Admissions Blog

It's Time For My Goodbye to SIPA!

By Shally Baloch '23
Posted May 08 2023

Currently, I have three finals left and in the haze of working through them, it has been hard to appreciate (re: be anxious about) how quickly my time at SIPA is coming to an end. Time is flying and the future is approaching far too quickly for comfort, so I have dedicated the time writing this blog post to slowing down and reminiscing, reflecting, and retrospection (the same word but I love a group of three).

Summer 2021

I remember coming into SIPA for the first day of orientation already deeply intimidated by my peers whose accomplishments I had seen in the FaceBook groups and WhatsApp chats. I did not have a policy background or multiple years of experience and already felt behind. Some of those feelings remain but my perspective has changed so much– I am perpetually in awe of the people who so quickly became friends and now family. I have been so lucky to be surrounded by so many passionate, brilliant people from whom I have learned so much. I have felt so supported personally and professionally by my cohort and now some of my closest friends, that I will miss the proximity to this community immensely upon graduation.

I met Karoline, Cecilia, Sofia, and Leah in our orientation group (Seeples Group J! Woo!) and we became a little group simply by virtue of being the youngest in the group (picture of my girlies below!!). They have served as the backbone of my SIPA support system these last two years! I also have been so fortunate to have made lovely friendships in the Urban Social Policy concentration, through being a PA at Admissions (woot! woot!), and simply by waving hello and giving soft smiles in the SIPA halls.

Fall 2021

I loved my first semester so much! There was always a fun happy hour and I was exploring an opening up NYC with new friends. Coursework-wise, I genuinely was unsure about my ability to read! I had spent my undergrad in labs writing, well, lab reports and reading papers (that, for the most part, I didn’t understand anyways). Now to be reading books, articles, and journal papers and having to synthesize it all to contribute meaningfully in class, was a task I wasn’t sure I could handle. A little spoiler: I managed.

I spent most of my first semester building up my confidence and developing my voice. I was incredibly validated by my peers and professors alike and I think that is key to the SIPA magic. There is so much support and encouragement that once I got over my imposter syndrome, it was obvious to me that I both belong at SIPA and can thrive here.

Courses taken: Microeconomics (6400), Quantitative Analysis I, Comparative Social Welfare Policy, Politics of Policymaking, Professional Development

Spring 2022

This was a heavy “finish all my core classes” semester. I gained a lot of hard skills and got to work on group projects that have bolstered my resume and my ability to learn new tools and apply them. Quant II was such a fun experience, especially considering that I had not planned on specializing in Data Analytics and Quantitative Analysis (DAQA). Our semester-long research project energized me and ultimately convinced me that DAQA was the route for me. We studied the determinants of COVID-19 recovery as a function of policies that reduced deaths. It was so fun and cool to determine policy recommendations given its timeliness and novelty.

I came out of this semester having applied the things I was learning in class to a myriad of real-world problems. In Macroeconomics, we spent multiple classes understanding how the war in Ukraine and subsequent sanctions would impact Russian fiscal policies and national banks. In Budgeting, we wrote memos and did financial analyses to ascertain how to make taxation more efficient and how to distribute funds. In Strategic and Entrepreneurial Management, we created our ventures and learned how to build a pitch and fundraise. I got to build a really strong foundation for the kinds of analysis and work I wanted to do in my classes in my second year.

Courses taken: Macroeconomics (6401), Quantitative Analysis II, Strategic and Entrepreneurial Management, Project Management, Budgeting and Financial Management for Government

Fall 2022

Last fall was the hardest semester but one could argue that it was my fault. Taking seven classes is not for the faint of heart and turns out, I may be faint of heart. But geez, I learned so much. I can do a little bit of coding in Python now, have a really strong grasp of R Studio, learned CSS and HTML, and continue to strengthen my statistical skills and presentation methods!

In my non-DAQA classes, I surprised myself by taking another economics course. It was brilliantly taught and I remember having so much fun doing our midterm where the last part was to build an economic development plan for the city of Buffalo, NY. For the final, I wrote a memo about more robust federal interventions in the rental market through rental credits. It was unfathomable to me, even a year ago, that I could have the skills to make an argument based on economics! I also took a Human Rights and Humanitarian Policy course that made me completely re-evaluate what I want to do after graduation. All-in-all big semester fueled by curiosity and existential crisis!

Courses taken: Programming for Social Impact, Computing in Context, Data Analysis using R, Gender and Livelihoods, Social Policy Challenges: Brazil and Latin America, Urban Social Policy, Urban Economics

Spring 2023

The joy of your friends getting dream jobs mixed with the realization that so many are leaving NYC has created so many bittersweet memories this semester. It is devastating to think that our time together was a short tangent to the rest of our lives so I have spent especially the latter half of this semester being really intentional about my time. Creating special moments, prioritizing little hangs, and trying to engage with my friends as often as possible because it will not be so easy when we are spread across the world.

For myself, this semester was all about tackling the contemporary issues I am passionate about and trying to figure out what a career in those fields would look like. I have been incredibly guided by my professors, encouraged by my peers, and feel very excited about my prospects!

My most exciting class this semester was definitely Text as Data, an introduction to utilizing machine learning in R to process qualitative data in the forms of social media, newspapers, and images. It is such a rewarding feeling that at the end of my two years, to conduct my own research on a topic so personal. I am evaluating the sentiment among the Baloch people toward the Pakistani government. I probably could spend days talking about my ethnic heritage but using social media data to create policy recommendations takes my personal advocacy to another level– I feel grateful for being given the opportunity to learn this.

Courses taken: Regulating Reproduction, Rethinking Policing in the 21st Century, Public Education: New Strategies for a New Era, Text as Data, Race, Gender, and Political Change, Capstone

Final days

Monday’s at Dear Mama, Trivia Tuesdays, Wednesday mornings at Admissions, Jake’s Thursdays, and always the most unanticipated, free, and joyous weekends, my life has been structured for the last two years around SIPA and my friends here. I am a little afraid to re-enter the Real World where I will have to create new routines and meet new people (I guess) but SIPA is not an experience I will easily forget and the people I met here I will carry with me probably forever. So, I am perceiving this stress of finishing up with the most love and nostalgia because I may never feel this way again, and I am sending little notes of affirmation to my besties, and I am really, really looking forward to graduation.

And with that, I say my personal goodbye to SIPA. I am so grateful for it all.