As a uniquely international community, SIPA is paying close attention to the multinational spread of the virus and to the advice of responsible authorities with respect to precautionary measures. Please refer to this page for updates specific to SIPA as well as announcements and helpful resources.

Latest Updates

Updated: September 4, 2020
Message from President Bollinger on the Start of this Academic Year

Columbia University Updates

COVID-19 Guidance for the Columbia Community

SIPA Community Updates

Fall 2020 Update - August 14, 2020

Dear SIPA Community, 

I write to affirm that SIPA is going ahead with its plans to offer a mix of hybrid and online courses this Fall. As announced at the beginning of the summer, all courses will be available remotely for all of our students, wherever they may be—in the U.S. or around the world. Nearly a quarter of our courses will be taught on-campus via hybrid modality—simultaneously for students attending in-person and online. We have designed our approach to instruction and SIPA life in the Fall to accommodate both modalities and to create a vibrant virtual community across our many programs, student services and co-curricular activities.  

As President Bollinger announced earlier today, the University will drastically scale back the number of undergraduates in residence on campus this Fall and will offer all undergraduate courses virtually. Important in President Bollinger’s announcement is the fact that a very large percentage of undergraduates are coming from states and countries that would require they be quarantined for 14 days in University-provided, single-person rooms. As President Bollinger put it, “while I have no doubt that we could ensure a safe quarantine period from a public health standpoint, two weeks is a long time to endure isolation, especially for students who will be leaving home for the first time.”  

Stepping back from the special challenges related to undergraduates, President Bollinger also reaffirmed that Columbia, particularly the professional schools, will continue to re-open as planned: “The careful metrics, grounded in science, that we have established to assess whether we have achieved the necessary conditions for return have been satisfied.” 

The University has developed extensive protocols to enhance health and safety on campus. Columbia University’s world-renowned public health professionals guiding this effort are actively monitoring developments in New York and on our campus. It is their judgement that current conditions permit a return to campus in the de-densified, physically distanced fashion that has been communicated previously—and for which SIPA and other schools have been preparing.  

According to our latest information, about 60% of SIPA students want to return to campus. Unlike new undergraduates, many SIPA students already live in New York City. For those who will need to quarantine, we expect they will find it less of a challenge than undergraduates.  

We have informed students of University public health and safety requirements, which include face coverings in all public spaces on campus, including classrooms. We also have provided students a list of hybrid courses to be offered on-campus, including reduced seating capacity in each classroom, due to physical distancing requirements. In addition, we have posted and continue to update an extensive Q&A about the coming year at SIPA.  

In this time of COVID-19 and the many adjustments that we have all had to make, the Fall will inescapably include many challenges. As President Bollinger stated so well: “we must assume we will be living with a significant degree of uncertainty for quite some time. That means many things. Among them, we must be prepared to shift as conditions change.” At SIPA, we are keeping this important point clearly in mind.    

It is also a historic time in the world and an extraordinary time to be at a leading school of global public policy. SIPA will offer its full curriculum of 250 classes this Fall, as well as robust co-curricular programming, student advising, career services and all the other types of activities that contribute to the intellectual life of the School. It is remarkable that since March, SIPA has undertaken more than 200 online academic webinars and co-curricular programs, including more than 100 during the summer.  

I hope that, even more than in usual times, we can work together as a community with a shared sense of mission and purpose. I know that we have an extraordinary faculty and staff that are deeply dedicated to supporting our students and delivering the best possible graduate education in global public policy. I look forward to joining you in that endeavor—both online and in-person, to the extent possible. 

Yours sincerely, 

Dean Janow signature

Merit E. Janow
Dean, School of International and Public Affairs 
Professor of Professional Practice in International Economic Law and International Affairs 


Message from Dean Janow – JULY 8, 2020

Dear Members of the SIPA Community,

In his message yesterday to the Columbia community, President Bollinger provided a significant update on the University’s plans for the resumption of on-campus activities this fall. I encourage you to review it as it speaks not only to academic life but also important features of campus life going forward. I write today to reaffirm what we have previously shared with you about our plans for the fall, which have not changed, and to further clarify SIPA’s approach to the fall.

