Archive for Fall2017

Fall 2017 New Students Series: Katy Swartz

In today’s installment of our New Students Series, wave your virtual hand at Katy Swartz. Katy is a Texan (ditto!) who moved to the frigid north in Massachusetts to attend Smith College. She has a degree in Jewish Studies, and taught English in Bulgaria for a year. Today, she lives in Brooklyn and works for the NYC Department of Education as a data specialist. Overall, she’s lived in five U.S. states and three different countries. I’m sure her experience abroad will serve her well in a future career as a Foreign Service Officer. Hook ’em, Katy!

Full Name: Katy Swartz
Age: 26
Degree Program: Master of International Affairs
Concentration: Economic and Political Development
Hometown: Colleyville, Texas, United States

Undergraduate University: Smith College
Undergraduate Major: Jewish Studies
Undergraduate Graduation Year: 2013

What’s your professional background?
My professional background thus far has been in education and operations. I lived in Bulgaria for a year after graduating from Smith College, where I was a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant in the capital city, Sofia. After this experience, I moved to Brooklyn, NY where I have been working at a NYC Dept of Education high school for 3 years. I am currently the School Business Manager and Data Specialist, which translates to the director of operations. I oversee all operational aspects of the school including budget, purchasing, student and teacher scheduling, technology, data collection, and compliance.

Did you apply to SIPA to change careers or to gain experience in a career path you already have experience in?
I think it is a little bit of both. I realized while living in Bulgaria that I wanted to go into the field of international affairs, but I could not imagine what exact position or job duties most excited me. Over the last two years in my current role, I have been able to realize that my true talents lie in operations and management. Therefore, while I will be changing from the field of education to international affairs, I hope to remain in positions that allow for similar roles as my current job. I am excited that SIPA offers many management courses which will give me the academic background I need to continue in this career path.

What was your reaction when you found out you were accepted to SIPA?
For the two weeks leading up to learning I was accepted, I stalked the SIPA blog and application portal daily. The morning I found out was a Friday, and I had concluded (earlier that morning) that decisions would not come out until the following week, based on the timeline the previous year. I was sitting at my desk at work when I suddenly saw the email from SIPA saying my decision was ready to be viewed. Thank goodness I had saved all my passwords in the application portal already, because I was too nervous to remember anything that was happening. I screamed quite audibly when I saw the confetti coming down the screen and definitely scared my office-mate!

Why did you say “yes” to SIPA?
I was either incredibly bold or incredibly naïve in applying to graduate school, as I chose to only apply to SIPA. SIPA was the only school that had such a robust institute dedicated to the study of Eastern Europe (and specifically allowed for study of the Balkans), as well as rigorous coursework alongside practical hands-on experience through the Capstone workshop & internship opportunities. Therefore, my decision to attend was natural upon finding out I was accepted!

What do you most look forward to as a graduate student at SIPA?
I am most excited to gain an academic background in what has been a personal interest for so long. While I have done much independent learning and reading, I can’t wait to gain a deeper understanding in political development within the field of international affairs. Specifically, I can’t wait to student more about my regions of interest– East Central Europe and Russia/Former Soviet States.

Do you have any apprehensions about starting graduate school?
Of course! Any change comes with many apprehensions, but my excitement far outweighs them. I am most nervous about being back in school and keeping up with the rigorous coursework. I am also worried about balancing the life I’ve established already here in New York with my new life at SIPA.

What are your goals after SIPA?
After SIPA, I hope to join the US Department of State and work as a Foreign Service Officer in the Management Track.

If you could change one small thing about your community, country or the world, what would it be?
It’s hard to name just one! I think it would be nice if more people were willing to take a break from their various mobile devices and spend some time just talking to others the old-fashioned way. I think that so much of the way we interact with others stems from our constant distractions, as well as the fact that we can now structure so much of our lives in a way that prevents interacting with those who are different than us. Perhaps if more people took the time to talk to those outside their immediate communities, we would see less of the xenophobia emerging across the world.

Tell us something interesting about yourself:
I’ve lived in 5 US States, 3 different countries, and, by my last count, a total of 17 different apartments/homes (not including many dorm moves during college!). Perhaps my desire to join the Foreign Service stems from the many moves I’ve made in my life.

[Photos courtesy of Katy Swartz | In the hallways of the school where I work, Brooklyn, NY, May 2017]
*Note: This series is published in its original form with no editing.

