By Ruba Shweihat
SIPA’s 2012-2013 budget cuts have substantially scaled back funding for the TimeOut program. Started in 2011, the TimeOut program provides funding for SIPA faculty to interact with students outside of the classroom over breakfast, lunch, or dinner. For the current academic year, the program’s budget was reduced from $10,000 to $5,000, according to Duane Bruce, Assistant Dean of Student Affairs at SIPA.
As a result of such cuts, interaction between students and faculty has become limited to the individual efforts of some faculty. Although not obliged, such faculty members pay out-of-pocket for these activities with no reimbursement from the School.
Several SIPA professors have had a long tradition of engaging students even before the school introduced the TimeOut program. For example, Director of International Media, Advocacy and Communications specialization and Lecturer, Anya Schiffrin organizes annual parties at the beginning and end of each school year.
“My husband and I have a rule: We invite every one of our students home for dinner every semester,” Schiffrin told TMP. “These kinds of interactions outside the classroom are wonderful for everyone; we get to know our students and they have a chance to spend time with each other in a relaxed setting.”
Another faculty member, Adjunct Professor Jenik Radon, says he has been carrying out this tradition since his teaching days at Stanford University. He drew the tradition from his time as a student at Columbia College when his former professors engaged him. He sees the gatherings as his turn to do just that. “The only obligation there is here is to inspire,” said Radon, who now meets with his students every semester over lunch, dinner or parties. Both Schiffrin and Radon have also kept in touch with alumni over the years.
Despite the lack of funding this semester, a number of SIPA faculty, including Schiffrin and Radon, continued planning activities for their students. Earlier this year, Schiffrin hosted as many as 60 students at her house for an orientation party and a holiday party, and is planning an end-of-year gathering.
Two weeks ago, Radon held a party for students taking his Energy, Corporate Responsibility and Human Rights course. “It’s really nice to have a professor like him invite you to his house,” said Lyle Sylvander, a second-year student who attended the party. “You can really tell that he has a passion for teaching his subject matter, and that he takes an active interest in his students.”
Associate Dean Patrick Bohan expects that the TimeOut program will continue for the next academic year, although this cannot be determined until the budget is finalized based on the incoming class size. In the meantime, faculty members continue to engage students outside the classroom at their own expense.
Whether or not the program continues to exist and receive funding next year, SIPA faculty will continue to invest in nurturing faculty-student relationships outside of the classroom. As Radon puts it, such opportunities should be part of the “teaching culture” at SIPA. A culture, which he says, “is not about administration policy” but about living and giving back to students.
Ruba Shweihat is a first-year Master of Public Administration candidate with a concentration in Urban and Social Policy.
This article first appeared in the May 1st, 2013 print edition of The Morningside Post