History and Mission
The SIPA Diversity Committee (formerly, the Diversity Task Force) was convened by Dean Janow in the 2013–14 academic year to support the efforts of SIPA faculty, staff, and student organizations in fostering a community at SIPA that is welcoming, respectful of individual and group differences, and representative of our society.
The Diversity Committee advises the Dean and her leadership team on efforts to support greater diversity at SIPA on a range of topics, including but not limited to: programming, academic affairs, recruitment, campus/school climate for students, faculty, and administration on diversity, inclusion, and social justice issues.
The following sub-committees were formed to help the Committee with implementing its objectives:
- Student Diversity and Campus Climate—Focuses on the climate of SIPA and the efforts that can be put forth to recruit/retain a diverse student body
- Faculty Diversity and Curriculum—Focuses on issues pertaining to faculty and curricular initiatives at SIPA
- Events and Programming—Develops programming for SIPA at-large sponsored by the Diversity Committee. Oversees/evaluates the Student Diversity Initiative Grant.
Watch: A Message from the Diversity Committee on COVID-19 Support
Student Diversity Intiative Grant
Sponsored by the SIPA Diversity Committee, the Student Diversity Initiative supports students in the development of a project or event that will advance diversity and inclusion at SIPA.
The SIPA Diversity Committee invites grant proposals that advance diversity, inclusion, social justice, and equity in light of the SIPA Diversity Committee’s mission in one or more of the following areas:
- Representation: Enhance the recruitment, retention, and support of students, faculty, and staff from diverse and historically under-represented backgrounds.
- Community-Building: Create opportunities for community-building; foster an inclusive climate respectful of diversity and increased cross-cultural understanding, and enhance collaboration among diverse groups at SIPA and across the Columbia campus.
- Network: Build a sustainable network among students, faculty, administration, alumni, and policy practitioners to work together to further the Diversity Committee’s mission.
- Discourse: Provide forums for robust, academic discourse and dialogue at SIPA and the greater public policy community surrounding issues of diversity and inclusion (including the integration of local/global diversity), social justice, and equity in the fields of international affairs and public policy.
- Education: Provide opportunities for enhanced learning, discourse, and research, both inside and outside of the classroom, that challenge students think critically about concepts related to the intersectionality of identity, social justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion, and to consider their implications on policy and international affairs.
- Policy Formulation and Practice: Create innovative ideas and share best practices around diversity and inclusion, equity, and social justice as they relate to professional practice.
- Outreach and Advocacy: Develop activities and strategies for outreach and advocacy that engage students, faculty, staff, and alumni with the greater community in support of SIPA’s mission of advancing social justice and addressing structural inequality, including increased support for historically and socially marginalized communities.
For submission guidelines and to apply, please visit SIPA CampusGroups.
"Immigration, Detention, and Resistance Through Art"
Wednesday, May 1, 2019
Immigration policy and mass incarceration represent today one of the main sites of human rights abuses and violations in the US. The panel brought together community-based artists and organizers, academics, immigration advocates and attorneys to discuss insights and intersections between their work and explored the ways in which community art can be mobilized as a form of resistance. The event was organized by SIPA's Concentration in Human Rights and Humanitarian Policy and the Humanitarian Affairs Working Group, RISE, SSOC, LASA, and Migration Working Group.
"Come Learn about Trans and Gender Non-Conforming People of Color" - Performance and talk by Alok Vaid-Menon
Wednesday, April 24, 2019
The event was organized by SIPA's Spectrum. Co-sponsored by GPP, GPWG, RISE, and the SIPA Diversity Committee.
SIPA Story Slam
Wednesday, April 17, 2019
The SIPA Story Slam showcased our community's defining experiences through live storytelling around the theme "Lost in Translation." This event featured student and faculty storytellers performing 5-minute stories alongside music and dancing.
South Asia Association (SAA) Multi-Cultural Event
Thursday, March 28, 2019
The event gave students from outside the South Asian community the opportunity to interact with and experience the diverse cultures and perspectives from countries within the South Asian region (namely Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and The Maldives).
