Thanks to Theotis Sharpe MPA-DP ’20 for this post.

At SIPA, you will spend a lot of time on the 4th floor of the International Affairs Building catching up with friends in between classes and getting some free food. In those short conversations, it is difficult to understand and appreciate who people are and the why behind their passions.

Early last month, I organized the first-ever SIPA Story Slam in collaboration with the SIPA Diversity Committee and Taylor Light, SIPA Student Association Student Life Chair, on the theme “Lost in Translation.” In attendance were over 100+ students listening to 5 minutes stories from students and faculty storytellers.

We all have different perspectives, we have different backgrounds; the way we actually express those identities of ourselves, is different. So, the Story Slam was a great event to showcase that.

I would like to provide a glimpse into what it takes to plan a successful event at SIPA:

Partner with another student, or another student organization, to combine resources, expertise, and to reach the widest audience possible.

If you are part of a student organization, apply for SIPASA funding at the beginning of the semester, or apply for funding through the Diversity Committee event grant. You can also reach out to other departments/institutes on campus whose mission aligns with that of your organization or event. For example, earlier this semester, the SIPA Pan African Network (SPAN) partnered with the Institute of African Studies and the MPA-Development Practice office to organize a lecture on Digital Democracy in Kenya.

Plan early – book a room through the room reservation portal, print and post event flyer on the 4th floor, 6th floor, and stairways. Utilize WhatsApp, Facebook, and Instagram to advertise…. Oh, and remember “Free food” is one of the best incentives to get people to your event!

Sometime last year, I sat in my office in downtown Phoenix, reflecting on where I wanted to take my career. I came to the realization that I wanted to work on the African continent focusing on financial inclusion and building financial infrastructure. I had other offers to pursue my graduate studies but, in the end, I chose SIPA because it provided me with a formidable opportunity to build my network and learn the skills to be able to create the greatest impact on the African continent.

At SIPA, I have had the opportunity to do just that. I have been fortunate to travel to three different countries and work on a business development platform that champions the formalization and growth of informal businesses in Sub-Saharan Africa. In addition to the aforementioned project, I have been able to get involved in various ways. Currently I am a member of the SIPA Diversity Committee and serve as the President of SIPA Pan African Network (SPAN).

All in all, there are many opportunities to learn and get engaged at SIPA. One of the greatest value SIPA has to offer is providing you with a platform to explore your interests outside of the classroom. Pursue your passion, challenge yourself, and most importantly, have fun!

Theotis Sharpe
MPA-DP 2020
SIPA Pan African Network – President