Archive for economic and political development

A Case for Urban and Social Policy

Like many prospective graduate school applicants, I had a hard time deciding exactly which school or program was right for me. It’s incredibly difficult to think about places, schools, and classes you’ve never taken in the abstract, let alone even trying to compare them. While being incredibly fortunate, my situation is also a little complicated; as a Pickering Fellow, I am required to serve in the U.S. Foreign Service for five years after graduating from SIPA. While applying, I was attempting to reconcile my interest in domestic politics and cities, with my career and general interest in international relations. I wanted a degree that would wholly prepare me for my time in the Service, while also providing me the skills and expertise to succeed if I ever decided to leave the organization.

SIPA made sense on a variety of baseline levels; it’s incredibly diverse, and very international, two things I value both personally and professionally. It is prestigious and known for producing top-end talent in almost every profession related to public service and government. When I got in, it was almost a no-brainer; I knew this is where I wanted to be.

However, I had a much harder time deciding which concentration was right for me. As someone who has worked with numerous organizations engaged in human rights and refugee-related work, Human Rights and Humanitarian Policy was appealing. Similarly, Economic and Political Development sounded like a natural fit with the work I’d be doing in the Service. Urban and Social Policy, with its focus on development and broad social issues, also piqued my interest.

As you can probably guess, I ultimately decided to concentrate in USP. Now let me tell you why.

An Excellent Urban Studies Education…in the Greatest City in the World

Ever since I moved to my hometown of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, I have been in love with cities. I want to know their population density, the history behind their most famous landmarks, the backgrounds of the migrants that shaped them. I want to know what sports teams the locals support, and the rivalries that may exist between different parts of town. Understanding a city, and its working class people is something that gives me immense joy and a feeling of understanding and solidarity with others, even if I am an outsider.

It just so happens that SIPA is located in arguably the greatest, or at least the most culturally significant city in the world. USP concentrators have the unique opportunity to study their favorite policy issues with leaders in the field, who are often engaged in their work while teaching. If housing is your favorite issue, you can study with William Eimecke, the previous Secretary of Housing for New York State, and then witness every day how city and state leaders are attempting to solve the affordable housing crisis. If you’re interested in education, you can cross enroll in classes at Columbia’s prestigious Teachers College, and intern at the NY Department of Education, one of the biggest city agencies of its kind in the world. If you’re considering running for political office, you can take classes with ex-Mayor of Philadelphia Michael Nutter, and the legendary New York City Mayor David Dinkins. In summary, SIPA and New York attract some of the best minds in urban governance, and for this reason alone, SIPA has a comparative advantage to other schools with urban studies programs.

It’s Broad but You Can Make It Your Own

If you say you study Urban and Social Policy, you inevitably have to tell someone what that actually means. That’s partly because it is so broad; almost every social issue is now inherently an urban issue and vice versa. That being said, SIPA’s requirements make it incredibly easy to find your niche within the concentration, while also providing students with a generalist background that will prepare them for any type of work in the field. I am personally passionate about anti-corruption and good governance initiatives, and have therefore taken numerous management and systems analysis oriented courses. One of my friends in the concentration has explored the growth of data and algorithms in public sector decision making, and its impact on communities of color. Another friend of mine is committed to understanding the intersection of gender and development in urban communities. As a future diplomat, I know I will be serving in some of the world’s truly global cities; therefore, my USP education will provide me with the skills and knowledge I need to understand the key challenges these cities face, while also allowing me to dive deeper into many of my domestic interests. In turn, by drawing upon the experiences and interests of your peers, and the expertise of USP’s great faculty, you too can find your own place in this passionate and driven community.

The People

USP is a relatively small concentration, compared to some of the others available at SIPA. However, I consider this one of its greatest strengths. USP attracts bright, motivated and culturally savvy people from around the world, with many hailing from the world’s fastest growing and important urban centers. On an intellectual level, this is incredibly rewarding; often, you will find yourself in the halls or off-campus at a small meet up, casually discussing an urban policy issue with people from entirely separate countries and cities, each one providing their perspectives and experiences. Socially, you are surrounded by people who also love the city, and all that it has to offer. Personally, I have felt that my education has extended well beyond the walls of SIPA, as my network of USPers continues to challenge me, and introduce me to new concepts and ideas on a daily basis.

