Archive for Student Life

Sites to see across Morningside Heights

Visiting Upper Manhattan and unsure where to go? There are plenty of stops within walking distance — by NYC standards — to explore nearby Columbia University. Here are a few of my favorites.

The Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine (West 112th & Amsterdam)
Across the street from SIPA Admissions and Financial Aid you will find the largest cathedral in the world. In fact, you really can’t miss it. The building, which began construction in 1892 and remains partly unfinished, runs the entire a full avenue block to Morningside Drive. In addition to more than 30 worship services a week and a soup kitchen that feeds 25,000 annually, this spiritual space offers serene gardens where you can breathe in a bit of nature. If you are lucky, you can get a peak of the live peacocks Jim, Harry, and Phil who even has his own Twitter account. They’ve taken up residence on grounds since the 1980s. The church also has regular music, art, guided tour, and educational workshop events throughout the year. If you are around during the summer, be sure to check out free performances in the cathedral by the New York Philharmonic. If you want to really make it an extra spiritual day, you can also check out the historic Riverside Church close by on 120th and Riverside Drive.

The Cathedral. Photo by Amir Safa.

 

Resident peacock at the Cathedral. Photo by Roxanne Moin-Safa.

 

Riverside Park & Morningside Park
Take a stroll either west or east of the SIPA campus and you will escape into the splendor of Riverside Park or Morningside Park. Riverside Park, which runs across 330 acres from 59th to 155th, offers picturesque views of the Hudson River where you can also catch a glimpse of the sunset under the natural canopy. In the spring season, you will be surprised to find some of the best cherry blossoms in the city along Cherry Walk which runs alongside the water from 100th to 125th. Some of these trees date back to 1909 when the Committee of Japanese Residents of New York presented as a gift to the City. Consider renting a bike from one of the recently opened Citibike stations, including the one at 104th and Riverside Drive, and whiz whimsically along the expansive bike path.

Morningside Park occupies a modest but enchanting 30-acre area running from 110th to 123rd from Morningside Avenue to Morningside Drive. This recently renovated park combines the natural 300 million-year-old rock geology of Manhattan, grassy open athletic fields, a dog park, and a man-made lake with cascading waterfalls where geese and turtles roam. You will often see families playing sports or feasting on barbecues. On Saturdays, you can shop some local pastries and fresh produce at the Down to Earth Farmer’s Market located at the corner of 110th and Manhattan Avenue. On a snowy day, bring your sled and then sing into spring through the fields of March Daffodils.

Serene springtime view of Morningside Park. Photo by Amir Safa.

 

Sledders enjoying the winter hills of Morningside Park. Photo by Amir Safa.

 

Historic Harlem Walking Tour
Take a walking tour in Harlem and dive into the many layers forming some of the greatest chapters of American history. From the beginning of Harlem as a Dutch community in the 17th century to its transition under the Harlem Renaissance of the early 20th century that brought to life African-American artists, musicians, and literary talents including Billie Holiday, Louis Armstrong, and Langston Hughes as well as the NAACP, the nation’s oldest civil rights group. We highly recommend Big Onion Walking Tours. Tours usually cost $15 for students and are often led by PhD students from around the City who paint you a picture of the past with a chock-full of trivia.

Wall art in Harlem. Photo by Roxanne Moin-Safa.

 

General Grant National Memorial (West 122nd & Riverside Drive)
Visit the final resting place of the 18th President of the United States of America and General of the Union Army Ulysses S. Grant and his wife Julia Dent Grant. Often known as “Grant’s Tomb,” the building stands tall with 150 foot soaring domed ceilings and 8,000 tons of grand marble and granite. The memorial honors his military service. If you are in town during the summer months, be sure to check the memorial calendar for concert events.

Paying respect at the General Grant National Memorial. Photo by Amir Safa.

 

Columbia’s New Manhattanville Campus (125th-133rd & Broadway)
Did you know that Columbia is expanding its reach onto a brand new, modern and sustainably designed campus? Some of the buildings are already open at the university’s Manhattanville Campus, including the Wallach Art Gallery free and open to the public located at the Lenfest Center for the Arts as well as retail space in the Jerome L. Greene Science Center with a rock-climbing wall. The campus will continue to open in stages, with plans to house the Columbia Business School by 2021. Stop by and see the future of Columbia.

Courtyard of the Manhattanville Campus. Photo by Amir Safa.

 

Inside the Wallach Art Gallery at the Lenfest Center for the Arts. Photo by Roxanne Moin-Safa.

 

Working Seeples: Yasmina Dardari MIA ’17

In addition to taking 14 to 16 credits a semester and participating in student groups, some SIPA students also work part-time jobs or internships. Earlier this semester, SIPA News spoke with Yasmina Dardari MIA ’17 to discuss how she manages the demands of school, her social life, and her internship at Unbendable Media.

What did you do before coming to SIPA?

