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Podcast Recommendations by Concentration

As a SIPA student, your time is probably preoccupied with group meetings, scheduling group meetings, studying, rescheduling that group meeting because it coincides with that other group meeting, and reading for classes. This in itself is very time consuming, but like any curious-minded individual, you still want to make room for additional learning. It is common practice for professors to discuss current events and relate it to coursework material and it’s important to stay up-to-date. 

Below is a list of podcast recommendations by concentration; feel free to share your own in the comments below.

International Finance and Economic Policy (IFEP)

Recommendations: Planet Money from NPR and Bloomberg Benchmark by Bloomberg. 

Why: Planet Money does a really fantastic job of explaining current economic events in a very accessible and entertaining way. Case in point: this episode on the Argentinian debt crisis, “A Hedge Fund, A Country, And A Big Sailboat.” Definitely worth listening to, even if you have no background in finance or economics.

Urban and Social Policy (USP)

Recommendations: Justice in America”  by Josie Duffy Rice and Clint Smith, and “Stay Tuned with Preet”, by Preet Bharara.

Why: Admittedly, both podcasts are very U.S.-centered but given the current political climate in America, there is something noteworthy to discuss every day. Preet Bharara is the Former United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York and was fired from his post earlier this year (that is reason enough to listen in itself). Preet uses his career and background to provide insight into events, and frankly, its hard to keep up. For example, this episode on the testimony by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and Brett Kavanaugh which was recorded on Thursday, prior to Jeff Flake’s announcement on Friday that he would only support Kavanaugh’s confirmation following an FBI investigation. And for those international students who are having a hard time keeping track of all these developments — honestly, we are too.

Human Rights & Humanitarian Policy

Recommendations: Declarations: The Human Rights Podcast by Cambridge Centre of Governance and Human Rights. And “Ending Human Trafficking” by Sandra Morgan & Dave Stachowiak. 

Why: Both podcasts do a really great job of covering various human rights issues in a thought provoking way. Declarations is recorded at the Cambridge Centre of Governance and Human Rights and is equal parts academic and practical. “Ending Human Trafficking” is more narrow in it’s focus but is remarkably in depth, for example, this episode, “How to Champion Advocacy in Government”, which discusses how electing more women to government is essential for crafting policy to eliminate human trafficking.

Energy and Environment

Recommendations:  The Energy Transition Show by Chris Nelder and Columbia Energy Exchange by Professor Jason Bordoff

Why: The first podcast was recommended by current and former SIPA Energy and Environment concentrators. Chris Nelder discusses global challenges in energy  and depending on the episode, they are fairly easy to understand if you have no background or knowledge in Energy. The podcast conveniently ranks episodes on a “Geek rating”, with a scale of 10 being suitable to individuals with highly specialized and technical knowledge in Energy (aka EE SIPA Students). The only downfall is that the podcast isn’t free, but I’ve been told that the quality of the content is good and well worth the subscription if you can afford it, or are are willing to forego one Halal cart meal per month. The second podcast is co-hosted by Professor Jason Bordoff (also founder of the Center on Global Energy Policy).

International Security Policy (ISP)

Recommendations: War on The Rocks by Ryan Evans and Lawfare by the Lawfare Institute

Why: Both podcasts were recommended by a former ISP student, and given my very limited knowledge of the topic, I will let this direct quote – which was definitely not sent via text – speak for itself “…they have journalists and people working in the defense and intelligence communities discussing the most pressing national security issues of the day.”

Economic and Political Development (EPD)

Recommendations: Pod Save the World by Crooked Media and Global Dispatches by Mark Goldberg (editor of the UN blog UN Dispatch) 

Why: If you are an EPD concentrator and not yet listening to Pod Save the World, what are you even doing?! The co-host, Tommy Vietor, hails from the Obama Administration, where he worked for President Obama’s National Security Council. Again, somewhat U.S.-centered –I am starting to see a theme here — but it does a great job of discussing foreign policy and the impressive guest list alone is reason enough to listen. Episodes are weekly and cover anything from Syria, to the politics of the World Cup.

