Archive for alumni

Unpacking the Development Practioner’s Lab within the MPA-DP program

One of the key reasons why I chose the MPA-Development Practice program at SIPA was its focus on building hard skills through workshops and innovative teaching methods that I would use later on in my professional career. Read More →

We say goodbye to SIPA alumna Anita Datar

It is with unbelievable sadness to share with all of you that SIPA lost a wonderful family member this week. Anita Datar, MPA-MPH 2003, died during the terrorist attack in Bamako, Mali on Friday. Read More →

Post-graduation reflections from Boris Maguire, an MPA-DP alum in Tech4Dev

Part of what makes the MPA in Development Practice program so unique is the network you can build within your cohort and with the alumni. We always have a lot of #MDPLove for one another, and today alum Boris Maguire, MPA-DP ’15, shares with us his personal affection for the program and an update on his career post MPA-DP. 

SIPA Admissions Blog! Long time, first time. I write this from my balcony in Nairobi, Kenya, where I’m preparing to run part of the Nairobi marathon tomorrow. As an American running a Kenyan race, I’ve set my goal to “not last,” and I’m mostly just excited to see the Nairobi streets emptied of their usually horrific traffic. My wife and I moved here at the end of June, just a month after I received my MPA in Development Practice (MPA-DP) from SIPA, so we’re still adjusting. Back in Spring 2013 however, we were both in DC, nervously preparing to move to New York so I could start the MPA-DP program.

I had chosen the DP program for its emphasis on practical skills and field experience, as well as for its balanced structure; combining a rigid focus on integrated approaches to development with the flexibility to design my own sector or skill-based track. I got exactly what I wanted. Coming to SIPA after five years administering non-profit media development projects from a DC office, I was eager to make some changes to advance my career and quality of life. I wanted to get back overseas, to move into a management role with a for-profit company, and to move away from television and radio projects. I remained fascinated by the use of communication tools to drive private sector development, but I had become increasingly interested in the massive enabling power of mobile and web-based communications technology. The MPA-DP program seemed like the best way to obtain the skills, knowledge and experience that would position me to design and oversee development projects that leveraged that power. I was right. My MPA-DP summer placement took me to Cambodia where I was an ICT Innovations Fellow for DAI. Working for a development consulting firm implementing a USAID project increased my exposure as to how technology solutions can be used for development challenges.

Two years later, I am a Project Manager for Echo Mobile, a Kenyan technology firm that builds and consults on the use of mobile tools (SMS, voice, Android and sensors). We help businesses, NGOs and international organizations to communicate with hard-to-reach markets and populations, enabling them to make better, data-driven decisions. I can imagine no better preparation for this job than my two years in the MPA-DP program.

[Photo courtesy of Boris Maguire]
[Photo courtesy of Boris Maguire]

I currently direct all of our consulting work, managing projects for clients that include the Kenyan Ministry of Education, a Rwandan integrated coffee company, The University of California, and multiple United Nations agencies. “Multi-sector” is right. For one UN client, I’m working with a dozen inclusive businesses all around the world to help them design impact measurement frameworks and use mobile data collection technology to align their business with the SDGs. With each of these companies, I am directly applying skills learned from the MPA-DP program: I am creating logical frameworks, theory of change maps, implementation plans and mobile survey forms, each of which was the focus of a different DP Lab during my first year. When new business opportunities arise for Echo Mobile and I need to write proposals, negotiate new contracts, or prepare project management plans and budgets, I apply skills and use resources directly from my Management for Development Professionals class, a second-year MPA-DP core course.

Yet, the most rewarding reminders of my time in the MPA-DP program come when I’m meeting with a client about how mobile technology can improve their work, or when I’m in the field training their staff on Echo’s technology. While I still get a rush from these experiences, they feel familiar now in a way they could not have two years ago. While at SIPA, the MPA-DP program enabled and empowered me to take on three distinct technology-for-development consulting projects, working for real clients in Mexico, Timor-Leste, and Cambodia on technology projects ranging across agribusiness, health and infrastructure. Each of those opportunities helped me learn the hard and soft skills required to assess whether certain types of technology could be integrated into a development project, business, or government process to enable social impact. They made me better at working with diverse stakeholders, ranging from bureaucrats to farmers, programmers, municipal workers, shopkeepers and whatever others were involved in making the right technology sustainable for the right context.

