Archive for Student Life

Fundación Sergio from Colombia visited Columbia as part of the MPA-DP Seminars to talk about Bullying and Discrimination

Alba Reyes, founder of Fundación Sergio Urrego a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting tolerance and ending school bullying, along with other representatives from the organization, visited SIPA this semester as part of the MDP seminar.

Ms. Reyes shared how her personal tragedy sparked the nationwide movement that now goes beyond Colombia’s borders. The format of the seminar was in the form of the discussion, and participants of the seminar had an opportunity to ask numerous questions. Questions included how the organization tackles homophobic attitudes present in the country, how they brought anti-discrimination provisions into legislation, and how they cooperate with other organizations of the world with similar agendas. Our guests from the organization were delighted to share that recently they launched suicide prevention hotline for youth.

Even after the formal part of the seminar ended the students surrounded Ms. Reyes to ask additional questions on the topic.

Learn more about MPA-DP seminars here: https://bit.ly/328KfLZ

Learn more about the MPA-DP Program:

Studying International Security Policy at SIPA

Nabila recently provided some great advice on choosing your concentration at SIPA.  When I applied, there was no question that I was going to concentrate in International Security Policy (ISP). I was leaving the Army and was interested in continuing to work in the national security space, so it was a natural fit. But I suspect many of you have a wider range of interests or are interested in potentially pivoting to a new career path, and in those cases it’s so important to get a feel for the curriculum and culture of each concentration so that you can find your best fit.

I’m going to hopefully assist in that regard by giving you an overview of the ISP concentration and also dispel some pervasive myths and stereotypes.

Doesn’t everyone in ISP have military or government experience? Will I fit in?

The most common myth is that everyone in ISP is a veteran or someone who wants to follow a very defined path into the government. This couldn’t be further from the truth. As Leon Trotsky noted, “You may not be interested in war, but war is interested in you.” Whatever your career aspirations, security issues affect every sector and understanding issues of war and peace is essential to anyone that desires to one day lead in government, international non-profits, or even private sector companies. I have friends in ISP that have backgrounds as Army Special Forces Officers, private sector consultants, paralegals, diplomats, and human rights workers. And as far as coursework, the concentration requires no prior academic training in international security or any particular professional background. For more on the diverse backgrounds of ISP concentrators, read this great blog post by ISP graduate Samantha Taylor.

What career paths do ISP students pursue after SIPA?

ISP students are prepared for a wide range of career paths in U.S. and foreign government agencies, intelligence, think tanks, defense analysis, cybersecurity, consulting, journalism, legislative staffs, and international organizations. For U.S. students, the majority of these positions are in Washington, D.C., but there are increasingly opportunities in New York City as well, especially in cybersecurity.

What are the courses like?

Almost all of your ISP courses will be small seminars of 10-20 students. Columbia offers more courses in security studies than all but a few other universities, and SIPA and the Political Science department (you can take graduate level Political Science courses while at SIPA) have numerous full-time faculty members focused on security issues.  During your two-year program, there will be approximately 30-40 ISP courses to choose from. The courses cover a wide variety of areas including intelligence, cybersecurity, defense analysis, conflict resolution, peacekeeping, terrorism, and regional issues, among others. You can view the entire curriculum here, but the best way to see what ISP courses are like is to experience one for yourself. This semester, ISP courses available for class visits include War, Peace, and Strategy; Methods of Defense Analysis; Contemporary Russian Security Policy (taught by the former Deputy Assistant Director of CIA for Europe and Eurasia); Intelligence and War; and several others. Register for a class visit here!

What extracurricular opportunities does ISP offer?

The ISP concentration starts off the year with an annual fall retreat to a campground north of New York City. I went my first year, and it was a great way to meet classmates, second year students, and several professors. In the spring, the concentration usually takes one trip to DC or a military installation. Last year, the trip was a staff ride to Gettysburg and the U.S. Army War College led by Professor Stephen Biddle. There is also a spring crisis simulation held at SIPA and run by ISP students. Last year, students explored the conflict in Yemen in a realistic, one-day simulation.

