SIPA Expands STEM Programs

Building on longstanding strengths in sustainability, environmental and energy policy, economics, and data analytics, SIPA has secured recognition of four programs as Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics–designated (STEM-designated).

Beginning early in 2021, SIPA carefully reviewed all existing programs and secured recognition of the following as STEM programs:

SIPA secured STEM designation for the MPA in Environmental Science and Policy several years ago in the field of Environmental Studies.



SIPA’s academic programs have rigorous but flexible curricula designed to prepare our students for professional success at public, private, and nonprofit organizations in varied fields.



Enrolled students (Fall 2021)


Countries represented

The MIA program prepares students to address major international issues as experts and leaders in governments and organizations around the world. The program’s core curriculum includes the choice of more than 65 courses in international politics and political economy.

In March 2021 Columbia SIPA was ranked as the No. 1 International Global Policy School by U.S. News & World Report in its 2022 Best Graduate Schools rankings.




Enrolled students (Fall 2021)


Countries represented

The MPA program emphasizes a comparative approach to domestic politics and institutions that prepares students to address major national policy issues and manage organizations in the US and other countries around the world.

SIPA’s MPA degree program was reaccredited by the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration (NASPAA) Commission on Peer Review and Accreditation, effective September 1, 2020. NASPAA is the recognized global accreditor of master’s degree programs in public administration, public policy, public affairs, nonprofits, and related fields. The program’s next accreditation review will be in 2026–27.




Enrolled students (Fall 2021)


Countries represented

The 21-month MPA-DP, a STEM-designated degree program, is a practice-oriented, professional advancement degree where students acquire the knowledge and build the skills, experience, and networks to make the world a better place.

During summer 2021, 45 MPA-DP students completed professional summer placements with 31 organizations spanning social enterprises, nonprofit organizations, impact investors, research centers, multilateral institutions, development consulting firms, and public sector agencies.




Enrolled students (Fall 2021)


Countries represented

The MPA-EPM program provides midcareer policymakers and professionals with the skills to design and implement economic policy in market economies, with a strong emphasis on the economic problems of developing countries.

As a midcareer program focused heavily on international students, the MPA-EPM program was disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Many of our international students faced closed consulates and international airports, and a large number of students deferred admission to 2021. In an effort to avoid the worst of the crisis, the class’s start date was postponed to September 2020; the MPA-EPM Class of 2021 finished the program in August 2021.

The 2020–21 class of 11 students should be applauded for their resiliency and determination in continuing their education during these difficult times. The cohort included two Americans, two Colombians, two Peruvians, and one student each from Argentina, India, Korea, Kyrgyzstan, and Mongolia. They are central bankers, regulators, ministry of finance officials, and other professionals.

We are happy to report that the 2021–22 class rebounded to 36 students, including representatives from 24 different countries, and joined us from backgrounds in banking, development, energy, and many other areas. They will finish the program in May 2022.




Enrolled students (Fall 2021)


Countries represented

The MPA-ESP program prepares graduates to address the most serious and complex environmental problems the earth will face. The program integrates science with environmental policy and management, providing students with the practical knowledge and training to become leaders in this rapidly growing area. Courses are taught by the world’s foremost sustainability academics and researchers, along with leading sustainability practitioners in New York City.

Graduates hold key positions in organizations worldwide in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors. The program’s summer 2021 entering class is 27 percent international, hailing from Colombia, Kazakhstan, and Trinidad and Tobago, among other countries.




Enrolled students (Fall 2021)


Countries represented

The PhD in Sustainable Development program prepares graduates to conduct rigorous multidisciplinary research — combining the social sciences and natural sciences — on the most challenging issues in sustainable development.

Three of our six 2021 graduates have begun postdocs at UCLA, UC San Diego, and the University of British Columbia, and one of them will begin a tenure-track position in Colombia in 2022. A fourth is pursuing his music career for the next year, another has joined our growing number of alumni at the World Bank, and the last has begun work at an energy consulting company.




