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New York City and the Columbia Experience

New York City and the Columbia Experience

January 26, 2006

To the Columbia Community:

As we start the spring semester, I would like to begin with the extraordinary success of both Columbia College and The Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science (SEAS) in attracting a record of nearly 20,000 applications for next year's classes. College applications rose by 8 percent and SEAS by almost 15 percent, both record marks as well. Applications from outside the U.S. soared by more than 20 percent, driven by an increase in applications from Asia of more than 26 percent.

This phenomenal surge of interest in attending these two Columbia undergraduate institutions is, of course, the result of many factors. Above all, it speaks to the strength of our faculty and our academic offerings, the talent and diversity of our student body, and our overall reputation and tradition of excellence.

It also owes much to the unique character and global prominence of the City of New York, and I'd like to use this letter to highlight some of the wonderful relationships we have with our city. New York is an essential part of our identity. It is our extended campus, the field in which our students, faculty, and nearly 110,000 alumni work, and our link to the larger world.

Seamless connections to New York -- almost unnoticeable at times -- permeate academic life at Columbia. Architects, artists, businesspeople, doctors, educators, engineers, lawyers, policymakers, scientists, and other professional and civic leaders serve on our faculty. Conversely, faculty are regularly sought for their expertise and enterprise in public life in the City.

Two new developments epitomize our faculty's deep ties to City life. Ester Fuchs, Special Advisor for Governance and Strategic Planning for Mayor Bloomberg and a former Columbia and Barnard faculty member for 20 years, will rejoin our academic community next spring as professor of public policy at the School of International and Public Affairs and in the Department of Political Science, while she continues to advise the Mayor.

James Liebman, Simon H. Rifkind Professor of Law, has been recruited by New York City Schools Chancellor Joel Klein to head the school system's new Office of Accountability. Professor Liebman will take a two-year leave to assume this important role, while continuing to teach on a part-time basis.

Many faculty and students contribute to City public schools through their involvement in numerous University collaborations and partnerships. MBA students, for example, work with public elementary and middle school principals on management consulting projects through the Business School's Education Leadership Consulting Lab, an elective course offered in partnership with the New York City Leadership Academy, a nonprofit organization that recruits and trains principals for the City's approximately 1,300 schools.

In the spring, we begin early planning for the new public secondary school in Manhattanville in West Harlem with the Department of Education, local educators, and community leaders. This presents an unparalleled opportunity to contribute to the teaching of math, science, and engineering in the City's public schools and to address one of our nation's most pressing educational needs.

Working in communities across the City is an integral part of learning for many students. Each year, students at the School of Social Work do more than 245,000 hours of fieldwork at some 300 sites citywide. Students at the College of Dental Medicine treat patients in Washington Heights through seven area public school programs, three community clinics, and a mobile care unit. Nursing students receive their clinical training at more than 50 metropolitan sites that care for underserved and vulnerable populations. Law students fulfill their pro bono service requirement through community law partnerships, such as the Homeless Advocacy Project and the Pediatric Clinic Family Advocacy Project. In addition, nearly 1,000 students volunteer through Community Impact, participating in 25 different programs that help more than 8,000 people a year in the community.

The Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science's service learning program for first-year students supports more than 70 community design projects. Building on the success of this approach, SEAS launched the Gateway Workforce Development Program a year ago under the leadership of Associate Dean Jack McGourty. To date, more than 50 people from the community have enrolled to receive technical and professional skills training through the program, which receives funding from the National Science Foundation and corporate sponsors Prudential, AIG, and PBS. Prudential plans to hire about half of the current cohort into technical positions.

The Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation
(GSAPP) studies how to improve New York's complex and diverse urban environment and has incorporated housing design and policy issues into its curriculum for more than 30 years. Through the Housing Studio's work with the New York City Housing Authority and others, faculty and students advocate for practical new design on City projects. Faculty also address development challenges in many City communities. Lionel McIntyre, the school's Nancy and George Rupp Associate Professor in the Practice of Community Development, leads the Urban Technical Assistance Project, which provides low-cost consulting to local community development groups and has completed several urban improvement projects in the South Bronx and Central Harlem.

The Cool City Project is an ingenious interdisciplinary research initiative led by Elliott Sclar, GSAPP professor of urban planning and public affairs and director of the Earth Institute's Center for Sustainable Development, Patrick Kinney, associate professor of environmental health science at the Mailman School of Public Health, and Joyce Rosenthal, a graduate student in GSAPP's urban planning program. The Cool City Project seeks sustainable alternatives for climate control and has partnered with Sustainable South Bronx to develop the first "green roof" pilot project atop the historic Banknote Building in Hunts Point, which uses plants to conserve energy and reduce pollution.

Columbia has more than 100 community partnerships in our local neighborhoods alone. Columbia's Center for Community Health Partnerships is an important engine for partnerships at Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC) and leads in the development of community-participatory research. The center also encompasses the Columbia Center for the Health of Urban Minorities, the Curriculum Development Committee for Cultural Competency, and the Thelma C. Davidson Adair Medical/Dental Center, which provides care to more than 6,000 Harlem residents annually. Dr. Allan Formicola, who leads the Center for Community Health Partnerships, will be recognized for his contributions with the first-ever Community Voices' Hero Award through a national initiative funded by the Kellogg Foundation.

CUMC continues to address minority health issues in our neighboring communities through the outstanding efforts of individuals like Dr. Rafael Lantigua, professor of clinical medicine. Dr. Lantigua is the principal investigator and director of the Columbia Center for the Active Life of Minority Elders, which supports research on aging among minorities living in Washington Heights, Inwood, and Harlem. Dr. Lantigua also serves as the co-principal investigator and scientific director of the Center for the Health of Urban Minorities, which conducts and supports research, training, education, and community partnerships aimed at improving the health of Latinos and African-Americans in northern Manhattan.

The School of the Arts collaborates with the City's arts community in many ways, and its faculty and students use their creative talents and energy to highlight important social issues. Tonight, Thursday, January 26th, Columbia's Center for Jazz Studies and the Institute for Research in African American Studies kick off "New Orleans: Rebuilding a Musical City," a conference exploring ways to rebuild New Orleans and re-establish its artistic and cultural legacy.

All day Friday, Columbia scholars, including Zora Neale Hurston Professor of English and Comparative Literature Robert O'Meally, Edwin H. Case Professor of Music George Lewis, and Louis Armstrong Visiting Professor John Szwed, will join with artists, architects, city planners, and community leaders to celebrate New Orleans arts and culture and discuss the role of jazz and other artistic and cultural forms in the rebuilding process. The program culminates with a keynote address in the evening by the Rev. Dr. James A. Forbes, Jr., senior minister of the Riverside Church, and a musical performance featuring composer and pianist Allen Toussaint, vocalist Juanita Brooks, percussionist Herlin Riley, and reed-players Dr. Michael White and Evan Christopher.

The City of New York, in short, adds immeasurably to the Columbia experience, and we hope we add significantly to the City in return. When we celebrate Columbia, we celebrate the City, and vice-versa.

Sincerely,

Lee C. Bollinger