Archive for Program Assistant

Program Assistant Introduction: Dylan Hoey

Introducing our final new Program Assistant this semester, Dylan Hoey.

Dylan Hoey is a second-year MPA student concentrating in Urban and Social Policy and specializing in Technology, Media and Communications. In 2017, he graduated from Claremont McKenna College, where he earned a dual degree in Government and History. Prior to SIPA, Dylan worked for his Congresswoman and interned with refugee resettlement organizations in Chicago and Istanbul. He was recently awarded the U.S. State Department’s Thomas R. Pickering Fellowship, and after graduating will join the U.S. Foreign Service.

Dylan ultimately decided to attend SIPA because he valued Columbia’s commitment to diversity and SIPA’s strengths as a leading school for international affairs and urban studies. While at SIPA, Dylan has primarily taken classes on good governance and urban leadership in the hopes that he can one day assist developing nations in the fight against corruption.

What do you hope to gain from earning a Master’s degree from SIPA?

As an undergrad, I attended a liberal arts college that pushed its students to become critical thinkers and strong writers. Naturally, I majored in Government and History, and like many of my peers, I shied away from heavy quantitative coursework. Coming into SIPA, I wanted to take more practical government classes, to supplement my background in political philosophy and theory. I also decided that I wanted to push myself by taking more rigorous economics and management courses. I hope to leave SIPA with a deeper understanding of international politics and institutions while also gaining proficiency in Stata, GIS, and other programs that are commonly used in the world of government and policy.

What are some exciting things about your concentration?

As an Urban and Social Policy concentrator, my favorite thing about our concentration is the diversity. Most of us come from urban backgrounds and we love cities, as places of professional and academic interest and as social environments. Although we are a relatively small concentration, the community is tight-knit and we all know each other. Due to SIPA’s location, we also attract some of the world’s leaders in urban leadership and development. I’ve had the opportunity to take classes with a former Mayor of Philadelphia, New York State’s Secretary of Housing, and other world-renowned economists and researchers in urban governance. If you want to run for office, or work for local or federal government, USP is a great concentration to choose!

How did you find the core curriculum at SIPA?

Admittedly, I was intimidated by Columbia’s core curriculum. There was even a time I considered not applying, as I didn’t think I had the quantitative background to be successful at SIPA. That being said, I have really enjoyed my core classes and I think they equip students with the skills needed to be competitive, and ultimately successful, in government and public sector work. While macro and microeconomics were certainly difficult at times, there are two tracks offered; a lower division course that is more conceptual and a higher division for those who are comfortable with math. In retrospect, I can say that they filled gaps in my previous knowledge of world politics and economics. My management course provided me with a better understanding of how bureaucracies function, and how workers respond to incentives; however, it also made me think critically about my leadership style, and my potential strengths and weaknesses. Out of all the core classes, my favorite has been Politics of Policymaking, which is required for all MPA students; it was undoubtedly the most in-depth class I had ever taken on comparative institutions and policy creation. I enjoyed it so much I ended up taking another course with the professor the following semester and have since remained in touch!

What advice do you have for current applicants?

I recommend that students reflect on what they want in their career, and really consider if SIPA, or graduate school in general, is the experience they need to accomplish their professional and personal goals. I like to think of an application like a narrative that has led the applicant to a fork in the road; the sum of their academic, professional and personal experiences has led them to this moment and now graduate school is the next natural step in the journey. If you can think of your desire to attend SIPA in these terms, then you will likely have a strong application. Most importantly, you must be honest with yourself about what is best for you, and your reasons for applying.

What was the most challenging aspect of the application process?

Definitely the personal essays. Essentially, you have to condense everything – your desire to attend SIPA, the essence of the most transformative moments or experiences in your life, and your professional career – into a few essay and short prompt responses. That being said, going off of my earlier advice, I would encourage all applicants to really think about their own life and experiences as if you were a character in your own story. Perhaps even create a list of the moments or experience you feel most nostalgic about, even if they seem irrelevant or trivial. In doing so, you may discover what really motivates you and how specific experiences made you the person you are. You can weave these into your essays, in a way that humanizes you and makes you standout to the people reading your application.

What do you think makes a good SIPA student?

In my opinion, the best students at SIPA are the ones who have a genuine desire to learn and are interested in solving complex problems with the help of others. They value collaboration, diversity, breadth of opinion, and are rigorous in their studies. They also seek out opportunities to form relationships with other communities, and most likely have a strong sense of what is right, which informs their commitment to making the world a better place. While they may not know what they want to do, they know they want to be leaders in whatever field they end up in, because of their work ethic and their commitment to something outside of themselves.  Sometimes class isn’t fun; it’s the middle of the semester, it’s cold, you’re studying for midterms. But if you’re a naturally curious and dedicated person, the prospect of learning more, of becoming a more well-rounded individual; these things will ultimately sustain you.

