Archive for extracurricular

New Media Task Force Student Group

There are lots of ways for SIPA students to keep busy and pursue their interests.  One way is through student groups.  Currently there are 37 student groups at SIPA and one of the newest groups is the New Media Task Force.   The following post was submitted by Sawako Sonoyama.


I would like to introduce a new student group at SIPA, the New Media Task Force. We are thrilled that our student group exists at SIPA. The time is right—there has been a tremendous need for this community at SIPA: a student group that focuses on information and communication technology for development, crisis mapping, and mobile for health.

The New Media Task Force was initiated under the supportive umbrella of the UN Studies Program Working Group. Launching as the “UNICEF New Media Task Force”, we focused on research, internship, and networking opportunities with the UNICEF innovations department. Although the Task Force started as a small group of interested individuals, the number of people engaged in the Task Force grew every year.  In DATE Sean Blaschke ( MIA 2010) and his team received the first-place award in the ‘Development 2.0 Challenge’ of the US Agency for International Development. For this project, they worked with RapidSMS, a system leverages basic mobile phones and text messages, to collect health information and improved the speed and quality of health data collection in Malawi. This award brought a lot of media attention to SIPA and its activities in technology for development, especially in the use of mobile.

The biggest turning point for the New Media Task Force was the launch of crisis mapping at SIPA. On February 27, 2010, SIPA students were listening to Patrick Meier speak at a conference titled “Policy Making in the Digital Age,” hosted by The Morningside Post. He spoke about a process called “crisis mapping” and a new technology platform called Ushahidi that had greatly aided relief workers after the Haiti earthquake.  That same day, a tremendous earthquake of magnitude 8.8 occurred off the coast of the Maule Region of Chile. When Meier asked if anybody was interested in holding crisis mapping training sessions for the Chile earthquake, SIPA students stepped in.

From a volunteer standpoint, the earthquake could not have happened in a worse timing—during midterms. However, brutal econ tests did not phase SIPA students. Within 48 hours of the earthquake, over 60 students were trained to monitor media sources, map GPS coordinates, and report earthquake related incidents. For weeks after the earthquake, countless students stopped by the Situation Room to help out. We were so impressed with the passion and dedication that SIPA students demonstrated in assisting the people of Chile. These actions were a true testiment of the character of SIPA students.

Ushahidi-Chile brought a tremendous amount of media attention to SIPA, which included Al Jazeera filming a training session. The Ushahidi-Chile instance was a great example of how students can mobilize and make a tangible difference to those in need, continents away.  At that time, we also recognized that Chile was only one of many crises, and that there was great potential in formalizing and institutionalizing Crisis Mapping at SIPA so that students would be able to assist in future crises. Additionally, we realized that we had the opportunity to bring extremely valuable skills to SIPA students, skills that are in high demand by organizations such as OCHA, the World Bank, and other agencies. During the chaotic time of crisis mapping for the Chile earthquake, it was decided that the New Media Task Force would branch out from UNSPWG and officially become a student group.

The New Media Task Force was approved officially at the end of May 2010. We truly appreciate UNSPWG’s support, providing us with both institutional and moral guidance in launching our student group. We would also like to thank  Professor Lindenmayer for her guidance in working on the earthquake relief; her experience in Haiti gave us a deeper insight on what it means to work in a crisis situation. Thanks to their guidance and SIPA’s support, the Task Force now has the capacity to make an impact in the fields of crisis mapping  and information and communication technology for development.

The New Media Task Force’s mission is to increase student knowledge of how technology can support decision-making in international affairs and to expand opportunities for students within the information and communication technology for development space. Through projects, panels, and events, we aim to create a community around new media for development and promote practical research and internship opportunities for SIPA students. Additionally, the New Media Task Force supports SIPA curriculum development around technology for development. Our students and alumni work globally with organizations such as The Earth Institute, UNICEF, OCHA, Ushahidi, and UNDP. One of our primary activities is Crisis Mapping, an international effort to respond to disasters around the globe, and our volunteers provide essential information within the first few essential days following a disaster.

We look forward to welcoming more students who is interested in technology and development.

Want to go help the business and policy world go green? SIPA Can Help Pave the Way

The following was prepared by SIPA student Joshua Huneycutt, a second year MIA student concentrating in Energy and Environmental Policy.


