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A timeline of SIPA’s defining moments

Founded in 1946, the School of International and Public Affairs has evolved greatly over seven decades, adding students, faculty, programs, areas of study, academic centers, and even the tallest building on Columbia University’s Morningside Campus.

After 70 years, what remains unchanged is the School’s mission—to serve the global public interest by educating students to serve and lead and by producing and sharing new knowledge on the critical public policy challenges facing the world, today and in the future.

We hope you enjoy this selection of highlights from SIPA’s rich history.

1948 – SIPA’s first students In 1946 the School of International Affairs (as it was then known) enrolled its first students. The first class graduated in 1948.

1951 – Dwight Eisenhower took special interest in SIPA when he was Columbia’s president In 1951, then University president Dwight D. Eisenhower established the Institute of War and Peace Studies. Many of SIPA’s affiliated centers were established in the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s.


1960 – SIPA’s growth led to construction of the IAB in the late 1960s The School’s growth created need for more space to accommodate faculty and students. Designed by the same architect as the UN Building, the International Affairs Building was completed in 1970 and formally dedicated in 1971.

1966- Over the years, the International Fellows program has connected students to prominent leaders. Established in 1960, the IF program brings students together from Columbia’s multiple graduate schools. Senator Robert F. Kennedy (center right) was an early visitor.

1979 – The School updated its name to reflect creation of the MPA program After starting the MPA program in 1977, the School changed its name in 1979 to reflect its expanded mission.

1985 – Welcoming World Leaders to SIPA SIPA has long welcomed to campus world leaders like PM Rajiv Gandhi of India (right), who gave the annual Silver lecture in 1985.

1989 – Henry Kissinger discusses the War Powers Act SIPA often convenes conferences and forums on important global and national policy issues. The former secretary of state was joined in 1989 by Joe Biden, then a U.S. senator from Delaware.

1995 – Al Gore and David Dinkins flank Dean John Ruggie at the inaugural Dinkins Forum More than 20 years later, the annual gathering still serves as a vehicle for discussing major urban policy issues. Vice President Al Gore (left) was among the keynote speakers in the forum’s first year.

1997 – SIPA students learn from the global classroom New York City hosts important events like the Korean Four-Way Talks. SIPA students benefit from proximity to the events and institutions they study.

2000 – Adding New Programs In the 2000s, SIPA welcomed its first EMPA students and also initiated the PhD program in sustainable development, which would observe its 10-year anniversary in 2014. (The PhD anniversary gathering is pictured.)

2012 – A Rare Visit SIPA students continue to travel around the world for Capstones workshops and other educational programs. In 2012, Elisabeth Lindenmayer led the first group of students to visit North Korea under the auspices of an American university program.

2012 – The Center on Global Economic Governance, led by Professor Jan Svejnar, convened a panel of faculty experts for its launch CGEG studies the implications of an increasingly interconnected global economy for the United States and the world.

2013 – The Center on Global Energy Policy is one of several academic centers launched since 2010 In the last five years, SIPA has launched four new academic centers. Mayor Michael Bloomberg was on hand for the 2013 celebration of the new Center on Global Energy Policy.

2015 – SIPA celebrates the inauguration of the new Raj Center on Indian Economic Policies The Raj Center is the first academic center in the United States devoted to India and its economy, and the newest center at the School.

2015 – Caroline Kennedy addressed graduating students in May 2015 Caroline Kennedy, U.S. ambassador to Japan, speaks at SIPA’s 2015 graduation ceremony. From an initial class of just a few dozen, the School now enrolls more than a thousand full-and part-time students in multiple degree programs and tracks.

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:


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.


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.


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….


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…


Four days post the MIA/MPA App Deadline (with fellowship consideration)

The first application deadline has passed and the admissions staff is busily processing all submitted applications.   A few of the submitted applications are missing a couple of items so they are in our “Awaiting materials” bin until ‘completion’.  However, the majority of the applications submitted are complete and have already moved forward for review.   Congrats!

But we did notice a couple of applicants mistakenly did not complete all three required essays:

If you are a re-applicant, you will also need to respond to the “Re-applicants Only” essay: How have you enhanced your candidacy since your previous application?  Please detail your progress since you .

There is also an optional essay for any applicant who has something more to say about their candidacy.  There is no word limit; however, use some discretion and keep it within reason.

