Archive for MIA

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.

From SIPA Student to Cyber Professional—CJ Dixon’s Cyber 9/12 Journey

In November 2019, SIPA hosted the fourth annual Atlantic Council Cyber 9/12 Strategy Challenge in New York City. Planned and run by SIPA’s Digital and Cyber Group, this year’s event featured 31 teams from 18 different schools including Tufts, Harvard, Georgetown, NYU, West Point, and the University of Pennsylvania. Each team was tasked with developing policy recommendations to respond to a rapidly developing cyber incident at both the local and federal level. The teams were judged by experts including former Homeland Security Advisor Tom Bossert, former Deputy National Security Advisor and Deputy Director of the CIA Avril Haines, and senior executives from numerous private sector entities.

CJ Dixon (MIA ’19), a member of the winning team in 2018, returned to judge this year’s competition in his new role as a senior advisor at NYC Cyber Command. CJ took several cybersecurity courses at SIPA, competed in both the NYC and DC Cyber 9/12 competitions, and served as a Google Public Policy Fellow following graduation. CJ’s journey is a great example of how SIPA’s Tech & Policy Initiative provides students with the academic and professional preparation to pursue cybersecurity and technology policy careers.

Program Assistant Introduction: George-Ann Ryan MIA ’20

George-Ann grew up on the island of Antigua in the West Indies with roots in the nearby island of Montserrat. After graduating from Pace University in New York with a BA in Economics focusing on quantitative research methods, George-Ann worked in research and administration roles for nonprofits and government organizations dedicated to economic and social equity. She was set to apply to PhD programs before SIPA caught her eye as a program where she could explore her passions for studying international economic inequality, maintain and develop quantitative skills, and supplement her work experience with solid public policy knowledge.

Alongside her academic exploits at SIPA, she is Steering Community Coordinator at RISE: Working Group on Race, Inequality, Solidarity, and Economics ( a student group) and is a founding member and Chief Financial Officer of The Sadie Collective — a nonprofit aimed at mentoring, empowering, and equipping Black women in economics, public policy, and related fields. 

What were you doing before you came to SIPA?

I was an Economic Scholar at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas and a Research and Administrative Associate at the Economic Security Project — a nonprofit with a mission to explore and advocate for cash-transfers as an important tool for fighting inequality. 

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

A little bit of both. I have always loved economics for both its theory and mathematical elements, but before coming to SIPA I was dead-set on a path for a PhD in economics. However, my job experience in the nonprofit sector really showed me that value of a more well-rounded education that prizes both the quantitative and the more policy and communications oriented side of economics and economic research. I came to SIPA in order to get a bit more of that in my repertoire.

What has been the best part of your SIPA experience?

I’ve enjoyed the diversity of experiences I’ve encountered here and meeting people from countries I never thought I would such as Afghanistan and Mongolia. SIPA has really broadened my horizons and frames of reference when looking at international policy problems. Through student organizations (and some pretty fun parties) you will meet people who will become lifelong friends and hopefully have couches to surf all over the globe.

What kind of work do you hope to do when you graduate? 

After graduation, I hope to return home to Antigua and work in the private sector for a bit before eventually establishing my own think tank focused on economic development and governmental accountability. 

What’s your internship experience been like?

My internship experience has been pretty interesting. I spent the summer in Washington D.C. at the Brookings Institution working in The Hamilton Project — an organization housed within Brookings’ Economic Studies Department — as a Summer Research Intern. There, I called on many of the skills I’ve honed both at SIPA and elsewhere through using STATA for data preparation and analysis to contributing to reports by compiling relevant literature for Fellows. It was challenging but I enjoyed it wholeheartedly. 

What do you think makes a good SIPA student? What qualities do stellar SIPA students typically possess?

To me, a good SIPA student is passionate about the world around them and is buzzing with ideas about how to make it better. For the most part, many of my colleagues are internationally focused with aspirations to work toward making the world a better place through sound policy, whatever the arena. 

Photo credit: Mathematica Policy Research

A View from the Class: Sarah Goddard MIA ’19

The SIPA Office of Alumni and Development is pleased to share A View from the Class, a series featuring current SIPA students, recently graduated alumni, and faculty. In this issue, we feature recently the graduated Sarah Goddard MIA ’19. Sarah earned a dual degree Master of International Affairs concentrating in Urban and Social Policy with a specialization in United Nations Studies. She also has a Master of Public Health degree concentrating in Sociomedical Sciences at Columbia’s Mailman School of Public Health.

What were you doing prior to attending SIPA?
I taught English at a high school in Toulouse, France. Afterwards, I served a year with AmeriCorps in Western Massachusetts at an affordable housing nonprofit, working on a community health and public safety project in a low-income urban area. This opportunity inspired me to apply to SIPA.

