Mike Groll/AP
  New York State governor David Paterson ’77CC addresses the press beside his wife, Michelle Paige Paterson, in March.

Paterson picks up for Spitzer

David Paterson ’77CC walked into a political firestorm on March 17, taking over as New York State governor for his disgraced former boss, Eliot Spitzer.

Paterson was sworn in just seven days after the New York Times revealed that federal investigators had nabbed Spitzer as a patron of a high-priced prostitution ring, prompting his sudden resignation. Paterson served as lieutenant governor under Spitzer and became New York’s first black chief executive. During his inauguration speech, Paterson asked lawmakers to return their focus to problems related to health care, education, and the economy. He also hinted that he would be a less confrontational leader than his fiery predecessor.

“They call what we do public service for a reason: because it’s not politics,” he told a packed Assembly in the state capital building at Albany. “Let us grab the unusual opportunities that circumstance has handed us today, and put personal politics, party advantage, and power struggles aside in favor of service, in the interests of the people.”

Regarded as keenly intelligent, funny, and candid to the point of being impolitic, Paterson also has an unabashedly liberal legislative record, considerably to the left of Spitzer’s. As a state senator from 1985 to 2006, he routinely sponsored bills that had no chance of passing: one would have made it a crime for police officers to shoot suspects in the chest rather than in a limb, and another would have given noncitizens the right to vote. Yet Paterson is also known as a skillful consensus builder. Lawmakers and pundits on both sides of the aisle said that was in evidence when he negotiated a balanced budget with the Republican-ruled state senate during his second week as governor, closing a $4.7 billion deficit through a combination of tax hikes and spending cuts that still left room for a $1.8 billion boost to schools.

“He’s not ideologically driven,” says Ester Fuchs, a Columbia professor of public affairs and political science who previously was a special adviser on human service issues to New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg. “He has a pragmatic sense.”

Born and raised in New York City, Paterson, 54, is the son of Basil Paterson, who represented Harlem in the New York State Senate in the late 1960s and was New York secretary of state from 1979 to 1982. The younger Paterson entered politics in 1985, quitting his job as assistant district attorney in the Queens District to work on David Dinkins’s successful campaign to become Manhattan Borough president. The same year, David Paterson won the senate seat his father once held, and in 2002 he was elected senate minority leader.

Paterson, who lives with his wife and two children in Harlem, is legally blind as the result of a childhood illness. He memorizes his speeches and spends hours every night listening to verbal briefings that his aides leave on his telephone. During his inauguration speech, the first half of which was filled with jokes about his colleagues, Paterson made light of his blindness, to uproarious laughter: “The last time I was in this chamber I was gaveling for the State of the State, and Speaker [of the State Assembly Sheldon] Silver had brought me in here to practice so I didn’t destroy anything. Apparently, I was about to bring the gavel down on a glass, like this one.”

Paterson is considered supportive of education and is an adjunct professor at Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs. But it remains to be seen how the governor’s views on eminent domain will affect Columbia’s planned development for the Manhattanville area of West Harlem. In 2005, Paterson was among a group of elected officials who called for a statewide moratorium on eminent domain. Columbia officials have said that if they cannot successfully negotiate the purchase of all properties in the University’s 17-acre expansion zone, they will consider requesting the state to invoke its power of eminent domain to claim them, although they’ve stated that no residential properties will be pursued by eminent domain.

—David J. Craig and Kurt Gottschalk

Diane Bondareff  
Historian John Coatsworth was named dean of Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs on May 1.  

Latin America expert Coatsworth tapped as SIPA dean

John Coatsworth, who is among the world’s top historians of Latin America, has been named dean of the School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA). Coatsworth has taught at SIPA since coming to Columbia in 2006 from Harvard. He has served as dean ad interim since last summer, when Lisa Anderson stepped down after 10 years in that position.

Coatsworth has written or edited seven books on Latin American economic history. In the 1970s, he was the first historian to study Latin America using a research approach commonly referred to as “new economic history,” which relies on rigorous statistical methods to examine how economic institutions change over time. His findings have sometimes been critical of United States foreign policy. Coatsworth has argued, for instance, that free-market reforms instituted by U.S.-backed governments during the Cold War stunted economic growth in some parts of Latin America, in part because the reforms were rigged to benefit local elites.

