August 25, 2014

As clear skies welcomed almost 500 new MIA and MPA students to SIPA today, the International Affairs Building’s fourth and sixth floors were abuzz with members of the Class of 2016 picking up packets and backpacks and enjoying coffee and snacks.

At 9 a.m., the new arrivals made their way en masse to Miller Theatre for welcoming remarks by some of SIPA’s top administrators. (The simultaneous arrival of college freshmen who are moving into their nearby dorms gave an early taste of the diversity and density that marks the University.)

 “It is great to see all of you,” said Dean Merit E. Janow. “We’ve spent many months talking and thinking about you, and we’re delighted to welcome you today.”

The dean ticked off a few fast facts about the incoming class—58 percent of which comes to SIPA from 65 countries outside the United States. The class is also 56 percent women.

Janow said that she often heard from students that the best part of SIPA is the community and went on to highlight briefly the School’s faculty, academic centers, events, career opportunities, and more.

“The heterogeneity of interests that makes SIPA a remarkable place will carry over to your professional lives,” she said.

In the meantime, Dean of Students Caroline Kay said her office is ready to help: “You don’t have to know everything right now—just relax and enjoy orientation.”

Each speaker offered advice, with many words on behalf of the Big Apple.

Janow exhorted students in part to take advantage of what SIPA, Columbia, and New York City have to offer.

Senior Associate Dean Anne Waters said that SIPA is very much a part of New York City and many of the staff are New Yorkers. “We want to share our city with you.”

Associate Dean of Academic Affairs Dan McIntyre also encouraged students to explore the city’s far-flung neighborhoods. He also highlighted SIPA’s many resources—including 73 full-time faculty, 260 part-time faculty, and 450 courses—and suggested that grades should not be the end-all be-all for everyone. “Success comes in many different ways,” he said.

Melissa Martinez MIA ’15, SIPA’s University Senator, said in one year she has made friends she expects to keep for life. Offering a SIPA version of the Golden Rule, she observed: “The more you give to the community the more you’ll get in return.”

As usual, new students came to SIPA from near and far—around the country and around the globe.

Martha Preciado MIA ’16 is from Los Angeles, where she worked as the director of scheduling for that city’s most prominent SIPA alumnus, Mayor Eric Garcetti MIA ’95. (She also worked for Garcetti’s predecessor, Anthony Villaraigosa.) “I am ecstatic to be here,” said Preciado, who plans to study economic and political development.

Darren Brown MIA ’16 is a North Carolina native who worked for IBM and Booz Allen Hamilton in Washington, D.C. He plans to pursue a concentration in energy and environment with a specialization in East Asia. “I’m very happy to be here,” said Brown. “Orientation makes me feel nostalgic for when I started college. I’m ready to be learning again in a diverse, challenging environment.”

Leonel Rosario MPA ’16, a native of the nearby Washington Heights neighborhood in upper Manhattan, spent two years with Teach for America in Dayton, Ohio. “I was a teacher and now I’m back as a student,” he said.

Rosario, a Cornell alumnus, said he aspires to work on energy policy in the Dominican Republic, where his family is from; he previously participated in a research program in Costa Rica and says that country offers lessons for the D.R. and other nations in the region.

Guillermo Galicia MPA ’16 of Mexico City previously worked at the Bank of Mexico, the nation’s central bank. “Working in the financial sector, I know that SIPA gives you a great place to see how policy works in the financial capital of the world.” He said he is choosing between SIPA’s concentrations in energy and international finance.

Katherine Duceman MPA ’15, a former employee of the Obama White House who was raised in Albany, New York, is taking part in SIPA’s joint program with Sciences Po, in Paris; she hopes to pursue work in public-private partnerships or corporate social responsibility. “It’s such a privilege to be here and I look forward to taking advantage of all the opportunities,” she said.

Another dual-degree student, Vijay Liew Che Yen MPA ’15, studied last year at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy in Singapore, which is also his hometown. “It’s really exciting to come to SIPA and to meet people from around the world,” he said.