Archive for Columbia University

Meryl Streep was on campus last week and I totally missed it

Last week I was walking like a lighting bug across campus in between meetings. I silently cursed my luck as a traffic jam of pedestrians appeared up ahead along College Walk (the main drag off 116th Street). But the really the large group of students stopping to take selfies and apply Snapchat filters weren’t the normal parade of sight seekers. In fact, there was a special event on campus that day.

“Filming in Progress” signs were posted at each entry point and large sections of walkways were chained off. In the far distance at the top of Low Library steps I squinted and saw a film crew doing something flim-y. I nodded, felt slightly interested but not enough to stick around, and went on my way. It wasn’t until I got home that night I decided to use my detective skills to figure out what project was being shot. It turns out The Papers, a film directed by Steven Spielberg and staring Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep was on the docket. It’s a retelling of the real-life drama faced by The Washington Post when it was challenging the federal government for the right to publish classified information from 1971. You and I know this as “the Pentagon Papers.”

Don’t believe me at least one of America’s biggest stars was on campus? Our sister school Teachers College tweeted out the evidence:

Forget about New York City — Columbia University is the place to be for some real star sightings. Throughout the summer the block bordering the Admissions Office is always filming scenes for locally-based television series and major-motion pictures featuring faux faculty — they like to use our classrooms and campus grounds as backdrops for their character’s lesson plans. For an exhaustive list, here’s a Wikipedia page on CU in popular culture. Outside of television and film, President Barack Obama gave the commencement address at Barnard College in 2012, former first lady Michelle and daughter Malia were spotted visiting the campus back in 2015, and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave the keynote address at SIPA’s annual David N. Dinkins Leadership and Public Policy Forum. And let’s not forget Affan Javed’s, MPA ’16, groupie moment when he met various policy superstars while studying at SIPA.

If I were you, the next time you’re in town make sure you pack an extra celebrity sighting signature booklet just for your visits to Columbia’s campus. 🙂

Sites to see across Morningside Heights

Visiting Upper Manhattan and unsure where to go? There are plenty of stops within walking distance — by NYC standards — to explore nearby Columbia University. Here are a few of my favorites.

The Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine (West 112th & Amsterdam)
Across the street from SIPA Admissions and Financial Aid you will find the largest cathedral in the world. In fact, you really can’t miss it. The building, which began construction in 1892 and remains partly unfinished, runs the entire a full avenue block to Morningside Drive. In addition to more than 30 worship services a week and a soup kitchen that feeds 25,000 annually, this spiritual space offers serene gardens where you can breathe in a bit of nature. If you are lucky, you can get a peak of the live peacocks Jim, Harry, and Phil who even has his own Twitter account. They’ve taken up residence on grounds since the 1980s. The church also has regular music, art, guided tour, and educational workshop events throughout the year. If you are around during the summer, be sure to check out free performances in the cathedral by the New York Philharmonic. If you want to really make it an extra spiritual day, you can also check out the historic Riverside Church close by on 120th and Riverside Drive.

The Cathedral. Photo by Amir Safa.

 

Resident peacock at the Cathedral. Photo by Roxanne Moin-Safa.

 

Riverside Park & Morningside Park
Take a stroll either west or east of the SIPA campus and you will escape into the splendor of Riverside Park or Morningside Park. Riverside Park, which runs across 330 acres from 59th to 155th, offers picturesque views of the Hudson River where you can also catch a glimpse of the sunset under the natural canopy. In the spring season, you will be surprised to find some of the best cherry blossoms in the city along Cherry Walk which runs alongside the water from 100th to 125th. Some of these trees date back to 1909 when the Committee of Japanese Residents of New York presented as a gift to the City. Consider renting a bike from one of the recently opened Citibike stations, including the one at 104th and Riverside Drive, and whiz whimsically along the expansive bike path.

Morningside Park occupies a modest but enchanting 30-acre area running from 110th to 123rd from Morningside Avenue to Morningside Drive. This recently renovated park combines the natural 300 million-year-old rock geology of Manhattan, grassy open athletic fields, a dog park, and a man-made lake with cascading waterfalls where geese and turtles roam. You will often see families playing sports or feasting on barbecues. On Saturdays, you can shop some local pastries and fresh produce at the Down to Earth Farmer’s Market located at the corner of 110th and Manhattan Avenue. On a snowy day, bring your sled and then sing into spring through the fields of March Daffodils.

Serene springtime view of Morningside Park. Photo by Amir Safa.