SIPA Intersectionality Conference
Friday, April 20, 2018
The first annual SIPA Intersectionality Conference organized by SIPA Students of Color (SSOC) was held on April 20. The Conference examined the intersectional role of identities in social, economic, and political inequities in the U.S. with the keynote given by Melissa Mark-Viverito, senior advisor to the Latino Victory Fund and former speaker of the NYC Council. Co-Sponsored by the SIPA Diversity Coalition and SIPA Diversity Committee
Interactive Electoral Workshop
Monday, April 16, 2018
The workshop was facilitated by policy experts from the Brennan for Justice and SIPA faculty members, Prof Fuchs and Prof Shapiro, with the goal of addressing low voter turnout in U.S. elections. Co-Sponsored by Citizen American Voter and the SIPA Diversity Committee
Michael A. Nutter (Faculty Chair)
David N. Dinkins Professor of Professional Practice in Urban and Public Policy
Focus areas: Cities, ethical and transparent government, politics, development of effective national urban policy
A Message from Mayor Nutter
The Diversity Committee at SIPA seeks to both celebrate and critically reflect upon the experiences of students, faculty, and administrators at SIPA to build a community in which diversity, equity, and inclusion are woven into the fabric of the School of International and Public Affairs. The Diversity Committee accomplishes this goal by addressing this topic in many ways, ranging from programmatic efforts to recruitment and curricular initiatives. Most importantly, the Diversity Committee seeks to create communities of connection and support for underrepresented and marginalized identities.
As a Professor and Chair of the SIPA Diversity Committee, I also invite all members of our community to move beyond their comfort zone and participate in the vibrant community that comprises SIPA. Take a class on an identity that you have never thought about before, engage in difficult conversations, attend the committee’s events, celebrate both our similarities and our differences. It is only by pushing beyond established boundaries that we grow.
After serving almost 15 years in the Philadelphia City Council, Michael A. Nutter was elected the 98th Mayor of his hometown, where he served in office from 2008 until 2016. During his time as Mayor, he also served as the President of the United States Conference of Mayors from June 2012 to June 2013.
Since leaving public service, Mayor Nutter has remained active in public policy, government, and civic life, in critical areas of education, media, public policy, political campaigns, the corporate community, and academic institutions across the country. In addition to his appointment as the Inaugural David N. Dinkins Professor of Professional Practice in Urban and Public Policy at the School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) by the Columbia University Board of Trustees, Mayor Nutter has been appointed as a member of the Homeland Security Advisory Council; political commentator at CNN; Senior Fellow and national spokesperson for the program “What Works Cities” at Bloomberg Philanthropies; Executive Fellow in Leadership (ISL) at the Lebow College of Business Institute for Strategic Leadership (ISL) at Drexel University; Chair of the first Mayor’s Advisory Council at Airbnb; Executive Fellow at the University of Chicago Urban Labs; Member of the Economic and Community Advisory Council at the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia; Distinguished Fellow at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs; and Distinguished Non-Resident Senior Fellow in the Metropolitan Policy Program at the Brookings Institution. Mayor Nutter received his Bachelors in Economics from The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.
Lecturer in the Discipline of International and Public Affairs
Focus areas: Sub-Saharan migration and transnationalism, African migration into Europe and racial politics in North Africa
Hisham Aidi's research interests include cultural globalization and the political economy of race and social movements. He received his PhD in political science from Columbia University, and has taught at Columbia's School of International and Public Affairs, and at the Driskell Center for the Study of the African Diaspora at the University of Maryland, College Park. He is the author of Redeploying the State a comparative study of neo-liberalism and labor movements in Latin America; and co-editor, with Manning Marable, of Black Routes to Islam.
In 2002-2003, Aidi was a consultant for UNDP's Human Development Report. From 2000-2003, he was part of Harvard University's Encarta Africana project, and worked as a cultural reporter, covering youth culture and immigration in Harlem and the Bronx, for Africana, The New African and ColorLines. More recently, his work has appeared in The Atlantic, Foreign Affairs, The New Yorker and Salon. Since 2007, he has been a contributing editor of Souls: A Critical Journal of Black Culture, Politics and Society. Aidi is the author most recently of Rebel Music: Race, Empire and the New Muslim Youth Culture, a study of American cultural diplomacy.
Lecturer in the Discipline of International and Public Affairs; Associate Director, Institute for the Study of Human Rights; Director, Specialization in Gender and Public Policy
Focus areas: Globalization, gender equality, and human rights.
Director of the Specialization on Gender and Public Policy and Lecturer in Discipline in International and Public Affairs. She also directs the program in Gender and Human Rights of Columbia University’s Institute for the Study of Human Rights, is a member of the Executive Committee of the University’s Institute for Research on Women, Gender and Sexuality, and is the co-convener of the Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies Council at Columbia University.