Enrolled students (Fall 2021)


Countries represented

The EMPA program enables midcareer professionals to advance their careers in the public, nonprofit, and private sectors through part-time study.

In fall 2021 the EMPA program welcomed 76 new students back in person. In collaboration with faculty and staff, new students are building a community to overcome unique obstacles as they learn amid a pandemic and integrate COVID-19 into their degree planning.Students are being asked to use creativity and innovation in their studies — everything they are learning must now apply to a new world.

EMPA’s revamped curriculum from last year includes five concentrations: Environmental Policy and Sustainability Management, Global Policy Studies, International Economic Policy, Management and Innovation, and Urban and Social Policy.



In addition to the part-time Executive MPA degree, the Picker Center for Executive Education offers a roster of nondegree, customized, and open-enrollment executive education programs for midcareer professionals from the public, private, and nonprofit sectors. 

Despite the challenges posed by COVID-19, the Picker Center successfully designed and delivered two live, online programs in 2020: the first designed for the FDNY Officers Management Institute (customized) and a second, Leading with Impact: Skills for Complex Challenges, an open-enrollment training.

Additionally, the Picker Center’s ongoing programs for the Open Society University Network/Bard College and the ISTARI Cyber Security Academy nimbly switched from face-to-face to virtual in 2020. A four-year project to train civil servants in Egypt with USAID support began at the close of 2020.





In addition to fulfilling all core requirements, MIA and MPA students must also satisfy the requirements of one policy concentration.


Faculty Codirectors: Eugenia McGill and José Antonio Ocampo

In 2020–21 the EPD concentration hosted a series of three virtual panels featuring experts from SIPA and the wider Columbia community on the regional responses to the COVID-19 pandemic and prospects for recovery in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. In collaboration with the Career Advancement Center, EPD also cohosted a series of eight virtual career panels featuring 25 alumni working in impact investing, development consulting, and multilateral organizations and specializing in political risk analysis, financial inclusion, monitoring and evaluation, technology and development, and education policy. 

Since 1987–88 the Workshop in Sustainable Development Practice (the EPD Workshop) has conducted more than 445 projects with close to 2,700 students engaged in cutting-edge work with more than 200 clients in over 90 countries.

In 2020–21, 82 students worked in virtual teams with faculty advisers on 14 projects. The projects focused on innovative solutions to development challenges through agricultural technology and food security, inclusive energy finance, impact bonds and impact investing, digital governance and public sector innovation, education models and policies, gender training and women’s empowerment, youth engagement, human rights education, and community development. Though COVID-19 prevented students from traveling, the teams successfully adapted to remote data gathering. In 2020–21 eight of the EPD Workshop projects involved SIPA alumni as clients, with five alumni also serving as faculty advisers.



Faculty Codirectors: Douglas Almond and David Sandalow

The EE Practicum, formally known as the Global Collaboratory, funded three student teams, resulting in a report assessing energy access in refugee camps and settlements in sub-Saharan Africa and the potential of market-based interventions for providing more sustainable solutions to low energy access, and a research project exploring whether the pollution generated by fires in the Brazilian Amazon affects health outcomes in southern and southeastern Brazil.

The EE concentration hosted several online events, including a discussion with Sana Ouji MPA ’15, energy, global infrastructure at Google; Mac Farrell, energy markets consultant at Inner City Fund; Rebekah Moses, head of impact strategy at Impossible Foods; and Simone Kramer, ESG scoring and climate data team leader at Bloomberg LP. The concentration also made a virtual career trek to San Francisco and held webinars on the US election and GHG emission accounting and reporting.

The Annual Energy Symposium featured discussions on the energy transition, both domestically and internationally in a post-pandemic world. The symposium included four panels, one keynote speaker, a fireside chat, and several speakers from the energy sector.



