Archive for alumni

Co-founder of Think.iT, Mehemed Bougsea ‘17, Shares His Entrepreneurial Journey

Mehemed Bougsea MPA-DP ’17 is transforming Tunsia’s tech sector with his start-up Think.iT.

Bougsea founded Think.iT after many years of desiring equality in tech markets across different countries. Growing up between Libya and Germany, Mehemed saw the vast difference in openings for jobs in the tech sector. He saw this as an injustice to gifted and skilled young STEM students, who had immense potential for success but who lacked the qualifications to meet the demand for lucrative jobs in the field.

Think.iT is based in Tunisia where 57 percent of the workforce is unemployed and where the local economy cannot produce jobs in the fields to match the talent of the workforce. Think.iT’s programs focus on training young students on newer technologies such as AI, Cloud, and Blockchain, to ensure that graduates are prepared to address today’s most prevalent and pressing problems. At SIPA, Mehemed was a Ipek Cem Taha and Shwan Ibrahim (2015-2016) and SIPA Fund Fellow (2016-2017).

Click here to learn more about Mehemed’s ethos and entrepreneurial journey.


The 2019 SIPA application is open, so keep up with our Admissions Blog here for application tips over the next few months. You can learn more about the MPA in Development Practice program here.

Startup Sesame Features Jennifer Kanyamibwa MIA ’16

We’re resharing this post of featuring Jennifer Kanyamibwa MIA ’16 and dual degree student, with the permission of Startup Sesame.

“Here at #SesameHQ, we believe in the potential for entrepreneurs to change the world, so we make sure our Sesamers are meeting the right people, at the right event & at the right time. We’re proud to have an international pool of mentors & experts helping us support our startups.

Joining this group of #RockstarMentors, we’re excited to introduce you to Jennifer Kanyamibwa, Senior Design Program Manager for the Design and User Research Team at Twitter!

Serendipitously, Jennifer and Suzanne first met in San Francisco during a visit to #SlackHQ, where Jennifer was previously working as Design Studio Manager.

Check out our recent #MentorSpotlight interview with Jennifer 😉

Let’s start with a quick snapshot of your academic & professional background; what path did you take?

I lived, worked and studied in New York City, Brussels, Berlin and San Francisco and hold a Master in International Affairs with a focus on Technology, Media & Communications from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) and Master in Public Policy with a focus on Public Management from Hertie School of Governance in Berlin, Germany. Both my academic and professional experiences provided me with a global understanding of how technology works in every facet of human life.

Tell us more about your experiences in government and finance and how they relate to tech?

Well, I started my career working in the New York City Mayor’s Office in the Bloomberg administration for the Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services so all of New York Cities agencies and programs that have to do with public assistance, homelessness services, public hospitals as well as the research and evaluation components of understanding if programs were effective in serving the citizen of New York City etc…these were major programs with many challenges and opportunities and since it was the Bloomberg administration, I learned about the importance of using research and evaluation to solve problems and understand metrics — similar to many approaches used to understand users and metrics in technology.

New York

In terms of finance, I worked as a Global Project Manager at Bloomberg LP where I received my formal project management and operations skills. I managed global finance projects including an award-winning, year-long project where I led Engineering, R&D and Global Payroll teams in São Paulo, Tokyo, Hong Kong, London and New York City in the design and implementation of a new global payroll system. After this project I had such a world of experience in (1) Working cross-functionally (2) Breaking down complex issues in order to achieve big results and (3) Understanding the global impact of improved technologies and the cultural competency needed to manage and inspire global team — -these are lessons I have brought to every job and tech since then. Whether it be the consultative work I did with Nike, my current board work as Ambassador Council member for International Crisis Group or even the academic work I did in grad school at Columbia University and the Hertie School of Government in Berlin, Germany — these three lessons are my guiding lights.

Since you are new to Twitter, what are some things you are looking to achieve with your role?