First, while the University has given schools the option to have a three-term academic year, SIPA will offer our full curriculum in Fall 2020 and Spring 2021, allowing students to complete their coursework in the usual timeframe. As previously noted, there are no changes to SIPA’s fall academic calendar, which will begin on September 8th.  Spring semester, however, will start one week earlier than usual, on January 11th, and end on April 26th.  Commencement will take place that same week.  Once the University determines our designated date and time for commencement, we will share that information with you.

Second, as previously announced, all Fall 2020 courses will be offered online for the entire semester. In addition, a considerable number of these classes will be taught on campus. As I shared in my message to students on June 24th, if New York State and University public health policies allow, instructors will be able to teach from their regularly assigned SIPA classroom, and a limited number of students will be permitted to attend in person, subject to social distancing requirements. Faculty teaching in a classroom will simultaneously teach their online and on-campus students, utilizing newly installed audiovisual equipment.  University officials have informed us that in-person capacity will be 28 percent of the standard seating capacity and that work is underway to prepare classrooms to meet State and University public health guidelines.

On July 20 we will provide students via the SIPA Bulletin and Vergil a full list of Fall 2020 courses. To the extent possible by that date, we will identify which courses will be offered only online and which will be taught from a classroom (in addition to online).  If we know at that time that a course will be taught from a classroom, we will provide information about the expected in-person seating capacity. We will provide updates on July 27, August 3 and August 10 about the online/on-campus status of courses. We will provide full information no later than August 14 about which courses will be taught from a classroom and which will be online only. As stressed by President Bollinger, “every decision we make related to resuming in-person instruction and residential life will be contingent on New York State moving into Phase 4 of its reopening plan,” and any in-person instruction will depend on conditions on the ground in New York City.

Third, this week’s advance notice from the Department of Homeland Security of new regulations regarding online courses has doubtless raised many questions among SIPA’s international students.  I am in complete agreement with President Bollinger’s statement that these regulations are deeply misguided and "the destructive and indefensible purpose driving these policies" requires us to remain focused on the steps we can take to support our international students who are part of our Columbia family.  Although we are pressing for detailed guidance from University experts, it is our understanding that SIPA’s hybrid model (a mixture of online and in-person classes) will allow international students to enter the US on a student visa as long as they do not take an entirely online course load while in the US. In the meantime, students with any immigration or visa-related questions should consult the International Students and Scholars Office (here).

Fourth, we are working closely with faculty to redesign their fall courses for online instruction or a hybrid format. Among other adjustments, we are helping faculty make provisions for students who take courses from disparate time zones around the world. For example, nearly all class sessions will be recorded and made available to enrolled students via CourseWorks. SIPA-IT is also upgrading audio-visual capacity in all classrooms, in order to facilitate simultaneous teaching of online and in-person students.

Fifth, we will continue to offer the full range of student services to all SIPA students, whether in person or online. Further information about enhanced student support and services will be shared over the summer by the Office of Student Affairs, Office of Career Services, and other SIPA offices.

Sixth, from the onset of the pandemic, SIPA has taken steps to increase financial support for students. The School is providing the largest amount of financial aid in its history. In addition, we restructured our emergency fund this past spring to provide for students facing significant financial stress due to the COVID pandemic. We will continue that fund through the summer and into the fall. I also am pleased to announce that we are increasing resources available in the emergency fund for continuing students (modified guidelines and application process will be announced shortly).

Finally, President Bollinger’s message outlined the strict guidelines that will apply to all who live, work, study and teach at Columbia. Please review those carefully. As you will see, persons on campus must wear a face covering at all times, unless they are in a private room with the door closed. In addition, there are physical distancing, testing, symptom self-check, reduction in density, enhanced cleaning and other requirements.  More information about detailed public health protocols on campus can be found here.

The virus has had a profound effect on our community and the world. As we move forward, please know that we are deeply committed to supporting the needs of all of our students, faculty and staff. SIPA is the world’s most global school of international and public affairs, and we are proud of the remarkable students that join us from the United States and around the world. We are committed, as stressed by President Bollinger, in finding ways to enable the international students who are in the US to continue to complete their studies and those who are overseas to continue to engage with our faculty and students and be part of our vibrant virtual community.

We recognize many of you have more questions about the fall semester, and we will strive to answer them as soon as possible.  We are committed, no matter the uncertainty and disruption around us, to provide a safe learning environment consistent with our educational mission and to provide the rich array of intellectual experiences that are the defining features of the SIPA education.