 

Sledders enjoying the winter hills of Morningside Park. Photo by Amir Safa.

 

Historic Harlem Walking Tour
Take a walking tour in Harlem and dive into the many layers forming some of the greatest chapters of American history. From the beginning of Harlem as a Dutch community in the 17th century to its transition under the Harlem Renaissance of the early 20th century that brought to life African-American artists, musicians, and literary talents including Billie Holiday, Louis Armstrong, and Langston Hughes as well as the NAACP, the nation’s oldest civil rights group. We highly recommend Big Onion Walking Tours. Tours usually cost $15 for students and are often led by PhD students from around the City who paint you a picture of the past with a chock-full of trivia.

Wall art in Harlem. Photo by Roxanne Moin-Safa.

 

General Grant National Memorial (West 122nd & Riverside Drive)
Visit the final resting place of the 18th President of the United States of America and General of the Union Army Ulysses S. Grant and his wife Julia Dent Grant. Often known as “Grant’s Tomb,” the building stands tall with 150 foot soaring domed ceilings and 8,000 tons of grand marble and granite. The memorial honors his military service. If you are in town during the summer months, be sure to check the memorial calendar for concert events.

Paying respect at the General Grant National Memorial. Photo by Amir Safa.

 

Columbia’s New Manhattanville Campus (125th-133rd & Broadway)
Did you know that Columbia is expanding its reach onto a brand new, modern and sustainably designed campus? Some of the buildings are already open at the university’s Manhattanville Campus, including the Wallach Art Gallery free and open to the public located at the Lenfest Center for the Arts as well as retail space in the Jerome L. Greene Science Center with a rock-climbing wall. The campus will continue to open in stages, with plans to house the Columbia Business School by 2021. Stop by and see the future of Columbia.

Courtyard of the Manhattanville Campus. Photo by Amir Safa.

 

Inside the Wallach Art Gallery at the Lenfest Center for the Arts. Photo by Roxanne Moin-Safa.

 

Columbia University to open Center for Veteran Transition and Integration

Earlier this month, Columbia University announced the creation of a new Center for Veteran Transition and Integration that will provide innovative educational programming and support for veterans making the transition to two- and four-year colleges, graduate and professional schools, civilian life, and the workforce.

Major Michael Abrams, a veteran of the war in Afghanistan and a current Marine Corps Reservist, as well as the founder of FourBlock, a program to prepare veterans for business careers, will lead the center as its executive director. Beth Morgan, former executive director of Service to School and director of higher education initiatives for the Marine Corps, joins the center as director of higher education transition and partnerships.

The Center for Veterans will open in the fall of 2017.

Columbia’s long-standing commitment to veterans can be traced back to 1947, when the School of General Studies was founded to integrate into the University community thousands of returning military veterans seeking education after World War II through the first GI Bill. Today more than 650 veterans are enrolled at Columbia, most of them supported by the Post-9/11 GI Bill and the Yellow Ribbon Program. The University has enrolled more student-veterans than all other Ivy League schools combined, while maintaining a graduation rate above 90 percent and a record of job and graduate school placement that equals Columbia’s non-veteran graduates. Highlighting this success, this year’s valedictorian at the School of General Studies is Colin Valentini, a Marine Corps veteran who came to Columbia to study applied mathematics.

Columbia’s successful efforts in helping military service members make the transition to a rigorous academic environment has prompted interest from other universities, employers, government agencies, and veteran-support organizations across the country that would like to replicate its veteran support model.

The new veteran’s center will draw on Columbia’s expertise in curriculum development, instructional technology, and support services in facilitating veterans’ success in an academic setting. In collaboration with a network of public and private partners, the center will provide access to world-class technology and technical support. It will serve military service members at all levels, enlisted and officers, as well as active-duty military personnel preparing for transition, veterans already in higher education, and veterans in the workforce, providing them with the best-in-class resources that they need to ensure their continued academic and professional development. The experience and expertise that Abrams and Morgan bring to this endeavor will be integral in achieving the Center’s vision.

Read more about the Center at Columbia News.

Columbia University unveils new campus sustainability plan

Just in time for Earth Day last week, Columbia University pledged to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 35 percent in the next three years through a mix of energy conservation and efficiency measures under its first campus sustainability plan.

The three-year plan, released a day before Earth Day, represents a practical fulfillment of the sustainability principles that university President Lee C. Bollinger announced at the beginning of the academic year. It sets clear targets for shrinking Columbia’s carbon footprint and reducing waste by improving efficiencies in campus operations, boosting composting, recycling and public transit-use, and investing in energy-saving technology.

