Archive for Fall 2017

A View from the Class: Sinan Zeino

In December’s issue, we feature current SIPA student, Sinan Zeino MIA ’19. A first year Master of International Affairs candidate, Sinan is concentrating in Human Rights with a specialization in International Conflict Resolution. He is SIPA’s James Luikart 70th Anniversary Fellow and a Columbia Displaced Persons Scholar. Launched this year by Columbia University, the Columbia Displaced Persons program provides individuals who have been displaced as a result of the Syrian civil war with access to the transformative power of a Columbia education.

Sinan ZeinoWhat were the circumstances that brought you to SIPA?
In 2013, I was only six credits away from completing an undergraduate degree in English literature from Al-Baath University in Homs, Syria, when I was forced to leave Syria because of the ongoing civil war. Fortunately, I secured a scholarship to attend Salve Regina University in Newport, Rhode Island, graduating in 2016 with a bachelor’s degree in social work. After finishing my undergraduate degree, I decided to continue my studies and gain more practical experience to more effectively develop the skills needed to gain comprehensive insight into refugee emergencies and then develop and communicate the solutions and strategies to support those in crisis.

Why did you choose to attend SIPA?
I believe that the best learning experience comes from combining both the practical and the theoretical. SIPA offers unique opportunities to do just that. Besides offering a wide range of classes, SIPA’s summer internships and workshops will provide me with the opportunity to work alongside professionals engaged in extensive research of the most relevant socio-economic concerns related to the Middle East, and in particular, to the refugee crisis in my home country.

As a Syrian refugee who has fled war and persecution, I know firsthand that there are thousands of Syrian people in a similar position, waiting for actions to end the violation of human rights that are affecting them and their loved ones daily. Studying Human Rights and International Conflict Resolution will allow me to study, research, and gain hands on experience so that I can develop the skills needed to provide sustainable support to refugees and help alleviate the ongoing crisis in areas that are becoming negatively impacted.

What has been your experience at SIPA so far? 
Moving to a new place and settling into a new environment is a difficult adjustment for anyone, but SIPA does a great job of making that transition as easy as possible. The different events on and off campus, the social events where I have met new people and friends, and the wide range of classes have made my experience rich but easy at the same time.

Additionally, there are many faculty and staff members who are significantly changing my life at Columbia. As I came to Columbia under different and difficult circumstances and as I had many questions regarding the application process, Grace Han, the Executive Director of SIPA’s Office of Admissions and Financial Aid, has showed me tremendous support and help. She is a wonderful human being, and I am so lucky to have her support through my journey at Columbia.

Is there anything about SIPA that has surprised you or has been unexpected?
It is very surprising and interesting to see how many students from different countries are represented at SIPA. I never thought I would be in a place where students from all around the world meet and learn. It is very inspiring for me. SIPA does a wonderful job of bringing the whole world together, in one way or another. Even though I have only been here for one semester, my SIPA experiences have already taught me so much about the importance of diversity in our world and how each person has so much to offer regardless of the differences that they may have.

Is there anything else that you’d like to add? 
I feel very privileged and honored to be studying at SIPA and Columbia University. The fellowship and scholarship that I have received are life changing, enabling this opportunity and helping to make it possible for my dreams to become reality.

Here’s a Few Do’s and Don’ts on Your SIPA Application

We know you’re in the thick of preparing your applications. Here are a few pointers on how to apply. Remember, our next deadline is coming up fast on January 5th, 2018. Don’t miss out on SIPA fellowship aid consideration and submit your app by this date. We are also in the process of reviewing our Early Action applications; decisions will be released by early January!


1. Take your time on creating the Quantitative Resume

This part of the SIPA application may seem like a chore, but it’s important for the admissions committee to really understand the applicant’s quantitative background. You can also use this section to showcase any research that you have done, professional work or classes that you have taken to bolster your quantitative background. My best advice is take your time on this section and make sure it is polished!