I worked in D.C. for a few years at public-interest communications firm that did work for nonprofits and governments. I decided to attend SIPA to dig deeper into my own interests in media and human rights and also explore some of the the policy issues my clients were working on.

I’m really into media, politics, public relations, strategic campaigning, and human rights. My specialization in Technology, Media, and Communications and my concentration in Human Rights and Humanitarian Policy allows me to combine all of these interests.

What do you do at Unbendable Media?

Unbendable Media is a team of communications practitioners that do campaign strategy and public relations work for organizations that aim to build a better, more progressive world. A former colleague started the company and and reached out to me to join his team. I do much of the same work I did with the firm in D.C.—providing campaign strategy and public relations works for organizations working for the public interest.

Having this particular part-time job has really informed my SIPA education. My clients work on the same policy problems that we work on at SIPA, so my work informs school and school informs my work. It’s like a two-way symbiotic relationship that makes me a better employee and student.

Why Unbendable Media?

I wanted to keep myself sharp in the field that I care about, so I started interning at the organization last summer. They liked my work and asked me to stay on as a part-time worker. I enjoy the work, so it was a no-brainer to accept the offer. It will allow me to work in media and politics, which is where my heart is.

How do you balance your school and work commitments?

It’s not easy. It’s give and take. Ideally I wouldn’t have to work while attending school, but financially I can’t afford not to.

I didn’t work my first semester, which allowed me to throw myself into my studies. I was able to go to lectures and fully dedicate myself to schoolwork. It became difficult after that because I was the co-president for the Middle East Dialogue Group and had an assistantship in addition to my part-time work at Unbendable Media. Sometimes I feel like I’m missing out on the full SIPA experience.

My schedule is exhausting but it’s taught me the value of self-care. I know now how important it is to keep my stamina up, so I’m smarter about taking breaks and making efforts to spend time on my hobbies and see friends. Also, my time management skills have improved so much because of this experience. I make sure I’m on track and hit my benchmarks. My life would be a lot less stressful [if I didn’t work outside SIPA], but you can make it work if you have structure.

This interview, conducted by Serina Bellamy MIA ’17, has been condensed and edited.

Post-SIPA plans and wisdom from an (almost) alumna

I’ll be graduating this month, so I figured I should wrap up my time at SIPA with a blog post about my post-SIPA plans and some lessons I’ve learned from SIPA and NYC in general. After graduation, I’ll be joining the US Foreign Service as an entry level economic officer, representing the United States abroad. My time at SIPA has definitely been challenging, but I’ve been able to meet some of the most amazing things and have access to the most incredible experiences. I don’t miss it all quite yet, but I’m sure I will very soon. Here are the top five takeaways from my SIPA experience.

1. Don’t sweat the small stuff
SIPA is hard and A LOT of work. If you’re a bit of a Type A person like I am (and you probably are if you follow the admissions blog), not getting my money’s worth out of SIPA was a serious point of anxiety. I wanted to make sure I did EVERY reading, took as many classes with as many different professors as I could, have an internship every semester, and be involved in as many student orgs as possible. After about a month of doing the absolute most (and essentially living in Lehman Library), I realized that I can’t maximize my experience if I’m missing the forest for the trees. It’s okay if you don’t do all the reading, or go to every event or happy hour. Sometimes it’s not physically possible to it all, and you’re better off picking what’s important to you and making the most of those experiences rather than trying to spread yourself so thin.

2. Challenge yourself to try new things
Many of us come into SIPA with a strong idea of our expertise and interests, which we, of course, planned to explore at SIPA. While it’s, of course, great to delve deeper into a strength, I would also recommend trying to work on your weaknesses as well as trying out some new things you’ve never considered. In my case, I came to school planning to study international conflict resolution and to become as close to an East Asia regional specialist as SIPA would allow, but while here I found myself gravitating toward the gender classes and focusing more on Southeast Asia—I region I knew very little about before coming here.  Taking those classes were definitely one of the best choices I made at SIPA because it allowed me to expand my horizons and my expertise.

3. Playing hard and having fun is just as important as good grades
This goes hand in hand with my first piece of advice. One of SIPA’s main selling points (for me at least) was its location in New York City and access to all the amazing things the city has to offer. Thus, if you’re constantly stressed about getting the “A+” in every class you’ll be missing out on not only great parts of your SIPA experience but the New York experience as well. Your SIPA classmates are some of the most accomplished and coolest people you’ll ever meet, so you should really take the time to get to know them outside of your macro problem-set group and Conceptual Foundations discussion section. Think of it this way, when you’ve finally graduated what will be more helpful in the long run: the A you got in quant, or the network you’ve made along the way? This is not to say that grades aren’t important (it goes without saying that they are) but again, don’t miss the big picture by focusing too hard on the details.