Please make sure all your materials are submitted by the indicated deadlines for consideration.  If you forgot to upload required materials and clicked the “submit” button — No worries, you may still upload them into your application.  If you have trouble doing it yourself, please let us know.  You can find a checklist of required admission-related items on our website.

You may track your application status by logging back into your application account any time.  Materials submitted and received will be reflected as we process them — this may take up to 10 days.   If you are reading this post over the weekend, don’t check now and freak yourself out — there was a glitch in the system today that changed all received materials to “awaiting material” status so if you submitted and you see this in your application status, relax.  We got you.  The tech team is working on this and will have it resolved early next week. 

An application that is (submitted and) complete goes to the Admissions Committee for review.  Once an admission decision is reached, you will receive an email to check your account again (this will happen in March); so don’t lose your application log in information.

For now, don’t lose sleep and enjoy your weekend.


Last year we reopened the Spring term option for our MIA and MPA candidates interested in getting a head start to the year.  It was well received due to it’s smaller size and timing. With the success of the class and the number of interested prospective candidates, we will keep offering Spring admissions.  So if you’ve been worried that Spring would no longer be an option, don’t despair, it’s here to stay.

Our Spring candidates were a little older than our fall candidates and with that they came into the program with a bit more experience.  It probably also explains the preparedness for the ones we admitted and enrolled.  The shorter time line from when an applicant applies, receives an admission decision, deposits, enrolls for classes, and start classes calls for someone who knows what they want to study, have done their research on programs available in the spring, have visited the schools, spoken with admissions counselors, students, alumni, faculty, etc extensively, and have made financial arrangements to be here … all in a matter of a few short months.

So for all those who know that they want to be at SIPA and are ready to begin the next chapter of their lives… We offer you Spring 2014.  The application is available now — earlier than expected… if you’ve been patiently waiting (thank you) for the Spring application to open, you have to wait no more.  Click here and explore.

SIPA MIA/ MPA Spring 2014 Admission timeline:

  • August 6: Application goes live
  • October 15:  Application deadline
  • December 2: Decision Notifications; however, Spring applications are reviewed on a rolling basis, which means if you submit a completed application before the deadline, then you will receive a decision earlier — great for candidates who need to know sooner rather than later.
  • December 14: Deposit Deadline
  • January 15 & 16: Mandatory Orientation
  • January 21:  Classes begin

not singing Kumbaya in July

The SIPA Admissions & Financial Aid Office is still under repairs (see earlier post) and so our tiny team has been temporarily jammed inconstructionto the outer office space of two shared faculty offices on the 8th Floor of the International Affairs Building.  At first glance when you step off the elevators, you’re not sure if you’re in the right place — we appear to be a call center of sorts (the opposite of our warm and fuzzy group) in the middle of a construction site (see photo).  Howeverconstruction 2, you will still be greeted with warmth if you come by, although you probably will not hear us singing our version of Kumbaya –the Director of Financial Aid has banned us from singing while we are all sitting in close quarters; but we will share our Insomnia cookies or pastries from the Hungarian Pastry Shop (if there are any left).

So where is this going…   Just to keep you in the loop of what’s to come… We’re still making sure all our incoming students are happy and getting all the necessary information needed to prepare them for their arrival on campus for Orientation in a month .  We have set up a couple of community groups and updating the Welcome site — there has been a lot of chatter, which is always a good sign of people’s engagement and excitement.  We are also in the process of putting together our 2014 program applications; the spring MIA/MPA application will be available by late-August and the application for the MIA/ MPA/ MPA DP fall term will be available in early September.  In addition to the already planned fall trips we will make to meet you on the road at various graduate school fairs and APSIA forums, we are arranging times for you to come visit us in New York through class visits (will be offered beginning in late September after our students have settled into their classes), information sessions, and SIPA-sponsored events.

If you are thinking about graduate school, you should use this summer to research various schools and programs (because not all programs are the same — within a school there may be a few — at SIPA, we have seven), definitely invest time into searching for scholarships (every dollar helps) and you would hate to learn later you missed the deadline to apply.  We will continue to post information about fellowships opportunities that we hear about too.  And of course, plan your fall visits; make sure a stop at SIPA is on your travel itinerary — if we don’t have cookies, we’ll definitely offer you a good karma lollipop and some sound advice  :).

"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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