Archive for NYC

A Case for Urban and Social Policy

Like many prospective graduate school applicants, I had a hard time deciding exactly which school or program was right for me. It’s incredibly difficult to think about places, schools, and classes you’ve never taken in the abstract, let alone even trying to compare them. While being incredibly fortunate, my situation is also a little complicated; as a Pickering Fellow, I am required to serve in the U.S. Foreign Service for five years after graduating from SIPA. While applying, I was attempting to reconcile my interest in domestic politics and cities, with my career and general interest in international relations. I wanted a degree that would wholly prepare me for my time in the Service, while also providing me the skills and expertise to succeed if I ever decided to leave the organization.

SIPA made sense on a variety of baseline levels; it’s incredibly diverse, and very international, two things I value both personally and professionally. It is prestigious and known for producing top-end talent in almost every profession related to public service and government. When I got in, it was almost a no-brainer; I knew this is where I wanted to be.

However, I had a much harder time deciding which concentration was right for me. As someone who has worked with numerous organizations engaged in human rights and refugee-related work, Human Rights and Humanitarian Policy was appealing. Similarly, Economic and Political Development sounded like a natural fit with the work I’d be doing in the Service. Urban and Social Policy, with its focus on development and broad social issues, also piqued my interest.

As you can probably guess, I ultimately decided to concentrate in USP. Now let me tell you why.

An Excellent Urban Studies Education…in the Greatest City in the World

Ever since I moved to my hometown of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, I have been in love with cities. I want to know their population density, the history behind their most famous landmarks, the backgrounds of the migrants that shaped them. I want to know what sports teams the locals support, and the rivalries that may exist between different parts of town. Understanding a city, and its working class people is something that gives me immense joy and a feeling of understanding and solidarity with others, even if I am an outsider.

It just so happens that SIPA is located in arguably the greatest, or at least the most culturally significant city in the world. USP concentrators have the unique opportunity to study their favorite policy issues with leaders in the field, who are often engaged in their work while teaching. If housing is your favorite issue, you can study with William Eimecke, the previous Secretary of Housing for New York State, and then witness every day how city and state leaders are attempting to solve the affordable housing crisis. If you’re interested in education, you can cross enroll in classes at Columbia’s prestigious Teachers College, and intern at the NY Department of Education, one of the biggest city agencies of its kind in the world. If you’re considering running for political office, you can take classes with ex-Mayor of Philadelphia Michael Nutter, and the legendary New York City Mayor David Dinkins. In summary, SIPA and New York attract some of the best minds in urban governance, and for this reason alone, SIPA has a comparative advantage to other schools with urban studies programs.

It’s Broad but You Can Make It Your Own

If you say you study Urban and Social Policy, you inevitably have to tell someone what that actually means. That’s partly because it is so broad; almost every social issue is now inherently an urban issue and vice versa. That being said, SIPA’s requirements make it incredibly easy to find your niche within the concentration, while also providing students with a generalist background that will prepare them for any type of work in the field. I am personally passionate about anti-corruption and good governance initiatives, and have therefore taken numerous management and systems analysis oriented courses. One of my friends in the concentration has explored the growth of data and algorithms in public sector decision making, and its impact on communities of color. Another friend of mine is committed to understanding the intersection of gender and development in urban communities. As a future diplomat, I know I will be serving in some of the world’s truly global cities; therefore, my USP education will provide me with the skills and knowledge I need to understand the key challenges these cities face, while also allowing me to dive deeper into many of my domestic interests. In turn, by drawing upon the experiences and interests of your peers, and the expertise of USP’s great faculty, you too can find your own place in this passionate and driven community.

The People

USP is a relatively small concentration, compared to some of the others available at SIPA. However, I consider this one of its greatest strengths. USP attracts bright, motivated and culturally savvy people from around the world, with many hailing from the world’s fastest growing and important urban centers. On an intellectual level, this is incredibly rewarding; often, you will find yourself in the halls or off-campus at a small meet up, casually discussing an urban policy issue with people from entirely separate countries and cities, each one providing their perspectives and experiences. Socially, you are surrounded by people who also love the city, and all that it has to offer. Personally, I have felt that my education has extended well beyond the walls of SIPA, as my network of USPers continues to challenge me, and introduce me to new concepts and ideas on a daily basis.

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions…

No matter where you are in the admissions process, I encourage all prospective or recently admitted students to think critically about what they want out of their graduate school experience and how every concentration or program may advance your personal and professional growth. Nonetheless, if you are passionate about cities and social issues, I suggest that you take a look at the concentration’s requirements and electives which are available on the SIPA website. It will give you a better idea of the type of coursework you can expect, while also hopefully inspiring some excitement at the prospect of being a USP concentrator!