Faculty Director: Elazar Barkan

The HRHP concentration hosted its annual humanitarian conference, “Examining Varying States of Protracted Crises: Sudan and Venezuela,” in November 2019, welcoming speakers from several high-profile humanitarian organizations and UN agencies. The keynote speaker was Dr. Tom Catena, who was the 2019 recipient of the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative prize.

The concentration also supported a discussion on “Innovation and Resiliency: Human Rights Organizations during the Pandemic” in April 2020, which featured speakers from Women Deliver, OUTRIGHT International, Amnesty International, and Memria.

The HRHP practicum welcomed professionals from the Center for Popular Democracy, the International Committee of the Red Cross, UNICEF, the International Rescue Committee, and Partners for Dignity and Rights to speak to students about current issues in the field.



Faculty Codirectors: Andrea Bubula and Richard Robb

Enrollment in the IFEP concentration has grown steadily and organically over the years, it is now the largest economics and finance concentration among SIPA’s peer schools.

In the 2020–21 academic year, the concentration hosted 15 virtual events, including a panel discussion with faculty on the economic impact of COVID-19 and multiple IFEP policy discussions on topics like US-China trade relations, Latin American economic policy response to COVID-19 from a market economist’s perspective, and Europe after Trump, Brexit, and COVID.

Beginning fall 2021, students who are enrolled in the International Finance track along with the Data Analytics and Quantitative Analysis specialization are now eligible to receive a STEM-designated degree.

Last year the IFEP concentration offered three new courses. Professor Willem Buiter taught Central Banking, Monetary, and Fiscal Policy: Theory & Practice, where he addressed issues in central banking, with a particular focus on the fiscal side of monetary policy. Professor Ailsa Röell taught Corporate Governance, Investor Stewardship, and ESG, where students learned about the current debates among investors, policymakers, lawyers, and financial economists on the role of corporations in society. Weiwen Yin taught Political Economy of East Asia, where he focused on the institutional factors that led to the growth in influence of East Asia on the rest of the world.



Faculty Director: Stephen Biddle

The ISP concentration continued its commitment to a range of student engagement events with high-caliber guest speakers in the 2020–21 academic year. 

In September 2020 students had the opportunity to attend an ISP BYOB social and a guest lecture by Reuters reporter Ned Parker on “War Reporting from the Arab Spring to the Fall of Baghouz.” 

In October 2020 a guest lecture by Jennifer Robards of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency focused on the topic “Commercialization of Geospatial Intelligence and Counterterrorism Tradecraft.”

In January 2021 students participated in a virtual event with Ambassador Daniel Fried on “Russia in American Grand Strategy: From Wilson to Biden.” 

In March 2021 the ISP concentration hosted a virtual event with Ambassador L. Paul Bremer III on “The Future of American Diplomatic Leadership” and a talk with Professor Rumela Sen about her new book, Farewell to Arms: How Rebels Retire without Getting Killed

In April 2021 the career workshop “Career Challenges for Women in Security” featured a panel of four high-profile female security professionals and was moderated by Professor Victoria Holt. Later that month students and their families participated in a virtual celebration of the graduating class.



Faculty Director: Ester R. Fuchs (AY 2020–21); Yumiko Shimabukuro, Interim Concentration Director (AY 2021–22)

The USP concentration organized and cosponsored over 20 talks and panel discussions, many focusing on current urban issues and political and civic engagement, including the 2020 presidential election. Speakers included New York congressman Jerrold Nadler, Manhattan borough president Gale Brewer, and New York City comptroller Scott Stringer.

The concentration once again partnered with Columbia College for Voting Week, which is designed to promote civic engagement and community involvement among students., a nonpartisan voter registration and engagement initiative managed by the USP concentration, was used by over 100,000 New Yorkers in the 2020 presidential election in November and the New York primary election in June.

As part of SIPA’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) initiative, USP added four courses: 

Professor Ester R. Fuchs and Sarah Holloway, with Noémie Elhadad of Columbia’s Department of Biomedical Informatics, coauthored the report Communities Speak: Rebuilding NYC Small Business After the Pandemic. Based on a survey of New York City small businesses in fall 2020, the findings, Fuchs says, “make it clear that the city must get this money out quickly and design programs that reflect the actual needs of small businesses.”



