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  Claude M. Steele
Stanford psychologist Claude M. Steele named provost

Claude M. Steele, a social psychologist renowned for his work on how stereotypes undermine academic performance among women and minorities, has been named the University’s 21st provost.

Steele, 63, assumes his new position on September 1. He succeeds Alan Brinkley, who has served as provost since 2003 and who plans to return to teaching history after taking a one-year sabbatical. As provost, Steele will be the University’s chief academic officer, overseeing all faculty appointments and tenure decisions, developing the University’s annual academic budget and long-term financial plans, and supervising all Columbia’s faculties, departments, institutes, and centers.

Steele has been a professor of psychology at Stanford University since 1991 and the Lucie Stern Professor of Psychology in the Social Sciences since 1997. He chaired Stanford’s psychology department from 1997 to 2000, and has directed the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences (CASBS) since 2002. Steele says that he transformed CASBS from a financially troubled, independent institution into an endowment-based center affiliated with Stanford.

As a researcher, Steele is best known for helping to formulate a thesis called “stereotype threat,” which describes why women and minorities often do worse than their white male counterparts in high-stakes exams. In a series of experiments in the mid-1990s, Steele found that students of color and women underperform on tests when, prior to taking a test, they are reminded of negative stereotypes associated with their groups. (Interestingly, the same phenomenon occurs when white students are reminded that Asians tend to outperform them on exams.) Steele is the coauthor of the 2004 book Young Gifted and Black: Promoting High Achievement Among African-American Students, which offers recommendations for how educators can counter negative stereotypes in the classroom.

“Claude is widely recognized for his dedicated and charismatic teaching; for his seminal scholarship, which has focused on questions of identity, group stereotypes, and addictive behaviors; and for his service to the academic community and beyond,” said President Lee C. Bollinger in announcing Steele’s appointment on May 15. “He is a friend and colleague to many in the Columbia community, and it is a great moment to be able to welcome him here as provost. Having earned the admiration of students and colleagues for his excellence as a teacher, researcher, and department chair, Claude is an ideal choice to succeed Provost Alan Brinkley, whom I thank again for his tremendous contribution to the University.”

Steele was raised in a housing project in Chicago. His father, a black truck driver, and his mother, a white social worker, met while volunteering for the civil rights organization Congress of Racial Equality. Steele received his bachelor’s degree from Hiram College and his master’s and doctorate from Ohio State University. Before joining Stanford, he served on the faculties of the University of Michigan, the University of Washington, and the University of Utah.

Steele says he is excited to join Columbia at a time when the University is increasingly engaged with the global community, as exemplified by the opening of teaching and research centers this spring in Amman, Jordan, and Beijing, China. “I’ve gone out of my way to encourage that kind of contact at Stanford,” Steele says. “I expect to be an enthusiast about these kinds of initiatives.”

Promoting diversity on campus, Steele says, also will be among his goals: “I see diversity of all kinds, of all sorts, as integral to the academic enterprise. I don’t think you can really be at the cutting edge without it.”

Steele says he plans to be an “improvement agent” who will bring together a wide array of people to find solutions to problems and to address ways to meet the goals of the University. Beginning this summer, he plans to meet with faculty members and administrators in order to better understand the challenges facing Columbia. “I’m a good people person,” he says. “I’m a good analyzer of problems, and I like to believe that I will be able to work past impasses.”

Cindy Rodríguez

Feniosky Peña-Mora  
Columbia chooses Peña-Mora as dean of engineering

Feniosky Peña-Mora, while growing up, dreamed of being an engineer like the ones who built the schools, hospitals, and apartment buildings in his home city of Santo Domingo. In the Dominican Republic, as in many developing countries, engineers, not architects, lead most building projects. This makes them public figures and many become politicians.

“Engineers in my home country are as esteemed as doctors or lawyers,” says Peña-Mora, “because they learn to communicate across fields and to work with many different types of people in addressing society’s needs.”

