Archive for ISP

ISP, Will You Be Mine?

In honor of Galentine’s Day and as an International Security Policy (ISP) concentrator, I thought I would write a blog post that not only gives incoming students interested in ISP a glimpse in to the concentration, but also provides some perspective on being a woman in a field that is often thought of as a patriarchal space. To do this, I enlisted the help of Ana Guerrero, Brit Felsen-Parsons and Caitlin Strawder, three current ISP concentrator SIPA students to discuss the topic and give advice. But before I dive in, let me introduce you to these ISP women.

Ana Guerrero MIA’19 is a second year, MIA, ISP concentrator, specializing in International Conflict Resolution. Ana completed her undergraduate degree at Middlebury College with a Bachelors in Spanish and Italian literature, and a minor in Portuguese. Prior to SIPA, she worked for an Italian petroleum company where got to explore her interest in geopolitics.  Ana is interested in Middle East conflicts, and during her time at SIPA, she interned for the Global Security department at NBC Universal, and is currently a Terrorism Analyst where she is learning the hard skills necessary to supplement her Theoretical education.

Brit Felsen-Parsons MPA ’20 is a first year, MPA, ISP concentrator, specializing in International Conflict Resolution.  Before SIPA, Brit served for two years as a shooting instructor to the infantry and commander in the Shooting School of the Israeli Defense Forces.  Brit then went on to complete her Bachelor’s degree at the College at Columbia University, double-majoring in Political Science and Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies.  She also held research assistantships at the National Defense University, the Institute of World Politics, the Columbia University Political Science Department, and the International Center for Cooperation and Conflict Resolution at Teacher’s College, Columbia University.  While at SIPA, Brit supplements her studies as a research assistant at the Saltz man Institute of War and Peace Studies at SIPA.

Caitlin Strawder MPA ’19 is a second year, MPA, ISP concentrator, specializing in International Conflict Resolution. Caitlin completed her undergraduate degree at Florida State University where she earned a B.A. in Political Science.  Upon graduation in 2013, she received two consecutive Fulbright English Teaching grants to serve in Colombia and while teaching she studied romantic languages, economic development, the then-present negotiations with the FARC, and conducted research on indigenous rights in Silvia, Cauca.  While at SIPA, Caitlin interned on the Colombia Desk at the State Department 2018, and maintains a position as a conflict resolution practitioner and operations analyst at New York Peace Institute.

Now that you know a bit about these ladies, let’s jump in:

Why did you choose to apply to SIPA, and specifically the International Security Policy concentration?

Brit: I fell in love with SIPA, and specifically with ISP, when I took the infamous ISP core class – Professor Richard Betts’ “War, Peace and Strategy” (WPS) – as a sophomore in college.  Since I did my BA at Columbia as well, I had the opportunity to explore SIPA, and I found myself most drawn to ISP courses and events.  In my first year of undergrad I was still torn between studying political science and neuroscience, but with that first ISP course I was hooked. A few courses later, I had decided that for me it was SIPA or bust, so I applied to the MPA program. It’s been three years since WPS, and I can honestly say I keep loving SIPA – and ISP – more and more.

Caitlin: I applied to SIPA blindly following the Top Ten online rankings for international affairs degrees (like so many of my peers) and was delighted to get in. Joking aside, I had been living in New York for a few years and wanted to start the MPA adventure without sacrificing the family I found, my job, my apartment, or saying goodbye to the greatest city in the world. I was originally attracted to the program because of the International Conflict Resolution specialization, and I saw the ISP concentration as an ideal complement. I also thought it was important to study ISP particularly because I knew so little about it, while cognizant of its importance.

What are some misconceptions you have faced about the ISP concentration, in general, and as a woman in the ISP concentration at SIPA?

Ana: Students not in ISP think everyone in the concentration is either active or former military and male. They are very surprised I am neither of those, which always proves interesting.

Brit: I think some students might have the impression that ISP is very militaristic and masculine, and to a degree I can understand why. It’s true that many of SIPA’s military veterans (though certainly not all!) are studying ISP.  Additionally, I know a lot of women studying ISP, and we make a unique, significant, and highly valued contribution to our classes and to the ISP community.  I recognize that I might feel more at home in ISP because I’m a military veteran, but I think the non-vets in ISP have no trouble holding their own in the classroom or in conversation, because we all recognize that we bring different experiences and skills to the table. Although I may be biased, I think ISP is one of the most familial and welcoming concentrations at SIPA, in part because it is influenced by the military culture of camaraderie and toughing it out together.