Notable mentions that didn’t quite fit into any category:

99% invisible: if you enjoy learning a great deal of incredibly specific information on the most esoteric topics as much as I do, then this podcast is for you! For example, did you know that nearly every statue in New York is modeled after Audrey Munson, an early 1900’s model who went on to live a very eccentric life in upstate New York? Have you ever looked at a straw and wondered about its tragic ties to contemporary capitalism? Well, if you have, you needn’t worry much longer! 99% invisible has you covered with this episode on the history of the straw. To be fair, the podcast is predominantly focused on design, architecture, and the history of things we wouldn’t ordinarily think about (hence the name 99% invisible). Either way, you’d be surprised at just how fascinating the history of the ballpoint is. Fun fact: the Bic pen accounts for the largest percentage of ballpoint pens currently on the market (this is a great conversation starter at SIPA parties, btw — you are welcome!).

Tips for Writing Your Personal Essays; Time to Find Your ‘Cornerstone’

As fans of HBO may know, Westworld has been one of the channel’s breakout shows in recent years, a brilliant, if not at times frustrating, mix of sci-fi and Wild West melodrama. The show takes place in the not too distant future, where humans have created robots that are practically indistinguishable from their creators. These robots are housed in a series of enormous, historically themed amusement parks that function as places of leisure and adventure for human guests. One of the more interesting concepts presented in the show is the idea of a ‘cornerstone’; in order to create believable backstories and personalities for the robots, human programmers imparted each AI with individualized memories, memories in which their whole character, and being, are derived from.

How does this relate to the SIPA application? Well, bear with me now. When I first began applying to SIPA, I spent many hours thinking about what to write, and more importantly, which parts of my personal experiences were relevant and worth including. Sometimes I felt like it was best to start with my early childhood in rural New England, growing up traveling between small communities, an experience that first sparked my love for country and our nation’s natural beauty. Other times I felt like I should begin with my incredibly diverse high school in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where I first realized I loved learning about other cultures and identities. When anxious about writing something too ambitious and personal, I decided to talk about my time working for refugee resettlement organizations in Chicago and Istanbul, and how these professional experiences informed my interest in diplomacy and human rights.

After many days of brainstorming and reflecting on what truly motivated me, I knew I had to get at the root of these experiences, and what binds them together. Personally, my thoughts always returned to my mother, who often raised me on her own. Similarly, all of my thoughts were colored with a deep sense of pride in my community and a belief that I must work to represent disadvantaged peoples in everything that I do. Using these two qualifiers, I was able to strip away the extraneous parts of my narrative that sounded good on paper, but weren’t essential to my own story. In doing so, I was able to clearly articulate why I wanted to attend SIPA, and what had driven me to become a U.S. diplomat; that is, a real desire to represent all Midwestern people, and to share our culture and story with communities abroad, through relationships predicated on mutual respect and understanding.

If you are interested in SIPA, you have already demonstrated a baseline desire to improve yourself and to accomplish whatever personal or professional goals you have set for yourself. Therefore, when thinking about how to write your personal essays, I suggest that you also engage in a similar exercise of self-reflection, in an attempt to find your own ‘cornerstone’. By boiling it all down, you will be able to more clearly state your interest in attending SIPA, and your motivations for applying. It will also allow you to parse through your experiences, and similarly decide which ones are essential for telling the story that will give admissions officers an idea of who you are.

Start by writing down the experiences that come to mind when you think about why you’ve chosen to apply to SIPA, or what inspired you to undertake the career path you are on now. Rely on your intuition, and include things that you feel are important, even if they may not make sense to someone else, or seem appropriate to write about on your application. Once you’ve given it enough thought, go back through what you’ve written and begin thinking about what underlying ideas, principles, or experiences connect these seemingly disparate thoughts. Hopefully, you will arrive at an understanding of what truly motivates you, while also narrowing down the experiences you want to draw on while demonstrating your preparedness for SIPA. While difficult, I suspect that the clarity gained from this exercise will make writing your essays much easier and may perhaps serve you well in your own day-to-day life!