There are also an unending amount of incredible guest speakers that come to Columbia, and many of those of interest to ISP students are hosted by the Saltzman Institute of War and Peace Studies. Just in the past year, students have attended events with former Director of National Intelligence Jim Clapper, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, and former Deputy Secretary of State William Burns.

Getting Involved in Campus – Inside and Outside SIPA

Of course, you’re thinking of applying to SIPA for all the great classes climate policy and impact investing we have and all the super smart professors butttttt…….you might be forgetting something……

THE PEOPLE!!!!!!!

The people at SIPA is one of SIPA’s best attributes. The people here are awesome and one very important way to meet more people is getting involved in campus groups and student life!!!! I myself, am the Communications and Marketing Chair of SIPA Students of Color, aka, I tell people in SIPA about the events and talks we are having as well as spending a lot of time looking up memes for newsletters. Due to this role, I have met some cool people who I am glad to say are very good friends (awwww <33).

There are many great student organizations here, some of which include Digital & Cyber Group, Migration Working Group and SIPA Pan-African Network. Anything you are interested in policy-wise, you can find it at SIPA. And if you can’t find it, you can start a new group. You’ll soon be drowning in events with interesting guests including diplomats, CEOs, managers, policymakers and more!

Now SIPA is lovely and all, but you may need a break from the International Affairs Building – seriously, we spend a lot of time here – and it’s important to get out of the SIPA bubble and meet people from other schools.

Columbia University Life is always throwing events that bring together students from different graduate schools. Last year, I met students from Columbia Business School and Columbia Law School at a Latin Student Mixer. Every now and then, I go to talks/events/panels at Maison Francaise/Journalism School/Law School/[other schools that are not SIPA] to meet students from other fields of study and get a feel of something other than international affairs and economics. There are so many cool things going at SIPA that it is easy to forget how much is happening across Columbia University and at the other schools here. I sign up for a lot of experiments so I have met postdocs at the Zuckerman Institute as well.

This is all to say that class is great, but don’t forget that a big part of your grad school experience will be the people you meet. SIPA and Columbia in general have A LOT of interesting people to meet. Remember to take a break from schoolwork and wander around campus, go to different buildings and explore. The University Life app will keep you up to date about what is going on around campus so pay attention to it!

Applying to SIPA as a Veteran or Active Duty Service Member

The transition from military service to graduate school can be intimidating, and veterans may have many concerns including how to express their experience in the application, funding opportunities, and whether they will fit in at Columbia. As a veteran and current SIPA student, I can confidently say that Columbia University is an extremely welcoming community for veterans. Columbia University has a long history of supporting veterans (Dwight Eisenhower was President of Columbia from 1948-1953!), and Columbia currently has the largest student veteran population in the Ivy Leagues. Except for funding opportunities, all of this applies equally to both U.S. and international veterans.

Patrick Dees, MIA ’20, speaks to a student about the Columbia SIPA Veterans Association (CSVA).

Tell your story!

If you’re a veteran or active duty service member applying to SIPA, the most important thing is to tell your unique story in your essays. As a school of international affairs, SIPA values your experience in the military greatly. You have spent considerable time executing national security policy, and you’ve likely had a front row seat to interesting events that you may even find yourself studying in the classroom. Your military service also demonstrates a commitment to public service, and you’ve certainly had valuable leadership experience. All of these things strengthen your application, so make sure to include them in your essays in plain language.

I recommend asking a friend with no military experience to read your essay to ensure that you’ve removed or explained any military jargon. I used Service to School, a free service that pairs you with a mentor that has gained admission to a program similar to the ones you are considering, and I found it to be extremely helpful.

