Archive for concentration

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.

Think EPD is your thing?

What does it actually mean to do development at SIPA?

Would you like to work in developing countries? Are you interested in improving people’s quality of life and access to resources?

If you think this is your “thing” then Economic and Political Development (EPD) is your concentration. This is one of the six policy concentrations offered at SIPA and the largest one with almost 250 students. Through this program, students are prepared for careers in international development through classes and projects that provide them with an understanding of the processes of economic, political, and social change in the developing world.

Having said that, we know development is a broad concept and it might entail completely different tasks, especially in the work field. You could be doing anything from consulting on a microfinance project in Uganda to working in a gender equality campaign with the UN Women in Peru. Taking into account the number of options and different realities in the developing world, how does SIPA focus its EPD program and who are the so-called “EPDers” (students who pursue this concentration)?

One of the unique aspects of the program is that, along with the economic and political requirements, it allows you to choose one of the four professional tracks: economic development, political development, social development or sustainable development. The goal of these tracks is to help you navigate and narrow your interests in the world of development so you have a better idea of the type of work you would like to do afterwards. In terms of classes, they are focused on technical skills, like design and implementation of projects, and in analysis of the political, social and economic realities of developing countries. Another key part of the program is the Capstone Project (final graduation project), which allows you to work with an actual client anywhere in the world, develop and execute a development project and yes, travel to the field to see it.

We, the EPDers, are as heterogeneous and diverse as it gets; with students from all countries and backgrounds. You could be coming from the developing field, or trying to enter it, there is a place for everybody. Our faculty is comprised by top leaders in the field, one example being the Director of the Program Jose Antonio Ocampo. Additionally, we have access to resources focused on development issues like  The Center on Economic Governance, the student led Columbia Partnership for International Development and the Microfinance Working Group.

Urban And Social Policy At SIPA: What You Need To Know

In the 21st century, it is absolutely pivotal for policymakers to understand the phenomenon of urbanization. Today, half of the world’s people reside in cities, and experts agree that this trend shows no sign of abating. According to Urban Habitat, by 2050 six billion inhabitants will call cities home.

Because of this dramatic population explosion experienced by cities around the globe, there must be urban experts that can assess issues pertaining to growth. How will children in these areas be educated? Is there access to quality healthcare? What about transportation options, and national security issues, and housing policies, and crumbling infrastructure? This is where SIPA’s urban and social policy (USP) concentration comes in.

The USP concentration at SIPA is purposely flexible; one chooses to specialize in either urban policy or social policy, and is required to take one of the offered core courses (I took Critical Issues In Urban Public Policy with former New York City Mayor David Dinkins and highly recommend it). After meeting those guidelines, students are free to explore the wide range of USP offerings, and the breadth of classes is really fantastic.

The obvious observation on USP at SIPA is that there is no better place to study urban issues than in the heart of New York City. The school is able to draw on its strategic location and use the Big Apple as a supplement to the coursework. Why read about issues in transportation when you can speak to officials at the MTA and observe commuter patterns on the subway? Why sit through a powerpoint lecture on green spaces and urban renewal when you can go visit the High Line or the revamped Hudson River Park? Coupled with SIPA’s ability to attract professors with extensive experience in city government (USP Program Director Ester Fuchs is a prime example) and the ability to intern in a field that matches your interests, I would be hard-pressed to come up with a better scenario for those interested in urban studies.

Moreover, our dual-degree program is perfectly aligned for students who want to get an education in public administration or international affairs and also delve deeper into another area of expertise. Aspiring city planners and architects should look into our program with GSAAP, future social workers should look into our partnership with Columbia’s School of Social Work, and budding teachers should look into taking classes with Teacher’s College. It is so easy for students to develop a curriculum that addresses urban issues and meets their career goals.

Through my coursework in USP, I have had the privilege of taking classes on modern urban terrorism, sustainability in cities, and land use issues. I also am looking forward to my capstone workshop next semester, when I will be able to apply the skills I have honed in the classroom and apply them to a real-world scenario.

If you are interested in reshaping our cities and in turn, reshaping society, I urge you to take a closer look at SIPA’s USP program.

"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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