Archive for SIPA Veterans Association

Applying to SIPA as a Veteran or Active Duty Service Member

The transition from military service to graduate school can be intimidating, and veterans may have many concerns including how to express their experience in the application, funding opportunities, and whether they will fit in at Columbia. As a veteran and current SIPA student, I can confidently say that Columbia University is an extremely welcoming community for veterans. Columbia University has a long history of supporting veterans (Dwight Eisenhower was President of Columbia from 1948-1953!), and Columbia currently has the largest student veteran population in the Ivy Leagues. Except for funding opportunities, all of this applies equally to both U.S. and international veterans.

Patrick Dees, MIA ’20, speaks to a student about the Columbia SIPA Veterans Association (CSVA).

Tell your story!

If you’re a veteran or active duty service member applying to SIPA, the most important thing is to tell your unique story in your essays. As a school of international affairs, SIPA values your experience in the military greatly. You have spent considerable time executing national security policy, and you’ve likely had a front row seat to interesting events that you may even find yourself studying in the classroom. Your military service also demonstrates a commitment to public service, and you’ve certainly had valuable leadership experience. All of these things strengthen your application, so make sure to include them in your essays in plain language.

I recommend asking a friend with no military experience to read your essay to ensure that you’ve removed or explained any military jargon. I used Service to School, a free service that pairs you with a mentor that has gained admission to a program similar to the ones you are considering, and I found it to be extremely helpful.

Apply for all funding opportunities

Columbia has numerous resources to help veterans fund their education. Columbia’s Office of Military and Veterans Affairs has an extensive website full of detailed information on funding opportunities. I highly recommend you review it. Almost all of the veteran-related funding opportunities are unfortunately only available to U.S. veterans or active duty service members.

The first step is to ensure that you apply for all GI Bill benefits for which you are eligible. If you are eligible for 100% of benefits under the Post 9/11 GI Bill, SIPA offers additional funding through the Yellow Ribbon program. You will receive an email when the Yellow Ribbon application opens, and SIPA makes every effort to fund every eligible candidate.

Second, you should apply for funding from Columbia University. If you submit your application by the fellowship deadline, SIPA will automatically consider you for scholarships. You will also have the opportunity to apply for assistantships at the end of your first year. Information on these and other internal funding opportunities can be found here.

Third, you should research outside funding opportunities. Columbia provides a list of the opportunities most applicable to veterans and service members here. One of the opportunities I applied for, and was honored to receive, is the Tillman Scholarship. Columbia University is a University Partner school, and there are several Tillman scholars currently at Columbia. The Tillman scholarship provides not only funding, but extensive professional development opportunities and access to an amazing community of veterans, spouses, and active duty service members.

Join veterans’ organizations at Columbia and SIPA

The most important thing at SIPA is to find your community. SIPA has a large and active veteran community led by the Columbia SIPA Veterans Association (CSVA). The CSVA is happy to assist prospective students, and they host several events to welcome new student veterans. Throughout the year, CSVA holds events and socials to build the veteran community. Last year, veterans had the opportunity to attend discussions with Lieutenant General Christopher Cavoli, the commander of U.S. Army Europe, and former National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster. CSVA also hosts one of SIPA’s most popular events, “Beer and War Stories,” in which student veterans and other guests share their experiences with fellow students and answer questions about the military in a casual, open discussion over beer and food.

Members of the Columbia SIPA Veterans Association meet with the Commander of U.S. Army Europe, Lieutenant General Christopher Cavoli

Opportunities after SIPA

While many assume that all veterans choose the International Security Policy concentration and pursue defense-related careers, veterans at SIPA have found their niches in a wide variety of fields. SIPA’s Office of Career Services can connect students with an alumni who volunteers as SIPA’s career coach for transitioning veterans. The U.S. Military Veterans of Columbia University (Milvets) is the undergraduate student veteran group, but their events are open to all veterans. They host numerous career panels and networking opportunities throughout the year. Whatever your interests are, SIPA will provide you with avenues to explore potential careers and take advantage of your valuable military experience.

Finding Community at SIPA

Thanks to a former Admissions program assistant and SIPA ’18 graduate for this post!

One of the reasons why I chose to attend SIPA was because I wanted to engage with and learn from the large and diverse student body. That being said, I was also concerned about getting lost in a larger program – my fears were quickly assuaged given that SIPA provides numerous opportunities to build community from Day 1.  Activities ranging from orientation week to organization fairs are abundant. Below is a list of some places that I found strong community.

Orientation Cohorts

Orientation week was a great way to meet fellow students was through my cohort (Seeples Group D!). Spending a week with a group of students, learning about SIPA, Columbia, and New York was both fun and allowed me to build a strong sense of community within my first several weeks on campus. My cohort still has reunions and some of my best friends at school were in that group!

