Archive for diversity – Page 2

Why I Chose to Apply to SIPA

Note from Admissions: The Spring application deadline is coming up, and we hope applicants feel like they’re making good progress with the admissions process. Current student Dylan Hoey has been in your position and reflects on why he applied to SIPA in the first place. 

We encourage you to reach out to us at the Admissions office if you have any questions about the application or just want to talk it over. And if you want to talk to Dylan or other SIPA students about their experience, we can make that happen.

Rodin’s “The Thinker” outside Philosophy Hall [Wikimedia Commons]

During undergrad, like most first year students, I was unsure of what I wanted to major in. At first I was confident that environmental science was the right choice. Within a semester, I was disabused of that idea. After taking an amazing introduction to international relations course, I thought I had settled on international relations. When my second year started, I changed my mind once again and declared as a Government and History dual major, which finally stuck. While I had formally decided on a major, my interest in other subjects did not wane. Thanks to a great liberal arts education, I was able to dabble in almost every major subject, from religious studies to mathematics. Throughout my undergraduate career, I developed an interest in urban studies, post-colonial history and theory, continental philosophy, and film, amongst others.

In turn, when I decided to apply to graduate school, I knew I wanted to be at a place that engaged all of these interests, while also providing me with a central skill set that would allow me to be successful in any industry. I knew that my ideal school would be in a large city, with plenty of extracurricular opportunities to pursue my interest in the arts. Naturally, that narrowed my list of schools down quite considerably.

SIPA had always been on my radar just based off its name recognition, but when I researched more into its curriculum and Columbia’s own resources, I became more and more interested in applying. First of all, I appreciated that SIPA stresses both theory and ‘practical’ applications of course material. As a future U.S. diplomat, I valued SIPA’s diversity, which is unrivaled. I also liked that SIPA has a distinctly international focus, with an emphasis on urban politics and culture. When I looked through SIPA’s course offerings and faculty, I was similarly impressed by the broad array of fields and disciplines represented. I remember also coming across a couple ‘superstar’ professors, including former Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, former New York City Mayor David Dinkins and Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz. On more comprehensive faculty lists outside of SIPA, I saw that one of my favorite authors, Turkish Nobel Laureate Orhan Pamuk, was also listed as a member of Columbia’s faculty. Another search led me to discover that leading Indian post-colonial theorist Gayatri Spivak was a resident faculty member.

When I looked at the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences’ website, I found that the events section was full of film series that I was interested, including a few where the directors themselves were there to answer questions. At the Journalism School, I saw Jelani Cobb, one of the New Yorker’s most prolific and insightful contributors, listed as a professor. While I was certainly drawn in by SIPA’s course offerings, I really fell in love with the idea of Columbia being a place of such great academic diversity. I knew that at SIPA I would receive a world-class education in policy analysis and public management; I had no doubts about that. But I relished the idea of being on a campus where it would be easy to meet people engaged in other fields, and to pursue a truly holistic education. When it was time to finally apply, I was excited at the prospect of enrolling at SIPA, an excitement that has never left me, even as a second year student now.

Alumna shares thoughts at Diversity Symposium


Lybra S. Clemons, MPA '01, and Jessica Taylor, MPA '12 discuss diversity in the workplace during SIPA's Diversity Symposium.

Lybra S. Clemons, MPA ’01, and Jessica Taylor, MPA ’12 discuss diversity in the workplace during SIPA’s Diversity Symposium.

Last Friday, SIPA’s Office of Admissions hosted its 3rd Annual Diversity Symposium, Policies and Principles: Diversity in the Domestic and International Communities. This free symposium allowed prospective students to meet current students and faculty, and to discuss the importance of diverse communities at schools of public policy and international affairs, including at highly sought-after graduate programs like ours.

The symposium began with a fireside chat by Lybra S. Clemons, MPA ’01, the vice president of Diversity and Inclusion at Morgan Stanley, and Jessica Taylor, MPA ’12, the vice president at Goldman Sach’s 10,000 Small Businesses. The speakers shared their thoughts on diversity levels at corporations and SIPA’s commitment to diversity. “At the end of the day, there’s a business case for diversity,” Clemons said. “If you don’t have diversity at the top of the house, it doesn’t matter. You’re not going to have it at the bottom.”

Ultimately, this Symposium shared with prospective students SIPA’s mission to develop world-class leaders who are committed to solving problems in our ever changing world; how SIPA’s increasing the enrollment of domestic, underrepresented students into our advanced degree programs; and how it’s Diversity Task Force is fostering a diversified student body at SIPA that will explore, expand and enhance opportunities to serve local and global communities.

Clemons went on to share why she applied to SIPA back in 1998. “I applied to seven different schools,” Clemons says. “As I started to dig deep, some of the schools that were on my list [weren’t what I exactly wanted].” After graduating from SIPA with an MPA, Clemons became the director of corporate relations at the American Cancer Society, the director of global diversity and inclusion at American Express, among other achievements.

“I was very, very glad to be here. I did not look back, and I was very pleased with the program,” Clemons added. “Everything that I’ve done since graduating from SIPA in 2001 has had some kind of connection  back to Columbia, SIPA…everything.”

Watch what Clemons had to say about the program here: LybraClemonsVideo-Symposium

Did you take your own photos and/or videos of the symposium? Feel free to share them on SIPA’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram profiles!

A Note About SIPA’s Diversity Initiative

While researching SIPA for your graduate studies, you’ve probably noticed that the school is one of the most internationally-diverse institutions at Columbia University. In fact, students in the MIA/MPA 2013 class represent 51 different countries, and speak 41 native languages. Overall, 52 percent of the class is represented by international students! Thus, we truly cherish our diversity and the many unique perspectives our students, faculty, staff and alumni bring to campus.

Reminding us all about the importance of inclusion, Dean Merit E. Janow released a statement about SIPA’s continued efforts to foster a community that is welcoming, respectful of individual and group differences, and representative of our society:

“A focus on diversity is important for all schools, but it is a particular priority for SIPA because the process of designing public policy should reflect consideration for diverse segments of societies,” Dean Janow said in a recent email.

Earlier this year Dean Janow formed a diversity task force to support SIPA’s efforts to build an even stronger culture of inclusiveness. This diversity task force holds regular meetings and student events, including an upcoming Diversity Symposium, on November 14, 2014. Read more about the Diversity Task Force’s efforts and upcoming events here:

SIPA Diversity Symposium this Friday

Diversity is true to our heart at SIPA.  In SIPA’s two-year programs, 59% are women and 41% are men.  Over 26% self-identified themselves as students of color and half are international students.  In all, SIPA has a diverse student population when viewed through the lens of international and women students.  We have stayed relatively consistent over the past few years in attracting domestic applicants who identified themselves as persons of color.   However, our goal is to continue to strengthen our diverse student profile.

The Office of Admissions and Financial Aid is hosting our 2nd Annual Diversity Symposium on December 13th (tomorrow).  Prospective graduate students are invited to attend to learn more about SIPA’s Master of Public Administration (MPA) and Master of International Affairs (MIA) degree programs.  This will also be an opportunity for participants to discuss issues of diversity and representation in highly sought-after graduate programs like ours.  The symposium will highlight SIPA’s mission to develop world class leaders who are committed to solving problems in a rapidly changing world.

Faculty, current SIPA students, SIPA alumni and prospective students will gather to discuss and expand on opportunities for new, innovative and dynamic leadership in international and domestic policies.

Seats are limited.  If you are interested in attending, please RSVP or contact the Admissions Office at 212-854.6216.


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.

"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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