Letter from
Dean Merit E. Janow

The 2019–20 academic year was one of the most challenging in SIPA’s 74-year history. Looking back on it now — as this annual report seeks to do — I am amazed at what our community achieved despite the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. As I write these words in early 2021, the world is grappling with the negative consequences of this global crisis and will have to do so for some time. The pandemic, adverse social and economic effects, and ongoing geopolitical turmoil all highlight the inescapable interconnectedness of the world and the relevance and value of a SIPA education for addressing such challenges.

Like many academic institutions, SIPA shifted quickly to online instruction in spring 2020. Our students returned to their home cities and countries; in a few cases, they remained in University housing in a socially distanced environment. Our faculty moved with astonishing speed to adjust their curricula and devise new teaching modalities. Our staff performed the herculean task of continuing to run the largest, most global school of public policy under severe handicaps. Most did so miles from the International Affairs Building, while some essential personnel continued to come to campus in order to keep our IT and administrative units functioning.

SIPA was not alone in its transition to a virtual format, but we did so with tremendous creativity, flexibility, resolve, and resilience. In this annual report, we will share a few examples of how our community responded to the crisis through student actions in their communities, faculty research and discussions, and alumni engagement around the world.

The pandemic, on its own, would have made for a challenging year, but in 2019–20 our community also wrestled with other broader societal questions around structural racism in the United States, the killing of Black Americans by law enforcement, and how to foster a more tolerant, equitable, and just society. For our part, we launched an important initiative to assess our own diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts in order to prioritize areas for action, engagement, and continued improvement. We will be sharing more about this effort with you in the coming year.

As we confronted these challenges and many others, our students, faculty, alumni, and broader community continued the important work that is the heart of SIPA’s mission: educating the next generation to lead and serve, creating and sharing new knowledge on the world’s critical policy challenges, and fostering important ideas and discussions across many platforms around the world. In this annual report, you will find a wealth of examples in each area.

Our faculty, students, and alumni continued to achieve great things in 2019–20. SIPA faculty published new books and articles on the global financial crisis, climate change, free trade, globalization, and the influence of political contributions on state legislatures, by way of a few examples. Our students undertook nearly 80 Capstone projects spanning 42 countries, on issues as diverse as AI-driven innovations in Brazil’s judiciary to improving farmer selection in Nigeria. Our alumni contributed their expertise on the global stage as corporate and government leaders, journalists, and heads of NGOs and institutions. SIPA convened more than 600 events and discussions in person and virtually. We also strengthened and vitalized the School through the addition of remarkable new faculty and visitors, the expanding work of our SIPA research centers, collaborations with external partners and schools, and our What Can Be campaign, which by the end of the academic year had achieved nearly 79 percent of its $150 million goal.

We thank our supporters and collaborators for working with us through this challenging year, one we shall long remember as a period when our community came together in the face of a global crisis to support each other and carry forward our meaningful work.

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