2. Take advantage of the Optional Essay

Applicants often ask if it is crucial to fill out this section of the application…..and the answer is it all depends. If you have anything that you are concerned about on your application, like your GRE Scores, a low GPA, or not having enough work experience, this is where you can really take the time to explain yourself. The admissions committee will not make any assumptions on your application and this is the opportunity that you have to fill in those gaps or red flags.


1. Avoid having a vague Personal Essay Statement

This is the one section of your application you will be able to show your personality and convey your goals post-graduate school. The more confident and specific you can be in your personal statement the better it will be for you to tell your story. I would say avoid listing all of your accomplishments from your resume – because believe it or not, it happens and it’s not compelling to read.

2. Make sure you address your essays and tailor personal statements to SIPA and not another school

We understand that most applicants are also applying to other graduate programs in addition to SIPA, however, it is important applicants are diligent and address their essay to the correct school. The last thing that you want to happen is to submit a very generic essay and then address it to the wrong school.  

A View From the Class: Diego Llosa Velasquez and Katarina Mayers

In November’s issue, we are featuring recent SIPA alum, Diego Llosa Velasquez, MIA ’17, and current student, Katarina Mayers, MPA ’18. Here, both discuss why they chose their particular areas of study, internship and capstone experiences, and the importance of fellowship.

Diego Llosa Velasquez, MIA ’17, International Finance and Economic Policy concentration, Advanced Policy and Economic Analysis specialization

Diego Llosa VelasquezWhy did you choose SIPA?
I chose SIPA because it balances rigorous quantitative analytical skills with practical and leadership skills. Moreover, I was looking for a school that promotes evidence-based policy making and a wide variety of classes on subjects including international economics and trade, which are my major fields of interest. Before applying to SIPA, I researched the top international affairs schools throughout the world, and SIPA was among the best schools.

Why did you choose your particular areas of study?
Before attending SIPA, I worked for the Ministry of Foreign Trade and Tourism in Peru. While there, I learned about international affairs and specifically about international economic organizations. I decided to go to graduate school to deepen my knowledge of the theory of international affairs, and I wanted a program that included classes on economics and quantitative analysis. Fortunately for me, SIPA’s core curriculum and policy concentration and specialization options offered everything I wanted in a program.

How would you describe your SIPA experience? 
My experience at SIPA was incredible. These were two years full of challenging and unforgettable experiences. It is hard to summarize all of the things that made this experience unique, but I would highlight the following: my capstone project in Peru, my trip as part of a SIPA Israel delegation, an internship experience with the United Nations in Thailand, my participation on the board of the Latin American Students Association, working as a teaching assistant and as a departmental research assistant, and meeting committed professors and students.

Was there anything that surprised you about your SIPA experience?
I was surprised by the diversity of the faculty and students, as well as their dedication and commitment to raising awareness and sharing knowledge and experience about issues that mattered most to them. I learned a lot, not only in classes, but also from my peers. They made me pay attention to and learn about issues which weren’t part of my studies but nevertheless present important challenges to the sustainable development of our societies.

What have you been doing since graduating from SIPA in May 2017?
I returned home to Peru in June 2017. After spending time with my family and friends in my hometown of Arequipa, I moved back to Lima to begin my job search. I received some very good job offers, but in the end, decided to return to the organization where I worked before attending SIPA: the Peruvian Ministry of Foreign Trade and Tourism. Since mid-August, I have been working as coordinator on international cooperation for the Vice Ministry of Trade. My responsibilities are two-fold. I am in charge of the negotiation, implementation, administration, and surveillance of the cooperation chapters in Peru’s trade agreements. I also work with donors in order to implement cooperation projects that have a real impact in the development of foreign trade in the country.

In what direction do you see your career moving?
I would like to move my career in the direction of assuming more responsibilities in the Peruvian public administration and exert a leadership role in the development of foreign trade in the country or in an international organization.  Also, I would like to teach. My previous experience as a teacher in Peru and my experiences as a departmental research assistant and a teaching assistant at SIPA made me realize that I enjoy explaining theory and putting that theory into context through practical exercises. Through teaching, I would be able to share my knowledge and experience.


