Columbia University Establishes Global Centers in South Asia and Europe
In a coordinated effort to further enhance its global perspective in teaching, research and problem solving, Columbia University is establishing the Columbia Global Center/South Asia in Mumbai, India, and the Columbia Global Center/Europe in Paris, France.
|L-R: Columbia President Lee C. Bollinger; Digvijaya Singh, general secretary, All India Congress Committee; Professor Jeffrey D. Sachs; Indu Shahani, sheriff, Mumbai and principal, H.R. College, University of Mumbai
Image credit: Kuni Takahashi
The Mumbai center is the fourth in a growing network of international centers that the University is developing to promote and facilitate new collaborations, research projects, academic programming and study abroad to address the interdisciplinary challenges of an increasingly global society. Last year, Columbia opened its first two global centers, for East Asia in Beijing, China, and for the Middle East in Amman, Jordan. The Paris center opened last week.
“The University is proud to mark the opening of our next Columbia Global Center in Mumbai,” says President Lee C. Bollinger. “It is essential that our students and faculty know and understand more about our world and we are committed to providing new opportunities to deepen our engagement with scholars, ideas and challenges across the globe. Columbia’s intellectual history and engagement in South Asia have deep roots and our global center in India will allow us to build on this foundation in new and innovative ways that enhance our knowledge and contribute to society.”
While some U.S. universities have built branch campuses and degree-granting schools abroad, Columbia is taking a different path. The Columbia Global Centers provide flexible regional hubs for a wide range of activities and resources intended to enhance the quality of research and learning at the University and around the world. The mission is to establish and nurture a network of partnerships in international capitals to collaboratively address complex global challenges by bringing together scholars, students, public officials, private enterprise, and innovators from a broad range of fields.
South Asian scholarship at Columbia is led by more than 50 faculty members in associated fields, including a number of endowed academic chairs. More than 1,700 undergraduates, 800 graduate students and 65 doctoral candidates are enrolled in these regional studies. More than 130 non-language courses with South Asian content are offered in 13 departments. Last year, more than a dozen Columbia faculty members traveled to India to present their research findings and to work on collaborative projects.
According to Executive Vice President for Arts and Science Nick Dirks, himself a scholar of India’s history and culture, Columbia has a deep academic history in the subcontinent. More than 800 Columbia alumni now live in India, and noted faculty members include Jagdish Bhagwati, University Professor in economics and law, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, University Professor in English and comparative literature, anthropologist Partha Chatterjee, philosopher Akeel Bilgrami, and humanities professor Gauri Viswanathan, to name a few. Perhaps the most famous Columbian from India is B.R. Ambedkar, who received his Ph.D. in political science in 1927. Ambedkar was the founding leader of India’s Dalit movement, as well as the primary drafter of the Indian constitution of 1949.
The Mumbai opening ceremonies include welcoming remarks from President Bollinger, Nicholas B. Dirks, executive vice president for the Arts and Sciences, and Kenneth Prewitt, vice president for Global Centers. They are joined by Mark Wigley, dean of Columbia’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, Jeffrey D. Sachs, director of Columbia’s Earth Institute, and Nirupam Bajpai, senior development advisor at the Earth Institute and the inaugural director of the Mumbai center.
A panel discussion on “Scholarship, Science and Higher Education” is moderated by President Bollinger. Participants include Bhalchandra Mungekar, former vice chancellor of the University of Mumbai; Indu Shahani, Sheriff, Mumbai and Principal, H.R. College, University of Mumbai; Digvijaya Singh, General Secretary, All India Congress Committee; and Jeffrey D. Sachs of the Earth Institute.
The Mumbai center launches with an interdisciplinary research agenda. With more than 15 years of work in India advising the political leadership and other senior policy-makers, the Columbia’s Earth Institute is well placed to help scale-up strategies that have already demonstrated success. The center will be the hub for a network of top scientists, economists, and thought leaders who can provide policy recommendations and address the region’s urgent development challenges.
Among the new collaborations is Studio-X Mumbai, a project of Columbia’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation. Studio-X is the school’s global network of leadership laboratories for collaborative research, exhibitions, and public dialogue about the future of the built environment. Studio-X Mumbai occupies a loft-like space in a heritage building near Victoria Terminal and joins an existing network of Columbia architecture labs in Beijing, Amman, Rio de Janeiro and Moscow.
“The focus of these Global Centers is establishing a new, interactive network of partnerships abroad and collaborations across traditional academic disciplines to address complex global challenges that are not as easily addressed by the many bi-lateral partnerships Columbia has long had in many parts of the world,” says Prewitt. “By bringing together scholars, students, public officials, private enterprise and innovators from many fields for research and learning that cuts across many regions, we hope to transform our own academic perspective in the years ahead.”
The Columbia Global Center/Europe provides a new mission for Reid Hall, a building in Paris that the University has owned since 1964. It is animated by one of Columbia’s most innovative global programs, the Columbia-Paris Alliance Program. From the outset, the Paris center will be home to global public health programs and collaborations between Columbia’s Mailman School of Public Health and European partners in the field. And this coming summer, Columbia’s School of the Arts will offer a course on French theater.
Columbia Global Centers are established to encourage new collaboration across traditional academic disciplines at the University. Some of the research and scholarly initiatives will be regionally focused; others will involve multiple centers, and in some instances the full complement of centers will be engaged across many continents. The centers are also intended to support a significant expansion of opportunities for Columbia students and faculty to do work abroad, with the flexibility to pursue long- or short-term research and service-learning projects.