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Student Group Spotlight: UN Studies Working Group

Life at SIPA is more than just a rigorous and exciting curriculum. The SIPA community is greatly enriched by the numerous student organizations on campus. We thought it would be useful to spotlight some of these organizations to give you a more holistic view of the SIPA experience.

The UN Studies Program Working Group (UNSWG) is a student organization that works in close relation with the UN Studies Program at SIPA. It aims to connect students and the entire SIPA community to the United Nations, to its issues and agenda, and to the UN System as a whole. UNSWG members are dedicated to the UN’s main goals, including principles of worldwide cooperation for peace and prosperity.

◦The UNSWG serves as a platform for delivery and exchange of knowledge, ideas, thoughts and reflection, debates and discussion on issues related to the United Nations and the UN system.

◦The UNSWG works to foster a close relation between SIPA and the UN: to prepare conferences, seminars, discussion panels and groups; invite speakers and prepare presentations; organize student debates around relevant and current issues related to the UN.

◦The UNSWG aims to maximize opportunities for SIPA students to be involved with the UN and the greater UN family through meetings with officials; visits to the UN Secretariat and UN agency headquarters; inviting speakers to SIPA; organizing internships, career panels, and support for individual initiatives related to the UN.

Within the first month of the semester, the UNSWG has coordinated the following events:

  • “How to get a job at the UN” panel with a representative from the UN’s Human Resources department
  • UN Studies Retreat, “70 Years Later: The United Nations at a Crossroad in a Changing World”, which featured speakers from the UN Secretary-General, the UN Development Programme (UNDP), the International Peace Institute, the UN Secretary-General in Africa, and the United Nations Foundation
  • Participation in an upcoming talk given by former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan on challenges for the UN in the 21st Century

Check out the UNSWG’s blog for a list of past events and its general page for more information.

New Student Photo Series #6

Max Arvid Anderson will be joining SIPA in two weeks.  He will be among 200+ new students pursuing the Master of International Affairs degree this fall.  Before beginning his studies, Max spent his summer in the Economic and Social Council Chamber at the UN Headquarters in New York.


The silly grin on my face is due to some over-the-top self satisfaction, the fatigue is due to spending the summer working. The picture was taken last month, when the draft resolution on General Assembly Revitalization was adopted by consensus in the Ad Hoc Working Group on GA Revitalization. The GA Revitalization process is a yearly affair (like so many things at the UN), and was formalised after the 2005 World Summit. This year I had the privilege to function as negotiator on behalf of the European Union and its Member States. The other main stake holders are the NAM, certain members of the Security Council and UN Member States who value the GA and the UN reform process. This year proved particularly difficult due to well known political sensitivities when it comes to the selection and appointment of the next UNSG, due to take place in 2016. On a more consensual note, we managed to agree that the Security Council elections for non-permanent members should take place earlier than October; to allow smaller UN Member States to adequately prepare for the two years they spend there.

A glimpse of SIPA

Now that Second Year students are in their final semester at SIPA, we asked a couple of them:  What has been your favorite experience at SIPA?

Emily Siu, Dual Degree with Social Work: Probably the North Korea trip. It was so unexpected to have this opportunity. I was surrounded by a cohort that was really interesting. I felt like I learned not only from the tour guides but also my classmates. One night we did karaoke with our host guides. The trip was the week after finals so we all really needed to relax. Professor Lindenmayer was even dancing! It was really eye opening to hear perspectives on international affairs from our guides. What we hear in the US about North Korea is very one-sided. This trip really humanized the country for me.

Nancy Leeds, Social Policy and Management: My favorite part of the SIPA experience has been participating in the Gender Policy co-curricular program. It’s great to be able to take classes and receive guidance from other women practitioners and guest lecturers who have been there and done that in almost every field of interest. I also love reading studies and learning statistics that validate and inform my own experiences as a professional woman. I would particularly recommend Women and Power with Carolyn Buck-Luce, which focuses on practical applications for women in the workforce, and Gender Mainstreaming with Kristy Kelly which teaches how to apply feminist theory and a gender perspective across almost any policy or administrative field.

Carlyn Cowen, EPD and Management: The International Conflict Resolution Practicum. It’s a combined class and summer internship experience. You take the class on international conflict resolution in the spring, and then you and a team of students get placed with a summer internship. I worked with the UN in Zambia. We designed and conducted a research study for the UN to assess how their natural resource management initiatives were affecting rural communities. In the process, we learned research design and implementation skills as well as had a chance to experience working in the UN system. I also got to sit on the edge of Victoria Falls and white water raft down the Zambezi!

Alejandra Kubitschek Bujones, EPD and Management: I went on student led and organized trips to both Japan (last year) and India, which I just returned from.  Both were amazing and definitely highlights of my SIPA experience. In India we met President Sonia Gandhi. We visited a rural village and saw development projects in person bringing electricity to rural villages using cow dow and innovative measures being developed. From there we went to Mumbai which is thriving city. India is definitely a country on the move!  Both trips were amazing because we got to learn about the political, social, economic and cultural side of these two amazing countries and they were organized through the generosity of our classmates who are well connected in these countries so it was truly a once in a lifetime opportunity.

