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Stanford IPS

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A Stanford IPS alum here, getting a lot of questions about the program around admit day.  Decided to put my thoughts up here so I could direct people to a common source of information (feel free to ask questions about the program here as well). 


To summarize overall, the program has exceeded my expectations in almost every way and I am thrilled to have gone there.  First let me start out with a few things that I didn’t expect to be a centerpiece of my IPS experience but were cornerstones of my experience:


·         An amazing community.  Incredibly cooperative and bend over backwards to help each other.  One example I once had a question about an assignment that was due the coming week and a colleague of mine in the program just sent me her already completed assignment.   When she also had a question, I did the same.  It’s the kind of interactions that are based on professional trust, friendship, and a sense of camaraderie.  Or, as one IPS-er (and West Point graduate) put it, “cooperate and graduate.”  We’re also constantly sending out events, funny links, etc. over our class email list, even after graduation, which makes for a great group. 


·         Professional development courses across the university – there are tons of classes you can take like public speaking, excel training, etc. that really push you forward as a professional.  I hadn’t really expected these to be a part of my Stanford life, but I’ve taken a few classes and plan to take many more if I can!

You can make these either hard skills (Excel, etc) but the ones that are truly unique to the school are the classes centered around soft skills (Stanford has a huge number of classes that emphasize behavioral analysis and cultivate greater personal awareness). 


·         The design school (http://dschool.stanford.edu/) – In case you’re not familiar, design thinking is basically an innovative framework for approaching social problems that has had tons of success and has gotten a fair amount of press in the last year (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/30/technology/solving-problems-for-real-world-using-design.html).  The approach has tons of applications for development, and there are lots of awesome companies that have come out of the d.school, with IPS students as founders!  See:  http://www.rewireworldwide.com/ and also http://www.noorahealth.org/.  And that's just the beginning.  This is, hands down, an amazing place if you are thinking about social entrepreneurship, either in the senese of working for a startup social venture incubator or starting your own org, or anything else in the space.  


A few questions that came my way...


In terms of networking, do IPS students find it easy to interact and meet with students in other departments?

  • It's super easy to meet people from other departments, grad students love mixing!  There's a real interdisciplinary committment at the school, so you'll find a ton of natural opportunities to meet people through classes, projects, clubs, etc. 
  • The Grad Student Council and Grad Student Programming Board puts on events for this exclusive purpose (http://gsc.stanford.edu/).
  • Stanford is a wonderful place to meet people across fields because the school itself is a "campus" so it's super easy to just run into folks, spontaneous bbqs are easy to organize, and the California weather makes people happy all the time :) 


Given the fact that IPS is an interdisciplinary program, how practical do you find the courses? 

  • Its all about what you take
  • In terms of the ips core, they are not at all to theoretical, and any theory is applied to policy problems and cases.  The only exception is the one class that is specifically labeld as IR theory, and even then we had to write a policy memo on a practical policy issue!
  • Stanford and IPS are amazing because of the revolving door between the institution/program and "the real world."  I would not at all worry about the practical component.  My advisor is a big stickler on teaching us theory and also the limitations of theory in practice. 
Edited by ipsofacto
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