A lawyer and sociologist, she has worked on issues regarding gender and women’s rights as a policy analyst and advisor, scholar and advocate. She has served as a consultant to international and domestic policy organizations, including the OECD, UNESCO, the Millennium Villages Project, the New York City Commission on Human Rights, and CENSIS, a major applied social research institute in Italy, and been on the staff of the Social Science Research Council. Her recent work has focused on the emergence of an international market in reproductive services, the transformations of ‘motherhood’ and the impacts of human rights programs and policies. Previous relevant work centered on feminist movements and their interactions with public policies; the implications of the concept of ‘gender’ for feminist politics; child care policies in international and comparative perspective; educational policies and the social implications of HIV/AIDS. A graduate of the Universities of Sussex and Rome and Columbia Law School, Ergas is a former member of the School of Social Science of the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton; visiting scholar at the Center for European Studies at Harvard University; and a Pembroke Fellow of Brown University.
Assistant Professor of International and Public Affairs
Focus areas: Political economy of the United States with a focus on organized interests, government and social policy
Alexander Hertel-Fernandez is an Assistant Professor of International and Public Affairs. He studies the political economy of the United States, with an emphasis on the politics of organized interests, especially business, and public policy. One forthcoming book examines how employers are increasingly recruiting their workers into politics to change elections and public policy. Other projects examine lobbying and legislative staffers, the development of cross-state networks of conservative activists and business interests, and the role of elite donors in American politics.
Hertel-Fernandez’s academic work has been published in journals such as the Journal of Health Politics, Policy, and Law, the Journal of Politics, and Perspectives on Politics, and has been featured in a range of popular outlets, including the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times, the New Yorker, and the Washington Post.
Lecturer in Discipline of International and Public Affairs; Director of Urban and Social Policy Concentration for Executive MPA
Yumiko Shimabukuro's core research and teaching interests lie in the areas of comparative political economy and social welfare policy with a regional expertise in Northeast Asia. She is the Director of the Urban and Social Policy concentration for the Executive MPA program and serves as the faculty director of the Global Leadership Development Training initiative.
Beyond her academic work, Professor Shimabukuro leverages her two-decades long professional experience straddling the financial, non-profit, and academic sectors and offers advanced professional development training for the mid-career MPA program in Economic Policy Management, Columbia Business School, and numerous other venues throughout the country. She is the creator of the 5S Method, a comprehensive guide to effective knowledge management and transfer derived from the fields of cognitive science, data visualization, psychology, neuroscience, anatomy, linguistics, education, and voice science.
Professor Shimabukuro received an MIA in International Economics from Columbia University, a PhD in Political Economy from the Department of Political Science at MIT, and a Post-Doctoral Fellowship from Harvard University. She is the recipient of the Harvard Teaching Excellence Award and the Columbia University Outstanding Teaching Award.
Cory T. Way (Administrative Chair)
Associate Dean for Student Affairs; Adjunct Assistant Professor of International and Public Affairs
Focus Areas: Criminal justice policy and management; crime, media and journalism; presidential commutations and pardons; white collar crime; the intersection of art and crime; mentoring in the legal profession.
Cory Way is Associate Dean for Student Affairs and Dean of Students at SIPA. He was formerly an award-winning Lecturer on Sociology at Harvard University, the Kirkland House Dean at Harvard College, and Affiliated Faculty at Harvard Law School's Centre on the Legal Profession.
Way holds a doctorate from Oxford and is a licensed attorney who has practiced both litigation and corporate law at Sullivan & Cromwell in New York and Zuckerman Spaeder in Washington, DC. While in law practice he maintained an active pro bono practice, most recently winning political asylum for a Rwanda genocide survivor whose entire family had been murdered; his work on this novel case earned a pro bono award from the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights.
He holds degrees from Princeton, Harvard, Virginia and the University of Oxford, where he also served in dean positions at Merton and Corpus Christi Colleges. While in England he was also appointed as Course Director for a masters degree program at the University of Cambridge. Way’s public service includes four years at the U.S. Department of Justice (working for the Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Justice Programs, the U.S. Pardon Attorney, and the Director of the Bureau of Prisons) and one year as a law clerk for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. He has also served in an executive director capacity for both the National Committee on Community Corrections and the National Prison Industry Task Force.
