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Welcome for the 2004-2005 Academic Year

Welcome for the 2004-2005 Academic Year

September 8, 2004

To Fellow Columbians:

I want to offer a brief welcome to all the faculty, students and staff for the beginning of the 2004-05 academic year. Last week was orientation for our newest students, and we all are especially pleased that they have joined us.

I would also like to highlight just a few of the many matters of importance on the agenda for this year.

This fall several events will bring to a conclusion Columbia’s 250th year-long anniversary. On Saturday, September 18th, the University will host a Community Festival to open the campus to our neighbors and to mark the critically important role that community residents, civic leaders, and businesses have played – and continue to play -- in the long history of Columbia. There will be musical and dramatic performances, sports clinics, interactive exhibits as well as health screenings sponsored by Columbia University Medical Center and Harlem Hospital Center. In early October, we will have the closing events for this major University anniversary.

In just a few weeks, we will once again host the World Leaders Forum at Columbia. During the week of the annual meeting of the United Nations General Assembly, we have invited political leaders from virtually every region of the world to visit the University and to address faculty, students, and invited guests about the global challenges facing us. There will be public lectures, roundtables and symposia. Please watch for announcements over the next few weeks.

This year we must continue our intense focus on solving Columbia’s space constraints. As many of you know, I personally view this as the critical element in the successful future of the University. I know of no academic discipline at the University that has sufficient room to fulfill its potential for scholarship and teaching of the highest caliber, which of course is the unqualified mission of the institution. We have, accordingly, developed plans for the near and long-term needs of the University, and these will be worked on and refined this year as well as in the years ahead.

In particular, we will be continuing our planning process for a new campus in Manhattanville in West Harlem. This is an historic opportunity to ensure the future academic strength of the University while providing us with new opportunities to contribute to the enhancement of our surrounding communities.

Augmenting the financial resources of Columbia is, of course, also a very high priority. This will come through greater efficiencies in what we already do, but it will mostly come through increased efforts at fundraising. Much new work has been devoted to these areas, with very tangible results, and we will be announcing in the near future still more significant plans.


This year we will continue our focus on developing science at the University. While we are making investments in many parts of the institution, it is clear that we must provide significant support for our science programs, on Morningside Heights, Washington Heights and at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. Last spring we launched the new Institute on Neuroscience, headed by Professor Tom Jessell, which will expand over time to encompass interdisciplinary studies in brain and behavior. Several years ago, an external review of science on the Morningside campus identified the need for expansion of both faculties and facilities. Over the past two years, we have actively supported appointments and continued renovations, but it is of central importance to the University that we act on these larger needs. We are, therefore, proceeding vigorously with plans for a new science building on the northwest corner of the Morningside campus and for a major effort to raise funds for science research and education. These discussions encompass science at Washington Heights and Lamont-Doherty as well.

One of the most important issues for the University is how our research, teaching, and public service should be affected by the changes occurring in the broader world, and particularly the changes commonly referred to as globalization. This is a very large and complicated subject, one that ranges from the number of and support (financial and otherwise) we are able to provide to our international students, to the alliances we form with other institutions throughout the world, to the very nature of the questions we pose for our scholarship and our teaching. The faculty task force I set up last year on Globalization and the University will continue its discussions on these and other subjects this year, with the expectation that a report (or reports) and recommendations will be forthcoming as thoughtful consideration merits.

It is impossible to capture the extraordinary intellectual vitality and accomplishments of this amazing institution. Let me just note a few items. Under Nick Lemann’s leadership, the Graduate School of Journalism will begin its new master’s degree program in the fall of 2005. The National Arts Journalism Program was recently chosen by the National Endowment for the Arts to become one of three national arts journalism institutes. Focused on classical music and opera criticism, the initiative deepens and strengthens our commitments to the arts. This semester the School of Continuing Education will confer its first advanced degree with its master’s in strategic communications. The Law School, under the direction of its new dean David Schizer, is developing a clinic on international law with the World Trade Organization and creating a Center on Israeli Law with Hebrew University, and the Business School, with new dean Glenn Hubbard, is launching a new research initiative in understanding the impact of globalization on business, financial markets, and workers.

This summer SIPA launched the first ever media training program for Chinese journalists in Shanghai and currently is creating dual degrees in public policy with a global network of universities. The Earth Institute is improving primary healthcare delivery in Ethiopia through a new Center for National Health Development, and the Mailman School of Public Health has established AIDS treatment programs spanning nine countries across Asia and Africa. The Mailman School also received a $13 million grant from the NIH to find new methods of treatment for autism.
At the Columbia University Medical Center, our colleagues have identified a possible cause of an inherited form of Parkinson’s disease. CUMC is also enhancing its programs in chemical biology and human genetics. Later this fall, we expect to celebrate the official opening of the Irving Cancer Research Center, dedicated to cancer research and made possible by the extraordinary generosity of Herbert and Florence Irving.

Faculty in the Department of Physics at Morningside Heights are simulating the events immediately following the Big Bang, and our astronomers are using an ultraviolet survey of the sky to map the birthplaces of stars. The Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science has discovered how images reflected in the cornea of the human eye can provide the basis for technical advances. Finally, for the first time, the Columbia Nanocenter has determined critical optical properties for a new form of matter known as the single carbon nanotube.

I would also like to note several major appointments I announced over the summer: Nicholas Dirks, as our new Vice President for Arts and Sciences; Mark Wigley, Dean of the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation; David Schizer, Dean of the Law School; and, Albert G. Horvath, as our new Executive Vice President for Finance. Dianne Murphy will join us as the new Athletic Director in November.

It is a privilege to work with everyone at Columbia, and I look forward with you to the 2004-05 academic year.

Lee C. Bollinger