Archive for dual degree – Page 2

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)

Morningside Post – MIA in the Army

The following article comes to us courtesy of the SIPA student blog, The Morningside Post.  It was written by Posted by Michelle Chahine on November 22nd, 2010.

Jordan Becker’s time in the MIA program is funded by the U.S. Army – that is, his Masters in International Affairs. He has served in the Army for nine and a half years and could easily do another nine, or many times that.

Becker is a second-year student at SIPA. He spent his first year at Sciences Po in Paris (as part of a dual degree program with Columbia). Throughout his interview, he kept the conversation general, insisting that was for his own personal privacy, not because anything he did was a secret. His missions and jobs are generally public information. Talk to him in person, he’ll tell you almost anything you want to know – just don’t bring your pen along.

Becker weighed each word carefully. He spoke in bullet points. Everything he said was rehearsed in his head. Whatever he said that wasn’t rehearsed was off the record, and tended to be the most fascinating details. And, as he spoke, he had a careful eye on the pen and notepad in front of him.

“I want to be very careful of what image I represent of my profession because I have a lot of respect for the other people here at SIPA and elsewhere who do what I do, and also for my profession’s role in society,” said Becker. “Also because people don’t really have much exposure to people in my profession, so I don’t want to be perceived as representing the whole organization.  I’m only speaking for myself as an individual.” Later in the interview he added, “I think sometimes our activities are inaccurately caricatured.”

Becker is from California. He planned to go to the University of California for free, but he really wanted to go to Georgetown.  “I needed funding, which ROTC provided,” he said. That’s when he signed up for the U.S. Army.

He studied International Relations and was an intercollegiate athlete in his first year at Georgetown. “My life as a student wasn’t affected too much. It was basically like having an extra class or two a week. And I had to cut my hair and shave my beard,” he added.

After graduating from college and doing the Army’s standard initial training, he moved to Italy. He was a platoon leader there until the onset of the Iraq War in 2003, doing combat training. “It was an airborne unit and we mostly trained for airfield seizures and non-combatant evacuation operations.” Usually the scenarios had to do with civil instability.

“Airfield seizure was the first thing we did in Iraq. The first week went pretty much like training – we seized an airfield. Once there was no more traditional war to fight, that’s when it got complicated, and that’s when it got interesting to me. I got to apply what I learned in college and learn a little bit about what it really meant in practice. My academic background helped me to do my job, and it helped me explain our mission to my soldiers.”

Becker went to Iraq without much hesitation. “Privately I questioned it. But my obligation to perform my responsibilities was much more important… my job was to execute foreign policy, not to make it,” he said. “I signed up for the army knowing it was a tool of foreign policy, and that foreign policy is never perfect. I knew I would go forth on decisions made by those higher up.”

Becker left Iraq in February 2004. He then went through a long process of training to transition to another role in the army. He returned to Iraq for eight months in 2007 during the Surge and served as an advisor to an Iraqi organization. After that, he spent the next year doing more training.

In the summer of 2008, Becker went to Mali, as part of small-scale U.S. operations in the Pan-Sahel region. The army helped the Malian government control lawless areas of their country to prevent extremists from using them as a training base. Becker was basically like a consultant during that time. “It is one of the most fun things I have done in the army,” he said. “I was advising people who were a bit senior to me in rank, and they were very talented and dedicated professionals.”

When Becker returned to the U.S. at the end of the summer in 2008, he began to apply for graduate schools. He described his decision to return to school as a simple professional calculation. To him, it was the equivalent of someone in investment management getting an MBA.

But Becker is not your typical second-year SIPA student. While most of the class of 2011 is now worried about finding a job for May, Becker has jobs lined up for the next few years. His next step is a rotating faculty position at West Point. He expects to stay there for two or three years. He will then move on to work as a ‘foreign area officer’ focusing on Europe and transatlantic relations.

To prepare for his new roles, Becker is in the International Security Policy concentration at SIPA and the Europe regional specialization. How does being on the ground relate to the academic theory? “The biggest lesson I have learned as a practitioner has been about the practical limitations of the use of force… You hear about the ‘fog of war,’ or ‘friction.’  You really see the fog of war. I learnt what that looks like and feels like. It’s really there.”

International Dual Degrees Explained

A while ago we posted an entry on the nuances of our dual degree programs with other Columbia schools.  In that entry I made mention of the fact that we also have partnerships with schools in other countries.  We refer to these dual degrees as international dual degrees.  The following entry is meant to provide information on these programs.  For information on the Columbia programs, please see this previous entry.


