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Diversity Task Force

Dean's Letter

It has for many years been a point of pride that the School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) is Columbia University’s most international school, welcoming half of its student body from outside the United States. Representing 75 or more countries in a typical year, our students bridge divides of language, culture, and national origin.

To attend SIPA is to join a vibrant multicultural community—to meet and study with people from around the world. As we embrace our international diversity, we must also acknowledge other equally important differences such as race, gender, sexual orientation, and more. Mindful of this, SIPA has formally committed to train new students in the areas of self, social, and global awareness as part of orientation this fall. I am pleased that incoming students will for the first time participate in workshops that support what we call Multicultural Competence.

In addition to underscoring the expectation that students, faculty, and staff will respect each other’s differences, this training prepares SIPA students for leadership, because the process of designing public policy should reflect consideration for diverse segments of societies.

The orientation workshops will be led by Dr. Cheryl Franks, a consultant with extensive experience in this area, and modeled after initiatives at peer institutions at Columbia University including the Mailman School of Public Health and the School of Social Work. Based on their positive experiences I am confident we are starting with a strong model.

In conjunction with these workshops, we have also initiated efforts to train staff and peer advisors in the Office of Student Affairs to handle concerns related to diversity and inclusiveness.

I am grateful to those students, faculty, and staff who have contributed to these critical initiatives. They are important steps in our effort to strengthen our commitment to welcome and continue to foster diversity in our community.

I look forward to working with you to support this component of our mission, and I expect students will provide crucial engagement and feedback to help develop our culture of inclusiveness.

Merit E. Janow
Dean, School of International and Public Affairs
Professor of Professional Practice in International Law and Public Affairs

Dean's Seminar Series on Race and Policy