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions…

No matter where you are in the admissions process, I encourage all prospective or recently admitted students to think critically about what they want out of their graduate school experience and how every concentration or program may advance your personal and professional growth. Nonetheless, if you are passionate about cities and social issues, I suggest that you take a look at the concentration’s requirements and electives which are available on the SIPA website. It will give you a better idea of the type of coursework you can expect, while also hopefully inspiring some excitement at the prospect of being a USP concentrator!

Seeples Spotlight: Ayanda Francis

This semester the Office of Admissions welcomed three new Program Assistants (PAs) to the team. This week I’m introducing you to each of them in the form of self-interviews. It’s ladies first, so say “hello” to Ayanda Francis. Ayanda is Jamaican-American, and she’s from Atlanta, Georgia. Before attending SIPA she was Fulbright ETA in Turkey, and after SIPA she plans to join the US Foreign Service. She’s concentrating in Economic and Political Development and specializing in International Conflict Resolution and Asia. At SIPA, she has been involved in SIPA Students of Color as the former finance chair, Women in Peace and Security as the former Vice President, and has spent her summer in Timor-Leste with UN Women.

What attracted you to SIPA and Columbia University?
My reasons can be split into two categories: personal and professional. Personally, my mother came to Columbia for graduate school and loved every minute of it. As a result, I had visited campus many times with her and have wanted to come to Columbia since I was around 10 years old. Professionally, SIPA happens to have an academic program that matches my desires exactly. I wanted to study both development and conflict resolution, and while many programs force you to choose between the two, SIPA has allowed me to study both in depth. The fact that Columbia is located in NYC doesn’t hurt either. 🙂

What experiences do you think prepared you to attend SIPA?
Attending an engineering school for undergrad definitely helped prepare me for the intensity and rigor of SIPA.  SIPA is hard, y’all! Be prepared.

What has been the best part of your SIPA experience?
Definitely meeting the rest of my classmates. Everyone is brilliant and accomplished and comes from such interesting perspectives that challenge me to look at issues in new ways, but they are also just genuinely awesome people to hang out with. Seeples are also of the work hard play hard mentality, so there’s lots of fun to be had.

Can you comment on the quantitative rigor in the curriculum?
Rigorous! I took the Calc- heavy micro and macro (6400 and 6401), as well as the quant-heavy economic development course. While not entirely murderous, these courses are not for the faint of heart.

What’s your internship experience been like?
I had a FANTASTIC time at UN Women Timor-Leste. I was working with the Women, Peace and Security team on women in the police force– helping the PNTL (national police force) assess themselves on how female officers are treated, what can be done to recruit and retain more women, and how to improve services for women overall. I was doing real and substantive work, representing the UN at governmental meetings, and had the freedom to suggest ideas and projects that would be taken seriously. The office is fantastic and Timor is lovely, so I would beyond highly recommend it!

How did you obtain your internship?
A class called “ Applied Peacebuilding.” I also HIGHLY recommend it. It’s project based, so you are guaranteed an internship if you get into the course. It’s much different than any other SIPA course you’ll take so I would recommend that those interested apply for it!

[Photo courtesy of Ayanda Francis, pictured left]

Seeple Spotlight: Rina Lila, MIA ’15

Rina Lila MIA ’15

One of our very own students, Rina Lila, MIA ’15, will lead the first focus group discussion about a positive digital media registry about Kosovo. Lila’s organization, Kosovo Diaspora will host “From a Concept to Success: Focus Group on the Diaspora Virtual Registration,” this Friday, November 14 at 6:30 p.m., in room 1302 of the International Affairs Building in New York City. Read this Q & A excerpt to get a sneak peek at how a SIPA education, along with her background, has prepared her to take on such an exciting and challenging project:

Born and raised in Kosova, Rina Lila, a Master of International Affairs student, came to the United States in 2005 to finish high school in southern California; she went on to major in political science at Whittier College. Lila spoke with SIPA News about growing up in Kosovo, the impact the United Nations has had on her life, and being a part of Kosovo Diaspora in New York City.

Kosovo Diaspora’s upcoming event, “From a Concept to Success: Focus Group on the Diaspora Virtual Registration,” will be held at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, November 14, in room 1302 of the International Affairs Building.

Tell us a bit about Kosovo Diaspora.
A former SIPA student, Behar Xharra MIA ’12, established the Kosovo Diaspora initiative, which is meant to raise awareness on Kosovo, and to highlight Kosovo through digital diplomacy. We want to make available positive digital media about Kosovo.