SIPA has partnered with a number of international institutions around the globe to offer a variety of dual degree programs.  Such programs allow students to study public policy from two different academic, cultural, and professional perspectives. After a two-year program of study, students are awarded both the relevant SIPA degree and a degree from our partner institution, thereby earning two masters degrees in the same amount of time it takes to obtain one.

SIPA currently offers dual degree programs with its Global Public Policy Network partners, which include Sciences Po Paris, the London School of Economics and Political Science, and the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the University of Singapore. We also have partnerships  with the Hertie School of Governance in Berlin, Fundação Getulio Vargas Escola de Administração de Empresas (FGV) in São Paulo, and the University of Tokyo Graduate School of Public Policy.

There are two types of Dual Degrees: Flexible Dual Degrees and Fixed-Track Dual Degrees. Each type has a specific application process.

In the case of the flexible dual degrees, students who are already admitted to either SIPA or a partner institution apply to a dual‐degree program during the course of their first year of study. If admitted, they study at the partner institution in their second year.  For example, you have been accepted to SIPA for a Fall 2011 start date and during your first year at SIPA, you decide to apply to the Dual Degree program with the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy (LKYSPP).  You apply to the program in Spring 2012 and upon acceptance, pursue your second year of studies in Singapore, beginning in Fall 2012. At the end of the two years, you receive a degree from both SIPA and the LKYSPP.

In the case of the fixed-track dual degree, students apply to both SIPA and our partner institution at the same time. Their application is reviewed by a joint-committee comprising of representatives of both schools.  If admitted, students begin their course of study at SIPA and proceed to the partner school in year two (with the exception of the Sciences Po MIA – students start in Paris and finish in New York).  For example, you apply to the SIPA MIA or MPA/LSE MPA program for a September 2011 start date. You submit your application in January 2011 and are notified of the decision in April. Upon admittance, you begin your studies in New York and finish in London during the 2012-2013 academic year. At the end of the two years, you receive a degree from both SIPA and the LSE.

Flexible Dual Degrees are offered for the following programs: the LSE MPA, Sciences Po MPA, LKY Master of Public Policy (MPP) and the Hertie School of Governance MPP. All programs are open to MIA and MPA students at SIPA.  This means that you can apply to the LSE MPA program in the spring of your first year at SIPA, whether you are enrolled in the MIA or MPA program. At the end of your two years, you will earn either an MIA or an MPA from SIPA and an MPA from LSE.

Fixed-track Dual Degrees are offered for the programs outlined above, as well as: the Sciences Po MIA, Fundação Getulio Vargas MPP or Master in International Management, and Tokyo University MPP. Unlike flexible dual degree programs, this is a fixed sequence of study. In other words, if you apply to the Sciences Po/SIPA MIA program, you will earn an MIA from Sciences Po and SIPA. You cannot switch into the MPA program for your second year SIPA.

Note that the language of instructions for all programs is English, except for the Sciences Po MIA, which is conducted in French and the Fundação Getulio Vargas MPP track, which holds instruction in Portuguese.

You may be wondering what the pros and cons of each track are. While the flexible track is more, well, flexible, you need to plan your course of study carefully to make sure that you will be able to fulfill the requirements at both schools. The fixed-track lays out clearly your course of study at both institutions. Admission rates vary depending on the program, fixed versus flexible, and the strength of the competition in any given year. Finally, regarding tuition: it’s paid to the institution you are enrolled in.

For more information on dual degrees, visit the GPPN website, or contact Tan Nguyen, Assistant Dean, Office of External Relations:  tn2102@

CU Dual Degree Application Process

SIPA offers many dual degrees that can be divided into two categories.  The first category involves relationships SIPA has with other Columbia University programs.  In our office we commonly refer to these as “CU” dual degrees.  The second category involves relationships we have with international partner schools.  We simply call these “international dual degrees.”

Many applicants have questions about the application process for dual degrees so I thought I would write up some entries to clarify.  This entry will focus exclusively on CU dual degrees.

The first thing to realize is that there is no such thing as applying for a dual degree.  This might sound strange so let me explain.

While SIPA does indeed have dual degree relationships with several Columbia Schools, admission to each school is an entirely separate process.  Thus applicants must complete an application for each individual school. I am the Director of Admission at SIPA and my concern is that you are a qualified to handle our program and contribute to the learning environment.  I am not an expert in the programs of other schools and only read applications for SIPA.

