Archive for orientation

Finding Community at SIPA

Thanks to a former Admissions program assistant and SIPA ’18 graduate for this post!

One of the reasons why I chose to attend SIPA was because I wanted to engage with and learn from the large and diverse student body. That being said, I was also concerned about getting lost in a larger program – my fears were quickly assuaged given that SIPA provides numerous opportunities to build community from Day 1.  Activities ranging from orientation week to organization fairs are abundant. Below is a list of some places that I found strong community.

Orientation Cohorts

Orientation week was a great way to meet fellow students was through my cohort (Seeples Group D!). Spending a week with a group of students, learning about SIPA, Columbia, and New York was both fun and allowed me to build a strong sense of community within my first several weeks on campus. My cohort still has reunions and some of my best friends at school were in that group!

Student Organizations

I was involved in a variety of student organizations at SIPA, which really added to my experience. It took me a semester to decide which ones I ultimately wanted to join. These groups range from SIPA Vets to Women in Leadership and are a fantastic way to not only learn about a wide array of topics but also provide extensive leadership opportunities. I also became involved in groups at both the Law and Business schools to gain a different perspective.

Regional Institutes

Columbia’s regional institutes are a tremendous asset to SIPA’s program. Ranging from the Weatherhead to the Harriman Institutes, these institutes are a fantastic place to find community both with fellow Seeples in addition to students from the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. The institutes provide a wide array of cultural activities throughout the year, book talks, discussion groups, and many other events and resources. They were a major part of my life and community throughout the past several years!

International Trips

I participated in multiple student-led international trips during my time at SIPA. They were the highlight of my time here, and there is nothing that builds community like wandering around ancient ruins or being stuck on a train for 15 hours straight with a group of fellow Seeples. The trips allow you to experience the best of what SIPA has to offer – learning about international relations, policies, and cultures. Try to take advantage of these experiences – you will come away with lifelong friends!

Columbia Community Service

There are a myriad of community service opportunities sponsored by the University. They are a fantastic way to serve with fellow students and faculty as well as get to know residents on the Upper West Side.

Math Camp 101

I’m sure by now you’ve heard that economics and other quantitative coursework are key components of international and public affairs. One of the ways SIPA tries to prepare incoming students for the quantitative courses they’ll be taking is Math Camp. But, what is Math Camp? Do students go camping in the woods and recite the multiplication table around a fire? Not exactly. But, it’s almost just as fun!

What is Math Camp?

Math Camp is held in during orientation week for incoming students starting the fall semester. Starting on the second day of orientation, you and your classmates will be participating in Math Camp and learning from one of our great Microeconomics or Macroeconomics professors. It is strongly recommended for all first-year students attend. You start off reviewing algebra and eventually move to calculus. Math Camp culminates in a mandatory take-home Math Quiz that helps determine the student’s proficiency. The scores don’t count towards your GPA, but does determine if you’re eligible for Math Lab, which are Saturday courses to continue reviewing math skills, or a private tutor to help you master the skills.

What’s the point of Math Camp?

Don’t remember how to do derivatives or what a log is? For the students who are not comfortable in math or have not taken a math course in a while, Math Camp is a great refresher course. Some of our core classes do require some math skills and so to be successful in Microeconomics and Quantitative Analysis I, feeling confident in doing algebra and calculus is crucial.

Perspective from students who just took Math Camp

Steven Reid, IFEP concentration, said that “It was useful. I took pre-Calculus and Calculus in undergrad, so it was good to do a refresher. It kind of helps for 6400, but the pace of 6400 is super fast so it gives a little bit of a foundation but doing some micro and macro theory or intro will probably prepare you better. [Math Camp] might do more for 6300.”

Note: There are two levels of Microeconomics and Macroeconomics. They’re referred to as “6300” and “6400” by students. Both cover the basics of economic theory, but “6400” is considered to be more math-heavy and “6300” is more theoretical.

Marta Aparicio, USP concentration, said that “Prior to SIPA, I only did math in high school, which was up to pre-calc. I’ve tutored high school students in algebra, so some of the concepts were fresh in my mind. … Math camp was helpful in terms of the material that we were provided with the explanations, examples, and practice problems.” Marta recommends students to spend time reviewing the materials given – watch online videos, do the practice problems, and review the concepts herself — in order to prepare for the math quiz and upcoming courses.

Welcome to SIPA, incoming Spring 2019 J-Termers!

SIPA wrapped up Orientation for the newest J-Termers yesterday — that means the incoming Spring 2019 class, called “J-Term” since they start the term in January. (Get it?)

Despite the chilly weather, there are several benefits to starting in the Spring term. First off, these Seeples (get it?!) have two full summers to do internships, compared to the one summer if you start in the fall. There are no MIA/MPA classes during the summer, and taking advantage of this is an excellent way to apply what you learn in the classroom.

Another advantage is that you have an extra semester to get to intimately know your other J-Term Seeples before the Fall class arrives in September. There are many advantages to having large and small cohorts and class sizes – and SIPA offers both experiences.

Being part of SIPA’s global alumni network across 150+ countries lends itself to invaluable experiences, and it all starts here on the Columbia University campus. On January 16 and 17, these 33 students were able to meet SIPA faculty, get information on classes for their respective concentrations, and tour our little corner of New York City.

