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Practitioner Faculty Members at SIPA

The following blog entry was prepared by Sandhya Chari, an MPA student concentrating in Economic and Political Development.


When I reflect on what I’ve learned at SIPA, I find myself very appreciative of my opportunity to study under adjunct faculty. While the full time professors have been nothing short of excellent, I would never have anticipated the importance or impact of the practitioners in my academic career. Last year, I had the opportunity to take Tools for Advocacy, taught by two professors from George Soros’ foundation, OSI, and a course in Microenterprise Development taught by a professor who also works full time at Development Alternatives Inc. (DAI). This semester I also have the good fortune of taking a course in Microfinance with a professor who spends the majority of his time working at Oxfam.

For me, these courses have all provided that necessary real world touch that I wanted out of my policy education. Of course, I know the importance of economics, statistics and development theory and I enjoy those course as well, however these other classes have offered something uniquely different. They have provided opportunities for real world hands on learning, with more feedback for learning without the risks that come with the real world. Like most of my peers, I worked before coming back to SIPA, but one of the biggest reasons for my return to school was that I wanted a shift in my career. As such, a lot of what I hope to do after graduate school will be new for me. For this reason, it is great to ‘get my feet wet’ in an academic setting first.

For example, I had never before encountered a request for proposal or had the need to apply an advertising campaign to a policy issue. My classes taught by professionals currently in the field have given me the opportunity to do these things. They have presented me with work that is identical to what they deal with every day, and have allowed me to learn the basics of creating these things in an academic environment. Further, they have provided a great meeting point of academic theory and practice. The professors assign the readings that they know shape their work and then show how those readings are regularly applied in their professional environment. This makes the experience of doing the reading much more interesting as it shows direct use and application beyond classroom discussion.

In addition to these practical skills, working with practitioners has also allowed for an opportunity to meet with professionals in the fields I am interested in. Having sustained interaction in a non-professional setting with these professors has allowed me to catch a different glimpse into their work lives. It has allowed me also to seek their mentorship regarding career possibilities and to explore other areas that might be of interest to me based on their course or organization. In short, they serve as one stop resources where students are able to learn about their field of interest in setting that is academic and professional at the same time.

These classes have been invaluable to my time here at SIPA, in fact this summer I was able to directly use things I learned in my micro-enterprise course. I found my bosses referencing the authors we had read, and I found discussions at meetings focused around topics we studied in the classroom. I had never before experienced a melding of classroom and conference room in quite that way before. I’m really thankful that I have the chance here to work with faculty who are in the field I see myself working in some day.

Letters of Recommendation

Many applicants recently have asked about the “ideal” combination of recommendation letters.  There is no real ideal combination, it really depends on the applicant; however let me elaborate a bit on the subject.

Recommendation letters should come from one of two sources: academic or professional.  In other words, from individuals who have supervised you in the classroom or in the work place.  “Work place” is a broad term.  The work place could include internships, volunteer work, or paid full-time work.  Sometimes unpaid work is much more in alignment with an applicant’s goals and if you are choosing to do something and not get paid for it, this shows a great deal of dedication and commitment.

Since SIPA is a professional school it makes sense that we would like to see at least one professional letter of recommendation.  The only combination we really do not recommend is three academic letters of recommendation.  An applicant that submits three academic letters is basically telling us that there is no one from the professional world that can comment on their ability and qualifications for graduate school.

Beyond this advice, any combination will do.  If you have been out of school for several years, do not feel compelled to go back and get a letter of recommendation from a professor who did not really know you or that you have not been in contact with.  We would much rather receive letters from those that know you and that you have been in contact with in some capacity.  If you had fabulous relationships with a few professors two letters of recommendation from professors is fine.

It is really up to you.  When it comes down to it what we are really looking for is a letter than not only addresses your character, but that addresses you potential to succeed in our program.  This is best accomplished in examples.  When you talk with those writing letters for you, please tell them to include examples of your competence.  It is one thing to say that someone is smart and capable; it is another to provide solid examples of intelligence and ability in the work place or in the classroom.  Be sure that you speak with those writing letters on your behalf and clarify this point.

SIPA Professor Awarded Charles Merriam Award

We are pleased to announce that SIPA Professor Michael Doyle has won the 2009 American Political Science Association (APSA) Charles Merriam Award. This award recognizes “a person whose published work and career represent a significant contribution to the art of government through the application of social science research.”

md2221Professor Doyle is the Harold Brown Professor of United States Foreign and Security Policy at SIPA and holds joint appointments in the Columbia School of Law and the Political Science Department. His recent publications include Making War and Building Peace: United Nations Peace Operations, with Nicholas Sambanis (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2006) and Striking First: Preemption and Prevention in International Conflict (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2008).

Professor Doyle has appeared on this blog before when in January he was  appointed by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to a new term as Chair of the Advisory Board of the United Nations Democracy Fund (UNDEF).

Counterterrorism Specialist Austin Long to Join SIPA Faculty

Austin Long has been appointed Assistant Professor in the School of International and Public Affairs, where he will teach security policy. Long most recently worked as an associate political scientist for the RAND Corporation, serving in Iraq as an analyst and advisor to Multinational Force Iraq and the U.S. military. He also worked as a consultant to MIT Lincoln Laboratory on the technology and urban operations of counterinsurgency.

Professor Long authored the book, Deterrence – From Cold War to Long War. The following description comes from the RAND Corporation Web site:

Since its inception six decades ago, the RAND Corporation has been one of the key institutional homes for the study of deterrence. Never a well-loved concept in the United States, deterrence lost any luster it held after the Cold War. The 2002 U.S. national-security strategy proclaimed deterrence’s irrelevance for most future national-security challenges. However, the 2006 version of this strategy reversed this move, recognizing that deterrence will be as indispensable for the “long war” as it was for the Cold War. This book examines these six decades of research for lessons relevant to the current and future strategic environments.

Among its conclusions are that U.S. domestic politics inevitably requires some considerable reliance on deterrence and that deterrence remains relevant to most of the threats the United States is likely to face, from near-peer competitors to regional states of concern and even to many terrorist organizations. It also makes specific recommendations about policies and force structures the United States should pursue to maximize its deterrent capabilities.

New Book Offering by SIPA Professor Lincoln Mitchell

SIPA Professor of Practice Lincoln Mitchell has just published his new book Uncertain Democracy: U.S. Foreign Policy and Georgia’s Rose Revolution, the first scholarly examination of Georgia’s recent political past.

Professor Mitchell recounts the events that led to the overthrow of President Eduard Shevardnadze and analyzes the factors that contributed to the staying power of the elected government led by President Mikheil Saakashvili.

Information on the book can be found on the University of Pennsylvania Press site.

Mitchell also serves as Acting Director of the Arnold Saltzman Institute for War and Peace Studies.  Professor Mitchell’s SIPA profile can be found here.

"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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