Archive for A View From the Class

A View from the Class: Divyam Nandrajog MIA ’19

The SIPA Office of Alumni and Development is pleased to share A View from the Class, a series featuring current SIPA students, recently graduated alumni, and faculty. In this issue, we feature newly graduated SIPA alumnus Divyam Nandrajog MIA ’19. Divyam graduated in May with a Master of International Affairs (MIA), concentrating in International Security Policy (ISP) and specializing in Technology, Media, and Communications.

What were you doing prior to attending SIPA?
I studied law at the National Law University, Delhi in Delhi, India. I was particularly interested in criminal law and how it governed state-citizen interactions. I worked on several research projects on criminal justice involving rights of under-trial prisoners, criminal process re-engineering, and analysis of cases under Indian drug laws.

These projects involved visits to Tihar Jail, one of Delhi’s larger prisons, for data gathering and interviews of under-trial and convicted inmates to better understand and place their cases within the larger criminal process for analysis. The projects aimed for both immediate and systemic impact. One involved assessing under-trial inmates’ eligibility for bail under special provisions of the criminal procedure code. Another project focused on identifying and mitigating procedural bottlenecks and causes for systemic delay in trials under special laws.

Why did you choose SIPA?
I chose SIPA for its ISP concentration that delves into various topical components of the subject and offers students flexibility in concentrating their studies on particular aspects of international security.

How would you describe your SIPA experience?
I really enjoyed my classes in cybersecurity and defense analysis. The professors teaching them bring a wealth of professional experience and detail that makes courses in these subjects extremely practical and readily applicable by graduate students starting out in the field.

How has SIPA affected you?
No two resumes at SIPA are the same. The diversity of backgrounds, approaches, and thought that the student body brings together presents a welcome and formidable challenge to norms and approaches assumed to be settled. The key lies not in isolated points of view but in the bridges we build between them, shaping the process as much as it shapes us.

Are there particular SIPA experiences that stand out?
My studies and work under Professor Jason Healey, first as his student and intern and subsequently as his research assistant, were a highlight of my time in SIPA. The past year was an incredible learning process. The sheer breadth of research I was exposed to under his guidance enriched my studies and learning in a way few other experiences can match. The freedom I was given to conduct my own research on topical subjects in cybersecurity allowed me to further develop my interests, build upon what I learned in classes, and apply it in practical ways.

I also benefited from several interactions with policymakers and industry leadership whose insights have been of great practical value in contextualizing my learning and taking it further.

What are your plans now that you have graduated from SIPA?
I hope to work in cyber threat intelligence and cybersecurity and defense policy.

A View from the Class: Basbibi Kakar MIA ’20

The SIPA Office of Alumni and Development is pleased to share A View from the Class, a SIPA stories series featuring current SIPA students, recently graduated alumni, and faculty. In this issue, we feature current SIPA student, Basbibi Kakar MIA ’20. Basbibi is a KUMA/Kuznetsov Fellow and a first year Master of International Affairs candidate, concentrating in Economic and Political Development and specializing in Advanced Policy and Economic Analysis.

What were you doing prior to attending SIPA?

After graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in business from Montclair State University in New Jersey, I worked as a finance and operations intern at the Rockefeller Brothers Fund for a year. During that time, I also interned with the Malala Fund, focusing on grant writing, philanthropic outreach, and support to country representatives from Pakistan, India, Turkey, Nigeria, and Afghanistan in preparation for the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in London. I also managed language translations of the Girl Advocacy Guide, a help guide for advocating for girls education and human rights, and the Fund’s partnership with NaTakallam, a service which pairs Arabic-speaking displaced persons with learners around the world for language practice over Skype.

I also volunteered with the Rutgers Presbyterian Church to provide translation services for the Refugees Task Force, help to resettle Afghan refugee families, cultural orientation for volunteers working with refugees, and student tutoring.

What was your experience working at the School of Leadership, Afghanistan (SOLA) in Kabul?