Here in the admissions office we get a number of applicants who are interested in coming to SIPA to study sustainability.  In particular, many applicants are interested in the nexus of business, environment and society.   As many of them already know, and as I’ll explain to you, SIPA is a fantastic place to be to explore this interaction.

SIPA allows students to focus on environmental policy studies, and offers students a wide variety of classes relating to business sustainability, green markets, and CSR.  With courses such as “The Role of Government in Advancing Corporate Sustainable Development” and “Financing the Green Economy: Markets, Business & Politics,”  SIPA has a growing repertoire of classes that help future leaders incorporate environmentally-sound business practices into their careers, whether they choose to work directly in Corporate Social Responsibility / Sustainability or in other disciplines.

In addition, there are a number of degree programs and institutes at Columbia that allow SIPA students interested in sustainability to explore various aspects of this complex issue.  From the Earth Institute’s greater focus on developing countries, to their more business-oriented MS in Sustainability Management, networking and learning opportunities abound at Columbia.

In addition to the various courses SIPA offers and the related institutes and degree programs in the greater Columbia community, you’ll find that Columbia is dedicated to being a forum for the exchange of leading-edge ideas in sustainable business practice.  If you’re in the New York area, consider attending one of these upcoming Columbia-sponsored event events:

Monday 2/15: Leadership on the Pathway to Sustainability

A lively evening of discussion and debate by prominent leaders in global, national and local sustainable development.

Please look for more details about the panelists and the night’s proceedings on our website CERC Home.

Where: Rotunda of Low Memorial Library
Monday, February 15th, 2010 from 6pm to 8pm.

Thursday 2/18: Innovative Method of Green Energy Finance

Moderated by Earth Institute Executive Director and Master of Public Administration Program in Environmental Science and Policy Director, Steve Cohen. The goal of the panel is to collaborate on innovative methods of green energy finance. The discussion is co-sponsored by the Earth Institute and the SIPA’s Energy and Environment Program and will feature the following participants:

Location: Faculty House, 64 Morningside Drive

Please RSVP to Youngmi Jin at

or 212-854-1214, by Monday, February 15, 2010.

Tuesday 2/23: MAKING GREEN FROM GREEN: Investment Opportunities in the Wake of Copenhagen

Is there Hopenhagen after Copenhagen – Professor Jeffrey Sachs, noted author and Director of the Earth Institute at Columbia will discuss the current landscape for sustainable business investment. Tuesday, 23 February 2010, 6:00 – 8:30 PM
Location: JP Morgan Chase – 277 Park Avenue  – 17th Floor
Register Now Click here to buy tickets!!!
For more information email

All month: Clean Tech Month at Columbia Business School

Clean Tech Month is an event series running in February 2010, jointly sponsored by Columbia Business School’s Green Business Club and Energy Club. It aims to provide the many members of our clubs interested in the clean tech and renewables space with opportunities for in-depth learning and industry exposure.  There are at least seven more events going on this month; check it out!

The SIPA Pan-African Network (SPAN)

Abibata Shanni Mahama, a second year student from Ghana, contributed the following post.



The SIPA Pan-African Network (SPAN) is a student group at SIPA. It is geared toward the professional development of its members. It creates an informal community and provides a platform for students interested in the economic, political, and social development of Africa and its Diaspora.  It represents SIPA students from a variety of interests and disciplines (economic and political development; human rights; economic policy; environmental policy; security policy; and media to name a few), as well as from a variety of ethnicities and countries from around the globe.

SPAN hosts programs aimed at improving and building the African continent throughout the academic year.  Apart from these activities SPAN also holds social events such as parties outside campus twice a semester, mostly in downtown New York where students are able to partake in the nightlife of the city.  Some of these parties and events occasionally involve the African Business Club (ABC) from the Columbia Business School and the African Law Students Association (ALSA) from the Columbia Law School. This demonstrates how SIPA students are able to interact with other students from different fields who may even come from the same countries. Networking is a strong element in working with these clubs. Apart from entertainment, SPAN also does the following:

– Organizes the annual flagship event the African Economic Forum held in the spring, exploring various themes in the economic, political and social development of Africa.

–  Ensures and shapes the presence of African Studies at Columbia through the ‘Moving Africa Forward Initiative’, by incorporating student voices in an on-going dialogue.