“At Columbia, we have long understood the profound threat climate change poses to the future of our planet and the role our community should play in confronting it,” Bollinger said. “Through our actions, policies, and behavior, we provide a model for the kind of global response we seek. Most significant in this effort is the basic research conducted by Columbia’s faculty and actively engaged student body working in schools and departments across the University.”

More than a year in the making, the plan was produced with extensive input from students, administrators and faculty scientists—many of them world leaders in the sustainability field. The plan’s overarching goal is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by zeroing in on energy use and conservation, transportation and waste management.

“Columbia has led pioneering research on the environment, and how our actions will affect future generations,” said Executive Vice President for University Facilities and Operations David Greenberg. “With this plan, Columbia is taking concrete steps to limit our own contribution to climate change. Setting measurable goals and actionable strategies will allow us to track our progress.”

Read more about Columbia’s sustainability goals and stakeholder involvement here.

Speak up for what’s right, says Congressman John Lewis

Civil rights icon keynotes 20th annual Dinkins Forum

SIPA’s 70th Anniversary festivities kicked off on March 30 as a selection of boldface names from New York City’s political world joined students, faculty, and alumni at Miller Theatre for this year’s David N. Dinkins Leadership and Public Policy Forum. Headlining the event was keynote speaker John Lewis, the civil rights icon and U.S. congressman whose home district is centered on Atlanta, Georgia.

The annual forum, which marked its 20th year, is named for the SIPA professor who served as New York City’s first African-American mayor. The event continues to provide a platform for analysis and dialogue that addresses many of the challenging issues facing urban policies, programs, and initiatives.

Columbia University President Lee C. Bollinger opened the evening, saluting Lewis’s experiences in the civil rights movement and his lifelong support for equal rights. Without such a “lived sense of where we have been,” Bollinger said, “we cannot really understand where we are and where we must go.”

Dean Merit E. Janow of SIPA introduced the forum’s namesake, David Dinkins, who spoke briefly about the history of the forum and past speakers such as Charles Rangel, Al Gore, and Hillary Clinton.

In welcoming Lewis, Dinkins noted that he had “stood on [Lewis’s] broad, strong shoulders for the last 50 years, along with Americans of all races, ages, and creeds.

“And so have you,” he added, addressing the gathered audience.

Relating some of the congressman’s life experience, Dinkins described how Lewis—a son of Alabama sharecroppers—was active in protesting for freedom, as he participated in sit-ins, bus rides, and marches. Most significant was the 1965 march from Selma to Montgomery known as Bloody Sunday, in which Lewis suffered a fractured skull at the hands of police troopers. Lewis would go on to be arrested 40 times between then and today.

Taking the stage, Lewis spoke about how he was told as a child that segregation of the time was just “the way it is” and not to get in the way. However, with encouragement from a schoolteacher, Lewis read everything he could, he said—about Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr., and others.

He was inspired, he said, to “find a way to get in the way, to get in good trouble, necessary trouble. And I’ve been getting in trouble ever since.”

Using the cadences of a preacher and alternating between quiet and booming tones, Lewis said his philosophy is that “when you see something that is not right, not fair, not just, you have a moral obligation—a mission and a mandate—to speak up, to speak out, and get in the way.”

Lewis recounted his memory of the march in Selma, where he thought he was going to die. But he was taken in, he said, by sisters at a nearby Catholic hospital, who took care of him. Recently, he reconnected with three of those sisters, who recognized him, and they hugged.

“We must never, ever forget the bridges that brought us across,” he said.

“Sometimes you’re called to turn things upside down, to set it right side up,” Lewis said as he concluded his remarks. “Teach the students, teach the young, because the young will teach us. And they will lead us to a better place [where] no one is left out or left behind.”

The forum also featured a panel discussion on “Reframing Economic and Political Citizenship,” moderated by Ester Fuchs, director of SIPA’s concentration in Urban and Social Policy. Participants included faculty member Michael A. Nutter and guests David Goodman, Verna Eggleston, and Michael Waldman. The panelists discussed at length the transformations U.S. citizens are experiencing to their civil, economic, and political identities under the Trump administration, and what we need to be doing to preserve the hard-fought victories of the past and expand our vision of rights for the future.

— Matt Terry MIA ’17

Watch complete event

 

"The most global public policy school, where an international community of students and faculty address world challenges."

—Merit E. Janow, Dean, SIPA, Professor of Practice, International and Economic Law and International Affairs

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