Archive for quants

Program Assistant Introduction: Steven Reid MIA ’20

Steven Reid was born and raised in the Bronx, New York. He is a second-year Master of International Affairs student concentrating in International Finance and Economic Policy and specializing in Data Analytics and Quantitative Analysis. After graduating from Villanova University with a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science and Latin American Studies, he worked in government and higher education budgeting and finance in Boston, Massachusetts.

What has been the most challenging part of your SIPA experience?
The constant flow of activity and the time management. There is always something going around campus/assignments due/a speaker you want to see. It took some practice in the beginning of first semester before I got the hang of getting my work done, enjoying all there is to offer on campus and being social with my SIPA classmates. Another challenging aspect of SIPA has been understanding the need to say “no” sometimes. It is stressful and demanding to attend all the events you want to go to, do your assignments and be social, so sometimes its important to say no to certain things. Prioritize and take time for yourself.

What has been the best part of your SIPA experience?
Definitely the people. The demanding nature of SIPA brings people together very quickly. There is a lot of group work in SIPA so the connections you make are very important. I have met some of the coolest people in my life here, and I have gotten very close to them in only a year. The community here is a huge mental resource for me when I feel overwhelmed.

What surprised you most about SIPA after you arrived?
The speed of graduate school. Everything happens much faster than undergraduate. I had been out of school for 5 years before I came to SIPA, so the learning curve for graduate school was steep. Assignments are handed out quickly after class begins and the semester becomes a whirlwind of papers, memos, problem sets and other assignments. The months fly by. At the end of the semester, I was surprised at how much work I had done in three months.

How did you find the core curriculum at SIPA?
It’s intense. It is a lot of quant-heavy coursework. For the person who has not dealt with a lot of quant and economics courses before, it can be daunting. But the professors and TAs provide a lot of support.  I knew that quant and econ were going to take up a lot of my time the first semester, so I focused most on those two classes. I was lucky that my prior experience to SIPA dealt with a lot of math and econ, so I was already kind of comfortable with those topics.

What advice do you have for current applicants?
Don’t worry about trying to be the perfect student profile for SIPA. SIPA is very interested in individuals who have unique stories and histories. Just tell your story. Spend a lot of time on your application as well. SIPA wants to get to know who you are, so the more time you put into your application, the more detail you can give and the better picture SIPA has of you.

What was the most challenging aspect of the application process?
The GRE. I didn’t have the best GRE scores so I thought that I definitely was not getting accepted into SIPA, but lo and behold, I did. Test scores are just one part of the application, so do not worry too much if you didn’t do the best on them.

Did you have a lot of quantitative experience when you applied to SIPA? How did you perform in those classes?
I had taken economics courses during undergrad  so I had some understanding of what we were going to be studying. I had some level of comfort with quantitative subject matter having had worked in the budgeting and finance fields. Even with my experience, the classes were still tough. But I studied hard, asked for help from my professors and TAs and did fine in the quantitative courses.

Program Assistant Introduction: Nabila Hassan MPA ’20

Nabila Hassan was born and raised in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. She is a second-year MPA student concentrating in Economic and Political Development and specializing in Technology, Media and Communications. After graduating from the University of Edinburgh with a MA in History and Politics, Nabila worked in communications in Malaysia focusing on social impact, public sector client communications and digital communications.

What were you doing before you came to SIPA?
Before SIPA, I spent three years at McKinsey & Company in Malaysia with the integrated communications team in Southeast Asia and then Asia. During my time there, I had the opportunity to work on client projects with public sector and government-linked companies which re-energized my ambition to contribute to change both in Malaysia and in the region.

What attracted you to SIPA and Columbia University?
A former colleague attended SIPA a few years ago and encouraged me to apply. I dug deeper into SIPA’s curriculum, faculty and student profile and it quickly became my dream graduate school. Knowing that I would return to Southeast Asia, I wanted to attend a school with immense diversity – from its people and thinking to the breadth of classes and faculty expertise. SIPA also has a healthy balance of classes that teach practical skills, which is useful regardless of what industry you pursue after school. Location was most definitely a helpful deciding factor – there’s no other city like New York and the abundance of opportunities that exist here.

Did you choose to attend SIPA to change careers, or to gain experience in a career path you already had experience in?
I chose to attend SIPA to change careers or rather, to focus my career. My previous role was in communications and I would like to move towards a technology policy role which will both leverage my prior experience while at the same time be a shift towards a more specific policy career. So I guess it’s a little bit of both!

Do you feel like you have gotten to know some of the faculty members?
Yes! The faculty members that I have gotten to know at SIPA are incredible and extremely thoughtful! They have given me career and academic guidance and have proactively shared opportunities that fit my interest. As I completed my undergraduate degree in the UK, I wasn’t sure what to expect of the education system in the US. I find the approaches very different as the US takes a more hands-on approach to education, and there are efforts to link you into the broader college community.

What most surprised you about SIPA after you arrived?
How fast orientation ended and the first day of classes arrived! The first few weeks at SIPA was overwhelming because it took time to adjust to being a student again while at the same time juggling classes, add/drop period (this was not a thing in the UK!), attending socials and making friends. What surprised me the most are the incredible people here who constantly create an inclusive and welcoming environment.

Did you have a lot of quantitative experience when you applied to SIPA? Why not? How did you perform in those classes? 
I applied to SIPA with very limited quantitative experience that I struggled with writing the quantitative resume, primarily because I did not use those skills after high school. Studying for the GRE helped build that confidence and I also took a college-level online introduction to micro- and macroeconomics which helped me better prepare for those classes at SIPA. While I was initially apprehensive about any quantitative class, they have all turned out to be very valuable and it will most definitely be useful regardless of what job you wish to pursue post-SIPA. Strangely enough, Quantitative I was my favourite class last year, and I hope to take Quantitative Analysis II in the Spring.

"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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