Author Archive for Gregory Joy

New York v. DC: Battle of the Grad School Cities

When thinking about policy graduate schools and careers in the U.S., Washington, D.C. seems to be the hub of policy. They have multiple schools, tens of thousands of jobs in policy, and the entire U.S. federal government is based in of the city. Many prospective SIPA students wonder, “Why go to SIPA in NYC when I can be so close to the action in D.C.?” 

I’m here to tell you how I answered that question.

I knew that I was going to be living in D.C. once I graduated. As a 2017 Rangel Fellow, my entire career will be between U.S. Embassies abroad and the State Department in D.C. So naturally, I applied to policy schools in D.C. even though I felt my grad school calling was in New York.

But I was hesitant. I thought if I went to the Big Apple, I would be missing out on the networking opportunities in D.C. that would boost my future career. But I knew that D.C. was not really for me in terms of the graduate schools’ curricula or the bureaucratic culture. If I went to D.C. for graduate school, I knew I would likely be miserable as the Capital lacks the diversity and cultural aspects that was so appealing in NYC. I definitely had some deciphering to do in which was right for me.

I’m proud to say now that choosing NYC over D.C. for policy school was the right move for me personally AND career-wise.

First, being in NYC does not remove you from the D.C. network of policy. SIPA has thousands of alumni based in D.C., and it’s very easy to reach out to them. We also have a D.C. career conference every January in which SIPA students get the opportunity to connect to government agencies, think tanks, or private companies working out of the Capitol. Even on days you want to attend an event in D.C., the train can get you there in three hours, so you could possibly make a day trip of it.

Second, and personally, New York was the right city for me. Compared to D.C., New York’s arts scene is drastically larger. There’s Broadway, hundreds of music venues, thousands of art galleries, and enough museums to rival the Smithsonian. The food scene here is much more diverse, with cuisines from every country and culture you can think of. The bureaucratic culture of D.C. also tends to bring similar people whereas New York’s multifaceted job market brings a plethora of different kinds of people to the city. The diversity and options of New York are unparalleled.

Overall, I know I made the right decision with coming to SIPA over my D.C. options. I’m still gaining the career network I was hoping for while feeling fulfilled in my creative exploration and personal interests. Come to SIPA and experience the same.

Where to Live in New York

When it comes to making the big move to the Big Apple, finding a place to live can be confusing for an incoming student. Online searching can easily bring you great prices on places but you may also be an hour away from class. Or there may be somewhere close to school but the space is limited and it’s far away from the vibrant downtown life you may be looking for. Here is a guide on where to live in New York as an incoming SIPA Student and finding the neighborhood that is perfect for YOU!

Morningside Heights

Morningside Heights is the neighborhood in which Columbia University resides in. It spans from west of Morningside Park to Riverside Drive and from 110th to 125th. Some of the landmarks in Morningside Heights include Morningside Park, Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine, Mt. Sinai Hospital, and Riverside Church.

Pros: This neighborhood is great for anyone who is trying to live close to school. With everything from grocery stores to bars to classes being within a 15 minute walking distance, you’re close to the academic action, school happy hours, and classmate study sessions.

Cons: You may feel that you’re trapped within the Columbia bubble when living so close to school. Downtown can easily take 40-50 minutes to get to. It’s also quite an expensive area. You won’t get much size for your buck in this neighborhood, the grocery stores can be fairly expensive and an average meal at a local restaurant will cost you upward of $15.


Harlem, while contested where it actually begins and ends, is generally considered the large neighborhood east of Morningside Park. A historically black neighborhood undergoing gentrification, Harlem is not what it used to be but has always been a culturally rich area to live. Its major landmarks include the Apollo Theater, Sylvia’s Soul Food, El Museo Del Barrio, and the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.

