One of the benefits of a SIPA degree is the flexibility of coursework you can take. Yes, we have a core curriculum. But you can cross-register and take classes in Columbia’s other amazing graduate departments to fulfill concentration and specialization requirements. Check out this great blog post from 2018 Admissions Program Assistant Niara Valerio about her experience cross-registering.

As an undergraduate at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, I leveraged the Five College Consortium and took classes at Amherst, Smith, and Hampshire College. Travelling to another campus and taking classes not available at my home institution was an enriching experience and I was determined to pursue an equally interdisciplinary and challenging education at Columbia. I’ve taken classes in the School of Professional Studies’ (SPS) Sustainability Management MA, the Law School, and the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GSAS). In my three semesters, I took 7 classes (2 SPS, 1 Law, 4 GSAS) outside of SIPA and will take 2 more my final semester in GSAS to total 9 cross-enrollments.

Why did I take so many non-SIPA classes? Mainly because the opportunity presented itself. I’m pursuing a graduate certificate in Chinese studies from the Weatherhead East Asian Institute and most of the certificate’s requirements are GSAS classes, like Modern Chinese History 1 & 2. I was also keen to take classes in the Modern Tibetan Studies Program as it’s one of the best in the English-speaking world. Check out my other blog post about pursuing regional or functional area graduate certificates in addition to your SIPA degree. Additionally, my concentration in Energy and Environment (EE) gave flexibility to explore courses outside of SIPA to fulfill our concentration requirements. As future policy makers, it’s important that we learn from others and gain new insights to address pressing domestic and global challenges.

I’m currently taking Energy Regulation in the Law School and getting a taste of what law school is like with infamously “being on call” and reading lots of cases and briefs. The course has definitely given me a better understanding of the U.S.’ energy industry and regulatory system. However, my favorite cross-enrollment course was Comparing Indigenties. This class was comparing the indigenous peoples in North America’s experience of colonization to that of Tibetans in China. As a first-generation Tibetan American, it was very meaningful to take a class on my people and culture and discover so many parallels.

Cross-enrolling is generally pretty straightforward. Our SIPA page links and lists the process. However, it’s good to reach out to faculty early with requests for syllabi and permission to take their class. Be aware of certain school’s policy on cross enrollment. For instance, the Law School only permits you to take 4 classes during your entire Columbia career and you cannot take LLM or JD-specific courses. Seek your academic advisor’s advice too, especially about dropping a cross-enrolled class either during or after the add/drop period. Again, certain schools may have specific deadlines and requirements about dropping a course.

While SIPA has no shortage of amazing classes and instructors, the whole university is available for you to explore. At Columbia, your intellectual curiosity is limitless as you complete your MA at SIPA. Check out the course catalogue in Vergil or the course directory. Have fun searching!