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Alumni

As of May 2016, the MPA-DP program has a total of 300 alumni in addition to the countless SIPA affiliated alumni. Learn more about MPA-DP graduates in some of our featured interviews:

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Alexander Fertig, 2016

Where are you now? 

I currently work for Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA), spending half of my time in Namibia and the other half in NYC. They've hired me to lead an impact evaluation of a large range land and livestock management project in Northern Namibia. IPA is known for their pioneering work in conducting randomized controlled trials (RCTs) to evaluate development projects and policies.

What was the most valuable experience you had while at SIPA?

The most valuable experience I had at SIPA was my teaching assistant (TA) position for the core Quantitative Analysis class. Students like to complain that SIPA ties their second-year funding to teaching requirements, but I think it's an unrivaled opportunity to engage in the curriculum on a much deeper level than you would as a student sitting in the class. As a student, I learned enough about statistics to do well on problem sets and exams, but as a TA, I was forced to internalize the information and learn concepts outside of the lesson plan. These are concepts and skills that I use at my job everyday.

How did the MPA-DP program prepare you for the job market?

Of course, the MDP program taught me skills like survey design, budgeting, and non-profit management that are critical to my job, but I probably would have learned the same at any comparable public policy Master's program. The true strength of the MDP program lies in the people you'll be surrounded by. The cohorts are kept small for a reason, and I not only grew to love and respect every single one of my approx. 50 classmates, but we continue to learn from each other and build our careers together long after graduation. I landed my current job through an email exchange with an MDP alum, and in the first three months of work I was able to collaborate with classmates in Liberia and Tanzania. The network you build will be strong, vast, diverse, and will last forever.


Monica Pasqualino, 2015

Where are you now?

I recently started my Phd in Human Nutrition at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. I decided to continue my studies after working for a year in Sierra Leone, where I was the Nutrition Specialist for a USAID-funded Feed the Future project implemented by WorldFish, a CGIAR center.

What was the most valuable experience you had while at SIPA?

My field placement opened up a lot of opportunities for me, guided me towards my current career path, and expanded my professional network. I worked in Zambia for Bioversity International on a nutrition-sensitive research project for 3 months during the summer before my second year. The placement made me realize how passionate I was about nutrition and strengthened my practical skills in the field. It also led to a short-term consultancy with the same research center after graduation, followed by a long-term position in Sierra Leone.

How did the MPA-DP program prepare you for the job market?

The nature of the MPA-DP program strengthened my ability to view development issues through a multi-sectoral, integrative perspective, which is an invaluable skill. The core courses combined with the variety of electives, which one can take across schools at the university, built my analytical skills while giving me the flexibility to focus on topics in which I was particularly interested. Having the chance to learn from accomplished and experienced faculty while developing amazing relationships with peers in my cohort gave me an expansive network of colleagues and friends working in development.


Molly Powers-Tora, 2012

Where are you now?

I’m based in Suva, Fiji working for the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), a Pacific regional development organization working across 22 member states and territories in a variety of sectors. My position as Regional Officer for the Climate and Oceans Support Programme (COSPPac) falls under the applied geo-sciences division. I’m responsible for the communications, administration, and coordination of the project, which is funded by the Australian government and monitors climate variability and predicts sea-level rise at 12 sites throughout the Pacific.

What was the most valuable experience you had while at SIPA?

Because I came to SIPA determined to make the most of my experience, I threw myself headfirst into a host of extra-curricular opportunities. For one semester I held a research position for the MPA-DP program, in my second year I had and assistantship at the office of admissions and worked one day a week as a Global Island Partnership fellow across from the UN.  A friend and I established a student group for SIPA Returned Peace Corps Volunteers; we organized speakers, events, skills workshops, and socials. I wrote for The Morningside Post and SIPA News, performed in SIPA Follies, emceed quiz nights for SIPA Women in Leadership, and participated in the SIPA case competition. In addition to the required summer field placement, I co-lead a capstone workshop in my last semester. And I wouldn’t call myself unique by any means- there are so many passionate, energetic people at SIPA who are engaged in lots of activities that it creates a dynamic learning environment. Although looking back now, it was exhausting at times; it was also invigorating and ultimately provided me with a rich and varied experience, confidence to take on new challenges, as well as an amazing network of friends and colleagues.


Maria Wang, 2012

Where are you now?

Booz & Company, Sydney, Australia

How has the MPA-DP program shaped your career or your goals?

The extremely varied exposure to multiple disciplines (agriculture, health, energy, etc.) and types of work (qualitative versus quantitative, policy versus programmatic, field versus desk research) allowed me to hone in on what it was that I loved, and helped me to define the precise capacity in which I wanted to contribute to the development agenda.

 


Saira Qureshi, 2012

Where are you now?

I am part of the Outcome Monitoring Team for the Millennium Villages Project (MVP). My core focus is on the technical implementation and subsequent monitoring of the multiple electronic monitoring tools used for MVP health, infrastructure and education interventions, such as CommCare, FormHub and the MVIS web platform.

How has the MPA-DP program shaped your career or your goals?

It has given me a larger scope of what is out there in the field, what are the current political trends that will affect my work and knowledge of failed and successful interventions.

Any advice for current and/or prospective students?

Tally your strengths and make your own opportunities. Focus less on competition and more on what’s a good fit for you.


Francisco Noguera, 2012

Where are you now?

I'm currently based in my native Bogota, Colombia. I work for a nonprofit consulting firm called Compartamos Con Colombia. At CCC, I manage a public-private initiative aimed at structuring and funding social innovation initiatives. In essence, we provide mentoring, funding and innovation tools to early stage social ventures that solve social problems in Colombia.

What was the most valuable experience you had while at SIPA?

SIPA gave me a great opportunity to work on and contrast different approaches to development. While classes gave me a broad exposure to various disciplines, extracurricular activities exposed me to the field of Impact Investing. Together with some of my classmates, I co-founded an initaitive to deepen the study of Impact Investing at Columbia -the Columbia Impact Investing Initiative- and SIPA's Social Enterprise Bootcamp, a 3-day training for aspiring social entrepreneurs on campus and in the broader NY area. During my Summer Field Placement, I did research and field work on mobile financial services in Kenya, one of the most interesting innovation trends reaching millions of people in the world's most disadvantaged communities. I believe contrast is a great learning tool... SIPA gave me plenty of it!

Any advice for current and/or prospective students?

SIPA offers so many opportunities to dive into anything you're passionate about in the field of development. IF that topic isn't offered as a formal course, go ahead and creat it! The doors are open, and the opportunity to be surrounded by so many bright and fascinating people is definitely unique.