“I’m cranky and critical, and I call them as I see them,” says Coatsworth. “That’s what the University pays me to do.” Coatsworth certainly doesn’t shy away from controversy. He drew heavy media attention last year for his role in hosting Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at Columbia. While leading a discussion forum, Coatsworth asked Ahmadinejad pointed questions about Iran’s human rights record and its threats toward Israel.

Coatsworth now leads one of Columbia’s fastest-growing professional schools; SIPA has doubled the size of its faculty in the last 10 years and graduated 40 percent of its total alumni in that period. The number of academic concentrations has swelled to 19; Coatsworth convened a faculty committee last fall that recommended the number be reduced to 6. He says the reorganization, which will be outlined on SIPA’s Web site this summer, will help SIPA administrators assess hiring needs.

In addition, Coatsworth says that in fiscal year 2009 SIPA will become more financially independent of the Arts and Sciences. This will give SIPA more freedom in making hiring and tenure decisions, he says. Arts and Sciences faculty will continue to teach courses in the SIPA curriculum, however.

“This school’s guiding vision for the past 30 years has been exactly what it should be,” says Coatsworth. “We combine the best academics, which are strengthened by our relationship with Arts and Sciences, with practical training in areas like management, statistics, and international finance to give students the practical skills to go out into the world and run enterprises.”


  David Wentworth
  Jean Howard, left, presents fellow English professor Sharon Marcus with the Distinguished Columbia Faculty Award earlier this semester.

Teaching awards honor top profs

Eleven Columbia professors were honored this semester for their accomplishments in the classroom and as researchers, receiving the Distinguished Columbia Faculty Awards.

This year’s recipients, each of whom received a $25,000 prize, are anthropologist Lila Abu-Lughod, art historian Zainab Bahrani, Victorian literature scholar Nicholas Dames, oceanographer Peter deMenocal ’92GSAS, feminist literary critic Sharon Marcus ’82SSW, experimental cosmologist Amber Miller, environmental biologist Shahid Naeem, chemist Colin Nuckolls ’98GSAS, Latin America historian Pablo Piccato, urban sociologist Sudhir Venkatesh, and ancient philosophy expert Katja Vogt.

The awards were made possible by a $12 million donation given by Trustee Gerry Lenfest ’58LAW.


David Wentworth  
Deborah Spar greets faculty and students upon being named the next president of Barnard College.  

Barnard chooses Harvard economist Deborah Spar as new president

Barnard College Trustees, in selecting their next president, would seem at first to have made an odd choice: Deborah Spar, the Harvard economist, didn’t see the value of single-sex education when she was younger.

Spar, 44, explained to Barnard faculty and students upon greeting them in January why she attended Georgetown rather than a women’s college: “I truly believed that because the generation that preceded mine had marched in protests and demanded equal rights, that women of my generation were poised to smash through the glass ceiling, take over the boardroom, run the Pentagon, and win Nobel Prizes — all while bouncing babies and wearing really great shoes.

“Now I know that this is wrong,” said Spar, who becomes president of the Columbia-affiliated women’s liberal arts college July 1. “Women are doing all these things. But it’s much harder than most women of my generation realized. A generation or two ago it was very clear what was standing in the way of women. But the obstacles that I’ve faced, and that my colleagues have faced, are much subtler. They’re not vested in policies. They’re buried. To unearth these obstacles is a harder task. And it’s my commitment to this task that has brought me to Barnard.”

Spar, who is the Spangler Family Professor at Harvard Business School, is best known for her 2006 book The Baby Business, which explores the ethical pitfalls and economics of the largely unregulated market for reproductive technologies. She is the author or coauthor of six books and is an expert on the politics of international commerce. She’s taught at Harvard since 1991 and is currently senior associate dean at its business school, overseeing a $20 million research budget. She also chaired Harvard University’s Committee on Human Rights and created an executive leadership program in Africa called Making Markets Work.

Spar earned her bachelor’s degree at Georgetown and doctorate in government at Harvard. She’ll succeed the anthropologist Judith Shapiro, who has led Barnard since 1994.



