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Studying International Security Policy at SIPA

Nabila recently provided some great advice on choosing your concentration at SIPA.  When I applied, there was no question that I was going to concentrate in International Security Policy (ISP). I was leaving the Army and was interested in continuing to work in the national security space, so it was a natural fit. But I suspect many of you have a wider range of interests or are interested in potentially pivoting to a new career path, and in those cases it’s so important to get a feel for the curriculum and culture of each concentration so that you can find your best fit.

I’m going to hopefully assist in that regard by giving you an overview of the ISP concentration and also dispel some pervasive myths and stereotypes.

Doesn’t everyone in ISP have military or government experience? Will I fit in?

The most common myth is that everyone in ISP is a veteran or someone who wants to follow a very defined path into the government. This couldn’t be further from the truth. As Leon Trotsky noted, “You may not be interested in war, but war is interested in you.” Whatever your career aspirations, security issues affect every sector and understanding issues of war and peace is essential to anyone that desires to one day lead in government, international non-profits, or even private sector companies. I have friends in ISP that have backgrounds as Army Special Forces Officers, private sector consultants, paralegals, diplomats, and human rights workers. And as far as coursework, the concentration requires no prior academic training in international security or any particular professional background. For more on the diverse backgrounds of ISP concentrators, read this great blog post by ISP graduate Samantha Taylor.

What career paths do ISP students pursue after SIPA?

ISP students are prepared for a wide range of career paths in U.S. and foreign government agencies, intelligence, think tanks, defense analysis, cybersecurity, consulting, journalism, legislative staffs, and international organizations. For U.S. students, the majority of these positions are in Washington, D.C., but there are increasingly opportunities in New York City as well, especially in cybersecurity.

What are the courses like?

Almost all of your ISP courses will be small seminars of 10-20 students. Columbia offers more courses in security studies than all but a few other universities, and SIPA and the Political Science department (you can take graduate level Political Science courses while at SIPA) have numerous full-time faculty members focused on security issues.  During your two-year program, there will be approximately 30-40 ISP courses to choose from. The courses cover a wide variety of areas including intelligence, cybersecurity, defense analysis, conflict resolution, peacekeeping, terrorism, and regional issues, among others. You can view the entire curriculum here, but the best way to see what ISP courses are like is to experience one for yourself. This semester, ISP courses available for class visits include War, Peace, and Strategy; Methods of Defense Analysis; Contemporary Russian Security Policy (taught by the former Deputy Assistant Director of CIA for Europe and Eurasia); Intelligence and War; and several others. Register for a class visit here!

What extracurricular opportunities does ISP offer?

The ISP concentration starts off the year with an annual fall retreat to a campground north of New York City. I went my first year, and it was a great way to meet classmates, second year students, and several professors. In the spring, the concentration usually takes one trip to DC or a military installation. Last year, the trip was a staff ride to Gettysburg and the U.S. Army War College led by Professor Stephen Biddle. There is also a spring crisis simulation held at SIPA and run by ISP students. Last year, students explored the conflict in Yemen in a realistic, one-day simulation.

There are also an unending amount of incredible guest speakers that come to Columbia, and many of those of interest to ISP students are hosted by the Saltzman Institute of War and Peace Studies. Just in the past year, students have attended events with former Director of National Intelligence Jim Clapper, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, and former Deputy Secretary of State William Burns.

what I did this summer

Internship in Country Risk Management at J.P. Morgan

Prior to attending SIPA my experience was in banking; however the reason I chose SIPA for my graduate studies was to transition into a role that offers more of a macro and international picture, allowing me to work in a field where macroeconomics, capital markets, and risk meet and of course a role where I am challenged every day and get to learn and apply my skills. I had the chance to work in Country Risk Management (CRM) at J.P. Morgan during the summer. It all started with three representatives visiting SIPA to host an information session in the fall of 2013. What followed was an application process, consisting of four phone and four in person interviews.  I consider myself fortunate that I received the opportunity to be a part of the team and the culture at the bank, because this is a dream job for a SIPA student. It was a 10 week internship, starting in June with a couple of weeks of training. The first week I was part of the Sales & Trading (S&T) Markets Training group, where about 100 interns were trained on basics, such as what is equity, what is a bond through how markets are supposed to behave to how financial derivatives fit into the bank. The second week, I took part in a more risk specific training to be prepared for my eight weeks at the desk. Before the training weeks were completed, students were formed into groups of four to prepare a case study to competitively pitch to senior management.

