Archive for USP

Why I Chose to Apply to SIPA

Note from Admissions: The Spring application deadline is coming up, and we hope applicants feel like they’re making good progress with the admissions process. Current student Dylan Hoey has been in your position and reflects on why he applied to SIPA in the first place. 

We encourage you to reach out to us at the Admissions office if you have any questions about the application or just want to talk it over. And if you want to talk to Dylan or other SIPA students about their experience, we can make that happen.


Rodin’s “The Thinker” outside Philosophy Hall [Wikimedia Commons]

During undergrad, like most first year students, I was unsure of what I wanted to major in. At first I was confident that environmental science was the right choice. Within a semester, I was disabused of that idea. After taking an amazing introduction to international relations course, I thought I had settled on international relations. When my second year started, I changed my mind once again and declared as a Government and History dual major, which finally stuck. While I had formally decided on a major, my interest in other subjects did not wane. Thanks to a great liberal arts education, I was able to dabble in almost every major subject, from religious studies to mathematics. Throughout my undergraduate career, I developed an interest in urban studies, post-colonial history and theory, continental philosophy, and film, amongst others.

In turn, when I decided to apply to graduate school, I knew I wanted to be at a place that engaged all of these interests, while also providing me with a central skill set that would allow me to be successful in any industry. I knew that my ideal school would be in a large city, with plenty of extracurricular opportunities to pursue my interest in the arts. Naturally, that narrowed my list of schools down quite considerably.

SIPA had always been on my radar just based off its name recognition, but when I researched more into its curriculum and Columbia’s own resources, I became more and more interested in applying. First of all, I appreciated that SIPA stresses both theory and ‘practical’ applications of course material. As a future U.S. diplomat, I valued SIPA’s diversity, which is unrivaled. I also liked that SIPA has a distinctly international focus, with an emphasis on urban politics and culture. When I looked through SIPA’s course offerings and faculty, I was similarly impressed by the broad array of fields and disciplines represented. I remember also coming across a couple ‘superstar’ professors, including former Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, former New York City Mayor David Dinkins and Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz. On more comprehensive faculty lists outside of SIPA, I saw that one of my favorite authors, Turkish Nobel Laureate Orhan Pamuk, was also listed as a member of Columbia’s faculty. Another search led me to discover that leading Indian post-colonial theorist Gayatri Spivak was a resident faculty member.

When I looked at the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences’ website, I found that the events section was full of film series that I was interested, including a few where the directors themselves were there to answer questions. At the Journalism School, I saw Jelani Cobb, one of the New Yorker’s most prolific and insightful contributors, listed as a professor. While I was certainly drawn in by SIPA’s course offerings, I really fell in love with the idea of Columbia being a place of such great academic diversity. I knew that at SIPA I would receive a world-class education in policy analysis and public management; I had no doubts about that. But I relished the idea of being on a campus where it would be easy to meet people engaged in other fields, and to pursue a truly holistic education. When it was time to finally apply, I was excited at the prospect of enrolling at SIPA, an excitement that has never left me, even as a second year student now.

Program Assistant Introduction: Julia Chung

We’re introducing our new group of program assistants with the Office of Admissions. You’ve already met Niara and Kier, so now please meet Julia!


Julia Chung was born and raised in New Jersey but hopes to be considered an honorary New Yorker. She is a second-year MPA student concentrating in Urban and Social Policy and specializing in Technology, Media, and Communications. After graduating from Vassar College with a BA in Sociology and a minor in Asian Studies, Julia worked at various nonprofits in New York City on issues including housing, immigration, education, and civic engagement.

Photo courtesy of: Sandy Zhang

What were you doing before you came to SIPA?
Before SIPA, I spent four years working at various nonprofits in New York City, focusing on immigration advocacy and civic engagement. After working on various grassroots-level campaigns, I realized that I needed more knowledge and expertise. I decided that the best way to serve my community was to first learn how to create better policies and how to better include multiple voices and communities in policy-making.

What attracted you to SIPA and Columbia University?
When looking at graduate schools, the two factors that were most important to me were the classes and professors and where the school was located. I wanted to be in a city so I could remain involved in local issues and I wanted professors that had expertise on social policy and municipal governments. After my acceptance, I sat in on Mark Steitz’s Data Driven Approaches to Campaigns and Advocacy class. Less than half way through the class, I knew that SIPA was the school for me. It was clear that SIPA would not only provide the theory and best-practices about policymaking, but also teach the practical skills I needed to further my career.

How did you find the core curriculum at SIPA?
With no previous quantitative experience, I was apprehensive about the economics and quantitative analysis series. However, in the end, I found both to be extremely useful. Microeconomics and macroeconomics provided me greater insight in why governments make certain decisions around monetary and fiscal policy. And having enjoyed Quantitative Analysis I, I enrolled in Quantitative Analysis II, which is not required, the next semester. Now I highly recommend all students to take Quantitative Analysis II because I think it’s crucial for all policymakers to know how critique the methods of an academic journal article.

How did you obtain your internship?
I found the general internship posting for NYC Department of Transportation on SIPAlink, our platform for career resources. Having had mainly nonprofit experience, I was looking for opportunities in municipal government. Soon after sending in my resume and cover letter, I was invited to interview with the Grants Management team and offered a College Aid position.

What are your goals for the second year?
Having completed all my core classes for my degree and concentration in my first year, almost all my second year classes will be elective courses. My goal for the second year is to continue building my skills in design thinking and data analysis. I also want to take classes in other Columbia University schools, such as Mailman School of Public Health and Columbia Business School.