Columbia boosts financial aid for all undergrad recipients

Columbia has announced a major expansion of its financial aid programs. Beginning this fall, Columbia College and engineering undergraduates whose families earn less than $60,000 annually won’t have to contribute income or assets toward tuition, room, board, and other fees. The previous threshold for a full grant package based on financial need was annual income below $50,000.

At the same time, Columbia will eliminate loans for all new and continuing students in the College and engineering school who are eligible for financial aid, regardless of family income, by replacing them with University grants. This could add as much as $20,000 in Columbia-funded grants to a four-year aid package. For example, a family that earns $75,000 and has typical assets will see its expenses cut in half. A family that earns $150,000 and is eligible for financial aid could receive as much as $5,000 per year in grants instead of loans in that amount.

Columbia’s School of General Studies will also expand its financial aid program in the fall. The school will increase its total aid budget 17 percent to help continuing students who are academically successful and have the most economic need and loan debt. Amounting to about $1 million annually in additional scholarship assistance, the increase will affect the approximately 50 percent of General Studies undergraduate degree students who currently receive institutional financial aid.

The University already has the largest proportion of Pell grant recipients among Ivy League colleges, at approximately 15 percent of the student body. Pell grants are generally available to students from families earning less than $40,000 per year.

Funding for these financial aid enhancements is provided primarily by annual fund gifts and permanent endowments. To learn more about the financial aid enhancements at Columbia College and the Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science, visit

For details about aid at the School of General Studies, visit

  Ron Hester
  Serene Jones spoke recently with Roger Haight, a visiting professor at Union Theological Seminary, at right, and Union Trustee Michael J. Kelly and his wife, Narindar Kelly.

Feminist theologian Serene Jones takes reins at UTS

If you want to comprehend politics today, study how people worship. And don’t forget the women.

That’s a guiding principle of Serene Jones, a longtime Yale theology professor who becomes president of Union Theological Seminary (UTS) on July 1. She is the first woman to head the 172-year-old Columbia affiliate, a leading institution of liberal Protestantism.

Currently, Jones is conducting fieldwork in Morocco, Sri Lanka, Brazil, and South Africa to understand how women’s religious beliefs shape their worldviews. “Muslim women tell me they’re frustrated that birth control education focuses on contraception,” says Jones. “And they talk about how sacred texts help them understand poverty and education issues. If Western policy makers understood these types of everyday concerns, they could make better development decisions.”

Jones is the author of the 2000 book Feminist Theory and Christian Theology: Cartographies of Grace, in which she explores how Christian ideas — of salvation, for example — relate to feminist notions of how women can transform their lives.

Among her goals, Jones remarks, is to strengthen ties between UTS and Columbia. “UTS is poised to weigh in with a moral seriousness on issues related to justice and peace and beauty,” she says. “And intellectuals are eager to talk about religion because they know that if they don’t understand it, they don’t understand the world.”

Jones is ordained in the United Church of Christ and in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). She succeeds as UTS president the Reverend Joseph Hough Jr., who retires after leading the school for nine years.


Courtesy of The Earth Institute  
The new online journal Consilience publishes student research about sustainable development projects, such as a farming assistance program run by the Earth Institute in southern Uganda, pictured above.


New journal presses the need to grow green

The term sustainability generally refers to development strategies that don’t damage ecosystems. How do you measure sustainability? Is it possible to achieve sustainability and economic growth?

In February, Columbia students launched an online journal called Consilience to address these types of questions. It now features 7 research papers culled from 60 submissions from students and faculty from Columbia and other institutions on topics such as water privatization in developing countries, market-based solutions to climate change, and the impact of drought on civil wars. The papers were reviewed by an editorial board of students and Columbia faculty advisers who include economist Joshua Graff Zivin, director of the doctoral program in sustainable development at the School of International and Public Affairs, and geophysicist John Mutter, deputy director of the Earth Institute.

Consilience is trying to encourage students to get involved in rigorous research early on,” says Editor in Chief Anubha Agarwal ’08CC. “Then they can focus their passions on forging real solutions to problems they see in the world.”



