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2020-21 Graduate Student Mentors (GSMs)

Graduate Student Mentor, Columbia Undergraduate Scholars Program
Facilitator, CUSP Columbia Journey Seminar

Robert Corban is a doctoral candidate in the Department of History at Columbia. Born and bred in Tupelo, Mississippi, Robert earned his Bachelors of Arts in History and in Sociology from the University of Mississippi in 2013. While at UM, Robert was also recognized for the thesis he wrote about the economics of peasant agriculture and the politics of unification in the Kingdom of Italy.

Robert then followed his interest in the history of Italy and Europe to Upstate New York, where he completed a Master of Arts in History at Syracuse University before he made the move to New York City, and Columbia, in 2015. Since then, Robert has continued his research on the political economy of agriculture in Italy and Europe in archives on either side of the Atlantic, a work which forms the basis of his dissertation, “Bitter Harvest: Wheat and War in Mussolini’s Mediterranean.”

Robert takes pride in his previous experience and his present responsibilities as a educator as well a student at Columbia, including time as a teacher in lectures on economic history, military history and world history as well as the histories of Italy, Europe and the United States. While in NYC, he has also worked with students and the broader public through longstanding engagements with the Columbia Secondary School, the New York Public Library and the New York Botanical Garden.

When he is not in the classroom or behind the desk, Robert likes to spend his time outdoors. He is an avid hiker, an amateur birder and, to his eternal despair, a lifelong fan of the Ole Miss Rebels.

Graduate Student Mentor, Columbia Undergraduate Scholars Program
Facilitator, CUSP Columbia Journey Seminar

Maria Dimitropoulos is a PhD candidate in the interdisciplinary Classical Studies program at Columbia. She completed her BA at the Macaulay Honors College at Hunter College before earning her MA and MPhil degrees at Columbia. Her academic interests include Greek art and architecture in the Archaic and early Classical periods, Greek drama, classical reception, collecting, and issues of cultural heritage. Her dissertation is on visual representations of intra-familial conflict and violence in ancient Greece. At Columbia, Maria has taught Elementary and Intermediate Attic Greek and she has been a TA for various language and history courses, including a global core class on Egypt in the Classical World, as well as courses in Greek and Roman Art and Archaeology.

Outside of her dissertation research, Maria participates in an archival project on former Barnard Professor Margarete Bieber and her contributions to ancient art history. Because of her previous work on the modern reception of ancient Greece, she is especially interested in Dr. Bieber’s role in the early 20th century revivals of Greek theater and festivals. Maria is also part of a joint research initiative with the Department of Histoire de l’art et Archéologie of the Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne on 20th century university collections of classical antiquities in the United States. She will soon be publishing her work on one of Columbia’s collections of ancient art.

Maria has participated in numerous archaeological projects including the underwater archaeological survey at the Roman Port Sanisera in Menorca, the excavations at the Bronze Age site of Gournia, Crete, and Columbia’s excavations in Onchestos, Thebes. Since arriving at Columbia, she has received fellowships to work on her research in Greece, Italy, Spain, France, and Egypt.

In her spare time, Maria enjoys swimming, scuba diving, and pilates.

Graduate Student Mentor, Columbia Undergraduate Scholars Program
Facilitator, CUSP Columbia Journey Seminar

Sayantani Mukherjee is a PhD candidate in International and Global history at Columbia University. She specializes in the history of science and statecraft in South and East Asia, with broader research and teaching interests in scientific theory, social and economic history, transnational history, and labor theory. Her dissertation, titled “Between Two Worlds: British India, Qing China and the Technologies of Empire-Making in Tibet in the Nineteenth Century”, investigates the creation of imperial epistemes governing the production of geographical knowledge through the standardization of mapping and surveying practices in the 1880s through the 1920s. Drawing on archival research in multiple countries and languages, her project foregrounds the coercive socio-technological discourses employed by British India and Qing China in exploring, identifying, and ultimately colonizing Tibet.

In addition to conducting scholarly research, Sayantani is an organizer with the Graduate Workers of Columbia, the campus student workers union. She currently co-leads the GWC’s International Students Working Group, which advocates for the interests of the international student community in undergraduate, graduate and professional degree programs at Columbia.

Prior to coming to Columbia, Sayantani earned her undergraduate, masters and MPhil degrees in India at Delhi and Jawaharlal Nehru Universities and spent a year as a FLAS fellow at National Taiwan University in Taipei. Originally from Delhi, Sayantani initially trained as a professional Bharatanatyam dancer for twenty years before switching to academia full-time. Her interest in China-India history was sparked whilst living in a Tibetan Buddhist nunnery the year after she graduated from high school. She likes to claim she nearly never left because she loved the scholarly community and the quiet, and finds it a strange and recursive parallel to have ended up in another university system (sans the robes and monastic vows).

Graduate Student Mentor, Columbia Undergraduate Scholars Program
Facilitator, CUSP Columbia Journey Seminar

Stephanie Schmiege is a PhD candidate at Columbia University’s Department of Ecology, Evolution and Environmental Biology and at the New York Botanical Garden (NYBG).  Her research focuses broadly on understanding the physiological responses of conifers to global climate change in forests around the world.  So far, her work has taken her from the Arctic Boreal treeline, to high elevation Chilean forests, to the Central Highlands of Vietnam where she has studied unique conifer species including Pinus krempfii, the only-known flat-leaved pine, and Araucaria araucana, the monkey puzzle tree.

Stephanie calls New York City home, where she grew up a block from Times Square. She has also lived abroad in London, England; Nantes, France and Bukoba, Tanzania. She completed her undergraduate degree in Biology and French with a minor in Visual Arts at Bowdoin College in Maine. Before returning to New York to start her PhD, she worked as a research assistant in New Mexico, and spent two and a half years teaching Science, French and Art at an elementary school in rural Tanzania.

In addition to her research, Stephanie is always excited to share her scientific interests with others. She has worked as a teaching assistant for several hands-on ecology courses at Columbia and mentored high-school students for two summers as a part of the NYBG Internship Program. She has also given talks on her research for lay audiences at the NYBG Britton Gallery Talk Series, and at the Metropolitan Society of Natural Historians Symposium hosted in conjunction with the Science Research Mentoring Program at the American Museum of Natural History.

When she is not in the lab or collecting field data, Stephanie enjoys painting and exploring the great outdoors. She is an enthusiastic hiker and canoer, and has recently been learning to rock climb.

Graduate Student Mentor, Columbia Undergraduate Scholars Program
Facilitator, CUSP Columbia Journey Seminar

Josh Schwartz is a doctoral student in United States history at Columbia. His academic work is about issues of class and culture in late 19th century American cities. Lately, he has specifically focused on the history of illustration and visual culture at the turn of the century: his dissertation is a dual biography of Charles Dana Gibson and John Sloan. He is also interested in the craft of historical writing, about which he has been known to complain vociferously.

Josh got his BA in History from the University of Chicago several millennia ago in 2013, where he wrote his thesis on the reconstruction of the city’s social hierarchy following the Great Fire of 1871. He has since worked in archives at the Associated Press and as a freelance research assistant. At Columbia, Josh has TAed classes in American history, and taught his own seminar about the history of the American Middle Class. He also built a website about Columbia University’s involvement with WWI that was eaten by a bitcoin farmer. He’s still bitter about this.

Outside of his academic work, Josh has devoted his life to the search for the perfect burger. He also enjoys cooking around his various dietary restrictions, and fixing pretty much any broken thing he can get his hands on. 


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