Seeples Spotlight: Kier Joy

Everyone, we have a new work study joining us for the remainder of this fall semester. Please welcome Kier Joy! He is a first-year student at SIPA, studying economic and political development and international conflict resolution. He was raised a military brat, having lived all over the U.S. and in the UK. He graduated from the University of Georgia in 2017 with a dual bachelor degree in International Affairs and Political Science. During undergrad, Kier worked as the director of a state-level legislative research fellowship, applying his passion for policy and progressiveness to legislative issues. Also in undergrad, he studied abroad at the University College London and spent a summer in Washington D.C. as a Rangel Scholar. Kier is also a 2017 Charles B. Rangel International Affairs Fellowship recipient under the United States Department of State. Upon graduating from SIPA, Kier will join the Foreign Service as a Political Foreign Service Officer.

What were you doing before you came to SIPA?
Before SIPA, I was in undergrad at the University of Georgia. Though I was studying rigorously, I made sure to also gain as much professional experience as possible. After studying abroad in London the summer before my junior year, I was accepted into a state-level legislative research fellowship. In this position, I met with dozens of NGOs in Northeast Georgia to learn how to create, study, and advocate for progressive policy changes in the Georgia State Legislature. Through this opportunity, I worked as legislative aide under a state representative. After being in the fellowship for a year, I was promoted to director and had the chance to lead my own team in policy research. In November of my senior year, I was selected as a 2017 Charles B. Rangel International Affairs Fellow. As part of the Rangel Fellowship, I worked on Capitol Hill as a foreign policy fellow for the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs, Western Hemisphere Subcommittee. From there, I came to SIPA.

What attracted you to SIPA and Columbia University?
Two things really attracted me to SIPA and Columbia University: the large international student body and professor faculty. First, I wanted to attend a diverse grad school, not only in domestic populations but also international. As I am to join the Foreign Service after graduating, I wanted to be in a place where I was confronted by many different perspectives on global and regional issues to mimic the experiences I’ll have around the world as a diplomat. Second, Columbia University has some of the most renowned professors and practitioners in international affairs. To be able to learn from their research and experiences is such an invaluable honor that I couldn’t afford to miss out on.

SIPA features lots of events for students to attend. Is there any interesting presentation that you have attended that you could comment upon?
I attended a discussion on white nationalism in the past, present, and future. The discussion was lead by professors from schools all over campus – from SIPA to the School of Journalism to the Department of Sociology. It was incredibly interesting to hear from these scholars on where they believe this current uptick in white nationalism is coming from and where it is headed. Also, I’m glad that Columbia has opportunities to discuss current events with faculty.

What advice do you have for current applicants?
I think nailing a great statement of interest is incredibly important for the application. Given the concise nature of the essay, an applicant must be able to explain three things in very little words: their passion, their interest in Columbia, and why they believe a graduate degree from Columbia can aid them in their career. This can be very difficult. So I recommend starting the statement of interest very early. I started mine 4 months before the application deadline and had many professors and professionals review it. Then I also conducted a lot of research on SIPA, the MIA program, and the faculty so I could express what specifically in SIPA could aid me in my career. But overall, give yourself time to work on the statement. It’s incredibly important.

Did you have a lot of quantitative experience when you applied to SIPA? Why or why not? How did you perform in those classes?
I had taken 5 quantitative classes in undergrad before SIPA: political economy, microeconomics, macroeconomics, research design and quantitative analysis, and algebra. The only requirements for my undergrad degrees were algebra and macroeconomics. But through a summer program with the State Department, I took political economy. When I was looking into grad schools though and saw that they wanted a higher level of quantitative experience, I made sure to take microeconomics and research design and quantitative analysis. I performed well in all of the classes, though it did take quite a lot of work since I’m not math-minded whatsoever.

What advice would you give a first-year student?
Many of the core courses have recitation sessions you must attend. A recitation session is an additional “class” you must attend to discuss the topic of the week in the lecture core course. This can add an additional 2 hours per recitation course to your weekly school schedule. Because of this, it’s imperative that you can manage your time well. I suggest getting a planner and filling it out at the beginning of the semester of all the class times, tests, homework, and recitations. This has helped me to visualize how much time I have available to work (and play) outside of class.