Peña-Mora, who becomes dean of the Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science (SEAS) on July 15, was drawn to the school, he says, partly for its emphasis on developing well-rounded thinkers. All undergraduates take a portion of Columbia’s Core Curriculum, for instance. The school also is known for its strong interdisciplinary programs in areas such as biomedical engineering, financial engineering, and applied physics. “Engineering students at Columbia learn to bridge lexicons,” says Peña-Mora, “and that makes them innovative problem solvers.”

Peña-Mora, 42, comes to Columbia after six years at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he served as an associate provost and as a professor of civil and environmental engineering. As associate provost, he led efforts to increase cultural diversity and to facilitate a culture of entrepreneurship.

Peña-Mora is best known for designing computer systems that enable multiple organizations to collaborate on complex tasks. He has developed systems that are being tested now at U.S. government training facilities to coordinate responses to natural disasters and terrorist attacks. He has also designed computer programs currently used by construction companies to avoid scheduling conflicts on large projects. This technology has been employed on Boston’s Central Artery project and on civil engineering projects in Malaysia and Puerto Rico.

Peña-Mora lived in the Dominican Republic until he was 21 and graduated from the Universidad Nacional Pedro Henríquez Ureña in Santo Domingo. During his college years, he spent summers in the Manhattan neighborhood of Washington Heights, living with his mother, a factory worker who had migrated previously. It was not until Peña-Mora was in his early twenties that he learned to speak English by attending language programs at Columbia’s Teachers College and at Riverside Church in Morningside Heights. He soon was accepted to MIT and there earned his master’s and doctorate in civil engineering.

“Both of my parents instilled in me a determination to work hard,” says Peña-Mora, who is married and has three children. “My mother always told me to be unafraid of taking chances, because that’s the only way you can win. My father, who lives in the Dominican Republic, finished high school one year before I did. He recently completed college, mainly so that my kids would know that their grandfather was educated.”

Peña-Mora is the author of more than 100 scholarly papers and the 2002 textbook Introduction to Construction Dispute Resolution. At SEAS, Peña-Mora replaces interim dean Gerald A. Navratil, who succeeded engineering dean Zvi Galil when Galil became president of Tel Aviv University in June 2007.

Says Columbia president Lee C. Bollinger: “Columbia is fortunate to welcome such a remarkable new engineering dean at a time when the school is becoming ever more central to the University’s mission, from its interdisciplinary work with our medical center in the life sciences and our Earth Institute in climate science, to its pioneering service-learning curriculum, which is a national model for civic engagement between university and community. Peña-Mora will be an outstanding leader.”

To watch a video interview with Dean Peña-Mora, visit

David J. Craig

  Kofi Annan
Kofi Annan among new Global Fellows

Kofi Annan, the former secretary-general of the United Nations, will join Columbia this fall as one of three new Global Fellows. He arrives as part of an initiative designed to bring prominent world leaders to campus to interact with students and faculty and help shape the curriculum at a time of rapid global change.

John Coatsworth, dean of the School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA), which is overseeing the program, says the fellows will present public lectures and other seminars, be available for consulting with faculty and administrators on the curriculum, and may even mentor students.

Alfred Gusenbauer  

He says the fellowship program is designed to work around the schedules of high-profile individuals, some of whom will come for a week or two at a time, and others who may decide to take up residence and teach for a semester.

In addition to Annan, this year’s inaugural fellows are Alfred Gusenbauer, the former chancellor of Austria, and Tung Chee Hwa, the former chief executive of Hong Kong. Gusenbauer was the head of the Social Democratic Party of Austria from 2000 to 2008, leading its members to win a plurality of seats in Parliament in 2006. He served as the country’s chancellor from 2007 to 2008. Tung, a businessman with strong ties to the central government, was appointed chief executive of Hong Kong in 1997, taking control from the last British governor. He oversaw the transfer of its sovereignty to the People’s Republic of China. Five years later, Tung ran for election and won. He resigned in 2005.

