Archive for alumni – Page 2

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.

New Business in an Ancient Land

Alice Bosley (left) and Patricia Letayf in Kurdistan. / Photograph Courtesy of Patricia Letayf.

The young entrepreneur stood in front of the panel of judges, fiddled nervously with a PowerPoint presentation, and prepared to pitch his idea: a virtual-reality game that would help refugees learn their new local language.

The scene, which took place in a gleaming, glass-walled new co-working space, could have been lifted from any venture competition in Silicon Valley. But there was a twist: the entrepreneur was himself a refugee. And he was pitching not in California, but in Erbil, Iraq, at a summer boot camp organized by Five One Labs, the first startup incubator for conflict-affected populations in the Middle East.

“There are over a million Iraqi IDPs (internally displaced persons) in Kurdistan, and 250,000 Syrian refugees. So there’s definitely need,” says cofounder and executive director Alice Bosley ’17 SIPA. “Entrepreneurship training helps address some of the most pressing problems in the community, particularly employment and education.”

In addition to weekend boot camps in the spring and summer, the organization’s main program is a three-month-long incubator offered in the fall. Participants receive free office space, training in areas like financial planning and marketing, mentorship from experienced entrepreneurs in the Middle East and the US, and a chance to compete for $15,000 in seed money.

Some businesses in the incubator’s inaugural cohort, like the one making the virtual-reality language game, focus specifically on needs that people see in the refugee community. Others, like an online pharmacy service, are already common in Western nations but new to Iraq. And still others are, as Bosley puts it, universal needs.

“We have three young men who want to build a french-fry business,” she says. “And it makes sense. Iraq actually has an abundance of potatoes.”

Bosley came up with the idea for Five One Labs with classmate Patricia Letayf ’17 SIPA. Both women have backgrounds in the Middle East — Bosley grew up mostly in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and Letayf was raised in America but has family in Syria and Lebanon. Before coming to Columbia, Letayf was a political analyst specializing in the region and Bosley worked in the innovation office of the American University of Iraq, advising students who were hoping to start their own businesses.

Bosley and Letayf were both interested in working with refugee populations and saw entrepreneurship as a way to create long-term solutions for building productive communities. There are a lot of refugee-support organizations dedicated to short-term care — basically, how to keep people alive,” Bosley says. “Very few are focused on what comes next.”

Bosley and Letayf started working intensively on the program in 2016 as a part of the SIPA Dean’s Public Policy Challenge, an annual competition for business ideas that use technology to help solve global problems. Bosley also worked part-time at the Columbia Entrepreneurship Design Studio, which she credits with helping her to develop the prototype for the program.

“The competition really pushed us to get our plan done and provided us with milestones that we needed to reach along the way,” Letayf says. “As we advanced through each round, we earned more funding.”

This past March, when many of their classmates were headed off on spring break, Bosley and Letayf traveled to Erbil to run a pilot version of the program. After graduating in May, they started working on it full-time.

Bosley and Letayf initially picked Erbil as the first incubator site largely for logistical reasons: they both had connections in the region, and the city is one of the few places with a significant refugee community where refugees have the legal right not only to work but also to own businesses.

They’ve also found it to be an inspiring, hopeful place. Like Mosul, which sits only fifty-five miles away, Erbil is an ancient city. But while Mosul has been reduced to rubble by a devastating nine-month-long battle between Iraqi forces and ISIS, Erbil is blossoming. The ancient Assyrian fortress there stands intact, presiding over a busy marketplace, new suburban subdivisions, and modern office buildings.

“The startup community is new in Iraq, but Erbil is lively, with an engaged community,” says Letayf. “We’re excited to be there, working with these remarkable people, and we can’t wait to show off some of their stories.”

— Rebecca Shapiro

A View From the Class: Diego Llosa Velasquez and Katarina Mayers

In November’s issue, we are featuring recent SIPA alum, Diego Llosa Velasquez, MIA ’17, and current student, Katarina Mayers, MPA ’18. Here, both discuss why they chose their particular areas of study, internship and capstone experiences, and the importance of fellowship.