A View from the Class: Sinan Zeino

In December’s issue, we feature current SIPA student, Sinan Zeino MIA ’19. A first year Master of International Affairs candidate, Sinan is concentrating in Human Rights with a specialization in International Conflict Resolution. He is SIPA’s James Luikart 70th Anniversary Fellow and a Columbia Displaced Persons Scholar. Launched this year by Columbia University, the Columbia Displaced Persons program provides individuals who have been displaced as a result of the Syrian civil war with access to the transformative power of a Columbia education.

Sinan ZeinoWhat were the circumstances that brought you to SIPA?
In 2013, I was only six credits away from completing an undergraduate degree in English literature from Al-Baath University in Homs, Syria, when I was forced to leave Syria because of the ongoing civil war. Fortunately, I secured a scholarship to attend Salve Regina University in Newport, Rhode Island, graduating in 2016 with a bachelor’s degree in social work. After finishing my undergraduate degree, I decided to continue my studies and gain more practical experience to more effectively develop the skills needed to gain comprehensive insight into refugee emergencies and then develop and communicate the solutions and strategies to support those in crisis.

Why did you choose to attend SIPA?
I believe that the best learning experience comes from combining both the practical and the theoretical. SIPA offers unique opportunities to do just that. Besides offering a wide range of classes, SIPA’s summer internships and workshops will provide me with the opportunity to work alongside professionals engaged in extensive research of the most relevant socio-economic concerns related to the Middle East, and in particular, to the refugee crisis in my home country.

As a Syrian refugee who has fled war and persecution, I know firsthand that there are thousands of Syrian people in a similar position, waiting for actions to end the violation of human rights that are affecting them and their loved ones daily. Studying Human Rights and International Conflict Resolution will allow me to study, research, and gain hands on experience so that I can develop the skills needed to provide sustainable support to refugees and help alleviate the ongoing crisis in areas that are becoming negatively impacted.

What has been your experience at SIPA so far? 
Moving to a new place and settling into a new environment is a difficult adjustment for anyone, but SIPA does a great job of making that transition as easy as possible. The different events on and off campus, the social events where I have met new people and friends, and the wide range of classes have made my experience rich but easy at the same time.

Additionally, there are many faculty and staff members who are significantly changing my life at Columbia. As I came to Columbia under different and difficult circumstances and as I had many questions regarding the application process, Grace Han, the Executive Director of SIPA’s Office of Admissions and Financial Aid, has showed me tremendous support and help. She is a wonderful human being, and I am so lucky to have her support through my journey at Columbia.

Is there anything about SIPA that has surprised you or has been unexpected?
It is very surprising and interesting to see how many students from different countries are represented at SIPA. I never thought I would be in a place where students from all around the world meet and learn. It is very inspiring for me. SIPA does a wonderful job of bringing the whole world together, in one way or another. Even though I have only been here for one semester, my SIPA experiences have already taught me so much about the importance of diversity in our world and how each person has so much to offer regardless of the differences that they may have.

Is there anything else that you’d like to add? 
I feel very privileged and honored to be studying at SIPA and Columbia University. The fellowship and scholarship that I have received are life changing, enabling this opportunity and helping to make it possible for my dreams to become reality.

A View From the Class: Diego Llosa Velasquez and Katarina Mayers

In November’s issue, we are featuring recent SIPA alum, Diego Llosa Velasquez, MIA ’17, and current student, Katarina Mayers, MPA ’18. Here, both discuss why they chose their particular areas of study, internship and capstone experiences, and the importance of fellowship.

Diego Llosa Velasquez, MIA ’17, International Finance and Economic Policy concentration, Advanced Policy and Economic Analysis specialization

Diego Llosa VelasquezWhy did you choose SIPA?
I chose SIPA because it balances rigorous quantitative analytical skills with practical and leadership skills. Moreover, I was looking for a school that promotes evidence-based policy making and a wide variety of classes on subjects including international economics and trade, which are my major fields of interest. Before applying to SIPA, I researched the top international affairs schools throughout the world, and SIPA was among the best schools.