Annan, who shared the Nobel Peace Prize with the UN in 2001, is known for his courageous and sometimes outspoken defense of international legal norms and the rule of law. “He continues to play a significant role not only in Africa, where he has been involved in negotiations to settle internal disputes, but also more broadly on issues of global governance and conflict resolution,” Coatsworth says. Annan will serve on Columbia’s Committee on Global Thought, chaired by Nobel laureate, economist Joseph Stiglitz. He will continue to lead the Kofi Annan Foundation.

  Tung Chee Hwa

“Understanding the issues arising out of the forces of globalization is a key part of Columbia’s intellectual agenda,” says President Lee C. Bollinger. “No one can help more in that quest than the former secretary-general of the UN and international statesman Kofi Annan.”

Annan also is expected to moderate events with faculty or visiting speakers who participate in Columbia’s World Leaders Forum. He also will participate in the activities of the Earth Institute, along with its director Jeffrey Sachs, who served as a special adviser to Annan on the UN’s Millennium Development Goals.

“The Global Fellows program expands on a long tradition at the University, in particular at SIPA, of engaging world leaders in its research and educational mission,” says Coatsworth. “Policy makers from around the world serve as a bridge between faculty, students, and a global community that faces tough policy issues on a daily basis.”


  Cut back, move forward

Columbia’s endowment has taken a hit during the current economic recession, but University officials say they’ve protected the institution’s financial health through a series of short-term cost-cutting measures.

For the first nine months of fiscal year 2009, the value of the Columbia’s endowment declined about 22 percent, down from its value of approximately $7.15 billion at the end of fiscal year 2008. Based on this evaluation, the University has planned for an 8 percent reduction in endowment spending for the 2010 fiscal year.

Because Columbia’s 17 schools and colleges depend on endowment support for varying proportions of their operating budgets, the impact of the reduced spending from endowment varies across schools. Cost-cutting measures have been implemented across the University: Many salaries are being held constant, faculty search committees in some cases have been postponed, and there have been a limited number of layoffs among administrative staff. In addition, Columbia this fall will enroll about 10 percent fewer arts and sciences PhD students, who are fully supported by the University during their first five years of study.

A top priority across the University, says Provost Alan Brinkley, has been protecting financial aid budgets. Financial aid commitments have increased because more families are in need during the economic recession and because Columbia initiated a major change to its financial aid policies for Columbia College and engineering undergraduates this past academic year, eliminating all costs for families who earn less than $60,000 a year and replacing loans with grants for all families who qualify for financial aid.

President Lee C. Bollinger, in a May 6 letter to the Columbia community, pointed out that Columbia’s endowment has performed strongly compared to benchmark averages in the financial markets and university endowments nationally. “It also helps in this context that we are less dependent on our endowment than almost all of our peer universities,” he wrote. Historically, Columbia has had a much smaller endowment than other leading Ivy League institutions.

While Columbia’s endowment has declined in value and endowment gifts have slowed in recent months, the University continues to see growth in most other revenue streams, such as tuition, sponsored research, and patient care. Student applications have increased dramatically in several schools and colleges, some of which are increasing enrollment slightly in order to boost tuition revenue; Columbia College has increased the size of its incoming freshman class by 50 students.

As a result, Columbia’s trustees in June were able to pass a $3 billion budget for fiscal year 2010 that is relatively flat, representing a $12 million, or 0.4 percent, increase over last year’s budget. (The budget grew 3.6 percent last year.)

The University’s cost-cutting measures have assured the overall financial health of the University, according to Bollinger. Both Moody’s and Standard and Poor’s reaffirmed their highest credit rating, Aaa and AAA respectively, for Columbia this spring. Columbia hasn’t had to issue bonds to meet its cash-flow needs, as have many other universities.

“They have a relatively conservative debt structure so they haven’t had as many of the liquidity issues as other institutions,” said Moody’s vice president Kim Tuby, speaking of Columbia University, in the New York Times June 16. “Their fund-raising and student-market position are incredibly strong.”