  Michael Temchine/ New York Times
  Bond investor Bill Gross, shown here at the 2006 World Philatelic Exhibition in Washington, D.C., auctioned off part of his famous stamp collection on May 16 to benefit the Earth Institute.

Stamping out poverty

Billionaire investment guru Bill Gross has found a way to combine two of his favorite pastimes — philanthropy and philately. On
May 16 in New York, the Scandinavian portion of Gross’s renowned stamp collection, with an estimated value of more than $1 million, was auctioned off, with the proceeds going to the Millennium Villages project at the Earth Institute at Columbia.

The Millennium Villages project is a busy investor, too — in agriculture, education, health, and infrastructure for poor communities in Africa. According to the Earth Institute Web site, the Millennium Villages project has reached nearly 400,000 people in 79 villages across 10 African countries, and has identified eight goals that it aims to reach by 2015: eliminating extreme poverty and hunger; achieving universal primary education; promoting gender equality; reducing child mortality; improving maternal health; combating HIV/AIDS and other diseases; ensuring environmental sustainability; and creating a global partnership for development.

—Paul Hond

  Courtesy of Sony Pictures
  Poverty makes strange bedfellows: Lila Littlewolf (Misty Upham), left, and Rae Eddy (Melissa Leo) become unlikely conspirators in Frozen River.

River dance

Courtney Hunt ’94SOA was writing a poem at her kitchen table in upstate New York when she began to hear a voice that didn’t match her words on the page. “That character wouldn’t let go of me,” she says. The voice became that of the tough, impoverished mother in Hunt’s new film, Frozen River, which won the Grand Jury Prize in the Dramatic Film category at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival and premiered in New York at the Museum of Modern Art.

Frozen River is a deceptively quiet study of two bowed but unbroken women working together to smuggle illegal immigrants into the United States. Rae Eddy, played by Melissa Leo, is raising two sons in a run-down trailer; her gambler husband has abandoned the family. Lila Littlewolf, played by Misty Upham, is a widowed young Mohawk woman from the local reservation, where gambling pulls in the cash. At the start of the movie, Hunt’s characters are, as she describes them, “unattractive, unappealing women with hard edges,” but the film reveals, gradually, how they came to be that way. “They’re in desperate circumstances, pushed to a desperate place,” Hunt says.

Columbia’s film program engendered so many prizewinners at Sundance this year that the University held its own reception during the festival, as it has for the past several years. Man on Wire, which won both the World Cinema Jury Prize for documentary and the World Cinema Audience Award, was coproduced by adjunct assistant film professor Maureen Ryan ’92SOA. Sleep Dealer, which won the Alfred P. Sloan Prize for a film about science and technology and the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award, was produced by adjunct assistant film professor Anthony Bregman. (Jessica Levin ’02SOA was associate producer of Sleep Dealer, and associate film professor Eric Mendelsohn was the story editor.) Top prizes in three out of the four categories for feature films also went to works directed or produced by Columbia filmmakers, garnering awards for Carl Deal ’94JRN, who directed Trouble the Water; Felipe Marino ’02GS, who produced The Wackness; and Nina Parikh ’05GSAS, who produced Ballast.

—Margaret Moorman

  Courtesy of Columbia Athletics
  Columbia’s baseball team won the Ivy League Championship on May 7, beating Dartmouth 7–5.

Good news Lions

The Columbia Lions baseball team this spring won its first Ivy League championship since 1977. The Light Blue defeated Dartmouth 7–5 in New Hampshire on May 7 in the deciding game of a best-of-three series. During the regular season, the Lions rolled to a 15–5 record, finishing with a four-game sweep of Penn. In the championship series against Dartmouth, the first two games were slugfests, with a total of 49 runs crossing the plate; Columbia in the final game overcame a 5–3 deficit behind the strong relief pitching performance of Henry Perkins ’08CC, who also scored the insurance run with a solo dinger in the seventh. The Ivy League title gives the Lions an automatic bid in the NCAA tournament, which starts June 2.


David Wentworth  
Philip Roth was honored by scholars and fellow novelists on the occasion of his 75th birthday at Miller Theater on April 11.  