Laura L. McCreedy
Executive Assistant, Dean's Office
Laura is an Executive Assistant in the Office of the Dean at SIPA, where she assists with special projects and events, including support for the Diversity Committee. Prior to working for SIPA, Laura worked for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Representation Office in Tanzania; in the President’s Office at the Carnegie Corporation of New York; for Interfaith, Youth, and Adult Diversity and Inclusion and Police-Community relations (Advocates and Leaders for Police and Community Trust) initiatives at the Michigan Roundtable for Diversity and Inclusion; and for Diversity and Inclusion and Women’s Leadership initiatives at Booz Allen Hamilton and Accenture.
Laura holds a Bachelor’s degree in International Affairs and Anthropology from Wayne State University in Detroit, and a Master’s of Science by Research (MSc) degree in Social Psychology from the University of Edinburgh, where her research focused on social cognition and conflict resolution. She is also a recent grad in the Executive Master's of Public Administration (EMPA) at SIPA, where she focused on International Conflict Resolution and Peacebuilding. Her SIPA capstone project examined mechanisms for "Combating Racism and Discrimination Through the United Nations."
Assistant Dean, Office of Student Affairs
Melanie Pagán (pronouns she/they) is an Assistant Dean in the Office of Student Affairs where she serves as an academic advisor and the disability services liaison, and leads the wellness initiatives at SIPA. She joined the Office of Student Affairs in June 2019 with 10 years of experience in higher education at institutions including Yale University, Connecticut College and Columbia University.
Dean Pagán holds a master’s degree in Higher Education Administration from the Marxe School of Public and International Affairs at Baruch College and a bachelor’s degree in Art History and Sociology from Bradley University. She is currently a doctoral student at George Washington University where she focuses her research on the socialization and experiences of graduate students of color.
Additionally, Dean Pagán is involved with one of the leading higher education associations, the ACPA College Student Educators International, where she serves as the Chair of the Latinx Network which dedicates their efforts to the advancement of higher education professionals of color. Dean Pagán is a proud 1.5 generation immigrant, originally from Puerto Rico and raised in Chicago. She is passionate about inclusive leadership, racial equity, and mental health advocacy.
Associate Director of Admissions, Office of Admissions and Financial Aid
Kathleen Vital-Herne is an Associate Director of Admissions at SIPA with over 8 years of higher education experience, working at institutions including Stony Brook University, Baruch College, Fordham University, and Columbia University. In her current role, she focuses on recruitment and yield initiatives, as well as supporting underrepresented minority populations. Prior to working at SIPA, Kathleen worked at Columbia University’s School of Engineering and Applied Science, spearheading major events including the annual Women in Science and Engineering Conference.
Kathleen earned her Bachelor's in Sociology from Stony Brook University and her Master's in Higher and Postsecondary Education from Teachers College, Columbia University. In her graduate studies, she focused on initiatives that institutions can implement in building more diverse student bodies.
Séléna Batchily is a second-year Master in Public Administration (MPA) candidate concentrating in Economic and Political Development with a specialization in Management. Prior to SIPA, Séléna graduated with a B.A. in Global Affairs with a minor in Economics from George Mason University.
During her time at SIPA, Séléna was the 2020 President of the SIPA Pan-African Network (SPAN), advocating for greater representation of African students from the continent and the diaspora in SIPA’s student body. She also worked on advocating for DEI at SIPA alongside other classmates and is currently a member of the SIPA DEI Steering Committee. Séléna is also a peer advisor and program assistant for the EPD concentration.
In her role on the Diversity Committee, she will continue to advocate for better representation of POC, pushing for SIPA to have a DEI office, while making sure the SIPA environment is diverse and welcoming to all students.
Chin Lu Chang is an MPA DP student from Santiago, Chile. She holds a Bachelor’s in Business Administration from the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile. She has 3 years of experience working in the consulting industry as a member of Accenture’s Natural Resources team. Prior to SIPA, Chin ran a social enterprise incubator to support projects related to disabilities issues, the first of its kind in Latin America. As a woman with a disability, she wants to be part of a cultural transformation towards a more inclusive world; she started this journey in Chile, where she advocated for political regulation changes in public organizations and universities to open space for people with disabilities in graduate studies. As a result of her work, the Chilean government implemented a pilot scholarship program for persons with disabilities to reduce the structural inequality in education among this minority.