Pros: The neighborhood has a wide range to accommodate wallets of every size. There’s top tier restaurants like Red Rooster and Minton’s Playhouse and homey, cheap and delicious eateries like Lolo’s Seafood Shack and Lolita’s Mexican Restaurant. For apartments, sizes are much bigger for much cheaper than surrounding neighborhoods. The further east and north you go in Harlem, the cheaper the prices are. There’s also a lot to do in Harlem, from theaters to museums to bars. It can accommodate anyone’s extracurricular interests.

Cons: The only way to get to Columbia from Harlem is to ride the bus or to walk up the hundred stairs of Morningside Heights. Which on a day that’s too hot or too cold, can be quite miserable. Also, food in Harlem isn’t the easiest for restricted diets. Many have found it difficult to be a vegetarian or vegan in the area with many franchise fast-food restaurants and not too many options on health-based cuisine.

Hamilton Heights/Manhattanville

I’m bringing these two neighborhoods together into the same synopsis because they offer very similar vibes and blend together. Manhattanville and Hamilton Heights are the neighborhoods between 125th Street and 155th Street, bordering Harlem to the East and Riverside to the West. Key landmarks include City College of New York, the sub-neighborhood of Sugar Hill, Claremont Theater, and St. Mary’s Protestant Episcopal Church.

Pros: Hamilton Heights and Manhattanville is within spitting distance of Columbia University. Just take a few stops down the 1 track and you’re at the campus. Prices for housing are relatively cheap in this neighborhood also. Your average 3 bedroom, 1 bath will run around $3000-$3300/month with many rent-stabilized options available.

Cons: The neighborhood is very lively on the streets which can lead to a lot of noise. Also, living anywhere near the train station on W. 125th street, one of the few stations in Manhattan that is above ground, can be very loud. It may not be the ideal neighborhood for people looking for some peace and quiet. There also isn’t much to do in the neighborhood compared to its surrounding neighborhoods. Some may find it boring.

Upper West Side

Upper West Side is the Neighborhood between 59th and 110th and west of Central Park. Key landmarks include Lincoln Circle, the Ghostbusters Building, Julliard, and the American Museum of Natural History.

Pros: This neighborhood is known for its excellent food scene, proximity to Central Park, and nighttime quietness. If you’re looking for any type of food, you can probably find it in the Upper West Side. Central Park is all but a few steps away and at night, it’s usually a very quiet area in the city.

Cons: Upper West side brings a new definition of expensive, especially if you’re living below 100th street. There’s also not much of a nightlife in the area. To find your fun, you’ll most likely have to travel to Harlem or Midtown/Downtown. The area also lacks much of the New York culture one may be looking for. If you’re looking for art, museums, and exhibits, you’re on the wrong side of Upper Manhattan.


Midtown is truly the heart of New York, with neighborhoods like Times Square, Hell’s Kitchen, and Turtle Bay. Midtown is the entire area of Manhattan between 34th and 59th street and where you’ll find some of your fellow Seeples.

Pros: In Midtown, there is quite literally everything to do. It’s a vibrant part of the city with endless options of fun. The nightlife in Hell’s Kitchen is incredibly LGBTQ friendly. There’s also many popular food and shopping options in Times Square. The location of midtown is also perfect for anyone who wants to make a quick ride to Brooklyn or uptown.

Cons: The area is tourist central so expect it to be incredibly packed and people stopping every few feet to take pictures. Because of the amount of tourism, the area is incredibly loud. Lastly, rent in the area is sky high as it’s near so much. You won’t find any housing for cheap in this area.

Corporate Pride: The Monetizing of the Queer Experience

Walking down the streets of SoHo shopping district during the month of June, you’ll see several dozen storefronts plastered in rainbow colors. As part of the LGBTQ community, my immediate reaction is, for lack of a better word, pride. I feel represented, wanted, and supported.

