Author Archive for Columbia SIPA

Statement from Dean Janow condemning the death of George Floyd and other Black Americans

A statement from Dean Merit E. Janow sent to students, faculty, and staff on June 1:

Dear Members of the SIPA Community,

The School of International and Public Affairs stands firmly with the University in condemning the deaths of Black Americans George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and too many others. These injustices have renewed demonstrations across this country in protest of racism and violence against Blacks, and all people of color. We recognize the pain, fear, and anger this causes, amplified by the disproportionately devastating effect of Covid-19 within communities of color and the poor. We affirm the dignity and equality of all persons and reject bigotry, discrimination, and racism in all forms.

In times like these, we reflect upon our mission – to impart the leadership, skills, and knowledge needed to engage critical public policy challenges in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors. As leaders in public policy and international affairs, members of the SIPA community play an important role in defending the dignity and humanity of every member of our global society. These moments remind us of our duty and, sadly, highlight the difficult challenges we face in pursuing equality for all.

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

See this statement on the SIPA website.

A View from the Class: Ryan Dahm MPA ’21

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.

Yellow Ribbon Program Scholarship for U.S. Veterans

The Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs is pleased to announce the application for the Yellow Ribbon Program Scholarship, available to eligible veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces, for the 2020/21 academic year.

About the Yellow Ribbon Program and Eligibility

The Yellow Ribbon Program is an initiative authorized by the Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2008 (the Post-9/11 GI Bill ®) in which educational institutions provide eligible student veterans with a partial tuition waiver or grant matched by the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs. This program supplements the base educational benefits provided by the Post-9/11 GI Bill.

To be eligible for the Yellow Ribbon Program, you must be a U.S. veteran eligible for the maximum level (100%) of benefits under the Post-9/11 GI Bill according to your VA Certificate of Eligibility. If you are a veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces and would like to learn more about eligibility for these benefits, please click here.

The Scholarship Application

SIPA is committed to honoring those who have served our country by participating in the Yellow Ribbon Program.

An application is required and will be available on Friday May 15, at noon, Eastern Daylight Time at this link. No other documentation is required.

Please complete the application no later than close of business, June 1, 2020, at which time the application will be taken down.

Additional Notes

If you received a Yellow Ribbon scholarship in the 2019/20 academic year, you need not reapply — your award will be renewed as long as you are enrolled full-time and meeting academic standards and VA eligibility requirements.

SIPA will make every attempt to fund every eligible candidate but cannot guarantee that, so funding will be on a first come, first served basis.

SIPA thanks those who have served our country and we look forward to working with you. Please email SIPA Financial Aid at sipa_finaid (at) if you have any questions.

A View from the Class: Maria José Pinto MIA ’20

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 Maria José Pinto, a Master of International Affairs (MIA) candidate, concentrating in Economic and Political Development (EPD) with a specialization in Gender and Public Policy and a regional specialization in Latin American Studies.

What did you do before attending SIPA?

After graduating from the Universidad del Pacífico in Lima, Peru, my home country, with a degree in business management, I worked with Carolina Trivelli, former Minister for Social Inclusion and Development in Peru, on a financial inclusion initiative focused on vulnerable populations, and later, for the British Embassy as a Science and Innovation Fund coordinator in the Economic Development Department. Besides working on international aid cooperation initiatives, I had the chance to discover my passion for gender equality, as the Embassy gave me flexibility to work on issues that were close to my heart. I designed a project to eliminate gender roles within the Peruvian national STEM education curricula, to encourage girls to go into STEM studies.

Why did you choose to concentrate in EPD and specialize in GPP?

I believe that before policy makers can effectively shape public policy, it is essential they understand the needs of those they hope to help. EPD gives you that opportunity through its focus on fieldwork, providing equally important quantitative and qualitative experiences.