Seeples Spotlight: Nick Calbos

And finally, our fourth new PA for this semester is Nick Calbos. He is studying Energy and Environment/International Security Policy. After commissioning as an Infantry Officer in the United States Army, Nick was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment, leading soldiers in a variety of challenging assignments on the Korean Peninsula. From 2012-2013 he was deployed to Afghanistan as a combat advisor to an Afghan National Army infantry battalion in Kandahar province. Following his service in the military, Nick participated in a specialized internship at Goldman Sachs, working primarily in sales and trading. He earned his undergraduate degree at the United States Military Academy at West Point, graduating in 2009.

What attracted you to SIPA and Columbia University?
I first visited Columbia while I was completing my undergraduate degree at West Point. The vibrant academic community in the heart of New York City was a stark change from the cloistered military environment in the Hudson River Valley. I always had in the back of my mind that I might one day be lucky enough to attend Columbia for graduate school. Fast forward several years, and I was completing an internship in New York, a few months from leaving the Army. I came back to the campus for a visit and was not only struck with the same feeling I had years prior, but discovered the uniquely international student body at SIPA. As a “third culture kid” I knew that it was the right fit for me.

What experiences do you think prepared you to attend SIPA?
The academic rigor of SIPA is not to be taken lightly. Certainly the rigors of my undergraduate and the Army helped prepare me for SIPA. Additionally, growing up overseas and attending international schools gave me the right perspective to appreciate the varied backgrounds of the student body which makes our school so special.

What has been the best part of your SIPA experience?
I remember a specific day my first year at SIPA in which I started the day by listening to a world renowned economist lecture, followed by a lively academic debate on the future of the energy industry in one of my smaller seminar classes, and then ended the day telling the best stories from summers around the world with some of my SIPA classmates. I remember walking home along Morningside Park, looking out across one of the greatest cities in the world, and feeling like my time at SIPA was set to be an amazing experience.

Can you comment on the quantitative rigor in the curriculum?

I attended a school for my undergrad that was traditionally an engineering school. Needless to say, there was quite a bit of quantitatively heavy courses involved. SIPA is as much, or more quantitatively focused. To be honest, it is not enjoyable if you are not quantitatively inclined. However I feel as though it is necessary to give SIPA graduates the reputation for technical skill that is so desirable in the work force.

What’s your internship experience been like?
I interned this summer at Moody’s Investors Service here in New York. It was exhilarating to be at the cross roads of International Affairs and Finance, and to see the workings of a critical piece of the global capital markets.

How did you obtain your internship?
I went through the traditional channels at the SIPA Office of Career Services. I have found that if utilized effectively, OCS is a fantastic resource, with dedicated professionals who are committed to finding you employment and furthering the SIPA reputation in the work force. I think it also helped that Moody’s is FILLED with SIPA graduates, further affirmation of the quality and desirability of SIPA grads.

Photo Courtesy of Nick Calbos

Seeples Spotlight: Erin Lue-Hing

Today, please welcome Erin Lue-Hing. She is a 2nd-year MPA student concentrating in Urban and Social Policy and specializing in the US Region. Her background comprises law, health policy, social policy, advocacy for under-served communities and government administration.  Prior to SIPA, Erin worked as a Data Analyst and Project Manager for the New Jersey Homeless Management Information System under the Department of Community Affairs. She graduated from Brandeis University with a Bachelor of Arts in Health Policy and a minor in Legal Studies as a Martin Luther King, Jr. Scholar. She was elected and served as the Future Leader for the Jamaica Diaspora Advisory Board, Northeast USA from 2014-2017, and was the 2017 recipient of the Jamaica Governor-General Award for Achievement. 

 

What attracted you to SIPA and Columbia University?

After working in state government for several years, I became fascinated with the role of leaders and decision-makers at the state and local level, and wanted to learn more about what went into the decision-making process for policy-making. I wanted to understand how leaders were able to help communities, what best practices were, and how to economically develop urban and other communities. Having also served as a leader in the Jamaican-American community, I felt that incorporating an international perspective into my leadership was crucial within an ever-globalizing world. SIPA was a natural fit for me and has given me invaluable exposure on how to be a leader in a domestic and global context.

 

What experiences do you think prepared you to attend SIPA?

Being in the policy world prior to SIPA and seeing how things actually happen behind-the-scenes was extremely useful for understanding all of my SIPA courses thus far. Having to multi-task as a leader also helped me to manage SIPA’s rigorous courseload.

 

What has been the best part of your SIPA experience?