The year ahead will be filled with complexity and interest: it will be a year that brings a US presidential election, important opportunities to consider economic, environmental, political, racial, social and other challenges facing the world and the United States. And despite the uncertainties and the precautions we all must undertake, we will have opportunities to study, teach, learn and engage with the world and each other. Our mission and our work have never been more important.

I look forward to our fall together.


Sincerely yours,

Merit E. Janow
Dean, School of International and Public Affairs
Professor of Practice, International Economic Law and International Affairs


Message from Dean Janow – April 14, 2020

Dear SIPA Community,

As we continue to grapple with the many consequences of COVID-19, I write to share just a few dimensions of the ways that our community is deploying its knowledge, expertise and energy in support of each other and larger response efforts in New York City and, indeed, globally.

This is a historic moment in global public policy that brings to the forefront many of the areas that we engage at SIPA. In these unique times, we are reminded of the relevance of our work and our institutional and individual commitment to solve problems in the global public interest.

Members of our global SIPA community are sharing their expertise in so many ways.  Below are just a few examples.

SIPA Faculty

There is substantial work underway by our own faculty and across Columbia University to respond to the immediate effects of the COVID-19 crisis as well as to consider the changed world we face as this pandemic starts to move behind us. SIPA faculty have been thinking and writing about the impact of the virus on the U.S. and the global economy, differential impacts on emerging markets, and inequality effects; various climate, energy and environmental consequences across regions; national mobilization lessons; and many other dimensions.

Faculty have also inaugurated new research; joined projects with other external partners; provided advice to governments and businesses; and are broadly sharing their views in the media.  We have collected some recent writings and commentary here. I invite you to learn more about their efforts and visit this webpage regularly for updates.

Our faculty are also partnering on innovative University-wide initiatives. One such example is COVID Watcher, a joint effort among Columbia schools to build and deploy new research tools to predict COVID-19 hotspots and to help slow the spread of the virus. You can read more about this effort here.

SIPA Students

Every unit of SIPA is working to support our students and the SIPA experience in many different ways.  For example, theOffice of Student Affairs has established some specific programming aimed at advancing well-being. OSA has beenfacilitating Zoom wellness chats and weekly Group Wellness Sessions for students to hold discussions and participate invirtual wellness activity.  By popular student demand, OSA has also been sponsoring virtual yoga sessions facilitated by aprofessional yoga instructor.

The Office of Career Service also has been offering a variety of webinars geared toward the virtual environment. These include programs on “Repositioning Yourself for Remote Opportunities” and “Mastering Video Interviewing,” among others.

Students have been working directly in their own communities to support COVID-19 response efforts.  I share one example here. We know there are many others and look forward to sharing those with you.

SIPA Alumni

Our alumni are also rising to this challenge in cities and communities around the world.  For example, SIPA alumni have directly supported efforts in Taiwan to respond to the crisis and share lessons learned.  You may learn more here

SIPA and Columbia alumni from China also have donated more than 1.3 million renminbi and hundreds of thousands of protective masks, goggles, gloves, and suits, and other medical supplies to the Columbia University Medical Center and to other alumni in need.  We thank them for these efforts.

There are many other moving stories.

Convening And Engagement

While we have been forced to curtail our usual robust calendar of in-person events due to the virus, there is no diminution of convening and engagement. SIPA faculty and programs are continuing to undertake extensive programming online, including webinars, virtual conferences, forums, and more.

Our program and specialization directors have set up special sessions for each area and there is a growing number of highly topical webinars being launched.  I have included below just a few examples of recent and upcoming activities.  You should have received a more comprehensive events newsletter last week.

