Double Degrees: LKYSPP NUS & SIPA Columbia

We will be regularly featuring profiles of LKYSPP students. For this inaugural issue, we are featuring the double degree MPP students from LKYSPP doing their second year at Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) and those from SIPA who have come to LKYSPP and are currently doing the second year of the MPP program. LKYSPPeak asked them some questions to get to know them better and their New York City / Singapore experience so far.

Saad Gulzar (MPP 2008-10: LKYSPP@SIPA)

How has your studying experience been so far? How different is it from your stay at LKYSPP?

I have really enjoyed taking development and quantitative courses here. While at LKYSPP, I was able to study more about macroeconomics with a focus on East Asia, courses here have allowed me develop an understanding of the dynamics and politics of the development industry. The two experiences have really complemented each other in enhancing my knowledge of policy and public management.

At a personal level, I feel that I developed great bonds with my classmates at LKYSPP because of the small size of our cohort. My initial feeling upon coming to Columbia was the huge size of the student body at SIPA. It took me longer to make friends here than it took me in Singapore. Having said this however, I have met great people at both places and look forward to long friendships with all of them over the next many decades. 🙂

Coming from Singapore, how has it been for you living in New York City (NYC)? Compared to Singapore, what is the best (and worst? or least likeable) part of living there?

Both Singapore (SG) and NYC are metropolitan cities and to some extent are comparable in their ability to attract talent. There are however, great differences between the two. For instance, SG is clean, NYC is dirty. SG is young and rising, NYC is old and established. SG is small in comparison to NYC. While you can be easily identified as a foreigner in SG, it is more difficult here because people from all over the world now call this city their home. The best part of living in Singapore as a student was that I could afford things (like food) on my stipend. NYC is super-expensive (they charge an NYC-premium on everything here). I love NYC because I can watch my most favorite musicians live in concert every few days (if my pocket allows me to).

Can you share some of your other activities at your university there?

The University regularly invites prominent people to speak on important issues concerning the world today. In my brief time here, I have had the opportunity to hear live people whose papers I have read like Noam Chomsky, Amartya Sen, Joseph Stiglitz and prominent world leaders like Kofi Annan. These talks and seminars are a great source of learning and inspiration for me.

Please share your background (academic training, work experience) prior to LKYSPP and, if possible, your future plans after finishing your double degree.

I have lived in various parts of Pakistan where I completed my undergraduate degree in Economics. Straight after graduation, I took the MPP at LKYSPP. My work experience includes work as research assistant back in college, internships at UNESCAP in Bangkok, Thailand, the UNDP Human Development Report Office in NYC and presently some consulting work that I am doing for the UNDP Capacity Development Group through Columbia University.

Wilson Tan (MPP 2008-10: LKYSPP@SIPA)

How has your studying experience been so far? How different is it from your stay at LKYSPP?

The studying experience has been great. The biggest difference for me is that there is a larger range of courses to choose from over here, allowing me to select many courses on security policy that I am interested in. Also, it was interesting to study in a place where lecturers and students adopt a more Westernized perspective on policy issues.

Coming from Singapore, how has it been for you living in New York City (NYC)? Compared to Singapore, what is the best (and worst? or least likeable) part of living there?

The best part of living in New York has to be experiencing the city itself and enjoying the many cultural and culinary attractions it has to offer.

The worst part is living halfway across the world from authentic Singaporean food (and family, of course).

Can you share some of your other activities at your university there?

I live in the International House, which has residents from all over the world and organizes weekly events including trips around NY, exhibitions, and policy debates.

Please share your background (academic training, work experience) prior to LKYSPP and, if possible, your future plans after finishing your double degree.

I graduated with a BSc (Hons.) in Biology from Imperial College (London) in 2008. I will be working in the Singapore Police Force after graduation in May 2010.

Zhong Yi Yeo (MPP 2008-10: LKYSPP@SIPA)

How has your studying experience been so far? How different is it from your stay at LKYSPP?

It has been a tremendous experience, allowing me to interact with a different mix of people in my pursuit for the Master of Public Administration (MPA) at SIPA. Admittedly, there is a much larger diversity of nationalities, and thus global perspectives, here at SIPA, but LKYSPP provides the Asian dynamic and perspective that is unparalleled in Western countries. For me, the experience that I had at LKYSPP provides the focus on Asia, which I will need during my career in the civil service, while SIPA creates an environment of global exchange, which has been extremely enriching.

Coming from Singapore, how has it been for you living in New York City (NYC)? Compared to Singapore, what is the best (and worst? or least likeable) part of living there?

NYC provides a metropolitan setting which is similar to what we have in Singapore. I have adjusted well here, but Singapore will always be my home, which I love very much. The cultural diversity may be lacking at home, but the quality and diversity of food options in Singapore, in my opinion, is second to none.