Another piece of good news is that alumni and friends have sustained their levels of giving for current budgetary needs, such as through unrestricted gifts to annual funds that schools use at their discretion and gifts that can be used immediately for specific purposes such as financial aid. Development officers say that current use giving is important especially during tight economic times because these gifts provide a direct shot in the arm to operating budgets.

“Columbia obviously needs to continue its endowment fundraising, but the annual fund gifts and other current use gifts have an immediate and profound impact on our academic programs,” says Susan Feagin, executive vice president of university development and alumni relations. “We’ve reached out to our alumni to ask them to step up to the plate during these times, and there’s been an amazing response to support current use needs. This keeps the University moving forward, and we’re extremely grateful to our alumni for their generosity.”

[This article contains a correction made on July 24. An earlier version of the article included an estimate of the value of Columbia’s endowment as of the end of fiscal year 2009, but that estimate was premature and unofficial.]


Gregory Mosher, director of the Arts Initiative, Elizabeth Davis, Columbia’s music librarian, and Bob George, the director of the Archive of Contemporary Music (ARC), are collaborating to make ARC’s two million pop-music recordings available to Columbia researchers.  
Keep those records playing

“You can’t judge a civilization’s art in its own time,” says Bob George, the director of the Archive of Contemporary Music (ARC). “That’s why you collect everything.”

George has spent the past 24 years collecting art whose value is ephemeral practically by design: pop music. His New York City–based archive, which contains the world’s largest collection of modern popular and roots music, has preserved two million recordings by nearly every rock ’n’ roll, folk, country, jazz, soul, rap, and rhythm-and-blues artist to ride the airwaves from the mid-20th century to the present, from Abba to Zappa. Some of the holdings are widely coveted — a blues collection funded by Keith Richards features original records by the likes of Robert Johnson and John Lee Hooker — while others are strictly in the “it’s-cool-if-you-can-recall-it” category.

“Ever heard of Bert Sommer?” George asks, rhetorically. “Me either. He’s some guy who played at Woodstock and whose records have long been out of print. The filmmaker Ang Lee wanted one of his songs for a movie, and he found it here.”

Columbia recently entered into a cooperative agreement with ARC to provide the nonprofit archive technical support and to increase access to the holdings. Columbia libraries will help ARC catalog online bibliographic data for all its material. Only a portion now is represented in an electronic database, and that database is technologically outdated and must be reconstructed to be made easily searchable.

“The idea is to make the holdings searchable from Columbia’s own Web space,” says Damon Jaggers, Columbia’s associate university librarian for collections and services, who brokered the partnership. “Researchers then will be able to see quickly what exists.”

University officials envision that faculty and students will visit ARC more frequently to conduct research. Currently, George and his staff of music experts spend most of their time doing research for the music industry for small fees: Record companies often need help identifying the original source of an obscure piece of music sampled in a hip-hop track that the company plans to release. Other times, companies are looking to scan artwork from an LP that they plan to rerelease but for which no good copies can be found.

Columbia’s music librarian, Elizabeth Davis, is now organizing a faculty advisory committee to recommend how professors might integrate the materials in their teaching. The Arts Initiative at Columbia, which works with outside cultural institutions to make the arts an everyday part of campus life, is planning to organize joint events with the archive, as well.

The archive’s music is not yet available for listening online, but Columbia’s libraries hope eventually to post online audio files of some of the archive’s rare sound recordings that no longer are copyright protected, says Jaggers.

Of particular interest to scholars will be the archive’s extensive holdings of African-American music, says Jaggers. “Departments of sociology, history, and area studies have been studying the cultures of blues, jazz, and hip-hop a lot in the past 20 years,” he says. “The archive has a big collection of world music, as well.”

Says George: “I want to get this music out to Columbia and to the broader world. We have recordings that no one else has, and, just as important, we have a huge amount of material all in one place. When you spend time here, you’re constantly being hit by all the music you didn’t know about. That’s the way I want the archive to be used — for discovery.”



