Archive for Admitted Students Day

Life as a Program Assistant: It’s Pretty Sweet

Note from Admissions: Congratulations to the students that walked across the stage at SIPA’s graduation yesterday – including our program assistants! We’re extremely happy for, and proud of, the graduates of the SIPA Class of 2019.


Hello everyone! Congratulations to all our readers who were recently admitted to SIPA and welcome to those who are considering applying during the next cycle.

I am writing this post to shed some light on the work of Program Assistants and to talk about what you can expect if you receive an Assistantship while at SIPA!

First of all, program assistants (PAs) are SIPA students that work in SIPA affiliated offices to support full-time staff with daily operations, program management, event planning, etc.

Assistantships are only open to students during their second year; in Spring semester of your first year, you will receive an application form that will let you apply en masse to all open assistantship positions. These positions are competitive, so I encourage students to develop relationships with the people you are interested in working for.

So What Do PAs Do?

Again, it is very much dependent on where you end up working! At Admissions, I assist full-time Admissions staff with daily administrative tasks and the processing of student applications. I also help with communications, by documenting things on campus, writing for the Admissions Blog and occasionally featuring on Columbia SIPA social media accounts!

As an admissions representative, I also meet with prospective students and answer questions from applicants throughout the year.

If you attended Admitted Students Day, I also helped plan and staff the event!

Other friends of mine work for a variety of other offices on campus. For example, one of my good friends works for SIPA News and is a veritable journalist; his job is to attend SIPA events and to write reports for the website. Another one of my friends is the PA for the Urban and Social Policy concentration, and he works with USP faculty to plan events, speaker series and monthly happy hours/mixers.

In general, we all work about anywhere from 12-20 hours a week, depending on our time commitments and the demands of our work. Ultimately, it’s a great way to earn extra money and to connect with new students and staff here at SIPA. So if you’re about to attend SIPA or are considering applying, definitely start thinking about PAships!

L-R: Julia, Sam, Dylan, and Kier

Special shoutout to Fall 2019 PA Niara Valerio! You can see what she and another former PA, Rahel Tekola, are up to here.

SIPA Admitted Students’ Day 2019

Last week we held our annual open house for the newly admitted MIA, MPA and MPA-DP incoming Class, Admitted Students’ Day 2019. While it was fantastic for us to meet many of the names behind the emails and calls, it was especially great for the admitted students to meet each other and the larger SIPA community, including faculty, alumni and current students.

Admitted students get a lot of specialized content to better inform them of what SIPA offers as a policy graduate school. This includes Faculty Webinars like this one with Vice Dean Scott Barrett,  and additional ones with Professor Tamar Mitts and and upcoming webinar with Professor Dipali Mukhopadhyay. While we can only share the first webinar, you can learn more about Professor Mitts’s work in big data within counterrorism here,  and Professor Mukhopadyay’s work in rebuilding countries post-conflict here.

Admitted students have also been meeting up with alumni all over the world, most recently in Washington, D.C.

Overheard at this D.C. meetup? “I was on the fence but after tonight I’m sold. I can see how close the alum are and it’s great y’all came here to answer questions.”

I encourage every person interested in SIPA, admitted student or thinking of applying in a bit, to directly connect with SIPA as much as possible. This might be connecting with SIPA alumni and/or current students, but it can also include researching what courses are available, or visiting classes in the fall and spring semesters. Finding out if a graduate school is right for you can be time-consuming, so it’s never bad to start early.

It was great meeting all of the admitted students last week – we hope you had fun – and we look forward to seeing the Class of 2021 in the fall.

A quick April update

We assume you’re all as busy as we are this April, so here’s a few updates on what’s been going on at SIPA:

Tomorrow is our Admitted Students’ Day event for the incoming SIPA Class of 2021. We’re excited to welcome them to Columbia University’s campus to meet the SIPA community of faculty, alumni, current and other admitted students! The Office of Admissions and Financial Aid will be closed tomorrow for the event, so please be patient with us if it takes a little longer to get back to your calls or emails.

