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Experiential Learning at SIPA

The objective of the Master of International Affairs (MIA) program at SIPA is to ensure “students acquire the substantive knowledge, practical skills, and real-world experience to address the big issues of international affairs.” But how does that work in practice? What kinds of experiential learning opportunities does SIPA provide to truly immerse students in international affairs?

First off, I’ll dispense with the most well-known factor. New York City is incredibly diverse and is home to numerous organizations that play vital roles in international affairs and public policy. SIPA students have countless opportunities to interact with these organizations via internships, guest speakers, conferences, site visits, and career panels. Not to mention that at SIPA you’ll be surrounded by classmates from over 100 countries and will gain immeasurably from those diverse perspectives in the classroom.

Beyond that, here are 4 less well-known experiential learning opportunities at SIPA:

  1. Global Immersion Courses

Just this year, SIPA inaugurated a new series of Global Immersion Courses that will enhance the MIA curriculum by providing students the opportunity to explore vital global policy issues firsthand. The first course in this program was titled Beyond the ‘Refugee Crisis’: Refugees in Turkey and Global Public Policy. Students in the course spent 10 days in Turkey taking classes on refugee policy and meeting with policymakers, journalists, multilateral organizations, and refugees. Upon returning to NYC, the course met four additional times during the Spring 2020 semester to further study the issues the students experienced firsthand in Turkey.

SIPA plans to offer additional courses in this innovative format covering additional issues and regions of interest to students. You can read more about SIPA students’ experience in this course here.

  1. Treks

Treks are student-organized trips to various countries that generally occur during the winter or spring breaks. These trips often include a mix of sightseeing as well as meetings with policymakers and business leaders. Past treks have included Korea, China, Taiwan, Israel, Japan, Singapore, Palestine, and Peru. There are even some domestic treks to explore certain industries or policy issues, such as the energy trek to Houston and San Francisco.

Treks have provided SIPA students with enormously valuable firsthand experience with pressing global issues. Amira Dhalla (MPA ’20) had this to say about her experience:

“Attending PalTrek was life-changing and moving. I am beyond thankful to the deeply connected and committed group of students from SIPA who opened their ears and hearts to those in Palestine while engaging and learning among eight days of nonstop events. While in the West Bank we discussed pressing human rights issues, practiced heartfelt allyship for communities, experienced a wondrous culture, and witnessed relentless resilience. All of which would never have been possible within the constraints of a classroom.”

  1. Capstone Workshops

The capstone workshop is a key part of the core curriculum for the MIA, MIA, and MPA-ESP. These workshops provide students the opportunity to immerse themselves in a consulting project for an external client. Some workshops provide opportunities for domestic or international travel to meet with clients or conduct research. Clients have included US and foreign government agencies, New York City government offices, the United Nations, the World Bank, think tanks, non-profits, and private sector companies. This semester, for example, SIPA students are researching sovereign liabilities for JP Morgan, advising NYC Cyber Command on responding to cyber incidents, and evaluating cash transfer programming for Mercy Corps. Check out more about capstone workshops here.

  1. Language Circles

If you’re looking for a way to practice your language skills outside of the classroom, many of Columbia’s language programs offer informal language circles to practice conversation. These voluntary, informal meetings are meant to facilitate speaking practice for students at all levels of the language. The Middle East Institute, for example, hosts a weekly Arabic language circle, and the French department offers weekly sessions of their Café Conversation program. Even if you aren’t taking formal language courses while at SIPA, these discussions can be a great way to connect with the community and immerse yourself in the language.

A Quantitative/Language Resume Breakdown

While the application requirement of a standard resume is explicit and plausible, the requirement on a quantitative/language resume seems confusing. What is it? Why do we need it? And how to prepare for a successful one? This blog will walk you through the preparation of a Quantitative/Language Resume, and provide you with some tips to help you create a strong one. Read More →

Mathematics? Language? A resume?

Even Albert Einstein said: “Do not worry about your difficulties in Mathematics. I can assure you mine are still greater.”

Our perceptions of our skills tend to skew left, and when we think about our math ability, we reflect on our confidence, and not our actual skills.

The SIPA Admissions office understands that applicants will have varied quantitative backgrounds and skills. We have designed an application that best allows you to demonstrate your quantitative competencies through the quantitative/language resume. Here, you can highlight experiences that have strengthened your math, economics, and statistics skills.

The core curriculum at SIPA requires the completion of rigorous quantitative courses and we want to make sure applicants provide as much information as possible about their quantitative aptitude, experience, and capabilities. This can include coursework in mathematics, statistics, economics, engineering, natural or computer science, etc. as well as the use of quantitative methods in a professional environment (paid, volunteer, or intern work is acceptable).

Perhaps you have worked as an accountant, bookkeeper, or balanced budgets in your professional experiences. Perhaps you served as treasurer of a student organization or used quantitative skills in a volunteer opportunity. These are experiences that you can include in the additional resume.