A life examined: Philip Roth at 75

“Time runs at a terrifying speed,” said Philip Roth at a packed event at Miller Theater in April honoring the author on his 75th birthday. “It seems as though it was just 1943, and the war was on, and I was 10, and at the kitchen table my mother was teaching me to type on her big Underwood typewriter.”

Roth has been typing ever since. His prolific career, which has seen the publication of 28 books and a remarkable burst of productivity in the 1990s and 2000s, was the subject of a panel discussion moderated by author Judith Thurman with writers Nathan Englander, Jonathan Lethem, and Charles D’Ambrosio. The conference, which was cosponsored by the American Studies program at Columbia and the Library of America, was conceived by English professor Ross Posnock, who read from Roth’s 1986 novel The Counterlife, and called Roth’s voice as “indelible as Hemingway’s and Faulkner’s.” Hermione Lee, chair of English literature at Oxford University, praised The Ghost Writer (1979), in which Roth’s doppelgänger, Nathan Zuckerman, encounters his literary idol, the novelist E. I. Lonoff, and a woman who may or may not be Anne Frank. “Every tiny detail of phrasing has its right place in this book,” said Lee.

Roth himself discussed coming of age in Newark, New Jersey, during World War II. “As a result of the wartime propaganda about equality and freedom of democracy, to which we had been exposed for close to five years, and as a result of almost all of us being knowledgeable as Jewish children about anti-Semitism, we’d come to be precociously alert about the inequalities in American society,” Roth said, drawing a trajectory from Roth the child to the older man who wrote The Plot Against America (2004). After expressing gratitude to the American Studies program at Columbia, Roth made an overture to the appreciative crowd: “Let’s do it again in 25 years; 2033, it’ll be here before we know it.”


  Eileen Barroso
  The Interdisciplinary Science Building will be situated on a 13,000-square-foot plot at the northwest corner of the Morningside Campus.

Deep theory

The University began erecting the steel girders of the Interdisciplinary Science Building at the corner of Broadway and West 120th Street, seen here looking north in April. The 14-story building, which is on schedule to be completed by the fall of 2010, will provide 188,000 square feet of laboratory, classroom, and office space for researchers working at the boundaries of engineering, chemistry, physics, and biology. The building, in part, will sit above Dodge Physical Fitness Center, between Chandler Hall and Pupin Physics Laboratories. An anonymous donor recently pledged $20 million to support the construction of the new building, which will cost an estimated $179 million. It is being designed by José Rafael Moneo, with New York–based Davis Brody Bond the architect of record.


Jenica Miller  
Edgar Miranda, owner of a small Bronx-based construction company, is participating in a mentorship program at Columbia to help local business owners win University job contracts.  

Good for bidness

Hunched over wooden desks in Columbia’s International Affairs Building, the test takers stare intently at their exams. They’re equipped with coffee and backpacks, just like any college students, but there’s nary a vintage T-shirt or scuffed sneaker in sight — instead it’s work boots and two-way radios.

That’s because these students are plumbers, electricians, and general contractors. They’re participating in a new mentorship program intended to help minorities, women, and local entrepreneurs (MWL) refine their business skills and improve their chances of earning construction contracts at Columbia and across the city.

The one-year pilot program, launched in January by Columbia with the city’s Department of Small Business Services, provides training to 22 organizations in subjects like cost estimating, construction law, and bidding procedures. Columbia soon will designate a limited number of University projects on which only these businesses can bid.

“We have a long-standing commitment to doing business with local firms and those owned by minorities and women,” says Joe Ienuso ’01BUS, Columbia’s executive vice president for facilities. “We thought, ‘Let’s make sure they’ve developed good business skills as well as trade skills.’” The University aims to award 25 percent of its construction contracts to MWL firms, Ienuso says. But MWL companies, like many small firms, can find it challenging to navigate Columbia’s complicated bidding process.

“It’s paperwork-intense, which can be a little intimidating if you’re not used to it,” says program participant Edgar Miranda of working with large institutions like Columbia. “People who have never done university work may be in for a little bit of a surprise.”

Minority firms often face additional obstacles because they lack crucial professional connections and networking opportunities, says Puerto Rico­–born Miranda. He’s hoping that the program — which touches on everything from preparing invoices to the importance of legible handwriting — will help his business, Bronx Base Builders, land both Morningside Campus and Manhattanville contracts.

