Photo by John Pinderhughes
Director of Outreach Programs, Columbia Engineering
Years at Columbia
What She Does
Ford directs several programs that bring students from New York City area public schools to the engineering school for lab tours and send Columbia faculty, students and researchers to local schools to talk about engineering and science. She also oversees an intensive six-week summer research program that gives students from local partner schools hands-on lab experience; and she is launching another program for high school students to take engineering courses at Columbia.
Road to Columbia
A Columbia College alumna, Ford moved to Berlin after graduating in 1999 and taught English to young professionals and at corporations. She also worked with a fellow College alum whose startup, EuroCheapo, offered reviews and resources for traveling around Europe on a budget.
Relocating to London in 2001, Ford covered human interest stories as a reporter for the BBC World Service and then returned to New York City as a producer for the city-run NYC TV. After three years in media, Ford said she was convinced that “education was a much better alignment of my values and what I want to put my time, energy and talent toward.” She enrolled in an international educational development master’s program at Teachers College and simultaneously got a job as a file manager at Columbia’s Office of the General Counsel. “Lawyers love their paper!” she said.
In 2008, she took a position with Community Impact, the University’s student volunteer organization—in which she had participated as an undergraduate. Two years later, Ford joined the Columbia College Double Discovery Center, which supports college access programs for high-achieving high school students from low income or first-generation families. She led research and grant writing efforts and worked on Freedom and Citizenship, a program that allows rising high school seniors to experience Columbia courses that are modeled after the College’s Core Curriculum.
Best Part of the Job
As director of outreach programs, Ford interacts with Columbia students, faculty and staff as well as community members, public school teachers and K-12 students. “I love fielding the ideas of brilliant and passionate people, then translating these visions into concrete programs that help the community,” she said. “I also find fulfillment in supporting quality education for public schools, which face so many challenges, particularly in this city.”
Most Memorable Moment
Ford traveled to China as part of her studies in the executive MBA program at Columbia Business School. “It was incredible to not only visit a country that is different in so many ways, but also to really see it from the inside by meeting with business leaders, visiting companies and getting a full immersion in the culture,” she said. “Sharing the experience with classmates helped solidify friendships, working relationships and lifelong memories.”
In Her Spare Time
Ford is a member of the weekly Afro-Caribbean Dance and Movement class at the Mark Morris Dance Center; a book club founder; a fitness fanatic; and a longtime tennis player who is adding squash to her repertoire. She can often be found playing bass with her band, The High Fives.
—By Melanie A. Farmer