Columbia Global Centers (CGC) have been busy establishing themselves. With eight centers across the world in Chile, Brazil, France, Jordan, Kenya, Turkey, India, and China, the directors are finding exactly how they can best fit in to the Columbia sphere. To that end, a week-long Directors’ Summit was held last week, closing with a student luncheon in Faculty House. Globetrotter Alexandra Svokos stole a bottle of Perrier.
Garden Room #2 was reminiscent of a Columbia-centric Model UN on Friday as representatives from each undergraduate and graduate school lunched with
committee chairs the directors of the Global Centers. Name placards, but no flags. Every student present—with the exception of yours truly and two Spec reporters—was on their school’s student council or university senate. They were invited to discuss how the Global Centers could be beneficial to their programs or what problems the students foresaw. Secretary General VP of CGC and Director of the Amman Center Safwan Masri led the discussion. He insisted that Columbia’s centers are distinguished from those of other universities as they are not “just opening a campus in another place” to increase the amount of students and thus up income. Instead, they will be principled locations with plenty of research opportunities and interconnected work between both Columbia centers and non-affiliated facilities. When asked if the CGC are supposed to be focused on learning about other countries, Masri stated that the experience there is “not study abroad” but rather focused on learning at high standards with a global perspective.
There is a huge variety of ways students can use the CGC as the centers are attempting to find their place at the university. For undergraduate students, they can be used as study abroad centers and research locations. The Fifth Year Fellows program is being piloted and the Global Scholars Program expanded. The directors are also looking into Global Core programming.
When asked what would impede classmates to study abroad, Cathy Chen, VP of the Engineering Graduate Student Council, made the point that it is more difficult for science students to study abroad. Most importantly, it is difficult to find cutting-edge research facilities outside of Columbia. In response, Thomas Trebat, Director of the Rio de Janeiro CGC, explained that the new center in Brazil is to focus initially on science and engineering. In fact, PrezBo just signed an agreement on that the night before.
The representative from SAS posited that Ph.D candidates rely heavily on advisors who have their own international connections, thus making CGC both more difficult to study at and less necessary. Not so, Masri insisted. If you’re studying Middle Age history, he explained, CGC can set you up with an office in Reid Hall and will contact facilities in Paris. Paul LeClerc, Director of Europe CGC, wrote his thesis on Voltaire. “If CGC had existed,” Masri went on, “he could have studied at the Sorbonne.” LeClerc clarified that the CGC work is supplemental to advisors, since obviously they already have great networks. But Global Centers can gain students access to information, national libraries, archives, etc. “Our job is to facilitate the education and research opportunities of Columbia University students.”
Indeed, CGC directors were adamant that they are there to help students have opportunities previously difficult to come by in other countries. In Mumbai, for example, students studied public schools in the city and developed programs to improve them. CGC would be there to open doors to local places, but also to welcome students into their own facilities. Brune Biebuyck, Administrative Director at Reid Hall, told the group that students from the Mailman School of Public Health were in Paris practicing onsite in hospitals. However, they used Reid Hall for offices and conference spaces. Additionally, Reid Hall provided French classes.
The conversation moved on to the topic of video education. The students were asked if it should be further looked into and were met with a resounding “yes.” This would include video conferences and “beaming speakers into classrooms.” Jung-Hee Hyun, Barnard SGA, said that there was a class at Barnard co-taught by one professor at Barnard and one in Mumbai. Based on this example, she said, video education should center on interaction rather than just one place talking at another.
CGC are also open to alumni. They are being used as places of gathering with speaker series, conferences, and talks. But the New York campus is already a place of gathering. When the directors of the centers are in New York, they love to meet with students. They are more than willing to talk about their center and its location at meetings and classes. To end the luncheon, Chaplain Davis concluded that the CGC would provide interesting programs for all CU students. She volunteered herself to meet with any student groups on campus to discuss the centers—as long as the meetings are no later than 10 pm.
Masri closed by saying it wasn’t a coincidence that the last day of the summit was focused on students. “We like students,” he confirmed, saying that we are the main concern of the CGC. Then Bwog sold all of our dark blue for each student’s lions, so I guess that means we won—right?