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Sites to see across Morningside Heights

Visiting Upper Manhattan and unsure where to go? There are plenty of stops within walking distance — by NYC standards — to explore nearby Columbia University. Here are a few of my favorites.

The Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine (West 112th & Amsterdam)
Across the street from SIPA Admissions and Financial Aid you will find the largest cathedral in the world. In fact, you really can’t miss it. The building, which began construction in 1892 and remains partly unfinished, runs the entire a full avenue block to Morningside Drive. In addition to more than 30 worship services a week and a soup kitchen that feeds 25,000 annually, this spiritual space offers serene gardens where you can breathe in a bit of nature. If you are lucky, you can get a peak of the live peacocks Jim, Harry, and Phil who even has his own Twitter account. They’ve taken up residence on grounds since the 1980s. The church also has regular music, art, guided tour, and educational workshop events throughout the year. If you are around during the summer, be sure to check out free performances in the cathedral by the New York Philharmonic. If you want to really make it an extra spiritual day, you can also check out the historic Riverside Church close by on 120th and Riverside Drive.

The Cathedral. Photo by Amir Safa.


Resident peacock at the Cathedral. Photo by Roxanne Moin-Safa.


Riverside Park & Morningside Park
Take a stroll either west or east of the SIPA campus and you will escape into the splendor of Riverside Park or Morningside Park. Riverside Park, which runs across 330 acres from 59th to 155th, offers picturesque views of the Hudson River where you can also catch a glimpse of the sunset under the natural canopy. In the spring season, you will be surprised to find some of the best cherry blossoms in the city along Cherry Walk which runs alongside the water from 100th to 125th. Some of these trees date back to 1909 when the Committee of Japanese Residents of New York presented as a gift to the City. Consider renting a bike from one of the recently opened Citibike stations, including the one at 104th and Riverside Drive, and whiz whimsically along the expansive bike path.

Morningside Park occupies a modest but enchanting 30-acre area running from 110th to 123rd from Morningside Avenue to Morningside Drive. This recently renovated park combines the natural 300 million-year-old rock geology of Manhattan, grassy open athletic fields, a dog park, and a man-made lake with cascading waterfalls where geese and turtles roam. You will often see families playing sports or feasting on barbecues. On Saturdays, you can shop some local pastries and fresh produce at the Down to Earth Farmer’s Market located at the corner of 110th and Manhattan Avenue. On a snowy day, bring your sled and then sing into spring through the fields of March Daffodils.

Serene springtime view of Morningside Park. Photo by Amir Safa.


Sledders enjoying the winter hills of Morningside Park. Photo by Amir Safa.


Historic Harlem Walking Tour
Take a walking tour in Harlem and dive into the many layers forming some of the greatest chapters of American history. From the beginning of Harlem as a Dutch community in the 17th century to its transition under the Harlem Renaissance of the early 20th century that brought to life African-American artists, musicians, and literary talents including Billie Holiday, Louis Armstrong, and Langston Hughes as well as the NAACP, the nation’s oldest civil rights group. We highly recommend Big Onion Walking Tours. Tours usually cost $15 for students and are often led by PhD students from around the City who paint you a picture of the past with a chock-full of trivia.

Wall art in Harlem. Photo by Roxanne Moin-Safa.


General Grant National Memorial (West 122nd & Riverside Drive)
Visit the final resting place of the 18th President of the United States of America and General of the Union Army Ulysses S. Grant and his wife Julia Dent Grant. Often known as “Grant’s Tomb,” the building stands tall with 150 foot soaring domed ceilings and 8,000 tons of grand marble and granite. The memorial honors his military service. If you are in town during the summer months, be sure to check the memorial calendar for concert events.

Paying respect at the General Grant National Memorial. Photo by Amir Safa.


Columbia’s New Manhattanville Campus (125th-133rd & Broadway)
Did you know that Columbia is expanding its reach onto a brand new, modern and sustainably designed campus? Some of the buildings are already open at the university’s Manhattanville Campus, including the Wallach Art Gallery free and open to the public located at the Lenfest Center for the Arts as well as retail space in the Jerome L. Greene Science Center with a rock-climbing wall. The campus will continue to open in stages, with plans to house the Columbia Business School by 2021. Stop by and see the future of Columbia.

Courtyard of the Manhattanville Campus. Photo by Amir Safa.


Inside the Wallach Art Gallery at the Lenfest Center for the Arts. Photo by Roxanne Moin-Safa.


Time Line

Now that I am into full on admission file reading mode I thought I would give a brief outline of the admission decision and enrollment time line.

First of all, not all admission decisions get sent at the same time.  In a perfect world we would like to release all decisions on the same day, however there are a number of files that take a bit longer to review and our fellowship meetings also take some time to coordinate and we do not want to hold up the release of decisions when the majority are ready to go.  Thus about 70% of decisions are sent at the same time and around 30% trickle out over time.

I know this is not ideal, but it is the way things are and I want to be honest and upfront about the process.  If your decision takes longer to receive it does not mean you did anything wrong, it just means some additional time was needed to reach a final decision.

When your decision is ready to view we will send you an email.  Paper letters for admitted candidates will follow a few weeks later, however we do not send paper copies of letters to candidates not offered admission or to candidates placed on the wait list.

The exact date that decisions will start to go out is not set yet but we hope to start very early in March. I will provide more information on the blog as time progresses so stay tuned.

Admitted candidates will be given a link to a Welcome Page with a great deal of information focused on assistance regarding the enrollment process.  For example, there will be a Message Board for admitted applicants.  The board will give admitted applicants a chance to interact with one another and with current students.

We will also be hosting an admitted student day on campus.  The date is Tuesday, April 12th and a registration link will be included in the Welcome Page.  It will be a full day event starting at 9:00 AM and concluding around 7:00 PM.

Admitted candidates will have until May 2nd to pay a deposit to reserve a seat in the fall class.  Those that pay a deposit must ensure that official copies of transcripts and test scores are submitted to SIPA no later than June 15th.  Many applicants already included our test score code when taking GRE, GMAT, and TOEFL.  Test scores are sent to a central Columbia University database and we will start to look for official reports after the deposit deadline passes.

Admitted candidates that uploaded copies of transcripts to the application site will have to have official transcripts sent to our office.  Official transcripts and test scores will become a part of your permanent academic record.

During the summer there will be a math tutorial.  The tutorial is Web based and all that is needed to participate is a computer with an Internet connection.  We encourage every admitted student to participate because getting off to a good start is key to your experience at SIPA.  Second year funding consideration is tied to first year GPA so achieving good grades in first semester quantitative courses is key.

Over the summer the blog will also play host to photo submissions from admitted candidates.  If you have great photos to share be ready to submit them and keep your camera at the ready over the next few months to capture great moments you might want to share.

Those are the major time line dates and resources to be aware of for now.  Stay tuned to the blog for more as time progresses.

"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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