The best part of my SIPA experience has been the friends that I have made and the connections to leaders in the local and international community. Meeting former UN Secretary Ban Ki-Moon was incredible! Going to a school that is situated in one of the greatest cities in the world has opened up so many opportunities and allowed me the chance to enrich a very lively community.

 

What has been the most challenging part of your SIPA experience?

 Getting used to student life once again after working for several years. SIPA also comprises a lot of group work in addition to lectures, so I had to plan my time very carefully to ensure success.

 

What kind of work do you hope to do when you graduate?

 I hope to work in both local and eventually federal government leadership to effect change in our neediest communities through sound policy- and decision-making. Having competent leadership can make a huge difference for so many citizens.

 

Seeples Spotlight: Mark Jamias

Next, please welcome Mark Jamias! He is studying Economic and Political Development with a specialization in International Conflict Resolution (ICR). As a five-year student between Columbia College and SIPA, Mark will be graduating in May 2018. Before SIPA, Mark worked at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations during the annual sessions of the UN General Assembly. Prior to that, he also worked for a major U.S. airline, and most recently gained experience in the maritime shipping industry.

What were you doing before you came to SIPA?

Before SIPA, I was an undergraduate at Columbia College, majoring in Political Science. During my junior and senior years, I was working at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations for the duration of the annual sessions of the United Nations General Assembly. I briefly interned with NYC Councilwoman Helen Rosenthal, and I spent my summers working for a major U.S. airline at JFK International Airport.

 

What attracted you to SIPA and Columbia University?

The Five-Year program was one of my primary motivations when I applied to Columbia. The scope of schools to which I was applying was fairly small, and one of my high school teachers encouraged me to apply to Columbia. I read about this opportunity for undergraduates to pursue graduate study during their four years, finishing their Master’s degree after five years. Furthermore, I knew New York would be brimming full of opportunities, whether cultural, professional, or just pure fun, all of which would teach me a lot about how the world works. Like many current Columbia students, however, I didn’t think I would get in; by chance and luck, I arrived on campus in August 2013.

 

How did you find the core curriculum at SIPA?

Love Core! The Core Curriculum is a quintessential part of the Columbia experience. This school invented Core. Every school within the university has some derivative of the Core. These aren’t gen-ed classes that you choose off a list to fulfill a requisite. The Core classes are specific classes almost everyone in a program takes. You know that every Master of International Affairs student watched the lively debates of a Conceptual Foundations lecture, and every Master of Public Administration sat through Politics of Policymaking. I was by no means an advocate of the Core when I came to Columbia; I didn’t even know I had a set of courses I had to take. After four, going on five, years of this place, I’ve come to appreciate the Core, a fundamental and time-honored academic tradition that links each and every SIPA student.

 

Do you feel like you have gotten to know some of the faculty members?

For sure! In fact, I used to run into many faculty members while working at the UN! I’d catch Professor Jean Krasno sitting in a lobby or coffee shop chatting about the prospects of a female Secretary-General. My former colleague from the U.S. Mission, Walter Miller, was recently here leading SIPA students on their Capstone Projects on Peacebuilding in the Middle East. I’ve also had the pleasure of learning from Prof. Edward Luck and Richard Gowan, both of who are esteemed practitioners in the field of Conflict Resolution and Mediation. I’ll be reading an article and their names would suddenly pop-up, likely speaking from their offices right upstairs in IAB.

 

SIPA features lots of events for students to attend. Is there any interesting presentation that you have attended that you could comment upon?

The World Leaders Forum is an amazing opportunity to hear and learn from international heads of state in town for the annual UN General Assembly. I make it a point to attend at least one speech in each year’s series.

 

Have you taken classes at other Columbia Schools?

Something I highly encourage students to do is to take courses outside SIPA. While SIPA has tremendous resources, taking advantage of the Columbia University community at-large ensures getting the most out of one’s two years on-campus. My first class at SIPA was a joint SIPA-Columbia Law School class. Taking classes outside of SIPA allows students to gain new insights and perspectives from peers with different understandings, priorities, and concerns; our shared challenge is to find the best common solution.

 

What advice do you have for current applicants?

When writing your application materials, tell us a story. We know what you did, where you worked, and what you studied; tell us why you did the amazing things you accomplished. What drove you? What did you learn? Where did you fail? Don’t leave out the good and the bad bits. Last, tell us how you’re going to use your future SIPA education. What do you hope to do? What do you hope to not do? Will you use your newfound superpowers for good or for evil? Each and every person at SIPA has a story; share yours with us.

"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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