Peter Kim ’09GS, Sean O’Keefe ’13GS, Joel Ramirez ’13GS, and David Kagan ’09GS are among about 100 veterans who studied at Columbia this past academic year. As many as 300 veterans are expected to attend Columbia this fall as part of a new enhancement to the Post-9/11 GI Bill.
Hundreds of veterans to attend Columbia under enhanced GI Bill

David Kagan ’09GS dropped out of high school at 16 and joined the army at 18.

“I was not on the track to college as a teenager,” says Kagan, of Rockland County, N.Y. “Pretty much everyone knew that.”

Ten months after parachuting into Iraq with the 173rd Airborne Brigade in March 2003, Kagan took another uncertain leap. Back in New York, he started taking classes at a community college. (He earned his GED before he enlisted.) His first semester was rocky, and he considered returning to the service, but Kagan gradually became convinced that a liberal arts education was a better long-term investment. He then was accepted into Columbia’s School of General Studies (GS), which offers nontraditional students an education in the same classes with traditional undergraduates.

This May, Kagan graduated magna cum laude with a degree in American studies. Later this year, he will take the Foreign Service Exam in hopes of serving his country once again in the Middle East.

Beginning this fall, Columbia will help many more veterans like Kagan fulfill their intellectual aspirations when it participates in a new federal program to fund higher education for Americans who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

All of Columbia’s graduate and professional schools, along with the School of General Studies, have elected to participate in the Yellow Ribbon Program, through which the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs provides institutions of higher education dollar-for-dollar matching funds to cover any outstanding tuition and fees above the base benefit of the Post-9/11 GI Bill. The bill ordinarily covers only a portion of a private school’s cost — equivalent to that of the most expensive public school tuition in the state.

“We’re responding to a national interest and a community interest,” says Laurie Schaffler, university director of financial aid. “We’re acknowledging that soldiers go to war and risk their lives for us.”

The School of General Studies has pledged to support student veterans at the highest possible level so that they can attend for free. Each of Columbia’s participating schools and colleges is determining how much money it will offer to be matched by the government. Altogether, about 300 seats have been set aside for student veterans in the next academic year at a cost to the University of approximately $1 million.

More than 100 student veterans already study at Columbia. Approximately 60 of them attend the School of General Studies, which was founded in 1947 in large part to educate military personnel returning from World War II. Among Ivy League schools, Columbia has the largest number of student veterans in bachelor’s degree programs primarily because of the opportunities that GS offers nontraditional students. There is already a supportive culture for vets at the school: The student organization U.S. Military Veterans of Columbia University, or MilVets, has been active since 2002, bringing its members together for friendship and support.

Columbia students can benefit from having veterans on campus because they bring a unique life experience to intellectual discussions, says Professor Andrew Delbanco, who taught Kagan in a seminar on war and American culture. “David conveyed the sense that the books we read, and our interpretations of them, are not to be held to the standards of some passing academic fashion, but must be put to the test of whether they help us meet the challenge of living in the contemporary world,” he says. “In that regard, I learned at least as much from him as he did from me.”

To learn about Yellow Ribbon, visit

Joshua J. Friedman ’08JRN

Columbia College freshman Brendan Doyle tied for eighth place at the Ivy League Championships in May while helping the Lions successfully defend their team title.  
Lions on the fairway

The Columbia men’s golf team in May won the Ivy title for the second consecutive year, beating out the University of Pennsylvania by a single stroke at the Atlantic City Country Club. Columbia shot a final round of 284 to come from third place and take the title. That win gave the Lions the privilege of hosting 14 of the top men’s golf programs from around the country at the NCAA Division I Men’s Golf Northeast Regional at Galloway National Golf Club in Galloway, New Jersey, later that month.

In helping the Lions win the Ivy League title, Clark Granum was Columbia’s top individual finisher, tying for fifth place. He shot a one over par for the tournament. Columbians Brendan Doyle and Austin Quinten also finished in the top ten. The Lions went on to lose to Alabama in the NCAA tournament.