Are you following @columbia.sipa on Instagram yet? Current SIPA students Kier Joy and Daniel White led a virtual tour of the International Affairs Building and led an admitted student Q&A. We’ll add their answers to Instagram soon, so here’s a sample: One admitted student asked “How does the size of the student body impact your ability to find community?”

  • Kier: “The advantage of being in a larger policy school is that there’s bound to be someone who’s interested in what you’re interested in! For example, I’m interested in the intersection of policy, blackness and America – so I created a WhatsApp group with black students at Orientation and got very involved with SIPA Students of Color on campus.”
  • Dan: “Classes are big enough to have discussions, but small enough that you can’t hide.”

To give prospective students a sample of the rigorous academics at SIPA, faculty members have been leading condensed virtual lectures and Q&As with prospective students. Thanks to all of you who joined in – we hope you learned something new! Here’s the first Faculty Webinar from Vice Dean Scott Barrett on “International Cooperation to Limit Climate Change.” Let us know what you think!

To those of you who have given feedback on what blog content you’d like to see, know that we have some SIPA students working on answering your questions. Wishing everyone a great week, and looking forward to meeting you admitted students tomorrow!

Why Human Rights and Humanitarian Policy concentration is the right “fit” for Jake Sprang MIA ’19

Thanks to SIPA student Jake Sprang MIA ’19, Human Rights and Humanitarian Policy concentration, for this guest post. You can read the case for the Urban and Social Policy concentration from Dylan Hoey MPA’19 here.

When I was applying to graduate school, I focused above all on finding the right “fit.” I was looking for a school and a program that merged my interests in human rights, international development and humanitarian response. When I came to Admitted Students’ Day, I had been accepted into SIPA to study Economic and Political Development, and was torn between three different universities. By the end of the day, I knew I would be going to SIPA and that I would be studying human rights and humanitarian policy.

During Admitted Students’ Day, I had the privilege of hearing from the directors of several of the concentrations. But, when I sat down in the information session with Professor Elazar Barkan and Susannah Friedman, Directors for the Human Rights and Humanitarian Policy concentration, everything clicked. Professor Barkan told the room that, when deciding which program to study, we needed to focus on what we wanted our professional identity to be. It was at that moment, I knew that being “development professional” wasn’t what I wanted. If I wanted to work in humanitarian response, I needed to study humanitarian response. That night, I switched to humanitarian policy, accepted my offer letter, and haven’t looked back. Since I made that decision, I have constantly been validated that I made the right choice for me. While there are many reasons why I’m proud to be in the HRHP concentration, there are three that stand out above the rest.

1. Human Rights and Humanitarian Policy gives students a more cohesive analytical framework that other concentrations. In HRHP, we learn about approaching human rights and humanitarian response from a rights-based approach. Simply put, when we study humanitarian response, we start by focusing on ensuring and upholding the human rights and dignity of people affected by complex emergencies. We focus on the rights they are denied and how we as responders must work with them to ensure their rights as individuals and a community are protected throughout all phases of response. This approach is incredibly unique at SIPA. While many concentrations, especially Economic and Political Development and the MPA in Development Practice, focus on building practical skills, they do not provide the cohesive strategy for analyzing problems that will be faced in human rights careers. It’s like have a bunch of tools without a toolbox. On the other hand, the HRHP program gives students both: the tools to implement humanitarian response, and the toolbox: the analytical framework of a rights-based approach.

2. Human Rights and Humanitarian Policy is the most flexible concentration at SIPA, allowing students to customize the program to their needs. One thing I love about the human rights and humanitarian policy concentration is the fact that I can build experience in the areas that most interest me. For example, if I want to learn about Water and Sanitation in Complex Emergencies, that class is an HRHP elective, cross-listed at the Mailman School of Public Health. Or, if I want to learn about the rights of Refugees, Forced Migration, and Displacement, I can take that course through the Institute for the Study of Human Rights. I can do the same with the Law School, studying Transitional Justice, or Gender Justice. And if I want to take a non-HRHP course, I have the space in my schedule, due to the flexibility offered by the program, which has less core requirements than other concentrations. HRHP gives me the opportunity to seek out the courses that interest me and develop the practical skills that I want to obtain. The program lets me choose the tools that I want in my toolbox.

