Archive for Student Life

How Can New Students Can Get the Most Out of Their SIPA Experience?

It’s finally May, and our Class of 2018 is coming to the end of their journey here – graduation is less than 2 weeks away. Before they leave us, our Program Assistants imparted advice to future SIPA students as they look back on their own two years here.

Tedros Abraham, MIA ‘18: I have two pieces of advice for newly admitted students: Try to make a personal connection with at least one professor early on, and start applying to internships and jobs in the fall.

Professors at SIPA make themselves accessible and are always eager for students to come to their office hours before the rush of midterms and finals. By engaging professors in your field, you can gain access to practitioners who will be able to offer you insight on how best to position yourself in school for success afterwards. Furthermore, building a relationship early on will allow professors to write you strong letters of recommendation.

Between moving to a new city, readjusting to the rigors of academic life, and getting to know your cohort, it is easy to put off thinking about summer internships and jobs after school. However, doing so in your first semester is critical since so many competitive jobs and internships in larger organizations and government agencies have deadlines in the fall. The Office of Career Services hosts regular recruiting events on campus and sends weekly lists of opportunities. Take full advantage of these events and actively pursue opportunities on your own.

Mark Jamias, Five-Year Joint Bachelor/Master Program, ‘18

  • Many come to SIPA to grow as professionals, pushing the boundaries past their realms of working experience. Take classes for the learning curve, not the grading curve. In other words, don’t be afraid to get a B or a C in challenging classes. It’s better than an A in something you already knew.
  • One can learn just as much, if not more, from one’s peers. Take the time to prioritize people: learn what they do, understand from where they’re coming from and why they’re doing what they do. Every person at SIPA has their unique, amazing story (Hint: That’s why we chose you). Listen to theirs; share yours. Also, taking one hour out of your studying time to attend your partner’s opera performance, a classmate’s Capstone presentation, or simply to chat (read: vent) with a friend won’t cause you irrevocable academic doom. Besides, the people you meet here are much more interesting than monetary theory.
  • Break out of IAB: Step out of the International Affairs Building and visit Columbia’s other grad schools. There’s literally nothing stopping you from venturing to the Law School or Business School to attend talks and other social events. Take a few classes outside SIPA. Join university-wide clubs to get a true taste of Columbia’s diverse palate. Want your worldview really challenged? Go talk to an engineer; one can find them in Mudd at all hours of the night and day.
  • Make friends with the Five-Years. They’ve been at Columbia for 3-4 years, and they know what’s up. From the best coffee on or near campus, tricks to get discounts and free things using your Columbia ID, and fun library hacks and seat-scouting/staking strategies, the Five-Years have seen things and know their way around (read: work) this place.

Rahel Tekola, MPA ‘18: One of the best things I did before coming into SIPA is taking a step back and asking myself what is it that I want to gain out of this program, and what things can I do during my time at SIPA and New York City that will allow me to leverage the school and city to help me explore career, education and professional development opportunities.

Before moving to NYC I made a list of professors I wanted to meet with at SIPA, organizations and companies I wanted to connect with in NYC and practitioners in my area of interest that would entertain me for coffee. This exercise allowed me to hone in on my interests and really embrace the best parts of SIPA and NYC these past two years.

Suzanne El Sanadi, MPA ’18:

  • Take time every weekend to explore New York. The city is full of incredible opportunities ranging from the Bronx Zoo to the Transit Museum in Brooklyn!
  • Go on as many of the international student-led trips at SIPA as you can – you’ll not only learn about other cultures and governments but also make lifelong friends.
  • Jin Ramen is the best ramen spot up near Columbia – I wish that I had discovered it my first year!

Sebastian Osorio, MPA ‘18:

  • SIPA claims to be “where the world connects”, and it is really like that. With more than 100 nationalities among the student body it is truly the most international policy school. This means that you will find here a multiculturalism that will open your mind to new and different ways of thinking. Also you will make friends from all the corners of the world. What you gain from them is as important as what you get from class.
  • SIPA is a big school, which is great. The school needs a large academic offering for students with so many different backgrounds and interests. This means that you can take a lot of different courses in the same school – from the ones in Economic and Political Development, to the ones suited for people interested in journalism or energy or security policies.
  • SIPA offers the possibility to cross register courses from other schools at Columbia University. If there is another class or professor that you like but is not at SIPA, you can easily cross register with them and use them as credit for graduation. You can choose courses from the ones at Law, Engineering or Business Schools to the ones in Statistics, Psychology or Sociology departments, for example.
  • There are courses that you will find extremely interesting and some others that you will think weren’t suited for you. Make sure to talk to a lot of the second-year students for recommendations about classes aligned to your interests or extremely good professors.