Before coming to SIPA, I was hesitant about pursuing a career in gender studies. However, after listening to Professor Yasmine Ergas, Director of the Gender and Public Policy specialization, speak about gender studies during my first week at SIPA, I immediately registered for the specialization. The focus that SIPA gives to this specialization is incredibly useful for today’s world, as it perfectly combines gender and women studies and public policy.  It’s one of the best choices I’ve made during my time here, as it gives me an opportunity to apply my passion to my work.

What are some of your most memorable SIPA experiences?

I am grateful for all of the SIPA experiences I have had during the last two years. No other place in the world has made me feel like I fit in more. These two years have been as academically challenging as professionally fruitful, as I have taken advantage and enjoyed all of the resources SIPA has to offer.

In my first semester, I was elected President of Women in Leadership (WIL), a SIPA organization that contributes to women’s development at the School. Our board strived to showcase SIPA’s proud student diversity in all our activities, as each of our five board members came from a different region in the world. During the summer, I worked at the Inter-American Commission on Women at the Organization of American States (OAS) and was assigned to a project on women’s leadership in the Americas. This was such an exciting experience for me, as it was my first time working for a multilateral organization, and also because I met incredible figures for Latin American politics, including Maxima Apaza, indigenous congresswoman and activist in Bolivia, and Luis Almagro, OAS Secretary General.

In this, my last semester, I am working on my EPD Workshop with the Self-Employed Women Association (SEWA) from India. My team and I are developing a business plan for SEWA’s social enterprise, an outcome of their partnership with Airbnb to increase women’s income through rural tourism. I will travel to India soon, and couldn’t be more excited. This is also my second semester working for Professor Ergas, as a program assistant for the Gender and Public Policy specialization. Professor Ergas has opened an incredible spectrum of opportunities and possibilities for me. Last semester for example, we organized a talk with the Foreign Affairs Minister of Sweden, who is advocating for a feminist foreign policy. After the event, Leymah Gbowee, Liberian activist and Nobel Laureate, thanked my colleague and me for helping to organize the event. It was a memorable moment!

How as SIPA affected you?

I was a completely different person before coming to SIPA. The challenges that one faces here definitely make you grow as a person and as a professional. Being surrounded by similarly minded people who want to change things and fight for injustices is invaluable. I leave SIPA with a feeling of hope, knowing that with SIPA students as future leaders, we are moving towards a better world. I am so thankful for this experience.

What are your plans after SIPA?

I definitely want to pursue a position in Washington, DC; hopefully, doing gender-related work with a multilateral organization. I fell in love with the city while working there this past summer. I would like to work in DC for a couple of years before returning to Peru to contribute to my country’s development, particularly in the gender equality sphere. Ideally, I will work for either the Ministry of Women or the Ministry of Social Inclusion and Development, and one day, run for office, with the objective of reducing the gender gap in Peru and Latin America.

A Faculty Perspective: Preparing to Study Cyber at SIPA

Guest Post by Professor Jason Healey

Admissions note: Jason Healey is a Senior Research Scholar at SIPA specializing in cyber conflict, competition, and cooperation. He directs the Initiative on the Future of Cyber Risk and teaches two courses: Dynamics of Cyber Power and Conflict and Cybersecurity: Technology, Policy, and Law.

In my five years here, it’s been clear that SIPA’s Dean Merit Janow is committed to bringing all things cyber and digital to the school. We’ve developed a robust program of research, events, and coursework that have made SIPA a hub for the study of cybersecurity and technology policy and our students are not only the main recipients but our best partners.

I’m often asked how students can prepare to study cybersecurity policy at SIPA. In this post, I’ll provide some recommendations on resources students can use for self-study whether you want to get a head start before SIPA or help prepare yourself for one of the five main cyber career tracks for SIPA alumni.


There are different learning styles. For me, I prefer reading. Whenever I’ve re-directed my career (into cyber in 1998, working for the finance sector in 2001 and the White House in 2003, expanding into risk and business continuity in 2005, and so on) I’ve read as much as I can get my hands on starting with general topics then diving more deeply.

