Author Archive for Kaitlyn Wells

This could be your Capstone project one day

SIPA’s signature Capstone Workshops give students the opportunity to apply the practical skills and analytical knowledge learned at SIPA to a real-world issue for client organizations in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors. Students from the Master of International Affairs and Master of Public Administration degree programs, working under the guidance of an expert faculty advisor, are organized into small consulting teams (generally about six students per team) across more than 80 projects each year.

While students won’t complete their MIA/MPA Capstone Workshop until their final semester at SIPA, there are ways to preview what the assignments are like. Here are two Capstone Workshops highlighting some of the compelling work that our Seeples do.

Preventing Social Conflict in the Peruvian Mining Industry

Capstone Client #1: Government of Peru, President of the Council of Minister’s Office

Faculty Advisor: Jenik Radon

Team: Ayaka Ishida Amano, Lidia Cano, Filippo Ghersini, Ana Gabriela Gonzalez, Marisol Grau, Jordan Grimshaw, Vidyu Kishor, Emmanuel Laboy, Alessandra Mistura, Joshua Trinidad, Clara Young Thiemann

Mining is one of Peru’s most important industries, responsible for a considerable portion of the country’s economic growth since the 1990s. However, this growth has come at a financial, environmental and human cost. Work stoppages and deaths have resulted from social conflicts that arise when members of the communities impacted by mining projects are excluded from the approval processes and the economic benefits. Government regulations aimed at preventing and mitigating the causes of these social conflicts have been largely ineffective. With renewed government focus on this issue in 2017, the team’s report harnessed the current political momentum and provided a guide for the new administration through the process of filling legal gaps, mapping administrative processes, improving state engagement with communities, and ensuring implementation and compliance with robust social license policies.

Assessing Offline Internet Technology as a Development Tool to Connect the Unconnected

Capstone Client #2: Wikimedia Foundation, Mount Sinai—Wikipedia Project for Offline Education in Medicine (POEM) in the Dominican Republic

Faculty Advisor: Anne Nelson

Team: Lucia Haro, Maria Gonzalez Millan, Katie Nelson, Jorge Salem Suito

Offline internet technology is an emerging ICT4D tool to expand access to information to the 60% of the world’s population who lack internet connectivity. Wikipedia is interested in expanding the use of their open source encyclopedia content around the globe, and assessing its usefulness in low-resource settings. The Dominican Republic, a country with an under-resourced health system and limited internet connectivity, is an ideal laboratory to test offline internet as a tool for development. The team interviewed healthcare providers in the Dominican Republic to learn what kinds of information they require, and to assess the usefulness of the ‘internet-in-a-box’ as a low-cost offline internet-enabled data storage device that allows users to wirelessly access open-source content. The project’s findings are that offline internet has considerable potential to bridge information gaps, especially in rural, low-resource settings. The team’s recommendations are being incorporated into a pilot project to field-test the device during summer 2017.

7 Student groups you may not know about

You’ve done your research about the application requirements and you’ve studied up on the GRE/GMAT, but did you know there’s more to SIPA than just “getting in”? Once you’re here you’ll have access to an astonishing amount of resources, from periodicals and professors to courses and classmates. A surprising extension of SIPA’s resources actually lies within its groups. These student-run organizations offer our Seeples the freedom to explore Columbia’s and New York City’s resources in a relaxed setting. Some groups invite visiting dignitaries to campus for informal discussions, while others coordinate research-focused Spring Break trips abroad. (In all, SIPA has more than 40 student groups you can join.) No matter your interests, there are ways to get involved at SIPA without getting lost in a sea of textbooks and policy memos.

Here are 7 SIPA student groups you may not know exist.

Columbia SIPA Veterans Association
CSVA’s foundation is to assist new students assimilate to SIPA by sharing critical information about the GI Bill ®, the VA, and general student life. Host prospective student veterans during campus visits, provide mentors to new student veterans during orientation, and host a website information session to circulate student veteran information. They provide a forum for discussion of military and veteran issues, facilitate opportunities for student veterans to interact with other student veterans and students interested in military and veteran issues, and highlight veteran perspectives within the SIPA discourse.