Jessica Hernandez is a second-year Master of Public Administration (MPA) candidate concentrating in Urban and Social Policy with a specialization in Management and a regional specialization in Latin America. Jessica is a proud graduate of Howard University with a B.A. in Political Science.
During her time at SIPA, Jessica was the SIPA Student Association Vice President (2020). As a member of the Diversity Committee, she will continue her work as a social justice advocate both in higher education and in the U.S. government. Before graduating, she hopes to continue the work of the Diversity Committee in molding the SIPA environment into one that prioritizes institutional diversity and welcomes students regardless of race, religion, or creed.
JoAnn Jung is an MIA candidate pursuing a concentration in Urban and Social Policy and specialization in Management. As an undergraduate student at Wellesley College, she majored in International Relations and Education Studies. Prior to attending SIPA, she worked as a research assistant at the Harvard Graduate School of Education’s Education Redesign Lab, exploring ways for inclusive education to mitigate the effects of poverty and equalize opportunities for all students. She also has prior experience working at the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Africa Bureau and the U.S. Department of Education, overseeing programs and policies that serve as bridges between the U.S. government and countries all over the world. As a 2020 Thomas R. Pickering Fellow for the U.S. Department of State, she will continue the mission to promote collaboration with others beyond the physical borders of her country through diplomacy.
She has recently published her first children's book featuring Asian American characters to promote diverse representation in children's literature. She hopes to support AAPI students in navigating their ethnic identities despite the challenges they may face, and celebrate together what it means to be an Asian-American in a diasporic world.
Patrick Martínez (he/him/his) is in the Executive MPA program concentrating in Global Policy Studies. He has an MA from Teachers College in Higher and Postsecondary Education and a BA from the University of Virginia with a double-major in African American Studies and Latin American Studies. Prior to his current focus on global affairs and security, the bulk of his academics focused on inequalities in the US related to education, race, ethnicity, and class.Patrick is currently the Assistant Director of Admissions at Columbia’s School of General Studies working with the International Dual BA Programs between Columbia and Sciences Po, Trinity College Dublin, and Tel Aviv University. Prior to this he worked in financial aid at Baruch College of the City University of New York. His first job was on Capitol Hill in the Office of Congresswoman Linda Sánchez as a Public Policy Fellow through the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute. A political junkie, he has found a home at SIPA and looks forward to contributing to its progress through the Committee.
Jasmine McClam is an MPA candidate, concentrating in Urban and Social Policy and specializing in Gender and Public Policy. Prior to SIPA, Jasmine earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in International Studies and Spanish at Spelman College. While at Spelman, Jasmine was an advocate for diversity and inclusion through her roles as the president of the Mu Pi Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated, the U.S. Department of State’s campus coordinator for Spelman College, and as a lead PAL for the Peer Assistant Leaders Program. In addition, Jasmine is a 2020 Thomas R. Pickering Foreign Affairs fellow.
As a member of the Diversity Committee and the vice president of SIPASA, Jasmine will work to ensure that SIPA is a safe space for all students. After graduating from SIPA, she will enter the U.S. Foreign Service to become a diplomat to serve American citizens and diverse communities overseas.
Matt Parmer is a first-year MIA candidate concentrating in International Security Policy and specializing in Conflict Resolution. Matt is a Captain in the U.S. Army and has served as an intelligence officer and company commander. Matt graduated with a B.A. in History from the Virginia Military Institute and served on the Officer of the Guard Association, an organization devoted to ensuring equitable treatment for cadets.
As a member of the Diversity Committee Matt will strive to guarantee every student is treated with dignity and respect. He will also seek to increase the awareness of the valuable contributions that those with diverse backgrounds bring to SIPA and increase the opportunities they have to share their experiences. After graduation, Matt will resume service in the Army, and bring the lessons learned with him to help improve its diversity programs.
Shani Ogilvie is an MPA candidate in the Urban & Social policy concentration and Management specialization. She holds a B.S. degree in Health Science from Boston University. Prior to attending SIPA, her work focused on public health, education, and advocacy for various populations including minorities, immigrants, women, and youth. Some roles included working as a case manager to alleviate clients’ barriers as a result of systemic health inequities, and training youth to understand their rights regarding police interactions. Most recently, she recruited underrepresented students to a tech education program aiming to diversify the technology industry and the tech sector pipeline. In her career, she has volunteered and worked for organizations such as a UN Special Envoy office, Public Health Solutions, Global Citizen, and New York on Tech.