After some valuable training I was excited to finally join my CRM team and to apply my skills learnt and advanced at SIPA. The team in CRM was relatively small on a global basis and therefore I had a chance to work closely with colleagues also based in London and Hong Kong. The eight weeks were packed and I had several deliverables on top of assisting with ad-hoc tasks. However, it was a super learning experience and with the great support of the team I was able to master my objectives successfully. My summer objectives were based around the main work the team does, such as internal ratings of countries and measuring the exposure risk the bank experienced.

The summer program was well structured. Each intern had a junior and senior mentor, who assisted the intern throughout the summer. Throughout the program there were also different social and professional events. Social events consisted of visiting a New York Yankee game and having dinner at different places. The professional events included senior speaker series with management from the bank. These were all very interesting; however I would say the highlight was when Jamie Dimon spoke to us and shared his experiences in banking and at J.P. Morgan.

My summer experience at the bank has been wonderful and it was great to meet so many professionals with whom I look forward to staying in touch and working together in the future. It may be the fall semester only; however the sooner you start looking for your dream internship, the higher the chances that you will be working there during the following summer. Good luck!

 

by Andreas Maerki, MPA International Finance and Economic Policy Dec ‘14

 

ISP Highlights

Highlights for ISP concentrators this semester have included the ISP Crisis Simulation and the ISP Faculty Career Panel.  The day-long crisis simulation is held each year as an experiential learning opportunity for students interested in international affairs, diplomacy and military strategy. This year’s crisis simulation centered around a hypothetical U.S. intervention in Syria in which regional powers and non-state actors vied for control. Students on six teams represented either a state (the U.S., Israel, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Russia) or a fictional terrorist organization modeled after Al Qaeda. During the simulation, each team had to devise a strategy that would allow it to accomplish its specific political objectives while dealing with constraints and uncertainty that modeled the risks actual decision-makers might face in a similar situation. By the end of the day, the students had come to understand some of the difficulties associated with operating in a dynamic environment with incomplete information and limited time to reach their goals.

The Faculty Career Panel featured five ISP faculty members, all of whom exemplify the unique mix of academic, practical and policy expertise to be found within the SIPA faculty. The professors shared reflections on their experiences as U.S. government analysts and advisors at the CIA, the Congressional Budget Office and the Senate, as well as at organizations such as the RAND Corporation, the Brookings Institution and the Aga Khan Foundation. Collectively, their careers have taken them around the world, including to Russia, Afghanistan, Iraq, and the former Zaire (Democratic Republic of Congo). The professors gave short presentations about their own career trajectories and shared their advice to students newly entering the field. The presentations were followed by a reception during which students had the opportunity to speak with faculty one-on-one and seek advice about their own career aspirations.

In addition, SIPA organizations such as the Arnold A. Saltzman Institute for War and Peace Studies and its Center for International Conflict Resolution host a number of events throughout the semester of interest to ISP students.  In January, the Saltzman Institute hosted United Nations Deputy Secretary- General, Jan Eliasson, who spoke of the changing geopolitical and economic landscape that world leaders will face in the years ahead. This week, the Institute will present “A Day in the Life of CIA’s Directorate of Intelligence,” with SIPA Professor of Professional Practice Peter Clement. The Center for International Conflict Resolution at the Saltzman Institute has hosted a number of events on diplomacy, mediation and peacebuilding, including its Alvaro de Soto Conversation Series, which featured Peruvian and UN diplomat Alvaro de Soto and former U.S. Ambassador Chester Crocker on the challenges facing the contemporary field of mediation.

Looking for a few good people

If you are interested in making a difference, serving the people of New York, and helping to write the next great chapter in New York’s history; there is an opportunity for you to keep in mind as you plan your career in public service.  The New York State Excelsior Service Fellowship Program brings graduates into government service.  Excelsior Fellows work alongside senor members of the administration and play a policy-influencing role in New York State with the opportunity to work on the most pressing issues of the day.

The program is accepting applications for the 2014-2016 class from students who are graduating this academic year (February 2014 or May 2014).    International students are eligible to apply; however, you must have U.S. work authorization for the duration of the fellowship, as the State does not provide employment sponsorship.

To apply, students must provide a personal statement (one page or less, describe your interest in public service, referencing academic, professional, and civic experiences that demonstrate such interests.  Additionally, discuss your career goals and how the Excelsior Service Fellowship will contribute to these goals.), resume, graduate school transcript(s), one recommendation letter and submit it to: sipa_ocs@columbia.edu by February 10, 2014.

