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An Orientation Toward Students

Columbia and SIPA have always attracted extraordinary individuals and offered them a superb education. In another sense, the only true constant has been change. As it has for many years, the School is always evolving — to help students explore new knowledge, gain new skills, adapt to changing career paths, and otherwise prepare for the changing world they will enter as graduates.

Adding Financial Aid, Supporting Students


In her time at SIPA, Dean Janow has been involved in two major fundraising campaigns, and expanding support for students has been a top priority of each. Under her leadership, SIPA created more than 70 new student fellowships in honor of the School’s 70th anniversary. Overall, the financial aid budget for master’s students has more than doubled in eight years, growing from $8.4 million in FY14 to over $16.8 million in FY22. In addition to increasing aid, the School also restructured how it is delivered in order to better support students.


During the COVID-19 pandemic, SIPA helped students facing unexpected financial hardship to access emergency funds. In FY21 the School distributed more than $500,000 in SIPA and federal funds to 423 students, and also provided $1,000 grants

Dean Janow saw the need to increase support for students and she delivered, adding millions in financial aid. She also expanded SIPA’s offerings, creating paths for students to develop new skills, gain entrepreneurial experience, and otherwise prepare for 21st-century careers.

Providing New Skills, Credentials: and Opportunities

Expanding STEM Programs

Building on longstanding strengths in sustainability, environmental and energy policy, economics, and data analytics, SIPA secured STEM designation for four additional programs in 2021. The designation, which certifies that a program is science-, engineering-, or math-intensive, is especially significant for international students; it qualifies graduates on F-1 student visas to apply for up to three years of practical training through work experience in the United States after finishing their degree. (In comparison, international students who graduate from non-STEM programs are eligible for only one year of practical training after graduation.) Nearly 50 percent of SIPA students are currently pursuing STEM-eligible degrees in five programs.


SIPA’s Capstone program was created in 2007 and adopted as a core degree requirement in 2012, expanding most recently in 2019 to include MPA-DP students. Under Dean Janow’s leadership it has grown to be the largest and arguably the best and most diverse of its kind at any U.S. public policy school. Over the last eight years, the range of clients has continued to expand, and today SIPA and its students partner with a wide range of clients including local and national governments, nonprofit organizations, multilateral institutions, and private-sector companies.

Capstone Expansion

Advancing Data Skills

Each year we see the increasing importance of economics in different disciplines. In recognition of students’ desire to gain more advanced skills, SIPA introduced its specialization in Data Analytics and Quantitative Analysis in Fall 2019. DAQA provides opportunities to pursue advanced work in computational and data analytics, econometrics and quantitative analysis and to apply these techniques to a broad array of policy and management issues. About 20 percent of MIA and MPA students have chosen to pursue the DAQA specialization.

Refreshing and Enhancing Programs

SIPA continues to refresh and enhance academic programs in response to student interest. The Central Banking Initiative, for example, was created to give finance-oriented students a deeper grounding around central banking and financial policy. SIPA has also created courses and Capstone workshops that combine different areas of focus — uniting, for example, cyber risk and financial stability — and will pursue additional unique combinations to further benefit students.

DeanChallenge Grant

In 2014 Dean Janow launched the Dean’s Public Policy Challenge Grant, giving students the chance to pursue innovative projects that leverage digital technologies and data to develop practical solutions to contemporary challenges. Conducted in partnership with Columbia Entrepreneurship, the competition has become an annual tradition at SIPA. It also evolves to reflect current events: Last year’s competition asked student teams to consider aspects of COVID-19 in their venture ideas.


Each year the School awards a total of $50,000 or more, providing seed money for winning teams to pursue their ideas. Since the program began, the Dean’s Challenge Grant has supported 328 students with more than $1 million in total funding.


The legacy of SIPA’s growing entrepreneurial spirit is real, and visible in companies like Easy Solar, Nakatallam, FiveOne Labs, Eat Offbeat, and others founded by alumni since 2014.

Our young professionals want to really make a difference in the world, and many also want to be entrepreneurial. So we created the Dean’s Challenge, which links data and technology and applied solutions to that entrepreneurial spirit, and encourages teamwork in the process. We have also offered students other opportunities to experiment and tried to help them think about career pathways. And we’ve seen a lot of projects come out of it, and careers all over the world, along many different avenues.
Merit E. Janow

Increasing SIPA’s Prominence in the World

Comprising seven of the world’s leading public policy schools, the Global Public Policy Network (GPPN) provides a platform for institutional partnership, research collaboration, and student exchange. Each year the group convenes students and deans from member schools at an annual conference, giving them an opportunity to discuss and address the most pressing policy challenges of today. Student teams participate in a competition to develop the most creative and effective solutions to policy issues and present it to a judging panel of deans.

GPPN Tech2Protect - FB, LI, Tw.png

Tech2Protect, comprising five SIPA students, won the 2021 GPPN conference prize for Best Presentation.

Global Leadership

SIPA is launching a graduate degree for senior leaders in global policy and management from around the world: The new Master of Public Administration in Global Leadership is designed for established leaders (with preferably 10­­–15 years of progressively senior experience) who seek to deepen their knowledge of specific global policy issues, strengthen their analytical skills and leadership capabilities, and expand their professional networks. The 10-month program will welcome its first class in August 2023.

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