Archive for student activity

Spring Break: SIPA Style

When we were in college, spring break meant lying on the beach drink in hand (Cancun or Acapulco was often the destination of choice), reading Vogue (GQ for the guys out there) and delightfully indulgent tabloids, and working on bronzing your Vitamin D deficient skin.

Now that we’re in graduate school at SIPA, things are slightly different. We have traded in those carefree beach days for capstone work trips. That’s right folks, many of us are heading into the field over the next week to work on our semester-long projects in places like Honduras, Tanzania, Jordan, Kosovo and India.

Many of you may think we would be despondent over this change. No more drinks with tiny umbrellas in a beautiful locale? But truthfully, these capstone trips are far better than any spring break of our undergraduate days. The fulfilling work we do overseas furthers our understanding of international affairs and development, and many of the trips have a sightseeing component as well (The Tanzania kids are off to Zanzibar– and we think that’s very cool).

Many SIPA students not traveling for their capstone project over spring break are still taking advantage of the school’s extracurricular options. The Japanese Student Association is hosting a trip to Tokyo, and the Arab Student Association is organizing a Moroccan adventure that includes stops in Casablanca, Rabat, Marrakech, and Tangier.

And of course, though they are few and far between, there are those among us that are opting for Cancun.


It’s back… TEDxColumbiaSIPA

TEDx was created in the spirit of TED’s mission, “ideas worth spreading.” The program is designed to give communities, organizations and individuals the opportunity to stimulate dialogue through TED-like experiences at the local level. TEDxColumbiaSIPA is a locally-organized, student-led event designed to spark authentic, impassioned, and open-minded dialogue in our community.  It is organized by students from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA).

Last year SIPA put together its first TEDx to stimulate dialogue around the common mission most dear to SIPA:  how to make a difference around the world.  The 2013 theme centered on “A Better World”; this year’s theme is: Think Smaller.

Instead of focusing on the big picture, we want to celebrate the small: individual success stories, micro-enterprises, local neighborhoods that we are a part of and the worlds we cannot see with the naked eye.

TEDxColumbiaSIPA 2014 is taking place on Thursday, May 8 at Miller Theater.  For more information about the upcoming event (which is still in the planning stages) and about ticket sales, click here.


SIPA Case Competition

The following entry was composed by Sandhya Chari, a second year MPA student concentrating in Economic and Political Development.


This year, I had the chance to participate in something unique at SIPA – the Public Policy Case Competition. This event was modeled after traditional business case competitions, wherein student teams are given a case in the morning, and required to present a strategic analysis of it in the afternoon.  There were two cases – one for public sector and one for international development. I was on a team for international development.

SIPA is the first school to present a competition like this one. It gives students a chance to work in a fast paced environment on real domestic and international policy issues. It also allows us to show our unique skill set, at the intersection of strategic consulting mentality, and policy knowledge. In addition, it gives judges from the world of development consulting a chance to network with each other, as well as meet students hoping to eventually work in their field.

In order to participate, we had to submit applications in the fall. The applications asked us about our consulting experience, and asked us to analyze a hypothetical case. After the selection process, we were assigned to teams. Teams were made up of three people with complementary professional experiences. This ensured that on the day of the competition, we would each be able to contribute a unique skill set.

On the day of the competition, we arrived at 8am to receive our cases. After this, we spent 5 hours pouring over the case and coming up with strategic solutions. By 1pm, we were required to submit a power point presentation of our analysis. Needless to say, this was an intense 5 hours. Each minute was utilized in analysis and discussion. After agreeing on a particular approach, we went to building the power point. At 1:15 the presentations started in random order. Each team got up and spent 15 minutes presenting, and 10 minutes answering questions.

Although our team didn’t win, I know that we all came out of the competition feeling like we had gained a lot. Moreover, it confirms why SIPA is so unique. With our diverse experiences, and skill sets, we are able to come together to tackle a common objective. It was also a great way to see the way our academic learning here will translate into real world projects in the future.

The following Web site contains additional details:

"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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