Welcome to SIPA—A Message from Dean Merit E. Janow

Merit E. Janow

Dean, School of International and Public Affairs
Professor of Practice, International Economic Law and International Affairs
Columbia University

Welcome back to SIPA! - September 8, 2020

Dear Members of the SIPA Community,

Welcome new students, and welcome back everyone returning for the fall semester!

We have shown over the past six months that we can recreate and sustain the SIPA community online – a great thanks to all who have contributed.  And this week, while we offer our full fall curriculum online, we also will offer nearly 25 percent of these courses via HyFlex classrooms in the International Affairs Building, an important first step toward a safe return to campus. Let me extend a particularly enthusiastic welcome to new students who are joining us, both online and in-person this fall. Our entire team is here to do everything we can to support you – as well as all of our students joining us from around the world.

As we start a new academic year, I write to share a few thoughts about the upcoming semester and to give you a brief preview of some of the remarkable people, activities and events that will be part of our upcoming year.

As described by President Bollinger in his recent communication, this fall semester will be unlike any in Columbia’s or SIPA’s long history. In this time of COVID-19, all of us have had to make adjustments in response to the virus and there will continue to be uncertainty in the weeks ahead.  Please know that I am grateful to each of you for your flexibility and your commitment to SIPA and to each other as we continue academic life at SIPA.

While the pandemic has forced all of us to make many changes, I know that we still enter this academic year with excitement and hopefulness. Of course, what has not changed is our commitment to providing a world-class education for our students, a unique and deeply engaging intellectual environment, and numerous extraordinary opportunities for learning and the development of new skills and experiences.

This is a special time to be at one of the world’s leading policy schools, where members of our community are thinking about the many challenges our world faces and how to mitigate and respond to them. Our faculty are offering a variety of exciting new courses and seminars, e.g. on crisis management and global leadership, online disinformation campaigns, data analysis for policy research using R and environmental advocacy, as well as new courses and workshops focused on COVID-19. The fall will also bring a US presidential election in November and all of its ramifications.  For many reasons, we know that the 2020-21 academic year is likely to be a unique period to be at SIPA.

As always, and perhaps even more true today than in years past, SIPA faculty, program directors and staff have planned an extraordinary range of programs and activities this fall, including nearly 250 courses this semester and just as many in spring. In addition, there will be a total of nearly 100 capstone projects and other co-curricular activities this year. This summer SIPA announced a wide ranging diversity initiative, aimed at making SIPA an even more meaningfully diverse and inclusive school. As we move forward, we will seek your involvement as we hope to work closely with students, faculty, staff and alumni. 

If you have not done so, I urge you to visit the University’s COVID-19 Resource Guide  to familiarize yourself with the University’s plans for the fall semester, including requirements for those planning to return to campus.  The health and safety of our in-person community depends on working together to implement those important community norms and University requirements.  We also recently updated our Fall Q&A document, which includes a variety of SIPA-specific information for students.

I invite you to learn more about fall semester in the below preview. Whether you will join us remotely or in person, I look forward to your contributions to SIPA’s dynamism and vibrancy.

I am excited to start the semester with you!

Sincerely yours,

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


Fall 2020 Preview

Class of 2022

Please join me in welcoming the SIPA Class of 2022. In all, nearly 295 students have started in our two-year MIA/MPA/MPA-DP programs. They join more than 100 new students in our MPA-ESP, MPA-EPM, EMPA, and PhD programs.  Welcome to SIPA!

New Faculty, Visitors and Research Scholars

This year we welcome two new full-time faculty members as well as several visiting professors and senior research scholars:

  • Rumela Sen, Lecturer (full-time): previously a Postdoctoral Scholar in the Political Science Department, she pursues research on civil conflict, post conflict governance and state building. She will teach the core Politics of Policymaking course within SIPA’s MPA program, as well as political development for the Economic and Political Development Concentration.
  • Harold Stolper, Lecturer (full-time): he previously served as Senior Economist for Community Service Society of New York, where he analyzed the differential impact of public policy on low-income and minority groups. This semester he will teach the application of “R” to data analysis, as well as Quantitative Analysis II.
  • Sivaram Varun, Senior Research Scholar: a foremost expert on clean energy technology, he has joined SIPA’s Center on Global Energy Policy.  A physicist and bestselling author, he previously served as Chief Technology Officer of ReNew Power, India’s largest clean energy company, and prior to that, as Director of the Program on Energy Security and Climate Change at the Council on Foreign Relations, among other positions.
  • Janee Potts, Adjunct Assistant Professor, and Natalie Vanatta, Adjunct Assistant Professor: they will co-teach the course, “Cyber Risks and Vulnerabilities.”  Both are deeply experienced cyber experts with extensive military service, including positions at the Army Cyber Institute at the U.S. Military Academy.

In addition to the above appointments, we are very pleased to welcome back to teach in the spring His Excellency Toomas Ilves,former President of Estonia; Keiko Honda, former CEO of the World Bank Group’s Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency; and Nobuchika Mori, former commissioner of Japan’s Financial Services Agency.

