Columbia University Announces Inaugural Group of Community Scholars

Columbia University announced today the inaugural cohort of the Columbia Community Scholars Program.  The program offers community-based scholars from Northern Manhattan access to a range of University services and resources in order to work toward the completion of an individually crafted project or to attain skill in an area of interest.

“The Community Scholars Program embodies Columbia’s commitment to making University resources available to the community in a meaningful way,” said Karen Jewett, Vice President for Columbia’s Office of Government and Community Affairs.  “The program is structured to appeal to a variety of interests from the fiction writer working on her first novel to the local historian looking to explore an overlooked facet of New York history.”

The 2013 Columbia Community Scholars cohort is comprised of five independent scholars whose proposals were chosen from a very competitive field of applicants.

Mariama C. Keita is a fellow for the United Nations Joint Programme on HIV and AIDS.  Her research will work towards an analysis of the Republic of Guinea’s historical women’s movements.

Paula Kimper, whose TRUTH: An American Opera about Sojourner Truth was included in the 2013 New York International Fringe Festival, will undertake research in women’s studies, Africana studies, music and history as she begins work on a new opera.

Vivian Nixon is the Executive Director of College and Community Fellowship, a not-for-profit organization that assists women with criminal records in accessing higher education. As a Columbia Community Scholar, she will hone her journalistic skills with a view to placing issue-based articles in popular publications and websites.

John Reddick serves as a curator and discussion leader for the Harlem Focus series at the Smithsonian Institution’s Cooper-Hewitt Design Center.  He will continue his research into the music culture of Harlem’s Black and Jewish communities from 1890 to 1930, the results of which will become the focus of a book, a sheet music exhibition and a historical walking tour.

Steven A. Watkins is the founder of the Kinetic Universal User Renewable Visionary Environment (KUURVE), a sustainability development and technology firm providing a platform for ecofriendly urban development resources, renewable energy solutions, job training and education. Steven’s cross-curricular studies at Columbia will result in a report on smarter private and public energy management and sustainable environmental practices in Harlem and abroad.

Columbia University and the West Harlem Development Corporation (WHDC) welcomed the Scholars with a reception in Low Library on August 22.  “An Ashanti proverb says you push up those who climb good trees so that they will bring down the ripe fruits to feed the community,” said Kofi A. Boateng, West Harlem Development Corporation Executive Director. “In that sense, we believe the carefully-selected initial class of five community scholars are each conducting meaningful research in their efforts to find good answers to our common issues.”

The Columbia Community Scholars Program is the latest initiative to come on line as part of the community benefits and amenities associated with the University’s Manhattanville campus expansion.

“On many levels my expanding research on Harlem’s Black & Jewish Music Culture 1890-1930 has revealed the community’s groundbreaking influence on 20 music, dance, theater, film and literature,” Reddick said. “With access to Columbia University’s academic resources, I hope to further explore and document this history in ways that inform and inspire Harlem residents, new and old, and seek to broaden the outsider’s knowledge of the community’s cultural history as well.”

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