As part of the Diversity Committee, Shani intends to strengthen the bonds between different communities within SIPA and eliminate the polarization among students within their respective languages, nationalities, ethnicities, and races.
Adam is a second-year MIA student concentrating in Economic & Political Development and specializing in Data Analytics & Quantitative Analysis. Prior to his studies at SIPA, Adam graduated from New York University’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study concentrating in the Socioeconomics of Behavior. For the past four years, Adam has worked in financial crime investigation, first as an Investigative Legal Analyst for the New York Attorney General’s Office and later as a Senior Financial Intelligence Analyst for the Department of Homeland Security investigating complex financial crime.
Throughout his academic career, Adam has strived to champion diversity, beginning with the creation of his high school’s LGBT alliance organization and continuing through undergraduate internships with progressive government officials such as Senator Elizabeth Warren and former Governor Deval Patrick as well as Gay & Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAD), a national LGBT legal support organization.
Adam hopes to take a greater role in advocacy through his role as President of Spectrum, Columbia SIPA’s LGBT student organization. He looks forward to working as a member of the Diversity Committee to create a greater sense of belonging for queer students at SIPA through engaging programming and diverse faculty and student recruitment.
Tenzin Dawa Thargay is a first-generation Tibetan American from Boston, MA. He is pursuing an MA in International Affairs concentrating on energy policy and a graduate certificate in Chinese studies from the Weatherhead East Asian Institute. Tenzin was a Fulbright scholar in Seoul, South Korea researching intersections of protest and energy prior to SIPA. While an undergraduate at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, he developed his passion for diversity and inclusion serving as an events coordinator for the Yuri Kochiyama Asian Cultural Center. Tenzin is a 2019 U.S. Department of State Rangel fellow and will enter the U.S. Foreign Service after graduation to serve as a foreign service officer. He is excited to represent the diversity of America on the frontlines of diplomacy.
Ojani-Pierre Ruphin Walthrust is originally from Queens, New York. He received his Bachelor’s degree in International Affairs from the George Washington University (GWU) in Fall 2019. While at GWU, he researched culturally appropriate food options for the dining plan and was selected to participate in the USC Shoah Foundation Intercollegiate Diversity Congress Summit.
He is currently a Thomas R. Pickering fellow and pursuing a Master of Public Administration with a concentration in International Security Policy and specialization in Conflict Resolution. After graduation, he will begin work as a foreign service officer in the public diplomacy cone. He is excited to help with addressing unconscious bias and advancing diversity and inclusion at a University-level.
Jason West is a second-year MPA student from DeLand, FL concentrating in Development Practice, and specializing in Management and Data Analytics and Quantitative Analysis. His academic and professional focuses include health, governance, strategic partnerships, and community development. He is a recent graduate of Princeton University, where he was awarded a B.A. in French Language & Politics and a certificate in Global Health Policy.
Before arriving to SIPA, Jason worked in the health field as Director of Management at United Against Inequities in Disease, a national nonprofit organization that leverages health research and partnerships to pursue health justice across the United States. In this role, he oversaw organizational development and advised several UAID chapters. Shortly after starting at SIPA, he began collaborating with peers and administrators within the Development Practice (DP) Concentration to develop a strategic plan for fostering an inclusive learning environment. Through this work he gained more insight into the advantages and challenges of DEI-related work in higher education.
Jason served on the Steering Committee for RISE: Working Group on Race, Income, Solidarity, and Economics, works as a research intern within the Earth Institute, and continues to organize DEI initiatives in the Development Practice program.
Student Diversity Coalition Representative
Toumai Kafri is pursuing a Master of International Affairs, concentrating on human rights and humanitarian policy and specializing in Latin America, and is a fellow of the Columbia Institute for the Study of Human Rights. Toumai is representing the Student Pan-African Network (SPAN) on the Diversity Committee, as its VP Outreach and Advocacy.
Prior to SIPA, Toumai worked in humanitarian assistance, leading teams on disaster response missions and conducting research for international development projects. Her work has taken her to Bolivia, Colombia, Guatemala, Israel, France, South Sudan, and the U.S. Specializing in finance and cross-sector partnerships, Toumai has also established the finance department of an INGO working in 18 countries, formed partnerships with major U.S. corporations in support of humanitarian programs, and supported investment projects in Haiti. In her most recent position, Toumai was the finance director for the Free Yezidi Foundation, a Yezidi-led organization supporting genocide survivors in Iraq. A Montreal native, Toumai holds a degree in Finance and Economics from the John Molson School of Business in Canada, where she graduated as class Valedictorian.