Diego Llosa Velasquez, MIA ’17, International Finance and Economic Policy concentration, Advanced Policy and Economic Analysis specialization

Diego Llosa VelasquezWhy did you choose SIPA?
I chose SIPA because it balances rigorous quantitative analytical skills with practical and leadership skills. Moreover, I was looking for a school that promotes evidence-based policy making and a wide variety of classes on subjects including international economics and trade, which are my major fields of interest. Before applying to SIPA, I researched the top international affairs schools throughout the world, and SIPA was among the best schools.

Why did you choose your particular areas of study?
Before attending SIPA, I worked for the Ministry of Foreign Trade and Tourism in Peru. While there, I learned about international affairs and specifically about international economic organizations. I decided to go to graduate school to deepen my knowledge of the theory of international affairs, and I wanted a program that included classes on economics and quantitative analysis. Fortunately for me, SIPA’s core curriculum and policy concentration and specialization options offered everything I wanted in a program.

How would you describe your SIPA experience? 
My experience at SIPA was incredible. These were two years full of challenging and unforgettable experiences. It is hard to summarize all of the things that made this experience unique, but I would highlight the following: my capstone project in Peru, my trip as part of a SIPA Israel delegation, an internship experience with the United Nations in Thailand, my participation on the board of the Latin American Students Association, working as a teaching assistant and as a departmental research assistant, and meeting committed professors and students.

Was there anything that surprised you about your SIPA experience?
I was surprised by the diversity of the faculty and students, as well as their dedication and commitment to raising awareness and sharing knowledge and experience about issues that mattered most to them. I learned a lot, not only in classes, but also from my peers. They made me pay attention to and learn about issues which weren’t part of my studies but nevertheless present important challenges to the sustainable development of our societies.

What have you been doing since graduating from SIPA in May 2017?
I returned home to Peru in June 2017. After spending time with my family and friends in my hometown of Arequipa, I moved back to Lima to begin my job search. I received some very good job offers, but in the end, decided to return to the organization where I worked before attending SIPA: the Peruvian Ministry of Foreign Trade and Tourism. Since mid-August, I have been working as coordinator on international cooperation for the Vice Ministry of Trade. My responsibilities are two-fold. I am in charge of the negotiation, implementation, administration, and surveillance of the cooperation chapters in Peru’s trade agreements. I also work with donors in order to implement cooperation projects that have a real impact in the development of foreign trade in the country.

In what direction do you see your career moving?
I would like to move my career in the direction of assuming more responsibilities in the Peruvian public administration and exert a leadership role in the development of foreign trade in the country or in an international organization.  Also, I would like to teach. My previous experience as a teacher in Peru and my experiences as a departmental research assistant and a teaching assistant at SIPA made me realize that I enjoy explaining theory and putting that theory into context through practical exercises. Through teaching, I would be able to share my knowledge and experience.

 

Katarina Mayers, MPA ’18, Urban and Social Policy concentration, Management specialization

Katarina MayersWhat brought you to SIPA?
A love of public policy brought me to SIPA. Prior to attending SIPA, I served in the Obama Administration for three years, first in the White House Communications Office, and then, at the U.S. Department of Commerce. As the Department’s Deputy Press Secretary, I oversaw the communications strategy for Deputy Secretary Bruce Andrews and the Department’s 12 bureaus. I also had the opportunity to lead press logistics for Vice President Joe Biden. Before moving to Washington, DC, I lived in Santiago, Chile for a year of service as a Rotary Foundation Ambassadorial Scholar. I worked with local Rotary clubs to initiate service projects, gave speeches in Spanish about U.S.-Chile relations, and earned an academic certificate in Contemporary Latin America.