Have there been any challenging aspects to being a woman going into the ISP field?  If so how did/do you address them?

Caitlin: In terms of diversity, so much of getting the opportunity to work in some environments is the compromise of waiting until you have experience and standing before being able to authoritatively question assumptions of gender and roles in the workplace. 

Ana: I think traditionally the ISP field has been seen as a “boy’s club”. To combat this, I am trying to learn as much as I can, both in classes and in internships, in order to compete. Additionally, I believe it’s important to foster a strong female network within ISP in order to help each other succeed in the field. For me it’s a double whammy: I knew being a first-generation woman of color in a traditionally white male field would be tough. But I also knew that would be the case regardless of the field.

What do you recommend those students who are interested in International Security Policy consider before they attend SIPA?

Brit: I would recommend that students sit in on a few lectures or events if they can, and that they talk to current SIPA students to get an impression of the culture, the workload, and the opportunities here. Columbia University has a distinct culture, and SIPA has a culture-within-a-culture all its own, which you can only get a sense of by talking to people who are part of it. Also, reading course descriptions probably won’t be as informative as hearing a lecture or two, in terms of getting a feel for SIPA classes. For those for whom that’s not possible, I would recommend reading up on SIPA’s faculty and centers/institutes (Saltzman, Harriman, the Middle East Institute, etc.) to get a sense of the kind of research being done in-house.

Ana: Think about what you want to do after graduation and where you want to work—and work backwards from there. If you’re thinking of working for the government with some level of clearance you should start looking at those applications (if they’re available) even before you arrive on campus for orientation. Also look into fellowships for federal service and keep an eye on those deadlines!  Additionally, knowing where you want to end up will help you plan your course list so you get the most out of your precious two years at SIPA.

Are there any words of wisdom you have for women looking to go into the ISP field, and/or pursue the ISP concentration at SIPA?

Ana: As with anything we set out to accomplish — once you set out to achieve your goals, don’t take no BS!

Caitlin: Constantly look for networking events, career panels, and mentorship match-ups so that you have a chance to connect with different practitioners.  Especially for women—give prospective employers a preview that the nature of the field is changing and they should anticipate a high number of specialists in technology, geopolitical conflict, and analysis who happen to be women.

Brit: First and foremost, don’t be intimidated by security studies or by ISP. It’s not all machismo all the time, or all military lingo all the time. Some of my closest friends (and the best people I know) at SIPA study ISP, and the concentration draws a diverse crowd from all walks of life. I’ll be honest: the workload can be heavy. The readings can be loooooong and dense. But if you are passionate about security studies, and about studying them in an incredibly diverse and cosmopolitan setting, then the ISP concentration at SIPA is the place for you. And if you are a woman interested in security studies, then I highly encourage you to apply. ISP is a pretty close-knit and supportive community here at SIPA, and it’s a great place to challenge yourself academically in order to best prepare yourself professionally. I love it, and I hope you will too!

I want to give a big thanks to Ana, Brit and Caitlin for their advice, and I hope you found it useful. I’d like to leave you with one final thought:  ISPer’s at SIPA are diverse in nationality, experience, and gender; and while the ratio is not 100% perfect, it is evening out.

Madeleine Albright, a SIPA alum, once said, “It took me quite a long time to develop a voice, and now that I have it, I am not going to be silent.” I think this sentiment rings true for many of the women I know in the ISP concentration who continue to move the needle on women’s roles in ISP, and who are not deterred by the stereotypes and misconceptions surrounding the field.

I hope you enjoyed this piece, and Happy Galentine’s Day!

Parks And Rec GIF by NBC

ISP Highlights

Highlights for ISP concentrators this semester have included the ISP Crisis Simulation and the ISP Faculty Career Panel.  The day-long crisis simulation is held each year as an experiential learning opportunity for students interested in international affairs, diplomacy and military strategy. This year’s crisis simulation centered around a hypothetical U.S. intervention in Syria in which regional powers and non-state actors vied for control. Students on six teams represented either a state (the U.S., Israel, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Russia) or a fictional terrorist organization modeled after Al Qaeda. During the simulation, each team had to devise a strategy that would allow it to accomplish its specific political objectives while dealing with constraints and uncertainty that modeled the risks actual decision-makers might face in a similar situation. By the end of the day, the students had come to understand some of the difficulties associated with operating in a dynamic environment with incomplete information and limited time to reach their goals.