  • Monday, April 13, 1:00 to 2:00 p.m.  Julie Menin, Director, NY Census 2020, in conversation with Professor Ester Fuchs.  Hosted by the Urban and Social Policy Concentration.
  • Tuesday, April 14, 12:00 to 1:00 p.m. Echoes of 1918? COVID-19 and the Spanish Influenza Pandemic.  A discussion with Dean Merit E. Janow, Vice Dean Scott Barrett, and Professor Douglas Almond.
  • Tuesday, April 14, 7:00 to 8:00 p.m.  Science Journalism and COVID-19, featuring SIPA Adjunct Professor Claudia Dreifus and John Schwartz
  • Friday, April 17, 10:00 am. The Gendered Dimensions of the Pandemic: the implications of COVID-19. Hosted by the Gender and Public Policy Specialization
  • Friday, April 17, 4:00 to 5:00 p.m. Disinformation in the age of COVID-19, featuring Professor Anya Schiffrin and Emily Bell.  Hosted by Technology, Media and Communications Specialization (TMaC)
  • Wednesday, April 29, Tech and Entrepreneurship book talk with Hollie Russon Gilman and Alexis Wichowski.  Sponsored by the SIPA Entrepreneurship and Policy Initiative.

SIPA Research Centers

SIPA research centers are always a hub of vibrant intellectual engagement and outreach and this continues unabated. As one example, the Center on Global Energy Policy has been undertaking events, research, podcasts and articles on the energy impacts of COVID-19 and has created a website highlighting its efforts.  I invite you to learn more here.

I am very proud of our community in New York and around the world. We will continue to share additional updates and welcome hearing from you.

Thank you for all that you are doing to contribute to understanding the great challenges we face and supporting each other.

Sincerely yours,

Merit E. Janow
Dean, School of International and Public Affairs 
Professor of Practice, International Economic Law & International Affairs


Message from Dean Janow – March 13, 2020

Dear Students, Faculty and Staff,

I write to provide further updates on SIPA’s response to COVID-19 and to thank you for your cooperation, patience and courage during this challenging period.

As we learned in President Bollinger’s message of yesterday, all classes will now be conducted online for the remainder of the semester. All Columbia-related business travel, both international and domestic, has been suspended. The University is also strongly recommending the cancellation or postponement of all non-essential events of more than 25 individuals, until at least April 30th. At the same time, the University remains open and functioning.

Our primary focus at this time is ensuring the health and safety of our community while continuing our vital educational mission. I am proud of the extraordinary efforts that converted more than 250 SIPA courses to online learning earlier this week, thanks to the tireless dedication of administrators and faculty.

Going forward, we will endeavor to provide the highest quality of online learning possible by sharing best practices and resources. We are also thinking creatively about steps that we can take to keep our faculty and students engaged with each other and the world. Please feel free to share ideas with me or Vice Dean Scott Barrett or Associate Dean Dan McIntyre.

This is a period of anxiety and uncertainty. I particularly want to recognize the extraordinary response from our students. We appreciate your flexibility as we have transitioned to online learning and your openness to participating in our newly established virtual community.

Because our campus remains open, we are working closely with SIPA staff to initiate a pilot program to learn more about our capacity for mixed on-site and remote work, should this become necessary. We are committed to implementing this program in a way that maintains the health and well-being of our community and the continuity of our student and administrative services.

With spring break upon us, I urge you to continue to monitor your email for updates about changes with respect to University and SIPA actions and recommendations The University’s COVID-19 site provides a central repository of information, where updates are posted as developments unfold. SIPA’s counterpart site can be found here.

We know there are still many questions to answer. We will make every effort to communicate with you expeditiously as plans go forward.

I hope the week ahead is both restful and safe. We are here for you.

Sincerely yours,

Merit E. Janow
Dean, School of International and Public Affairs
Professor of Practice, International Economic Law & International Affairs


Message from Dean Janow – March 6, 2020

Dear SIPA Community,

I am writing to provide an update regarding SIPA's efforts to plan for possible adjustments to ordinary operations due to the COVID-19 outbreak. I also wish to thank you for your help and patience with preparations as we move forward.

As you know, I have established a COVID-19 Planning Group at SIPA (see membership, below). The Planning Group already has met several times. I will outline here a few of the initiatives under way, and provide periodic updates going forward as appropriate:

1. Preparing for the possibility of moving all SIPA courses online. It is possible the University will adopt remote education protocols depending on developments. SIPA is preparing to be ready to implement online education as soon as necessary, although we hope circumstances will not require this. The Office of Academic Affairs and Office of Information Technology are leading this effort and have begun communicating with faculty teaching this semester about the adjustments necessary to maintain the quality of our courses. Additional communications to students will be forthcoming.

2. Preparing for the continuation of student services and advising in the event of a disruption in classroom instruction. Administrative units with significant student service responsibilities, including all advising deans and assigned academic advisors, are preparing for a conversion to online and telephone support in the event of a disruption in classroom instruction or campus operations.