Why did you choose your particular areas of study?
Before attending SIPA, I worked for the Ministry of Foreign Trade and Tourism in Peru. While there, I learned about international affairs and specifically about international economic organizations. I decided to go to graduate school to deepen my knowledge of the theory of international affairs, and I wanted a program that included classes on economics and quantitative analysis. Fortunately for me, SIPA’s core curriculum and policy concentration and specialization options offered everything I wanted in a program.

How would you describe your SIPA experience? 
My experience at SIPA was incredible. These were two years full of challenging and unforgettable experiences. It is hard to summarize all of the things that made this experience unique, but I would highlight the following: my capstone project in Peru, my trip as part of a SIPA Israel delegation, an internship experience with the United Nations in Thailand, my participation on the board of the Latin American Students Association, working as a teaching assistant and as a departmental research assistant, and meeting committed professors and students.

Was there anything that surprised you about your SIPA experience?
I was surprised by the diversity of the faculty and students, as well as their dedication and commitment to raising awareness and sharing knowledge and experience about issues that mattered most to them. I learned a lot, not only in classes, but also from my peers. They made me pay attention to and learn about issues which weren’t part of my studies but nevertheless present important challenges to the sustainable development of our societies.

What have you been doing since graduating from SIPA in May 2017?
I returned home to Peru in June 2017. After spending time with my family and friends in my hometown of Arequipa, I moved back to Lima to begin my job search. I received some very good job offers, but in the end, decided to return to the organization where I worked before attending SIPA: the Peruvian Ministry of Foreign Trade and Tourism. Since mid-August, I have been working as coordinator on international cooperation for the Vice Ministry of Trade. My responsibilities are two-fold. I am in charge of the negotiation, implementation, administration, and surveillance of the cooperation chapters in Peru’s trade agreements. I also work with donors in order to implement cooperation projects that have a real impact in the development of foreign trade in the country.

In what direction do you see your career moving?
I would like to move my career in the direction of assuming more responsibilities in the Peruvian public administration and exert a leadership role in the development of foreign trade in the country or in an international organization.  Also, I would like to teach. My previous experience as a teacher in Peru and my experiences as a departmental research assistant and a teaching assistant at SIPA made me realize that I enjoy explaining theory and putting that theory into context through practical exercises. Through teaching, I would be able to share my knowledge and experience.


Katarina Mayers, MPA ’18, Urban and Social Policy concentration, Management specialization

Katarina MayersWhat brought you to SIPA?
A love of public policy brought me to SIPA. Prior to attending SIPA, I served in the Obama Administration for three years, first in the White House Communications Office, and then, at the U.S. Department of Commerce. As the Department’s Deputy Press Secretary, I oversaw the communications strategy for Deputy Secretary Bruce Andrews and the Department’s 12 bureaus. I also had the opportunity to lead press logistics for Vice President Joe Biden. Before moving to Washington, DC, I lived in Santiago, Chile for a year of service as a Rotary Foundation Ambassadorial Scholar. I worked with local Rotary clubs to initiate service projects, gave speeches in Spanish about U.S.-Chile relations, and earned an academic certificate in Contemporary Latin America.

Why did you choose Urban and Social Policy as your concentration? 
I chose to concentrate in Urban and Social Policy (USP) to learn more about governance, navigating institutions and bureaucracy, and how to make the most effective change. I love the energy and passion of USP professors and practitioners. As someone who is returning to public service after graduation, I thrive on learning directly from those who previously served or currently serve others (former Mayor of Philadelphia Michael Nutter and New York City Commissioner of Media and Entertainment Julie Menin, to name a few). I’m also a person of practicality, so having New York City as a living case study of what we learn in class is very exciting.

Outside of class, how has your SIPA experience affected you?
Serving as the President of the SIPA Student Association (SIPASA), I have had the unique opportunity to meet and work with many students outside of class time or group work. Ultimately, my greatest joy has been learning from my peers and making so many new friends who continue to challenge and inspire me. I love SIPA because of its students and the community we have cultivated. While I am from Los Angeles and chose to attend graduate school in New York City, I do not think I will ever have another opportunity like these two years to be surrounded by and learn from such diverse perspectives, cultures, and minds.

