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School of International and Public Affairs, Columbia University

Established 1946
School type Private, Independent
Dean Merit E. Janow
Location New York, New York, USA
Enrollment ca. 1,200

The School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) at Columbia University is widely considered to be one of the most prestigious graduate international affairs schools in the world. Located on Columbia's Morningside Heights campus in the Borough of Manhattan, in New York City, the school has more than 19,000 alumni in more than 150 countries. SIPA's alumni include former heads of state, business leaders, journalists, diplomats, and elected representatives; half of SIPA’s nearly 1,400 students are international, coming from over 100 countries. SIPA has more than 70 full-time faculty and more than 200 adjunct professors, including the world's leading scholars on international relations.

The school offers a traditional two-year Masters (Master of Public Administration or Master of International Affairs), an Executive MPA, an Environmental Science and Policy program, an Economic Policy Management program, a Development Practice degree, and a Ph.D. program in Sustainable Development. SIPA also offers a number of dual-degree programs with the University of Tokyo, the London School of Economics and Political Science, the Institut d'Études Politiques de Paris (Sciences Po), the Hertie School of Governance in Berlin, and the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore.[1]

Degree programs

SIPA offers seven degree programs and dual-degree programs:

  • Master of International Affairs (MIA): The MIA program is structured around four complementary components—the core curriculum, policy concentration, specialized skills, and advanced knowledge. The MIA core curriculum focuses more on international issues than other SIPA programs. The MIA requires students to complete an internship and demonstrate proficiency in a language other than English. Many MIA students participate in workshop projects for outside clients.
  • Master of Public Administration (MPA): The MPA program is structured around the same four complementary components: core curriculum, policy concentration, specialized skills, and advanced knowledge. Students and faculty focus on local and national projects in a global context. All MPA students are required to complete an internship and a workshop project, working in teams for clients in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors.
  • Program in Economic Policy Management (PEPM): A 14-month program, emphasizing the problems of developing and transition economies. Students who complete PEPM program are awarded the degree of Master of Public Administration (MPA).
  • Executive Master of Public Policy and Administration (EMPA): Designed for professionals who wish to enroll in a graduate program, but are unable to pursue full-time study. Students can complete the program in either two or three years of study.
  • MPA in Environmental Science and Policy: Provides a management and policy analytic core and a natural and social science earth systems concentration. This accelerated 12-month program is jointly sponsored by SIPA and the Earth Institute.
  • MPA in Development Practice: A 22-month MPA degree intended to train students to understand and manage integrated approaches to development challenges. The program emphasizes the development of knowledge and skills of a professional in developing societies.
  • Ph.D. in Sustainable Development: The Ph.D. in Sustainable Development includes a set of core requirements in social and natural sciences, and offers students the opportunity to pursue in-depth research in critical policy areas, with an understanding of the natural processes that interact with social systems.

International Affairs Building

The School of International and Public Affairs is located at 420 West 118th Street, just off of Amsterdam Avenue on Columbia University's Morningside Heights campus in Manhattan.


Columbia University's School of International Affairs was founded in 1946, in the aftermath of World War II. Emphasizing practical training, the mission of the School was to foster understanding of regions of vital interest and to prepare diplomats, officials, and other professionals to meet the complexities of the postwar world. It originated in dynamic regional institutes that, with an interdisciplinary vision,[opinion] drew on Columbia's renowned faculties in history, economics, political science, linguistics, and other traditional fields. The School awarded a Master of International Affairs (MIA) degree.

By 1950, three regional institutes were in operation—the Russian Institute (now Harriman Institute), established in 1946 and the first of its kind in the United States; the East Asian Institute (now the Weatherhead East Asian Institute), and the European Institute (now the Institute for the Study of Europe) both founded in 1949. During the 1950s and 1960s, the School expanded in scope and depth: SIA, as it was then called, developed a national and international profile as a leading center for educational and research programs in area studies, international security, and international relations. By 1967, the School was home to eight regional institutes, covering nearly every part of the globe. It also contained the non-area-specific Institute of War and Peace Studies (now the Arnold A. Saltzman Institute of War and Peace Studies), founded in 1951 by university president Dwight D. Eisenhower.[2] Originally housed in a row of brownstones, the School moved into its own 15-story building in 1971.