Xhilda Prifti is a first-year international student in the Master of Public Administration program, concentrating in Economic and Political Development and specializing in Management. Currently, she sits on the board of the Women in Leadership organization as the director of events. Originally from Albania, Xhilda finished high school in Italy at the United World Colleges, and went on to obtain her Bachelor’s degree from Earlham College in Peace and Global Studies, with a minor in psychology. Upon graduation, Xhilda worked for an environmental-economics consulting firm in Boston.
Xhilda initiated "Peace and Justice Week" while an undergraduate, with the intention to lower barriers between races, communities, and nations through the active practice of peacemaking. She also worked closely with the school’s Center for Social Justice to lead efforts towards creating a more inclusive community. With her participation on the diversity committee, Xhilda hopes to challenge rigid structures that inhibit the DEI agenda.
Clarissa is a first-year MIA student concentrating in Human Rights and Humanitarian Policy and specializing in International Conflict Resolution. She holds a B.A. from the University of Virginia, with a double-major in Anthropology and South Asian Studies. Prior to attending SIPA, Clarissa worked in the U.S. Senate, covering foreign policy and national security issues for New York Senator and Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer. She also has previous work experience in the Washington, DC office of Crisis Action, an international NGO that advocates for the protection of civilians in conflict.
As a mixed-race woman of color, Clarissa is excited to represent SIPA Students of Color (SSOC) on the Diversity Committee. She is committed to ensuring that students from underrepresented backgrounds have access to the resources and opportunities they need to thrive as graduate students and in their future careers.
Leselle Vincent is a first-year MPA in Development Practice candidate with a specialization in International Organizations. Leselle, a Trinidad and Tobago national, received a B.S. in Environmental Engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology, where she was committed to establishing a community for Caribbean students to gather, support each other and share their culture with other students.
As a member of the Diversity Committee, Leselle hopes to contribute to measures that ensure greater representation and support for marginalized communities and nationalities among the SIPA student body and faculty, and more diverse course offerings that take into consideration alternative perspectives for policy and development. Leselle also serves as a co-academic chair on the SIPA Student Association (SIPASA) and a General Steering Committee member on the Working Group on Race, Income, Solidarity, and Economics (RISE).
Florentina Pruteanu is a first-year SIPA student, pursuing an MPA degree, concentrating in Economic and Political Development, with a double specialization in Management and Gender Public Policy. She was born and raised in Bucharest, Romania, where she earned a Bachelor in Communications and Public Relations, from the University of Bucharest. Florentina has more than 7 years of professional experience, shifting from Communications to Public Affairs, from private companies to NGOs and the public sector. For the past 3 years, she worked in the Romanian Parliament, as chief of staff to an independent woman MP. She has contributed to the design of 14 bills on issues such as equal opportunities, fighting gender-based violence, improper child institutionalization, human trafficking, and equal access to education.
Florentina joined the Diversity Committee because she wants to contribute to a welcoming and inclusive community at SIPA, where every member feels represented and heard. She aims to use her professional and academic expertise on gender policies to help build knowledge around the social, economic, and political structures that affect people of all gender identities at SIPA. She is also representing the Gender Policy Working Group as vice president.
Shahir is a Master of Public Administration student concentrating in Human Rights & Humanitarian Policy and specializing in Technology, Media & Communications. Prior to their studies at SIPA, they received a degree in Economics from the University of California, Berkeley. For the past four years, Shahir has served the Central Bank of Malaysia (Bank Negara Malaysia) as an Associate Analyst by assessing the credit risks and financial vulnerabilities of the non-financial corporate sector. Aside from their professional job, Shahir has been actively engaged in social justice movements and human rights-related events in Malaysia.
Currently, Shahir is the Communications & Community Outreach Director of Spectrum, SIPA’s LGBTQIA+ student organization which advocates for and celebrates students of diverse gender identities and expression, and sexual orientations. They look forward to working with the Diversity Committee to promote a greater sense of belonging and a safer space for queer students at SIPA through inclusive programs and diverse faculty and student engagements. Shahir identifies as a non-binary and uses they/them/theirs pronouns.