Capstone workshops are real-world consulting projects sponsored by external clients. Each workshop partners a team of about six graduate students with a faculty adviser to provide clients with innovative analysis and practical recommendations.


Nature Action 100: Changing/Greening Investor Behavior to Protect Ecosystems and Biodiversity
Client: World Bank Group, Finance, Competitiveness & Innovation
Faculty Advisers: Cary Krosinsky and Thomas O. Murtha

A team of 11 students worked with the World Bank Group to create a model for Nature Action 100, a targeted investor-engagement initiative on biodiversity loss.

Angela Attrey MIA ’21, Gabriela Eslava Bejarano MPA ’21, Alexandra Carruthers MPA ’21, Aldo Defilippi MPA ’21, Brian Kennedy MPA ’21, Ananya Misra MIA ’21, Tianhao Niu MPA ’21, Anna Rautenberg MPA ’21, Liz Reichart MPA ’21, Hyunah Shim MPA ’21, and Emily Udal MIA ’21 worked on this Capstone project for the World Bank’s Finance, Competitiveness & Innovation Global Practice. The team developed recommendations for the potential goals, governance structure, and implementation process for an initiative aiming to change and “green” corporate behavior to better protect ecosystems and biodiversity. 

Learn more at the World Bank blog

Examining the Role of the United Nations in Combating Racism and Discrimination
Client: International Peace Institute (IPI)
Faculty Adviser: Adam Day

A report by students Talisa Anderson MPA ’21, Emily Green MPA ’21, Minji Ko MPA ’21, Sanskruti Majmudar MIA ’21, Laura McCreedy MPA ’21, Juliana Niño Pardo MPA-DP ’21, and Amanda Waldron MIA ’21 examined the basis for UN engagement and how racism and discrimination are addressed within the UN context; provided a mapping of relevant mechanisms and processes; and analyzed the effectiveness of the UN in addressing systemic racism and discrimination.

Healthcare Is a Human Right — Barriers to Access with a Race and Gender Lens
Client: Center for Popular Democracy
Faculty Adviser: Kristina Eberbach

In consultation with the Center for Popular Democracy (CPD) and its affiliate organizations, the team — Arianna Bankler-Jukes MPA ’21, Drashti Brahmbhatt MPA ’21, Brittany Cronin MPA ’21, Diana McCaffrey MPA ’21, Etizaz Shah MIA ’21, Aastha Uprety MPA ’21, and Bingmei Zhou MIA ’21 — designed a survey that was distributed by the respective affiliate organization in each region. In addition to survey data, the study collected written, video, and audio responses to capture lived experiences of Medicaid applicants. Data showed that respondents faced numerous service barriers interfacing with the Medicaid system infrastructure, especially phone and customer-service-related challenges. Respondents also reported feeling burdened by the time-consuming process and complicated application and renewal requirements.

Preventing Evictions in Low-Income Housing During and After the COVID-19 Recession
Client: Citi Community Capital
Faculty Adviser: Carol O’Cleireacain

Harry Crimi MPA ’21, Claire Douglas MPA ’21, Harris Engelmann MPA ’21, Heather Garcia MPA ’21, Annika Mukherjee MIA ’21, Seth Sborden MIA ’22, and Michael Williams MPA ’21 examined how Citi Community Capital, the largest financier of affordable housing in the United States today, can prevent eviction of tenants in low-income housing tax credit (LIHTC)–funded housing who have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting economic crisis. The final report provided case studies of developer involvement and specific recommendations for service provision in five key issue areas (rent and utility assistance, financial support services, job readiness, food and health care access, and digital inclusion), a set of recommendations to Citi regarding engagement with current and future LIHTC developer partners, considerations about the impact that implementing these recommendations may have on Citi’s industry reputation, and resources for advocacy and coalition involvement.