Behar graduated in 2012, before you came to SIPA. How do you know him?
Everyone from Kosovo knows each other. Behar actually convinced me to come to SIPA. [I was considering other schools], but he told me that SIPA is more international. He said you have more international students, you get to make more connections, it’s close to the United Nations—it’s an invaluable experience. So I came here. Then, last year, he got me involved with the Kosovo Diaspora.

How are your studies at SIPA related to this?
My concentration is in Economic and Political Development, and my specialization is in International Conflict Resolution. I am one of the co-presidents for the UN Studies Working Group and the Conflict Resolution group and I work very closely with Professor [Elisabeth] Lindenmayer as one of her course assistants. She’s been an inspiration for me with respect to the UN. I’ve always wanted to work for the UN. The fact that the UN was here was the main reason I wanted to come to SIPA.

Tell us more about the Kosovo Diaspora event you’ve planned for this Friday [November 14].
This year Behar asked me to lead the first focus group discussion on diaspora registry. Kosovo Diaspora is partnering with International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the Kosovo Ministry of Diaspora to promote the registry among our widespread diaspora communities across five continents. The information collected will provide the Kosovo government with a better understanding of geographic and demographic profile of Kosovo Diaspora in order to establish evidence-based policies in Kosovo to address the needs and concerns of diaspora worldwide. As Kosovo Diaspora, we see a lot of potential to having a database of all Albanians everywhere, while working on our mission to digitlize diplomacy. The mission of this diaspora virtual registration is to bring together Albanian civil society leaders, successful entrepreneurs politicians well as students.

 

Read the rest of the Q & A here via SIPA News.

 

Seeple Snapshot: Oscar Pocasangre, MPA

Oscar Pocasangre

Master of Public Administration (MPA)
Concentration: Economic and Political Development (EPD)
Specialization: Advanced Policy and Economic Analysis (APEA)
Oscar speaking at a panel on emerging markets at the OECD as a representative for SIPA’s Center on Economic and Global Governance (CGEG)

Oscar speaking at a panel on emerging markets at the OECD as a representative for SIPA’s Center on Economic and Global Governance (CGEG)

 

What did you do before SIPA?

Prior to SIPA, I worked for two years at the MIT Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) as a policy and training analyst in their Chile office. I focused on creating courses on randomized trials for policymakers and also worked with governments and NGOs throughout the region in promoting the use of good evidence when crafting public policies. I was also able to write up various policy publications, including a book chapter on conditional cash transfers.

What has been the best part of your SIPA experience?

There have been many highlights! Academically, I think the highlight has been taking a class with Andrés Velasco, a former finance minister of Chile and former presidential candidate during the Chilean primaries in 2013. He was very accessible as a professor and he was able to combine rigorous theories from political economy and game theory with his personal experience in politics to explore issues that policymakers face in practice. Another highlight was being able to represent SIPA at two conferences in Paris sponsored by the Center on Global Economic Governance. There were many distinguished speakers at the conferences, including Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz, the Minister of Finance of France, representatives from the UN and the OECD, among many others. It was a great opportunity to hear what these experts think about the world’s current problems and how to solve them.

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

I want to be a university professor and do research on the political economy of development, governance, and ways of using experimental methods to answer questions of political science. So, that’s a cool way of saying that I hope to stay in school after I graduate.

Can you describe the nature of the SIPA curriculum?

The SIPA curriculum is flexible enough that you can choose to focus on the areas that interest you the most and approach these areas from both theoretical and practical perspectives. SIPA does tend to emphasize practical experience. One of the big values and strengths of the SIPA curriculum is that it requires students to take a series of economics and statistics courses, which I think, are vital for anyone involved in policymaking.

Do you feel like you have gotten to know some of the faculty members?

Yes! This has been one of the other highlights of my time at SIPA. I find that professors here are very accessible and willing to help and offer advice. Many students don’t take much advantage of the office hours of the faculty, but these are great opportunities to get to know professors. I’ve been able to work closely with one faculty member on a research project. As an aspiring academic, this has been an incredible experience and opportunity.

 

Kick Start the Semester

There is something going on all the time at SIPA, this week is no different (classes begin today).

 

THURSDAY, JANUARY 23, 2014

The Sustainability Essentials Training Program (SET) Online Information Session (DETAILS)

12:30 pm to 1:15 pm Online

Sponsor: The Earth Institute

 

THURSDAY, JANUARY 23, 2014

The Relationship Between the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the African Union: What Went Wrong?

