Archive for A View From the Class

A View from the Class: Kelsey Orr MPA ’19

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 recent SIPA graduate, Kelsey Orr MPA ’19. Kelsey is SIPA’s Michael and Polly Brandmeyer Fellow and concentrated in International Security Policy with a specialization in Management.

What were you doing prior to attending SIPA?
While earning a bachelor’s degree in politics and international affairs and Asian studies at Furman University in South Carolina, I interned at the U.S. Department of State, Southwest Airlines, and the Scottish Parliament. Some of the highlights of my undergraduate experiences included studying Japanese language and serving as a U.S. Youth Delegate to the 2015 Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Manila, Philippines.

Why did you choose SIPA?
I always wanted to live in New York, and as a U.S. Department of State fellow and future Foreign Service Officer, I knew that my career would take me all over the world, but my home base would be Washington, D.C. Before entering this career, I felt it was important for me to broaden my experience as much as possible and make connections outside of Washington, D.C. Living and studying in New York has certainly done that.

Why did you specialize in Management?
Knowing I would be a Political Officer at the Department of State, I was hard pressed to choose between the human rights and security concentration tracks because I am interested in the intersection of these two fields. However, with a management specialization, I have been able to take a variety of courses that fit both of these categories.

What have been some of your favorite SIPA experiences?
One of my favorite experiences during my first year at SIPA was working at the Institute for the Study of Human Rights with the Alliance for Historical Dialogue and Accountability program. I helped plan an annual conference that brings together human rights practitioners and scholars and was able to meet many inspiring individuals in the field.

In addition, Ambassador William Luers’s course, Talking with the Enemy, was a great way for me to learn about the history of U.S. diplomacy as well as to discuss current U.S. foreign policy issues. I thoroughly enjoyed studying the decision-making process of U.S. leaders and engaging in debate with the other students in the course.

What did you work on during your last semester at SIPA?
This spring, I am excited to work on the Mercy Corps capstone team to enhance youth participation in humanitarian action in Nepal. Mercy Corps is a global humanitarian organization empowering people to recover from crisis, build better lives, and transform their communities for good.

How has SIPA affected you?
SIPA has been life changing in terms of my worldview and has helped me hone really practical skills, such as conflict resolution, that I know will be useful in my future career.

What are your plans after SIPA?
In June 2019, I joined the U.S. Foreign Service as a Political Officer at the U.S. Department of State. I know that no matter where in the world my career takes me, I have the skillset to be an effective advocate thanks to my education at SIPA.

A View from the Class: Diego Folly de Andrade MPA ’19

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 recent graduate SIPA Diego Folly de Andrade MPA ’19. A second-year Master of Public Administration (MPA) candidate, Diego is concentrating in International Finance and Economic Policy with a specialization in Advanced Policy and Economic Analysis. He is a fellow in SIPA’s International Fellows Program, a Lemann Foundation SIPA Fellow, and a World Bank Graduate Scholarship Program Fellow.

What were you doing prior to attending SIPA?
I worked in the Brazilian Government as a Labor Inspector at the Ministry of Labor and as an International Advisor to the Government Secretary in the Brazilian President’s Office. As a Labor Inspector, I actively participated in the formulation and regulation of the National Occupational and Safety Health (OSH) Policy and helped to improve the living and working conditions of people living in Rio’s poorest communities. I also participated in the Mobile Group for Slave Eradication, helping to release workers from degrading work conditions.

As an Advisor to the Government Secretary, I articulated public policies to promote social development and to facilitate the social dialogue between civil society and Government, and participated in the development of an institutional framework to implement Sustainable Development Goals across Brazil.

Why did you choose SIPA?
SIPA is highly rated with outstanding professors and public practitioners. Moreover, its programs attract diverse and international students with successful career experiences.

What have been some of your standout experiences at SIPA?
I participated in a Capstone workshop with Free The Slaves, researching and developing a monitoring and evaluation tool to measure the socio-economic status of participants in programs combating child domestic servitude in Haiti. I also did a summer internship at Eurasia Group Lab, assessing Brazilian political risk during the presidential elections. I competed in SIPA’s Public Policy Dean’s Challenge Grant student competition. My team, Citizap, is developing an Artificial Intelligence (AI) – based virtual assistant that connects people with public agencies in their place of residence. The goal is to improve the quality of public services provided, strengthening digital governance and public engagement in city management.

