Archive for cross registration

Why Human Rights and Humanitarian Policy concentration is the right “fit” for Jake Sprang MIA ’19

Thanks to SIPA student Jake Sprang MIA ’19, Human Rights and Humanitarian Policy concentration, for this guest post. You can read the case for the Urban and Social Policy concentration from Dylan Hoey MPA’19 here.

When I was applying to graduate school, I focused above all on finding the right “fit.” I was looking for a school and a program that merged my interests in human rights, international development and humanitarian response. When I came to Admitted Students’ Day, I had been accepted into SIPA to study Economic and Political Development, and was torn between three different universities. By the end of the day, I knew I would be going to SIPA and that I would be studying human rights and humanitarian policy.

During Admitted Students’ Day, I had the privilege of hearing from the directors of several of the concentrations. But, when I sat down in the information session with Professor Elazar Barkan and Susannah Friedman, Directors for the Human Rights and Humanitarian Policy concentration, everything clicked. Professor Barkan told the room that, when deciding which program to study, we needed to focus on what we wanted our professional identity to be. It was at that moment, I knew that being “development professional” wasn’t what I wanted. If I wanted to work in humanitarian response, I needed to study humanitarian response. That night, I switched to humanitarian policy, accepted my offer letter, and haven’t looked back. Since I made that decision, I have constantly been validated that I made the right choice for me. While there are many reasons why I’m proud to be in the HRHP concentration, there are three that stand out above the rest.

1. Human Rights and Humanitarian Policy gives students a more cohesive analytical framework that other concentrations. In HRHP, we learn about approaching human rights and humanitarian response from a rights-based approach. Simply put, when we study humanitarian response, we start by focusing on ensuring and upholding the human rights and dignity of people affected by complex emergencies. We focus on the rights they are denied and how we as responders must work with them to ensure their rights as individuals and a community are protected throughout all phases of response. This approach is incredibly unique at SIPA. While many concentrations, especially Economic and Political Development and the MPA in Development Practice, focus on building practical skills, they do not provide the cohesive strategy for analyzing problems that will be faced in human rights careers. It’s like have a bunch of tools without a toolbox. On the other hand, the HRHP program gives students both: the tools to implement humanitarian response, and the toolbox: the analytical framework of a rights-based approach.

2. Human Rights and Humanitarian Policy is the most flexible concentration at SIPA, allowing students to customize the program to their needs. One thing I love about the human rights and humanitarian policy concentration is the fact that I can build experience in the areas that most interest me. For example, if I want to learn about Water and Sanitation in Complex Emergencies, that class is an HRHP elective, cross-listed at the Mailman School of Public Health. Or, if I want to learn about the rights of Refugees, Forced Migration, and Displacement, I can take that course through the Institute for the Study of Human Rights. I can do the same with the Law School, studying Transitional Justice, or Gender Justice. And if I want to take a non-HRHP course, I have the space in my schedule, due to the flexibility offered by the program, which has less core requirements than other concentrations. HRHP gives me the opportunity to seek out the courses that interest me and develop the practical skills that I want to obtain. The program lets me choose the tools that I want in my toolbox.

3. I want my professional identity to be firmly grounded in Human Rights and Humanitarian Policy. At the end of the day, you need to pick the SIPA concentration that fits best for you. For me, I want to identify as someone working in the humanitarian field coming with a strong grounding in human rights. Designing humanitarian response programming is vastly different from development programming. To be a humanitarian, I realized that I needed to study humanitarian response. I’ve seen the importance of this professional identity through some of my cross-listed courses, with both development and humanitarian students. My colleagues have built an amazing set of skills for analyzing and designing international development programs. However, these skills don’t quite fit with the humanitarian field. It’s like asking a plumber to fix your roof. If you want to seek a career in human rights or humanitarian response, you need to make sure that you have the right tools and toolbox for the job. You can only get those through the HRHP concentration.