5 Items to get you through Micro and Macro

As a recent admit or prospective student you may be wondering, “what do I need to prepare myself for the econ courses?” Well, as a recent econ survivor, I have a few tips to share. Whether you go with calc or concepts, here are the five items that will help you get through your micro- and macro- courses.

*Disclaimer: These are all my personal preference! You are more than welcome to pick one, two, or none of these items at all. I’m also a by-hand note taker (6400 prospects, you will be too), so these tips are very much geared toward the analog rather than digital. You’ll retain the info better this way anyway.

5. Graph Paper Sticky Notes
This is really a point of personal preference, but I love a good graph-paper sticky note. I tend to reorganize my notes a lot, so movable graphs are really handy in this respect. It also makes comparing your graphs much easier

4. A Folder
As a chronic printer of notes and problem sets, a folder is an absolute necessity. How else will you keep all those loose papers in one place? And in order?

3. A Notebook
Arguably the most important item on this list. This is where all your notes will go, so make sure you get a notebook you will not forget/ lose. And make sure it’s one that you love! I’m also a big fan of matching my notebooks and folders so I always know which goes with which.

*Note: Tips No. 3 and No. 4 could easily be combined into a 3-ring binder with dividers separating the different concepts, but 1) I am entirely too lazy to hole-punch anything and 2) I hate binders. I’m really not into loose sheets of paper and I have bad luck with functioning rings. Team folder-notebook for life!

2. Highlighters
I’ve already mentioned that I’m a chronic printer of lecture notes, so highlighters are a must have. 6400 students: Gerratana gives you his lecture notes beforehand. I personally got a lot out of reading/ highlighting the notes the night before so that I had a good grasp of what we’d be talking about in class. Bubula (6401) is a post-class note disseminator, so his class notes are much more of a review.

1. The Holy Grail: Colored Pens
These were honestly my saving grace. There’s no better way to get organized than a set of colored pens. When I first started, I was a firm believer that econ notes should be done in pencil only, but the minute I started color coordinating, my life was forever transformed. Graph shifts? Producer vs consumer outcomes? INCOME AND SUBSTITUTION EFFECTS? What once was a monochromatic bloc of confusing arrows suddenly became an orderly sequence of concepts ready and waiting to be understood. Added Bonus: Even if you have no idea what’s going on (you won’t be the only one, that’s for sure) you’ll more easily be able to figure out where you’re having trouble AND you’ll look like you really have your stuff together. It’s a win-win!
Now that I’ve outed myself as someone who is clearly too excited about school supplies (though honestly, who isn’t?!), I hope you guys will find some of this useful! Of course, perfect school supplies are no substitute for actually studying the material, attending class, and going to recitation, so make sure you’re as focused on the concepts as you are on the pen colors and you’ll be good to go.

Columbia University to open Center for Veteran Transition and Integration

Earlier this month, Columbia University announced the creation of a new Center for Veteran Transition and Integration that will provide innovative educational programming and support for veterans making the transition to two- and four-year colleges, graduate and professional schools, civilian life, and the workforce.

Major Michael Abrams, a veteran of the war in Afghanistan and a current Marine Corps Reservist, as well as the founder of FourBlock, a program to prepare veterans for business careers, will lead the center as its executive director. Beth Morgan, former executive director of Service to School and director of higher education initiatives for the Marine Corps, joins the center as director of higher education transition and partnerships.

The Center for Veterans will open in the fall of 2017.

Columbia’s long-standing commitment to veterans can be traced back to 1947, when the School of General Studies was founded to integrate into the University community thousands of returning military veterans seeking education after World War II through the first GI Bill. Today more than 650 veterans are enrolled at Columbia, most of them supported by the Post-9/11 GI Bill and the Yellow Ribbon Program. The University has enrolled more student-veterans than all other Ivy League schools combined, while maintaining a graduation rate above 90 percent and a record of job and graduate school placement that equals Columbia’s non-veteran graduates. Highlighting this success, this year’s valedictorian at the School of General Studies is Colin Valentini, a Marine Corps veteran who came to Columbia to study applied mathematics.

Columbia’s successful efforts in helping military service members make the transition to a rigorous academic environment has prompted interest from other universities, employers, government agencies, and veteran-support organizations across the country that would like to replicate its veteran support model.

The new veteran’s center will draw on Columbia’s expertise in curriculum development, instructional technology, and support services in facilitating veterans’ success in an academic setting. In collaboration with a network of public and private partners, the center will provide access to world-class technology and technical support. It will serve military service members at all levels, enlisted and officers, as well as active-duty military personnel preparing for transition, veterans already in higher education, and veterans in the workforce, providing them with the best-in-class resources that they need to ensure their continued academic and professional development. The experience and expertise that Abrams and Morgan bring to this endeavor will be integral in achieving the Center’s vision.

