What were you doing before you came to SIPA? What attracted you to SIPA and Columbia University?
I completed my Bachelors in Economics and Politics from SOAS, University of London. Subsequently, I went back to my home country, Pakistan, and worked in the government, specifically at the Punjab Board of Investment and Trade. I also worked at a think tank called the Burki Institute of Public Policy for a few months.
I wanted to pursue a graduate school program where I could hone my knowledge of economics as well as public policy. SIPA offered the best mix of both in the form of the International Finance and Economic Policy concentration. Moreover, the quality of the professors, the variety of courses offered at SIPA, as well as the fact that Columbia University is in New York City made it the perfect choice for me.
My international experience, working in the United Kingdom at the House of Commons, as well as in the Pakistani government, inculcated a desire in myself to serve Pakistan as an economist or a civil servant. The interpersonal skills I learned prior to SIPA helped me to participate more actively in classes and engage with all the required readings with the intent of applying learned concepts in the near future.
What has been the best part of your SIPA experience?
The opportunity to be a Teaching Assistant in the fall 2020 semester has been the best part of SIPA so far. The support and resources provided to Teaching Assistants has been unparalleled. Additionally, the ability to teach hyflex classes and interact with students in nearly the same way as was possible before the Covid-19 pandemic is absolutely amazing.
I am fortunate to have developed good relationships with some of my professors. Having worked as both a Research Assistant and Teaching Assistant for Professor Tamar Mitts, I had the opportunity to get to know her well.
What most surprised you about SIPA after you arrived?
The sheer volume of opportunities available on campus. There are so many ways to spend your time productively at SIPA. With numerous SIPA societies, organisations, journals and competitions to participate in, there is never a dull day in the International Affairs Building.
Did you choose to attend SIPA to change careers, or to gain experience in a career path you already had experience in?
I chose SIPA in order to broaden the range of career choices which would be available to me after graduating. Furthermore, I believed that attending SIPA and networking with professionals working in New York City would help me to decide on a specific career path to take. Through my SIPA experience I hope to gain a renewed perspective on public policy and a lifelong camaraderie with Seeples who share the same goal of making the world a better place.
How did you find the core curriculum at SIPA?
The core curriculum covers all the major foundations of future policymakers and global leaders. The core economics courses along with the Quantitative Analysis 1 course are crucial for understanding the nuances of public policy in the real world.
I was recently chosen to join the J.P. Morgan Capstone project and am excited to be working with my supervisor as part of an 8-member team. After graduating I hope to work in jobs involving geopolitical research or financial analysis.
Can you comment on the quantitative rigor in the curriculum?
The quantitative rigor at SIPA depends on the concentration and specialization a student chooses. For instance, the Data Analysis and Quantitative Analysis (DAQA) specialisation is very rigorous, especially for students with little to no experience studying quantitative subjects. However, the teaching teams for these courses tend to be exceptional, allowing for students to excel in these courses despite not having quantitative backgrounds.
Professor Andrea Bubula, who teaches the Macroeconomic Analysis course, a core course for the IFEP concentration, is one of the best Professors at SIPA. Apart from being a great teacher, he is one of the kindest and most helpful faculty members. Additionally, Professor Daniel Waldman, who teaches the ‘International Finance and Monetary Theory’ course is one of the most knowledgeable Professors in SIPA, with several years of experience working in the finance world; IFEP students have a sincere appreciation for his teaching style and dedication to his course.
I had some quantitative experience when I applied to SIPA due to the fact that my Bachelors degree was in Economics and Politics. Therefore, I had basic quantitative knowledge before enrolling at SIPA, which helped me in my Economics and Quant classes.
What has your internship experience been like?
I worked as a Research Analyst for the National Assembly of Pakistan. It was a rewarding experience in terms of the impact I had on government policy in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. I found my internship through a SIPA classmate who connected me to people who were looking to recruit Research Analysts.
What advice do you have for current applicants?
In your essays, explain how you are a good fit for SIPA and how your work experience and/or educational background makes you a good fit for the program. Crafting an interesting story about yourself is crucial. Proofread your written work several times before you finally submit it online. Preferably, have friends or family read through the essays to make sure everything sounds coherent and consistent.
A stellar SIPA student must have the ability to adapt to difficult/ stressful situations, be good multitaskers, and make the most of the resources which they have access to.