Why did you choose SIPA?
I chose SIPA because of the ability to combine my interest in urban and social policy with a degree in international affairs, and SIPA’s course offerings in community development, gender, and international relations theory inspired me. I also chose SIPA because of its location and access to the many opportunities and resources in New York City, including the United Nations. Attending the admitted students’ day and walking through the campus with future peers and colleagues solidified my decision.

Why did you choose your particular areas of study?
I chose urban and social policy because I wanted to bridge the gap between my pre-SIPA professional experiences working internationally in education and domestically in urban community development. I decided to specialize in United Nations Studies because I wanted to become more familiar with international organizations, and I became increasingly interested in the UN through internships, coursework, and exposure to the Sustainable Development Goals while at SIPA. I applied to the dual degree program with the Mailman School to better focus on the links between urban and social policy and health.

What have been some of your standout SIPA experiences?
At the end of my first year, I interned at the United Nations Development Programme in New York in their HIV, Health and Development group. This was the first time I really saw my interests in health and social development come together professionally, and it was exciting to gain first-hand experience in the UN system.

For my SIPA Capstone, I chose an Economic and Political Development (EPD) Workshop related to urban development and the Sustainable Development Goals in Colombia. This was a defining part of my SIPA experience. I got to travel with a great team to do fieldwork in multiple cities, and our project was selected for a microgrant from the Sustainable Development Solutions Network and as a top project to present at the UN’s High Level Political Forum.

What have been some of your favorite SIPA courses?
I have taken a number of great courses with great professors at SIPA, but two courses stand out. The first is Yumiko Shimabukuro’s course on Comparative Urban Policy. Professor Shimabukuro made the course extremely dynamic and engaging by bringing in real life examples of urban policy failures and successes that brought the material to life. Beyond that, she transformed the class into a supportive family and became a mentor to many of us, and for that, I am grateful.

The second is Barbara Magnoni’s course on Working with the Private Sector for Development Outcomes. Professor Magnoni brought to the course expertise in private sector development and used many case examples from various sectors to make the material engaging and relevant. More importantly, she orchestrated a supportive classroom environment where students could debate and provide constructive feedback. Opportunities like this have shaped my experience at SIPA and are what make SIPA such a unique place.

What are your plans after SIPA?
I recently accepted an offer to work at Global Communities, an international development nonprofit, as a Program Officer in the Governance and Global Health pillar.

A View from the Class: Divyam Nandrajog MIA ’19

The SIPA Office of Alumni and Development is pleased to share A View from the Class, a series featuring current SIPA students, recently graduated alumni, and faculty. In this issue, we feature newly graduated SIPA alumnus Divyam Nandrajog MIA ’19. Divyam graduated in May with a Master of International Affairs (MIA), concentrating in International Security Policy (ISP) and specializing in Technology, Media, and Communications.

What were you doing prior to attending SIPA?
I studied law at the National Law University, Delhi in Delhi, India. I was particularly interested in criminal law and how it governed state-citizen interactions. I worked on several research projects on criminal justice involving rights of under-trial prisoners, criminal process re-engineering, and analysis of cases under Indian drug laws.

These projects involved visits to Tihar Jail, one of Delhi’s larger prisons, for data gathering and interviews of under-trial and convicted inmates to better understand and place their cases within the larger criminal process for analysis. The projects aimed for both immediate and systemic impact. One involved assessing under-trial inmates’ eligibility for bail under special provisions of the criminal procedure code. Another project focused on identifying and mitigating procedural bottlenecks and causes for systemic delay in trials under special laws.

Why did you choose SIPA?
I chose SIPA for its ISP concentration that delves into various topical components of the subject and offers students flexibility in concentrating their studies on particular aspects of international security.

How would you describe your SIPA experience?
I really enjoyed my classes in cybersecurity and defense analysis. The professors teaching them bring a wealth of professional experience and detail that makes courses in these subjects extremely practical and readily applicable by graduate students starting out in the field.

How has SIPA affected you?
No two resumes at SIPA are the same. The diversity of backgrounds, approaches, and thought that the student body brings together presents a welcome and formidable challenge to norms and approaches assumed to be settled. The key lies not in isolated points of view but in the bridges we build between them, shaping the process as much as it shapes us.

Are there particular SIPA experiences that stand out?
My studies and work under Professor Jason Healey, first as his student and intern and subsequently as his research assistant, were a highlight of my time in SIPA. The past year was an incredible learning process. The sheer breadth of research I was exposed to under his guidance enriched my studies and learning in a way few other experiences can match. The freedom I was given to conduct my own research on topical subjects in cybersecurity allowed me to further develop my interests, build upon what I learned in classes, and apply it in practical ways.

I also benefited from several interactions with policymakers and industry leadership whose insights have been of great practical value in contextualizing my learning and taking it further.

What are your plans now that you have graduated from SIPA?
I hope to work in cyber threat intelligence and cybersecurity and defense policy.

"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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