Read more about the Center at Columbia News.

The best cafes on campus

If you are visiting SIPA next week for ASD and want to take a coffee break or grab a bite to eat, you have many choices. SIPA students Amir Safa, MIA, 2017, and Roxanne Moin-Safa, MIA, 2017, share their favorites.

Nous Espresso Bar at the Graduate Student Center, Philosophy Building

Hours:
M-Th 8:30 am – 8 pm
F 8:30 am – 6 pm
Sa 10 am – 5 pm
Su 12-5 pm

Nous Espresso Bar awaits you inside the Graduate Student Center of Philosophy Hall, just a few steps across the bridge from SIPA. The sophisticated grad student will appreciate the modern art, high ceilings, and quality coffee found within these walls. Don’t be shy; it’s common to share tables in this popular space. Nous proudly serves responsibly sourced Stumptown Coffee and as well as monthly features from Parlor and Coava. The brewed coffee connoisseur can choose between drip, pour over, or cold brew. Watch the sushi master make magic while you wait in line and ponder over what else you can order: a made-to-order Donburi (Japanese rice bowl), a soup, a salad, or pastries? And if you are wondering, “Nous” refers to Greek philosophical term for the intellect.

Recommended: Organic tea by Rishi especially Coconut Oolong for a light afternoon zing and a decadent brownie

UP Coffee Co. in Pulitzer Hall, School of Journalism

Hours:
M-F 7 am – 8 pm
Sa & Su 9 am – 6pm

If you are into local organic coffees, sustainable snacking, and watching the news, then make a pitstop at the newly opened UP Coffee nestled in the corner of the School of Journalism. The upscale and modern vibe here offers an assortment of sandwiches, made-to-order hot paninis, salads in Mason jars, baked goods, and snacks to go. In addition to espresso, you have your choice of drip, pour over, cold brew, and nitrogen infused cold brew. You will always get natural light from the glass roof, and if the weather is pleasant, you will get to chomp down al-fresco style when the glass patio doors open. If you need your daily fix of news, watch the overhead news ticker or the tv screens broadcasting CNN.

Recommended: Organic coffee roasted locally in Brooklyn; hot Reuben panini.


Publique, School of International and Public Affairs

Hours:
M-Th 8:30 am – 7 pm
F 8:30 am – 5 pm
Sa & Su – Closed

Get a real taste of SIPA life at the newly opened Publique cafe on the 6th floor.  This large lounge space offers students a place to unwind between classes. Publique offers a variety of salads, sandwiches, coffee, tea, baked goods, and snacks for the student on the go.  

Recommended: Sandwich to go

Brownie’s Cafe in Avery Hall, Columbia Graduate School of Architecture, Planning & Preservation

Hours:
M – Th 8 am – 6:30 pm
F 8 am – 5 pm

Is your coffee rendezvous a covert operation? We’ve got you covered. Step into Avery Hall next to the chapel, swing a left down the spiral staircase, through the architecture gallery room, and down another staircase into the tucked away secret of Brownie’s Cafe. This underground hideaway features modern, minimalist furniture with plenty of seating. Brownie’s Cafe features a wide selection of made-to-order and ready-made sandwiches, soups, Mediterranean side dishes, snack packs, baked goods, Toby’s Estate coffee, and Harney & Sons assorted teas.

Recommended: Grilled vegetable sandwich with Havarti cheese and Basil pesto on toasted focaccia bread.

 

Joe Coffee, NW Corner Science Building

Hours:
M – F 8 am – 8 pm
Sa & Su 9 am – 6 pm

Quite possibly the brightest cafe on campus, Joe Coffee is a coveted corner usually buzzing with professors, students, and locals. It’s located on the second floor of the NW Corner Science Building overlooking the gothic beauty of the Union Theological Seminary and the splendor of Teacher’s College. Enjoy the ambiance of ultra-modern, bright white furnishings and stunning marble flooring to boot. Light music spices things up here. Joe Coffee offers a variety of house-roasted coffees, espresso, and teas as well as lite fare including baked goods.

Recommended: Any of the house coffees, cappuccino.