Is there a particular SIPA experience that stands out? 
I took Mayor Nutter’s class during my first semester. While I enjoyed class time, I also learned that he is an empathetic individual who cares deeply about his students and how they do in their professional and personal lives. Mayor Nutter has become a true mentor, and he has shaped my SIPA experience for the better.

What are you looking forward to in your second year?
I’m looking forward to my capstone project next semester and working with the Los Angeles Mayor’s Office Innovation Team. I will not only have the opportunity to apply what I’ve learned in the classroom but also to serve my hometown!

What are your plans after SIPA?
I plan on returning to public service on the local level. I hope to represent my community and encourage other young women of color to step up and serve.

A View From the Class: Yulia Belyakova and Nadia Ramirez

The SIPA Office of Alumni and Development is pleased to share another installment of A View from the Class, a SIPA stories series, featuring current SIPA students, recently graduated alumni, and SIPA faculty.

In this month’s issue, we feature current SIPA students, Yulia Belyakova MPA ’18, and Nadia Ramirez MPA ’18. Here, both discuss why they chose their particular areas of study, internship and capstone experiences, and the importance of fellowship.

Yulia Belyakova, MPA ’18, Economic and Political Development concentration, Advanced Policy and Economic Analysis specializationYulia Belyakova

What did you do before attending SIPA?
Originally from Moscow, Russia, I studied Economics and French at Bryn Mawr College in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania. During my undergraduate career, I held internships in the Indian equivalent of the Silicon Valley and a financial advisory firm serving public institutions in the U.S., which piqued my interest in emerging markets and public finance. After graduating from Bryn Mawr, I spent three years in a leading economic consulting firm in Washington, D.C., where I worked on complex commercial litigations issues in intellectual property, trade, and finance, with client engagements ranging from the DOJ and the ITC to Google. As an analyst, I was challenged with finding the most precise ways to deduce the economic value of things that are difficult to value, a perspective that I intended to bring to the international development space.

Why did you choose SIPA?
SIPA has been on my radar since I started looking at policy schools. What really differentiated SIPA for me were the experiences of alumni I spoke with while researching schools: I knew several Bryn Mawr women who graduated or were attending SIPA, including my best friend who is now heading a government-led nutrition fortification program in India. I also engaged with a few alumni in D.C. (and there are many!) who were very accessible and clearly enjoyed reminiscing on their time at SIPA. I also received a generous fellowship offer that was not matched by any other school, which will allow me to consider interesting positions without a debt-imposed salary requirement post-graduation. Finally, I knew I wanted to either come back to D.C. or work internationally after graduation, so spending a couple of years in New York was a bonus.

Why did you choose your particular areas of study?
After a stint in economic consulting which is a fascinating but very U.S.-focused industry, I pivoted into development and international work. The EPD concentration allows me to build credibility as a development professional by complementing the skills I developed during my time in consulting. Additionally, I am interested in evidence-based approaches to development, and I have loaded up on quantitative analysis courses that are part of the APEA concentration.

Tell us about your summer internship experience.
I spent 12 weeks in Uganda this past summer working on a financial inclusion evaluation. During my internship at Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA), I made a small contribution to the currently limited volume of evidence on the welfare impacts of financial inclusion – specifically, mobile money products that facilitate domestic peer-to-peer (P2P) transfers. I analyzed data from an extensive panel survey in Uganda and Tanzania to better understand the complex financial lives of the poor and determine how access to mobile money changes the way households respond to situations requiring additional financing. The households that experienced negative income shocks benefitted greatly from domestic transfers and were able to bridge the financing gap without cutting back on meals or taking children out of school. In addition to research design and analysis, I learned a lot about project management and the challenges of implementation in the field. I am looking forward to my Capstone experience this spring which, I hope, will take me back to Sub Saharan Africa.

Is there a particular SIPA experience that stands out?
Taking classes with experienced practitioners has been the highlight of my time at SIPA so far. Last year, I took a class on microfinance, co-taught by two highly accomplished women with years of experience in banking, foundations, and microfinance institutions. Their professional expertise combined with perspectives of other students in the class – fellow development practitioners – was truly eye-opening. I learned a lot and was able to leverage this knowledge in my summer internship search.