A panel discussion with Ambassador Charles Ntwaagae, Permanent Representative of Botswana; Ambassador Macharia Kamau, Permanent Representative of Kenya; and Ambassador Christian Wenaweser, Permanent Representative of Liechtenstein, former President of the Assembly of State Parties to the Rome Statute of the ICC.  (DETAILS)

6:00 pm to 8:00 pm in the International Affairs Building, Room 1501

Sponsor: UN Studies Program

 

MONDAY, JANUARY 27, 2014

Establishing Effective Labor Oversight in Honduras

Holly Hammonds, Co-Founder of GlobalWorks Foundation and Member of Honduras Labor Framework Oversight Committee, and Jeff Hermanson, Director of Global Strategies, Workers United and Member of Honduras Labor Framework Oversight Committee, will discuss their labor standards project in Honduras.  (DETAILS)

12:45 pm to 1:50 pm in the International Affairs Building, Room 802

Sponsor: Economic and Political Development Concentration

 

MONDAY, JANUARY 27, 2014

Reception for SIPA Dean Janow in London

SIPA Dean Merit E. Janow cordially invites you to a reception for SIPA alumni and other invited guests in London. Join us to welcome the new dean and hear what the future holds for SIPA.  (DETAILS)

6:00 pm to 8:00 pm at the Waldorf Hilton, Aldwych WC2B 4DD, United Kingdom

Sponsor: Office of Alumni Affairs

 

TUESDAY, JANUARY 28, 2014

CGEG: Challenges to Democracy and Rule of Law in Central Europe – A Lecture by Gordon Bajnai, Former Prime Minister of Hungary

Lecture by Gordon Bajnai, Former Prime Minister of Hungary and Leader of Together 2014 Electoral Alliance; with Victoria de Grazia, Blinken European Institute, Columbia University; Jan Svejnar, Center on Global Economic Governance, Columbia University; and Alan H. Timberlake, East Central European Center, Columbia University. Registration required.   (DETAILS)

3:30 pm to 5:30 pm in the International Affairs Building, Room 1512

Sponsor: Center on Global Economic Governance

 

TUESDAY, JANUARY 28, 2014

Women, Soft Power, and the New Diplomacy: From the Cold War to Hillary Clinton

As political leaders increasingly rely on dialogue and normative power versus sanctions and warfare in inter-state relations, women have risen to the forefront of international affairs. A panel of diplomats, military officers, and historians will investigate the accelerating use of soft-power solutions in diplomacy and female leaders’ role in the trend.  (DETAILS)

6:00 pm to 8:00 pm in the International Affairs Building, Room 1501

Sponsor: European Institute

 

WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 29, 2014

BP Global Energy Outlook 2035

A presentation by Mark Finley, General Manager, Global Energy Markets and U.S. Economics, BP. (DETAILS)

6:00 pm to 7:30 pm at Faculty House, 4th Floor Skyline Room

Sponsor: Center on Global Energy Policy

 

THURSDAY, JANUARY 30, 2014

Nuclear Weapons Effects, Proliferation and Policy

An event with Col. Robert Spalding, United States Air Force, on the Air Force’s nuclear enterprise to include ICBMs and Bombers, as well as briefly discussing submarines.  (DETAILS)

12:15 pm to 2:00 pm in the International Affairs Building, Room 1302

Sponsor: Saltzman Institute of War and Peace Studies

 

THURSDAY, JANUARY 30, 2014

Turkey and the EU: The Future of a Complicated Relationship

Meltem Müftüler-Baç is Professor of International Relations and Jean Monnet chair at Sabanci University, Istanbul, Turkey and an Affiliate Professor at the University of Stockholm from 2013 to 2016. (DETAILS)

4:00 pm to 6:00 pm in the International Affairs Building, Room 1512

Sponsor: European Institute

 

THURSDAY, JANUARY 30, 2014

Nuclear After Fukushima: Policies, Practices, and Problems

A public lecture by Lady Barbara Judge CBE, Former Chairman of the UK Atomic Energy Authority and currently Deputy Chairman of TEPCO’s Nuclear Reform Monitoring Committee and head of its task force on nuclear safety.  (DETAILS)

5:30 pm to 6:45 pm at Faculty House, 4th Floor Skyline Room

Sponsor: Center on Global Energy Policy

 

THURSDAY, JANUARY 30, 2014

Russian Law and Judicial Reform: Think Again

Kimberly Marten will chair a panel discussion with Timothy Frye, Kathryn Hendley, William Partlett, and Maria Popova on Russian law and judicial reform.  (DETAILS)

6:00 pm to 7:00 pm in the International Affairs Building, Room 1501

Sponsor: Harriman Institute

 

"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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