At Twitter, we (my manager and myself) are building up the Strategy and Operations arm of the Design and User Research Department. What this means is that as the Design and User Research Department scales, I am building out the processes and cultural components to ease collaboration and amplify effectiveness, not only across product disciplines, but also between the increasingly complex world of Product Design and User Research. We are the arm that does all the strategic and operational things to retain and find talent and to scale and buildout a world class design org at Twitter. It’s a very exciting role that combines my passions and expertise in design ops, program management, operations and strategy.

Twitter Headquarters (SFO)

What are some of your favorite books, magazines or podcasts that inform and/or relate to your work?

In terms of magazines, I love Communication Arts it’s an amazing publication that covers the best in graphic design, advertising, photography, illustration and interactive media. Its very creative and really inspiring. I also love the book Designing Design which is a great book on design thinking by Japanese graphic designer Kenya Hara.

My favorite design podcast is Revison Path which is a weekly showcase of the world’s leading Black creatives, graphic designers, web designers, product designers and web developers. My love for learning more about design was a direct result of working with extremely talented designers at Slack and Tech Open Air. Particularly Angelica MckinleyChris ReathViet Huynh (all based in the Bay Area and NYC) Amit Barnea and John Michael (both based in Berlin)

I am also super inspired by the cultural and artistic writing of Antwaun Sargent (who is a prominent art critic, prolific writer and a friend) his work is creative, passionate and forward thinking — all things I believe are also critical to good design.

Last but certainly not least, what is your experience with Tech events?

I actually got my start in tech with Tech Open Air (TOA.life Editorial) in Berlin, Germany. I had a position as Special Advisor to the CEO/Founder Niko LeWoi (aka Mr. TOA) (great boss and mentor!). I started off doing research around tech policy issues for example driverless cars and then I ended up working on presentations about emerging tech ecosystems and finally working with the Program Team, Production Team and the Design Studio at TOA with projects and during the entire festival, I shadowed the CEO it was AMAZING!

I also got to speak at Pirate Summit in Cologne, Germany. I spoke on two panels: Getting More Women into Tech and The Future of European Tech Ecosystems: London, Berlin, Paris. Pirate Summit (PIRATE.global) was such a unique and exhilarating experience; and I had A LOT of fun and learned so much from all the international presenters and attendees.”

SIPA Stories with Katie Jacobs Stanton and Mayor Eric Garcetti

We hosted an energetic and busy Summerfest NYC yesterday and met so many fantastic people. Thank you to all who came to network with us and the other top policy schools. If you’re in the D.C. area and are interested in graduate programs in international affairs, stop by Summerfest D.C. tonight.

A common question from prospective students last night was about how the MIA, MPA, or MPA-DP program would help them in their future careers. Who better to answer this question than two former students / current alumni?

Katie Jacobs Stanton (MIA ’95) shares how her SIPA education was applicable across her career in government and technology. She is the chief marketing officer of Color and former VP of global media for Twitter.

For a different perspective, Eric Garcetti (MIA ’93) was elected Mayor of Los Angeles in 2013 and speaks to how he wants Los Angeles to “become an example of how we bring folks across cultures together to build a new city.”

You can meet more of the people devoted to addressing public policy challenges at SIPA Stories.

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.

MPA – Development Practice Incubator

The MPA-Development Practice program will be turning 10 next year, and the new MPA-DP Incubator page highlights entrepreneurial enterprises that alumni have founded and fostered since graduating.

Organizations are located all around the world and focus on a variety of issues, from supporting Latin American female tech talent to bringing affordable childhood care and education to low-income communities in East Africa.

The MPA-DP program prepares students for a career where companies are becoming more complex and increasingly inclusive of all countries and societies. Check back in to the Incubator page as new organizations are still being added. And if you’re interested in being part of the diverse, interdisciplinary cohort that makes up our innovative MPA-DP program, read more about it here.

"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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