Why did you choose Urban and Social Policy as your concentration? 
I chose to concentrate in Urban and Social Policy (USP) to learn more about governance, navigating institutions and bureaucracy, and how to make the most effective change. I love the energy and passion of USP professors and practitioners. As someone who is returning to public service after graduation, I thrive on learning directly from those who previously served or currently serve others (former Mayor of Philadelphia Michael Nutter and New York City Commissioner of Media and Entertainment Julie Menin, to name a few). I’m also a person of practicality, so having New York City as a living case study of what we learn in class is very exciting.

Outside of class, how has your SIPA experience affected you?
Serving as the President of the SIPA Student Association (SIPASA), I have had the unique opportunity to meet and work with many students outside of class time or group work. Ultimately, my greatest joy has been learning from my peers and making so many new friends who continue to challenge and inspire me. I love SIPA because of its students and the community we have cultivated. While I am from Los Angeles and chose to attend graduate school in New York City, I do not think I will ever have another opportunity like these two years to be surrounded by and learn from such diverse perspectives, cultures, and minds.

Is there a particular SIPA experience that stands out? 
I took Mayor Nutter’s class during my first semester. While I enjoyed class time, I also learned that he is an empathetic individual who cares deeply about his students and how they do in their professional and personal lives. Mayor Nutter has become a true mentor, and he has shaped my SIPA experience for the better.

What are you looking forward to in your second year?
I’m looking forward to my capstone project next semester and working with the Los Angeles Mayor’s Office Innovation Team. I will not only have the opportunity to apply what I’ve learned in the classroom but also to serve my hometown!

What are your plans after SIPA?
I plan on returning to public service on the local level. I hope to represent my community and encourage other young women of color to step up and serve.

SIPA Alumni Stories: Esther Waters-Crane MIA ’17

Esther Waters-Crane graduated in 2007 with an MIA degree and a concentration in Human Rights. She is currently Chief of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation at UNICEF in Kenya.

Describe your background prior to attending SIPA.
I worked in private sector banking for five years in London. I found I wasn’t fulfilled by the private sector so, to supplement it, I did lots of volunteering – mainly with the British Red Cross refugee team.

What motivated you to choose SIPA?
I knew I wanted to study human rights and eventually work for the UN. I was compelled by the stories of the refugees I volunteered with in the UK and wanted to work on issues affecting people in flight, not just in the UK/Europe but more at a global policy level. I sought advice from the career service at my undergrad university (Cambridge, UK) and senior colleagues at the Red Cross – all avenues pointed towards SIPA. Then I visited the campus and SIPA faculty where I met Paul Martin and we discussed SIPA’s links with the UN. From that point onwards I knew SIPA was the right place for me.

What are you doing now?
I am currently Chief of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation at UNICEF Kenya, where I am responsible for ensuring that the millions of dollars UNICEF receives, are directed towards, and appropriately spent to address the needs of the most deprived children in Kenya. Prior to working for UNICEF in Kenya (and prior to having my own children), I spent 5 years working for UNICEF and UNDP Somalia where my work involved implementing public health programmes and designing and implementing interventions to engage, empower and protect conflict-affected communities. I also spent 3.5 years working for UNDP South Sudan and the DPKO Sudan, looking at issues affecting women and children in conflict.

How has your SIPA degree helped your career?
I wouldn’t be where I am today without SIPA. I use the skills and knowledge I acquired on an almost daily basis. The connections between SIPA faculty and the UN gave me the exposure I needed to get my foot in the door. It was the perfect segue for me and opened my eyes to the reality of working in the field I do.

What advice would you give a first-year SIPA student?
Network!!! Chat with all your professors about your career plans and ask them to keep their ears open for opportunities. Attend events at Columbia and the UN and talk to as many people as you can. Join professional networks on and off campus and attend conferences on countries of interest to you. The earlier you have an idea about what you want to do after SIPA, the smoother your transition to that reality will be – focus on what excites you and what you’re passionate about, and hone in on the international experts working on this. Adapt your papers and research to fit your future career interests. And, don’t get fixated on grades – they’re not as important in the whole scheme of things as you may think.

"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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