The Faculty Career Panel featured five ISP faculty members, all of whom exemplify the unique mix of academic, practical and policy expertise to be found within the SIPA faculty. The professors shared reflections on their experiences as U.S. government analysts and advisors at the CIA, the Congressional Budget Office and the Senate, as well as at organizations such as the RAND Corporation, the Brookings Institution and the Aga Khan Foundation. Collectively, their careers have taken them around the world, including to Russia, Afghanistan, Iraq, and the former Zaire (Democratic Republic of Congo). The professors gave short presentations about their own career trajectories and shared their advice to students newly entering the field. The presentations were followed by a reception during which students had the opportunity to speak with faculty one-on-one and seek advice about their own career aspirations.

In addition, SIPA organizations such as the Arnold A. Saltzman Institute for War and Peace Studies and its Center for International Conflict Resolution host a number of events throughout the semester of interest to ISP students.  In January, the Saltzman Institute hosted United Nations Deputy Secretary- General, Jan Eliasson, who spoke of the changing geopolitical and economic landscape that world leaders will face in the years ahead. This week, the Institute will present “A Day in the Life of CIA’s Directorate of Intelligence,” with SIPA Professor of Professional Practice Peter Clement. The Center for International Conflict Resolution at the Saltzman Institute has hosted a number of events on diplomacy, mediation and peacebuilding, including its Alvaro de Soto Conversation Series, which featured Peruvian and UN diplomat Alvaro de Soto and former U.S. Ambassador Chester Crocker on the challenges facing the contemporary field of mediation.

The International Security Policy Concentration at SIPA: An Overview

Despite popular belief, the International Security Policy (ISP) concentration is not only for veterans and war hawks. Rather, it is a multidimensional concentration designed for students interested in topics as diverse as political violence, conflict management, defense policy, military strategy, terrorism and unconventional warfare, arms control, intelligence, peacekeeping, coercion, negotiation, and alternatives to the use of force as an instrument of policy.

Not only do students cover a wide breadth of topics in the concentration, the students themselves represent a number of different backgrounds and come from various experiences. Enrolled in ISP are diplomats, former soldiers, recovering private sector analysts, humanitarian workers and peacekeepers. And then there are those that are still finding their way.

SIPA’s diversity is constantly benefiting students, but perhaps no more so for those studying in the ISP concentration. More than 50 percent of the student body comes from outside the United States, which allows for classes to integrate different points of view on the same conflict. When studying conflict, the students’ unique perspectives plays an outsized role. There is nothing quite like analyzing the phenomenon of transnational crime from a Mexican or French perspective, or looking at terrorism through the lens of Israeli and Palestinian students.

The professors in the ISP concentration are phenomenal; most have field experience and many are adjuncts who come to teach after spending the day at the NYPD, DoD, Capitol Hill, among other security institutions. They are always willing to meet with students and impart their professional advice.

Though SIPA’s curriculum is often characterized as being broad and flexible, one will be able to niche themselves in the ISP concentration.

Interview with SIPA MPA candidate, Maricarmen Hinojosa

Maricarmen 2013Name: Maricarmen Hinojosa
Degree: MPA
Concentration:  International Security Policy
Specialization: International Conflict Resolution

Maricarmen is a second year MPA student from Mexico concentrating in International Security Policy and specializing in International Conflict Resolution. Prior to SIPA, she worked for three years at the Mexican Embassy in Washington, DC, as one of the Ambassador’s National Security Advisers. During college, she volunteered in Kenya, where she designed and developed the project “Sustainable Production of Dolls”, a program designed to empower women in the Mfangano community. She also studied abroad for one year in Seoul, South Korea, where she researched and developed the thesis, “North Korean Nuclear Strategy Against the United States: A Country Looking for its Survival,” for which she was recognized as having produced the best thesis of the year by the Universidad de Monterrey.

What has been the best part of your SIPA experience?

My best experience at SIPA has been my summer internship with the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) as part of the Drivers of Conflict and Peace: Practicum, directed by The Conflict Resolution Center of Columbia University. Thanks to this program I had the opportunity to spend two months researching illegal logging and conflict resolution in Kosovo. I also had the chance to travel around the Balkans and get to know better one of the most interesting regions in the world.

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

Absolutely.  Professors at SIPA are open to talk to the students and help as much as they can in their academic and professional development.  Professor Dipali Mukhopadhyay, Paola Maria Valenti and Stuart Gottlieb, among other professors at SIPA, are always willing to listen to students’ concerns.

