Grace Ann Bickers

Grace is a rising junior in Columbia College. She is majoring in Human Rights with a concentration in History. Her academic work focuses on the South Asian region. She is learning Arabic, Persian and German to support her study. This summer, she hopes to mobilize her knowledge of South Asia to build a comparative model of policy approaches as they are influenced by the government, civil society, and NGOs. She will apply these experiences to her own research interests, the sustainable development of Afghanistan, and further academic goals of pursuing a graduate degree in International Education Development. Professionally, Grace has worked as an intern for a UN-accredited NGO and currently holds the position of editor of Columbia Spectator blog Spectrum. Grace has also traveled internationally. During a high school trip to Germany, she discovered how personal contacts with local people and oral histories enriched her understanding of East German history. She hopes to reproduce these experiences during her summer trip to China and India, coupling rigorous academic research with more free-form cultural experiences.


Angel Chen

Angel is a rising senior at Columbia College. She is majoring in Urban Studies and has coupled her personal interest in health and medicine with her academic pursuits by completing a concentration in Biology and taking classes in the pre-med curriculum. While abroad, Angel hopes to draw upon a current research project involving zoning, land use, and community organizing in New York City’s East Village and Chinatown as a point of comparison for her summer research. She then plans to use the skills and data she collects and apply them to her thesis project next year, giving a transnational perspective to her analysis of land use and community organization. As the child of immigrants from China, Angel has traveled extensively in Southern China, and has had the opportunity to observe development in Guangzhou. She is fascinated by the changing physical and social makeup of the city, as development projects and an influx of migrant workers systematically restructure it. Angel has also studied in China; as a high school sophomore she participated in a Beijing Normal University language program. However, she believes that this and her other international experiences thus far have largely been limited to that a tourist. This summer, she hopes will deepen her exposure and build robust international research skills.


Connie Cheng

Connie is a rising senior at Barnard College. She is majoring in architecture. Inspired by a campus lecture given by the architect Shigeru Ban, she hopes to follow his advice and develop her architectural skills through extensive travel and multicultural exposure. Connie has worked to incorporate international awareness and social sensitivity in a recent project completed for a studio seminar on humanitarian design titled; “Special Topics Making Merging: Emergency Architecture Using the Body as Source.” Her final project culminated in a design of a Jakarta- based filtration system made of plastic bottles and waste materials that uses fungi to rid rivers of waterborne diseases and pollutants. This project required Connie to complete in-depth research on various aspects of the local environment. Often frustrated by language barriers and a general lack of technical coverage, Connie finally succeeded in designing a structure with practical use and social significance. She hopes that the summer program in China and India will allow her to learn to deal with and overcome similar frustrations more efficiently. As part of an academic team, not traveling merely as a tourist, she furthermore believes she will acquire greater adaptability and exposure to social issues that will allow her to fulfill Ban’s advice to gain international exposure.


Mark Choi

Mark is a rising junior at Columbia College. He is majoring in Economics - Philosophy. An avid travel and hiker, he has explored many countries, including China and India. During these trips, however, Mark felt like an external observer, unable to access the pressing social issues impacting the areas he visited. Since he began his studies at Columbia, including a summer semester language program in Beijing, the economics curriculum has helped him better understand rising economies, urbanization, and slum reform in an academic and transnational context. He is furthermore interested in the urban-rural divide in China and different strategies deployed by local communities in areas of recycling, waste services, and sustainability. Combining these personal and academic experiences, Mark hopes to study issues such as overcrowding, problems of water supply, and public health in the two cities. He believes that direct engagement with NGOs and local residents will enrich his engagement with communities that he has already visited and become fascinated by.


Michael William Darmstadt

Michael is a rising senior at General Studies. He is majoring in East Asian Languages and Cultures, specifically contemporary Chinese history. He arrived at Columbia after studying at the Borough of Manhattan Community College and Johnson State College. Michael’s senior thesis addresses the rise of luxury automotive manufacturing in China and the links of this industry with the economic growth and social changes instigated by the 1980s economic reforms. He has also studied at Columbia’s summer language program in Beijing. Outside of his studies, Michael is an active participant in the Asia Pacific Affairs Council and Future China Initiative. He also has experience working in the private sector, both as an employee in a larger enterprise and as an entrepreneur involved in developing residential solar panel and wind turbine installation. An avid outdoorsman, Michael also enjoys backpacking and hiking. He hopes that the summer program in China and India will help him accomplish his dream of connecting environmental consciousness with mainstream global culture.


