Why Alejandra Cordero chose MPA in Development Practice (MPA-DP)

Thanks to Alejandra Cordero MPA-DP ’20 for this guest post. She is a second-year student from Quito Ecuador.

If you’re interested in learning more about the MPA-DP program, don’t miss out on this upcoming virtual information session.

Why did you decide to pursue the MPA-DP program at Columbia SIPA?

During my undergraduate studies I worked with a social entrepreneur in Ghana that proved through his work the importance of truly understanding the needs and problems faced by the communities and people any project or policy is trying to help. Through this experience, I realized the importance of fieldwork and engaging with the people you want to help. When looking at different Master’s programs, I knew I wanted a program that would prioritize the connection of the classroom with the outside world.

During my research, I came across the MPA-DP at SIPA. As I was reading through the program description, I was captivated by the program’s focus on giving students a “practice-orientated, interdisciplinary, education experience.”

I was also drawn to New York City. This is a city where you can meet people with very diverse backgrounds, where you can take a train and immerse yourself into different cultures, where you can try food from different parts of the world, and always find a new activity to do.

When thinking about where to study international development, New York is a perfect place. I am near the United Nations headquarters where every year leaders from all over the world come for the General Assembly sessions. I have Fortune 500 companies, NGOs, startups, and organizations that cover pretty much all industries. In addition, I am a train ride way from Washington, D.C. if I want access to the government sector.

What do you like the most about the program?

I recently finished my third semester at SIPA, one more to go. When people ask me what I like the most about the MPA-DP I always say, “my classmates.” Each individual in the program brings a unique experience  and set of skills. People from the MPA-DP program inspire you to do more, you learn from one and other, support each other in and outside the classroom and many of us end up working together with fellow MPA-DPs in academic competitions. Every year, MPA-DP students have been selected as finalist for the SIPA Dean’s Challenge, GPPN and many other competitions.

What do you think of the MPA-DP program, before and after becoming a student?

The MPA-DP program has been more that what I expected. A large percent of the learning does happen in the classroom, but I’ve learned that this program, SIPA and Columbia, offer students more than great faculty and classes. You get the opportunity to join and lead student organizations and meet individuals from around the world that are achieving a lot in their specific areas of development. You can join competitions and challenges such as the Dean’s Challenge, where you  work together with your team to come up with innovating solutions for a specific development issue. You can participate in consulting projects, simulation competitions, travel with different student organization and get access to a strong alumni network.

What did you do for your MPA-DP Summer Placement?

The summer placement is one of the experiences that I’ve appreciated the most at the MPA-DP program. During my summer placement I worked at Kantar Public in their Myanmar office. Kantar is a market research and consulting firm that works with governments, the public sector, non-governmental and academic organizations, and corporations around the world to help them deliver more effective policy, services and communications to the public.

During the summer, I worked across different quantitative and qualitative research project in a variety of development areas including women’s agency, food and nutrition, sanitation and education. This was a great learning experience. I was able to apply what I had learn in the classroom when doing data analysis and report writing and I learned how to organize and manage fieldwork. I also learned a lot about Myanmar, its history, culture, food and religion. This experience helped me have a better understanding of what I want to do after SIPA, and understand what skills I needed to further develop and what classes I should take in my last semester to get to the place I want to be by graduation.

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