What are your plans now that you graduated from SIPA?
I plan to return to Brazil and to help design public policies that focus on promoting decent work, sustainable development, and social inclusion.

Is there anything else you would like to add?
I am grateful to Columbia and SIPA for this amazing experience. I am also thankful for my fellow Seeples for making me feel integrated into the community, for the unique experiences and views, and for the bond of solidarity built during this time.

I look to education as a means of transformation and overcoming obstacles. Throughout my life, the generosity of people who I did not know well helped make my education possible. Thanks to the support and hard work of my parents and to the scholarships and fellowships I have received, I been able to achieve my dreams of studying at highly ranked universities. I hope to do the same for others and dream of ensuring fundamental rights for all Brazilian citizens, so that in the future, all children have the chance to follow their dreams and achieve what they once thought was impossible.

A View from the Class: Sarah Goddard 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 recently the graduated Sarah Goddard MIA ’19. Sarah earned a dual degree Master of International Affairs concentrating in Urban and Social Policy with a specialization in United Nations Studies. She also has a Master of Public Health degree concentrating in Sociomedical Sciences at Columbia’s Mailman School of Public Health.

What were you doing prior to attending SIPA?
I taught English at a high school in Toulouse, France. Afterwards, I served a year with AmeriCorps in Western Massachusetts at an affordable housing nonprofit, working on a community health and public safety project in a low-income urban area. This opportunity inspired me to apply to SIPA.

Why did you choose SIPA?
I chose SIPA because of the ability to combine my interest in urban and social policy with a degree in international affairs, and SIPA’s course offerings in community development, gender, and international relations theory inspired me. I also chose SIPA because of its location and access to the many opportunities and resources in New York City, including the United Nations. Attending the admitted students’ day and walking through the campus with future peers and colleagues solidified my decision.

Why did you choose your particular areas of study?
I chose urban and social policy because I wanted to bridge the gap between my pre-SIPA professional experiences working internationally in education and domestically in urban community development. I decided to specialize in United Nations Studies because I wanted to become more familiar with international organizations, and I became increasingly interested in the UN through internships, coursework, and exposure to the Sustainable Development Goals while at SIPA. I applied to the dual degree program with the Mailman School to better focus on the links between urban and social policy and health.

What have been some of your standout SIPA experiences?
At the end of my first year, I interned at the United Nations Development Programme in New York in their HIV, Health and Development group. This was the first time I really saw my interests in health and social development come together professionally, and it was exciting to gain first-hand experience in the UN system.

For my SIPA Capstone, I chose an Economic and Political Development (EPD) Workshop related to urban development and the Sustainable Development Goals in Colombia. This was a defining part of my SIPA experience. I got to travel with a great team to do fieldwork in multiple cities, and our project was selected for a microgrant from the Sustainable Development Solutions Network and as a top project to present at the UN’s High Level Political Forum.

What have been some of your favorite SIPA courses?
I have taken a number of great courses with great professors at SIPA, but two courses stand out. The first is Yumiko Shimabukuro’s course on Comparative Urban Policy. Professor Shimabukuro made the course extremely dynamic and engaging by bringing in real life examples of urban policy failures and successes that brought the material to life. Beyond that, she transformed the class into a supportive family and became a mentor to many of us, and for that, I am grateful.

The second is Barbara Magnoni’s course on Working with the Private Sector for Development Outcomes. Professor Magnoni brought to the course expertise in private sector development and used many case examples from various sectors to make the material engaging and relevant. More importantly, she orchestrated a supportive classroom environment where students could debate and provide constructive feedback. Opportunities like this have shaped my experience at SIPA and are what make SIPA such a unique place.

What are your plans after SIPA?
I recently accepted an offer to work at Global Communities, an international development nonprofit, as a Program Officer in the Governance and Global Health pillar.

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.

"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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