The University hopes to repeat the program and eventually involve as many as 100 companies, Ienuso says.

—Candace Taylor ’07JRN

  Heuichul Kim/ New York Sun
  Andrea Wenner ’05BUS is the founder and executive director of the nonprofit Out2Play, which built this playground at P.S. 12 in the Bronx last summer.

Working for play

When Andrea Wenner moved to Manhattan to pursue nonprofit work in 2000, she often saw schoolchildren playing in the street outside her Upper East Side apartment building during recess. The nearby elementary school blocked off the street, she learned, because it didn’t have a playground. “It just left an impression in my mind,” Wenner says.

A couple of years later, Wenner ’05BUS was interning at an organization that renovates high-school athletic fields when she learned that many elementary schools have the space for playgrounds but lack the money to build fun, safe facilities. So in 2004, Wenner formed a nonprofit, Out2Play, that designs and renovates New York City school playgrounds.

Out2Play has completed 15 playgrounds over the past two years and has 27 projects planned for 2008. A typical project costs $250,000 and involves the work of several contractors. Wenner manages the entire planning, design, and construction process. She also spends a lot of time applying for foundation grants and city discretionary funds, as well as courting corporate and individual donors. Out2Play currently has a list of potential projects for 120 schools.

Wenner hopes to complete all of them by 2012. “Our goal is to continue expanding,” she says. “We will eventually get every single one of these done.”

For more information, visit

—Cristina Najarro ’10CC


In brief

Crossing channels

Columbia J-school has teamed up with Institut d’Études Politiques de Paris to offer a dual-degree program in international journalism. Columbia students who choose to study at Sciences Po will study international affairs, French and European history, economics, and social dynamics, in addition to journalism.

Columbia’s graduate department of history and the London School of Economics, meanwhile, have announced that they will jointly offer a dual master’s program in international and world history. Students will earn graduate degrees from both institutions. The program emphasizes the relationships between countries as well as international forces such as trade, migration, disease, and global warming.

Type 1 and 2 solutions

The Russell Berrie Foundation recently donated $28 million to Columbia University Medical Center and NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital for diabetes care and research. The Medical Center will receive $21 million to support non-reimbursed clinical care, a new professorship, and research projects including an effort to create embryonic stem cells to treat diabetes. The hospital will receive $7 million to establish a center focusing on treatments for the cardiovascular complications of diabetes. The Russell Berrie Foundation honors the late Russell Berrie, one of the world’s most successful makers of teddy bears, and is overseen by his estate.

Honorable fellows

Five Columbia professors were recently elected to the American Academy of Arts & Sciences. The American Academy is one of the nation’s oldest and most prestigious honorary societies and independent policy research centers. The new Columbia fellows are sociologist Peter Bearman, chemist Richard A. Friesner, novelist Orhan Pamuk, earth scientist Paul G. Richards, and forestry expert Pedro Sanchez. They will be inducted at an October 11 ceremony in Cambridge, Mass. In addition, three Columbia professors have been elected members of the prestigious National Academy of Sciences. They are geneticist Gary Struhl, biologist Carol Prives, and earth scientist Paul E. Olsen. They’ll be inducted next April in Washington, D.C.

Black perspectives

What challenges do black Americans face? Political scientists, psychologists, sociologists, legal scholars, economists, and urban studies experts are researching that question at Columbia’s new Center on African American Politics and Society (CAAPS). The center is part of the Institute for Social and Economic Research and Policy and will serve as “a clearinghouse for research on issues such as black political participation, housing, employment, and the challenges facing black youth,” according to CAAPS director and political science professor Frederick Harris. He plans to issue regular reports on black public opinion in the lead-up to the 2008 presidential election and to organize a public forum in Harlem about local voters’ concerns.

A middle passage

Starting this fall you can learn to become a mediator or arbitrator by enrolling in Columbia’s new master of science degree program in negotiation and conflict resolution, offered by the School of Continuing Education. The program was developed in concert with Columbia’s Center for International Conflict Resolution in the School of International and Public Affairs. Some faculty from that center, including its founding director Andrea Bartoli, will teach in the new program. Visit