Katarina Mayers, MPA ’18, Urban and Social Policy concentration, Management specialization

Katarina MayersWhat brought you to SIPA?
A love of public policy brought me to SIPA. Prior to attending SIPA, I served in the Obama Administration for three years, first in the White House Communications Office, and then, at the U.S. Department of Commerce. As the Department’s Deputy Press Secretary, I oversaw the communications strategy for Deputy Secretary Bruce Andrews and the Department’s 12 bureaus. I also had the opportunity to lead press logistics for Vice President Joe Biden. Before moving to Washington, DC, I lived in Santiago, Chile for a year of service as a Rotary Foundation Ambassadorial Scholar. I worked with local Rotary clubs to initiate service projects, gave speeches in Spanish about U.S.-Chile relations, and earned an academic certificate in Contemporary Latin America.

Why did you choose Urban and Social Policy as your concentration? 
I chose to concentrate in Urban and Social Policy (USP) to learn more about governance, navigating institutions and bureaucracy, and how to make the most effective change. I love the energy and passion of USP professors and practitioners. As someone who is returning to public service after graduation, I thrive on learning directly from those who previously served or currently serve others (former Mayor of Philadelphia Michael Nutter and New York City Commissioner of Media and Entertainment Julie Menin, to name a few). I’m also a person of practicality, so having New York City as a living case study of what we learn in class is very exciting.

Outside of class, how has your SIPA experience affected you?
Serving as the President of the SIPA Student Association (SIPASA), I have had the unique opportunity to meet and work with many students outside of class time or group work. Ultimately, my greatest joy has been learning from my peers and making so many new friends who continue to challenge and inspire me. I love SIPA because of its students and the community we have cultivated. While I am from Los Angeles and chose to attend graduate school in New York City, I do not think I will ever have another opportunity like these two years to be surrounded by and learn from such diverse perspectives, cultures, and minds.

Is there a particular SIPA experience that stands out? 
I took Mayor Nutter’s class during my first semester. While I enjoyed class time, I also learned that he is an empathetic individual who cares deeply about his students and how they do in their professional and personal lives. Mayor Nutter has become a true mentor, and he has shaped my SIPA experience for the better.

What are you looking forward to in your second year?
I’m looking forward to my capstone project next semester and working with the Los Angeles Mayor’s Office Innovation Team. I will not only have the opportunity to apply what I’ve learned in the classroom but also to serve my hometown!

What are your plans after SIPA?
I plan on returning to public service on the local level. I hope to represent my community and encourage other young women of color to step up and serve.

What’s in an App? Quant Resume

SIPA requires applicants to furnish a professional and quantitative resume. This blog post offers guidance on creating a quantitative resume, including tips on making the most of this component of your application.

You may be wondering “What is a quantitative resume?” For our Office, a quantitative resume is a tool that helps the Committee evaluate a candidate’s previous quantitative background. The coursework at SIPA is notably quant-heavy; four of the eight (or nine for MIAs) Core courses are quantitative in nature. We want to ensure our students are in the best shape to tackle SIPA’s quantitative coursework.

Forget me not

Many applicants are surprised to learn about the quantitative resume requirement for all applicants. Instructions on completing the resume are found within the Application Portal. There’s even a sample quantitative resume for you to follow. This two-column format is preferred, as it helps our readers assess each applicant uniformly. An application lacking a quantitative resume is incomplete, preventing the Committee to arrive at a well-informed decision. Don’t forget the quant resume!

Be consistent

No component in your application sits in isolation. In fact, the Committee considers all parts of your application to gain a greater sense of who you are. That said, make sure your quantitative resume supports the other components found in your application. Engineers, mathematicians, economists, scientists, and other general nerds coming from a rigorous quantitative background should have a longer-than-average quantitative resume. That’s cool! Perhaps the less numerically-gifted will have shorter resumes. That’s cool, too! These resumes help showcase who you are. Own it!