VISIT SIPA AND EAT WELL ON A BUDGET!

food

It is highly recommended to visit the programs that you’re interested in applying to. When I was applying, I took  two weeks off of work and visited eight MPA programs. While I researched these programs, I instinctively ranked them in my mind from the one that I wanted to attend the most to the least. Surprisingly, after visiting the programs, my ranking of programs changed drastically! Programs on the top of my list were crossed off entirely, while schools I were on the fence,  jumped up high on the list. Factors for the rearrangement of my list include; approachability of professors, friendliness of students, sitting in on classes, as well as the ambiance of the city where the school was located.

In regards to SIPA, it was the one school that did not shift position. It was on the top of my list and remained there after my visit. The professors took the time out of their schedules to meet with me, the students took me out for some drinks at the end of the day and offered me candid answers to my questions, the classes were extremely stimulating, and New York City is amazing!

That being said, visit SIPA! See if it is a good fit, as well as NYC. While here explore the City. It can be quite daunting if you don’t know where to start. One of my passions before coming to SIPA was splurging on food. My desire for quality food has not diminished, although my wallet has since I am now a full time student. So, I have created a list of AMAZING restaurants to try when you’re here, while on a graduate student budget. This is clutch. These restaurants are scattered throughout Manhattan which will allow you to explore your new home if you decide to enroll. Good luck on your application and bon appetit!

restaurants 

 

TEDx Columbia SIPA = cool

TEDxColumbiaSIPA is a locally-organized, student-led event designed to spark authentic, impassioned, and open-minded dialogue in our community.  Drawing from both TEDx’s mission of “Ideas Worth Spreading” and SIPA’s focus on addressing challenges around the globe, the event will be organized under the theme of “A Better World.”

TEDxColumbiaSIPA will be held on Friday, February 15th, 2013 at Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) in New York City.  Speakers include Joel Klein, VP, NewsCorp & former Chancellor of NYC Dept. of Education, Leila Makarechi, COO, MicroClinic International & SIPA alumna, Yvonne Macpherson, Executive Director, BBC Media Action USA, Joseph Stiglitz, Professor at Columbia University & Nobel Prize- winning Economist, Adam Scher, Captain, US Army & current SIPA student, Andrew Rasiej, Founder, Personal Democracy Forum, Paul Krugman, Professor at Princeton University & Nobel Prize-winning Economist, Victor Casanova & Michael Craft, filmmakers, Route2Happiness & SIPA alumni, PigPen Theatre Co., award-winning actors and musicians, and many more…

Unfortunately, the event is sold out — to be expected with fascinating topics and a high-level roster of speakers… But the good news is that the event will be live-streamed so you can catch it online in your pajamas at: http://new.livestream.com/tedx/tedxcolumbiasipa 

 

Role of a SIPA Peer Advisor

Starting graduate school can be a difficult challenge for many of us, especially if we’ve been out of school for a while. Moving to a new city (NYC!), dealing again with school pressure, and juggling personal and professional tasks during your arrival can be overwhelming. Despite all these trials, I remember my first semester at SIPA as a great experience that exceeded all my expectations. Today I am certain that this positive experience started with a smooth transition to my new life: I was fortunate that second-year students gave me their advice, guidance, and support. That is why I decided to participate in the first SIPA Peer Advisor Program that was launched last fall during Orientation Week. Around 15 of my second-year classmates were selected to assist and welcome the incoming class of 2014.

I was a Peer Advisor for 24 students of the most diverse nationalities and backgrounds.  As a second-year student I shared with first-years useful information and insight to SIPA’s demanding academic and vibrant social life. I did my best to help them understand the process of searching for courses and registration; gave them details on the some of the courses they were eager to take; and explained how to get to a room that seemed impossible to find. I also shared with them some of my strategies for academic success and time management in order to take full advantage of SIPA’s and Columbia’s offerings. In the evenings, I joined them in the social events and parties that took place during Orientation Week. My advisees became so close that they still have lunch almost every Tuesday. Personally, being part of Orientation Week as a SIPA Peer Advisor was a great experience because I got to know new people with diverse interests and tons of stories to tell. At the same time, it was a nice opportunity to serve SIPA and its community 🙂

Posted by: Mariana Iturriaga-Cossío, MIA, Degree Candidate 2013 and SIPA Peer Advisor

 

you can’t come to us, so we’ll come to you… virtually

As I mentioned in an earlier post, one of the best parts of our job in Admissions is meeting new and interesting people who want to make a difference in the world.   People make the trip to visit us in New York  or find us on the road when we are touring the country and parts of the world in the fall.  But not everyone can come to New York and we, unfortunately, can’t travel to every city in the world, so let’s meet online.

We are hosting a virtual information session for our two-year full time Master of International Affairs and Master of Public Administration programs on Wednesday, September 26th at 10:00 AM EDT.  Unfortunately, you won’t be able to see us — since we won’t have video capability yet — but you’ll hear us talk about the program, what we look for in an application, and financial aid options.  Of course, we’ll also be available to answer your questions.  So register and join us next week for a one hour session from anywhere around the world.  See you online!

 

"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

Boiler Image