 NYS

BACKGROUND

This fall, approximately 80 individuals newly graduated from college, graduate and professional schools from across New York State and the nation will begin their service as Excelsior Service Fellows.  The New York State Excelsior Service Fellowship is designed to attract the “best and the brightest,” who are called to a career in public service.  Being an Excelsior Fellow is an honor, privilege and full-time commitment.   Fellows serve in a variety of capacities within such agencies like the Department of Environmental Conservation, the Department of Labor, Housing and Community Renewal, the Department of Financial Services, and the Empire State Development Corporation.  Alternatively, Fellows may be assigned to roles in the Governor’s or Lieutenant Governor’s Office.  Each Fellow, in his or her own way, is making important contributions in building the New New York.  The Fellowship is a two-year program that combines both experiential and professional development opportunities designed to nurture and cultivate the next generation of leaders in New York State government.   While not guaranteed, there is the potential for high-performing Fellows to remain in State service at the conclusion of the Fellowship.

Each school may select up to seven (7) Fellows for the 2014-2016 class.  Fellows possessing a graduate degree (i.e. MA, MPA, MBA, or JD) will receive an annual salary not to exceed $70,000.  All Fellows are considered State employees and also receive a full benefits package.  The schools will forward their selections to the Center for Recruitment and Public Service.  Upon receipt of Fellowship candidates, the Program Committee will conduct interviews with each candidate to obtain additional information regarding the candidate’s background and interests.  These interviews are an important component in the Program Committee’s assignment determination process.  It is important to note that while we will accept all program nominations from our academic partners, the State will reserve its right to appoint only the most highly qualified nominees.

Placements are generally in the Albany area (>80%) although some positions may be in New York City and are made based on agency needs.

 

 

a city of shining lights: an inside look at urban and social policy

SIPA’s location in New York City provides an ideal opportunity for students to learn about the workings of one of the most dynamic cities in the world. The Urban and Social Policy (USP) concentration attracts a very diverse group of students from the public, private and non-profit sectors who are interested in managing city governments and non-profit organizations, and designing and analyzing policies across a variety of sectors. USP students enter SIPA with backgrounds in teaching, immigration law, non-profit program evaluation, urban transportation systems, public health, and many more areas.

USP classes are taught by faculty members with extensive academic and professional experience. Mayor David Dinkins, the former mayor of New York, offers a unique perspective in the two courses he teaches to USP students every year. Professor Ester Fuchs, the Concentration Director, served as Special Advisor to the Mayor for Governance and Strategic Planning under New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg from 2001 to 2005 in addition to her many years of teaching experience at Columbia. A number of other full-time and adjunct faculty members draw on their experience as city planners, high level officials in city government, and executive directors of non-profit organizations. They are experts in immigration, organizational management, housing policy, social movements and several other fields.

Students can choose between the Urban Policy and the Social Policy track. Both tracks equip students with strong skills in policy analysis, program management and evaluation. The Urban Policy curriculum offers focus areas in the following fields: Urban Politics and Governance; Management in Urban Public Sector or Not for Profits; Urban Social Policy; Urban Economic Development, Planning and Land Use; Sustainability and Environmental Policy; Housing Policy; Education Policy; Health Policy; Crime, Safety and Security Policy; and Employment and Labor Policy. The Social Policy track provides students with the analytical tools, management skills and knowledge needed to design, implement and evaluate the outcomes of social policies that aim to increase access to economic opportunity in marginalized populations and manage economic and social risks, such as unemployment, poverty, social exclusion, crime, recidivism, homelessness and sickness.

The concentration hosts The Global Mayor’s Forum each semester, featuring mayors from cities in the U.S. and around the globe. USP also hosts a series of roundtables, panel discussions, and brown bag events offering students the opportunity to hear from leading practitioners in the field. Additionally, USP hosts field trips for students to local museums, organizations, and historic sites.

USP graduates pursue careers in leadership levels within city, state and federal government, political campaigns, non-profits and NGOs, think tanks, philanthropic foundations, social enterprises, and academia. During their time at SIPA, many students pursue internships with the New York City government as well as with leading non-profit organizations, consulting groups, and think tanks coming up with innovative solutions to urban and social challenges. A sample of employers who hired USP graduates is available here http://new.sipa.columbia.edu/careers/employment-statistics/career-paths-by-concentration.

city

"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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