To meet a growing demand for public service professionals, the school added a second degree, the Master of Public Administration, in 1977. In 1981, the program was renamed the Graduate Program in Public Policy and Administration and the School renamed the School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA). With its principal degree programs firmly established, SIPA added functional concentrations to both the MIA and MPA in response to emerging areas of need and professional opportunity—from international finance to urban policy, from human rights to environmental policy.[citation needed]

In the early 1990s, SIPA began appointing its own faculty, supplementing the distinguished social and natural scientists and humanists with whom SIPA students studied around the University. Within 15 years, SIPA faculty were among the most prominent in their fields, including the one-time director of the U.S. census, a Nobel Laureate in Economics, a judge on the appellate body of the World Trade Organization, economic advisors in both the Bill Clinton and George H. W. Bush administrations, a former assistant secretary general of the United Nations, and many distinguished research scholars.

SIPA has continued to evolve, adding programs that mirror a globalized world in which the boundaries between international and public affairs, like the boundaries between states, have grown less distinct. In 1992, with support from the World Bank, The Program in Economic Policy Management (PEPM) was established to provide mid-career finance professionals with the skills required for effective design and implementation of economic policy, emphasizing the problems of developing and transition economies. Students who complete PEPM’s requirements are awarded an MPA degree.

The International Fellows program has allowed Columbia's best graduate students in the various schools an immersion in international affairs in a one academic year program of seminars and networking events.[3]

To accommodate the needs of working professionals who could not pursue full-time study, SIPA established the Executive MPA program in 1999 as part of the Picker Center for Executive Education. In 2001 the School introduced an MPA in Environmental Science and Policy (ESP), which condenses the two years into twelve consecutive months, without a reduction in requirements, and provides core courses in management and policy analysis with a concentration in environmental science and earth systems. The ESP MPA program is offered in cooperation with The Earth Institute and the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. In fall 2004 SIPA inaugurated its first doctoral program, the interdisciplinary Ph.D. in Sustainable Development, which combines elements of a traditional graduate education in social science, particularly economics, with a significant training in the natural sciences.

In addition, SIPA has established a Global Public Policy Network with the London School of Economics (LSE), the Institut d'Etudes Politiques de Paris ("Sciences Po"), the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy of the National University of Singapore, the Hertie School of Governance, the Graduate School of Public Policy of the University of Tokyo, and the Fundação Getúlio Vargas, as well as a variety of other collaborations with public policy programs at the Universidad Externado de Colombia in Bogotá, Colombia, Renmin University in Beijing, China, and other universities in Europe and Asia. SIPA also offers non-degree programs through the Picker Center for Executive Education. A 1954 history boasts that students came from six countries outside the United States and that graduates were working in 17 different countries. The class of 2005 came from over a hundred countries, and the School’s 18,000 alumni are working in 155 countries.

Student life

Most students are at SIPA for two years or less. Many activities are centered around interest-driven student groups, student government (School of International and Public Affairs Student Association, known as SIPASA), the student multimedia news publication The Morningside Post, the student-edited policy journal, the Journal of International Affairs and a number of ad hoc athletic groups and intramural athletic leagues.

The Student Association (SIPASA) is led by an Executive Board chaired by MPA and MIA Co-Presidents. The following positions comprise the rest of the Executive Board: Vice President of Communications, ESP-MPA President, PEPM-MPA President, Treasurer, EMPA Representative and University Senator. Each program, MPA/MIA/ESP-MPA/PEPM-MPA, has seven functional chairs serving student interests like career services, alumni affairs, student life, and academics.[4]


SIPA is ranked fourth by U.S. News and World Report Best Graduates Schools 2014 world rankings for International Politics and third for Environmental Policy and Management.[5] Foreign Policy ranked SIPA fifth for the best International Relations Masters programs in 2015.[6]


Journal of International Affairs was established in 1947 and is the oldest university-affiliated publication in the field of international relations; it is edited by SIPA students.

The Morningside Post is SIPA's student-founded, student-run multimedia news publication. Its content: student-written investigative news about SIPA and the SIPA community, plus world affairs analysis, opinion, and satire.

Conflict Resolution Journal is a dynamic and evolving web-based project founded by SIPA students

SIPA News is a biannual publication featuring articles by faculty, students, and alumni as well as news about the school

Notable alumni

Notable faculty

Noteworthy former faculty

Noteworthy former international fellows


External links