Note from Admissions: The following is an update from Dean Merit E. Janow to the SIPA community, edited to include information relevant to the audience of this blog.


Dear Members of the SIPA Community,

I write today to share a brief update since my last communication at the start of the school year. The fall has been active, with more than 1,000 students undertaking online and in-person classes with great success, dozens of engaging virtual events, and many other activities.

As the semester began, we knew it would be unique in many ways but also continue the traditional SIPA experience. Campus is certainly quieter, but as always, SIPA is a hub of great vitality, intellectual engagement, and scholarly activity. I invite you to read the brief SIPA highlights below, and also take a moment to read Interim Provost Katznelson’s recent message about the current environment at Columbia and plans for 2021.

I look forward to sending further updates later this semester. Until then, I hope you are all staying safe, and thank you for contributing to SIPA’s vibrancy and our educational mission.

Sincerely yours,

Merit E. Janow
Dean, School of International and Public Affairs
Professor of Practice, International Economic Law and International Affairs

Curriculum and Instruction

Our initial surveys indicate that about 35 percent of students are enrolled in at least one in-person class this semester, with the remainder online. Twenty-five percent of classes are being taught in Hyflex classrooms, allowing simultaneous in-person and remote participation. Feedback thus far has been extremely positive. In the course implementation survey at the end of the third week, roughly 75 percent of students rated their courses as “very good” or “excellent”.  This is a credit to the faculty who spent considerable time over the summer redesigning their courses for online delivery, and to our students who are engaging in their online and hybrid courses with the same enthusiasm and seriousness they normally bring to SIPA classrooms.

SIPA faculty continue to redesign courses with the expectation that spring semester will again be a combination of online and hybrid instruction. We will be guided, of course, by public health considerations and University decisions.

Campus Safety

The latest report from the University indicates 35,075 COVID-19 tests have been conducted since June 22nd, with 24 total positive tests, for a positivity rate of .07% among students, faculty, staff, and affiliates who have been tested. We will continue to monitor these results weekly and make any necessary adjustments should the circumstances warrant. I thank those of you on campus for adhering to social distancing and other safety requirements within the International Affairs Building and across the University. All of us must do our part and uphold the Columbia Community Health Compact.

Virtual Engagement

SIPA events are always a highlight of the semester, and we have been hosting some truly insightful and engaging discussions since the start of the year. Whether it is our weekly lecture series on policymaking in the throes of a global crisis led by Professors Jeff Sachs and Scott Barrett, or our series on how central banks are responding to the pandemic, or SIPA’s participation in ClimateWeek NYC 2020 through the Center on Global Energy Policy, we have been contributing our knowledge and expertise in important ways. You may find links to these and other events on SIPA’s YouTube Channel.

We have many other events planned, including a new series around the 2020 Elections, which has already featured events on topics such as speechwriters and elections; online political advertising; race, inequality, and US elections;.

New Study Spaces, Library Hours, and More

We have made several adjustments to SIPA facilities since the start of fall semester to enhance the study environment for students and those on campus. A few examples:

  • Lehman Library has expanded its reservation periods for dedicated study space to four hours (the previous duration was two hours). Students may visit here to reserve a seat. Reservations may be made up to two weeks in advance.
  • We are increasing the number of rooms in the International Affairs Building that are reserved for students to use as study halls, workspaces, or as places to log into online classes (with headphones). The Office of Student Affairs has created a scheduling system for each room, available here (UNI required).
  • We have restored furniture in Publique café on the 6th floor of IAB to provide more spaces where students may talk or use phones comfortably without disturbing others.
  • As we communicated earlier this semester, SIPA has reserved the Ancel Plaza tent exclusively for SIPA events and activities every Thursday from 3 – 6 p.m. through the end of November. Seating under the tent also is available for students when the tent is not otherwise being used for University events.

We hope these improvements contribute to a more comfortable and accessible environment for those of you on campus.

SIPA Magazine

Finally, I am excited to share that the new issue of SIPA Magazine, our signature publication, is being sent out this week. We hope you enjoy reading about the amazing research and activities our community has undertaken over the past year, with a particular focus on COVID-19.  If you would like to read a PDF version of the magazine, you can do so here.

Thank you and my best wishes.