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Columbia Going Global in Chile

Saturday, March 16, 2013
Yaakov Sullivan

Columbia at the Door of the Andes

Under the directorship of Karen Poniachik, the Columbia Global Center|Latin America in Santiago marked a productive nine months since its inaugural opening in March 2012.  Building on the foundation of Columbia’s long engagement with Latin American regional studies, this Global Center has strengthened that connection by enhancing opportunities for further collaborative study and research between Columbia’s students and faculty and their South American counterparts.  As with all of the Global Centers, this regional location in South America gives Columbia University a footprint on the continent; a common gathering place where scholars from Columbia can interact with academic leaders in their respective fields from Latin American countries.  Throughout 2012, programs and forums sponsored by the CGC-Santiago have tackled issues dealing with sustainability, development, journalism, economics, the arts and architecture.

The launching of the Center brought Columbia University President Lee C. Bollinger to Santiago, along with his colleague, Provost John H. Coatsworth, one of America’s most eminent scholars on Latin America. They were joined by faculty, alumni and an array of international visitors, including the Director of the CGC Office, Safwan Masri, along with the Interim Dean of SIPA, Robert C. Lieberman, Director of the Global Center in India, Nirupam Bajpai and Professor Marianne Hirsch from the Department of English and Comparative Literature. What else has been going on in Santiago?  How are faculty involved and how are students participating?  Here are some highlights.

In March, the Center hosted Professor Maria Victoria Murillo from SIPA’s Department of Political Science, who presented her research on “Political Clientelism in Latin America: Case Study of Argentina and Chile”. Murillo then conducted a discussion followed by responses from two prominent Chilean scholars, Professors Emmanuelle Barozet and Francisco Javier Diaz.

In July, the CGC-Santiago held an information session with SIPA’s Senior Assistant Dean for Student Affairs, Urbano Garza, who provided local students with information on SIPA’s MPA and MIA programs as well as the fourteen month Program in Economic Policy Management.

In the realm of the arts, CGC-Santiago sponsored and hosted a special performance of the play “Latino” by Camila Le-bert, a renowned Chilean playwright who is an alumna of CU School of the Arts. The presentation was enjoyed by invited CU alumni and CGC-Santiago friends.

In December CGC-Santiago sponsored the XVIII Chilean Biennale of Architecture, inviting Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation (GSAPP) Professor Eric Bunge to participate as one of the keynote speakers.  He also held a series of meetings with local alumni.

In the same month, Dr. Katherine Shear, the Marion E. Kenworth Professor of Psychiatry at CU’s School of Social Work lectured on her research into grief and bereavement.  She also met with Chilean experts to discuss possible collaboration and training.

As for student participation, though classes are not held at the Center, students are involved with various programs throughout the year. As an example, two Masters in Development Policy at the Earth Institute and SIPA, Carolina Ocampo and Osaretin Osarenren, conducted field work in a mine in Northern Chile, located in the community of Andacollo.  Their research focuses on issues such as regulation, transparency and sustainability in developing countries. The work was made possible through a Memoranda of Understanding between Columbia University and the Chilean Mining Society.

In November, students were active participants in a studio program which was organized by the Latin American and Caribbean Laboratory based at Columbia’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation.  The Cross-Program Studio dealt with the challenges and opportunities of post-earthquake development in Talca, Chile. Taught by GSAPP Assistant Professor and Director of the Latin Lab, Clara Irazabal, it brought twelve CU graduate students from Architecture as well as other discipline to Talca, Chile.  They evaluated the plans and projects for the reconstruction of Talca which was devastated by the February 2010 earthquake. 

Moving full pace into 2013, the CGC-Santiago has begun its series of programs for this year, as it continues to work with students and faculty from many of the different Columbia schools, as well as Teachers College and Barnard.  In January 2013, Dean Linda Fried of the Mailman School of Public Health, along with a group of Mailman faculty, participated in the Second Latin American and Caribbean Conference on Global Health in conjunction with the School of Public Health of the Universidad de Chile and the Latin American Alliance for Global Health.

Later in January, a group of Columbia Business School MBA students, accompanied by Professor Michael Preston, visited Santiago as part of their elective course entitled “Managing Growing Family Businesses in South America” The students will spend a week visiting leading firms and meeting with business executives from a wide sector of industry which will give them insight into the challenges and opportunities of conducting business in Chile.

In June-July 2013, the Global Scholars Program:2013 will hold a research workshop “Pathways to Development: East Asia and Latin America in Comparative Perspective”,  which will divide its time between the Global Center in Beijing as well as Santiago, allowing the two Centers to collaborate on a common project.  Fieldwork will be carried out for three weeks in China and two weeks in Chile giving students the opportunity to study and conduct in-depth research on the evolution of political and economic systems in both countries.

Director Karen Poniachik, along with the Steering Committee, look forward to a productive year of growing participation of Columbia students and faculty, along with further development of multidisciplinary collaboration between their Center and the others. Sometime soon, Poniachik says, the CGC-Santiago will have an enhanced website which will allow viewers to keep current with all the programs and activities at the Center. That can only bring all Columbians an added benefit.