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

During my first semester at SIPA I had the opportunity to attend a conference with Kofi Annan, former Secretary General of the UN. The event was a small event at SIPA in which the students had the opportunity to ask questions and have a great conversation with Mr. Annan. It was such an honor to be there with such a great international figure.

What has been the most challenging part of your SIPA experience?

During my first semester I took a course called “Evolving Military Strategy Post-9/11” with Admiral Eric T. Olson (retired).  For the class final examination we had to analyze the National Military Strategy to the United States of America and identify three main issues that were not addressed or were weak and present our finding though a teleconference to Gen. Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff.  The fact that I was directly presenting my advice to the most important figure in the US Military was by far the most challenging experience at SIPA.

Did you choose to attend SIPA to change careers, or to gain experience in a career path you already had experience in?

I joined SIPA to gain particular skills related to my training on conflict resolution and international security issues. Before SIPA I worked for three years at the Embassy of Mexico. There I learned about national security issues in a very hands-on fashion, but I still felt I lacked some of the conceptual foundations for understanding military and intelligence components of national and international security policies. I decided that the International Security Concentration at SIPA was going to help me fill the gap in my professional career.

Curious about ISP?

The International Security Policy Concentration (ISP) offers outstanding opportunities for students interested in topics such as political violence and conflict management, defense policy, military strategy, terrorism and unconventional warfare, arms control, intelligence, peacekeeping, coercion, negotiation, conflict resolution and alternatives to the use of force as an instrument of policy.  The relative flexibility of the ISP Concentration allows students to tailor their specific course of study to fit their intellectual and career interests, and they will find that Columbia offers a wider variety of courses in security studies than all but a handful of other universities in the world. ISP students go on to work in government, consulting firms, non-profit research institutes, public interest and policy advocacy organizations, Federally Funded Research and Development Centers, journalism, and other areas.

Many ISP courses are taught by members of the Columbia Political Science Department, one of few in the world with more than one faculty member in security studies. In addition to Political Science faculty, the Concentration draws on courses taught by full-time Columbia faculty from SIPA, the Law School, and Barnard College.  ISP also features courses taught by outstanding practitioners and other adjuncts who combine academic backgrounds and publications in public policy with experience in government, the military, and policy analysis institutes. For example, Peter Clement, a senior official in the CIA’s Directorate of Intelligence, will join SIPA as a Scholar in Residence and adjunct faculty member in September 2013.

Like many SIPA faculty, the ISP concentration director, Prof. Richard Betts, has experience in both the academic and policy worlds. Betts is director of the Saltzman Institute of War and Peace Studies at Columbia, and has taught previously at Harvard and SAIS.  He has worked at the Brookings Institution, Council on Foreign Relations, on staffs of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and the National Security Council, and served on the National Security Advisory Panel of the Director of Central Intelligence and the National Commission on Terrorism.

Students who are interested in conflict resolution may take classes within the International Conflict Resolution Specialization as ISP electives. The specialization is directed by Prof. Jean-Marie Guéhenno, former UN Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping.

Outside the classroom, ISP offers many exciting activities including field trips, political-military crisis and arms control simulations, guest speakers, specialized symposia, films, and social activities.  The ISP Concentration benefits greatly from the programming of its institutional affiliate, the Saltzman Institute for War and Peace Studies, which hosts a number of high profile speakers each year.  In addition, students in the ISP concentration run the Defense and Security Student Organization, which hosts events such career panels and debates.

At the beginning of each fall semester, ISP hosts a weekend retreat for ISP concentrators at a campground a few hours north of New York City.  Field trips in November alternate each year between a combination of U.S. military installations, in one year, and government offices in Washington, D.C. the next.  This year’s trip will be to Washington.  Previous Washington trips have included meetings at the level of Under and Assistant Secretary at the Pentagon, State Department, National Security Council, Office of Management and Budget, Congress, and other parts of government.  Examples of military facilities visited in past field trips include Fort Bragg (Army Airborne and Special Forces headquarters), Pope Air Force Base, Camp Lejeune (Marine Corps), Atlantic Fleet headquarters and various ships in Norfolk, Langley Air Force Base, and NATO headquarters (Brussels).

The crisis simulation in the spring semester is entirely organized and conducted by the students.  Simulations in recent years have included crises in Kashmir, the Taiwan Straits, Central Asia, and Indonesia; negotiations on the North Korean nuclear program; escalation of war between Armenia and Azerbaijan; and the NPT Review Conference.

 

"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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