A Community of Scholars: Seventy-Five Years of The University Seminars at Columbia

By Thomas Vinciguerra


The Columbia University Seminars, founded in 1945, represent a distinctive experiment in academia. Scholars from different disciplines and institutions, as well as practitioners and other experts, meet once a month through the academic year to study and discuss subjects, sometimes beyond their specialties. Through collegial discussion, participants learn from one another. Today, over ninety seminars are ongoing: some have outlived their founders, while others are just beginning.

A Community of Scholars is a seventy-fifth anniversary celebration of the founding of the University Seminars. It brings together essays by seminar chairs and other leading participants that exemplify the diversity and vibrancy of these proceedings. Their topics are wide-ranging—the evolution of the labor movement, urban life, the politics and culture of Brazil, the Enlightenment, the prospects for world peace—but in each, a commitment to intellectual provocation and shared learning is on full display. An informative introduction explains how the Seminars came into being and why they continue to matter. The volume also features biographical sketches of Frank Tannenbaum, the Latin America scholar and criminologist who founded the Seminars, and his wife, the anthropologist Jane Belo, a close friend of Margaret Mead. Belo and Tannenbaum endowed the Seminars and allowed them to flourish. A remarkable testament to an unparalleled intellectual forum, A Community of Scholars allows readers to share in the eclectic spirit of the Seminars.

Read a Columbia News interview with Thomas Vinciguerra about A Community of Scholars.