What are your plans after SIPA?
I hope to enter the impact evaluation field and assist NGOs and governments in maximizing their impact through implementation of cutting-edge evaluation programs. I am looking at positions in multilateral institutions, impact evaluation consulting firms, and policy research organizations – both in the U.S. and internationally. At present, I am interested in working either in or with West Africa.

Nadia Ramirez, MPA ’18, International Security Policy concentration, Latin America and International Conflict Resolution specializations

Nadia RamirezWhat did you do prior to attending SIPA?
I studied international relations as an undergraduate at Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida and studied abroad in 2011 in China at Shanghai Jiao Tong University. After graduating in 2013, I spent one year in Colombia (my country of birth) and then two years on a Fulbright in South Korea, teaching English at an all-girls high school in Busan and coordinating Fulbright’s volunteer program for North Korean defectors in the city.

Why did you choose SIPA?
Before starting my Fulbright, I thought about going to law school, but once in South Korea and through my work with North Korean defectors, I realized that what I actually wanted to do was work in diplomacy. I had considered the idea before, but after coming in contact with Foreign Service Officers, I decided to apply to the Charles B. Rangel International Affairs Fellowship Program, a U.S. State Department program that provides funding for graduate students who want to pursue a career in the U.S. Foreign Service. I ultimately chose SIPA as a Rangel fellow because of the heavy emphasis on quantitative skills and its international focus.

Why did you choose your particular areas of study?
After engaging in SIPA coursework and thinking about my career in the Foreign Service, I decided on the ISP concentration. I really like the ISP courses and think the material is relevant to my future work. My interest in Latin America grew out of my focus on East Asia as an undergraduate and research I conducted on the socioeconomic implications of Asian business in Latin America. I really enjoyed the research and thought specializing in Latin America would complement my East Asian focus. Specializing in Conflict Resolution happened accidentally. While looking at my course matrix, I realized that two classes in which I was interested (Negotiation and International Conflict Resolution) were part of the Conflict Resolution specialization. I’ve grown to really enjoy the area and now appreciate the importance of an institutional “soft power” type of perspective.

What has been your experience at SIPA thus far?
As a Rangel fellow, I am committed to serving a minimum of five years in the Foreign Service after graduating from SIPA. Since I don’t need to stress over internships and my job search, I’ve focused that energy on the SIPA community. I’ve done a lot of extracurricular activities and try very hard to support other SIPA students and their organizations. I was elected as one of SIPASA’s social chairs and find it very important to represent SIPASA at events. During my second semester, I was tapped to be on the SIPA Follies board, and I’m now their Executive Director, something I’m very happy to do since it gives me the opportunity to use my artistic side to the betterment of the SIPA community.

How has SIPA affected you?
SIPA has affected how I relate to people. Knowing that my classmates trust me enough to vote for me as their social chair, attending their events, and simply getting to know each and every one of them has made me a more confident, well-rounded individual. Every single one of my peers has an inspiring story to tell. It’s these people and their appreciation for what I do that has made me realize my potential. In many ways, they’ve helped prepare me for my career as a Foreign Service Officer. My peers and the positive relationships I’ve created as a naturalized American helped me in deciding to choose Public Diplomacy as my State Department career track. It’s where I can serve the U.S. best while doing the most good.

How have your SIPA professors and instructors impacted your SIPA experience?
There are many professors that have made my time at SIPA absolutely amazing. Academically, Richard Nephew has really helped prepare me for my future career. His short courses on Nuclear Concepts and Economic Sanctions are the perfect balance of theory and practicality. Other professors include Mayor Michael Nutter, Sarah Holloway, Chris Sabatini, and of course, the entire Econ/Quant team.

Is there anything else that you’d like to add?
I never realized how many doors a SIPA education could open until I did my State Department internship in The Netherlands. I met many SIPA alumni in the service as well as in many parts of Dutch society from banking, to government, and even the arts. It definitely allowed me to experience things I would not have gotten the chance to experience otherwise and created an immediate rapport that was immensely valuable on both a professional and personal level. Meeting all of these alumni and seeing the great work they’ve done in their communities demonstrates that Seeples go on to do amazing things.

"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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