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At SIPA — the world’s leading school of global public policy — the values of diversity, equity, and inclusion are essential to our mission: to support the global public interest by educating students to serve and to lead, and to produce and share new knowledge on the critical public policy challenges facing the global community.

These values are embedded in the work of our faculty, the curriculums of our programs, our public engagement, and our commitment to maintain a respectful, welcoming environment for our incredibly diverse students, faculty, and staff. 

A Message from Interim Dean Thomas J. Christensen

“Like Columbia University as a whole, SIPA embraces diversity, equity, and inclusion as fundamental values for our school and our community. As interim dean, I’m personally dedicated to maintaining our core commitment in this area and prioritizing SIPA’s ongoing work to increase diversity and inclusion.”

DEI Updates from Former Dean Merit E. Janow

Update on SIPA Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Efforts - Monday, July 12, 2021

Dear Members of the SIPA Community,

I am writing to provide an update on SIPA’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Initiative, and most importantly to share the findings and recommendations of the DEI Steering Committee. 

As many of you know, we launched this initiative a year ago to critically assess and continually improve on SIPA’s goal to be a diverse, equitable and inclusive school.

Over the past year all of us have been challenged to think about racism and injustice, including the societal and institutional structures that too often perpetuate it.  At SIPA, we have engaged in a thorough process of analysis and self-examination – to consider where we have made progress to achieve our DEI goals, identify gaps in our work and prioritize future actions, and, importantly, to hear from our community so that we better understand and address its concerns, particularly those of under-represented minorities and persons of color.

Before turning to the DEI Steering Committee’s report and recommendations, as well as immediate actions for this summer, I would like to report briefly on actions taken over the past year, which build on the multi-year effort underway. 

Actions Taken Over the Past Year

Since Summer 2020, we have advanced our DEI efforts in several meaningful ways:

  • We added five new part-time faculty teaching new courses in Spring 2021 on a range of DEI-related topics, with two more courses to be offered this coming year.
  • We created five new capstone projects focused on race and social justice, including several that partnered directly with the Harlem and broader NYC communities.
  • We welcomed Letitia James, Attorney General for New York, as our inaugural Beinecke Professor in Spring 2021.  She co-taught the course, “Rethinking Policing in the 21st Century” with Dr. Basil Smikle.
  • We undertook internal assessments of each of SIPA’s key offices and program areas to identify and examine current approaches and consider ways to strengthen our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion.  As part of this effort, we convened full faculty meetings to discuss DEI and assess the SIPA curriculum, including core courses.
  • Perhaps most significantly, we established a DEI Steering Committee comprising students, faculty and staff to help guide our DEI initiative. The Committee reviewed past and ongoing efforts to promote DEI at SIPA, identify areas for improvement, and develop a set of concrete recommendations.  
  • To support its work, the Committee engaged an independent DEI consultancy – Iere Strategies – to assist with a comprehensive school-wide assessment that engaged more than 1,000 SIPA students, faculty, staff and alumni through surveys, focus groups and interviews.

I want to thank the members of our community who supported these efforts, particularly the DEI Steering Committee – with special thanks to its two faculty chairs, Senior Lecturer Eugenia McGill and Professor Suresh Naidu.

Steering Committee Findings and Recommendations

Last week, the Steering Committee provided its initial findings and recommendations to me.  I invite you to review the findings and recommendations here.

I am deeply grateful to the Committee for its focus and active engagement across such a broad segment of the SIPA community. This was truly a SIPA-wide effort and I thank those of you who took time to share your views, ideas, and concerns.

As you will see, the Committee has drawn on the consultant’s report to recommend a multi-dimensional strategy over the short and longer term to advance SIPA’s longstanding goal to be diverse, equitable and inclusive. I look forward to working with the Steering Committee and the Diversity Committee and others to develop priorities and accountability processes for the coming year and beyond.

Immediate Actions

SIPA’s DEI Initiative will necessarily proceed on multiple fronts over an extended period. However, I believe two important steps identified in the Steering Committee’s report warrant near term action and can be initiated.

First, we will refine the advisory structure for DEI work at SIPA. I look forward to working with Diversity Committee leadership and members, the DEI Steering Committee and other constituencies to further refine the Diversity Committee so that it can guide our DEI efforts and continue to serve as an effective advisor to the Dean’s office and others at SIPA.  Ideally, the restructured Committee will be in place this fall and I will work with it to develop action priorities for the coming year.

Second, we will hire a new professional to focus exclusively on diversity and community relations at SIPA. With input from SIPA stakeholders with a diversity focus (including students, faculty, staff, and alumni) we will develop the parameters of this position, and I expect to launch a search in early fall.

I look forward to providing further updates as we deeply consider all of the issues and recommendations of the DEI Steering Committee and welcome your comments and suggestions.