Student Organization: Working Group on Race, Inequality, Solidarity, and Economics (RISE)
Vincent Tang is a first-year MPA in Development Practice candidate, specializing in Gender and Public Policy. Vincent received a B.S. in Business, with concentrations in finance and marketing, from New York University's Stern School of Business. His academic and professional focus is on social and financial inclusion. Prior to SIPA, Vincent worked in corporate finance. However, wanting to focus more on social impact, Vincent then joined the Peace Corps as Business Development Specialist and worked with local NGOs in Western Ukraine focusing on community development and organizational capacity building. He was also part of Peace Corp Ukraine's Intercultural Competence, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Working Group, where he developed training materials and led workshops on diversity and inclusion.
Currently, Vincent serves as the Treasurer for RISE: Working Group on Race, Income, Solidarity, and Economics, the President for CERV: Community Engagement and Recruiting Volunteers, and is an intern at The Opportunity Network, a NYC non-profit focused on addressing the inequitable structures of access, college opportunity, and professional mobility that disproportionately affect students of color and students from low-income communities.
Yulin Lou is an MIA candidate in the Energy and Environment concentration and regional specialization in the Middle East. She holds a B.A. degree in Journalism and Economics from New York University. She developed her passion for diversity and inclusion while volunteering in the West Bank and Jerusalem. Prior to attending SIPA, she worked in the private sector at a production company, where she produced and distributed business and political content for wire service and network customers. Some of her work included the coverage of the 2020 presidential election.
Yulin is also the Vice President of the Greater China Initiative and works on engaging communities in cultural exchanges and conversations. As part of the Diversity Committee, she hopes to continue efforts of engaging communities and fostering inclusion, awareness and community citizenship.
SIPA Diversity Coalition
The Diversity Coalition was formed in 2015 by student groups with the cross-cutting mission of supporting diversity and inclusion at SIPA. The Coalition is comprised of the following groups, with one member from each of group represented on the Diversity Committee.
Empowering Asian Women (EAW) - The purpose of Empowering Asian Women is to encourage further dialogue on the topic of diversity and inclusion by fostering leadership development of Asian female students and professionals.
Gender and Public Policy Working Group (GPWG) - GPWG hopes to facilitate the integration and exposure of a gender perspective at SIPA and promote useful discussions and events.
Migration Working Group (MWG) - The Migration Working Group aims to promote dialogue, awareness, and community involvement on national and international migration issues.
SIPA Pan-African Network (SPAN) - As its mission, SPAN creates a vibrant community of support for students within SIPA and Columbia concerned with Africa and its Diaspora. SPAN’s core objectives are to create a platform for African students and all other students interested in Africa to share ideas beneficial to development in Africa; leverage opportunities within SIPA and Columbia University, and collaborate with other student groups for increased visibility; organize events focused on development and connect members with organizations for internship and post-graduation employment opportunities; and participate in orientation of new students and ensure equal opportunities for all members.
SIPA Students of Color (SSOC) - SSOC is a diverse community of students, alumni and faculty that focuses on the support and advancement of underrepresented students becoming future policy leaders and development professionals. Our core belief is that the world is best served by policymakers and leaders who represent a wide variety of cultural traditions, political worldviews and life experiences. The organization’s primary function is to assist its members in achieving their academic and professional goals. SSOC seeks to leverage its broad network to assist Columbia SIPA in the recruitment of underrepresented students and faculty while advocating for the inclusion of diverse and dynamic perspectives within Columbia SIPA’s course curriculum and cultural climate.
SIPA Women in Leadership (WIL) - SIPA WIL is an organization at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA), consisting of Columbia students, alumni, administrators, friends, allies and mentors. SIPA Women in Leadership’s mission is to prepare its members for success and leadership in all sectors and professional endeavors. We aim to bring awareness to the barriers women face as leaders today and the importance of having women serve in decision-making positions, with the overall goal of achieving gender equality.
SPECTRUM - SIPA Spectrum is an organization within which SIPA's LGBTQ+ and allied students may network, build a community, and hold dialogue on international and domestic issues, through which community members may access relevant resources and information.
Working Group on Race, Inequality, Solidarity, and Economics (RISE) - The mission of RISE is to create a safe environment for students to engage, in a spirit of cooperation and solidarity, in co-learning, discussions and activities towards solutions to diverse problems of social inequality, such as wealth and income inequality, poverty and racial, gender and economic disparities.
SIPA is home to over 50 diverse and vibrant student-led organizations. A full list can be found here.