Archive for dual degree

Q&A with dual-degree students in Brazil

Did you know that SIPA has a dual-degree program in Brazil?  Read More →

Interview with SIPA MIA Candidate, Lauren Podber


Lauren Podber

Lauren Podber

Degree: Dual (BA/MIA)
Concentration: International Security Policy
Specialization: Regional: Middle East

Lauren is a second-year SIPA student pursuing an MIA degree with a concentration in International Security Policy. During her time at SIPA, which has overlapped with her final year at Columbia’s undergraduate School of General Studies (GS), Lauren has worked for Court Square Capital Partners, a private equity firm, as well as choreographed for Fordham University’s Dance Team. During the Summer of 2012 and of 2013, Lauren interned in the Intelligence and Cyber Operating Unit, at a defense contractor in Northern Virginia. This summer, in addition to working at Court Square and Fordham, Lauren continued studying Persian/Farsi, which she has been learning over the course of the past three years. Before coming to Columbia as an undergraduate in 2009, Lauren was a professional dancer. She graduated magna cum laude and phi beta kappa with a degree in Middle Eastern, South Asian and African Studies from Columbia University in February 2014.

What did you do before coming to SIPA?

I worked as a professional dancer before coming to SIPA. Although I was formally trained as a classical ballet dancer at the Joffrey Ballet School and Kirov Academy of Ballet, I ended up working as a professional dancer/cheerleader for the New Jersey Devils, a hockey team, as well as several smaller teams managed by the owners of the Devils. I also worked for House of the Roses Volunteer Dance Company: a non profit organization providing free, onsite dance instruction to homeless and at-risk children in transitional shelters and community centers in NYC and the Bronx.   In 2009, I came to Columbia’s undergraduate School of General Studies to pursue a degree in Middle Eastern Studies.


On the left: a group of House of the Roses dancers after a performance at “Project Dance” in Time Square, in 2010.




On the right: NHL Playoffs 2009. I’m second from the right, and the palest of the group! lauren3









What attracted you to SIPA?

The professors! I heard about the program from a friend in GS, and I remember looking at the online course bulletin for ISP (International Security Policy) and deciding right then and there that I needed to apply. I was so excited to sign up for so many of the courses. In addition, continuing at Columbia, allowed me to take an extra year of Persian/Farsi with my favorite language teacher. Lastly, as someone who would have finished college at 28, it allowed me to complete a masters degree more quickly, which should hopefully be beneficial in the job search!


What kind of work do you hope to do when you graduate?

I’m most interested in the Middle East and Central Asia. Hopefully, I’ll end up working somewhere where I am focused on Iran, and get to continue learning the language. Given the ever-changing global landscape, this could be completely irrelevant five years from now, so I’m keeping an open mind!


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.

It’s not a duel but rather a dual degree

​If you are a student hoping to complement your international relations and public affairs education, you may be interested in  SIPA’s dual degree programs.  SIPA has longstanding partnerships with a number of Columbia’s graduate schools.

Over  the years SIPA has formed partnerships with other schools within the Columbia community and around the world  to offer students a slew of opportunities to explore their intellectual curiosity. From Journalism to Law, to Business, SIPA students have the opportunity  to study in different graduate schools at Columbia or travel around the world to study in places like Japan, Cairo, France, UK among others. Because each program has different requirements and core curriculum classes that must be satisfied, we advise you become familiar with each  schools’ application, guidelines, requirements and the deadlines to apply.

To qualify as a Columbia University dual degree student, SIPA students must apply to each school (program of interest) separately in which SIPA has an accredited dual degree partnership.  Students must be accepted to both programs in order to qualify for dual degree eligibility. 

Below are some important facts to note about the dual degree process.

  • Dual degree applicants will receive admissions decisions separately. Students at Columbia University can only be enrolled at one school at a time.  If an applicant is admitted to both schools, they  should speak with the Dean of Student Affairs or an academic advisor at each school to determine the best school at which to begin their studies.  If an applicant is admitted to one school but not the other, they may enroll at the school they have been independently admitted to and then reapply to the other if they wish to make another attempt at pursuing a dual degree at Columbia.
  • While we generally advise applicants to apply to both programs of interest for the same semester and then enroll accordingly, students already enrolled in a participating Columbia dual degree program may apply to SIPA during their first semester of study in the first program.
  • Not all programs are the same length (i.e. 1 year or 2 years or 3 years) so review the web page that is specific to each program (see below for list of dual degree options).
  • SIPA does not participate in dual programs that are not already listed on our website. This refers to other programs within Columbia University and other domestic schools (non-Columbia University).  For a full list of our dual degree programs, please click here.

As you decide whether or not to pursue a dual degree at Columbia University, you may find it helpful to see who is pursuing a dual degree.  Take a look at some of our dual degree SIPA student profiles here.


A Window into Being a Dual Degree Student

We are the academic mavericks at SIPA. We take an extra long time to introduce ourselves in classes. But it’s only because we are a different breed. A different type of crazy. Some of us are staying on for as long as 4 years. Super seniority, all for a good cause.

For the purposes of this blog, my focus is on dual degree (DD) programs between SIPA and other schools within Columbia University. SIPA has dual degree partnerships with 8 schools, however, despite the MIA/MPA program similarities, some of these dual degrees exist with either MIA/MPA, but not both. Here are the options:

I am a dual degree International Affairs and Social Work student, which means that my program lasts for 3 years. Two of those years are spent not only taking classes at both schools, but also completing the required fieldwork hours for the social work program. Fieldwork encompasses a diversity of work, including policy advocacy, community organizing, therapeutic work with diverse populations, and supporting programmatic work at a variety of organizations. It obliges all social work students to complete 600 hours of work over two years. For me and other fellow dual SIPA/CUSSW DD-ers, it makes for frenetic days in which we scramble to/from schools/hospitals/non-profit organizations/UN offices/etc. and campus. In the midst of hair-tearing predicaments over deadlines and our clients’ issues, we continue the mad hamster-wheeled dash, constantly reminding ourselves that the reward is but over that faraway horizon.

The dual degree option is a giant undertaking. It will test your energy levels, resilience, and certainly, your bank account. Though it cannot be denied that having that second degree on your resume looks mighty impressive, it deserves a second, third and more thought before devoting yourself to this journey.

Here are the most important questions to ask yourself:

  1. Will this second degree actually advance my career goals/aspirations?
  2. Do I really want to spend the extra semester/year in school?
  3. Can I afford to spend the extra semester/year in debt?
  4. Do I have the willpower to last an extra semester/year in school?

Should you decide that the dual degree road is for you, here are the most important tips/suggestions I can offer you (in consultation with other fellow DD-ers):

  1. Communicate: Reach out to fellow DD-ers, your professors, your work/internship supervisors, and the Assistant Dean (Leah Gunn Barrett). They need to be aware of the fact that you are taking on a weighty challenge. Should something happen with one of your obligations, it will give you better leverage in the next step…
  2. Advocate: The ultimate test of grad school is in your own ability to advocate for your own needs. No one else can do this for you!


post contributed by Emily Siu, a dual degree Social Work  and International Affairs student — concentrating in Economic and Political Development (EPD)

"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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