Columbia Impact Investing Initiative
Founded in September 2010, CI3 now has over 200 graduate student members from Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA), Columbia Business School, Columbia Law School, the Earth Institute and the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. The third power in our name reflects CI3’s belief in the vast potential of mobilizing private and public finance to scale up sustainable enterprises designed to achieve triple bottom line results: financial return, social impact, and environmental impact. The organization is dedicated to learning about and contributing to the advancement of impact investing and social entrepreneurship around the world.

Journal of International Affairs
Established in 1947, the Journal of International Affairs is the second-oldest publication in the field of international relations, affiliated with and run by students at SIPA. It is the premier university-affiliated periodical in the field and has earned worldwide recognition for framing the heated debates that define global events and foreign policy. In the aftermath of World War II, the founders of the journal saw a need for a publication that would serve as a forum for exploring issues and offering innovative solutions to problems of global concern. The journal has featured leading minds in the field of international affairs since its inception.

SIPA Pan African Network
As its mission, SPAN creates a vibrant community of support for students within SIPA and Columbia concerned with Africa and its Diaspora. Annual flagship events include the African Economic Forum, African Development Forum, and Taste of Africa. Core objectives include creating a platform for African students and all other students interested in Africa to share ideas beneficial to development in Africa, and organizing events focused on development, and connect members with organizations for internship and post-graduation employment opportunities. 

Returned Peace Corps Volunteers
The mission of SIPA RPCVs is to unite a network of Returned Peace Corps Volunteers at SIPA who share a common experience, to provide networking and professional opportunities for students, and to inform the personal and professional development of our members, including those who are recently transitioning from overseas posts. Members of SIPA RPCVs are also committed to Peace Corps’ third goal: “To strengthen America’s understanding of the world and its peoples” by sharing their experiences with both the SIPA and greater NYC communities. SIPA RPCVs also provides opportunities to continue to volunteer in the local community, raises awareness about Peace Corps, and advertises SIPA programs to current and returned PCVs.

SIPA Technology and Innovation Student Association
This group was formed to help increase student knowledge of how technology influences international development and to expand opportunities for students within the information and communication technology (ICTs) for development and public policy. Through projects, panels, case competitions, and events, we aim to create a community around ICT for development and public policy as well as promote practical research and internship opportunities for SIPA students. Additionally, the TechISA supports SIPA curriculum development around technology for development and public policy.  Our students and alumni work globally with organizations such as The Earth Institute, UNICEF, OCHA, Worldbank, Ushahidi, and UNDP.  One of our primary activities is crisis mapping, an international effort to respond to disasters around the globe, and our volunteers provide essential information within the first few essential days following a disaster.

SIPA Spectrum
Spectrum is an organization within which SIPA LGBTQ and straight allies may network, build a community, and hold dialogue on international and domestic issues regarding homosexuality and through which community members may access relevant resources and information.

SIPA Alumni Stories: Esther Waters-Crane MIA ’17

Esther Waters-Crane graduated in 2007 with an MIA degree and a concentration in Human Rights. She is currently Chief of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation at UNICEF in Kenya.

Describe your background prior to attending SIPA.
I worked in private sector banking for five years in London. I found I wasn’t fulfilled by the private sector so, to supplement it, I did lots of volunteering – mainly with the British Red Cross refugee team.

What motivated you to choose SIPA?
I knew I wanted to study human rights and eventually work for the UN. I was compelled by the stories of the refugees I volunteered with in the UK and wanted to work on issues affecting people in flight, not just in the UK/Europe but more at a global policy level. I sought advice from the career service at my undergrad university (Cambridge, UK) and senior colleagues at the Red Cross – all avenues pointed towards SIPA. Then I visited the campus and SIPA faculty where I met Paul Martin and we discussed SIPA’s links with the UN. From that point onwards I knew SIPA was the right place for me.

What are you doing now?
I am currently Chief of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation at UNICEF Kenya, where I am responsible for ensuring that the millions of dollars UNICEF receives, are directed towards, and appropriately spent to address the needs of the most deprived children in Kenya. Prior to working for UNICEF in Kenya (and prior to having my own children), I spent 5 years working for UNICEF and UNDP Somalia where my work involved implementing public health programmes and designing and implementing interventions to engage, empower and protect conflict-affected communities. I also spent 3.5 years working for UNDP South Sudan and the DPKO Sudan, looking at issues affecting women and children in conflict.

