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Columbia Spectator Staff

Next stops on Columbia's mission of going global: Africa and South America. The University's next global centers will open in Santiago, Chile and Nairobi, Kenya. The Santiago center will open as early as this summer, and the Kenya center could open within the next academic year, officials said. With the opening of those two sites, the University's goal is having seven functioning global centers in the next academic year—a clear sign that Columbia's international presence is growing rapidly. The University already has centers in Paris, Mumbai, Beijing, and Amman, with a center in Istanbul expected to open in the fall. There are also centers planned for Rio de Janeiro and Kazakhstan. The centers will serve as locations for undergraduates to study abroad, intern, and complete research projects. Plans for the Santiago and Nairobi centers are still in flux, and Vice President for Global Centers Ken Prewitt said that Columbia is working to build ties with Kenya's government to get the Nairobi center open. Officials are currently in the process of negotiating a document with the Kenyan government that would give Columbia special status in the country, including the right to not pay customs duties and more freedom in determining salary structures. "It's important because if it does get signed—and we fully expect it to be signed it gives Columbia kind of a particularly important status within the law of Kenya," Prewitt said. Jose Moya, the Santiago center's interim director, said that the Institute for Latin American Studies will play a central role in the center's creation and in maintaining ties to the University. Columbia had expected Rio de Janeiro to be the site of its first center in Latin America, but Prewitt said complications necessitated a change of plans. "Rio's a more complicated city to register things, to move money," said Prewitt. "It's just a more complicated country to work in, and Santiago's much simpler to work in." Chile was ultimately chosen for the first Latin American center because of the country's growing economy, democratic government, and geographic position, Moya said. "Its rapid and steady economic development over the last half-century has created an infrastructure (transportation, housing, utilities, education, etc.) that is at the level of the most developed countries in the world," Moya said in an email. "It is democratic, open, politically stable, and safe; and it is part of various international spaces or spheres (the Pacific Rim, the Southern Cone, the Andean region)." Some Columbia students expressed interest in studying at these recently-announced centers. "It's actually a good sign that the world is coming together through Columbia, trying to have a place where you can meet different people from all over the world in different cities," Derek Lipscomb, CC '11, said. Other students expressed concerns, saying the University has a reputation as an overly-aggressive institution and noting the lack of financial resources for programs in Morningside Heights. "There's an issue of Columbia being seen as something of a behemoth," said Simone Wolff, BC '13. According to Thomas Trebat, executive director of Columbia's Institute of Latin American Studies and Center for Brazilian Studies, however, local business leaders in Chile have given Columbia and other universities a warm reception in hopes that Columbia will help to enhance Chile's educational institutions and create new growth. "It [Chile] is at a point where it is focusing a lot on improving its educational system, especially higher education. And therefore in thinking more about how to do that, it welcomes the collaboration of major foreign universities," Trebat said. The Santiago global center will also allow Columbia to connect to South American scholars, Moya said. "The center could help us recruit prospective students from Chile, Argentina, Peru, and Bolivia who may want to have training in broad, pan-Latin American scholarship," he said in an email, explaining that Columbia also plans to use the center to invite South American students to Columbia. Still, details of the centers' physical spaces and academic priorities remain unclear or unknown in the current planning stages. "Over time, is the real question, 'How do we sustain the operation of a global center in the future?'" Trebat said. "I think that's the excitement, and that's the challenge." news@columbiaspectator.com

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