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


Hello, I am Ryan Dahm, a first-year Master of Public Administration (MPA) candidate, concentrating in International Security Policy and specializing in Management. I am also honored to be the recipient of SIPA’s Michael and Polly Brandmeyer Fellowship.

What were you doing prior to attending SIPA?

I served five years in the U.S. Army as an infantry platoon leader, company executive officer, battalion communications and signal officer (S6), and battalion operations officer. I participated in many multinational efforts in the North Sinai Peninsula, Eastern Europe, and as a part of a NATO Battle Group in Bemowo Piskie, Poland. Being stationed in Europe and operating in an international environment were the most thrilling aspects of my professional life.

Why did you choose SIPA?

Columbia SIPA was my dream school after I commissioned out of the ROTC program at my undergraduate school majoring in international affairs and economics. SIPA’s diversity and predominantly international student body was something that appealed to me. I also knew names like Professors Dipali Mukhopadhyay, Thomas Christensen, and Richard Betts from my academic studies in international relations, and I wanted to go to the school that had the most renowned academics in diplomacy and international affairs.

Why did you choose to focus your SIPA studies on International Security Policy and Management?

Although I voluntarily separated from the military, I knew my future was in the American foreign policy or national security apparatus. The International Security Policy program seemed like the perfect fit. I also wanted to civilianize my leadership style through SIPA’s management courses. Dr. Kirsti Samuels, a lecturer at SIPA and an experienced leadership trainer and coach, mediator, and facilitator, has taught me valuable leadership concepts that I hope to utilize in the future.

What are your plans this summer?

I was chosen as a Harold W. Rosenthal Fellow in International Relations, a program by the nonprofit Partnership for Public Service, and will be interning this summer at either the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy in the Counter Weapons of Mass Destruction section, U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), or the Bureau of Refugees and Migration at the U.S. State Department.

How is the COVID-19 pandemic affecting your studies and post-graduation plans?

It has definitely made me appreciate in-person education and the resulting relationships developed with fellow classmates. I think students will need to be more mindful about proactively pursuing opportunities.

What are you looking forward to studying and doing during your second year at SIPA?

I am looking forward to taking any class taught by Dr. Peter Clement, our intelligence officer in residence, Professor Thomas Christensen, or Dr. Kirsti Samuels. I am also excited to attend the Latin American Student Association (LASA) party and class boat party. Neither disappoints.

What makes SIPA unique?

In addition to its world-renowned faculty, SIPA attracts bright students with a unique mindset and motivation. Being a part of SIPA reminds me of military camaraderie—everyone has a shared mission to contribute in public service, just in civilian attire.

Is there a particular SIPA experience that stands out?

Learning about China’s foreign policy from a giant like Professor Thomas Christensen was the academic highlight of my life. Having spent fifteen months in the Middle East and four years in Europe, it was thrilling to learn from a leading expert about East Asia, a region I knew little about.

What are your plans after SIPA?

I will likely join the Foreign Service or the U.S. State Department’s Civil Service.