How Can Carbon Sinks Be Used to Offset Emissions from Equinor’s Production and Products?
Client: Equinor
Faculty Adviser: Jason Bordoff

Equinor asked the SIPA Capstone team — Laura Pulecio Duarte MPA ’21, Francisco Galtieri MPA ’21, Qinying Liang MPA ’21, Diego Recinos MPA ’21, Bastian Stroemsheim MIA ’21, and Hiroyuki Yamagata MIA ’21 — to analyze how carbon sinks can be used to offset emissions from Equinor’s operations and products as part of its 2050 net-zero goal. The final product was a short-term and long-term strategy for Equinor to pursue, as well as recommendations on the types of solutions that they should use. The team also developed a model to estimate the price of the portfolio of offsets and the optimal portfolio composition between now and 2050.


Human Rights Education’s Role in Preventing Conflict and Sustaining Peace
Client: Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
Faculty Advisers: Kristina Eberbach and Gergana Halpern

Students Yvette Dean MIA ’21, Katalin Jozan MIA ’21, Marvin André Krause MIA ’21, Gloria Moronta MIA ’21, and Irina Preotescu MIA ’21 studied the role of human rights training in conflict prevention and peacebuilding. The team found that human rights education programs in conflict settings are impactful when they build on local history and context and address the root causes of conflict. With support from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the team shared their initial findings with over 300 youth participants at a side event to the 10th Economic and Social Council Youth Forum. OHCHR later highlighted the team’s findings in a blog post

Formative Evaluation of MECI’s Programs and M&E System
Client: Middle East Children’s Institute
Faculty Adviser: Julie Poncelet

A SIPA EPD Workshop team — Pablo Busto Caviedes MPA-DP ’21, Alejandro Diaz Herrera MPA ’21, Josefina Lavin MPA ’21, Jane Sullivan MIA ’21, and Kylie Lan Tumiatti MPA ’21 — conducted a formative evaluation of three programs implemented by the Middle East Children’s Initiative (MECI), a nonprofit organization supporting communities in the West Bank area of Palestine since 2007. These MECI initiatives include an after-school program, a university scholarship program, and a women’s empowerment program. Although the workshop team could not travel to the West Bank due to the COVID pandemic, they gathered the perspectives of university students, parents of school-age children, and women from the participating communities through remote interviews and phone surveys approved by Columbia’s Institutional Review Board. In addition to specific findings and recommendations on each of MECI’s programs, the team found that MECI had built a sense of trust with community members through its model of integrated support and had fostered a mindset change around inclusion and women’s participation in the community. The team also commended MECI for its proactive efforts to address the impact of COVID-19 through a new program to strengthen community members’ computer skills during the COVID-19 lockdown.

Innovative Financing of Energy Connections for Low-Income Households in Rural Senegal
Client: United Nations Capital Development Fund
Faculty Adviser: Barbara Magnoni

For this project, the Workshop team — Elizabeth Anderson MIA ’21, Ezra Baker MIA ’21, Séléna Batchily MPA ’21, Paula Castillo Vera MPA ’21, Sarah Jane Noujeim MPA ’21, Akshika Patel MIA ’21, Saiful Salihudin MIA ’21, and Miriam Wishnick MIA ’21 — explored ways to increase the access of women and youth in rural Senegal to the electricity grid and electrical appliances through innovative financing mechanisms. This study for the United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) was part of wider study undertaken by UNCDF for the Millennium Challenge Corporation’s power compact with the government of Senegal. Although the COVID-19 pandemic prevented the team from traveling to Senegal, they used a human-centered design approach — “designing for extremes” — to develop fictional personas representing different rural electricity customers. Based on these different customer profiles, the team identified different electricity financing strategies. These included a pay-as-you-go lease-to-own model for remote households to obtain solar lanterns or panels for their homes, and prepaid smart meters to connect low-income households to the electricity grid in more densely populated areas.