If you want to switch into a cyber career, or wondering if it’s for you, start your reading early. First, there’s the general cyber reading. Here, look at The Cuckoo’s Egg (Cliff Stoll), a very readable classic, and The Hacked World Order (Adam Segal) or The Darkening Web (Alexander Klimberg) on general cyber international relations. Both are good, but Adam Segal is adjunct faculty at SIPA and directs the Digital and Cyberspace Policy Program at the Council on Foreign Relations. David Sanger’s The Perfect Weapon is amazing, as is Kim Zetter’s Countdown to Zero Day and, more recently, Andy Greenberg’s Sandworm. Andy and Kim are some of the most-trusted journalists in the field, along with David Sanger and Ellen Nakashima.

Singer and Friedman’s Cybersecurity and Cyberwar is a bit out of date but very readable — as is my cyber military history, A Fierce Domain. There’s also a lot of academic works like Ben Buchanan’s The Cybersecurity Dilemma, which is excellent, but probably a better third or fourth book.

Second are reports from think tanks like the Atlantic Council, Center for a New American Security, Council on Foreign Relations, Center for Strategic and International Studies, New America, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and the East-West Institute. These organizations are also holding a lot of virtual events during the quarantine that are open to the general public.

Third, the Internet threat reports from major cybersecurity companies will give you a unique and up-to-date perspective. FireEye’s APT1 report made history, a private sector company calling out espionage – with in-depth analysis backed by evidence – by another country. CrowdStrike’s Global Threat Report is quite readable and there are now dozens of such reports focusing on adversary groups, that is, criminal hacking groups or state-backed espionage teams. The Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report and reports from Ponemon are on cybersecurity more generally and the costs of cyber crime.

Last, there is the more technical literature, especially tied to hacking skills and certifications. I started with Hacking Exposed, now on its seventh edition, but study guides for Security+ and Certified Ethical Hacker are also useful. Only dive into these if you care about such things and can deal with sometimes daunting technical material right out of the gate. They’re important but you might start with the other material first.

Social Media

Many of the most influential and interesting practitioners and scholars in the field are on Twitter, and this is a great way to follow the most recent developments. Start with the authors I’ve mentioned here. Follow me then follow those I retweet. As you read Sandworm (especially, as it is new) be sure to follow those mentioned as well as all the authors and journalists I’ve mentioned above.

Getting a Basic Technical Background

If you want a job in cybersecurity, then you must have some understand of what happens on the other side of your screen. If it still seems like magic, then your analyses won’t have enough foundation. Fortunately, even a modicum of basic computer science or programming can be enough for you dispel the fog of magic and learn key concepts and terms. The deeper you can go, the more job options open up for you.

Any of the basic computer science classes available on the various MOOC platforms (EdX, Coursera, Udemy, etc.) will be a great start. CS50x is a particularly popular option. And get as much Python as you can, not just for cyber but to help you at SIPA and any job afterwards. If you can handle the quant, consider pairing cyber classes with the concentration in Data Analytics and Quantitative Analysis.

Within the cybersecurity fields, a certificate is a routine credential to demonstrate you have special knowledge or skills. The Security+ certificate by CompTIA is one of the most achievable for most SIPA students. Usually, you can study as much as you want for free and only have to pay to take the certification test, usually a few hundred dollars. The higher-end certifications, such as those from SANS, are often highly specialized and more expensive (often paid for by companies to train their staff).

This brief list of recommendations will get you off to a great start in studying cybersecurity policy, and you’ll be well prepared for cyber-related classes at SIPA. More importantly, you’ll be on your way to an exciting career in a field which has difficult and interesting challenges and is well paid and chronically understaffed. I look forward to your joining cybersecurity as a colleague!

"The most global public policy school, where an international community of students and faculty address world challenges."

—Merit E. Janow, Dean, SIPA, Professor of Practice, International and Economic Law and International Affairs

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