Neha Shah, IFEP and Management : My favorite part was the interaction with the other students whether it was through classes, student groups, events, or parties. I feel like the student body has such a wide range of experiences that it was extremely beneficial and eye opening to get to know my peers.I came into sipa with little knowledge of what actually went on day to day (the work life) in a lot of organizations I thought I would be interested i.e. the UN, World Bank, Fed etc. So it was great getting to know the details of the wide array of backgrounds first hand from my peers.

The SIPA Advantage

When you’re looking at schools as an undergraduate, there are books websites, and guidance counselors to help you choose the right “fit” for you. Large or small, urban or rural, there are a bevy of resources to help you navigate what these features will mean in terms of your education and extracurricular activities. As a grad student, you’re left mostly on your own to discern the differences between the most competitive foreign and public policy schools, so I wanted to share five things that I feel make SIPA stand out among its competitors.


  1. Location. You already know that SIPA has a close relationship with the United Nations, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the resources available to public policy students in New York City.  Hundreds of non-profits, private companies, the New York Stock Exchange and the government of the largest city in the United States are all located here, providing limitless consulting and internship opportunities. In addition, everyone who’s anyone in global politics and commerce travels through New York City, and more likely than not they come to speak at our school.  In any given day we might have Japan’s Minister of Finance, the Executive Director of Habitat for Humanity, and the CEO of Bloomberg in our building. The trouble isn’t finding a lecture that you want to attend, the trouble is fitting them all in!
  2. Professors. Due to the school’s prestige and location, we have some of the best Professors in the world. From Nobel Prize winning economist, Joseph Stiglitz to sustainable development expert Jeff Sachs to associate Professors who are leaders in the real world. Last year I look Campaign Management from Jef Pollock, American Association of Political Consultants’ Pollster of the Year and Women and Power from Ernst and Young Executive and Healthcare Business Association’s Woman of the Year, Carolyn Buck-Luce. Whatever your interest, a SIPA education practically guarantees you access to experts in your field.
  3. Columbia University. In addition to all that’s available to students at SIPA itself, a SIPA education means you are part of the Columbia University network.  This means an introduction to literally thousands of alumni all over the world. It also means the opportunity to take classes at any of Columbia’s distinguished graduate schools for credit toward your degree. This year I am taking a class on Elections with Political Science PhD students, a class on Election Law at the prestigious Columbia Law School and a class at Columbia School of Journalism with Washington Post reporter Thomas Edsall. My area of public policy is pretty clear but whether you are passionate about education, defense strategy, health care or development opportunities await you all across our university.
  4. Size. I have to admit, I was a little nervous about finding my place at one of the biggest public policy schools in the world, but it turned out to be one of the things I like best about SIPA.  I get to study alongside and learn from over 1000 professionals from 52 countries. When a practical or policy question arises and I need an answer; I am almost guaranteed to find an expert among my classmates. When a candidate I was working for had an event with Bill Clinton,  I was able to reach out to one of his interns at the Clinton Global Initiative to find an address to send a thank you note. When my blog went viral in the campaign world, my more technologically inclined classmates helped teach me best practices for social media. SIPA’s size allows us to offer the most classes, clubs, and extracurricular opportunities of any of the top public or foreign policy schools as well as the wealth of information that is the SIPA community itself.
  5. Flexibility. Compared to other public policy programs, SIPA’s MPA curriculum is extremely flexible. SIPA students graduate with a solid foundation in economics, statistics, and management practice, but are free to choose the subjects that most interest them within these fields, as well as from one of the country’s largest selections of electives. For students like me who enter SIPA with a very specific interest, for me it was election systems and civic engagement, this means we are always able to take classes in our field. For students who enter with a broader interest, this means they are free to explore no matter where their interests take them.


This post was contributed by Nancy Leeds.  Nancy is a Democratic Campaign Operative and blogger pursuing her MPA in Social Policy and Management at SIPA. 

Kofi Annan Graduation Speech

Earlier in the week I posted a few photos I took of the SIPA graduation ceremony with my phone.  This is the follow up post I promised now that our media team has had some time to publish information for distribution.  The entire ceremony was captured and can be viewed by clicking here.

Kofi Anna was the graduation speaker and here is his address to the SIPA Class of 2011.

Here are a few more pictures to enjoy as well.  The President of the University, Lee Bollinger, and his wife shared a special moment with their daughter who graduated from the MIA program.

What kinds of friendships can you expect to develop as a SIPA student?  The kind where someone helps you to graduate, even when you cannot make it to the ceremony.  This graduate is holding a gown draped on a hanger with a photo of the missing graduate.

Mr. Annan likely had a sore hand and tired feet at the end of the day – he shook the hand of every graduate and hung out at the reception (with his lovely wife).

A SIPA graduate . . . with a possible future SIPA student.



"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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