Sincerely yours,

Dean Janow signature

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


Update on SIPA Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Efforts - November 17, 2020

Dear Students, Faculty, and Staff,

I am writing to update you on our efforts to foster greater diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) at SIPA, building on the plans we outlined this past summer. As I shared with you at that time, creating a more meaningfully diverse and inclusive School is a core commitment of SIPA and Columbia University, and it has been a personal priority for me.

Over the past several months, working closely with Vice Dean Scott Barrett and Senior Associate Dean Colleen Toomey, we have continued to advance this important effort with students, faculty, staff, alumni, the SIPA Diversity Committee, SIPASA, and members of our broader University community. We have undertaken a series of concrete steps to advance our goals and identify additional areas that warrant our ongoing attention and action. While we still have much work ahead, I am sharing a few developments:

Faculty and Courses

We have redoubled our efforts to diversify part-time faculty and to support the creation of new courses and capstones on issues related to race, policy, inequality, and social justice. As part of a new SIPA Adjunct Faculty Diversity Initiative that Vice Dean Scott Barrett and I announced this summer, we invited all full-time faculty members to submit recommendations for the hiring of new adjunct faculty and proposals for new courses. As a result of this work, we are pleased to offer the following new courses in Spring 2021:

  • Harlem Community Engagement Practicum (Instructor: Barbara Askins)
  • Securing Full Economic and Political Citizenship for All Americans Practicum (Instructor: Verna Eggleston)
  • Movements & Public Policy in the United States (Instructor: Keesha Gaskins-Nathan)
  • Environmental Justice and Climate Resiliency (Instructor: Annel Hernandez)
  • Race, Gender, and Political Change (Instructor: Jeri Powell)

In addition, I am also excited to share with you that Letitia James, Attorney General for the State of New York, will be co-teaching a course with Dr. Basil Smikle on “Rethinking Policing in the 21st Century.” 

We very much look forward to welcoming all these adjuncts to the SIPA community.

We expect to add at least two additional courses next fall, subject to approval from the Committee on Instruction. One of these is about the intersection of race, social media, and international affairs. The other addresses race and power in development, again with an international focus.

Capstone Projects

SIPA’s capstone program is a wonderful opportunity for our students to apply their skills and knowledge to address real world problems on behalf of clients and in collaboration with a faculty advisor. In a typical year, we organize more than 80 capstone projects. This spring, we will be undertaking several new projects related to race, policy, and social justice. We are grateful to the following organizations and SIPA faculty advisors for their collaboration:

Client: Center for Popular Democracy
Topic: Healthcare Is a Human Right – Barriers to Access With a Race and Gender Lens
Instructor: Kristina Eberbach 

Client: Harlem Children's Zone
Topic: From Cradle to College – Measuring Success and Program Development 
Instructor: Sandra Black 

Client: New York Women's Foundation
Topic: Examining the Landscape of Organizations Working in Areas of Reproductive Justice, Childcare and Youth Leadership in Upstate New York and on Long Island
Instructor: Stacey Cumberbatch

Client: New York City Housing Authority
Topic: A Roadmap for Equitable Open Space Planning: The Public Impact of Public Space
Instructor: Thomas Quaranta 

Client: The Bronx Community Relief Effort
Topic: Building a Smart Cities Strategy for the Bronx
Instructor: Miverva Tantoco  

DEI Self-Assessment and Steering Committee

Over the summer, we inaugurated an institution-wide DEI self-assessment aimed at identifying what we have done and what more we might do in furtherance of these important shared values. As I wrote to the community in July, “This self-assessment process will examine academic and non-academic dimensions of SIPA; review actions previously taken, those currently underway and gaps to address; and consider steps to be taken and goals for the future.”  Since my July communication, our principal administrative and academic units have undertaken inventories of SIPA’s various DEI initiatives during the past several years and are benchmarking these initiatives against those of peer and other schools.

As a next step, I am pleased to share with you that SIPA has retained Huron Consulting Group, a leading consultancy for higher education and DEI efforts, to support this process. This effort will include the creation of a new DEI Steering Committee, public meetings and new focus groups, and other activities that will seek input from multiple stakeholders and contribute to SIPA’s first DEI report, which will be completed this academic year.

I am grateful to the following faculty members, students, and staff who have agreed to be part of our inaugural DEI Steering Committee:

  • Faculty: Co-chairs Professors Alex Hertel Fernandez and Eugenia McGill. Other faculty to include Keren Yarhi-Milo, Steven Cohen, and Michael Nutter.
  • Students: Séléna Batchily, Tenzin Thargay, Leslie Conner Warren, Jason West
  • Staff: Grace Han, Urbano Garza, Colleen Toomey, Samantha Shapses

Both Vice Dean Scott Barrett and I will be working closely with the Steering Committee, and we will consult with the SIPA Diversity Committee, other ad hoc faculty committees and student groups to ensure wide consideration of issues and approaches.