[Photos by Amir Safa]

I chose SIPA for its students

The school’s reputation and the world-class faculty weren’t the only reasons I chose to attend SIPA. In fact, one of the main reasons I decided on SIPA was for the student body: it’s made of top talent from around the world driven by one goal – to make a positive impact. How does SIPA ensure you get the most out of this environment while contributing to society? Through social entrepreneurial competitions like the SIPA Dean’s Public Policy Challenge Grant and Global Public Policy Network (GPPN) Conferences.

The Dean’s Public Policy Grant Program allows students to propose self-designed projects and ideas that use ICTs (information communication technologies) and/or data analytics to address policy challenges in the world. It grants funding to winning teams “to identify and support projects that have high potential to be implemented and produce a meaningful impact on the target problem in relatively near term”.[1] Competing teams are formed of students from across the schools (engineering, computer science, public policy, business etc.) of the university.

Past competition winners include:

In 2014, $25,000 was awarded to PaisaBack (Swami Ganesan and Jaivardhan Singh), a mobile application addressing public health issues in India by incentivizing health-care seeking behavior in women. “Women earn digital points for seeking preventative care such as immunizations and anemia screening for themselves and their children. They can then exchange these points at participating retailers for mobile talk time and other products and services. PaisaBack will generate revenue by monetizing this exclusive group of technology empowered women and the network of retailers who accept digital points. Maternal and infant mortality rates are 2-4 times higher in India than in other developing countries. 75% of Indian women are malnourished. PaisaBack will help break this status quo.[2]

Another $25,000 was awarded to Terranga (Tammy Lewin and Lindsay Litowitz), a “mobile app connecting travelers seeking unique experiences to locals offering insights into their lives. With Terranga, you can see the cities you visit through a local’s eyes: join a pickup soccer game, check out street food or go salsa dancing. But we’re much more than an app. Terranga believes in the power of tourism dollars. Instead of paying for a packaged tour, travelers have more meaningful experiences and can help fund locals’ dreams. [They] envision a world made better by travel and travel made more impactful by contributing to the lives of thousands of locals.” (Both teams are pictured above.)

In 2015, RemitMas (Maelis Carraro, Lina Henao, Daniela Hernandez, Felipe Pacheco, and Steven Pallickal ) team received $30,000, as first place winners, to support their project. “The team aims to build a cash-to-savings digital money transfer service that allows Latino immigrants in the United States to send money and deposit it into savings ‘wallets’ in their home countries; deposits can be designated for specific purposes like education or health care. Using a proposed tagline of ‘Send. Save. Support,’ the planned pilot program will focus on the 1 million Colombians living in the United States.”[3]

The second place team, Spokey (George Hampton, David Santos de Padua, and Gemma Peacocke), received $20,000. The Spokey team envisions an “online hub that will allow social, sporting, charitable, and community groups to list their vacant spaces that can be rented for special events to generate extra income. The team is developing an application with a two-way rating system—first in New York, with plans to expand to Philadelphia, Boston, and Washington by 2016.”[4]

[Photo courtesy of SIPA | Team I-Care pictured (from left): Kasumi Sugimoto, Fang Liu, Yue Wang, Xinwei Gao]

SIPA students also compete in the GPPN Conferences, where student teams from the GPPN member schools (London School of Economics and Political Science in Paris, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore, the FGV-EAESP in São Paulo, Graduate School of Public Policy [GraSPP] at the University of Tokyo, and the Hertie School of Governance in Berlin) present ideas and approaches toward themed policy issues that vary each year. At this year’s conference in Paris, teams presented “solution-oriented ideas or prototypes” to address policy issues identified by the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).[5] A SIPA team, I-Care, won the competition this year for creating an online platform which connects senior citizens and their families to health care and social services through technology and medical data.

Even though I did not participate in these initiatives, I’ve had the privilege of collaborating with these brilliant minds on class projects and problems sets and call them friends at the end of the day. I’m a firm believer in the idea that success is very much affected by the people you surround yourself with; the growth-fostering environment at SIPA is designed to provide exactly this.

[Featured photo courtesy of SIPA | Pictured (L-R): PaisaBack and Terranga]
[1] SIPA website https://sipa.columbia.edu/challenge-grant
[2] https://sipa.columbia.edu/sipa-deans-public-policy-challenge-grant
[3] https://sipa.columbia.edu/news-center/article/remitmas-spokey-win-dean-s-public-policy-challenge-grants
[4] https://sipa.columbia.edu/news-center/article/remitmas-spokey-win-dean-s-public-policy-challenge-grants
[5] GPPN Website http://www.gppnetwork.org/conferences

 

"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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