Also, check for consistency when reporting grades on the resume. It’s a bit odd when an applicant reports earning a B in microeconomics, but the transcript indicates earning a C.

The Devil is in the Detail

When it comes to the quantitative resume, we know we’re asking a lot. From short descriptions of the course down to the textbook one used, we value the work and detail poured into your resume. These details help establish a baseline understanding of the concepts covered in class, and can easily be found in the course syllabus. There is no need to copy and paste the entire document; just the textbooks and a few lines about the topics taught will suffice. If locating your syllabus proves truly difficult, find a syllabus of the current equivalent course taught at your institution. We truly appreciate the legwork put forth to complete this resume, and we hope it will pay off upon matriculation into SIPA.

What’s in an App: Professional Resume

Written by Kier Joy, MIA ’19

Professional resumes can often confuse SIPA applicants. There’s so many different ways to do a resume: chronological, targeted, functional, and combination. And a quick google search on which one to do for a graduate school application and how to do them best will give you dozens of sites with conflicting advice on what’s best. This blog post will help applicants with what exactly the SIPA Admissions Board is looking for in a professional resume. So no worries on the conflicting Google advice, this article is here to save you from the stress and confusion.

The Type of Resume

At SIPA, we would like our applicants to have around 3-5 years of work experience. In order to properly assess this timeline of work experience, it’s best for the admissions board to see a chronological resume, in which they can see the “story” of your work experience. To do a chronological resume, each subsection should begin with the most recent experience and end with the experience furthest in the past. For example, professional and relevant experiences that you are currently doing should be listed at the top of your relevant experience subsection. Experiences you’ve done in undergrad should be listed toward the bottom of the subsection, should you include those experiences.


You’ll often hear that resumes that are longer than 1 page just get thrown in the trash. That’s not the case for grad school applications and definitely not for your SIPA professional resume. This resume can be longer than one page because the admissions board would like a full image of your work and educational history. This often requires resumes that are longer than one page. Now, with this being said, the resume doesn’t have to include every single responsibility and achievement ever earned in the dozens of professional experiences an applicant may have. Be succinct and concise but don’t feel as if you must limit yourself to one page.


Because length is not a large issue, your resume should be at a legible font. I suggest something like Times New Roman or Helvetica at font size 10 or 12. Margins should be set at .5. This fills up the space while allowing for the page to not look crowded. Any room after a line can allow for more information to detail experiences.


Basic Information

The basic information on your resume should include your name in bold and all caps. It should also include an accessible email, address, and phone number. It should be very simple and not stylized in any fancy way. Play with bold and italicized formatting to get an even and professional look, but never do too much.


Education is the first subsection of your resume. This section should include the previous university(s) you’ve attended, along with the degree obtained, graduation date (or time span spent at university), GPA, and where the university was located.

Relevant Experience

The next subsection, and arguably the most important, is the experience. The relevant experience section should give us the most in-depth look into your experiences and how they relate to your academic interests and potential SIPA experience by describing all the relevant positions you’ve held in past jobs, internships, or volunteer experiences. In bullet point format, you should describe each experience and the major achievements made while in the positions. Some simple tips to make these descriptions best is to always start off your bullet point with resume action verbs and quantify your accomplishments. We recommend having about 2-4 bullet points per position.


Another subsection of a professional resume includes are skills. This can include anything from language skills to technical skills. Applicants often include any skills on statistical programs such as R or Stata. Applicants can also give the admissions board an idea of their language skills in this section by listing what language ability they may have. I suggest keeping the skills to something relevant and also don’t list skills that are commonly expected from most, such as proficiency in Microsoft Word.

Following these tips will help clear the confusion that may come with building a professional resume. Upload yours when applying to SIPA and give the Admissions Board a crystal-clear image of what you have to offer to SIPA and Columbia University.

"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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