Admissions Blog

Student Assistantships at SIPA

By Elliot Mur '24
Posted Nov 21 2023

Student Assistantships

SIPA Assistantships are job opportunities for students. Student assistantships are a great way for students to gain more professional experience, earn an income, engage with students and contribute to the SIPA community. There are various positions, such as a Teaching Assistant, Reader/Departmental Research Assistant, Program Assistant, and Student Assistant.

Here’s an overview of each available position with some insight by a current student.

Teaching Assistant (TA)

Teaching Assistants work up to 20 hours per week and provide administrative support (i.e., photocopying, posting on CourseWorks, placing course material on reserve, requesting AV, etc.) They hold the important role of holding office hours and leading recitations.


Nadhirah: TA for Microeconomics

My name is Nadhirah and I am a teaching assistant for Microeconomics (a core requirement of the MIA/MPA degree) this semester. I have found the experience highly rewarding and challenging - there’s a great sense of satisfaction that can be gained from seeing your explanations resonate with your class and to see someone learn how to solve a problem they were previously uncertain about. Additionally, it has been wonderful to acquire new perspectives and a deeper understanding of the content I learnt last year from needing to explain concepts to others. I recommend everyone to apply to become a teaching assistant if they have the opportunity to.






Reader/Departmental Research Assistant (DRA)

Readers work up to 15 hours per week and provide administrative support (i.e., photocopying, posting on CourseWorks, placing course materials on reserve, requesting AV, etc.). Unlike TA’s, they do not lead recitations but they do hold office hours and may assist with grading.


Leigh: Reader for Sustainability Management

Leigh currently works as a reader for Sustainability Management. My main responsibilities as a reader are to provide office hours to attend class each week (2 hrs/week); help students improve action memo-writing skills or to clarify assignment instructions (2 hrs/week); grade individual and group memo assignments and presentations (1-10 hrs/week); and other administrative work (uploading documents to Courseworks, answering emails and questions).

The course material covers interesting issues in environmental management including energy, infrastructure, sustainable food and water, as well as sustainable cities which is very applicable to the field I intend to enter in after graduation.







Program Assistant (PA)

As a current program assistant for the Office of Admissions, I help prospective students make an informed decision about applying to SIPA, answer any questions, hold office hours and write admissions blogs (like this one). I also help make sure that all applicants have the full and complete application for the Selection Committee to review it!  Other program assistants work in different departments, such as the Career Advancement Center, the Office of Student Affairs, Office of Communications and External Relations, etc.

Students also have the opportunity to become program assistants for each concentration or specialization.


Airin: Program Assistant for TMAC specialization

As the Technology, Media and Communications specialization Program Assistant, I mainly assist with sending out the TMaC newsletter to inform students about any interesting events, jobs and internship openings and any news that they may be interested in. I also help run the WhatsApp group (TMaC@2024) to remind students of upcoming events and new TMaC courses. Regarding events, I create flyers and the Campus Group pages for advertisement, book rooms and order food when needed. We just hosted the Saving Journalism conference at The Forum and I had the opportunity to assist with planning that as well. During the start of the semester, I assisted with orientation and answered questions from students regarding courses and specialization requirements. Currently, I’m working on setting up an internship panel so TMaC second years can share their experiences with the first years.






Student Assistants

Student Assistants work on average 10-12 hours per week and provide administrative support (i.e., photocopying, posting on CourseWorks, placing course material on reserve, requesting AV, etc.) Unlike Teaching Assistants or Readers, they do not conduct instructional duties (i.e., grading, leading recitations, holding office hours, etc.).


Aside from being a PA this semester, I was also a Student Assistant to the Former French Ambassador to the United States, Philippe Etienne. As the visiting McGovern Professor of International and Public Affairs for spring 2023, the Ambassador taught the course, the European Union in a time of Global Polycrisis, that discussed the ongoing challenges of the EU after having gone through many crises and transformations these last 15 years. As a student assistant, I helped the Ambassador prepare for the lectures and discussions and was able to learn about his diplomacy experience.

There are also numerous opportunities aside from this list for students to engage through institutes, and Columbia-wide departments. If you are eligible for work-study, the list is even more expansive.