Archive for careers

Opinion: 4 ways to bring human rights into development work (via APSIA)

We’re resharing this post by the Association of Professional Schools of International Affairs (APSIA), originally posted here.

APSIA brings leading graduate schools around the world which specialize in international affairs – including SIPA! We’ll be at the APSIA graduate fairs in Madrid, Paris and London this week. If you’re in the area, come meet SIPA admissions and find out more about an advanced career in public policy and international affairs.

4 ways to bring human rights into development work

Seventy years ago, the world laid out a common standard of fundamental rights for all people, which they said should be universally defended.

Now, the global environment is shifting. Nations that once led the way in promoting cross-border protections are retrenching. Scandals undercut major international development agencies when they fail to uphold these sentiments. Meanwhile, corporations — once vilified for their behavior — are building human rights into their work.

“Human rights touches every aspect of a company’s operations,” Margaret Jungk, managing director for human rights at Business for Social Responsibility, said in 2016. Today, corporations such as Facebook see “the responsibility [they] have to respect the individual and human rights of the … global community” — and hire accordingly, as stated in a recent job vacancy at the social media network.

Incorporating human rights into development work may require you to consider national politics, social media, sexual discrimination, and everything in between. To successfully navigate a new public, private, and nonprofit development landscape, four traits will be critical.

1. Context is key

Just as in broader questions of global development, human rights considerations are rarely clear-cut. Context matters. Are you trained to understand the economic, political, social, cultural, and historical factors at play? Can you identify the forces influencing a situation? Are you qualified to perform proper due diligence?

“Human rights work has to be focused within the contexts where development is playing out,” said Francisco Bencosme, Asia-Pacific advocacy manager at Amnesty International.

“In Myanmar, an entrenched system of apartheid can change the analysis of a seemingly positive housing project. [For example, under] the guise of development for Rakhine State, we have in the past seen new homes constructed for ethnic minorities on top old homes that used to belong to the Rohingya. It is these kind of development practices that need to take human rights contexts into account,” Bencosme said.

Seek out educational and professional opportunities that develop a flexible framework for evaluating decisions. One size will not fit all.

Mark Maloney, vice dean at the Sciences Po Paris School of International Affairs, explained: “Adaptability is a key skill … [one] even more important in humanitarian work because the stakes can be considerably higher when things go wrong.”

“For that reason, understanding the context, including relationships within and between parties, is a fundamental skill we try to develop through our Master in Human Rights and Humanitarian Action” he added. “This skill also maximizes the likelihood that our graduates will make the ‘right decision at the right moment’ when undertaking action on the ground.”

2. Be ‘client-ready’

Development professionals must tailor their work to many constituencies.

Have you practiced framing a discussion to make sense to diverse groups? Have you learned to persuade people while recognizing their different needs? Do you have the credentials to make people listen to what you have to say?

Learn to write and present arguments in clear, concise, and compelling ways. Work to improve your cross-cultural competencies. Expand proficiency in different languages. Look for opportunities to get close to the communities you want to serve, as well as to the funders, governments, and companies working on the ground.

“The human rights framework brings a human-centered analysis to the work of development professionals,” said Barbara Frey, director of the human rights program at the University of Minnesota Humphrey School of Public Affairs.

“This analysis starts with the question: Who is the rights bearer and who is the duty bearer in a situation? [It] tests how the consequences of actions can help or harm the clients [you] seek to serve.”

3. Develop connections

Access to individuals and information is critical to getting the job done.

With whom have you cultivated connections? From whom can you get critical information? Have you developed academic and professional networks to open doors?

Maintain relationships throughout your career via social media and in-person ties. Seek the counsel of former classmates, professors, or colleagues. Look for undergraduate or graduate schools with close ties to the field.

For example, students at the International Human Rights Center at Korea University’s Graduate School of International Studies incorporate concern for human rights into a wide range of activities. They build networks, workshops, and symposia in partnership with Human Asia, a human rights NGO in South Korea. According to the school, these opportunities prepare students to “serve as productive members of their organizations and to play leadership roles in the international community.”

4. Character is destiny

Easy answers do not always present themselves.

Are you bold enough to choose the difficult route? Can you withstand criticism from naysayers who cannot or will not envision anything beyond the status quo? Do you know how to rejuvenate your spirit when things look bleak?

