These days, when I talk to friends back at SIPA, I try to reel in my LSE/London enthusiasm, because on the flip side it could be taken as, “SIPA sucks and I don’t miss you at all!”
Which of course is not the case, at least not the latter part.
So in a nutshell, here’s what I think about SIPA: It’s possible to have a good experience, but the institution doesn’t make it easy for you. It’s a matter of finding a good group of people, hunting down the right professors and shoving your way past the crowds into their office hours. There are just too many students; the feeling that you are little more than a dollar sign to the administration is prevalent, and, I would argue, not successfully handled from the top.
The advantage of being in a smaller program at LSE (approx 80 per class, to SIPA’s 450) is that the atmosphere is less bureaucratic. The administrators know your names and actually hear what you’re saying. Case in point:
1. A small request, a big whiteboard
About three weeks ago, my capstone group was meeting in one of the MPA rooms, and we told Michelle (one of the MPA coordinators) that it would be nice to have a whiteboard in there.
“Yes, that’s a great idea!” she enthused.
We met in the same room yesterday, and at one point in the meeting, a group member pointed behind me and said, “Let’s put it up on the whiteboard.” I turned around and, to my shock and awe, our suggestion had actually been acted upon immediately!
A small thing? Sure. But would this ever happen at SIPA? I mean, at SIPA we still write on chalkboards. (And good ol’ Emmanuele with the hand-shaped chalk streaks everywhere… hahaha. It really is the people that make SIPA worthwhile.)
2. Professionalism on so many levels
Some successful internal public relations and goodwill generation from the MPA administration:
2nd year MPA students are warmly invited to come along and have a professional profile photo taken on Tuesday 1st November. Electronic copies of your chosen photo will be provided for your use in CVs and online profiles and it is also intended that these will be used collectively in raising the profile of both individual students and the MPA programme overall.
I was seriously impressed by this—not just the fact that they held a photo session, but also that they sold it so successfully. It’s not that I doubt their motives for doing it (as though they’re doing it just to placate us), but rather that the intent “we have your interests at heart” was conveyed so subtly and successfully—indeed, in such a way as to suggest sincerity.
SIPA administration, take note!
(Sorry, SIPA friends! Wish you were here.)