A final reminder to our admitted students that today, May 1st, is the enrollment deadline for the upcoming fall semester. And we haven’t forgotten about our waitlisted candidates – we’ll start reviewing those applications this month. You’ll get an email once there’s an update, so thank you for your patience.

Life Beyond the Classroom: Student Organizations

If you’re thinking about coming to SIPA, you might also be thinking: Is the school only about studying? How else can I get involved in student life? Where can I meet friends that have similar interests to me?

Don’t worry, there is life beyond the classroom! Once at SIPA, there is an astonishing number of student groups at your fingertips. 40+ student organizations provide social, professional, and educational activities to meet your diverse interests. You can take part in a policy group, a regional focus group, or the annual SIPA Follies — there’s something for everyone. The student-run organizations offer 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. No matter your interests, there are ways to get involved at SIPA without getting lost in a sea of textbooks and policy memos.

I want to share my personal experience in one of these organizations. I’m Sebastian Osorio, a second-year MPA student from Colombia. I was the president of one of the largest, most active and coolest (😎) organizations at SIPA, the Latin American Student Association, known as LASA. When I started school over a year ago, I never imagined I would play an active role in a student group. I had just begun life at SIPA and was still navigating my way through class schedules and the nuances of grad school.

After getting settled in New York and adjusting to student life, I found myself with some free time, especially after being used to working 12+ hour days. With that, I decided to research and participate in more student organizations. While I wanted to be busier, I didn’t realize then the commitment and responsibility required to lead one of these groups. I ended up running for president of LASA (and in a very old school Latin American way, I was the only candidate (but it doesn’t diminish my victory!)).

Being a part of LASA has been the highlight of my graduate school experience. There, I met an incredible team and made amazing friends. The board was composed of thirteen members from eight different countries. The board’s diversity in experience and background helped us overcome obstacles and accomplish many ambitious initiatives. In the beginning, I barely knew any of the board members. But as the semester went on, we collaborated well together, creating a platform for discussions on national, regional and international public affairs of Latin America, while also sharing our broad and diverse cultures with the SIPA student body.

LASA became one of the many prominent student organization at SIPA, and we led multiple activities and events like academic brown bag lunches with professors, cultural walks around El Barrio (East Harlem), movie nights, Spanish and Portuguese language sessions, fundraising events and welcome parties. At LASA, we tried to model our agenda after the age-old motto: work hard, play hard. Students came to depend on LASA as their one-stop shop for both professional and educational seminars as well as celebratory after-exam events.

Overall, I gained a lot from being a part of LASA. Personally speaking, the lessons I learned from my time with LASA paralleled the knowledge I gained from classes. I was given the opportunity to test my leadership and managerial skills, while also coordinating a team with shared goals but different skill sets and interests. I had the chance to network and build relationships with notable speakers, esteemed faculty, and accomplished students from across Latin America. But mainly, I gained a family.

With that said, I strongly encourage you to research the student organizations when you arrive at SIPA and find a place where you can contribute to student life and create an experience that you will carry with you long after you graduate.

A View from the Class: Srujan Routhu

The SIPA Office of Alumni and Development is pleased to share another installment of A View from the Class, a SIPA stories series featuring current SIPA students, recently graduated alumni, and SIPA faculty. In this issue, we feature current SIPA student Srujan Routhu MPA ’18. Srujan is a second year Master of Public Administration candidate, concentrating in Economic and Political Development (EPD) and specializing in Advanced Policy & Economic Analysis.

What were you doing prior to attending SIPA?

I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay in 2012. After, I worked as a policy researcher in a think tank housed inside the Reserve Bank of India, focused on corporate finance and research in debt restructuring, primary debt issuances in India, rural cooperative banking, and financial inclusion. Before coming to SIPA, I worked as the head of engineering for an educational technology firm. I also co-founded and was Treasurer of an NGO which is focused on programming based on rural schools, school infrastructure, and public health programs targeting school children.

Why did you choose your particular areas of study?

While my technical skills and interests lie in finance, economics, data analytics, and technology, my goal is to use these skills in some of the subsectors of development, like education, healthcare, agriculture, or disaster relief. I chose EPD as my concentration to learn about these subsectors and how technology and finance can improve development outcomes.

What are some of the experiences you’ve had outside of the classroom while at SIPA?

Beginning in my first semester and through summer 2017, I worked in the EdLab at Teachers College, helping to design and build technology for the education sector. Last year, I participated in the Dean’s Public Policy Challenge on one of the finalist teams. We had the good fortune to represent SIPA at the GPPN Annual Conference held in February 2017 at Sciences Po in Paris.

