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GEN Day 2017 at SIPA

In solidarity with the Columbia undergraduate First-Generation Low Income Partnership (FLIP), SIPA students celebrated GEN Day 2017 on April 10, 2017, to honor and highlight the experiences of first-generation students at Columbia University and at SIPA.

As defined by FLIP, first-generation typically refers to being the first generation of one’s family to achieve the level of education one is pursuing, however, due to distinctions in how one defines family and status, being first-generation can be defined as having a different intellectual, emotional, and academic support system.

Here are brief snapshots into the lives of SIPA first-generation students, as compiled by current student Alejandra Bz.

(Can’t see the images below? You can access them on Facebook here.)

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Facebook Live Friday Series

I just wanted to take a moment to remind you of a new online resource available to all prospective students and applicants. We’re trying something new this year, dubbed Facebook Live Friday, where I’LL chat with a member of the SIPA community to discuss the facets of the program, student life, and beyond.

Here’s a list of past and upcoming information sessions I’m hosting this year. Make sure you RSVP so you’ll get a reminder about the events.

To come back to the schedule, just look at the right-hand side of the admissions blog, which links you to the Recruitment Calendar, where we list all of the upcoming sessions.

Seeple Snapshot: Amon Simutowe

Amon

The Chess Star: Amon Simutowe

Nationality: Zambia

Age: 32

MIA 2014

While many SIPA students will go on to have remarkable professional careers, it is not that common to meet one who has already made history. At the age of 27 in 2009, Amon Simutowe became the first Chess Grandmaster from Sub-Saharan Africa. The title Grandmaster is awarded to world-class chess players by the world chess organization FIDE. The achievement of this Zambian student is all the more remarkable considering he taught himself at the relatively late age of 10 and grew up in a country with little tradition of chess competitions. In Zambia, soccer is the most popular sport, but in 2001, Simutowe was named “Sportsman of the Year” by the Zambian Sports Council.

His victories were featured on the front pages of Zambian newspapers, something that gave domestic visibility to chess. “I cannot complain of the attention and support I got,” he says. While at SIPA, Simutowe has been writing an instructional book with the aim of encouraging kids in Africa to develop a liking for the game. The book was released after his graduation in May. Although he is not currently playing at tournament level, chess takes over much of his free time. “I usually play on Friday evenings, to get my brain to relax”, he says. “I cannot stop playing chess, for me it’s like an addiction”.

Inside The Minds Of SIPA Students: May Edition

Seeples, as SIPA students are affectionately called, are always a busy bunch. Whether they are rallying against injustices in Venezuela, preparing for international travel to North Korea, or interning at the United Nations, students are always on the move and always pursuing their interests. However, the end of the semester means that students are more swamped than usual. Here are some of the things occupying SIPA students’ brain space at the moment:

Finals

Ah, the dreaded F-word. With May just a day away, SIPA students are in crunch mode as their classes quickly wind down and final exams lurk around the corner. Long nights in the library have become the norm, and study sessions with friends abound. Though SIPA students are a high-achieving group, many students just want to teleport themselves to the end of the month when their exams will have ended and they have diplomas in their hands.

Assistantships

Student Affairs recently released the first round of assistantships, which notifies first-year students of the jobs they will work at in order to receive their fellowship funding. Seeples are excited by the prospect of having part of their tuition funds figured out, and many are weighing how to pay the remainder of the balance.

Jobs

Second-year students are in the throes of the all-encompassing job search, which requires them to dance between informal coffee meetups, interviews, and the dreaded, aforementioned final, all while keeping their eye focused on….

Graduation

The culmination of second-year students’ class work at SIPA is quickly approaching. On May 22, second-year students will be recognized for their late nights spent cramming in Lehman, hours toiled over group projects, persistence finishing the economics and statistics requirements, and general all-around hard work. May 22 feels so close, and yet, so far…

 

Capstone in Jordan

The SIPA Capstone Project serves to help SIPA students utilize skills they’ve learned in the classroom to deal with real life problems. This year, SIPA partnered up with Better Work/International Finance Corporation and International Labour Organization (ILO) to assess the Better Work Jordan Workers’ Center targeted at garment workers’ in the Al-Hassan Qualified Industrial Zone (QIZ) in Jordan.  What is a QIZ you ask? It’s an enclosed area with factories surrounded by factory-owned dormitories that the migrant workers’ use during their stay in Jordan. Most of the workers never travel outside the QIZ – even when they are there for 3+ years.

The idea of the center came out of need for migrant workers’ to have a stronger sense of community outside their daily life. The center provides recreational activities along with training programs (English and Computer skills).

Our team will be working on collecting data to create a baseline and sustainability study based on its first month since opening.

Day 1/2: Travel

The first two days were brutal. Flying into Jordan takes approximately 15 hours – 12 on the plane and roughly 3 hours layover. We missed our connecting flight from London (Heathrow) to Amman, Jordan. Luckily, we were able to catch the next flight a couple of hours later. After 24 hours on the road, we finally made it to our hotel. Tough day – but well worth the time and effort.

There’s also a six hour difference, you can only begin to imagine the jetlag…

E1

 Day 3: Workers’ Center

After many months of visualizing the center through client class and website information, we finally get to visit the Workers’ Center. The workers’ center is approximately 75mins north of Amman, Jordan. During our van ride, we find out that the workers’ center is open – we are excited to know that we will be able to conduct our first round of interviews during the first day.

We are surprised to find the workers’ center is a lot bigger than we had initially imagined. It has a computer lab with 27 Dell Laptops, a classroom for English Instruction, a kitchen and canteen and a multi-purpose room.

View of the dormitories from Workers’ Center

View of the dormitories from Workers’ Center

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I sat through an English class during the day – most of the students in attendance were from Madagascar. I was impressed by the teaching methods but also by the students’ participation. They were happy to be there and even more excited to be learning a new language so foreign to them.  The students were asked to recite the alphabet, some of them even stood up and sang it! During the class, I noticed that the students were helping each other with the pronunciation of the letters – hardest letter of the alphabet to pronounce in the room “S”.

English class

English class

Day 4: Petra, Jordan

Today is our only day off during our trip. We decided to go to Petra, Jordan! Petra is about a three hour ride south from Amman.

E4 E5 E6 E7

 So many camels!

Day 4: Workers’ Center

We spent the morning in the Better Work office learning more about the programs that they offer besides the Workers’ Center. Better Work does training with factories in different QIZ’s on sexual harassment but also financial literacy training for workers.

In the afternoon, we headed off to the Al-Hassan QIZ. We collected data through our survey and conducted two focus groups with Malagasy workers. The team was able to get useful information for the workers’ center. We will use the surveys and focus group information to get create a report that will help the Workers’ Center with future activities and management.

We also set up some sport games outside the Workers’ Center – some volleyball and soccer.

A pretty good day.  It’s late – better head off to bed.  Thanks for reading.

 

Posted by Eder Gaona, MPA 2014 and just back from the Middle East.  A little snippet from Eder’s capstone trip.

"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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