Archive for orientation

Welcome to SIPA, incoming Spring 2019 J-Termers!

SIPA wrapped up Orientation for the newest J-Termers yesterday — that means the incoming Spring 2019 class, called “J-Term” since they start the term in January. (Get it?)

Despite the chilly weather, there are several benefits to starting in the Spring term. First off, these Seeples (get it?!) have two full summers to do internships, compared to the one summer if you start in the fall. There are no MIA/MPA classes during the summer, and taking advantage of this is an excellent way to apply what you learn in the classroom.

Another advantage is that you have an extra semester to get to intimately know your other J-Term Seeples before the Fall class arrives in September. There are many advantages to having large and small cohorts and class sizes – and SIPA offers both experiences.

Being part of SIPA’s global alumni network across 150+ countries lends itself to invaluable experiences, and it all starts here on the Columbia University campus. On January 16 and 17, these 33 students were able to meet SIPA faculty, get information on classes for their respective concentrations, and tour our little corner of New York City.

To those still finishing up their applications for the February 5 deadline, know that these new students above were in your position just a few months ago: reading this blog, listening in on webinars, and emailing us with questions. We encourage you to take your shot at SIPA and submit your application. Don’t wait until the last minute – you have a zero percent chance of getting in if you never submit your application.

Welcome to the J-Termers 2021, and we wish you all the best at SIPA!

A look at Orientation Week 2015

SIPA welcomes MIA-MPA Class of 2017!

Overcast skies gave way to sun as the SIPA community welcomed more than 500 new MIA and MPA students on August 31.

The growing roar of excited conversation on the International Affairs Building’s fourth and six floors signified that SIPA’s Orientation Week had begun, as hundreds of new students arrived to pick up registration packets before turning their attention to another key task – meeting their classmates.

As the morning advanced, orientation leaders directed students to Miller Theatre, near the campus gates on Broadway at 116th Street, for a formal welcome by Dean Merit E. Janow and other administrators. Students gradually filled both of the theater’s tiers, eagerly waiting for the presentation to begin.

“It really is an enormous pleasure to see all of you today,” Janow said. “Welcome. Congratulations. We’re delighted you’re here.”

Janow discussed the global nature of the SIPA program and emphasized the importance of problem-solving across disciplines, which she said is part of everyday life at SIPA.

“It is a defining characteristic of the school,” she said.

Explore photos from Orientation Week on Instagram.

The dean said that 29 percent of the incoming students said they plan to study Economic and Political Development—almost as many as the next two concentrations combined, Urban and Social Policy (16 percent) and International Finance and Economic Policy (15 percent). But she noted that students often change courses and underscored that—on the first day of school—no decision is permanent.

Emphasizing that students are now part of a larger community, Janow said that joining the ranks of SIPA alums is a “transformative experience.” She also encouraged students to take advantage of the many events, speakers, and programs they will soon learn more about.

“We are bringing the world to us and we are engaging the world,” she said.

In general, Janow and other speakers said students should aim to take full advantages of the resources at their disposal—at SIPA, at Columbia University, and throughout New York City.

Urbano Garza, the acting dean of student affairs, also encouraged students to be open to the many opportunities they encounter, and said the deans and other staff members of the Office of Student Affairs are standing by.

“We want you to be successful, and we’re here to help any way we can,” he said.

Garza urged students to seize the day, so to speak. “Plan ahead—time will go quickly,” he said. “You’ll see.” he said.

Dan McIntyre, associate dean of academic affairs, echoed this advice, and noted the numerous faculty members and hundreds of classes that students can consider.

He offered some nonacademic advice as well, counseling students from warmer climes to get a good coat, and urging students to experience the great outdoors, whether in nearby Morningside Park or outside the city.

Above all, McIntyre encouraged students to “focus on the learning as much as you can… learn what you do well and what you really love.”

Ajith Das Menon, president of SIPASA (the student government) and the final speaker Monday morning, marveled at how much he had done in his first year at SIPA: “I’ve made good friends, and mentors, and discovered myself, and I’m just halfway through,” he said.

He offered three recommendations in turn, to help incoming students make the most of the two years ahead. “Discover yourself, question yourself, and make mistakes.”

As usual, students came to SIPA from near and far, with varied interests, goals, and motivations.

For Kristopher Mahan MIA ’17 of Denver, Colorado, SIPA’s location was key.

