Apr

23

Professor Nicholas Dirks is the GS Class Day Speaker

Written by

The man himself
The man himself

The man himself

GS students just learned the details of their class day speakers. The keynote speaker will be Professor Nicholas Dirks,  Chancellor Designate of the University of California at Berkeley and the Executive Vice President and Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Columbia University from 2004 through 2012, among other distinctions. Dean Awn says:

Throughout his tenure at Columbia, Professor Dirks has played a leading role in the advancement of the School of General Studies.  He is a true friend and supporter of GS, and I am honored that he will be addressing us at our Class Day.

What will he talk about? Well, he’s currently working on a book concerning the last years of British rule in India and the growing role of the United States in South Asia, as well as a book entitled, The University and the World: The Opening of the American Mind.  Should be interesting.

There will be three other speakers at GS’s Class day: Valedictorian  Ben Shababo, and two Salutatorians, Damian Harris-Hernandez and Tiekka Tellier.

Dear Graduating Seniors,

I look forward to celebrating your graduation at the GS Class Day ceremony and reception on Monday, May 20 at 9 a.m., and again at the University’s 259th Commencement on Wednesday, May 22 at 10:30 a.m.

Class Day is a magnificent event that celebrates you and your fellow graduates and the impressive achievements of the Class of 2013. At Class Day each one of you will be presented by name to the president or provost of Columbia, assembled faculty, and guests. We will have four speakers at Class Day.

This year’s Class Day keynote speaker is Professor Nicholas Dirks, Chancellor Designate of the University of California at Berkeley (He will take office on June 1, 2013.). Professor Dirks was the Executive Vice President and Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Columbia University from 2004 through 2012 in addition to being the Franz Boas Professor of Anthropology and Professor of History since 1997. He graduated from Wesleyan University in 1972 with a BA in African and Asian Studies and received his PhD in South Asian History from the University of Chicago in 1981. Professor Dirks has been on the faculty of numerous higher education institutions, including California Institute of Technology, University of Michigan, and London School of Economics. In his leadership role at Columbia, Professor Dirks was responsible for academic and financial planning for 29 departments, 35 institutes and centers, and 6 schools.

As a scholar, Professor Dirks published a number of books and articles on subjects ranging from the history and anthropology of South Asia to social and cultural theory, the history of imperialism, historiography, cultural studies, and globalization. He has done extensive archival and field research in India as well as in Britain. He is currently working on a book concerning the last years of British rule in India and the growing role of the United States in South Asia, as well as a book entitled, The University and the World: The Opening of the American Mind.

Professor Dirks has held numerous fellowships and scholarships and received several scholarly honors, including a residential fellowship at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and the Lionel Trilling Award for his book Castes of Mind. He also serves on numerous national and international bodies, as advisor or member of the board, and is a Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Throughout his tenure at Columbia, Professor Dirks has played a leading role in the advancement of the School of General Studies. He is a true friend and supporter of GS, and I am honored that he will be addressing us at our Class Day.

The Valedictorian of the Class of 2013 is Ben Shababo. A native of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Ben studied filmmaking at Temple University before leaving school early to pursue a professional career as an editor and sound designer in New York City. Ben’s editing experience sparked a curiosity in cognition and the way the brain ‘edits’ our interaction with the world. This in turn led to a deep interest in the brain sciences and a desire to return to the classroom. While at Columbia, Ben majored in neuroscience and behavior with a concentration in computer science. He conducted research in the labs of Hakwan Lau (visual perception), Peter Allen (brain-computer interfaces, robotics), Giulio Tononi (U. Wisconsin – Madison, consciousness), Liam Paninski (data analysis), and Rafael Yuste (neural circuitry). Ben is also the co-founder of Neurostorm, a weekly neuroscience journal club. After graduation, he will take a year to continue his research on mapping neural microcircuits with Dr. Paninski and Dr. Yuste before pursuing a PhD. Ben lives in Manhattan with his wife, Tracey and newborn daughter, July.

This year we have two Salutatorians of the Class of 2013, Damian Harris-Hernandez and Tiekka Tellier.