I also have participated in two EPD workshops. Last spring, I was part of a team that worked with Study Hall Educational Foundation, identifying pathways to scale up their flagship gender focused teacher training program. Currently, I am working with UNHCR as a project manager, helping UNHCR’s cash based interventions program to make better use of their data by improving information dissemination and providing insights to improve their operations.

How is your last semester at SIPA shaping up?

I am working on research pertaining to cryptocurrencies, implementing various macroeconomic models and analyzing how economic policy could potentially unfold given the constraints and special characteristics associated with cryptocurrencies. Separately, I am conducting independent research to better understand how digital identity can be both useful and harmful.

I am also part of a team selected for the Atos IT Challenge 2018, working to use demand response utility pricing data, machine learning, and IoTs to provide cost optimization solutions to utility service providers and consumers.

Is there a particular SIPA experience that stands out?

I have had many great experiences at SIPA. But for me, the most outstanding experience has been in the two courses I took with Professor Lisa Anderson. Coming from a science background, I had a chance to explore topics that were radically different from what I had generally studied before coming to SIPA. This experience pushed me quite far out of my comfort zone, but I enjoyed the experience thoroughly.

Friday Roundup: Admitted Students’ Day, Alumni Day, and SIPA Faculty

We’ve been busy talking to so many fantastic students these past few weeks, past, current and future! Graduation for the SIPA Class of 2018 is coming up in a few weeks, and it’s bittersweet for us to watch the students we’ve known since they attended their first info session, graduate and go off into the world. On the other side, we’ve talked to many of our newly admitted students as they figure out what life at SIPA will be like. We’ll be giving some peeks into student life next week on the blog. Until then, here’s what we’ve been up to at SIPA:

It’s been 10 days since Admitted Students’ Day, our annual open house for the new MIA, MPA, and MPA-DP incoming class. We welcomed the SIPA Class of 2020 to campus for the day, allowing them to get a feel for the vibrant and busy SIPA community.

This past weekend was Alumni Day, where past students reunited for informative panels and to catch up. Clockwise from the top left is the SIPA Class of 2008, Class of 2013, Class of 1998, Class of 1993 – two classes celebrating their 20- and 25-year anniversaries! The years our alumni spent here as current students led to lifetime bonds around the world.

Finally, we’re giving a huge congratulations to economist Richard Clarida, who was nominated as vice chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, the second-ranking position in the United States’ central banking system.

We’re excited to see the SIPA community grow in so many diverse directions. Wishing you all a great weekend!

A View from the Class: Jenise Ogle

The SIPA Office of Alumni and Development is pleased to share another installment of A View from the Class, a SIPA stories series featuring current SIPA students, recently graduated alumni, and SIPA faculty. In this issue, we feature current SIPA student Jenise Ogle MPA ’19. Jenise is a first year Master of Public Administration candidate, concentrating in Human Rights and Humanitarian Policy and specializing in Gender and Public Policy. She is also a SIPA Abrams Fellow.

What were you doing prior to attending SIPA?
I worked for Sanctuary for Families, New York City’s leading service provider for gender-based violence victims. In my role, I assisted domestic violence victims with their legal, educational, and economic needs. I also led the agency in a legislative advocacy campaign to end child marriage in New York, successfully changing the minimum age of marriage from 14 to 17. This experience taught me how public policy can be used to protect human rights, and it inspired me to return to graduate school.

Why did you choose SIPA?
I chose SIPA because of its Gender and Public Policy Specialization. My previous professional experience exposed me to how often women and their experiences are disregarded in policies and institutions. When choosing graduate schools, I wanted to join a program that would teach policy-making with a gendered-perspective. SIPA is a leader in offering gender-sensitive programming, the perfect school for my academic and professional interests.

What has been your experience at SIPA so far?
What distinguishes SIPA is its extraordinary people, and I feel fortunate to be in an environment of thoughtful peers and knowledgeable professors. It is empowering being around likeminded people who are also passionate about promoting positive change in the world. My fellow Seeples have continually inspired me, and I am very happy to be a member of the SIPA community.

Is there a particular SIPA experience that stands out?
I was selected for SIPA’s 2018 China Delegation. It provided me with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to dive deeply into U.S.-China relations. I met with government and business leaders in Beijing, Shanghai, and Shenzhen. I previously had little exposure to Chinese foreign and economic policy, and I was consistently surprised by the breath of topics discussed during our meetings and our engaging discussions. Additionally, the trip gave me the chance to travel with 20 other Seeples. I valued getting to know them better, and I cherish the great friendships I was able to make.

What are your plans after SIPA?
I would like to engage in gender-based violence prevention work on a domestic level. I hope I can help develop gender-sensitive public policy that will promote gender equality.

"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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