Admissions Blog

Jules' Top 10 Must-Take Courses at SIPA

By Julia Anderson Crane '23
Posted Jan 19 2023

With hundreds of classes being offered every semester and, on average, 30 courses being added each year, choosing what courses to take is equal parts exciting and overwhelming. I feel like each time registration rolls around, everyone is abuzz giving recommendations of what courses to take, so I decided to gather some second-year opinions on what courses you need to take before your two years at SIPA fly by!

Drumroll, please…. In no particular order…. (and certainly not exhaustive)...

  • Negotiations and Conflict Resolution: This is one of the highest-ranked courses at SIPA. It's not often that a class focuses directly on the development of a critical social skill, especially for those in the international and public policy field. One of my favorite things about the course is that it is simulation-based, so every skill you are gaining is not only practical in nature, but you are able to actively practice and hone that skill through in-class and out-of-class simulations. 
  • Strategic Entrepreneurial Management: Everyone has to take a management course as a core requirement, and you should consider taking this course to fulfill that requirement. What sets this management course apart from other options is the Professor, who is the creator of Meetup. Professor Siegel is a fantastic storyteller that helps make the class period fly by. Additionally, his passion and enthusiasm can really be felt as you learn analytical and practical skills to find the right strategy, operation, and culture for both for-profit and nonprofit organizations. 
  • Corporate Finance: The name of this class does not live up to the hype. Another high-ranked class at SIPA, I heard this one from almost all the International Finance And Economic Policy folks I talked with. Professor McLean knows how to teach the difficult concepts that this class covers. She is motivating in a way that encourages students to study and dig deeper into the course concepts. The assignments are also practical and applicable. One thing to consider with this course is it has a prerequisite, you have to take Accounting for International and Public Affairs before you can take this one. 
  • Applied Peacebuilding: Unlike the other courses on this list, this is an application-based course. That is because this course is special in its design and stretches across the spring semester, summer, and  the fall. The spring semester focuses on the skills needed to design a peacebuilding framework and properly implement the framework in the field. Then, students get the ability to practice what they learned in the spring as they are paired up with a pre-selected organization to conduct various peacebuilding projects in the summer. This summer experience does fulfill the SIPA internship requirement. Lastly, the course concludes in the fall with a presentation about the summer experience. 
  • Comparative Social Welfare Policy: This class explores important and complex systems that are not often talked about. People know they exist, but don’t consider the history, economics,  and socio-cultural factors that go into creating policy about and currently exist around programs like health care, childcare, and unemployment among other things. The best part about this class is the professor. Professor Shimabukuro makes these concepts super interesting and sounds like an all-around cool human being.
  • Writing about War: This course is cross-listed with the Journalism School (J-School) and is one of the most popular classes at SIPA. Taught as an intensive writing seminar course, Professor Cambinas is able to sit down and really dissect your writing and give you feedback. Many people walk out of this class as a stronger writer in not only a narrative-based scope but also for academic and memo-based writing (a very important skill here at SIPA!) Unlike some other courses on War that take a more analytical and methods-based approach, this class places a humanistic focus on conflict and peacebuilding after violence.
  • Computing in Context: Although the name can sound scary to us non-computer folks, this class is designed to make computing approachable and acts as a great non-engineer introductory course to Python. The class is broken up into two sections. The first section focuses on the fundamentals of Python which are then used in the second part of the course to practice coding in a policy context. This class is a definite skill builder on a resume and a great way to learn the basics of tech for any job. 
  • China’s Foreign Relations: This class is perfect for anyone. I have heard the same thing about this course from people that have no educational background in China to those who have lived in the country prior or who have an East Asia Regional Focus, this class is great. Professor Christensen is an expert professor who is both engaging and approachable. This class has both a lecture and discussion section, which allows you to really get to know Professor Christensen and allows him to engage more closely with students.  
  • Writing and Delivering Speeches: This is a short course (meaning half a semester) and a totally practical, skill-based class. One of the most universal fears in the world is public speaking and SIPA is the perfect place to hone this skill before entering the workforce. By taking this course, you will be a leader in the pack when it comes to presentations at SIPA. Additionally, not many people can add experience in speech writing on their resume!
  • Human Rights Skills and Advocacy: This course gives you a practical based skill set when it comes to advocating to protect and promote human rights. This course works to help you develop a practical skill set including crafting objectives, finding advocacy targets, and using methodology and research to effectively advocate in the field. It also analyzes the involvement of third-party players like the media and the United Nations. 

Hopefully during your time at SIPA you have the opportunity to take one or more of these classes. You will not be disappointed!