3. I want my professional identity to be firmly grounded in Human Rights and Humanitarian Policy. At the end of the day, you need to pick the SIPA concentration that fits best for you. For me, I want to identify as someone working in the humanitarian field coming with a strong grounding in human rights. Designing humanitarian response programming is vastly different from development programming. To be a humanitarian, I realized that I needed to study humanitarian response. I’ve seen the importance of this professional identity through some of my cross-listed courses, with both development and humanitarian students. My colleagues have built an amazing set of skills for analyzing and designing international development programs. However, these skills don’t quite fit with the humanitarian field. It’s like asking a plumber to fix your roof. If you want to seek a career in human rights or humanitarian response, you need to make sure that you have the right tools and toolbox for the job. You can only get those through the HRHP concentration.

In closing, I want to make a small plea. When looking at the world today, it’s clear that human rights are under attack. The foundations of the human rights order developed after the Second World War is being eroded by the rise of nationalistic regimes across the globe. While this human rights system was and remains deeply, deeply flawed, it was the only system we had to protect vulnerable people from oppression and the deprivation of their rights and dignity. On the humanitarian side, things are equally grim. Mass displacement of people, driven by conflict, climate change, natural disasters and poverty is leaving millions of people in need of humanitarian relief. With the global North becoming increasingly unwilling to act, lower and middle-income countries are largely footing the bill. The need for humanitarian relief is greater than ever, and will only grow more and more pressing.

We need future policymakers who are passionate, intelligent and dedicated to addressing these growing challenges. Pick the concentration that fits best for you, but I know that I wouldn’t feel as fulfilled studying anywhere – or anything – else.

Fall 2011 Admission Time Line and Welcome Page

The Admissions Committee continues to read/review at a fast and furious pace but we are happy to be nearing the end of the review process.  No decisions went out on Monday but our hope is to start publishing more today.  As always, check here for updates, however we cannot tell individuals when their decision will be ready to view.

I do want to provide those who have been admitted with a few reminders and give insight to those still waiting of what lies ahead in the future if you do receive an offer of admission.

First, please note that if admitted to SIPA you will be given a link to a Welcome Page in your admission letter.  The Welcome Page contains very important information regarding a variety of topics.  We have already received a large number of emails from admitted applicants with questions that are clearly answered on the Welcome Page.  We want admitted students to receive answers to questions as quickly as possible and reviewing the Welcome Page will most likely answer many questions admitted applicants might have.

For example, many applicants have emailed asking if they can interact with a current student.  The answer is yes and we make this easy by offering an internet message board that allows admitted applicants to interact with one another and with current students.   SIPA students will be on spring break from March 14th to 18th so traffic will likely be slow this week, however the board is live and waiting for admitted applicants to take advantage of.  How do you log in?  Details on are the Welcome Page.

Second, SIPA will host an Admitted Student Day on Tuesday, April 12th.  Admitted Student Day will take place on the Columbia Campus and it will be a full day event.  Professor Jeff Sachs will be giving a special talk during the lunch portion of Admitted Student Day.  How do you register?  Registration information is on the Welcome Page.  If you cannot attend, there are some resources available for those unable to attend . . . you guessed it, on the Welcome Page.

Third, May 2nd is the date by which admitted students must pay a deposit confirming enrollment for fall 2011.  The typical day is May 1st, but since May 1st falls on a Sunday we moved the response date to the next business day, Monday.

Fourth, a series of communications will be sent to admitted applicants and these messages will come from the sipa_admission@columbia.edu address.  Please ensure that your email client is set to receive messages from this account.  Faculty, current students, administrators, and alumni will all be included in the communication chain.

Fifth, if you are admitted you will need to ensure that official academic transcripts and official test reports are in our office no later than June 15th.  We will work with admitted applicants to determine if official copies of these documents were already provided to us during the application process.  What address should you send them too?  The address is listed on the Welcome Page.

Last, unfortunately applicants placed on the waitlist are unable to participate in admission related activities until an admission offer is made.  More details regarding the waitlist will be published on this blog in the future.  We will begin to “work” the waitlist in April and this process will often continue into the summer.

Thank you for your attention . . . now back to Committee meetings . . .

"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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