I was born in Afghanistan, but grew up in Pakistan as a refugee after my family fled the Taliban. I returned to Afghanistan in 2008. Before attending Montclair State, I worked full-time as Assistant Head of School at the School of Leadership, Afghanistan (SOLA), the only secondary boarding school for girls in Afghanistan. At SOLA, I helped design a curriculum that included cross-cultural exchanges and distance learning via a virtual exchange program. In partnership with the Global Nomads Group, an organization leveraging technology to connect middle and high school students with peers from around the world, we connected SOLA students and teachers with U.S. classrooms to promote empathy, awareness, and agency to tackle pressing issues. It was a privilege working at SOLA, watching ambitious 12 to 19 year old girls have the opportunity to receive an education and listening to the remarkable stories of parents who, after living with forty years of war, finally had hope for the futures of their children.

Why did you decide to pursue a graduate degree and attend SIPA?

Growing up and working in Afghanistan, I have experienced firsthand the need for better development policies and policymakers. I believe those who have lived in the country will be most effective in making those changes. I decided to attend graduate school so that I can be one of those changemakers, and I chose SIPA because of its international focus and policy concentrations and opportunities for practical as well as classroom experiences.

Why have you chosen to concentrate in Economic and Political Development? 

There is a dire need for educated people in all sectors in Afghanistan, and women play an important role in conflict and post-conflict recovery. However, women are underrepresented in Afghanistan’s economic and business sector. I want to be a positive force in improving Afghanistan’s economy, reducing the effects of war, and preventing further violence. Positive economic initiatives will provide job opportunities for younger generations, moving the country towards peace and prosperity.

What has been your experience thus far in your first semester at SIPA?

I have enjoyed my first semester and meeting students from all over the world. The professors are highly competent, delivering great lectures and providing support with assignments and constructive guidance. I have been challenged from the start, but am confident that the experience will help me develop both personally and professionally.

Is there anything else that you would like to add?

It has been hard for me to leave my family and other loved ones back in Afghanistan, especially given the unrest and violence that occurs on a daily basis. However, I am determined to stay strong, completing my degree at SIPA and making the most of my experience.

A View from the Class: The 2018 Award-Winning Capstone Workshop Team

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.

Here, we feature the Capstone workshop team that was awarded this year’s Dr. Susan Aurelia Gitelson Award for Human Values in International Affairs for their work with UN Women on the project “Using Twitter Data Combined with Traditional Survey Data to Measure Societal Dynamics Related to Violence Against Women in Brazil.” Awarded annually, the Gitelson award was created by SIPA alumna, Dr. Susan Gitelson to recognize outstanding work by SIPA students related to human values in international affairs.

For this project, six SIPA students were partnered with faculty advisor, David Dabscheck. UN Women was interested in the use of Big Data; specifically, to understand the potential of using Twitter data combined with traditional survey data to measure societal dynamics related to violence against women in Brazil, where the rates of homicide have continued to increase since 2007.

Alejandra Baez MIA’18: At SIPA, Alejandra concentrated in Human Rights and Humanitarian Policy with specializations in Latin America and Technology, Media, and Communications. A Thomas R. Pickering Foreign Affairs Fellow, she will join the U.S. State Department in September 2018 as a Foreign Service Officer.

Wajeeha Bajwa MIA’18: Wajeeha grew up in Tokyo and Moscow and completed her undergraduate education in Germany before returning home to Pakistan to pursue a career in independent consulting. At SIPA, she specialized in Gender and Public Policy to complement her international field experience. She hopes to join an international organization working for women’s empowerment globally.

Gabriel Barrientos MPA-DP’18: At SIPA, Gabriel focused on quantitative analysis, education policies, and behavioral economics. Recently graduated, Gabriel is joining Concordia in New York City as a Partnership Development Manager, working with key partners, industry leaders, and other stakeholders to foster and strengthen public-private partnerships for social impact.

Veronique Ehamo MIA’18: At SIPA, Veronique concentrated in Human Rights and Humanitarian Policy with a dual specialization in Gender and Public Policy and Regional African Studies. From the Democratic Republic of Congo, she  will begin PhD studies in the United Kingdom this fall, focusing her research on the utilization of rape as a weapon of war in the North Kivu Region of Eastern DRC.

Lilah Greenberg MPA’19: A dual degree student at SIPA and the Columbia School of Social Work (CSSW), Lilah is pursuing her MPA, concentrating in Human Rights with a specialization in Gender and Public Policy. In fall 2018, she will continue her studies at CSSW, focusing on human rights and contemporary social issues in the U.S.