Can you share some of your other activities at your university there?

I take part in no notable activities at SIPA; however, I have continued playing soccer here in the US at my hostel, International House, maintaining my love for the sport that was reignited during my time at LKYSPP with our beloved LKYSPP Football Team, the champions of Bukit Timah!

Please share your background (academic training, work experience) prior to LKYSPP and, if possible, your future plans after finishing your double degree.

I graduated from Singapore Management University with a Bachelor of Business Management, with majors in Finance and Corporate Communication. I also have a Bachelor of Accountancy from SMU. I had no prior work experience other than internships with government ministries and an accounting firm. I will be joining the Singapore Civil Service immediately upon graduation in May 2010.

Bryan  Lupton (MPP 2008-10: SIPA@LKYSPP)

Previous work experience?

US Peace Corps Zambia: HIV/AIDS Prevention Program

Advocacy Project/Survivor Corps Uganda: Fellows for Peace

Countries you’ve lived in for at least 3 months?

USA, Singapore, Zambia, Uganda

Why did you decide to come to Singapore?

I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to live in Asia; I think the best way to learn about a part of the world is to go live in it. Plus, the dual degree program allows me to earn two master’s degrees in the time it normally takes to finish one.

Is LKYSPP as you imagined? If not what were the surprises?

LKYSPP has lived up to my expectations in most ways, and has exceeded them in a few others. I have never been in a school that is so flexible and supportive of student-led initiatives. The school’s scholarship program, funding for PAE work and assistance for students attending international conferences has been very impressive.

What is the biggest difference between the academic structure of LKYSPP and your original program?

My two degrees are 1) Master of International Affairs (MIA) and 2) Masters in Public Policy (MPP). The MIA degree is based on a study of economics, history and political science. The work primarily takes the form of individual, analytical essays about political events and theories. In my opinion, the MPP is more of a technical degree that covers organizational and research theory. The MIA and MPP are different, but certainly complementary of each other.

What is your favorite part about living in Singapore?

Two things: Travelling throughout Southeast Asia and getting to see Ruth Choe whenever I feel like it.

Are you an optimist or pessimist when it comes to managing climate change on a global level? Why do you think so?

I have no faith whatsoever in a diplomatic or political agreement to manage climate change, but I have faith in technology, innovation and business. Corporations do things that make them money; when they can make money by reducing emissions, they will find a way to do so and then everybody will be okay. I hope.

Is there anything else you would like to share regarding life in Singapore/studying at LKYSPP?

It has been an incredible opportunity to live and work in a truly unique country. I gave up studying for a year at one of the best schools in the world to come here and I have never regretted that decision once.

Jacky Tong (MPP 2008-10: SIPA@LKYSPP)

Previous work experience?

United Nations, New York

Countries you’ve lived in for at least 3 months?

Singapore, USA, Malaysia

Why did you decide to come to Singapore?

1. Asia is rising; I have been away for a while. It’s a good opportunity to come back and learn more about it.

2. To stay near family.

3. It’s more affordable here.

Is LKYSPP as you imagined? If not what were the surprises?

Yes. The facilities of the school are topnotch. Professors are friendly and knowledgeable.

What is the biggest difference between the academic structure of LKYSPP and your original program?

For some reason, I feel there is more group work here, which is not necessarily a bad thing. I have learned a lot through group work, but too much of it can be challenging. On the other hand, SIPA seems to have more networking events for students. Hence, it also expands the career options for students.

What is your favorite part about living in Singapore?

I enjoy walking through the national parks. Good exercise, nice scenery. Oh yeah, the botanical garden too.

Professional life goals/aspirations?

Long term goal: back to the UN system to add value.

Short term goal: would like to accumulate more corporate experience; interested in social enterprises, strategic thinking, planning, communication and management, would like to help contribute to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.

Is there anything you would like to share about living in Singapore or studying at LKYSPP?

I understand Singapore more, and have become more critical about it. At the same time, I also appreciate Singapore more. Professor Kenneth Tan’s and Professor Neo Boon Siong’s classes play a big role in shaping my understanding of Singapore.

How do you find the cultural diversity at LKYSPP? Any surprises so far?

More diverse than I thought.

Are you an optimist or pessimist when it comes to managing climate change on a global level? Why do you think so?

Challenging and complex. But have to stay optimistic. Hope should be the driving force for humanity.

Shelby R. Port (MPP 2008-10: SIPA@LKYSPP)

Previous work experience?

Peace Corps, USAID, Israeli-Palestinian NGO

Countries you’ve lived in for at least 3 months?

U.S., Cyprus, Jordan, now Singapore

Why did you decide to come to Singapore?

I thought this was a prime opportunity to come explore this part of the world…

Is LKYSPP as you imagined? If not what were the surprises?

