Archive for concentration

Exploring International Finance and Economic Policy (IFEP)

“Oh, you’re IFEP? You MUST be smart.”

“IFEP? No, I’m good after macro, no more for me.”

“IFEP! You’re going to make so much money!”

These are just a sample of some of the statements one may hear as a SIPA student concentrating in the illustrious International Finance and Economic Policy, also known as IFEP. I’m writing this to answer some common questions and give my general impression of the concentration (DISCLAIMER: I am still doing requirements for the concentration so I’m currently taking International Trade and Theory of International Political Economy…..both are fine….so far).

(DISCLAIMER 2.0: I’m going to use acronyms to make my life easier while typing this. At SIPA, we live in a world of acronyms.)

The IFEP concentration has three main tracks: International Finance (IF), International Economic Policy (IEP) and Central Banking (CB). A majority of the students in IFEP are split between IF and IEP, with a minority of people concentrating in CB.

How good at math do you really have to be to succeed?

It definitely helps to be good at math but in all honesty, I don’t think I’m that good at math, and I have been doing fine. However, I have experience in the quantitative and economic fields, so I am more comfortable with the material. It is still difficult for me and takes some time to grasp it, but I enjoy the challenge.

Why did you choose to concentrate in IFEP?

Economics was a weakness of mine in undergrad, and I chose IFEP to improve my understanding of economic theory and analysis skills. I wanted to change my weakness into a strength. I knew it was going to be a change of pace, but I got tired of dodging economics so I jumped in head-first. Plus, I’m looking into infrastructure investment and development / political risk as potential career fields and strong economic skills can help in those areas.

Do you have to come from finance to succeed in IFEP?

Once again, it definitely helps but it’s not a must. Brushing up on key economic and financial concepts can go a long way to succeeding in IFEP. I’ve seen people with not much quantitative experience do well in IFEP. They spent time going through the material and practicing the logic behind the theory.

Is Quant scary?

In the beginning it is, but once you get used to it and understand how it is used to evaluate policy outcomes, then it is not too bad. When you put in the effort, you’ll have that breakthrough moment when you finally understand a difficult topic. It’s a deep dive into statistics and regressions which after about two months, most people get.

Why I chose International Finance and Economic Policy as a Concentration

When I was looking at graduate schools initially, I knew I wanted to focus on my three interests: women’s economic empowerment, entrepreneurship and finance. It was very important for me that I found a school that allowed me to pursue all three. The International Finance and Economic Policy concentration was ideal in that it provided me with coursework in both finance and economics.

My first year courses included macroeconomics and microeconomics, as well as corporate finance and international capital markets. All of which gave me a strong background in financial and economic policy and allowed me to apply the skills I learned in the classroom in a real world context. The International Finance and Economic Policy concentration is also ideal in that it has three separate tracks: International Finance, International Economic Policy, and Central Banking. This meant that I could tailor my coursework to focus specifically on international finance.

I chose the International Finance track because I knew that my interest in promoting women’s economic empowerment through entrepreneurship required that I have knowledge of accounting, corporate finance, as well as emerging financial markets. Additionally, the International Finance and Economic Policy concentration had a global focus, which allowed me to look at financial systems and economies on an international scale. This was very important to me considering that my main interest is to help women entrepreneurs and 51% of SME’s globally are owned and operated by women. Additionally, my specialization in Gender and Public Policy was a great way for me to combine my interests in both finance and gender. Much of the work that I did in my IFEP classes served me well in my gender classes, particularly in the realm of evaluating economic and financial systems through a gender lens.

Photo Source: Carol M. HighsmithPublic Domain

My Experience with Cross Registration

One of the great things about SIPA are the many course offerings across concentrations and specializations. Although the majority of students spend their first year focusing on the core curriculum, by your second year there are plenty of opportunities to branch out and take electives. One of the great things about SIPA is that it allows you to cross register at other schools within Columbia University. This is a really great add in because it allows you to mix and match across a variety of fields and courses. The process itself is fairly straightforward and varies between each individual school. For example, Columbia Business School offers two cross registration phases during the semester. There are a limited number of seats available for SIPA students in specific business school courses; however, there are a lot of courses to choose from. In my experience, you will generally get your first choice if you apply. SIPA students are able to cross register at several schools at Columbia University, including Teachers College, Columbia Law School, and the Mailman School of Public Health.

