Archive for PA – Page 3

Interview with SIPA MIA candidate, Henry Fernandez

Henry_Fernandez_PhotoName: Henry Fernandez
Degree: MIA
Concentration: Energy and Environment
Specialization: Management

Brief Background: I studied Political Science at Binghamton University and I am currently pursuing a Masters in International Affairs. Before joining SIPA, I worked as an International Program Manager for Columbia University’s Environmentally Socially Sustainable Economic Growth Program in rural Dominican Republic. Our program partnered with the Presidential Commission on the United Nations Millennium Development Goals to reverse trends of resource degradation and economic depression.

What attracted you to SIPA? Energy! Before coming to SIPA I knew I wanted to work in the energy space. When applying to graduate schools it was important to choose a program that would give me the quantitative tools and policy analysis skills required to tackle the global energy challenges we face. SIPA’s Energy and Environment program offered the right combination of financial skills and policy tools that I consider important for understanding the global energy landscape. I also knew that being in New York would give me access to a wide range of professionals and industry insiders that visit the city and drop by Columbia’s campus to interact with students. This is unique to Columbia!

What experiences do you think prepared you at attend SIPA? Work experience! While working in international development I learned how to adapt to different situations. Adaptability is an important skill to possess as a graduate student. As most things in life, graduate school is about making adjustments and sometimes working outside your comfort zone. SIPA students may be required to take classes that are not of interest to them or may be assigned to work with people that have different world views or possess different work styles. Adaptability enables students to get the most of out of their graduate school experience and teaches invaluable life lessons.

What kind of work do you hope to do when you graduate? Upon graduation I intend to work in the energy sector. My goal is join a company’s strategic planning or business development department and work on crafting business strategies that contribute to the company’s financial growth.

What has been the best part of your SIPA experience? The best part of being a SIPA student is the access we have to world-class professors. Being able to sit in a classroom and engage in dialogue with the world’s experts is one of SIPA’s strongest assets. Professors at SIPA are committed to training tomorrow’s leaders and are always willing to offer professional guidance inside and outside the classroom. For example, this summer I was working on a project and needed some direction. I emailed one of my professors –who was in a different part of the world- and managed to schedule a call to discuss the challenges I was facing. That kind of commitment from one of the industry’s most respected practitioners makes a big difference in your graduate experience.


Summer in the Amazon: Reliving Hakuna Matata

CollageDuring the summer I had the privilege to work with Fundacion Runa in Tena Ecuador. Located in the middle of the Ecuadorian Amazon, Fundacion Runa specializes in commercializing Guayusa (a tea native to the land and sacred to the Quichua Community). Since its creation initiation in 2010, Runa has earned “Fair Trade” labeling through FAIR TRADE USA due to its organically grown products. The foundation offers different internships directly related to the product including agro-forestry research, social impact studies and community development.

As the community development intern, I focused on working with the FAIR TRADE social premium fund. Under Fair trade agreements, 15% of all Guayusa sales must be redirected to the community. Other fair trade organizations have help fund schools, buses to schools and health clinics for women. The purpose of my internship was to establish goals and set deadlines for projects that the Guayusa Co-Operative could work on in the future. My assignment over the two months was to focus on issues pertaining to children and women of the Quichua community.

I was able to do research by talking to different members of the community and working with children for three hours every other day. It was difficult at first because of the lack of trust and because most of the work I did set the foundation for the future. I was also able to find resources through local “children defense fund” and work with them on children issues including rights and harassment. For two months, I was able to witness poverty but also help the foundation set a plan for women and children in the Quichua Community: Immediate necessities include simple first aid kits for each community and operational schools throughout the academic year.

I was also able to establish a youth council for teens in “Alto Tena” with the sole purpose to voice their opinions on how and what to fund for their communities. The youth council will provide a voice to the youth and hopefully allocate funding for things they need: operational schools, health clinics, etc.

The work was challenging. I visited communities in the middle of the rainforest; sometimes not accessible through cars or busses. I experienced the Quichua culture: tried delicacies (larvas), checked out the Fincas, learned a couple of words in Quichua and even attended school with the children.

The internship solidified my interest in local domestic issues and how to solve them using a different perspective. I was also able to put into practice management techniques learned in class.

post submitted by Eder Gaona-Macedo, MPA 2014, concentrating in Urban and Social Policy (USP)

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.


who’s on deck?

As sad as we are to see our PA’s (program assistants) graduate and leave us, we are thrilled to have new second years join our team.  If you continue to follow the Admissions Blog, you’ll get to know them over the next few months through their posts and of course, if you contact the Admissions Office, you may also get a response from one or two of them.

We asked them to share a little something about themselves with you…

Maricarmen, MPA ISP:  From Mexico.  Worked in Washington, DC for 3 years and currently researching Illegal Logging in Kosovo. I love running and burgers! (I am obsessed.) Currently reading “The Sound of Things Falling” Juan Gabriel Vasquez (Spanish version)

Danielle, MPA USP: Really interested in political journalism, worked at the New York County District Attorney’s Office before SIPA, native New Yorker, news junkie, Japanese food connoisseur

Henry, MIA EE: From New York City and the Dominican Republic. Worked in development before joining SIPA.  Now focusing on domestic energy issues

Eder, MPA USP:  I’m in Ecuador for the summer – it’s great! I’ve worked on the undocumented student campaign aimed at immigration reform. Enjoy reading up on politics, social movements and love Korean food! Looking forward to working with you all!

Ashley, MIA HRHP:  I’ll try anything twice.

Giuliana, MPA EPD:  Just came back from Rio de Janeiro and completely loved it! I’m passionate about meeting new people and experiencing new cultures (and yes, sometimes I talk too much). I like to run, also practice yoga and I am a frustrated poet, it is one of my passions.

"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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