Marie Wavre MPA’18: An attorney and MPA graduate in Development and Gender Policy, Marie received a Master in Public International Law from Université Paris Assas and an LL.M. in International Law and Justice from Fordham University School of Law. Marie is currently legal counsel for an immigration law office representing Tibetan refugees seeking asylum in the United States.

A View the from the Class: Audrey Misquith

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 recently graduated SIPA student Audrey Misquith MPA ’18, Master of Public Administration concentrating in Economic and Political Development (EDP) and specializing in Advanced Policy and Economic Analysis. 

What were you doing prior to attending SIPA?

After graduating from Bangalore University with a bachelor’s degree in financial management and a minor in accounting and taxation, I worked as a deputy manager at a government-owned development bank in India. I led teams through entire credit cycles, specializing in the sectors of agriculture, education, medicine, and infrastructure. On the side, I designed initiatives and managed operations for two education non-profits that served low-income school children.

Why did you choose SIPA?

I chose SIPA for its widely-recognized reputation as a global public policy school. Since my regional interests lay in South Asia, Africa, and the Middle-East, SIPA was a good fit given its vast repertoire of courses tailored to this region.  I was particularly interested in transitioning to the non-profit sector and with my previous banking experience with small and medium enterprises and agriculturists, I hoped to gain solid academic training that would complement the practical skills I had picked up on the field.

Why did you choose your particular areas of study?

The EPD track offered what I was looking for. The workshop component meant applying important skills learned in the classroom on the ground with the opportunity to work with innovative social enterprises and multilateral organizations. I chose Advanced Policy and Economic Analysis as my specialization to further widen my data analytic skill-set.

Please describe some of your SIPA experiences.

My SIPA experience has been fabulous. Highlights include a class on “Global Inequality” with Professor Suresh Naidu, “Advanced Economic Development” with Professor Eric Verhoogen, and classes with political science and humanitarian industry experts, Dr. Lisa Anderson and Dr. Dirk Salomons. My summer internship at Plan International in Uganda was a fulfilling experience as well. My primary responsibility was to inform the operating model of a scale-up of Plan’s flagship economic empowerment program for youth farmers.

This semester, I travelled to Brazil to meet with government officials and the World Food Programme’s staff to assess the World Food Programme’s Center of Excellence(CoE)’s south-south cooperation strategy with the West African region. Recently, my team claimed the runners-up prize for the Dean’s Public Policy Challenge grant and won a $20,000 grant to fully launch a technological platform to raise HIV awareness in India’s rural district of Solapur.

What are your plans after SIPA?

I am most interested in roles that involve a combination of program design and implementation. I like to get my hands dirty, so roles that entail scaling up a development intervention or building an initiative from scratch are most appealing. I lean towards food security and livelihoods and public health.

A View from the Class: Ally Tang

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 recently graduated SIPA student Ally Tang MPA ’18, concentrating in Human Rights and Humanitarian Policy with a specialization in International Conflict Resolution.

What were you doing prior to attending SIPA?

I practiced commercial litigation in New Zealand for close to three years and also interned in the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague, working in the Office of the Prosecutor.

Why did you choose SIPA?

I liked its strong focus on global policy, the caliber of SIPA’s faculty with expertise that aligned with my areas of interest, and its location in New York City, a hub of international activity and organizations.

Why did you choose to focus your studies on Human Rights and International Conflict Resolution?

I wanted to build on my legal background to work on human rights policy, particularly in the area of atrocity prevention. The International Conflict Resolution specialization also provides a good mixture of practical skills and theoretical knowledge.

What are some highlights of your SIPA experience?

I have really enjoyed being part of a diverse cohort of students, which created a rich learning environment for sharing experiences and ideas through a comparative lens. I interned with the International Justice Program at Human Rights Watch and was part of the Business and Human Rights Clinic for my capstone project. I have also been a teaching assistant for Professor Robert Jervis and Professor Vicky Murillo at the undergraduate and graduate levels.

How has SIPA impacted you?

SIPA has really broadened my skill set and allowed me to build on my legal training to work in policy areas I am passionate about. The intellectual environment at Columbia is excellent; events and talks on campus have exposed me to an array of ideas and policy discussions from high-level policymakers, heads of state, and leading academics. I’ve also made a number of exceptional friends over the two years.

What are your plans after SIPA?

I will be working as a Research Analyst at the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect here in New York.

"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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