3. Preparing for possible work arrangement and staffing adjustments in the event of a change in Columbia University/SIPA operations due to COVID-19. SIPA will follow University policy in this event. We currently are considering a range of scenarios, from sustaining full staffing if circumstances permit, to reduced staffing with some staff telecommuting, to implementing remote work protocols in the event of a campus closure. In all scenarios we are planning for the continuation of services. We are consulting with unit directors and managers of each administrative unit with respect to planning for various contingencies.

4. Preparing for adjustments in event management. We are proceeding with caution with regard to event management, rescheduling or exploring virtual attendance options if feasible, but otherwise proceeding with events as planned consistent with travel requirements that may apply to international attendees and public health guidance applicable to all public gatherings. Given the changing nature of responses to COVID-19, new and different event guidelines and regulations are possible in response to developments. Until further notice, student organizations have been encouraged by the Office of Student Affairs to submit event requests for approval that the student leaders believe in good faith to be essential or critical to their mission, and to postpone or cancel other gatherings.

5. Communications updates. A dedicated component of SIPA's web site will report developments at the University and SIPA in light of COVID-19 and provide regular updates.

6. Facilities. We are working with University Facilities about adjustments to cleaning and sanitizing protocols appropriate in light of COVID-19. We are using our best efforts to maintain sanitizing stations throughout SIPA facilities in light of product shortages.

The situation obviously is fluid. We will be providing updates as circumstances and developments warrant. Thank you, again, for your patience and help with these efforts.

Sincerely yours,

Merit E. Janow
Dean, School of International and Public Affairs
Professor of Practice, International Economic Law and International Affairs

COVID-19 Planning Group
Colleen Toomey, Dan McIntyre, Patrick Bohan, Milena Cerna, Cory Way, Diya Bhattacharya, Harpreet Mahajan, Hande Mutlu-Eren, Andrew Johnson, Ted Stiffel


Message from Dean Janow – March 4, 2020

Dear SIPA Community,

I am writing to share some information about how SIPA is responding to the worldwide COVID-19 epidemic. SIPA is paying close attention to the multinational spread of the virus and to the advice of responsible authorities with respect to precautionary measures.

Currently, there are no known cases of COVID-19 among Columbia and SIPA students, faculty and staff, and the University’s core campus continues to operate normally.

As you know, however, the Provost’s Office yesterday announced that, effective immediately:

  • All University-sponsored international travel by students is suspended until further notice. This affects all SIPA-sponsored travel by students, including capstones, workshops, internships, and independently arranged travel in conjunction with academic requirements.
  • All University-sponsored faculty and staff travel to Mainland China, Hong Kong, South Korea, Iran and Italy remains suspended until further notice. Additionally, the Provost’s Office strongly urges all faculty and staff to postpone all non-essential University-sponsored international travel.

Even with respect to personal travel, the University is asking all CU travelers to register international travel through the University’s ISOS travel portal. Please contact Senior Assistant Dean Stefan Brown ( in the Office of Student Affairs if you have questions about registering your travel.

CU Health has issued guidance about the precautions each of us should take in our day-to-day activities. These include regular hand washing, staying home if we feel ill, and remaining alert for symptoms of COVID-19. The University’s Preparedness web site provides this and related information.

If you are organizing an academic event or program involving guests who have traveled recently in restricted areas or been exposed to COVID-19, please know that the guests must comply with the same protocols applicable to CU travelers (e.g., travelers who have been in Mainland China, Hong Kong, Italy, Iran, Japan and South Korea in the past 14 days must fill out a secure and confidential registration form and follow the guidance provided). The University will be issuing further guidance later today regarding social events.

I have asked Colleen Toomey, SIPA’s senior associate dean, to help coordinate the School’s planning and response to COVID-19-related issues, which will include managing a small internal working group of SIPA administrators. Further guidance as appropriate will be forthcoming.

I want to convey how appreciative I am of the supportive way in which our community has responded to the COVID-19 outbreak. I know that this is how we will continue to contend with COVID-19 and any other challenges that come our way.

Sincerely yours,

Merit E. Janow
Dean, School of International and Public Affairs
Professor of Practice, International Economic Law and International Affairs


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