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Diverse People, One Community

In a typical year, SIPA students and faculty represent nearly 100 countries; more than half our students come from outside the United States. This distinctive community of students and scholars brings SIPA a global perspective that makes its way into almost everything we do. There are many things that set us apart as individuals, but we are more importantly united by core values, including mutual respect and a shared desire to work for the common good — in our communities and in the world at large.


Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion is on everybody’s minds, and it needs to be an ongoing priority for every institution. At SIPA it is a whole-of-school endeavor.

Merit E. Janow

Diversity, Equity, Inclusion

As SIPA’s leader Dean Janow built community along many avenues— celebrating SIPA’s 70th anniversary and increasing alumni engagement, to be sure, but also responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. Perhaps most significantly, she saw the need for more Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, and set a path for engagement and change that will endure after she steps down.

In the summer of 2020, with Americans nationwide conducting #BlackLivesMatter protests in the wake of George Floyd’s murder even as communities of color suffered a disproportionate impact from COVID-19, the SIPA community reflected on what needs to be done to challenge the persistence of racism in the United States and around the world — and, specifically, how SIPA can contribute to that crucial task while becoming a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive school.

Janow had previously established the SIPA Diversity Committee and launched a Race and Policy program of new courses and an event series (highlighted by a lecture featuring Henry Louis Gates, Jr.). Building on these previous efforts, and in coordination with the Diversity Committee and other students, faculty, and staff, in July 2020 Janow announced a set of new DEI initiatives. These included a Schoolwide self-assessment, new programming and conversations, new courses and Capstone workshops, student programming and support, and new faculty hiring.

More essential to our mission than ever, the values of diversity, equity, and inclusion 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 diverse students, faculty, and staff.
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70th Anniversary

In January 2016, SIPA launched a celebration of its 70th anniversary, hosting over a period of 16 months a series of diverse programs in the United States and abroad to highlight the school’s expertise and contributions. The first event featured Dean Merit E. Janow in conversation with Fred Kempe IF ’77, president and CEO of the Atlantic Council, about “Preparing For Global Challenges In 2016.” A standing-room-only crowd filled the room at the Four Seasons Hotel in Washington, D.C.

Subsequent events would vary in subject, but each underscored the School’s contemporary mission of supporting the global public interest by educating students to serve and to lead, and to producing and sharing new knowledge on the critical public policy challenges facing the global community.

SIPA concluded its anniversary “year” with a historic weekend of festivities that drew guests from around the world to Morningside Heights, as hundreds of alumni and friends joined faculty, staff, and students. Highlights included the SIPA Forum, the Global Leadership Awards Gala (featuring UNSG António Guterres, honoring Zbigniew Brzezinski), and the David N. Dinkins Leadership and Public Policy Forum (keynoted by John Lewis), as well as alumni-centered activities including a welcome reception, student presentations, cultural tours, and more. Read more >



SIPA alumni are part of a powerful global network that has grown to embrace more than 24,000 alumni in over 160 countries. The Office of Alumni Affairs today works in partnership with the SIPA Alumni Association to develop events and opportunities that connect SIPA alumni to each other and to the School to strengthen this unique global community.

Early in Dean Janow’s tenure, SIPA restructured its alumni program to formally establish the SIPA Alumni Association. Today the group comprises engaged alumni volunteers who work in partnership with SIPA on initiatives including the annual Alumni Day, Class Reunions, the Admissions Ambassadors program and career activities for students and alumni. It also advises SIPA on issues concerning alumni.

The COVID-19 pandemic notwithstanding, SIPA’s Alumni Day and Reunion programming attracts more attendees each year. Highlights include faculty and alumni panels and keynotes by distinguished graduates – most recently U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin MIA ’03.

SIPA and the SIPA Alumni Association continue to support additional robust programs including our Admissions Ambassadors, SIPA Career Networking, and Regional Communities. In the current academic year, SIPA launched the SIPA Alumni-Student Mentoring Initiative pilot program as part of the School’s commitment to DEI.

Countering COVID, Preserving Community


In March 2020, as Columbia moved to remote instruction, SIPA’s Information Technology and Academic Affairs offices jumped into action to provide Zoom access to faculty, staff, and students, as well as hardware, support, and training (in person and virtually).

By fall 2021, all SIPA classrooms would be upgraded with cameras, projectors, ceiling microphones, lavalier microphones for instructors, ceiling speakers, touch-screen podium monitors, and large monitors to allow for student-faculty Zoom interaction. By the fall, about 25 percent of classes would be conducted in hybrid format, with the rest remaining online only.

One year later, with all students, faculty, and staff returning to school in person, the technology infrastructure endured even as COVID ebbed. Read more >

Global Leadership Awards

Inaugurated in 2001, SIPA’s Global Leadership Awards brings our community together each year to recognize remarkable leaders and institutions that have made exceptional contributions to the global public good through their work in public, private, and nonprofit sectors. Dean Janow has faithfully stewarded this tradition, hosting the annual Global Leadership Awards Gala that raises hundreds of thousands of dollars each year to provide critical fellowship support for SIPA students and resources to recruit and educate outstanding students from around the world.

Honorees during Janow’s tenure have included Christine Lagarde, then managing director of the IMF; Jim Yong Kim, former president of World Bank Group; the Nobel peace laureate Leymah R. Gbowee; Janet Yellen, the former chair of the Federal Reserve Bank (since named U.S. treasury secretary); James Baker, the former U.S. secretary of state; and many others.


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