And best of all, my summer placement in Cambodia gave me the opportunity to travel to Myanmar, where I found the perfect stone to make a ring and propose to my then girlfriend, now wife. So, in just two short years, I landed my dream job AND my dream girl. At the risk of overstating things, I could not have done either without the MPA-DP program, and I’m forever grateful. #MDPLove

Thank you, for sharing your story Boris. As always, for more information on Summer Field Placements, Development Practice Lab, or alumni jobs please feel free to contact me

Alumnae receive Fulbright-Clinton fellowships

Congratulations to Meghan Arakelian, MPA-DP ’15, and Abigail Gregg, MPA-DP ’15, newly named recipients of Fulbright-Clinton Fellowships for 2015-16.

According to the U.S. State Department, which administers the fellowship program, Fulbright-Clinton Fellows “serve in professional placements as special assistants in foreign government ministries or institutions and gain hands-on public sector experience in participating foreign countries while simultaneously carrying out an academic research/study project.”

Arakelian and Gregg — recent SIPA alumnae who account for two out of just 19 fellowships awarded overall — are both awaiting placement in Timor-Leste.

Official biographies (courtesy Fulbright-Clinton Fellowship program)

Meghan Arakelian holds a master of public administration in development practice from Columbia SIPA and a bachelor of arts in international affairs from the George Washington University. Her graduate studies were guided by an interest in nutrition policy. She completed an independent study as a member of the core writing and data analysis team for the International Food Policy Research Institute’s Global Nutrition Report. Working with a team of graduate student consultants for the World Food Programme, Ms. Arakelian drafted country synthesis reports on nutrition governance for Bangladesh, Nepal, Rwanda, and Uganda. She also completed an internship in Nepal with the World Food Programme, working with the UN REACH Partnership on nutrition governance and multi-sectoral approaches to nutrition.

Prior to graduate school, Arakelian worked at Philantropia, a development consultancy based in New York, engaging with NGOs working in international development and human rights. While at Philantropia, she designed fundraising plans, researched prospective donors, and provided strategic resource mobilization advice for organizations in over forty countries. Ms. Arakelian has co-led NGO capacity building trainings in Africa, Asia, Europe, and North America.

As a Fulbright-Clinton Fellow, Arakelian hopes to gain experience developing policies to reduce stunting and malnutrition in Timor-Leste. She plans to research holistic approaches to nutrition, specifically operational and technical synergies across relevant ministries.

Abigail Gregg holds a master of public administration in development practice from Columbia SIPA. She received bachelor degrees in anthropology and English (creative writing) from the University of Southern California.  Gregg is a wilderness emergency medical technician certified by the Wilderness Medicine Institute of the National Outdoor Leadership School.

At USC, Gregg conducted fieldwork in South Los Angeles, Cambodia, and Brazil. Her work in Los Angeles explored food security and environmental health issues, and community response to these problems. In Cambodia, she worked with the Shoah Foundation and the Documentation Center of Cambodia, recording testimony from survivors and perpetrators of the Cambodian genocide. In Brazil, Gregg produced an ethnography of street food vendors and their role in cultural and economic identities.

While at Columbia, Gregg returned to Brazil to work with the Sustainable Development Solutions Network for the Amazon and their host, the Amazonas Sustainable Foundation. Her coursework at SIPA primarily focused on crisis prevention and response though environmental management. She is currently a research fellow for the Advanced Consortium on Cooperation, Conflict, and Complexity at Columbia University’s Earth Institute, where she is part of a joint research team with Columbia Law School’s Human Rights Institute, addressing Papua New Guinea’s mining sector.

As a Fulbright-Clinton Fellow, Gregg intends to focus on natural disaster risk and preparedness in Timor-Leste’s conservation areas and explore options for joint conservation and resilience initiatives.

Photographs of Meghan Arakelian (left) and Abigail Gregg courtesy U.S. State Department

Recent alumni will present at Geneva Challenge in October

Paper examines issue of return migration and social and economic development

Read More →

"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

Boiler Image