Four Pillars


The pillars supporting the Columbia Undergraduate Scholars Program are all interdependent.  All four are the building blocks of a Columbia Scholar.  We expect our Scholars to express, as leaders, their naturally curious and dynamic intellect at the service of their community, aware of the larger context in which they operate. 

In the words of our Scholars:


“Academic excellence conveys not only a sense of bold and independent thought, but more importantly, the ability to seamlessly move between and relate seemingly disparate fields.  It is an attribute earned by combating academic myopia and embracing interdisciplinary study with zeal, passion, and creativity.”

“Academic excellence is always working to the best of my abilities in my studies, giving nothing less than 110% every time.  Not simply completing assignments, but questioning ideas that intrigue me, putting forth the extra time it takes to research something further, delve into passionate debate with professors, and never allowing myself to adopt low personal standards.”

“Academic excellence is not about being the top of the class; it is striving to do your best and going beyond what is required of you. It is about learning something because that particular area of study stimulates your intellect and sparks your curiosity.”

“Academic excellence is the ability to immerse oneself in work, excel through passion in a certain area, and go beyond the requirements to fulfill one’s needs and desires in exploring a material in full depth.”

“Academic excellence means to strive for the best understanding in a certain course of study. When one understands, as opposed to simply knowing, a certain topic, one is more open to making other connections with one’s work of study.”


“Leadership stands as the twofold ability to remain in touch with changing needs and to still reach both preordained and spontaneous goals in spite of and because of these changes.”

“Taking an active leadership position in my community is important because it allows me to have my voice and the voices of others heard and answered.  Without leadership, I am merely another face in the crowd, another shadow blending into the mass with no influence, no power to propose changes and programs.  I feel strongly about the importance of leadership because it is the abstract idea that steers the path of an organization.  Without the guiding force of an individual or a few people, nothing would be accomplished or efficient.  I believe leadership fuels progress.

“Leadership is setting a good example for others, accomplishing goals, and giving others direction. Leadership is also action not position.  It is about taking an active stand, not about speaking to be heard alone. ”

“I regard leadership as a synonym for responsibility, dependability and duty.”

“Leadership means to undertake a certain duty and responsibility in order to better society as a whole.  Sometimes the word ‘leadership’ is misconceived to mean haughty and pretentious, but a person with genuine leadership is far from this.”


“Global awareness is the recognition that the world is a constantly and continually evolving place.  Accordingly, global awareness implies orienting and reorienting oneself to this ever-shifting terrain in order to gain an honest view of events and people in their historical context.”

“Global awareness is knowing what is happening in the world around me.  It is important to know what issues other countries are dealing with, understanding connections and relations between nations as well as recognizing and respecting the lines and boundaries that maintain their cultural diversity.  Not only knowing about global issues, but also formulating opinions on them and getting my ideas heard.  I think part of this comes from studying abroad.  The experience of living in another country opens our minds to different cultures and their ways of thinking, something I feel is necessary.  Lastly, helping those around me increase their awareness of global issues, so that we can work as a community to make a difference in issues that require our attention and support.”

 “Global awareness is being informed of the issues (social/political/environmental) that affect other people around the world, including your home community.  It is also about forming opinions and taking action for or against matters which have concerned you.”

“Global awareness involves an ability to constantly inform oneself and be permeable to one’s environment.  My personal effort to read the newspaper every day corresponds to my desire to keep up with this awareness that is fundamental in modern day society.”

“Global awareness means to understand that there are other cultures to be respectful of aside from one’s own culture.  Global awareness brings about a peaceable exchange of culture.”


“Civic engagement is a fittingly fluid combination of the other 3 pillars: the use of one’s academic faculty, global awareness, and leadership ability to enter a sustained, broad dialogue with the world.”

“Civic engagement involves being an active member of my Columbian and New York communities.  Community service participation in Morningside Heights and around Manhattan is important because being engaged in a community means helping those who need it.  Communities grow and prosper through the welfare and generosity of their citizens; those who are more fortunate doing what they can to make life easier for others who are not.  I also consider it very important to attend rallies, visit museums, explore and delve into the cultural events my community has to offer.  I must immerse myself into these things so that I may become a dynamic force, someone who is aware of the diversity around me.  I must learn to appreciate it as well as become a part of it.  I was raised under the philosophy that it takes a town to raise a child, thus I stand by the idea that the community I am now a part of will help me to open my mind and shape the way I see the world.”

“Civic engagement is when people (i.e. citizens of our state) take an active role in the community.  It can be through community forums or letters and talks with the legislature.”

“Civic engagement is a consciousness of the rights and duties which accompany belonging to a certain community.  It involves the will to take profit of the precious right to express oneself and participate in one’s group policy making.”

“Civic engagement means active participation in community services and positive change.  Civic engagement is the impetus for societal betterment.”

Columbia Undergraduate Scholars Program


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