How has your SIPA degree helped your career?
I wouldn’t be where I am today without SIPA. I use the skills and knowledge I acquired on an almost daily basis. The connections between SIPA faculty and the UN gave me the exposure I needed to get my foot in the door. It was the perfect segue for me and opened my eyes to the reality of working in the field I do.

What advice would you give a first-year SIPA student?
Network!!! Chat with all your professors about your career plans and ask them to keep their ears open for opportunities. Attend events at Columbia and the UN and talk to as many people as you can. Join professional networks on and off campus and attend conferences on countries of interest to you. The earlier you have an idea about what you want to do after SIPA, the smoother your transition to that reality will be – focus on what excites you and what you’re passionate about, and hone in on the international experts working on this. Adapt your papers and research to fit your future career interests. And, don’t get fixated on grades – they’re not as important in the whole scheme of things as you may think.

Fall 2017 New Student Series: Jungwoo Lee

In our final installment of this season’s New Students Series, we’re welcoming Jungwoo Lee, from Seoul, Republic of Korea. Jungwoo has an MBA degree from KAIST and spent the last decade as a consultant for a securities company. Jungwoo, very self-aware of his career trajectory, became dissatisfied with private sector work and how his character was changing for the worse. So he left it all behind and trekked across four continents over two years to find his calling in life—which led him to a desire to help those less fortunate. Jungwoo, we’re happy we can assist you on your educational journey so you’re better prepared to help address global inequality issues. Everybody, say “hello” to Jungwoo.

Full Name: Jungwoo Lee
Age: Sorry. I forgot.
Degree Program: Master of International Affairs
Concentration: International Finance and Economy Policy

Hometown: Seoul, Republic of Korea
Undergraduate University: Seoul National University
Undergraduate Major: Philosophy
Undergraduate Graduation Year: 1999

What’s your professional background?
After I got my MBA degree from Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) in Seoul, I became a business consultant because convincing clients of what I believe is right and bringing about positive change was the right fit for me and I enjoyed it. I was a business consultant for ten years. I was satisfied with my consulting work because it gave me a sense of accomplishment when I completed tasks, jobs, and projects through perseverance and hard work. After ten years as a consultant at IBM, Accenture, A.T. Kearney and Deloitte Consulting, I wanted to lead an organization instead of advising others. Thus, I accepted a position with a securities company in Seoul, Korea, and worked as a strategic planning team manager for about two years.

Did you apply to SIPA to change careers or to gain experience in a career path you already have experienced in?
I want to extend my career from the private sector to the public sector. After more than ten years as a business consultant and as an employee of a securities company, I became frustrated with the logic of capitalism. I became a cold-hearted person who was obsessed with evaluating everything according to the ruthless logic of ‘cost and revenue,’ ‘efficiency and effectiveness,’ and ‘return on investment.’ Did I really want to spend the rest of my life as a capitalist warrior? I did not. So, I decided to hit the reset button and spent the next two years backpacking around the world to expand my horizons and find my calling. I visited four continents, 18 countries, 72 cities across the globe. By the end of my trip, I had expanded my knowledge of world politics and economics, history and culture, religion and philosophy. The world was even larger than I had thought, and there was much work to do both for the private and public purposes.

What was your reaction when you found out you were accepted to SIPA?
I vividly remember the midnight I found out I got into SIPA. At the one of the happiest news in my life, I opened a bottle of wine and started to sip it, listening to the background music, ‘New York, New York’ again and again.

Why did you say “yes” to SIPA?
I have much interest in both the private and public sector. I witnessed cross-border investment/business opportunities, and the grim global inequalities between the developed countries and developing countries during the world travel. I want to incubate business leads on the one hand and contribute to easing global inequalities on the other hand. I believe I can find more varied chances of harmonizing these two seemingly-different objectives in SIPA which is located in New York, the heart of the global business, finance, and multilateral organizations.

What do you most look forward to as a graduate student at SIPA?
I believe I can acquire the academic and professional framework with which I can analyze the real world; build up a global network with renowned professors/practitioners, like-minded classmates, and a vast alumni network; find various co-work opportunities in a multilateral organization in New York. In return, I hope I can find lots of chances to share my business consulting and world travel experiences with my SIPA cohort.

