Archive for experience – Page 2

What I Did this Summer: Entry #3

Josh Huneycutt is a second year MIA student concentrating in Energy and Environmental Policy.  I asked him to share about the process of finding a summer internship and he wrote the following.


As many of you will learn, obtaining a summer internship while at SIPA can often be a trying process filled with surprises and shifting outcomes.  After months of applying and interviewing for various sustainability- and environmentally-focused internships, I finally landed a position with a well-respected environmental policy institute.   Relieved, I phoned a week later to iron out the details, only to discover that an emergency budget meeting earlier that day had resulted in a good chunk of their staff on the chopping block, and funding for my research project (and thus my internship) abruptly eliminated.

In a state of shock and dismay for a number of hours, my rapidly snowballing and irrational fears of a summer spent living with my parents  were soon allayed by an email offering employment in the COO’s office of the New York Power Authority (NYPA), a state-owned electric utility that generates and transmits approximately one quarter of New York State’s electricity, mostly in the form of hydropower from the Niagara and St. Lawrence rivers.  Desiring experience in the energy sector, and given that I’d be working on issues I’d come to SIPA to explore more deeply (e.g. corporate sustainability, renewable energy, climate change) I accepted the offer and ordered my Metro North commuter rail pass for the daily trip I’d be making to White Plains, New York.

My internship was part of NYPA’s “Developmental Internship Program,” in which approximately 25 interns from around the country are brought into the organization and given both a mentor and substantive responsibilities for the summer.  As an intern in the Special Projects and Business Integration unit of the COO’s office, I had the opportunity to work on initiatives that had wide-ranging impacts on the organization and nearly all of its employees and activities.

After spending a week or so getting up to speed on the science, technology, policy and politics behind generating and transmitting electricity, I dove directly into helping the new chief sustainability manager to craft, finalize, and present NYPA’s comprehensive corporate sustainability plan to the CEO and the trustees.

As you might imagine, creating such a plan for an organization with billions of dollars in revenues, many hundreds of employees, and facilities scattered over a wide geographical area was a challenge in balancing various interests, ideals, and operational and budgetary realities.  In the end, we were able to successfully craft and present a truly robust plan that built on NYPA’s successes and set a bold agenda for action on various sustainability initiatives, such as carbon footprint reduction and renewable energy promotion.

Aside from my responsibilities related to the sustainability plan, I had the opportunity to work closely with the director of energy policy on a number of exciting and rapidly-developing projects, including federal smart grid funding applications and advice regarding shore power for idling cruise ships in New York City.  One of the most rewarding experiences was my involvement with the NYC Mayor’s Office Climate Change Adaptation Task Force energy working group, where NYPA and NYC worked together with other NYC energy-sector stakeholders to address potential climate change impacts.


All told, it was a fantastic experience.  I learned an incredible amount about various aspects of the energy sector, built meaningful relationships with talented and knowledgeable individuals, had the opportunity to tour hydroelectric and fossil fuel generating facilities throughout the state, and felt that I made a marked impact on the organization.  Not only was I able to gain a wealth of new knowledge, I often referred to coursework and experience gained during my first year at SIPA related to climate change and sustainability in order to tackle difficult questions and challenges.

Despite not being exactly what I’d set out to do with my summer, it was an invaluable and highly-rewarding experience, and an example of how an unexpected turn of events in the sometimes-daunting internship search process can lead to something bigger and better than you might have imagined.

World Bank Junior Professional Associates Program

One common question our office receives from young people interested in our degrees is, “What can I do to help prepare myself for admission?”  There is of course not a single answer to this question.  When it comes to work experience, successful applicants to our programs come from all walks of life.  You could literally name almost any sector and I think we could find someone in our applicant pool with experience in the stated field.  Communications, education, finance, government, entertainment, engineering, medicine, dance, security, and this list could go on and on.

There are many unique programs as well that are avenues into the policy arena.  One specific example is the World Bank Junior Professional Associates Program (JPA).  The following comes from the JPA Web site:

Are you a recent graduate? Do you have passion for and commitment to helping others? Are you looking for a solid, two-year entry-level work experience in a multicultural environment? If so, you may be interested in the World Bank Group’s employment category: the Junior Professional Associates or JPA.

In your JPA assignment, you’ll use your strong quantitative and qualitative analytical skills, your knowledge of technology and the web, and your research abilities – working with more senior colleagues and project teams in their operational work. You’ll have an opportunity to hone your skills and acquire new ones while gaining first-hand exposure to the challenges of development and poverty alleviation. Your experience as a JPA can then be used as a stepping stone to a career in government, consulting, the private sector, or academia.

To find out more visit the JPA Web site.

Inspiration to Action

There is an expression you might have heard, “March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb.”  Well for me, it was the reverse – March certainly went out like a lion for me.  I was spread in a couple of different directions and found it hard to keep up over the last few weeks.  I am not complaining though, far from it, I would not trade my experience for anything.

SIPA applicants are a truly exceptional group of people.  I must admit that sometimes I find myself in awe as I read resume’s and personal statements.  It is inspiring to see the commitment level our applicants display.  Each year when I review applications I find myself energized about the next generation of leaders who will formulate policies that will impact domestic and international relations.

The inspiration from reading applications, mixed with some old fashioned networking, led my wife and I on a recent trip to New Orleans to help rebuild the home of a Police Officer who lost her home in Hurricane Katrina.  A friend of a friend just happens to be the CNN Hero of the Year for 2008Liz McCartney went to New Orleans after Katrina to help out and what she saw inspired her to move there and start the St. Bernard Project.  The organization is dedicated to helping those in St. Bernard Parish who lost their homes rebuild.

One of the main reasons I felt inspired to post this entry is that the St. Bernard Project is expanding and has paid internship positions.  Many applicants will ask me what kind of work they can do to help improve their application to SIPA.  There is no one right answer, but if you are interested in public policy this certainly would be a great opportunity.  You can find more information about positions on the St. Bernard Web site.

Below in the center, holding the piece of dry wall signed by everyone, is the owner of the home.  We ended up working with a group of undergraduate students from Ohio State who spent their spring break volunteering.  Also involved were a father and daughter from Washington, D.C.

Professional Experience – What is it?

It is true that the Admissions Committee at SIPA does value professional experience when making an admission decision. But what exactly is professional experience? Full-time paid work experience obviously counts, but we also value internships and volunteer work. Younger applicants are particularly curious about the question of professional experience.

The average age of a student who enrolled in the two-year, full-time MPA or MIA program at SIPA in the fall of 2008 was 27 years and 2 months. 82% of those admitted were age 25 or older. This means the majority of those admitted have worked full-time for three or more years. The 18% of admitted applicants less than age 25 were able to demonstrate a unique blend of experience and aptitude.

Examples of aptitude and experience can include: model U.N. involvement, study abroad, internships, student government involvement, leadership in associations, volunteer work, second language proficiency, focused research as an undergraduate student, exceptional GRE test scores, and coursework related to quantitative methods. Quantitative preparation can include coursework in statistics, economics, and in high level math classes such as linear algebra and calculus.

If you are a younger applicant and believe the time is right to apply there is no real downside to going through the process. We allow applicants to apply up to three times to our program. Thus if you do not gain admission, you are always welcome to apply again after obtaining additional experience or strengthening your qualifications. And if you possess a unique blend of experience and aptitude, you might be in the minority of students with little or no work experience who are admitted.

"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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