Apply for all funding opportunities

Columbia has numerous resources to help veterans fund their education. Columbia’s Office of Military and Veterans Affairs has an extensive website full of detailed information on funding opportunities. I highly recommend you review it. Almost all of the veteran-related funding opportunities are unfortunately only available to U.S. veterans or active duty service members.

The first step is to ensure that you apply for all GI Bill benefits for which you are eligible. If you are eligible for 100% of benefits under the Post 9/11 GI Bill, SIPA offers additional funding through the Yellow Ribbon program. You will receive an email when the Yellow Ribbon application opens, and SIPA makes every effort to fund every eligible candidate.

Second, you should apply for funding from Columbia University. If you submit your application by the fellowship deadline, SIPA will automatically consider you for scholarships. You will also have the opportunity to apply for assistantships at the end of your first year. Information on these and other internal funding opportunities can be found here.

Third, you should research outside funding opportunities. Columbia provides a list of the opportunities most applicable to veterans and service members here. One of the opportunities I applied for, and was honored to receive, is the Tillman Scholarship. Columbia University is a University Partner school, and there are several Tillman scholars currently at Columbia. The Tillman scholarship provides not only funding, but extensive professional development opportunities and access to an amazing community of veterans, spouses, and active duty service members.

Join veterans’ organizations at Columbia and SIPA

The most important thing at SIPA is to find your community. SIPA has a large and active veteran community led by the Columbia SIPA Veterans Association (CSVA). The CSVA is happy to assist prospective students, and they host several events to welcome new student veterans. Throughout the year, CSVA holds events and socials to build the veteran community. Last year, veterans had the opportunity to attend discussions with Lieutenant General Christopher Cavoli, the commander of U.S. Army Europe, and former National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster. CSVA also hosts one of SIPA’s most popular events, “Beer and War Stories,” in which student veterans and other guests share their experiences with fellow students and answer questions about the military in a casual, open discussion over beer and food.

Members of the Columbia SIPA Veterans Association meet with the Commander of U.S. Army Europe, Lieutenant General Christopher Cavoli

Opportunities after SIPA

While many assume that all veterans choose the International Security Policy concentration and pursue defense-related careers, veterans at SIPA have found their niches in a wide variety of fields. SIPA’s Office of Career Services can connect students with an alumni who volunteers as SIPA’s career coach for transitioning veterans. The U.S. Military Veterans of Columbia University (Milvets) is the undergraduate student veteran group, but their events are open to all veterans. They host numerous career panels and networking opportunities throughout the year. Whatever your interests are, SIPA will provide you with avenues to explore potential careers and take advantage of your valuable military experience.

UNANY Summer Scholars 2019 Winners

Our second-year MPA-DP ’20 students Fatène Ben-Hamza and Emily Boytinck were invited to the annual 2019 UN Day Humanitarian Awards Gala Dinner. The event commemorating the work of the United Nations has also became an elegant celebration of the work of our UNANY  Summer Scholars 2019 Winners.

Fatène Ben-Hamza spent her summer working at the UNICEF Middle East and North Africa Regional Office in the ADAP section (adolescent development and participation) in Amman, Jordan. During summer she focused on developing materials for improving the engagement of young people in humanitarian settings, an analysis of young people participation in social movements and finally on building a case for participatory budgeting in Jordan.

Emily Boytinck, had her summer placement at UNFPA country office in Dakar, Senegal. Under the authority of the Representative and the direct supervision of the Reproductive Health Program Officer, Emily worked with the reproductive health team to advance Senegal’s country program. As a UNANY Summer Scholar, she collaborated with office staff and national partners, and contributed to data collection, analysis and produce reports related to reproductive health (RH) with a focus on the topics of adolescent sexual and reproductive health and menstrual health in emergencies.

Emily’s and Fatène’s achievements while working in country offices located in Jordan and Senegal immeasurably added to a deeper appreciation of what UNFPA and UNICEF do towards a more just and sustainable future.

Learn more about the MPA-DP Program:

"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

Boiler Image