Is there an ideal quantitative background SIPA is looking for in an applicant?

Recently, we’ve received many questions about what makes an ideal quantitative background for a hopeful candidate.  While SIPA does not have a rigid answer, the Admissions Committee looks for evidence of a candidate’s ability to undertake quantitative coursework at the graduate level. Most successful applicants have completed at least two courses in economics (macro and microeconomics). Applicants lacking a quantitative background are encouraged to consider enrolling in mathematics courses above all else.

While the Admissions Committee does not require that each applicant have experience in all three areas (economics, statistics, and mathematics) to be admitted, extensive coursework in these areas definitely strengthens one’s chances of gaining favorable admission consideration.

For more on quantitative questions, check out our Frequently Asked Questions pages.

 

Looking for money to pursue an international and language study program?

Make sure the Boren Fellowship is on your radarThe Boren Fellowships provide funding to U.S. citizens who are pursuing international and language study in world regions critical to U.S. interests, such as Africa, Asia, Central and Eastern Europe, Eurasia, Latin America, and the Middle East.  Boren Fellowships for graduate students provide up to $30,000 for language study and international research.  Boren Fellowship awards are made for a minimum of 12 weeks and maximum of 24 months.

Recipients of a Boren Fellowship accept a Service Requirement to work for the federal government in the national security arena. Award recipients are not guaranteed a federal job after graduation – they must secure a position themselves.

The 2015-16 application deadline is January 27, 2015 at 5:00 p.m. EST.  Boren Fellowship applicants will be notified of their status by mail in late April.

For more information about the application process, click here.

 

You’re at SIPA but want to learn another language

There’s a Columbia University fellowship available for SIPA students who are interested in advancing their language proficiency.

The Foreign Language Area Studies (FLAS) Fellowship program is predicated on the belief that the well-being of the United States, its economy, and its long-range security depend on proper education and training of Americans in international and foreign language studies. FLAS fellowships strengthen the nation’s ability to compete effectively in the modern world by promoting foreign language competence and area and international knowledge and by ensuring the continuation of area expertise in a variety of fields.
The FLAS fellowship competition is open to both undergraduate and graduate students of Columbia University who are U.S. citizens or permanent residents who are enrolled in a full-time program that combines modern foreign language training with international studies or area studies. The FLAS award offers fellowship assistance to students undergoing beginning, intermediate, or advanced training in modern foreign languages and related international or area studies.

AWARD

FLAS Fellowships are contingent upon funding from the U.S. Department of Education.

The Estimated FLAS grant amount is:  Graduate students tuition grant is $18,000 and the stipend is $15,000

Remaining tuition, health service fee and medical insurance (basic coverage only) can be covered by the students’ school of enrollment within Columbia University (ex. GSAS, SIPA, TC). Please check with your school’s financial aid offices.  The FLAS fellowship does not cover any miscellaneous fees, such as computer lab fee, student activity fee and university facility fee, etc.

USE OF FUNDS FOR OVERSEAS FELLOWSHIP

With the approval from the United States Department of Education, Academic Year FLAS awards may be used for full-time dissertation research provided that the student is at the advanced level of language proficiency. The use of the foreign language in dissertation research must be extensive enough to be able to consider the language improvement facilitated by the research equal to improvement that would be obtained from a full academic year’s worth of formal classroom instruction. Please note that since the FLAS program is for language acquisition. Use of the FLAS fellowship for dissertation research is not encouraged by the U.S. Department of Education. The U.S. Department of Education prefers that students apply to the Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Dissertation Research Abroad.

All overseas programs of study must be at the intermediate or advanced level of language proficiency and must be approved by the United States Department of Education at least thirty (30) days prior to the start of the program.

SUMMER:

The Summer FLAS Fellowship competition is open to undergraduate (including Barnard College) and graduate students, including Ph.D. candidates, who are U.S. citizens, nationals, or permanent residents who are accepted for enrollment or enrolled in a formal program of intensive language study.

The Summer FLAS fellowship tuition grant is up to $5,000 and a $2,500 stipend for undergraduate and graduate students.  Combined tuition and fees cannot exceed $5,000.

The summer language course studied under the Summer FLAS fellowship must be the equivalent of an academic year course, at least 140 credit or contact hours (120 at advanced level), and a minimum of six (6) weeks in length. All overseas programs of study must be at the intermediate or advanced level (graduate students) of language proficiency or at the beginning level if an appropriate beginning level is not available in the United States and all overseas language programs must be approved by the United States Department of Education at least thirty (30) days prior to the start of the program. Please provide any relevant program brochures, web sites and/or documentation with your application. Summer FLAS is not available for dissertation research.

The application deadline for the FLAS fellowship is Friday, February 28, 2014, at 11:59 p.m. EST. For more information, see the GSAS website, or contact GSAS at gsas-finaid@columbia.edu.

 

"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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