George W. Ball Visiting Professor

I am also pleased to share that Ambassador Christopher Hill will serve as the George W. Ball Adjunct Professor at SIPA in Spring 2021.

As many of you know, Ambassador Hill was a distinguished member of the U.S. Foreign Service for 33 years, where he served at the forefront of U.S. foreign policy across multiple regions, including Asia, Europe and the Middle East. As Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, he led U.S efforts to end North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, which induced North Korea to catalogue its nuclear activities and freeze and disable its plutonium production in 2008-2009. 

He also was a leading negotiator who helped forge the agreement that ended the Bosnian war in 1995 and was the U.S. envoy in negotiations that ended the Kosovo war in 1999, among many other career highlights.  Ambassador Hill served for seven years (2010 to 2017) as Dean of the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver. Most recently he served as the University’s Head of Global Engagement and as a Professor of the Practice of Diplomacy until 2020.

As the George W. Ball Adjunct Professor, Ambassador Hill will teach a course on diplomacy and also deliver the annual George W. Ball lecture, among other activities. His extraordinary foreign policy experience will be of tremendous benefit to our students and intellectual community, and we look forward to welcoming him to SIPA this spring.

New Courses

This fall SIPA will offer 11 new courses, with more to be added in Spring 2021.  A few highlights include:

  • The COVID-19 Pandemic: Virology, Public Health, and Economics (Jeffrey Sachs/Glenn Denning)
  • Foreign Policy Crisis Decision-Making (Keren Yarhi-Milo)
  • Multilateral Support for Economic Crisis Management (José Antonio Ocampo)
  • Environmental Advocacy: From Interest to Action (Sara Tjossem)
  • Policy Solutions for Online Mis/Disinformation (Anya Schiffrin)

Upcoming Events

While there will be no in-person events in September and we will continue to monitor conditions for the remainder of the semester, we have scheduled numerous virtual conferences, workshops, and discussions on important and intriguing global issues.  Among those already planned for Fall 2020:

  • Tuesday, September 8th, 8:00 a.m. - Recent Lessons For Financial Regulation and Macroprudential Policy, hosted by SIPA’s Central Banking and Financial Policy Initiative.
  • Monday, September 21st, 6:00 - 7:00 p.m.: The Challenges of Financing the Sustainable Development Goals, featuring Navid Hanif, Director of Financing for Sustainable Development, Office of UNDESA.  Comments by Professor Jose Antonio Ocampo.
  • Thursday, September 24th, 8:00 a.m. - Central Bank responses to Covid-19: Implications for Central Bank Independence, featuring Professors Patricia Mosser and Takatoshi Ito.
  • Monday, September 28th, 6:00 to 8:00 p.m.: - Speechwriters on Elections, sponsored by the Technology, Media and Communications (TMaC) Specialization.  SIPA will feature additional U.S. election-related events throughout the semester, including Race, Inequality and Perspectives on US Elections on October 15th at 6:30 p.m., and The Election Through Foreign Eyes on Tuesday, October 20th at 6:00 p.m.
  • COVID-19: Policy-Making in the Throes of a Global Crisis, open webinar, hosted by Vice Dean and Professor Scott Barrett and University Professor Jeffrey Sachs, most Wednesdays 1-2pm. (Note: SIPA students may take this webinar as part of Independent Study credit.)

Among the events planned this fall by SIPA research centers:

  • The Center on Global Energy Policy (CGEP) will be partnering with Climate Week NYC 2020 to host a series of virtual, online events on climate change from September 21-27.  Run by The Climate Group annually in coordination with the United Nations and the City of New York, Climate Week NYC will feature hundreds of events in New York City and around the world.  CGEP will host seven virtual events that link the policies, technologies and investments needed to rebuild the global economy after COVID-19, and accelerate climate policy at the local, state, federal and international levels with a focus on U.S. leadership and policy pathways.
  • Over the fall semester, the Saltzman Institute of War and Peace Studies will host a series of panels exploring the COVID-19 global pandemic through the lens of international security.  Each panel, featuring recognized experts in their field, will examine the impact of the virus on a key area of global peace and security, and discuss challenges and opportunities likely to exist now and into the future.  Panels will convene once a month and address topics such as COVID-19’s impact on great power relations and global institutions; what the pandemic exposed about bioweapons defense; and how and where did the pandemic hit hardest globally, and why?

Please visit the SIPA events calendar for additional events and information.

SIPA Dean’s Public Policy Challenge Grant

We are pleased to be undertaking the eighth round of the SIPA Dean's Public Policy Challenge Grant Program.  Initial proposals for projects are due on September 28, 2020. The program, which is part of the campus-wide Columbia Venture Competition, invites students to turn their policy passions into entrepreneurial ventures – whether for profit or not for profit – and to design cutting-edge projects or prototypes that use ICT and/or data analytics to advance a public policy objective.