As acceptance of queer identities (very) slowly but surely becomes commonplace in the overall American perspective, corporations undoubtedly move with their consumer base toward their political beliefs. This can be a natural phenomena under a capitalist system but upon deeper reflection, it feels exploitative. On the other end of the corporate pride month marketing rainbow is not unequivocal support for queer identities. It is capitalistic exploitation via the monetizing of queer culture and experience.

As a policy student and during this Pride month, I want to inform people how corporation’ support for queer identities can be thinly-veiled, and under the veil is corporate profit and greed.

First, we must explore what Pride is about. Pride commemorates the Stonewall Riots, a rebellion against police attempting to arrest queer people under the archaic sodomy laws in which men (and women) could be arrested if they did not abide by heterosexual, cisgendered norms. At its core, Pride is not about rainbow colors placed on a sock. Pride is about fighting back against a discriminatory system — a system in which corporations have long acted in support — that limits queer expression and rights. Pride is also time to reflect and celebrate the accomplishments the queer community has achieved despite a thriving system against us. Pride is about recentering acceptance as core to our community despite all the pain the queer community faces. Pride has never been about profits.

Corporations do not contribute to the core of the Pride commemoration when they only paint their storefronts, merchandise, and services in rainbow colors. The limited-time offerings of low-quality rainbow T-shirts at higher prices is not an in-depth reflection on the queer experience. It’s a move to use queer symbols as profit. Furthermore, when corporations gain these profits, they seldom put it back into the community that is likely buying their Pride-centric goods and services. Even the corporations that do such a thing, likely by partnering with nonprofits for their Pride campaigns, seldom donate more than 15% of their profits to their partner. This is why Pride and corporations is a largely parasitic relationship – corporations profit off queer culture and its burgeoning mainstream acceptance to then give no true benefit to the queer community.

I recognize that some may say this critique is too harsh. I can acknowledge that the awareness of queer identities and acceptance as social progress is something that corporations actively play a role in. This is simply not enough though. Queer acceptance in all spaces should be a basic human right, and praising corporations for providing an open expression of that acceptance one month out of the year is a diluted accomplishment.

When it comes to Pride campaigns, corporations can take the extra step to acknowledge queer struggle, pain, and history by donating ALL the profits gained from Pride month campaigns back into the queer community through scholarships, non-profit contributions, leftist political campaign donations, and other avenues of economic, social, and political empowerment for the LGBTQ community. Only then can the negative qualities of capitalism be somewhat mitigated to ultimately not exploit the queer experience for corporate profit.

Next time I’m in SoHo, I want to know the places I’m shopping at support my community more than just a rainbow clothing campaign. I want them to support our collective struggle to navigate a heteronormative, homophobic, and transphobic system. I want to know that the money I spend at their stores, on their Pride campaign, is used for my community. If they are going to use queer culture as a design, they must understand queer history and be actively fighting to end the queer struggle.

A Foodie’s Guide to Columbia University’s Food Scene

One of the greatest things about Columbia’s campus is that it is essentially a foodie’s paradise. There’s several different cuisines nearby, from Ethiopian to Mexican and from mass-produced burgers with fries to locally-sourced vegan friendly meals. Columbia offers a smörgåsbord of food options.

Massawa (121st and Amsterdam)

Massawa is an Ethiopian and Eritrean restaurant boasting flavorful and shareable meals, all scooped up with a handful of injera, a sour bread served with all meals. The restaurant holds an impressive menu with several types of meats and vegetables. Meals can be vegetarian friendly also. It’s also a perfect place for a date for those planning. The quiet, dim-lit environment sets a romantic, conversational mood perfect for a first-date or a long-term couple. Meals range from $15-$25 per person including tip.

Shake Shack (116th and Broadway)

You might have heard of Shake Shack if you’re from the Northeast, but for those who don’t know, it’s a franchise burger that rivals the well-known West Coast chain In-n-Out Burgers and the broader burger chain Five Guys Burgers. However, Shake Shack is more than just burgers. They’re also known for their concretes, an ice cream concoction with a few different toppings and flavors mixed in. Shake Shack is often a filled with students looking for a quick bite between classes. A meal costs about $10-$15 dollars, no tip required.

