never sleeps, staying open for 24 hours during the academic year. There will be students working during all parts of the night. There are study carrels and offices reserved for graduate students on the library’s upper floors, with most students preferring to work in the reading rooms, large reference rooms, or the stacks. The entrance level has a Blue Java Cafe, a popular meeting spot for group projects. Should you need a break from Lehman, many group study rooms are available upon prior reservation.

What you didn’t know: The sixth floor is home to the Rare Book and Manuscript Library, a massive collection of primary sources spanning more than 4,000 years of history. You can pay them a visit in their museum-style space featuring rotating exhibitions, and Columbia students are given access to documents for research purposes.

C.V. Starr East Asian Library

Third Floor of Kent Hall (1140 Amsterdam Ave.)

Starr Library


















Photo caption: The stained-glass window of Justice recalls the space’s former use as the Law School Library. Today, Starr is dedicated to Columbia’s East Asian studies.

What you need to know: Starr is home to one of the largest East Asian collections in the country, housing materials in Chinese, Japanese, and Korean to Tibetan, Mongol, and Manchu. The collection houses books, films, and many cultural artifacts from East Asia. Special search terminals in Chinese, Japanese, and Korean help students find electronic resources in these languages.

What you should know: Starr is known for its elongated study tables that run along the library’s length, as Starr was modeled after the library at Trinity College at Cambridge. Furthermore, the entrance level of Starr showcases many artifacts from East Asia including a large, gilded Buddhist statue of the Bodhisattva Jizo-sama.

What you didn’t know: The east-facing stained glass window depicts Justice, a remnant of the old Law School library that occupied the space previously. The window depicts the seal of Columbia University and the coats of arms of the thirteen original U.S. colonies.

Science & Engineering Library

Fourth Floor of Northwest Corner Building (550 W. 120th St.)

Science & Engineering Library

Photo caption: The Science and Engineering (S&E) Library is Columbia’s newest library. Nestled inside Northwest Corner Building, the space maintains a modern aesthetic, a stark difference from Columbia’s older design traditions.

What you need to know: The Science and Engineering Library is Columbia’s newest library, opening in 2011. It supports research in the fields of chemistry, biology, physics, astronomy, psychology, and interdisciplinary works.

What you should know: The library houses the Digital Science Center, making its computers some of the most powerful and comprehensive on campus. There are more than fifty advanced workstations, all outfitted with course-related software (read: SPSS and Stata), and can be used at individual or group carrels. There are also group study spaces and presentation practice rooms available upon reservation. Additionally, Joe’s Coffee downstairs can satisfy your food or coffee fix.
What you didn’t know: Ever wanted to design something? Anything? Columbia offers free 3D printing! If you can design it, you can print it! No worries if you never had experience with 3D design. Columbia Libraries offer tutorials and beginner resources to help you start your project.

Which library is your favorite? Is there anything you want to know about student life at Columbia? Curious about any history, traditions, or folklore on campus? Comment below, and we’ll write about it in our next blog post.


"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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