In closing, I want to make a small plea. When looking at the world today, it’s clear that human rights are under attack. The foundations of the human rights order developed after the Second World War is being eroded by the rise of nationalistic regimes across the globe. While this human rights system was and remains deeply, deeply flawed, it was the only system we had to protect vulnerable people from oppression and the deprivation of their rights and dignity. On the humanitarian side, things are equally grim. Mass displacement of people, driven by conflict, climate change, natural disasters and poverty is leaving millions of people in need of humanitarian relief. With the global North becoming increasingly unwilling to act, lower and middle-income countries are largely footing the bill. The need for humanitarian relief is greater than ever, and will only grow more and more pressing.

We need future policymakers who are passionate, intelligent and dedicated to addressing these growing challenges. Pick the concentration that fits best for you, but I know that I wouldn’t feel as fulfilled studying anywhere – or anything – else.

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.

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.

Who is Nancy?

You’ve read several posts from Nancy Leeds — our guest blogger extrodinaire — so we thought it would be fun for you to get to know more about her…

 

Nancy Leeds

 

Nancy Leeds is a second year USP concentrator, Management “specializer” and admissions office PA. She is also participating in SIPA’s co-curricular program in Gender and Public Policy. Before SIPA, Nancy spent five years working on Democratic political campaigns in the United States. She even spent three weeks this past semester working on a Congressional campaign in Texas. Nancy writes a popular blog called “CampaignSick” which focuses on best practices in Campaign Management and Voting Rights. It can be found at campaignsick.blogspot.com.

Can you comment specifically on some exciting things about your concentration?

I really enjoy the flexibility of the USP concentration. I came into SIPA with a very specific focus (electoral systems and voting rights) and USP has allowed me to explore those interests. I have taken classes in the Law School, Journalism School and Poli Sci PhD department and all have been able to count toward my concentration. The flexibility of the USP concentration can work for those who are less narrowly focused as well because it provides the opportunity to take courses in a multitude of different subjects and really discover where your public policy passion lies.

SIPA features lots of events for students to attend. Is there any interesting presentation that you have attended that you could comment upon?

Last year President of the NAACP (and Columbia alum) Benjamin Jealous came to talk about voting rights for the David N. Dinkins Leadership and Public Policy Forum. It was in the wake of the Trayvon Martin shooting in Sanford, Florida and Mr. Jealous had just returned from community meetings there. He was able to articulate the history of voter suppression in the United States and link it to race based violence in a way that was profoundly touching and inspiring even to someone like myself who reads and thinks about these issues all the time. You can read more about his talk here: http://storify.com/ColumbiaSIPA/benjamin-jealous-sanford-fl-is-really-sanford-usa

What experiences do you think prepared you at attend SIPA?

First off, let me allay some common fears. You do not need to have any specific major to handle the course load at SIPA. I was a Russian lit major undergrad and did not have a lot of quantitative courses under my belt. There are resources to help you with econ and stats if you are willing to seek them out. What did help me was professional trial and error. Having some previous work experience helped me crystallize a picture of the skills I still needed to reach my career goals and I was able to learn and hone those skills at SIPA. It also gave me real world experience to apply to theoretical problems in class and to share with my classmates. One of the most valuable aspects of SIPA is learning from your classmates’ experiences.

What has been the best part of your SIPA experience?

That’s hard to say. One experience you should NOT miss out on are the student led trips to other countries, which provide perspective and access that you would never get if you just traveled on your own. I went on SIPA’s Japan trip last year and we were able to meet with executives at Panasonic, the Finance Minister and the Former Prime Minister, thanks to our classmates’ connections. There was also plenty of time for cultural immersion including a traditional tea ceremony, kimono wearing and Japanese style karaoke.

What advice would you give a first-year student?

Think about what you want to get out of SIPA and plan your time accordingly. There is so much to do and see in our school and on our campus. A public policy nerd can feel a bit like a kid in a candy store. You need to set aside time for homework (especially as a first year) and also time for self-care so that you don’t get burned out too quickly. I have a litmus test for what lectures/events to attend. Usually I am able to answer “yes” to at least one of these questions before I attend an event. 1) Would I seek this out on my own? 2) Is it relevant to my professional/personal goals? 3) Will I be kicking myself if I miss out on this opportunity? Believe me, there are still PLENTY of events that meet that criteria.

 

 

"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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