To those still finishing up their applications for the February 5 deadline, know that these new students above were in your position just a few months ago: reading this blog, listening in on webinars, and emailing us with questions. We encourage you to take your shot at SIPA and submit your application. Don’t wait until the last minute – you have a zero percent chance of getting in if you never submit your application.

Welcome to the J-Termers 2021, and we wish you all the best at SIPA!

A look at Orientation Week 2015

SIPA welcomes MIA-MPA Class of 2017!

Overcast skies gave way to sun as the SIPA community welcomed more than 500 new MIA and MPA students on August 31.

The growing roar of excited conversation on the International Affairs Building’s fourth and six floors signified that SIPA’s Orientation Week had begun, as hundreds of new students arrived to pick up registration packets before turning their attention to another key task – meeting their classmates.

As the morning advanced, orientation leaders directed students to Miller Theatre, near the campus gates on Broadway at 116th Street, for a formal welcome by Dean Merit E. Janow and other administrators. Students gradually filled both of the theater’s tiers, eagerly waiting for the presentation to begin.

“It really is an enormous pleasure to see all of you today,” Janow said. “Welcome. Congratulations. We’re delighted you’re here.”

Janow discussed the global nature of the SIPA program and emphasized the importance of problem-solving across disciplines, which she said is part of everyday life at SIPA.

“It is a defining characteristic of the school,” she said.

Explore photos from Orientation Week on Instagram.

The dean said that 29 percent of the incoming students said they plan to study Economic and Political Development—almost as many as the next two concentrations combined, Urban and Social Policy (16 percent) and International Finance and Economic Policy (15 percent). But she noted that students often change courses and underscored that—on the first day of school—no decision is permanent.

Emphasizing that students are now part of a larger community, Janow said that joining the ranks of SIPA alums is a “transformative experience.” She also encouraged students to take advantage of the many events, speakers, and programs they will soon learn more about.

“We are bringing the world to us and we are engaging the world,” she said.

In general, Janow and other speakers said students should aim to take full advantages of the resources at their disposal—at SIPA, at Columbia University, and throughout New York City.

Urbano Garza, the acting dean of student affairs, also encouraged students to be open to the many opportunities they encounter, and said the deans and other staff members of the Office of Student Affairs are standing by.

“We want you to be successful, and we’re here to help any way we can,” he said.

Garza urged students to seize the day, so to speak. “Plan ahead—time will go quickly,” he said. “You’ll see.” he said.

Dan McIntyre, associate dean of academic affairs, echoed this advice, and noted the numerous faculty members and hundreds of classes that students can consider.

He offered some nonacademic advice as well, counseling students from warmer climes to get a good coat, and urging students to experience the great outdoors, whether in nearby Morningside Park or outside the city.

Above all, McIntyre encouraged students to “focus on the learning as much as you can… learn what you do well and what you really love.”

Ajith Das Menon, president of SIPASA (the student government) and the final speaker Monday morning, marveled at how much he had done in his first year at SIPA: “I’ve made good friends, and mentors, and discovered myself, and I’m just halfway through,” he said.

He offered three recommendations in turn, to help incoming students make the most of the two years ahead. “Discover yourself, question yourself, and make mistakes.”

As usual, students came to SIPA from near and far, with varied interests, goals, and motivations.

For Kristopher Mahan MIA ’17 of Denver, Colorado, SIPA’s location was key.

“I had an internship at the UN and absolutely loved it—it made me want to study international affairs,” he said. “Being a great school in New York, where the UN is, makes SIPA a great place for me. And it already feels a lot like the UN because of the people from so many countries.”

Gayathri Vijayaraghavan MPA ’17, who is from India, also said she was attracted by SIPA’s international orientation.

“I want to study international finance and economic policy, and do something that combines finance and tech,” she said. “I’ve already worked for a tech and process company, worked on financial inclusion. I want to see how we can leverage tech even better.”

Anna Schaffer MIA ’16, Krista Jorstad MIA ’16, and Zineb Mouhyi MIA ’16 are each enrolled in the dual-degree program with Sciences Po.

“The lure [of the dual degree] is that you get two different perspectives in one program,” said Schaffer.

The opportunity to take part in a Capstone workshop sets SIPA apart, Mouhyi said.

Jorstad said she was looking forward to meeting her classmates. “Everyone has such diverse backgrounds,” she observed. “It seems like you learn a lot from fellow students.”

Indeed, students have varied experience. Jessica Madris MPA ’17 has lived in New York for several years, and worked for New York City’s Human Resources Administration before enrolling.

Madris, who plans to investigate the concentration in Urban and Social Policy, said Professor Ester Fuchs had encouraged her to apply to SIPA. “I’m looking forward to working with her,” Madris said.

Fadile Yetkin Gokgoz MPA ’17 of Turkey has worked as an undersecretary in her home nation’s treasury department, and said other people in her organization had come to SIPA in previous years. She aspires to work at an international financial corporation, and plans to study investment decisions in emerging countries.

For some, coming to SIPA is not the only new part of the experience. “I’ve never been to New York before,” said Yetkin Gokgoz, “but I’m happy to be here.”

Course-selection advice for incoming students

The Office of Admissions has received several inquiries from incoming Fall 2015 students about orientation, course registration and assistantships. Luckily, one of our Admissions Ambassadors decided to share with all of you some “insider’s knowledge” on how to approach academics and financial aid at SIPA. Here’s what Sriram Gutta, MPA ’15, had to say:

Read More →

"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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