The week-long Global Centers Directors’ Summit provided an opportunity for directors to touch base with administrators, define priorities for the year ahead, and discuss internal issues.
But moving forward, directors and administrators hope to increase awareness on campus and outline the centers’ focuses and missions more clearly to faculty, deans, and students. A large topic of discussion throughout the summit was how to bolster the presence of Global Centers on the Morningside campus, and while directors said that they had made progress, many thought there was still room for improvement.
“I felt, as many of my colleagues did, that there was some awareness, but as we expected, not enough,” Vice President for Global Centers Safwan Masri said.
Throughout the week, the directors met with deans and faculty from Columbia undergraduate and graduate schools to brainstorm ideas for future collaboration. On Thursday, the directors focused on the students.
In the morning, student leaders met with center directors and Michael Pippenger, dean of undergraduate Global Programs, to ask questions about the centers and how they link up with Columbia’s globalization efforts.
“We feel very strongly that an international education is crucial for your development as a Columbia grad and global citizen,” Pippenger said to the students. “We do all of this because we want it woven into the fabric of what you do—not only overseas, but in the U.S.”
In the afternoon, directors and students participated in a discussion about the centers.
Masri said that the forum was originally supposed to be a small event with center directors having intimate discussions with students, which happened at last year’s summit. But after receiving almost 500 responses from students, administrators upgraded the event to accommodate a larger crowd.
“The fact that we got such a huge response from students say it’s on people’s radar,” Masri said.
The forum outlined the goals and programs of the centers and provided an opportunity for students to ask questions on topics, including study abroad opportunities to hosting students from countries where there are Columbia Global Centers to the Morningside campus.
Yisroel Allen, GS ’14, attended Thursday’s forum and said he would like to travel to the Amman Center because he wants a first-hand experience of issues in the Muslim world.
“I feel like the problem with the vantage point I have is that it’s one-sided,” Allen said.
Aside from study abroad, students said they wanted to know how the initiatives of the Global Centers could be aligned with Columbia’s curriculum.
“I think students should get some sort of information about what they can get out of the Global Centers, so that they actually have an idea,” Roberta Barnett, CC ’16, said. “But I think that the school in general should promote certain research projects and other projects so that students can utilize the centers.”
The Centers also now have a physical home in New York—a new office on West 113th Street opened this summer.
“We have a growing staff here on campus that supports the Global Centers,” Masri said. “We are very fortunate to finally have office space.”
As directors prepare to return home, Masri said that the summit would only help them as they prepare to address challenges throughout the year.
Masri said the ultimate goals of the centers are that they “grow in significance to the University’s constituents and the regions that they’re located in” and “become a permanent and indispensable feature of Columbia University in terms of its missions of education, research, and service.”
“There are always challenges, of course,” Masri said, identifying long-term sustainable funding and staying on top of topical global issues as two of the biggest challenges.
“One challenge has been to get a critical mass of awareness,” Masri added. “I think we’re there.”
Natalie Felsen, Cecilia Reyes, and Tracey Wang contributed reporting.