Columbia Undergraduate Scholars Program

The Columbia Undergraduate Scholars Program (CUSP) aims to foster the intellectual, social, and cultural growth essential to leadership in our highly specialized and culturally diverse world. The Program provides named Scholars with enhanced academic and cultural opportunities unique to a great research university in the heart of Manhattan. In order to fulfill their academic, personal, and professional development, this academic enhancement Program offers Scholars access and exposure to leaders and professionals in a wide variety of fields. Designed to support and enrich the Scholars' college experience through active exploration of University and New York City resources, the Program incorporates research activities in a variety of disciplines, and offers internship opportunities as well as on- and off-campus activities which encourage the development of student potential.


The Program's mission hearkens back to the original purpose of the University—to move from theory to praxis, advance our societies, educate the complete individual, and inspire global citizens.  The Scholars are an alliance of young musicians and artists, poets and journalists, orators and politicians, who strive to move beyond the boundaries that confine us to our academic, social, and economic comfort zones. 

The CUSP administration nurtures its Scholars from matriculation to graduation and beyond, expanding their intellectual universe, guiding them academically, directing them towards summer research opportunities, presenting them with diverse internship and experiential education opportunities, advising them on fellowships, and discussing career options—in general, enjoying our time together at Columbia as we forge a relationship that we trust will continue beyond these short years. CUSP seeks to enrich its Scholars by nurturing character, integrity, leadership skills, a sense of civic-minded responsibility, and academic excellence.  By integrating speaker series, cultural outings, research opportunities and symposia, CUSP thus challenges students at different stages of their college career, enhancing the development of organic and well-rounded public intellectuals.


A named Scholar at Columbia participates in a program designed to build upon four pillars: academic excellence, leadership, global awareness, and civic engagement. Participation in this Program and interaction with leaders active in both academia and outside encourages Scholars to understand the intrinsic connections between their intellectual development, the Columbia campus experience, life in New York City, and events around the world, and will thus both extend and enhance their previous academic and extra-curricular experiences.

A deeper, implicit goal of CUSP is the motivation of students to reach beyond their individual niches, to know that they too can effect change in society, and in fact have a responsibility to do so. The translation of awareness into advocacy and activism stems from the natural synthesis of the Program’s goals. Through specialized programming, we encourage this sense of enacted responsibility, as it fulfills the broader theoretical concepts of intellectual growth, leadership development, and global awareness. 

The speakers of our CUSP Distinguished Speaker Series, exemplars of enacted responsibility, share their personal histories of determination, encounters with adversity, insatiable intellectual curiosity, and eventual achievement. Collectively, they present a tapestry of individual successes grounded in interdisciplinary collaboration, a passion for social justice, and group effort. It is our hope that our Scholars gain an appreciation of their own ability to effect change through these different biographies and presentations.

Whether through programmed lectures, research opportunities, or practica, CUSP calls upon its Scholars to discover unique horizons, define their larger goals, and pursue their dreams. It aims to expose Scholars to other worlds and cultures and invites them to share in the responsibility of a larger community of scholars.

Expectations, Responsibilities, and Resources


The CUSP Speaker Series: Every year CUSP invites speakers (experts in the field) from Columbia and beyond to present their perspective towards a pre-determined theme.  The theme changes every year. This year’s theme is Emergence (see the CUSP Speaker Series webpage for a description). Typically, there are 6-8 speakers per semester. All Scholars must respond to the attendance survey circulated during every CUSP Speaker Series event in order to receive a reflection survey, which must be returned within one week

If, due to academic conflict, you cannot attend the minimum number of events required, you must contact the CUSP staff at the beginning of the semester.

The CUSP Summer Enhancement Fellowships (1st, 2nd, and 3rd summers): Scholars in good standing in CUSP (attendance at CJS, minimum required CUSP events, mandatory workshops) are eligible to apply for a competitive grant that secures partial financial support to conduct either independent research with a faculty member or undertake a creative project of your choosing (backed by faculty support), or for those who are able to secure a formal internship/research assistantship with an external organization. This opportunity is secured solely by the student. Scholars with further financial need must seek additional funding sources. Good resources include the Center for Career Education and the Center for Undergraduate Global Engagement. More information about the SEF can be found on the CUSP SEF webpage.

Grant amounts will vary in accordance with the needs of the proposal and the funds available. 

Applicants must attend the requisite number of CUSP events and GSM-led workshops to maintain eligibility during the application process.

Good Standing: For all Scholars, attendance at 4 Non-Mandatory CUSP events (this includes attendance at Speaker Series talks, CUSP Alliance activities, CUSP Community Building events, and CUSP Beyond the Classroom events) per semester is required to remain in good standing.  

Academic Advising: Chanda Bennett, Lavinia Lorch, Maria Dimitropoulos, and Aileen Forbes serve as academic advisors to all John Jay and Kluge Scholars (CC Scholars) and to CP Davis Scholars (from SEAS). Graduate Student Mentors (GSMs) offer yet another layer of mentorship and serve as the front line contact for all First-Year Scholars, given that GSMs meet with them once a week.


Beyond the above expectations for all scholars, First-Year Scholars have additional responsibilities.

Harlem Tours: All First-Year Scholars must participate in one of the Harlem tours scheduled at the beginning of September.  More information about this event is provided in the CJS syllabus.

Columbia Journey Seminar (CJS): Attendance is mandatory for all First-Year Scholars. Scholars are permitted 2 excused absences per semester (no unexcused absences are allowed) and need to notify their GSM prior. Unexcused absences negatively impact your good standing in the program. You will get out of the program what you put into it. 

CJS sessions for both Fall and Spring terms begin two weeks after the end of the “change of program” period to allow you to settle your course selections and schedules. Once you select the CJS section that fits best into your course schedule, you will stay with it for the duration of the semester.  

Good Standing: For all First-Year Scholars, good standing status depends on their participation in one of the Harlem tours, attendance at CJS sessions, attendance at a minimum of 4 CUSP Non-Mandatory events per semester (this includes attendance at Speaker Series talks, CUSP Alliance activities, CUSP Community Building events, and CUSP Beyond the Classroom events), and attendance at advising meetings.  

Please check our Distinguished Speakers Series page for a complete listing of upcoming Fall 2023 virtual events.

Columbia Undergraduate Scholars Program


403 Alfred Lerner Hall
2920 Broadway
New York, NY 10027

Call: (212) 854-6378

Fax: (212) 854-2562

Office Hours
9:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m.