Damian Harris-Hernandez grew up in Portland, Oregon, but left soon after high school to travel the country and the world. He alternated between working and travelling for eight years before deciding to take his real-world learning indoors. Inspired by his experiences abroad, Damian studied modern and Ottoman Turkish in Columbia’s Middle Eastern, South Asian & African Studies department. He wrote his senior thesis on Ottoman detective fiction. Before pursuing a master’s degree in Turkish literature in Istanbul, he plans to take a year off to work on several translation projects. Damian lives in Brooklyn with his wife, Jennifer.

California native Tiekka Tellier is a former ballet dancer, professionally known as Tiekka Schofield. She left high school to pursue a career with the Houston Ballet that took her around the globe. She performed leading roles for royalty, presidents, and diplomats on many of the world’s great stages. After a sixteen year career, Tiekka started a family and taught ballet before moving to New York in 2006. In 2009 she began her academic journey at GS, applying the energy and commitment that characterized her ballet career to her studies. She majored in art history with the goal of uniting her education, career experience, and enthusiasm to make a unique impact in the realm of the visual and performing arts. As the working, single mother of a special needs child, Tiekka has not yet had the opportunity to plan an exact future. After graduation, she will continue to teach ballet as she explores career opportunities in the art world and work with organizations that deal with children and Autism.

Our four featured speakers are bound to make our graduation celebration a dynamic and memorable event.

For more on graduation activities and ceremonies, as well as a graduation checklist, please see the Graduation section of the GS website, a comprehensive source of information for questions about academic regalia, forwarding email from your Columbia account after graduation, guest lodging, and many other topics. Additionally, I look forward to seeing you at Wednesday afternoon’s Graduation Kick-Off in the GS Lounge.

Congratulations once again, and I look forward to celebrating this great accomplishment with you in May.

Sincerely,
Professor Peter J. Awn
Dean

Columbia University School of General Studies

Professor Dirks via WikiCu

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27 Comments

  1. Wow  

    GS is really broke.

  2. Anonymous

    is this a joke LOL

  3. pretty sure  

    this guy plays center for the Hornets

  4. Anonymous  

    Two years in a row, Columbia shits on GS Class Day in a way that would never come to pass at any other part of the university. This is one subject I should probably take Dean Awn's word on...but if Dirks was "a real friend of GS" while Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences for eight years then maybe we'd have more of a voice here.

  5. Anonymous  

    You know, by definition all of us could have been treated so well at some pretty great colleges, with full scholarships and honors programs, but the admissions officers here said that GS was a respected part of Columbia. I've got nothing against Dirks, but they just threw away the Columbia requirement that our speaker has to be an alum because fuck GS?

  6. anon  

    Just finished writing a paper that cited Dirks like five times. He is the fucking boss, and pretty famous in the field of anthropology. But I get how that may not be appealing....

    • Student

      He's also about to be chancellor at UC Berkeley. It is a ln extrmely prestigious position, that was once held by Clark Kerr, who delivered what is widely considered one of the most seminal speeches mapping out the trajectory of modern education at the university level.

      Prof. Dirks is a big name in the academic community.

  7. GS Class Day 2013  

    EXT. Day. Columbia University, Morningside Heights Campus. Graduating GS students shuffle in their seats, scrolling through Twitter feeds. Dirks is at the podium talking.

    Dirks: ...and to conclude, that is why postcolonialism is right.

    GS veterans who are going into finance: kay

  8. It seems  

    being a parent of a grad is close enough. Reverse legacy?

  9. GS '13  

    GS class day speakers are chosen for their academic merit and their ability to make GSers whine about how unfair life at Columbia was for them.

  10. Alum

    The College's rule is that the class day speaker must be an alum, a faculty member or the parent of a student. GS doesn't have a similar rule, but Dirks would qualify even if it did.

  11. ?!?!

    I don't get how this is the SECOND TIME this guy's picture has shown up on this website and I have had to be the first to point out that BITCHIN UNIBROW.

  12. Anonymous  

    i'm still expecting his unibrow to fly away

  13. Anonymous  

    Just saw this guy leaving the 116th St gate... I wonder what he is doing here already.

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