Admissions Blog

Competing and Winning Awards with Muhammad Rifqi Febrian (MPA-DP ‘23)

By Fitri Mayang Sari '23
Posted Apr 17 2023

Muhammad Rifqi Febrian (Rifqi) is a second-year MPA-DP student. He comes from Indonesia and is interested in studying economic development, especially green industrial development and climate policies. Throughout the summer of 2022, he worked for Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA) to assist in the evaluation of the climate resiliency program in Malawi using RCT. Moreover, Rifqi likes to craft things and break things coming from his undergraduate background in electrical engineering. He used to be an Internet of Things (IoT) engineer and product designer in a waste management startup in Jakarta.

Rifqi is a die-hard Arsenal fan, and loves to hike and go for an adventure in nature.


Hi Rifqi, thank you so much for taking the time to talk with us. How are you?

I am alright, thank you! I hope you are doing well as well.

We heard you have won a couple of awards from several competitions, what are they?

Yeah, so, I joined two competitions. In April 2022, my SiMaggie project team was announced to win the first prize for the SIPA Dean's Public Policy Challenge by Columbia SIPA. And the recent one was last November, my Sahaja project team won the third prize for The Geneva Challenge by The Geneva Graduate Institute (IHEID).

How does it all begin? I mean what drags you into competitions?

Each of the competitions has a different story. For the SIPA Dean's Challenge, the idea to join the competition comes from my friend, Lili Nur Indah Sari, who wants to realize her idea of a maggot breeding system into a startup (which she did right now, go Lili!). She invited me to join and I liked her idea, so we decided to team up. For the Geneva Challenge, I teamed up with Hilya and Hanna, and we decided to join the competition because we like the topic, which at that time was about poverty reduction and we feel like we want to craft a good solution in this matter. 

What kind of topics are you interested in for competitions?

I am interested in green technology and innovation, and also economic development.

Can you please tell us the whole process of it: how do you find information about competitions, how do you form a team, how do you manage to do it amongst busy schedules as students?

I found information about both competitions from friends, and dug deeper about it through the website. In the two competitions, I teamed up with my Indonesian friends, which we met during the Indonesian events since there is an Indonesian community at Columbia University. We talked about our interests and then we formed a group. I am not sure about time management as I don’t have a silver bullet to it, but I think just making a good plan with a good schedule, sticking to it or adapting to it when you need change, and being committed.

Which competition has been your favorite or that has been so memorable for you? Why? 

I actually like both competitions since they give different challenges. But if I need to pick one, I will pick The Geneva Challenge because I like the group process when we were trying to craft a solution. Moreover, it also enables me to travel which leads me to a really great experience of knowing new cultures and meeting new people with a really diverse background. That is also my first time traveling to Europe which I found fascinating.   

What is your message for SIPA fellow students who want to join competitions?

I would say take it and have fun. I had a lot of fun and interesting experiences from it!

Lastly, upon your graduation from SIPA, what path of career are you seeking for?

I am still not sure, so I think I will take a deep breath, organize my thoughts and plan, and figure out what I will do in my life. But my original plan was to stick in the academic journey and apply to a doctoral program in economics by next year. I am really interested in studying and researching economic development, climate policies, green industrial development, as well as growth theory. 

Rifqi, thank you for sharing with us. We wish you all the best and cannot wait to see you winning your next awards.

I hope the same for you! And Thank you for having me!