Overall, my experience with cross registration has been very positive. I’ve taken courses at the Mailman School of Public Health, the Institute for Research in African American Studies (IRAAS) and Columbia Business School. At IRAAS, I took “Gender, Labor and Sexuality in the Caribbean” with Dr. Pinnock. The course explored the concepts of gender, sexuality and labor and the historical and contemporary perspectives of work in an increasingly globalized society. Taking the course in my second year was really beneficial, as I’d spent my first year at SIPA focusing on the core curriculum and taking classes in my concentration, International Finance and Economic Policy, which gave me a strong background in macroeconomic theory and analysis. The course allowed me to combine my two interests, gender and economic policy and apply my coursework from SIPA in my final paper in the class, which was on Sex Work and the Dollarization of the Economy in Contemporary Cuba.

I highly recommend cross registration and taking advantage of the many courses across Columbia. It is especially important for those of us who are interested in public policy to gain a breadth of experience across a variety of sectors.

Note from Admissions: Graduate school is a big commitment and “fit” is hugely important. Take advantage of SIPA class visits and register here.

Changing Concentrations: You don’t have to stick with the concentration you picked when you first applied.

At SIPA, every MIA and MPA student pursues a concentration and specialization. These are similar to an undergraduate major and minor, respectively. I applied to SIPA expecting to concentrate in International Security Policy (ISP); however I changed my mind during orientation after attending an information session and signed up for the Economic and Political Development concentration (EPD).

I made the initial switch from ISP to EPD largely based on where I thought I wanted to be after graduation. I spent four years in Washington D.C. prior to SIPA and felt that EPD would offer more opportunities to live and work in other cities. While it was true that many ISP students ended up in D.C. after school, ISP was a much better fit with my personal interests and professional ambitions. I changed back to ISP after one semester.

The administrative process of changing from one concentration (or specialization) is easy. It simply requires the student to submit the necessary form to the Office of Student Affairs. The bigger concern when changing concentrations is timing. There are three levels of graduation requirements at SIPA: your degree (MIA/MPA), your concentration, and your specialization. The longer you take to settle on a concentration, the less time you have to complete the requirements.

I focused my first semester on my degree and specialization requirements rather than concentration requirements so I did not lose any classes; however, this becomes harder to avoid if you wait more than one semester to make the change. This is particularly true for the International Finance and Economic Policy concentration and the Advanced Policy and Economic Analysis specialization.

There will be an information session for all of the concentrations and specializations during orientation. If you continue to have questions after these sessions about which concentration to pursue, reach out to a professor or second-year student. And remember, you will not be locked into your initial decision.

Note from Admissions: Information sessions for concentrations and specializations will also be available during Admitted Students’ Day 2018. Admitted students can register for ASD 2018 in the Welcome Portal.

The International Security Policy Concentration at SIPA: An Overview

Despite popular belief, the International Security Policy (ISP) concentration is not only for veterans and war hawks. Rather, it is a multidimensional concentration designed for students interested in topics as diverse as political violence, conflict management, defense policy, military strategy, terrorism and unconventional warfare, arms control, intelligence, peacekeeping, coercion, negotiation, and alternatives to the use of force as an instrument of policy.

Not only do students cover a wide breadth of topics in the concentration, the students themselves represent a number of different backgrounds and come from various experiences. Enrolled in ISP are diplomats, former soldiers, recovering private sector analysts, humanitarian workers and peacekeepers. And then there are those that are still finding their way.

SIPA’s diversity is constantly benefiting students, but perhaps no more so for those studying in the ISP concentration. More than 50 percent of the student body comes from outside the United States, which allows for classes to integrate different points of view on the same conflict. When studying conflict, the students’ unique perspectives plays an outsized role. There is nothing quite like analyzing the phenomenon of transnational crime from a Mexican or French perspective, or looking at terrorism through the lens of Israeli and Palestinian students.

The professors in the ISP concentration are phenomenal; most have field experience and many are adjuncts who come to teach after spending the day at the NYPD, DoD, Capitol Hill, among other security institutions. They are always willing to meet with students and impart their professional advice.

Though SIPA’s curriculum is often characterized as being broad and flexible, one will be able to niche themselves in the ISP concentration.

"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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