Community (Between 112th and 113th on Broadway)

With an American-eclectic menu that features seasonal, local, organic food whenever possible, Community is a popular place for those who are food conscious. While the restaurant isn’t just for vegetarians, almost all of their meals can be made for vegetarians by request. One of their most popular items on their breakfast menu are their blueberry pancakes, a must-try for all newcomers. It’s also a great place for a Sunday brunch so bring your friends and enjoy a meal on their patio. Average meals range from $13-$20 without tip.

Jin Ramen (Broadway and Tiemann Place)

This is not your microwavable ramen. Though a little bit of a walk from campus, Jim Ramen is one of the Columbia community’s most popular restaurants, boasting several types of ramen noodle bowls. Also a great place for a date because nothing is cuter than watching your boo slurp up noodles. For meals, you can go classic with a soy sauce ramen or go different with a green coconut thai curry ramen bowl. Either way, you’ll love what you’re eating. Meals are around $12 – $18.

Strokos (114th and Amsterdam)

If you’re looking for something quick and pretty cheap, Strokos is the way to go. It’s a gourmet deli serving dozens upon dozens of options, from pizza to salad to sandwiches to chicken and vegetables. The place also has enough room there for studying so you’ll usually find several students eating with their laptops. Stop by Strokos and get a meal for usually under $10.

Oaxaca Taqueria (Between 122nd and 123rd on Amsterdam)

As a lover of tacos, I must say Oaxaca Taqueria does an amazing job at making the signature Mexican meal. You can get three tacos for around $10 and they have a little under a dozen of different styles of tacos. My favorites are the classic carnitas tacos and the savory Korean taco. It’s a casual place so you can either eat there or take it to go. Either way, you won’t regret it.

SIPodcasts: A Look into Podcasts by SIPA Alumnae

In this Women’s History Month, and on International Women’s Day, the SIPA Admissions blog would like to highlight four SIPA alumnae who have taken the power of technology and information sharing and brought it to the accessibility of podcasts. Podcasts are all the rage in the most recent years and the trend has overtaken SIPA students and alumni. Never missing an opportunity to educate the masses, these four SIPA women have created podcasts highlighting topics spanning from identity to international affairs to networking to inequality:

Where Are You From?
George-Ann Ryan MPA ’20

Simply put, “Where Are You From” is about “two girls who are tired of being asked where they’re from.” In this podcast, GeorgeAnn Ryan and her colleague Zana cover topics such as Marvel’s Black Panther, parenting methods like belt beatings, and more serious topics like stereotyping. Allow George-Ann and Zana to make you laugh, think, and ponder with their enlightening podcast.

Roos & Shine
Josefine Roos MIA ’11

Inspiration at the root of Josefine Roos’s podcast. Best described as a “pep talk,” Josephine and her sister want you to listen to the podcast and feel as if you can take control of everything in your like and “seize the day.” They offer advice on how to pursue your dream career, network effectively, how to negotiate, and how to fake it until you make it. Take a listen and take some advice on how to be your best self.

What in the World?
Bunmi Akinnusotu MPA ’14

Education at its most accessible. “What in the World” informs its viewers of international affairs in a digestible and easily-understandable way. It’s brings on experts of color and women experts to explain our international system. Topics range from the Iran Deal to the recent Brazilian elections to G7 Summit. Educate yourself on international affairs with our alumni Bunmi Akinnusotu.

Sincerely, Hueman
Camille Laurente MIA ’16

We here at SIPA Admissions have highlighted this amazing podcast. You can find that post here. But we thought it was especially important to highlight just how Camille brings guest on her show to dive deeper into the topic even more. She’s had directors of major non-profits, celebrity mothers, and CEOs. Take a listen to her podcast and hear of the experiences of amazing people.

"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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