Archive for Ayanda Francis

5 Items to get you through Micro and Macro

As a recent admit or prospective student you may be wondering, “what do I need to prepare myself for the econ courses?” Well, as a recent econ survivor, I have a few tips to share. Whether you go with calc or concepts, here are the five items that will help you get through your micro- and macro- courses.

*Disclaimer: These are all my personal preference! You are more than welcome to pick one, two, or none of these items at all. I’m also a by-hand note taker (6400 prospects, you will be too), so these tips are very much geared toward the analog rather than digital. You’ll retain the info better this way anyway.

5. Graph Paper Sticky Notes
This is really a point of personal preference, but I love a good graph-paper sticky note. I tend to reorganize my notes a lot, so movable graphs are really handy in this respect. It also makes comparing your graphs much easier

4. A Folder
As a chronic printer of notes and problem sets, a folder is an absolute necessity. How else will you keep all those loose papers in one place? And in order?

3. A Notebook
Arguably the most important item on this list. This is where all your notes will go, so make sure you get a notebook you will not forget/ lose. And make sure it’s one that you love! I’m also a big fan of matching my notebooks and folders so I always know which goes with which.

*Note: Tips No. 3 and No. 4 could easily be combined into a 3-ring binder with dividers separating the different concepts, but 1) I am entirely too lazy to hole-punch anything and 2) I hate binders. I’m really not into loose sheets of paper and I have bad luck with functioning rings. Team folder-notebook for life!

2. Highlighters
I’ve already mentioned that I’m a chronic printer of lecture notes, so highlighters are a must have. 6400 students: Gerratana gives you his lecture notes beforehand. I personally got a lot out of reading/ highlighting the notes the night before so that I had a good grasp of what we’d be talking about in class. Bubula (6401) is a post-class note disseminator, so his class notes are much more of a review.

1. The Holy Grail: Colored Pens
These were honestly my saving grace. There’s no better way to get organized than a set of colored pens. When I first started, I was a firm believer that econ notes should be done in pencil only, but the minute I started color coordinating, my life was forever transformed. Graph shifts? Producer vs consumer outcomes? INCOME AND SUBSTITUTION EFFECTS? What once was a monochromatic bloc of confusing arrows suddenly became an orderly sequence of concepts ready and waiting to be understood. Added Bonus: Even if you have no idea what’s going on (you won’t be the only one, that’s for sure) you’ll more easily be able to figure out where you’re having trouble AND you’ll look like you really have your stuff together. It’s a win-win!
Now that I’ve outed myself as someone who is clearly too excited about school supplies (though honestly, who isn’t?!), I hope you guys will find some of this useful! Of course, perfect school supplies are no substitute for actually studying the material, attending class, and going to recitation, so make sure you’re as focused on the concepts as you are on the pen colors and you’ll be good to go.

Class Profile: Applied Peacebuilding

Before coming to SIPA, I had my sights set on a course that would allow me to not only learn in the classroom, but that also had a fieldwork component that would enable me to fulfill the internship requirement in a meaningful way. I originally wanted to be a part of the International Conflict Resolution Practicum, but after sitting in on Professor Zachary Metz’s information session about “Applied Peacebuilding” during orientation week, I was convinced that this was the course I wanted to take. At the end of fall semester my first year, I applied for the course and fortunately was accepted.

“Peacebuilding” has many different definitions, but is generally seen as the gray area between conflict resolution and economic development (with some overlap). It covers nearly all sectors and levels, from individual dialogue, to helping create stronger institutions, to health, education, and everything in between. The breath of “peacebuilding” makes it quite a confusing topic, but through learning from Professor Metz’s decades of peacebuilding experience, this murky subject eventually began to take shape. We learned the different methods of analysis, how to find the root cause of complex issues, as well as how to create and use many of the development field’s most popular tools–logical frameworks, theories of change, and situational analyses. This seminar course culminated in a project designed by each student (or team) that would be implemented during the summer based on the desires of their clients. Some of these projects included gender analyses in Timor-Leste, media training for journalists in Myanmar, counter-radicalization research in the Maldives, environmental education in the Mekong, as well as conflict analyses in Jordan and Cameroon. This course was also unlike any other SIPA course because we examined the impact that we (as interveners and as individuals) would have on our surroundings, as well as the impact that our surroundings would have on us.

The greatest lesson I learned from that course comes from Professor Metz most often used quote: “don’t just do something, stand there.” This pearl of wisdom not only applies to work in the field but life as a student as well. SIPA is a whirlwind in every sense of the word so the importance of not only “doing something” but “standing there” and assessing the impact of your actions as well as your own personal state of being cannot be overstated. The knowledge you gain from this class not only makes you a better student but gives you the tools to examine yourself so that you can become a better person overall.