Cecilia Hackerson

Cecilia is a rising senior at Columbia College. She is majoring in Urban Studies with a concentration in Anthropology. She believes that her academic work and focus on the intersection between development, public health, and human rights has given her valuable skills to approach an increasingly urban world. Her extensive experience living and studying abroad in Brazil, Nepal, and Rwanda compliment her time at Columbia in shaping her current academic and professional interests. Through such exposures to academic theory and real-life situations, she has learned to pose difficult questions about social interactions in slum areas, which she studied in Kathmandu. Issues of caste hierarchy, water supply, land rights, and intense legal and social competition, complicate life for marginalized communities. Cecilia works to understand how the government addresses this population, and the best ways for municipal government, communities, and developers to balance responsibility and achieve sustainability. She believes that her on-the-ground work in Kathmandu will add comparative rigor to the fieldwork the group completes this summer in Mumbai.


JiYoon Jenny Han

JiYoon is a rising senior at Columbia College. She is majoring in Economics-Philosophy, with a specific focus on economic development in Southeast Asia. She is also interested in Korean literature. As an immigrant from Korea in the fourth grade, JiYoon has acclimated and succeeded academically in the United States despite an initial language and cultural barrier. She prides herself on her adaptability to new cultures, people, and places, a skill she believes will be useful this summer. After graduation, her professional goal includes working on a hygiene awareness campaign in Mucahar Community in Nepal with Dr. Tiwari, the leader of the International NGO WaterAid Nepal. Her internship with the Puerto Rico Community Foundation, where she worked with the coordinator of New Haiti Project to place displaced Haitian students in Puerto Rico has prepared her for the rigorous work involved with WaterAid Nepal. Back in New York, she is a research assistant for Professor Pierre Yared and Emi Nakamura at the Columbia Business School. She assists in developing materials for a core MBA course titled “Global Economic Environment.” JiYoon believes that her previous personal, professional, and academic experience will allow her to make a rich contribution to the summer program, and further develop skills that will benefit her future career.


Joshua A. Lewin-Jacus

Joshua is a rising junior at Columbia College. He is majoring in Economics and Philosophy and Science. He has broadened his academic curriculum by pursuing concentrations in History and English, and studying Spanish and Hebrew. With the professional goal of becoming a professor- activist, Joshua has also participated in several external research projects and internships that touch on diverse issues facing the global community. He has successfully completed research and trip planning projects for both the Ethiopia based NGO Seeds of Africa and the Rutgers University Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences as a research intern. His broad exposure in formal academic and professional fields is strengthened by personal experiences during a high school semester abroad program in Israel and his relationship with Holocaust-survivor grandparents. Taken together, these experiences inform Joshua’s worldview and desire to work for cross-regional understanding and peaceful development.


Pablo Mota

Pablo is a rising senior at the School of General Studies, Columbia University. He is majoring in Urban Studies with a specialization in Sociology. He is deeply interested in furthering economic development in urban centers of emerging economies like that of his native Mexico. Pablo has brought this passion to the classroom at Columbia, where he studied Valle de Chalco, the largest slum in Mexico. This research has piqued his interest in comparative approaches, and he hopes to combine the former project with an analysis of the Dharavi slums in Mumbai. Having already studied in Brazil, Pablo is eager to learn more about other BRIC countries and the role they will play in the future of the world economy. He looks forward to working with a cohort of diverse students and faculty to learn new ways of collaborating and understanding issues in emerging economies. Though he is an avid traveler with much experience abroad, Pablo believes that a trip with an academic purpose will deepen his knowledge in an academic and professional area that is close to his heart.


Tao Yang

Tao is a rising junior at General Studies. He is majoring in Economics – Political Science. Born to a family of Uyghur descent in western China, Tao moved with his family to Guangzhou when he was 12. As internal migrants, Tao’s family was beset with many problems, including the issue of not having local residency which precluded Tao from studying in the city’s elite schools. His life characterized by the promise and pitfalls of China’s great urbanization of the past several decades, Tao succeeded in his pursuit of an excellent education and is now studying at a premiere institution. He hopes to become a political essayist and is inspired by the slum economy of Dharavi as a subject of his work. With diverse personal and professional experiences, including extensive backpacking in the heart of China and working at a restaurant in New York, Tao hopes his unique skill-set will benefit the program.


Stephanie Ting Zhang

Stephanie is a rising senior at Columbia College. She is majoring in Sociocultural Anthropology. Her personal experience as a first generation American and student ambassador to Europe in high school combine to create a deep interest in foreign cultures. Stephanie believes her position as an anthropology student has given her unique and flexible access to many academic disciplines in studying these cultures. Taking courses devoted to the study of new media in global context and the intersection of capitalism and authoritarianism have given her exposure to market practice and media from an anthropological perspective. She has rounded out her curriculum through the study of Chinese history and a slew of language classes in Spanish, French, Italian, and Mandarin. Stephanie has also traveled extensively as a backpacker in Europe, where she learned to interact with people of many nationalities in similar situations. At home, she contributes to community service projects and works as a contributing writer for Consilience, the Columbia Journal of Sustainable Environment. She hopes that the research she completes this summer will be useful in anthropological projects she undertakes in the future.