Related to all of this, there are no joint admission committees and no joint review process.  I can probably best explain with a specific example so let me try to do so.

Let us say you want to pursue a dual degree with the Columbia Law School and SIPA.  In order to do so, you would have to submit a completely separate application to each school, meet the necessary deadline, and submit all of the necessary documentation.  If the Law School requires the LSAT you would have to meet that requirement for the Law School application, however SIPA does not accept the LSAT, we accept the GRE or the GMAT.  Thus a student wishing to pursue a joint program with the Law School and SIPA would have to take two different graduate admission examinations.

Once your application is submitted, only the school it was submitted to has access to it – there is no shared application system.  I do not have the power to view applications to the Law School or any other school on our campus.

It is true that most schools at Columbia do have a place on the application for applicants to indicate if they are interested in a dual degree, but in truth this is not something that is shared across schools.  While this is nice information for each school to know, I do not contact other Admission Directors to discuss applicants interested in pursuing a dual degree.

Since dual applicants must apply to each school separately, applicants will receive decisions separately.  If an applicant is admitted to two Columbia Schools, the applicant should speak with student services in each school to determine the best school at which to begin studies.  Students can only be enrolled at one school at a time so an applicant admitted to two schools will have to choose which school to enroll in first.

Since there is no such thing as a dual degree application, if an applicant is admitted to one program and not the other, the applicant is welcome to enroll in the school they have been independently admitted to.   So for example if an applicant was admitted to SIPA but not to the Law School, he or she would be welcome to start at SIPA.

I want to address three more technical notes on the CU dual degree process.  First, while we recommend that applicants interested in a dual degree program apply to the two different programs at the same time, it is possible to apply for a dual degree program during the first semester of enrollment in the first program.  So in the example above, if an applicant were admitted to either the Law School of SIPA, he or she would be able to submit an application for the other program during the first semester of enrollment.

Second, SIPA does not participate in Ad hoc dual degree programs.  What is meant by this is that unless the dual degree program is on our site, we do not offer it.  As an example, SIPA does not participate in dual degree programs with any other domestic school but Columbia University.  While some schools will allow students to pursue dual degree programs with various schools outside of the University, SIPA does not offer such a program.  For a full list of our dual degree programs please click here.

Third, not all dual degree programs are the same length.  Each has different requirements and you should view the web page specific to each program (see link above) for information on the specific time requirements.

Our international dual degrees can be  bit more complex and I will address these in a future entry.

On the non-technical side, some applicants interested in dual degree programs ask if they should address this interest in their application (i.e. in the personal statement).  While I am not an expert in other programs, I do think it is a wise decision for applicants to address their desire for a dual degree somewhere in their personal statement.  The reason I believe so is that if a dual degree is important to your future, then it is worth addressing in the personal statement.  While my concern is not necessarily that an applicant to SIPA meet the requirements of another program, addressing the desire for a dual degree often allows an applicant to put together a more compelling personal statement.  So if you are interested in pursuing a dual degree with another Columbia School, I do think it is worth the time to address this in your SIPA application.

Urban Planning Dual Degree Interview

Hearing from individuals associated with SIPA is a great way to learn about what our programs offer and we have an extensive interview page for this purpose featuring current students, alumni, and faculty.  The following is an interview with a student that is pursuing a dual degree with Urban Planning.  For a full list of our dual degree programs click here.


Victoria_Okoye_150_150Victoria Okoye is pursuing an Economic and Political Development concentration at SIPA with a professional focus on Urban Planning and Development. She earned a Bachelors in Journalism and a Bachelors in International Studies from the University of Missouri. She came to SIPA with a strong interest in women’s issues, human rights and African economic development. Her experience was in these areas as well – she did research work on gender issues related to women’s empowerment in political decision-making; did internships working on immigration issues related to human rights and women’s rights/gender-based violence and HIV/AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa.

How did you get started in SIPA and Urban Planning? Both at the same time or one after the other? How much more do you have?

I actually began my coursework at SIPA, and it was in my first semester that I decided to apply for a dual-degree in Urban Planning.

How did you find the core curriculum at SIPA? How does this compare with the core curriculum of Architecture/Urban Planning? Is there any overlap?

In my opinion, my MIA and Urban Planning experience have been quite different, but very much complementary. SIPA has a much more rigorous core curriculum, with required economics and statistics courses; in addition, taking the Economic Development course had helped me better understand the economic context of development, so I’m quite appreciative of that.

