Admissions Blog

A Look Inside SIPA’s Institute of Global Politics (IGP) – Interview with an IGP Student Scholar

By Leen Sawan '24
Posted Jan 02 2024

Here in Admissions, we’ve been getting plenty of questions from prospective students about the newly inaugurated Institute of Global Politics (IGP). In this blog post, we’ll be giving you an insider’s look at the IGP by interviewing one of our incredible IGP Student Scholars.

Led by Secretary Clinton and SIPA’s Dean Keren Yarhi-Milo, the IGP brings together an impressive team of leading scholars, high-ranking policy officials, activists, diplomats and practitioners with the objective of fostering civil discourse and creating evidence-based policy strategies to address real world challenges. These Inaugural Carnegie Distinguished Fellows will collaborate with faculty across Columbia University and will campus-wide events where students will have the opportunity to engage and learn from them.

The Institute will focus its research on five areas of impact including geopolitical stability, democratic resilience, climate and sustainable development, inclusive prosperity and macroeconomic performance, and technology and innovation. 

One of the IGP’s core objectives is to train the next generation of global leaders. Through the IGP Student Scholars program, selected students can benefit from the mentorship and guidance of the IGP’s Faculty Advisory Board and the IGP Distinguished Fellows. Student Scholars are able to gain priority access to special events and other unique opportunities to gain practical and hands-on experience from some of the world’s leading practitioners.

Andrea, one of our awesome IGP Student Scholars was kind enough to answer some questions to give us a closer look at the IGP and the kinds of experiences and opportunities she has been able to access so far. Andrea is a second year MIA student concentrating in Human Rights and Humanitarian Policy and specializing in International Conflict Resolution.



Q1. Before we get into the IGP and the Student Scholars Program, tell us a little bit about your background and what you do at SIPA.

My name is Andrea and I'm from a Northern California town called Redwood City which is about 15-20 minutes outside of San Francisco and my parents are Colombian immigrants. I did my undergrad at Boston University in International Relations and Latin America. Upon graduation in 2017, I decided I wanted to work in the humanitarian sector to help displaced refugees. This wasn't too long after the Trump Administration's 'Muslim-ban' and I felt I needed to do something, especially since my family are immigrants and come from a conflict affected country. I was fortunate to start my career at the International Rescue Committee in San Jose, CA where I resettled refugees from all over the world and helped them integrate to their new home community. I spent about 4 years with the IRC and then 1 year at Human Rights Watch learning about fundraising and development before starting at SIPA in the Fall of 2022.

Q2. What inspired you to apply to the IGP Student Scholars Program and what did the application process look like?

One of the aspects that drew me to IGP was the mentorship focus and the community of Scholars. Because it was its inaugural year, I wasn't entirely sure what the program would entail and much of the information was kept quite secret as the Institute hadn't been launched yet -- I think few really even knew Secretary Clinton was doing this. However, from the program description I felt like I could benefit from being part of a small community of people who are interested in policy that actually makes a difference in people's lives and really wanted to learn from policymakers who had 'been in the trenches', so to speak.

Q3. What has your experience with the IGP been like so far?

So far it has been a very positive experience! I've had the chance to meet so many incredible people I never thought I'd ever meet like Maria Ressa, Michelle Bachelet, and David Miliband in small settings where I and the other scholars really get the unique chance to ask the Fellows anything and everything. I've also had the opportunity to work on some of the program content -- for example, I've drafted the questions that Secretary Clinton uses with her panelists in the IGP signature event series 'Spotlight Interviews'. Writing for her and getting to hear how people like Rt. Hon Jacinda Ardern, Ambassador Linda Thomas Greefield, and many others respond has been fascinating and a real honor. Finally, it's been amazing to get to know the other scholars, we have a group chat that we frequent a lot which has been fun. Most are from SIPA but we also have students from the Law school, Barnard and Columbia College. Everyone has a totally different niche area of interest and I've learned tons about so many different subject areas that I'd never really thought about.

Q4. What are some of the opportunities that IGP Student Scholars have access to?

Beyond the larger events like Secretary Clinton's Spotlight Interview, whenever one of the IGP Distinguished Fellows visits campus we get to have a breakfast or lunch type of event with them where we can ask questions, connect, and learn about their area of focus. Another opportunity I'm very excited about is we get the chance to do research with one of the Fellows based on our areas of interest. There's always something new.

Q5. What has been the most memorable event that you've attended as an IGP Student Scholar and why?

The launch of the Institute was super memorable because there was so much anticipation leading up to it and I got to write for many of the panels over the summer. It was my first time seeing so many high level people so I had no idea what it would be like and I got to work the event as well. It was also the first time all the IGP Scholars got to connect and hangout so it was just a fun time going from panel to panel, chatting in between, seeing really interesting conversations, and then the reception at the end.

Q6. What do you think makes the IGP so unique compared to some of the other Research Centers available at SIPA?

I think it's unique in how social it aims to be -- we do a lot of events -- and how practical it aims to be. IGP really wants to make sure that policy reports and recommendations that come out of it aren't just left in the dust, but rather make an actual difference in the world. Part of that is having very high level people connected to the Institute that can mobilize the often overlooked work of academia. I'm excited to see how that develops over the years.

Q7. Who are you most excited to work with from the IGP Distinguished Fellows and why?

Because I spent 4 years working with the International Rescue Committee and am passionate about serving displaced populations, I'm really hoping to work with David Milliband, who is the President of the IRC, to work on ways to innovate and advance the sector. I think there's a lot of work to be done on getting governments to meet their obligations as well as ways that civil society can mobilize to resource the sector in a way that fills the gaps.