What do you think makes a good SIPA student or what qualities do stellar SIPA students typically possess?
I think stellar SIPA students typically are:

  • Skilled in time management. There’s quite a bit to juggle between lectures, recitations, office hours, club meetings, networking events, group projects, and life in general! A stellar student knows exactly how much they can take on, where to allocate their energy and when they need to say no and have some self-care time.
  • Open minded and willing to listen to other perspectives. Classmates are from all walks of life with different personal and professional experiences. We don’t always agree on the merits of certain policies or hold similar political views, but we have to respectfully hear the other perspective.
  • Proactive in getting involved in SIPA and off campus. There are so many events and opportunities at SIPA, but also in New York City. Stellar students do their research and get involved!

Seeple Snapshot: Denise Mitchell

 
 
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Name: Denise Mitchell
Hometown: Brooklyn, New York
Year Graduated Undergrad: 2011
Undergraduate Major: English

 

Before you came to SIPA, what were you doing?

Before I came to SIPA, I worked at a few nonprofits. The first one in D.C., and that was actually an education non-profit that worked with independent schools. And then I did some traveling, I took some classes. I came back to Brooklyn and ended up working with a non-profit in East New York which was really involved with community development and arts education. I have been pretty non-profit focused.

What are you studying at SIPA?

I’m studying urban and social policy as my concentration, and my specialization is management. We joke that it’s the liberal arts degree of SIPA and I definitely feel like I get a very well-rounded education through that.

What’s been your favorite part about SIPA so far?

It’s hard to choose. I think definitely the diversity of the students. I’m continuously in awe of my classmates. Everyone is from a different country, everyone speaks five languages, everyone has traveled and lived in places that you’ve only really seen on the Discovery Channel and National Geographic. Everyone is just really well-rounded. I’m continuously impressed by my peers.

Do you have a favorite class that you’ve taken?

I really liked Critical Issues in Urban Public Policy with [former New York City] Mayor David Dinkins. As a native New Yorker, it was a really amazing experience to see this man who, when I was growing up, was mayor and now he’s my professor and I see him every Tuesday. And he brings in a number of really dynamic speakers. It’s just great because it’s a lecture series in every class.

Where do you see yourself after SIPA?

I see myself everywhere after SIPA. I’d like to open my own non-profit, preferably before graduating in New York City. I’d like to spend a few years working abroad doing international development work. I’d like to come back to New York City and get involved in public policy. And that’s the great thing about SIPA. You feel like you can literally do anything after leaving here.

 

We’re closed today: Tuesday, November 5

It’s Election Day here in the United States.  Although it’s not a presidential election year, U.S. citizens are exercising their right to vote for their local representatives in government.  As a result many public (and some private) schools are closed in New York City today.

Columbia University is one of the institutions that honors our hard earned privilege to vote and encourages people to vote by closing the school to allow us to do just that.   If you are interested in learning about electoral systems and voting policies, you can study it in our USP concentration.

We will be back in the office tomorrow – November 6 – to answer your questions.

Urban And Social Policy At SIPA: What You Need To Know

In the 21st century, it is absolutely pivotal for policymakers to understand the phenomenon of urbanization. Today, half of the world’s people reside in cities, and experts agree that this trend shows no sign of abating. According to Urban Habitat, by 2050 six billion inhabitants will call cities home.

Because of this dramatic population explosion experienced by cities around the globe, there must be urban experts that can assess issues pertaining to growth. How will children in these areas be educated? Is there access to quality healthcare? What about transportation options, and national security issues, and housing policies, and crumbling infrastructure? This is where SIPA’s urban and social policy (USP) concentration comes in.

The USP concentration at SIPA is purposely flexible; one chooses to specialize in either urban policy or social policy, and is required to take one of the offered core courses (I took Critical Issues In Urban Public Policy with former New York City Mayor David Dinkins and highly recommend it). After meeting those guidelines, students are free to explore the wide range of USP offerings, and the breadth of classes is really fantastic.

The obvious observation on USP at SIPA is that there is no better place to study urban issues than in the heart of New York City. The school is able to draw on its strategic location and use the Big Apple as a supplement to the coursework. Why read about issues in transportation when you can speak to officials at the MTA and observe commuter patterns on the subway? Why sit through a powerpoint lecture on green spaces and urban renewal when you can go visit the High Line or the revamped Hudson River Park? Coupled with SIPA’s ability to attract professors with extensive experience in city government (USP Program Director Ester Fuchs is a prime example) and the ability to intern in a field that matches your interests, I would be hard-pressed to come up with a better scenario for those interested in urban studies.

Moreover, our dual-degree program is perfectly aligned for students who want to get an education in public administration or international affairs and also delve deeper into another area of expertise. Aspiring city planners and architects should look into our program with GSAAP, future social workers should look into our partnership with Columbia’s School of Social Work, and budding teachers should look into taking classes with Teacher’s College. It is so easy for students to develop a curriculum that addresses urban issues and meets their career goals.

Through my coursework in USP, I have had the privilege of taking classes on modern urban terrorism, sustainability in cities, and land use issues. I also am looking forward to my capstone workshop next semester, when I will be able to apply the skills I have honed in the classroom and apply them to a real-world scenario.

If you are interested in reshaping our cities and in turn, reshaping society, I urge you to take a closer look at SIPA’s USP program.

"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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