Do you have any apprehension about starting graduate school?
It is my first time studying abroad in my life. I got increasingly fretful and nervous as the beginning of the first semester approaches. However, I believe I could get through all the difficulties just like I did when I backpacked around the world.

What are your goals after SIPA
As of now, I cannot specify my future goal after SIPA because I truly believe SIPA, Columbia, and New York combined would afford me a lot of opportunities and chances that I cannot foresee now. Of course, I have tentative goals in my mind: start-ups, multilateral organization employment, more advanced degrees like Ph.D. or JD and so on. However, I will not cling to them rigidly. Rather, I will try to discover more possibilities while I stay at SIPA for next two years.

If you could change one small thing about your community, country or the world, what would it be?
I would like to find some way to contribute to easing the yawning global inequality. Early in my world travel, in Nepal, I spent a month as a medical volunteer in rural communities, a project organized by a Korean doctor. On my first day in the mobile clinic, I was overwhelmed by the long line of people with festering sores from unsanitary living conditions. While transporting patients, dispensing medicine, and attending to their needs, I noticed that many of the Nepalese did not have even basic health care. It was the first moment when I saw the magnitude of global inequality. In Nepal, my tour guide’s annual salary was $500, barely enough for a family to live on. In Havana and across Cuba, I met families living below the subsistence level. This misery dramatically contrasted with midtown Manhattan’s upscale department stores and Sao Paolo’s lively markets. I hope to make some difference in this grim reality even if it is small. This is why I decided to conduct academic research at Columbia SIPA on the international finance and economy, and their impacts on global inequality. Moreover, I would like to find practical solutions for easing global inequality and for securing sustainable economic growth.

Tell us something interesting about yourself.
I’d like to add some words about my world travel experiences. Three keywords define my world travel: challenge, team spirit, and diversity.

These were my challenges. I recited Diamond Sutra in Nepal and learned Spanish in Latin America. I completed a 40km bicycle ride in the Atacama Desert, finished a 60km trek of Torres del Paine in Patagonia, and climbed to the peak of an active volcano at Chile. No matter how hard these adventures seemed, once I tried courageously and worked with passion and perseverance, I completed them. I realized “whether you think you can or not, you’re right.”

This is how I learned about team spirit. I climbed Annapurna base camp and Andes mountain peaks over 4,000 meters above sea level. I explored the Amazon rainforest and completed the 40km Inca Trail. All of these treks were possible thanks to my teams I met on the road.

I appreciate diversity. I have made friends from Asia, Europe, and America, and these friendships have expanded my knowledge of other cultures, languages, histories, politics and economics. In addition, I came to have an open mind, flexibility, and tolerance.


[Photos courtesy of Jungwoo Lee]
*Note: This series is published in its original form with no editing.

SIPA Alumni Stories: Philippe Dauba-Pantanacce MIA ’07

From France, Philippe Dauba-Pantanacce graduated in 2007 with an MIA degree focusing on International Finance and Business. He is now Senior Economist and Global Geopolitical Analyst with Standard Chartered Bank in London.

Describe your background prior to attending SIPA.
My education prior to SIPA was in econometrics, finance and international relations. I started my career in the public sector, working for the French embassy in Washington, DC and in the U.S. Congress. I moved to the private sector to work in finance with HSBC Asset Management where I worked for almost five years both in Paris and New York.

What are you doing now?
After SIPA, I went to work for Standard Charted Bank where I am currently responsible for global geopolitical economic analysis, assessing global risks and their economic implications. My role involves regular contact with policy makers and multilateral institutions and I often provide economic analysis in the global media. Previously, I covered the economies of the Middle East and North Africa for eight years for the Bank, based out of Dubai.

What motivated you to choose SIPA?
I chose SIPA because one of the most senior executives at HSBC Asset Management, the Global Head of Emerging Markets, had gone to SIPA, and I discovered that he was not the only one in our line of business. They all had only praise for SIPA.

How do you think SIPA helped you achieve your goals?
SIPA’s program is rich, diverse and addresses most of the challenges you will face in an international environment with constantly moving parameters. In an international career you have to be able to keep adapting to a changing environment, and the complexities of today’s world requires the ability to analyze various layers of information – whether contextual, political or financial – in order to come up with the right decision making process. In a nutshell, a holistic approach to the world’s problems today has become paramount. SIPA definitely addresses this better than any other program I know.

"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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