In addition, the Conceptual Foundations course, Interstate Relations requirement, and Africa-focused courses that I’ve taken as part of my core curriculum have really been important for shaping the context of development, understanding general trends, and really having a strong grasp of what the important issues are. My Urban Planning core coursework (in Planning Theory, Planning Techniques, Urban Economics, Planning Law) has emphasized the role of the urban planner as a negotiator, mediator, basically, an individual working within and among institutions in order to achieve equitable urban development processes.

How did you obtain your internship? Is there an internship requirement for Urban Planning? If so, could you use that internship to fulfill the SIPA requirement or vice versa?

I actually obtained my internship through a contact I had made through my participation in the SIPA/Columbia University-sponsored Ghana/Nigeria policy tour. The tour was organized by three SIPA students, and we had the opportunity to travel to Accra, the capital of Ghana, as well as Lagos, Abuja, and Enugu in Nigeria.

There is no internship requirement at Urban Planning, although it is strongly recommended. I envision that it would definitely be possible to use a required SIPA internship to count for credit toward my Urban Planning degree program.

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

After graduation, I’m especially interested in working in Nigeria on water infrastructure issues; given the recent trend toward privatization, I’m interested in working with local stakeholders to devise ways to better integrated them into the planning, operating and monitoring processes.

What has been the most challenging part of your SIPA experience given the dual degree? Do you work at SIPA (PA-ship) – how is the fellowship process with your dual degree?

I think the most challenging thing has been trying to be strategic about how I structure my program, and finding the right balance.

Although neither program has too many requirements, and it’s possible to “double count,” there are just so many interesting and worthwhile courses here at the University! So another challenge has really been focusing on taking the best courses for my interest – where I can gain knowledge, but also build skills that I can in turn use in my professional work after graduate school.

Given that pursuing a dual degree is a major financial investment, I am happy to say that I have really done my best and been pretty successful in taking advantages of my opportunities. In my second year (at Urban Planning), I was awarded a scholarship through the program, and I also applied for and was awarded an outside scholarship. In my final year (this year), I was selected for a Program Assistantship with a regional institute on campus, and I also was awarded an additional scholarship through Urban Planning. So, I’m definitely very thankful of the financial support that both my SIPA and Urban Planning program have provided.

What advice would you give a first-year student?

For those pursing a dual-degree, reach out to alumni and current students who are further along to get their advice about how to strategize your program based on your interests. Get to know the Deans and SIPA concentration Directors early on; they are such great resources!

What attracted you to SIPA?

I was attracted to a number of things: The Workshop project through the EPD concentration, the wide variety of experiences of SIPA students and alumni, the missions of the program and many of its students (the strong focus on international development issues), the opportunity to study a language while I am here, and also the opportunity to pursue a dual-degree.

What experiences do you think prepared you at attend SIPA?

In my undergraduate year, I worked on a year-long research project examining women’s progress in national decision-making in three African countries. I’d also completed a number of internships/work and have always been interested in pursuing an international career focused on development work.

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

The Institute of African Studies-sponsored debate on Darfur between Prof. Mahmood Mamdani and John Prendergast; the African Diplomatic Forum and African Economic Forum, SIPA Follies, Kofi Annan’s speech at the World Leaders Forum, and the numerous informational sessions sponsored by OCS (Catholic Relief Services, Consulting, Getting a Job at International Organizations, etc.)

Can you talk about your workshop experience?

I’ve only begun the workshop, as I am completing the Methods/Workshop sequence this year. So far, it’s been great! I’m working with a team of students to outline opportunities and constraints for foreign direct investment for Kaduna, Nigeria as part of a project for the Millennium Cities Initiative, Earth Institute.

What kind of work did you do to meet the SIPA internship requirement?

I interned in Abuja, Nigeria, working with a private development company interested in building a technology park to bring investment and economic development to the region and the country.

Can you comment on the quantitative rigor in the curriculum?

I think it’s good that the MIA curriculum has been strengthened with more quantitative-focused core courses. I think the curriculum provides a sufficient amount of emphasis on quantitative tools already, but it’s up to students to realize the importance of quantitative courses and seek them out – there are plenty available.

What most surprised you about SIPA after you arrived?

Economic Analysis I and II were so hard! I definitely did not expect that – but it was a good challenge and I learned A LOT.

"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

Boiler Image