–  Works with the Columbia University administration to increase enrollment of students from Africa and the Diaspora at Columbia, and to improve the curriculum offerings for classes on Africa and its Diaspora.

–   Sponsors social and cultural activities, diversity awareness, and empowerment efforts around issues pertaining to and in celebration of the rich historical and cultural heritage of Africa and its Diaspora.

You can find the SPAN Web site here.

Thursday Evenings at SIPA

The following was contributed by Kristoffer Tangri, a second-year SIPA student from Germany pursuing a MIA degree with a concentration in International Security Policy.


Thursdays are popular for events and receptions at SIPA and sometimes it can be difficult to choose. Last Thursday was one of these days.  After having listened to the insights of a respectable guest speaker from the International Peace Institute in my class on “Building Peace after Conflict”, I had a remarkable choice of public events and reception to attend at SIPA. Not always an easy choice.

Downstairs on the 4th floor, the auditorium was filling with students who were interested in hearing Noam Chomsky’s opinions on “The Unipolar Moment and the Culture of Imperialism”, while in the building next door, Robert C. Orr, Assistant Secretary-General for Planning and Policy Coordination in the Executive Office of the Secretary-General, was speaking on “The Secretary-General’s Agenda and The Challenges He Faces.”

Meanwhile, on the 15th floor, SIPA’s Energy Association was hosting a panel to discuss “the adaptation of large-scale renewable energy under a proposed cap and trade system” and on the same floor, Columbia’s Dirk Salomons was moderating a panel discussion about the international response to the ongoing crisis of childhood malnutrition with experts from the Doctors Without Borders.

After so much academic input, one feels the need to go out and socialize with fellow students – but where?  Should I go to the UN Studies Christmas Party on the 9th floor, or drop by the Latin American Association’s reception? Maybe I go over to the B-School on Campus for a few hours of free drinks (paid for by the tuition of our wealthy Business School students). Later that evening, the Migration Working Group was having a fundraiser party down in the East Village, too.

One thing you can be sure of at SIPA. You will always have an amazing variety of public lectures and events to attend, both at SIPA and at the many departments around Columbia University and of course New York City itself, with the UN and Wall Street just around the corner. And in case you are worried about the living costs of New York, these events always come with free food and wine.

A Few Recent Events

The following was composed by John Hughes, a second year MIA student studying Political and Economic Risk Analysis.


Life at SIPA can be busy between classes, job recruiting, hanging out with friends and trying to attend as many of the cool daily lectures, roundtables, speeches and events as possible.  Here’s a taste of a few of the recent events I’ve been able to attend:

In early October I attended a “Dean’s Breakfast” with Romita Shetty, an alumna who is currently a partner at an investment advisory and consulting firm focused on financial services and alternative energy.  Prior to her current position, Ms. Shetty spent a number of years on both Wall Street and working for a ratings agency.  Fifteen students and I met with Ms. Shetty and Dean Coatsworth on the 15th floor of SIPA for an intimate discussion about Ms. Shetty’s career path, her experience at SIPA, and how she got to where she is today.  Over bagels and coffee she gave us tips on how to enter the financial services industry, and answered our questions.  It was also a great opportunity to get to know Dean Coatsworth better, while sharing our SIPA and life experiences.

A few weeks later I passed in my last mid-term paper (after 3 exams that week) on Thursday, and was very ready to catch up with friends and blow off some steam.  Luckily, that night SIPA Student Affairs (SIPASA) hosted a Halloween party at M1-5 Lounge downtown (  There were over 1,000 students there, all dressed up in amazing costumes.  The party went from 10pm-4am, with an open bar for the first three hours.  Luckily, my class the next day was not until 2:30pm!  My wife and I went for the Lobster Dinner theme.

halloween 2_jwh

Recently I also attended  a “Taste of Asia: A Culinary adventure through East and Southeast Asia” hosted by the Asia Pacific Affairs Council.  The event featured all-you-can-eat food and drink from around Asia, while bringing together students interested in the region in an informal setting.  I happen to love food from both East and Southeast Asia, and I love to eat, so it was a great evening!

SIPA hosts an exhausting schedule of events, roundtables, discussions, debates and parties, offering a variety that will appeal to any type of student.  For a sense of some of the other offerings, check out this website (  In addition to SIPA events, Columbia University has a multitude of its own events, with each school within the university hosting a full line-up.  The most difficult part comes in deciding what to attend!

"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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