I will continue to provide regular updates as this important work continues.

Sincerely yours,

Dean Janow signature

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


Fostering Greater Diversity and Inclusion at SIPA - July 20, 2020

Dear Members of the SIPA Community,

I am writing to update you on SIPA’s renewed efforts to foster greater diversity and inclusion within our community. Increasing diversity and inclusion are core commitments of SIPA and Columbia University that I believe make us stronger as an academic institution, more understanding and accepting of individual differences and perspectives, and more effective at identifying and, ultimately, combatting racism and discrimination in the U.S. and around the world.

As President Bollinger has stated, “Columbia University is not innocent of the structures of racism that have afflicted America. Yet we also have a history of confronting invidious discrimination and anti-Black racism. There is still much more do to.”

I agree fully with President Bollinger. Now is the time to reflect on what needs to be done to challenge the persistence of racism in the US and globally, including specific ways in which SIPA can contribute to that crucial task. As I recently wrote to a group of SIPA student leaders:  “We seek a SIPA that is more diverse in terms of its student body, its faculty, its staff and its curriculum, more intellectually attuned to race, equality, and justice, and more effective at advancing—through research and teaching—public policies that combat racism and promote justice, opportunity and dignity for all people everywhere.” Working with the Diversity Committee, as well as faculty and staff, and other interested students, we will be working on many fronts to help make SIPA an even more meaningfully diverse and inclusive School.

Our initial efforts span the breadth of the School:

  • School-wide Self-Assessment. At the urging of students, we have inaugurated a self-assessment of diversity and inclusion at SIPA. This self-assessment – which will draw on input from throughout the School, as well as outside expert third parties with expertise in DEI matters – will lay the foundation for a diversity report that will be made public before the end of the 2020-21 academic year.  This self-assessment process will examine academic and non-academic dimensions of SIPA; review actions previously taken, those currently underway and gaps to address; and consider steps to be taken and goals for the future.
  • Programming and Conversations. In consultation with the Diversity Committee, we are planning a series of conversations in the fall to consider SIPA actions and progress in key areas such as student recruitment and financial assistance, faculty recruitment priorities, curricular perspectives, anti-racism education and other areas. We expect faculty will initiate other events, based on their areas of expertise. Along with the self-assessment process, these conversations will be important steps toward increasing transparency around SIPA’s past efforts to advance diversity and inclusion, and helping develop a strategic plan and goals for the future. 
  • Courses. We are expanding our course offerings and are adding new courses on race, social justice and public policy to the SIPA curriculum.  Building on an initiative that began last June, we are working with faculty to recruit adjunct instructors from underrepresented minorities and introduce classes in spring 2021 and beyond that focus on race, social justice and public policy.
  • Capstones. We are expanding our outstanding experiential capstone program to include new projects and clients, particularly in New York City, that focus on social justice and anti-racism. SIPA undertakes a number of capstones every year that focus on a broad range of social justice issues, including inequality, poverty, migration, conflict and many other subjects. We intend to add additional capstones related to race and social justice in the coming academic year, with an eye toward projects in Harlem and New York City.
  • Faculty. We are continuing our efforts to prioritize diversity and race and public policy in our faculty hiring. While we have been on a positive trajectory over the past several years and hired remarkable scholars in many fields, our efforts must be redoubled.
  • Financial Aid. Increasing financial aid has been a top priority since I became Dean.  It has been a key element of our capital campaign, which has helped expand our financial aid budget by more than 100% since fiscal year 2014.  We have developed an approach to awarding financial aid that more fully considers financial need as a factor in making our award decisions. This year, we are putting more funding into financial aid than ever before.  Building on this work, we will launch additional fundraising initiatives in the fall, including a campaign focused on support for under-represented minority students.
  • Student Programming and Support. In recent years, our Office of Student Affairs, working closely with our students, has expanded diversity programming on behalf of SIPA students and our entire community. Going forward, SIPA is determining how best to further strengthen our administrative efforts in support of a diverse and inclusive community.  We currently are in a hiring freeze but this will not deter us from thinking further about this objective.

This is by no means a comprehensive list of our efforts, but I hope it conveys the seriousness with which we are approaching the importance of SIPA’s diversity in all dimensions of our program and activities.  I know other University-wide plans are also underway and SIPA will be a partner in those efforts.

I am grateful to the many students, faculty, staff and alumni who have reached out to me directly over the past several months to share your concerns, your ideas, and also your encouragement.  I believe this is a unique moment for all of us to work together to identify areas for improvement and make the changes that will benefit the School for many years to come. I thank you for your participation in this effort, and I look forward to keeping you updated on our plans and progress over the coming academic year.

Sincerely yours,

Dean Janow signature

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