“Forces larger than yourself will make you face some tough moral choices,” said Reuben Brigety, dean of George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs. From his time at Human Rights Watch and the U.S. State Department, he has counseled young professionals to realize that “your character is your destiny. Have courage!”

To succeed at the intersection of human rights and development, you must ask good questions. Tailor your approach; build diverse networks; and, cultivate an internal moral compass to navigate the changing human rights and global development landscape.

Learn more about pursuing a graduate degree in international affairs

We’re heading down to DC on Wednesday, June 19th.  Spread the word.  If you are in the area and want to mingle with admissions representatives, alumni and current students; you should plan to stop by.  If you can’t make it to this one, we’ll be back again on July 18th.

Representatives from the following graduate international affairs programs will be available:

  • Columbia University – School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA)
  • Georgetown University – Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service
  • Johns Hopkins University – The Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS)
  • Princeton University – The Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs
  • Tufts University – The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy

Registration will start at 5:30 p.m., presentation begins at 6:00 p.m.  If you are interested in attending, you may register in advance through the Summerfest 2013 Eventbrite link:

The event will be held at Johns Hopkins University (SAIS), Kenney Auditorium, 1740 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Washington, D.C. 20036.  The easiest method of transportation is via Metro. SAIS is about a 5-minute walk from the Dupont Circle Metro stop (Red Line).

Hope to see you there.



Careers in International Affairs

Prospective students often ask questions about the types experience we look for and the types of careers graduates of our programs pursue.  One great resource related to this topic is the book Careers in International Affairs.

It is quite common for career services offices at colleges to carry the book so if you are still in school I would recommend dropping by to see if it is available. If not, ask them to order it.  If you are out of school you might check public libraries or it is available in book or digital form via  Below is the very robust table of contents – it is a great book no matter your age or experience level.

Part I: Strategies

Maria Pinto Carland

Maria Pinto Carland

Maria Pinto Carland

Maria Pinto Carland

Candace Faber

Part II: Types of Employers


Careers in the U.S. Government
Matthew McManus

Careers in the U.S. Foreign Service
Maura Harty

Reflections on Joining the Foreign Service
Yvonne Gonzales

Careers on Capitol Hill
Denis McDonough

Careers in Intelligence Analysis
Volko F. Ruhnke

Introduction to the Presidential Management Fellows Program
Robert F. Danbeck

A Presidential Management Fellow Looks Back
Beth Flores


Careers in International Organizations
Jorge Chediek

Starting Out at the United Nations
Alf Ivar Blikberg


Careers in Banking
Jeff Bernstein

Getting Started in Banking
Jae Lee


Careers in Business
Karla Sullivan Bousquet


Careers in Business-Related Organizations
Jonathan Huneke

Getting Started in Business—Government Relations
Stephen Ziehm


Careers in Consulting
Lindsey Tyler Argalas


Careers in International Development
Kristi Ragan

Careers in Relief
Patricia L. Delaney


Careers in Nonprofits
Denis Dragovic


Careers in University Research Institutes
Elizabeth Gardner

Getting Started in Research Institutes
Emile El-Hokayem

Summer Reflections 2010 – Post #7

John Hughes just graduated from SIPA and during his second year of study worked in our office.  He is spending the better part of the summer in the office to assist with projects and help fill in for a staff member on maternity leave.  John is set up for a job in Washington, D.C. and will be moving there in August (our second largest alumni network in the world is in D.C if you were interested).

I asked John to reflect a bit on his experience as a SIPA student and contribute to the blog over the summer.  This is his sixth entry.


I just finished speaking at one of our twice-weekly information sessions, where I was asked what sets SIPA apart from comparable schools.  I thought I’d recreate my response here, as I believe that it is true.

First, you have to think about what schools you are setting SIPA apart from.  The MIA and MPA, though largely similar in coursework at SIPA, have different rivals.  On the MIA side SIPA compares with schools like Georgetown, SAIS, Fletcher and GWU.  On the MPA side, however, SIPA compares with schools like Harvard, Woodrow Wilson and Syracuse.  SIPA is a top program in either degree, but the nice thing about it is that both groups of students are fully integrated.  This is one thing that sets SIPA apart.