The Double Discovery Class of 2009 commenced at Low Library May 16.
Upward and onward

Columbia’s Double Discovery Center (DDC) held its 44th annual commencement exercises May 16 at Low Library, celebrating the high-school graduations of 167 teenagers in its two youth programs, Upward Bound and Talent Search.

Founded in 1965 by Columbia students, faculty, and alumni, DDC provides year-round academic counseling and personal support to local teens at risk of not finishing high school. Among outgoing participants this year was Mariany Polanco, a Washington Heights resident who will attend Barnard College.

She’ll be joined at Columbia by fellow DDC alumna Karima Jackson, who will be a freshman at Columbia College. “There has never been a moment,” says Jackson, “that I’m not amazed by just how much the program is a part of my life.”


In brief

Law students battle bigotry in Dominican Republic

The Columbia Law School Human Rights Clinic in April filed a human rights brief against the Dominican Republic, charging that the country is violating international human rights law by deporting dark-skinned people without cause.

“Dominican officials rounded up innocent civilians, including children, in some cases in the middle of the night, and held them in buses and prisons for hours without access to food, water, bathrooms, or telephones, before sending them across the border,” said Caroline Bettinger-López, deputy director of the law school’s Human Rights Institute, which incorporates the human rights clinic. “The Dominican government targeted the victims in this case — many of whom speak Spanish and not Haitian Creole — for deportation simply because they were dark-skinned or had Haitian-sounding names. At no point was there any attempt to determine their nationality before exiling them to Haiti.”

The brief was filed before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, an organ of the Organization of American States, in Washington, D.C., which together with the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, based in San José, Costa Rica, monitors and promotes human rights in the Western Hemisphere. The human rights clinic’s brief seeks an end to routine expulsions without notice or a fair hearing by Dominican immigration authorities.

Dart Center moves to Columbia

The Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University is the new home for the Dart Center for Journalism & Trauma, a project devoted to improving media reporting on violence, conflict, and traumatic events. It offers seminars, training, and consultation to journalists and media organizations; its Web site,, offers tips for journalists and curricula for journalism instructors to teach sensitivity in reporting on issues surrounding violence.

The Dart Center at Columbia is being supported by a $7 million, five-year gift from the Dart Foundation of Mason, Michigan. The center’s executive director is Bruce Shapiro, a veteran human rights reporter and a contributing editor at The Nation who has taught investigative journalism at Yale for many years. Shapiro also directed the Dart Center at its former headquarters at the University of Washington.

The Dart Center operates international satellite programs, in London and Melbourne, as well as a research center at the University of Tulsa’s department of psychology. The Dart Center retains an office at the University of Washington.

Adolescent mental health in crisis

Researchers at the National Center for Children in Poverty (NCCP), part of the Mailman School of Public Health, report that 20 percent of all adolescents have a diagnosable mental disorder and that among youth in the juvenile justice system, the proportion is 70 percent.

About one-third of these young people with diagnosable conditions do not receive the care they need. The implications are numerous. According to the study, the consequences of untreated mental-health problems include poor school performance, dropping out, and increases in drug use and risk taking. The NCCP published its findings in June, in a fact sheet titled “Adolescent Mental Health in the United States: Facts for Policymakers,” which can be found online at


CASE pours praise on Columbia

Columbia magazine won a gold medal for periodicals staff writing and four other honors this spring from the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE). It is the second consecutive year that Columbia was recognized with multiple awards by CASE, a professional organization with more than 3400 university members. The magazine won a bronze medal for college and university general-interest magazines with a circulation of 75,000 and higher.

Senior editor David J. Craig won a silver medal for “Overbooked,” his Spring 2008 article on how university libraries wrestle with providing access to their digitized book collections. Senior writer Paul Hond won a silver for “The Great Debaters,” about alumnus William Neal Brown’s 1961 debate with Malcolm X, which ran in the Winter 2008 issue. Daniel Bejar won a silver medal for his illustration for the Summer 2008 cover, “The Big Drain,” which was commissioned by the magazine.


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