[Photo courtesy of Ayanda Francis | Pictured with Ayanda Francis are Fatima Raza, David Arnold, Rachel Macauley, Ashleigh Dineo Montgomery, Vipul Nanda, Alex Cox, Kasumi Takahashi, Ayaka Ishida, Indrani Sarkar, Lina Torres, Sara Frodge, Kelsey Woodrick, Emma Borgnäs, Amanda Browne, Laura Ochoa, and Professor Zachary Metz]

Seeples Spotlight: Ayanda Francis

This semester the Office of Admissions welcomed three new Program Assistants (PAs) to the team. This week I’m introducing you to each of them in the form of self-interviews. It’s ladies first, so say “hello” to Ayanda Francis. Ayanda is Jamaican-American, and she’s from Atlanta, Georgia. Before attending SIPA she was Fulbright ETA in Turkey, and after SIPA she plans to join the US Foreign Service. She’s concentrating in Economic and Political Development and specializing in International Conflict Resolution and Asia. At SIPA, she has been involved in SIPA Students of Color as the former finance chair, Women in Peace and Security as the former Vice President, and has spent her summer in Timor-Leste with UN Women.

What attracted you to SIPA and Columbia University?
My reasons can be split into two categories: personal and professional. Personally, my mother came to Columbia for graduate school and loved every minute of it. As a result, I had visited campus many times with her and have wanted to come to Columbia since I was around 10 years old. Professionally, SIPA happens to have an academic program that matches my desires exactly. I wanted to study both development and conflict resolution, and while many programs force you to choose between the two, SIPA has allowed me to study both in depth. The fact that Columbia is located in NYC doesn’t hurt either. 🙂

What experiences do you think prepared you to attend SIPA?
Attending an engineering school for undergrad definitely helped prepare me for the intensity and rigor of SIPA.  SIPA is hard, y’all! Be prepared.

What has been the best part of your SIPA experience?
Definitely meeting the rest of my classmates. Everyone is brilliant and accomplished and comes from such interesting perspectives that challenge me to look at issues in new ways, but they are also just genuinely awesome people to hang out with. Seeples are also of the work hard play hard mentality, so there’s lots of fun to be had.

Can you comment on the quantitative rigor in the curriculum?
Rigorous! I took the Calc- heavy micro and macro (6400 and 6401), as well as the quant-heavy economic development course. While not entirely murderous, these courses are not for the faint of heart.

What’s your internship experience been like?
I had a FANTASTIC time at UN Women Timor-Leste. I was working with the Women, Peace and Security team on women in the police force– helping the PNTL (national police force) assess themselves on how female officers are treated, what can be done to recruit and retain more women, and how to improve services for women overall. I was doing real and substantive work, representing the UN at governmental meetings, and had the freedom to suggest ideas and projects that would be taken seriously. The office is fantastic and Timor is lovely, so I would beyond highly recommend it!

How did you obtain your internship?
A class called “ Applied Peacebuilding.” I also HIGHLY recommend it. It’s project based, so you are guaranteed an internship if you get into the course. It’s much different than any other SIPA course you’ll take so I would recommend that those interested apply for it!

[Photo courtesy of Ayanda Francis, pictured left]

Join us for a Facebook Live session with current students

You’ve probably noticed our weekly emails about our Facebook Live chats with the concentration directors. The series kicked off with MPA-DP Director Glenn Denning (not a concentration, but still), and continued down the line with our six MIA/MPA concentration directors. If you missed any of the sessions, I encourage you to take a look at them. The format’s basically the same, but the content is what any applicant will want to learn more about.

But the real point of this post is to inform you about our final Facebook Live Friday session before the application deadline. I’m chatting with two SIPA students — Ayanda Francis, MIA ’17, and Andrew Liu, MPA ’17 — about their time in the program. It’s your opportunity to ask them any questions you have about student life and the curriculum. So if you’re finalizing your application and need some last-minute encouraging words from students just like you, then you should join us. If you were admitted in early-action round and want an unfiltered account of life at SIPA, then you should join us. Or if you’re thinking about applying and don’t know where to begin, then you – should – join – us.

Just click below to RSVP for the event. I promise we’ll have some fun.

Facebook Live Friday: Student Life
Friday, February 3, 2017
12:00 PM until 01:00 PM EST (UTC-5)

Happy watching and I hope to see you this Friday!


"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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