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CUSP Structure and Staff

The CUSP team: Enrique Lopez, Chanda Bennett, Nicole Mihnovets, Lavinia Lorch.  (Aileen Forbes absent)

CUSP staff from left to right: Enrique Lopez, Chanda Bennett, Nicole Mihnovets, Lavinia Lorch (absent: Aileen Forbes)


Senior Assistant Dean, Center for Student Advising, and Director, Columbia Undergraduate Scholars Program -

Born and raised on the Columbia campus, Lavinia Lorch earned her B.A. summa cum laude from Barnard College as a Senior Scholar and her PhD in Classics from Columbia University where she taught both Latin and Literature Humanities. Lorch’s teaching career includes Latin and Greek at Vassar College and French at New York’s New School for Social Research as well as language and literature classes in several private city high schools. She is the recipient of the Mary Isabel Sibley Fellowship for Greek Studies, the Lawrence H. Chamberlain Fellowship, the President’s Fellowship, the Murray Fellowship for the Humanities, and the Mary Allison Prize for General Excellence in Scholarship. She has published on Euripides as well as Ovid and Dante, has translated poetry from Greek, Italian, and French, has lectured both in the States and abroad, and played the lead role in Euripides’ Medea performed off Broadway in ancient Greek. In 2008, in recognition of her contribution to French education, the French Republic bestowed on her the honor of Chevalier de l’Ordre des Palmes Académiques.

Lorch’s academic interests lie in relating and applying the lessons of classical literature and philosophy to real world issues.

In the Fall of 2000, Lorch was hired to design, implement, and direct the Scholars Program at Columbia College and the Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science. Until 2005 she also directed the university’s Fellowships office which prepares and advises students for prestigious national fellowships. Lorch’s previous experience in educational administration includes ten years working in New York City's private school system, specifically in bilingual bicultural settings. She served as the founding Headmistress of La Scuola New York (now La Scuola d’Italia), and later worked at the Lycée Français de New York as Director of the English Program, Director of Admissions, and Academic and Administrative Director. Believing in the philosophy of educating the complete individual, Lorch focuses on implementing interdisciplinary projects and paracurricular programs in collaboration with colleagues and professionals in diverse fields.

Lorch spends weekends at her Catskills New York farm with her husband, Michael van Biema, and their children, Fiamma and Tristan, raising a barnful of animals including llamas, alpacas, a donkey, peacocks, and chickens.


Advising Dean, Berick Center for Student Advising, and Assistant Director, Columbia Undergraduate Scholars Program -

Chanda Bennett is a native New Yorker, born and raised in Brooklyn. Chanda earned her B.S. in Natural Resources from Cornell University and her graduate degrees (M.A., M.Phil, and Ph.D.) in Conservation Biology and Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from Columbia University. Her dissertation focused on the population genetics of the invasive small Indian mongoose, which allowed her to examine species distribution patterns in novel environments in the Caribbean and Hawaiian islands. Her work has been published in such scholarly journals as Conservation Biology, PLoS One, and Mitochondrial DNA. As an educator and life long learner, Chanda taught on the subjects of conservation biology, urban biodiversity, and marine conservation while leading also citizen science research projects in NYC.

Prior to joining the CSA and CUSP teams in 2015, Chanda spent time reconnecting people to nature as the Manager of Education at the WCS New York Aquarium; caring for wild exotic animals as an Animal Keeper at the Prospect Park Zoo; and using outdoor spaces as learning labs as an Urban Park Ranger. Chanda is the recipient of the Audubon's Toyota Together Green Fellowship and served on the Board of The School for Field Studies. Her love for the outdoors keeps her very active. On her spare time, you can find Chanda studying urban bat distribution by acoustically surveying for bats in NYC and other urban areas; learning archery with her husband and three young sons; racing remote-controlled cars on indoor and outdoor tracks; and backyard gardening.


Advising Dean, Berick Center for Student Advising -

Nicole grew up in Arlington, Virginia and previously lived in North Carolina and Long Island before moving to New York City. She earned a Bachelor’s degree in biology from Virginia Tech, a Master’s degree in environmental management from Duke University and an M.A., M.Phil, and Ph.D. in ecology and evolutionary biology from Columbia University. A conservation ecologist and outdoor enthusiast, Nicole is passionate about piquing scientific curiosity through education and mentorship and using science to inform policy and management decisions for biodiversity conservation.

Prior to joining the CSA and CUSP teams in 2017, Nicole was engaged in endangered species conservation and research in several capacities. She developed and coordinated a marine endangered species conservation program for the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and was a sea turtle biologist for the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission. Most recently, Nicole’s academic career included conducting dissertation research on the endangered Hawaiian monk seal and the extinct Caribbean monk seal at the American Museum of Natural History and in collaboration with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Some of her work is published in Conservation Genetics Resources, Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems, and PLoS One. She also has taught marine conservation ecology, aquatic ecology, conservation biology and urban ecology at Columbia University. In her free time, Nicole enjoys music, dancing, road trips, and being outside- especially to surf, hike or bike.


Senior Advising Dean, Berick Center for Student Advising, and Lecturer, Engligh and Comparative Literature -

Aileen Forbes holds a B.A. in French literature with the premedical curriculum from Columbia College and a Ph.D. in English literature from Princeton. She has been published in scholarly journals, including the Keats-Shelley Journal, European Romantic Review, the Bryn Mawr Review of Comparative Literature, and Comparative Literature (December 2015). A chapter in A Cultural History of the Emotions in the Age of Romanticism, Revolution and Empire is forthcoming from Bloomsbury Press. She has taught courses on British Romanticism, psychoanalytic theory, and George Eliot at Princeton, Bryn Mawr and Swarthmore. At Columbia, Aileen teaches English literature, as well as Literature Humanities and Contemporary Civilization in the Core Curriculum. Her first job after college was at The Metropolitan Opera, and she enjoys theatre, opera, tennis, swimming, yoga, food, and making French pastries.


Program Coordinator, Columbia Undergraduate Scholars Program -

Enrique Lopez joined the Berick Center for Student Advising in November 2015 as a Graduate Assistant before transitioning to his current role as Program Coordinator. He earned his B.A. in Political Science from Manhattanville College, and his M.A. in Latin American Studies from Columbia, where he was a Hispanic Scholarship Fund (HSF) Scholar. His previous work experience includes a stint as a paralegal for a small immigration law firm, three Congressional internships, and Latino outreach efforts for various political campaigns in his hometown of Stamford, Connecticut. Enrique is a tennis enthusiast and amateur salsa dancer, and specializes in the salsa caleña style native to Cali, Colombia.

He is also a devoted fan of all things Disney, and regularly vacations with his family in Disney World. An aspiring lawyer and film producer, Enrique finds inspiration in the speeches and writings of President John F. Kennedy, a fellow New Englander who was a lifelong supporter and advocate of the arts.

Columbia Undergraduate Scholars Program


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