Archive for MPA in development practice

Co-founder of Think.iT, Mehemed Bougsea ‘17, Shares His Entrepreneurial Journey

Mehemed Bougsea MPA-DP ’17 is transforming Tunsia’s tech sector with his start-up Think.iT.

Bougsea founded Think.iT after many years of desiring equality in tech markets across different countries. Growing up between Libya and Germany, Mehemed saw the vast difference in openings for jobs in the tech sector. He saw this as an injustice to gifted and skilled young STEM students, who had immense potential for success but who lacked the qualifications to meet the demand for lucrative jobs in the field.

Think.iT is based in Tunisia where 57 percent of the workforce is unemployed and where the local economy cannot produce jobs in the fields to match the talent of the workforce. Think.iT’s programs focus on training young students on newer technologies such as AI, Cloud, and Blockchain, to ensure that graduates are prepared to address today’s most prevalent and pressing problems. At SIPA, Mehemed was a Ipek Cem Taha and Shwan Ibrahim (2015-2016) and SIPA Fund Fellow (2016-2017).

Click here to learn more about Mehemed’s ethos and entrepreneurial journey.


The 2019 SIPA application is open, so keep up with our Admissions Blog here for application tips over the next few months. You can learn more about the MPA in Development Practice program here.

Entrepreneurial MPA-DP Student Learns How to Change the World

The MPA in Development Practice program curates dynamic 12-week professional summer placements by developing partnerships with organizations working in sustainable development. Students also have the flexibility to develop their own placements. During past summer 56 second year MPA-DP students have worked in 30 countries for such partners, as MIT D-Lab and Mercy Corps in Uganda, OECD in France, the World Bank in Tanzania, FAO in Lao PDR, among many others. Students typically fill a “junior professional consultant role,” either assisting in the design and development of new initiatives or supporting and/or evaluating ongoing projects. They apply skills they have developed through past professional experience as well as from MPA-DP coursework.

Fernando Armendaris Puente (Class of 2019) has spent his summer with the World Bank Independent Evaluation Group in South East Asia. Fernando moved to the U.S. from Ecuador and has experience working at the World Bank focusing on various issued related to cities. This summer he traveled to the Philippines, Indonesia, and Vietnam developing case studies on urban resilience. “It’s always fascinating to me to read so much about a city and then go there and see it all come to life. I’m glad I have acquired so many tools that I’m already applying and I look forward to more epiphany moments of linking my experience back to SIPA,” Fernando reflects. To learn more about his summer placement watch DP120 video below. DP120s are short videos with stories from the field shared by development practitioners.

If you have questions or want to join the MPA-DP global community email us at: sipa_mpadp@columbia.edu

MPA – Development Practice Incubator

The MPA-Development Practice program will be turning 10 next year, and the new MPA-DP Incubator page highlights entrepreneurial enterprises that alumni have founded and fostered since graduating.

Organizations are located all around the world and focus on a variety of issues, from supporting Latin American female tech talent to bringing affordable childhood care and education to low-income communities in East Africa.

The MPA-DP program prepares students for a career where companies are becoming more complex and increasingly inclusive of all countries and societies. Check back in to the Incubator page as new organizations are still being added. And if you’re interested in being part of the diverse, interdisciplinary cohort that makes up our innovative MPA-DP program, read more about it here.

SIPA’s Development Practice Lab: Skills-based learning, from the classroom to the field

We’re sharing a guest post today from current student Eliza Keller, MPA-DP 2016. Below, she shares some great insight into why she decided to enroll in SIPA two years ago; and it had a lot to deal with curriculum.

Currently, students accepted at SIPA and elsewhere are deciding what the best program is for them. If you’re one of these admitted students, you’re probably asking yourself: Where can I learn the most? Where can I connect with like-minded people? Which school will advance my career?

I’ve been there. Two years ago, I was weighing my options, making endless pro-and-con lists, and studying faculty rosters. I was drawn to the practical, skills-based curriculum of SIPA’s MPA in Development Practice program, but wasn’t sure if it was right for me. After visiting on Admitted Students’ Day, though, the energy of SIPA’s campus and the openness and depth of experience of its Development Practice students won me over. SIPA was clearly full of smart, curious people doing interesting work—just the environment I was looking for.

A standout feature of the MPA-DP program is the Summer Field Placement, a three-month overseas internship tailored to students’ skills and career goals. This past summer, I traveled to Timor-Leste, where I worked as a policy fellow in the Ministry of Finance. While there, I found my SIPA education already essential.

In particular, the skills I learned in the Development Practice Lab, a core first-year course in the MPA-DP curriculum, enabled me to contribute substantively to my host organization. The Development Practice Lab, unique to SIPA, is a series of three-hour workshops carefully designed to deliver hands-on training in skills that are in high demand in the development community. From monitoring and evaluation planning to budgeting for a nationwide peacebuilding assessment and partnership building, these skills lent me important credibility—and opened up professional opportunities I would never have envisioned before SIPA.

Now, six months after returning from Timor-Leste, the last two years seem to have gone by in a flash. I’ve learned as much from my SIPA classmates as I have from the excellent faculty here, and I’ve come to understand the value of the well-rounded perspective and skill set cultivated in the MPA-DP program.

There’s no “right” decision for all prospective students, but if there’s any advice I have, it’s to think carefully about the added value that each program provides, both for your own knowledge and for your career—and, find your people. I found mine here at SIPA.

Pictured above (from left): Angela Kohama, Alexandra Americanos MIA ’16, Glenn Denning, Prime Minister of Timor-Leste Rui Maria de Araújo, Alexander Fertig, Arja Dayal, Eliza Keller.

Pictured above (from left): Angela Kohama, Alexandra Americanos MIA ’16, Glenn Denning, Prime Minister of Timor-Leste Rui Maria de Araújo, Alexander Fertig, Arja Dayal, Eliza Keller.

Feature photo courtesy of Arja Dayal, MPA-DP 2016: This is a part of the open defecation free sustainability study currently being conducted in Timor-Leste in partnership with Ministry of Health, Plan International, UNICEF and WaterAid. Factor analysis is a participatory ranking process where participants will indicate their motivation, factors or barriers in order to maintain or abandon use of latrine.

Elaine Kubik’s summer in Southern Africa

One of the best parts of the MPA-DP program is the opportunity to spend three months in a developing country. The Summer Field Placement is a requirement within the program, and proves to be an integral component of the graduate learning experience. While most of my cohort comes from a variety of different countries, or has had development field experience already, the Summer Field Placement becomes an opportunity to advance professionally with a recognized organization.

I spent my summer in Maseru, Lesotho, a small enclave within South Africa. There I worked with an amazing organization called Jhpiego, working on their HIV outreach programs. Although it was challenging at first to see how my marketing and communications experience would relate to development work, I found my summer placement to be a worthwhile learning experience.

Check out my video below (it’s only 3:46 minutes) to learn more about my summer placement and my life at SIPA!

"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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