Though some MPA programs have international components (i.e. Harvard) and other MIA programs have policy components (i.e. SAIS), none of the other top schools can boast that both student groups are integrated under the same roof.  The advantage of this comes in the diversity of student interests and career paths.  Public policy and international affairs are inherently intertwined, so it makes sense that future leaders in both fields would begin interacting in graduate school.

The single biggest strength of SIPA, in my opinion, lies in its massive alumni network.  This cannot be overstated.  SIPA has 16,000 alumni working in hundreds of different careers in hundreds of countries.  I don’t know of any other single factor that would be more important for a professional school.  SIPA students come here for the purpose of professional advancement, and having such a large alumni network to tap into to help with this advancement is very valuable.

Despite what you may hear or think, the majority of SIPA students find jobs through networking.  I’ve mentioned previously that some get hired through formal recruitment programs, which is true, but many more get jobs by contacting people who are able to put them in the right place at the right time.  I knew this to be the case coming in and therefore a large alumni network was important to me.

I found that every alumnus/a I have ever contacted from SIPA has been responsive, supportive and generally helpful.  Not all got me an interview, but they at least gave me things to think about that helped my search moving forward.  Also, I figured that not going to school in DC was not disadvantageous for my field of interest since SIPA had just as many or more alumni working in DC as the DC schools did.  I found this to be absolutely true.  That said, we also have more alumni in New York, London, Shanghai etc. than any other rival school.  This is something I highly recommend considering in your search.

Another big strength of SIPA I found was the incredible faculty.  It was wonderful to have so many classes to choose from.  However, what made these classes even more interesting was the people who taught them.  Most of your professors will be adjuncts.  Not all, by any means.  SIPA has many dedicated, knowledgeable, full-time professors.  However, there are many more who work full-time doing something else and who teach on the side.  At first blush this may sound like a disadvantage.  However, I should reiterate that it is a professional school.  These adjuncts don’t just have some other job; they have very interesting other jobs.

I had a finance professor who runs a hedge fund during the day and another who is the heading of global emerging markets at a large bank.  I had a security professor who worked for a certain intelligence agency in DC for many years.  I had an energy professor who was the head of scenario analysis planning at a large oil company before coming to SIPA.  There are many more like this.  These people are able to not only give you insight into how things really work in their fields; they are also able to shape the readings and coursework to give you the tools to enter that field.  They also tend to be a great networking resource.

The last advantage, as I mentioned on my earlier post about the World Cup, is the student body.  For me, studying international affairs with students from over 100 countries was a huge draw.  No other school can come close to SIPA’s diversity.  Being able to hear from classmates that have direct experience in the places we are studying adds a valuable element.

The student body is also really, really interesting.  Everybody I knew at SIPA had done something cool before graduate school, and all had (and still have) impressive goals.  After only two years I consider some of my SIPA classmates to be some of my best friends, and I am sure we’ll stay in touch for many years.

D.C. Connections

I know that the location of a graduate school is an item on the minds of those applying, but I wanted to offer a bit of perspective. Many applicants for example might think that if they want to get a job at the United Nations, SIPA would be the best choice because the U.N. and SIPA are both in New York City.

While it is true that SIPA and U.N. are both in NYC and that many SIPA students do take advantage of this, it is also true that many of those who hold positions at the U.N. hold degrees from schools located outside of New York City.

Why am I bringing this up? Well it came to my mind when I received this email from our Career Services Office recently:

Stay Connected with Columbia During Your Summer in Washington, D.C.

Columbia’s Office of Government and Community Affairs will sponsor several events for Columbia students spending the summer break in Washington DC. In addition, they will maintain a listserv to help get the word out about these and other events and opportunities of interest.

An interesting item of note is that Washington, D.C. ranks second in terms of cities with the most SIPA alumni. It is probably not surprising that NYC is ranked first. Just like it is possible for students that graduate from schools outside of NYC to work at the U.N. (or any of the multitude of organizations in NYC) it is possible, and actually highly likely, that many of our graduates will work in Washington, D.C.

Last summer when I finished a recruiting event being held in D.C. I randomly ran into three current SIPA students that were doing internships in D.C. and two students that have worked in my office this year are both moving to D.C. shortly to start working full time.

D.C. is just one example of course, we have over 16,000 graduates living in over 150 countries across the globe. But as I stated in my pro-con entry a while back, NYC is a great place to spend two years of your life. I will warn you though, you might end up addicted to NYC like me.

"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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