4. Use all the resources available to you, and ask for help when you need it
There’s nothing wrong with asking for help, and you should never be embarrassed to do so. SIPA’s a tough school, and we each have different areas of expertise. Not everyone is an econ or quant whiz and not everyone can write ‘A’ quality 25-page papers in 24 hours. The key is to know your strengths AND your weaknesses, and how to supplement your weak points. If econ or quant isn’t your thing, make sure you go to your favorite TA’s office hours, tutoring sessions and recitation (you can also go directly to the professor). If your writing is a bit weak, make sure you check out the writing lab and get your papers proofread far in advance so you can make the necessary changes. Being too proud to ask for help hurts no one but yourself.

5. You’re not an imposter
You’ve earned the right to be here! Whether you’re straight from undergrad, a career changer, an older student or somewhere in between, your experiences are no better or worse than any other student’s. That’s what’s so great about SIPA— we get to hear from a broad range of experiences from different countries and sectors. There’s no “perfect” Seeple, because we’re ALL the perfect Seeple.

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 best cafes on campus

If you are visiting SIPA next week for ASD and want to take a coffee break or grab a bite to eat, you have many choices. SIPA students Amir Safa, MIA, 2017, and Roxanne Moin-Safa, MIA, 2017, share their favorites.

Nous Espresso Bar at the Graduate Student Center, Philosophy Building

Hours:
M-Th 8:30 am – 8 pm
F 8:30 am – 6 pm
Sa 10 am – 5 pm
Su 12-5 pm

Nous Espresso Bar awaits you inside the Graduate Student Center of Philosophy Hall, just a few steps across the bridge from SIPA. The sophisticated grad student will appreciate the modern art, high ceilings, and quality coffee found within these walls. Don’t be shy; it’s common to share tables in this popular space. Nous proudly serves responsibly sourced Stumptown Coffee and as well as monthly features from Parlor and Coava. The brewed coffee connoisseur can choose between drip, pour over, or cold brew. Watch the sushi master make magic while you wait in line and ponder over what else you can order: a made-to-order Donburi (Japanese rice bowl), a soup, a salad, or pastries? And if you are wondering, “Nous” refers to Greek philosophical term for the intellect.

Recommended: Organic tea by Rishi especially Coconut Oolong for a light afternoon zing and a decadent brownie

UP Coffee Co. in Pulitzer Hall, School of Journalism

Hours:
M-F 7 am – 8 pm
Sa & Su 9 am – 6pm

If you are into local organic coffees, sustainable snacking, and watching the news, then make a pitstop at the newly opened UP Coffee nestled in the corner of the School of Journalism. The upscale and modern vibe here offers an assortment of sandwiches, made-to-order hot paninis, salads in Mason jars, baked goods, and snacks to go. In addition to espresso, you have your choice of drip, pour over, cold brew, and nitrogen infused cold brew. You will always get natural light from the glass roof, and if the weather is pleasant, you will get to chomp down al-fresco style when the glass patio doors open. If you need your daily fix of news, watch the overhead news ticker or the tv screens broadcasting CNN.

Recommended: Organic coffee roasted locally in Brooklyn; hot Reuben panini.


Publique, School of International and Public Affairs

Hours:
M-Th 8:30 am – 7 pm
F 8:30 am – 5 pm
Sa & Su – Closed

Get a real taste of SIPA life at the newly opened Publique cafe on the 6th floor.  This large lounge space offers students a place to unwind between classes. Publique offers a variety of salads, sandwiches, coffee, tea, baked goods, and snacks for the student on the go.  

Recommended: Sandwich to go

Brownie’s Cafe in Avery Hall, Columbia Graduate School of Architecture, Planning & Preservation

Hours:
M – Th 8 am – 6:30 pm
F 8 am – 5 pm

Is your coffee rendezvous a covert operation? We’ve got you covered. Step into Avery Hall next to the chapel, swing a left down the spiral staircase, through the architecture gallery room, and down another staircase into the tucked away secret of Brownie’s Cafe. This underground hideaway features modern, minimalist furniture with plenty of seating. Brownie’s Cafe features a wide selection of made-to-order and ready-made sandwiches, soups, Mediterranean side dishes, snack packs, baked goods, Toby’s Estate coffee, and Harney & Sons assorted teas.

Recommended: Grilled vegetable sandwich with Havarti cheese and Basil pesto on toasted focaccia bread.

 

Joe Coffee, NW Corner Science Building

Hours:
M – F 8 am – 8 pm
Sa & Su 9 am – 6 pm

Quite possibly the brightest cafe on campus, Joe Coffee is a coveted corner usually buzzing with professors, students, and locals. It’s located on the second floor of the NW Corner Science Building overlooking the gothic beauty of the Union Theological Seminary and the splendor of Teacher’s College. Enjoy the ambiance of ultra-modern, bright white furnishings and stunning marble flooring to boot. Light music spices things up here. Joe Coffee offers a variety of house-roasted coffees, espresso, and teas as well as lite fare including baked goods.

Recommended: Any of the house coffees, cappuccino.

[Photos by Amir Safa]

"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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