It still surprises me that taking an exam here is like signing your soul away for three hours – seating charts, restricted bathroom breaks, ID cards, etc. Are we that untrustworthy?

What is the biggest difference between the academic structure of LKYSPP and your original program?

SIPA focuses on professional development to a much larger degree than LKYSPP (we had a required “Professional Development” course, there were networking events, career fairs, etc. almost every night, and a more manageable work load to attend these events…)

What is your favorite part about living in Singapore?

That when you walk outside late at night, it is like enjoying a warm bath.

Professional life goals/aspirations?

A few life goals, but still don’t know the exact order:

1. Become a Foreign Service Officer.

2. Work in the renewable energy sector.

3. Work in local politics in WA State.

4. Run a winery.

Is there anything you would like to share about living in Singapore or studying at LKYSPP?

If I could change one thing about Singapore, I would require a minimum walking speed… and since we are in Singapore it seems entirely possible that the government could carry this out if it wanted to…

How do you feel about the cultural diversity at LKYSPP? Any surprises so far?

Absolutely! Still, I think there could be more representation from the Middle East (I don’t know a single Arab, Iranian, Turkish, or Afghani student).

Are you an optimist or pessimist when it comes to managing climate change on a global level? Why do you think so?

Depends on the day. I think that regardless of the country, there will always be people within that society that really care about climate change, preservation of the planet for future generations, and the sustainability of our economic and social activities. These people work in the field, change daily habits, donate to environmental causes, etc. – all for the benefit of environment. However, there is so much uncertainty, ambiguity, etc., regarding this issue, and more important still, a question of who should carry the burden of greenhouse gases (GHG) abatement. Therefore, even the most well-intentioned people do not always act in accordance with their beliefs. We also have competing interests (e.g. when I forget my coffee cup and still order a cup of coffee, I know avoidable emissions went into production of that cup; however, I like coffee, so I still order it…). To make a long story short, we have come a long way, but have an even longer journey ahead of us. Nevertheless, I like to think it’s possible to reverse trends of GHG emission rates in high-income and fast developing countries and prevent these GHG emission rates from reaching the same levels in poorer countries.

Previous work experience?

Peace Corps, USAID, Israeli-Palestinian NGO

Countries you’ve lived in for at least 3 months?

U.S., Cyprus, Jordan, now Singapore

Why did you decide to come to Singapore?

I thought this was a prime opportunity to come explore this part of the world…

Is LKYSPP as you imagined? If not what were the surprises?

It still surprises me that taking an exam here is like signing your soul away for three hours – seating charts, restricted bathroom breaks, ID cards, etc.  Are we that untrustworthy?

What is the biggest difference between the academic structure of LKYSPP and your original program?

SIPA focuses on professional development to a much larger degree than LKYSPP (we had a required “Professional Development” course, there were networking events, career fairs, etc. almost every night, and a more manageable work load to attend these events…)

What is your favorite part about living in Singapore?

That when you walk outside late at night, it is like enjoying a warm bath.

Professional life goals/aspirations?

A few life goals, but still don’t know the exact order:

1. Become a Foreign Service Officer.

2. Work in the renewable energy sector.

3. Work in local politics in WA State.

4. Run a winery.

Is there anything you would like to share about living in Singapore or studying at LKYSPP?

If I could change one thing about Singapore, I would require a minimum walking speed… and since we are in Singapore it seems entirely possible that the government could carry this out if it wanted to…

How do you feel about the cultural diversity at LKYSPP? Any surprises so far?

Absolutely! Still, I think there could be more representation from the Middle East (I don’t know a single Arab, Iranian, Turkish, or Afghani student).

Are you an optimist or pessimist when it comes to managing climate change on a global level? Why do you think so?

Depends on the day.  I think that regardless of the country, there will always be people within that society that really care about climate change, preservation of the planet for future generations, and the sustainability of our economic and social activities. These people work in the field, change daily habits, donate to environmental causes, etc. – all for the benefit of environment.  However, there is so much uncertainty, ambiguity, etc., regarding this issue, and more important still, a question of who should carry the burden of greenhouse gases (GHG) abatement. Therefore, even the most well-intentioned people do not always act in accordance with their beliefs. We also have competing interests (e.g. when I forget my coffee cup and still order a cup of coffee, I know avoidable emissions went into production of that cup; however, I like coffee, so I still order it…).  To make a long story short, we have come a long way, but have an even longer journey ahead of us.  Nevertheless, I like to think it’s possible to reverse trends of GHG emission rates in high-income and fast developing countries and prevent these GHG emission rates from reaching the same levels in poorer countries.

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One response

  1. Sarah Flom

    This is absolutely brilliant, LKYSPPeakers. Bravo! Would LOVE to see the same for LKY-SciPo & LKY-LSE.

    March 28, 2010 at 17:38

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