Archive for microfinance

Economic and Political Development (EPD) concentration 101

The Economic and Political Development (EPD) concentration attracts diverse students from around the world who are committed to fighting inequality between and within countries, eradicating poverty and its causes, and promoting inclusive growth and human development by expanding people’s civil and political as well as economic and social rights and freedoms. To take on these global challenges, EPD curriculum equips students with a variety of skills in policy analysis, program planning, monitoring and evaluation, and advocacy. Through an interdisciplinary package of courses, workshop projects, and practical internships, students acquire both a broader understanding of the processes of economic, political and social change in the developing world as well as a more focused competence in specific fields such as microfinance, small business and social enterprise development, corporate social responsibility, gender and development, education policy, public health, sustainable development, post-conflict reconstruction and governance.

One of the most exciting opportunities within the EPD concentration is the Workshop in Development Practice, through which students gain practical experience by engaging in on-going cutting-edge development projects, often involving country fieldwork. Working in teams with a faculty supervisor, students assist a variety of clients on a wide array of assignments in international development. Students take a multidisciplinary approach to their work and learn extensively from each other as well as from the hands-on tasks of the workshop itself. A list of past workshop projects can be viewed at the following link:

The EPD concentration is dedicated to enhancing students’ overall experience at SIPA. We sponsor a number of events throughout each academic year. This includes social events, such as the annual EPD retreat, happy hours, cultural trips around the city or off-campus parties; brown bag talks and evening lectures with practitioners and academics; and career events such as internship and alumni panels. We regularly collaborate with other concentrations, student groups and regional institutes to address the wide array of interests among our EPD students.

EPD graduates are uniquely prepared for careers in international development. They seek leadership positions in the nonprofit, public and private sectors and pursue opportunities in development consulting, microfinance, small business and social enterprise development, corporate social responsibility, gender and development, education policy, public health, sustainable development, post-conflict reconstruction, governance and/or capacity development. EPD works very closely with SIPA’s Office of Career Services to provide a comprehensive support to our students. A sample of employers who hired EPD graduates is available here


Interview with SIPA MIA candidate, Ashley Robinson

Ashley copyName: Ashley Robinson
Degree: MIA
Concentration: Human Rights & Humanitarian Policy
Specializations: I figured out how to complete 3 specializations during my time at SIPA: International Conflict Resolution, Gender Policy and International Organizations.

A brief background:  Contributing to a world better than the one with which I have been partially entrusted, is always my focus. My professional path has been neither liner, nor narrow. I tend to pursue what is most interesting and challenging to me at the time. It usually involves at least three simultaneous projects. I have primarily worked in research in litigation, behavioral economics, social science and clinical drug trials.  I have served on boards and volunteered with organizations focused on microfinance (Grameen America), end of life care (Hospice), equal rights for people with disabilities (The ARC) and many others.

What attracted you to SIPA?

Of all the International Affairs programs I researched, SIPA was always my first choice. I was most looking forward to the discourse I would have with the student body, comprised of 50% international students. I felt the instructors would provide practical wisdom and genuine insight and I have not been disappointed. The curriculum is a perfect balance of theory and practice.

What advice would you give a first-year student?

During your first year at SIPA, 35% behind on everything is the new par. Work as hard as you can, be as forgiving of yourself as possible and don’t forget to enjoy it because it goes by so quickly.

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

After graduation, I would love to work in International Conflict Resolution. After my summer research project for UNOCI and UNDP, I applied to the United Nations. While I am most interested in Africa, I will go anywhere I can be useful.

What most surprised you about SIPA after you arrived?

After I began at SIPA, I was most surprised at how quickly the time goes by. Every time I looked up, a week had passed. Graduate school is nothing like undergrad. While I don’t want to say taking 17.5-18 credits, including learning a new language and working full-time was a bad idea, it is one that should be well considered.


Microfinance Working Group 9th Annual Career Conference

By Deepika Sharma and Beatriz Guillen

On April 1st I attended the 9th Annual Career Conference organized by the SIPA Microfinance Working Group. As you might know, microfinance has been in the news a lot recently- for both good and bad reasons. There have been questions raised on the efficacy and sustainability of microfinance especially due to recent events in South Asia. These issues, as well as career opportunities in the field, were discussed in the Microfinance conference, that was held at the Office of Cleary, Gottlieb, Steen & Hamilton LLP, a 38th floor with spectacular views of the city.

This year’s Panel was comprised of the following people:

  • Olympia de Castro, IFC Advisory Services – Access To Finance, International FinanceCorporation
  • Erica Dorn, Partnerships and Volunteer Program Manager, ACCION International
  • Molly McGrath, Vice President of Development, Grameen America
  • Shamsudeen Mustafa, Program Director, SeedCo Financial Services and Co-President, Microfinance Club of New York
  • Carolina Murphy, Founder and Managing Partner of
  • Ben Shell, Senior Associate, New Product Development, Women’s World Banking
  • Adriana Valenzuela, Associate, Capital Markets Group, Grameen Foundation

The 1.5 hour long panel and Q&A session was followed by reception and networking between the audience and the panelists while they enjoyed wine and hors d’oeuvres. Unlike the last few years, the audience this year not only comprised of SIPA students but also students from Columbia College, NYU-Wagner and NYU-Stern as well as alumni and industry professionals. The speakers from the different organizations were extremely helpful and receptive to the students and greatly appreciated the event for facilitating their recruitment processes.

Career Networking is an important part and parcel at SIPA. There are numerous events that facilitate and encourage students to connect with alumni and professionals. In the words of one of the panelists: “staying connected with professionals in the field and building your network is not just important for the next internship or job search but is a lifelong source for advancing your career or just meeting more interesting people”. In fact, the Microfinance Working Group organizes the Annual Spring Career Conference at a prime location downtown because of continued relations Tony Gooch, the Co-founder of the MFWG.

What I Did This Summer: Entry #4

Sandhya Chari is a second year MPA student concentrating in Economic and Political Development.  I asked her to share about her summer internship and she wrote the following and sent along the pictures as well.


This summer I spent 5 weeks interning with ACCESS Development Services in New Delhi and Jaipur, India. After taking a micro-enterprise development course last spring, I was inspired to intern in livelihoods and enterprise development in South Asia. ACCESS, though started as a microfinance organization, found that livelihoods work was a crucial partner to microfinance, and so has devoted half of its efforts to small business development. It uses various methods to help empower the workers and help them become more profitable.

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My project was to understand the working conditions of the labor artisans making stone jewelry in Jaipur. In order to understand these conditions, I had to develop a questionnaire and conduct over fifty interviews in the urban slums of Jaipur.  This was particularly challenging because I had to ask the questions in Hindi, a language which I am just beginning to study. After conducting the interviews, I learned that the workers in this sector are severely exploited. They make an average of one to two dollars per day and work with very toxic and dangerous chemicals and equipment with no protection. They have little access to social services such as insurance, and there is a great deal of child labor.

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Finally, their work requires the use of very expensive machinery, so they experience added financial hardship to buy or rent their machines. I hope the final report containing these findings is useful in developing informed interventions to help these workers grow from informal, exploited laborers, to small enterprise owners.

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I was very happy with this internship because not only did it allow me to see the big picture of the project at a high level, it also gave me an opportunity to work at the field level, getting a grasp for what is really happening on the ground. I believe that this internship has significantly improved my SIPA experience, because I am now able to further contextualize my coursework, and I also know what areas I need to take classes in  based on what I didn’t know in the field.

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"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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