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Defining Moments

Founded in 1946, the School of International and Public Affairs has evolved greatly over seven decades, adding students, faculty, programs, areas of study, academic centers, and even the tallest building on Columbia University’s Morningside Campus.

After 70 years, what remains unchanged is the School’s mission—to serve the global public interest by educating students to serve and lead and by producing and sharing new knowledge on the critical public policy challenges facing the world, today and in the future.

We hope you enjoy this selection of highlights from SIPA’s rich history.

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1948

1948

SIPA’s first students

In 1946 the School of International Affairs (as it was then known) enrolled its first students. The first class graduated in 1948.

1951

1951

Dwight Eisenhower took special interest in SIPA when he was Columbia’s president

In 1951, then University president Dwight D. Eisenhower established the Institute of War and Peace Studies. Many of SIPA’s affiliated centers were established in the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s.

1960

1960

SIPA’s growth led to construction of the IAB in the late 1960s

The School’s growth created need for more space to accommodate faculty and students. Designed by the same architect as the UN Building, the International Affairs Building was completed in 1970 and formally dedicated in 1971.

1966

1966

Over the years, the International Fellows program has connected students to prominent leaders.

Established in 1960, the IF program brings students together from Columbia’s multiple graduate schools. Senator Robert F. Kennedy (center right) was an early visitor.

1979

1979

The School updated its name to reflect creation of the MPA program

After starting the MPA program in 1977, the School changed its name in 1979 to reflect its expanded mission.

1985

1985

Welcoming world leaders

SIPA has long welcomed to campus world leaders like PM Rajiv Gandhi of India (right), who gave the annual Silver Lecture in 1985.

1989

1989

Henry Kissinger discusses the War Powers Act

SIPA often convenes conferences and forums on important global and national policy issues. The former secretary of state was joined in 1989 by Joe Biden, then a U.S. senator from Delaware.

1995

1995

Al Gore and David Dinkins flank Dean John Ruggie at the inaugural Dinkins Forum

More than 20 years later, the annual gathering still serves as a vehicle for discussing major urban policy issues. Vice President Al Gore (left) was among the keynote speakers in the forum’s first year.

1997

1997

SIPA students learn from the global classroom

New York City hosts important events like the Korean Four-Way Talks. SIPA students benefit from proximity to the events and institutions they study.

2000

2000

Adding New Programs

In the 2000s, SIPA welcomed its first EMPA students and also initiated the PhD program in sustainable development, which would observe its 10-year anniversary in 2014. (The PhD anniversary gathering is pictured.)

2012

2012

A Rare Visit

SIPA students continue to travel around the world for Capstones workshops and other educational programs. In 2012, Elisabeth Lindenmayer led the first group of students to visit North Korea under the auspices of an American university program.

The Center on Global Economic Governance, led by Professor Jan Svejnar, convened a panel of faculty experts for its launch

CGEG studies the implications of an increasingly interconnected global economy for the United States and the world.

2013

2013

The Center on Global Energy Policy is one of several academic centers launched since 2010

In the last five years, SIPA has launched four new academic centers. Mayor Michael Bloomberg was on hand for the 2013 celebration of the new Center on Global Energy Policy.

2015

2015

SIPA celebrates the inauguration of the new Raj Center on Indian Economic Policies

The Raj Center is the first academic center in the United States devoted to India and its economy, and the newest center at the School.

Caroline Kennedy addressed graduating students in May 2015

Caroline Kennedy, U.S. ambassador to Japan, speaks at SIPA’s 2015 graduation ceremony. From an initial class of just a few dozen, the School now enrolls more than a thousand full-and part-time students in multiple degree programs and tracks.