“I had an internship at the UN and absolutely loved it—it made me want to study international affairs,” he said. “Being a great school in New York, where the UN is, makes SIPA a great place for me. And it already feels a lot like the UN because of the people from so many countries.”

Gayathri Vijayaraghavan MPA ’17, who is from India, also said she was attracted by SIPA’s international orientation.

“I want to study international finance and economic policy, and do something that combines finance and tech,” she said. “I’ve already worked for a tech and process company, worked on financial inclusion. I want to see how we can leverage tech even better.”

Anna Schaffer MIA ’16, Krista Jorstad MIA ’16, and Zineb Mouhyi MIA ’16 are each enrolled in the dual-degree program with Sciences Po.

“The lure [of the dual degree] is that you get two different perspectives in one program,” said Schaffer.

The opportunity to take part in a Capstone workshop sets SIPA apart, Mouhyi said.

Jorstad said she was looking forward to meeting her classmates. “Everyone has such diverse backgrounds,” she observed. “It seems like you learn a lot from fellow students.”

Indeed, students have varied experience. Jessica Madris MPA ’17 has lived in New York for several years, and worked for New York City’s Human Resources Administration before enrolling.

Madris, who plans to investigate the concentration in Urban and Social Policy, said Professor Ester Fuchs had encouraged her to apply to SIPA. “I’m looking forward to working with her,” Madris said.

Fadile Yetkin Gokgoz MPA ’17 of Turkey has worked as an undersecretary in her home nation’s treasury department, and said other people in her organization had come to SIPA in previous years. She aspires to work at an international financial corporation, and plans to study investment decisions in emerging countries.

For some, coming to SIPA is not the only new part of the experience. “I’ve never been to New York before,” said Yetkin Gokgoz, “but I’m happy to be here.”

Course-selection advice for incoming students

The Office of Admissions has received several inquiries from incoming Fall 2015 students about orientation, course registration and assistantships. Luckily, one of our Admissions Ambassadors decided to share with all of you some “insider’s knowledge” on how to approach academics and financial aid at SIPA. Here’s what Sriram Gutta, MPA ’15, had to say:

Read More →

J-Term Student Orientation 2014

SIPA’s Dean Merit Janow had the pleasure to welcome the newest J-Term class on January 15th and 16th. J-Term stands for January Term.  SIPA accepts a small class of global minded students in January (in addition to the main fall admittance). One great benefit among many is that students who enter in the J-Term have two full summers to do internships. The class of 34 students had two days of a heavily packed orientation schedule that informed the new “Seeples” (combination of SIPA and people – SIPA students sometimes like to refer themselves as Seeples) about how to register for courses, what classes to take for their respective concentration, where to find assistance for IT issues, where to get the best coffee and where the best study areas are. The orientation also was a great opportunity for the new students to get to know their Deans, career services representatives, Admission and Financial Aid staff, and to tour the beautiful Columbia University campus in the heart of New York City.

Three Peer-Advisors, current students and also J-Termers from the previous year had the wonderful tasks to make the new Seeples transition as smoothly and convenient as possible, and share their best practices. This of course would have not been possible without the great support by the Office of Student Affairs, by its Deans and all the other great assistance from staff we received. The best part of the orientation according to many new students and my fellow Peer Advisors was the commingling and making new life-long friends while at SIPA and beyond the time on campus. The two days of orientation were wrapped up with a fine wine and cheese reception while enjoying the magnificent skyline of the Big Apple.

Welcome class of J-Termers 2016 and all the best! You will have an awesome time!


posted by Andreas Maerki, MPA International Finance and Economic Policy, J-Termer 2015 & Peer Advisor


Orientation Week is almost over

The Class of 2015 is half way through their first week on campus at SIPA.  They have met with Dean Janow and other members of the SIPA community.  They have gone through Academic Advising, Concentration and Specialization Briefings, Math Camp, taken a campus tour guided by their Peer Advisers and already had a few opportunities to network and meet their peers at the Welcome Reception, Socials and planned dinners and lunches.  They’ll finish the week with opportunities to understand and access various Columbia University resources from the Writing Center, Public Safety, Career Services, Health Services, Financial Aid, and CU Arts.  But before they start classes on Tuesday, they’ll kick off the weekend (and think happy thoughts) with SIPA student groups, SIPA alumni, faculty, administrators, and staff at the closing reception.  Fun times!

To read about what members of the newest class had to say on their first day, you can visit our website at,

"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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