This year we are inviting students to consider a venture that is aimed either at facilitating COVID recovery or focused on an area where our world has been disrupted by COVID-19 and where new ventures in support of public purpose are needed and may thrive.  As always, we encourage venture ideas in areas that combine technology and data.  Additionally, we will also offer support for projects that address a pressing policy challenge in Brazil. We thank the Lemann Foundation for this opportunity. 

A total of $25,000 in prizes will be awarded to the winning teams.  You may learn more about this year’s challenge – as well as previous rounds and projects – here.

Once again, welcome back to SIPA!


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, 

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


Emergency Aid Message to Continuing Students - August 12, 2020

Dear Continuing Students,

As the pandemic continues to disrupt so much of our world, I know that many of our students have faced heightened financial challenges, whether resulting from family hardships, diminished summer employment, currency devaluations, or depletion of other sources of support.

For this reason, SIPA will be putting more funding towards financial aid than ever before during the 2020-21 academic year, both for current and new students.   

Importantly, we have allocated an additional $300,000 to the Emergency Aid Fund, and these funds are now available to continuing students for the remainder of the summer and into the upcoming academic year.  This additional funding builds upon earlier allocations and gifts previously announced.  Specifically, you may recall from Financial Aid Director David Sheridan's message of June 15, 2020, that SIPA’s Emergency Aid Fund was extended throughout the summer months by a generous $100,000 gift, which further supplemented my original allocation of $150,000 for the last academic year.

Since April 2020, SIPA's Emergency Aid Committee has made more than 100 need-based awards. 

Continuing SIPA students are the only students eligible to apply for Emergency Aid this summer and during the beginning of Fall semester. Those who wish to apply may access the application form at https://sipa.columbia.edu/admissions/financial-aid/emergency-aid.

It is my sincere hope that devoting these additional funds to addressing need-based assistance for our continuing students will help you through this difficult period and facilitate your path back to your studies in the coming weeks.  

Sincerely yours,

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,

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


Supporting our International Students at SIPA - July 9, 2020


Dear Members of the SIPA Community,

I write to share with you that Columbia University is filing a legal brief in support of the lawsuit initiated yesterday by Harvard and MIT against U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's recent directives regarding international students and online learning.  Immigration and Customs Enforcement is seeking to deny visas to international students if the only courses they take this fall are entirely online.  Harvard, MIT, Columbia, and many other universities are now challenging these misguided directives in court. 

As indicated in the announcement below, Columbia's legal brief will focus on the enormous and incalculable contributions that our international students make to our university community.  Nowhere is this more true than at SIPA, where every year about 60 percent of our students are international.  We all benefit tremendously from our truly global community at SIPA, and speaking on behalf of the School, we unequivocally support our international students and the University's participation in this important litigation.

I circulated a message yesterday in which I shared that we are seeking guidance how best to adapt to these evolving circumstance and to provide a path forward for our international students.  More information will be shared as soon as possible so that our incoming and continuing international students have as much information as possible in order to plan for the upcoming academic year.  We appreciate your patience given this rapidly evolving situation.  In the meantime, students are encouraged to reach out to Columbia's International Students and Scholars Office with any immigration or visa-related questions they have [https://isso.columbia.edu/content/contact].

We stand with and support SIPA's international students, and look forward to welcoming you all in the Fall.

Sincerely yours,

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



Columbia to Participate in Litigation Against ICE Restrictions on International Students

Thursday, July 9, 2020

Columbia, together with other leading colleges and universities, is currently at work on a friend-of-the-court brief to be filed in the legal challenge to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)’s newest federal rules, which pose significant limitations on international students.

As President Bollinger said in his message to the community, these regulations, which deny visas to international students whose courses are all online, are severely disruptive to the lives and well-being of our international students and damaging to our University.

Columbia’s brief will focus on the important and essential contributions that international students make to our intellectual and social life as a University community, and on the ways in which these new restrictions undermine the exchange of ideas that is the cornerstone of American higher education.

The deadline for filing the brief has not yet been set.  We will update this message when more information is available. 

President Bollinger’s message also addressed what Columbia will do now, as this litigation is ongoing:

First, as the University and each of our deans continue to make decisions about the structure of course offerings for the coming academic year, we must endeavor to configure hybrid classes providing in-person and remote learning options that alleviate the negative effect of these new regulations on Columbia students; we want our international students to be able to complete their studies here, if at all possible. Second, for the large community of international students who cannot come to Columbia because of the pandemic, we will be adapting our network of Columbia Global Centers and creating Pop-Up Global Centers in new locations to provide in-person academic and peer engagement. And, third, as I stated last week, we must continue to vigorously oppose immigration policies that damage Columbia, higher education, the national interest, and the international students, researchers, and faculty who immeasurably enrich our institution and the intellectual and personal experiences of each of us.

International students can be in touch with the International Students & Scholars Office (ISSO) for more information. Please also make use of the resources on University Life’s website whenever you need them, and counseling services, which continue to be available throughout the summer, on the Morningside and Medical Center campuses. 


Update on Fall Semester at SIPA - 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