Student Organizations

I was involved in a variety of student organizations at SIPA, which really added to my experience. It took me a semester to decide which ones I ultimately wanted to join. These groups range from SIPA Vets to Women in Leadership and are a fantastic way to not only learn about a wide array of topics but also provide extensive leadership opportunities. I also became involved in groups at both the Law and Business schools to gain a different perspective.

Regional Institutes

Columbia’s regional institutes are a tremendous asset to SIPA’s program. Ranging from the Weatherhead to the Harriman Institutes, these institutes are a fantastic place to find community both with fellow Seeples in addition to students from the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. The institutes provide a wide array of cultural activities throughout the year, book talks, discussion groups, and many other events and resources. They were a major part of my life and community throughout the past several years!

International Trips

I participated in multiple student-led international trips during my time at SIPA. They were the highlight of my time here, and there is nothing that builds community like wandering around ancient ruins or being stuck on a train for 15 hours straight with a group of fellow Seeples. The trips allow you to experience the best of what SIPA has to offer – learning about international relations, policies, and cultures. Try to take advantage of these experiences – you will come away with lifelong friends!

Columbia Community Service

There are a myriad of community service opportunities sponsored by the University. They are a fantastic way to serve with fellow students and faculty as well as get to know residents on the Upper West Side.

Yellow Ribbon Program opens May 3

SIPA is pleased to announce the availability of the Yellow Ribbon Program Scholarship for the 2019/20 academic year.

SIPA is committed to honoring those who have served our country by being one of seventeen schools at Columbia University participating in this program. Veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces play an integral part in the student life, academic endeavors, and intellectual accomplishments of the University — and especially at SIPA.

The application will be available here under “The Yellow Ribbon Program” on May 3 at 9am, Eastern Daylight Time. For more information, please email sipa_finaid@columbia.edu.

Pictured above is the Columbia SIPA Veterans Association at Admitted Students’ Day 2019. Learn more about CSVA here.

Learn more about Columbia University’s Veterans & Service Members options here.

November 11, 2014 Veterans Day

SIPA honors Veterans Day today! We have a number of military veterans in our student body and are proud to recognize their service today.

November 11th is a time to pause and thank our military veterans for the sacrifices they have made by serving our country in the defense of our freedom. I am proud to call myself a military veteran. I served my country for ten years and deployed twice to combat areas. My decision to separate from the military was for a myriad of reasons. It was the most difficult decision of my life, as I decided to leave a profession that I respected and brothers-in-arms whom were family. I decided to pursue an MPA at SIPA, in order to one day advise policy makers on security related topics. Like most of my fellow veterans, the transition to civilian life was extremely difficult. Fortunately for me, SIPA has an amazing veteran’s community in SIPAVets.

For any prospective applicants with a U.S. military background, we invite you to check out Columbia SIPA Veterans Association (CSVA)’s student organization page for information about the veteran community at SIPA.

Photo courtesy of the Columbia SIPA Veterans Association

Photo courtesy of the Columbia SIPA Veterans Association

These veteran students have become my new family. We are able to assist each other personally, academically, and professionally.

Personally, SIPAVets can advise new veterans on the on-campus and off-campus resources to best assist them with their needs; whether it be acquiring a basic housing allowance for NYC apartments, advising which is the best Veterans Affairs hospital for a particular ailment, to where to turn for certain Veteran educational benefits, organize a Tough Mudder team, or have that happy hour beer after a long week of studying. Academically, SIPAVets continue to have each other’s back. I’m not the best mathematically, but I always have a SIPAVet buddy make sure my econ or stats homework makes sense. Similarly, I would proofread their papers, since writing is more of a strength of mine. Professionally, the network of SIPAVets has been second to none. Former SIPAVets continually recruit other SIPAVets for full-time employment, as well as assist on workshops to make sure our military skills are captured on a civilian resume.

SIPAVets is an inclusive organization. We routinely hold forums for the general public to share our stories, as well as to educate the student body on veteran’s issues. The strength of the SIPA Veterans Organization was a main factor as to why I chose to attend Columbia. Any prospective students, who are currently active duty or are veterans, should feel free to call SIPA Admissions. There is always someone available who can assist them with questions about the admission procedures, as well as a Veteran on staff that can advise them on a myriad of Veterans issues; from active duty separation procedures to Veteran benefits processes. I want to end this blog by thanking my fellow veterans for their service. Happy Veterans Day to all!

Blog by Eric I. Medina, 2nd year SIPA student and U.S. military veteran

 

"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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