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CUSP Distinguished Speaker Series 2020-21

The CUSP Distinguished Speaker Series follows an intellectual theme that is the foundation of our year-long inquiry. This year's talks explore the theme of “Disruption.” We will consider this theme within the fields of music, psychology and behavioral science, technology, philosophy and ethics, health and medicine, the biological sciences, and economics.

2020-21 Theme: Disruption

“Move fast and break things” was Facebook’s internal motto until 2014; move fast, break things, disrupt the world’s stale status quo. In retrospect we can only understand the irony. For a long time “disruption” was both a corporate buzzword and one of our society’s guiding tenets – what Jill Lepore, writing for the New Yorker, called our “theory of nature.” Entrepreneurs, artists, and scholars alike sought to disrupt their fields with the latest and greatest technologies, techniques, and thoughts. Things seem different, now. We live intimately with unavoidable disruptions: to our living habits and habitats, to our families and occupations, to our relationships with our political and social institutions, to our understandings of ourselves in the context of our world. And dislocation for many of us is not metaphorical, as much of our Columbia community is no longer situated in New York. What does it mean to live in such a world – one where disruption keeps us apart but also makes our togetherness possible, even across oceans? Where disruptive technologies serve to both connect and to divide and surveille? How can we embrace changes and innovations without hurting our communities? How can we live like this? Now seems like a good time to think critically about our “theory of nature” – both its detriments and its possibilities. ​

Upcoming Talks

Jennifer S. Hirsch and Shamus Khan — Tuesday, January 26, 2021: Sexual Citizens: A Landmark Study of Sex, Power, and Assault on Campus — “Book Talk”

Jennifer S. Hirsch
Professor of Sociomedical Sciences
Columbia University

Shamus Khan
Professor of Sociology
Princeton University

6:00-8:00 p.m. EST
Online

In Sexual Citizens: A Landmark Study of Sex, Power, and Assault on Campus, Columbia professors Jennifer S. Hirsch and Shamus Khan lay out an expansive, empirically-grounded vision for campus sexual assault prevention. The book is rich with the testimonies of over 150 Columbia students who participated in the Sexual Health Initiative to Foster Transformation. Hirsch and Khan’s goal, in sharing these stories, is not to make moral judgments or decide what the ideal legal ramifications of assault should be. Rather, with empathy and compassion for the many struggles that young people face, they approach sexual assault as a public health problem and explain it by setting out a broader understanding of how sex is organized and what it means to young people in college.

Grounded in the intimate, often painful accounts of the human beings at its center, Sexual Citizens is a bold and comprehensive analysis of a social ecosystem where sexual assault is a regular feature, concluding with a bracing set of recommendations for what families, teachers, policy makers, and leaders in higher education can do to prevent it.

Biography

Jennifer S. Hirsch, a medical anthropologist and Professor of Sociomedical Sciences at Columbia University, co-directs the Sexual Health Initiative to Foster Transformation (SHIFT), a research project on sexual assault and sexual health among Columbia undergraduates. With Shamus Khan, she is coauthor of Sexual Citizens: A Landmark Study of Sex, Power, and Assault on Campus, which draws on SHIFT’s ethnographic research to examine sexual assault and consensual sex among undergraduates in relation to the broader context of campus life. Hirsch co-directs the Columbia Population Research Center, which brings together faculty from schools across the campus who work on population health and inequalities. A 2012 Guggenheim Fellow, a 2015 Public Voices Fellow, and a 2018-19 Visiting Research Scholar with Princeton’s Center for Health and Well-Being, Hirsch’s published work includes both scholarly and popular writing on health and social inequality. She is author of A Courtship After Marriage: Sexuality and Love in Mexican Transnational Families, the award-winning coauthored The Secret: Love, Marriage and HIV, two edited volumes on the anthropology of love, more than 70 peer-reviewed articles, and many op-eds in venues such as Time and The Hill. Hirsch also just completed six years of service as a board member for Jews for Racial & Economic Justice, including the last two as board chair. Hirsch earned her A.B. from Princeton University in History, with a certificate in Women’s Studies, and her Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University in Population Dynamics and Anthropology.

Shamus Khan is a professor of Sociology and American Studies at Princeton University. He writes on culture, inequality, gender, and elites. He is the author of over 100 articles, books, and essays, including Privilege: The Making of an Adolescent Elite at St. Paul’s School (Princeton), The Practice of Research (Oxford, with Dana Fisher), Approaches to Ethnography: Modes of Representation and Analysis in Participant Observation (Oxford, with Colin Jerolmack), and Sexual Citizens: A Landmark Study of Sex, Power, and Assault on Campus (W.W. Norton, with Jennifer Hirsch). He co-directed the ethnographic component of SHIFT, a multi-year study of sexual health and sexual violence at Columbia University. He directed the working group on the political influence of economic elites at the Russell Sage Foundation, is the series editor of “The Middle Range” at Columbia University Press, and served as the editor of the journal Public Culture. He writes regularly for the popular press such as the New Yorker, the New York Times, Washington Post, and has served as a columnist for Time Magazine. In 2016 he was awarded Columbia University’s highest teaching honor, the Presidential Teaching Award, and in 2018 he was awarded the Hans L. Zetterberg Prize from Uppsala University in Sweden for “the best sociologist under 40.”

Patricia Cruz — Tuesday, February 9, 2021: Reckoning With Our History: America at the Crossroads Again

Patricia Cruz
Executive Director
Harlem Stage

6:00-8:00 p.m. EST
Online

Please check back soon for more information!

Biography

Patricia Cruz began her term as Executive Director of Harlem Stage in 1998. Ms. Cruz is a member of the Board of Directors and is responsible for overseeing Board Development, long-range planning, fundraising, and program development. The highlight of her tenure has been the $26 million renovation of the Gatehouse for use as Harlem Stage’s new home. Cruz serves on The CalArts Board of Overseers.

Cruz has also served on the Tony Nominating Committee and the Board of Urban Assembly. She is also past President of The New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA), an organization that supports and nurtures the work of artists and arts organizations throughout the state, and ArtTable, a national organization of women in the arts.

Indrani Das — Wednesday, February 17, 2021: Topic TBA

Indrani Das, PhD
Lamont Associate Research Professor
Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory
Columbia University

6:00-8:00 p.m. EST
Online

Please check back soon for more information!

Biography

Please check back soon for more information!

Denise Cruz — Date TBA: Topic TBA

6:00-8:00 p.m. EST
Online

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Biography

Please check back soon for more information!

Past Talks

Gareth Williams — Tuesday, September 1, 2020: The Columbia Core 2020 and COVID-19 — “CUSP/ASP Annual NSOP Lecture”

Gareth Williams
Anthon Professor of Latin Language and Literature
Director of Undergraduate Studies
Department of Classics, Columbia University

1:00-3:00 p.m. EST
Online

We have all experienced the major upheaval caused by this year's global coronavirus pandemic, and as the new academic year begins we all have to adjust to instructional methodologies that are shaped by that upheaval. Core teaching will be remote for all students entering Columbia College. But in what ways might the Core itself reflect or inform the stresses that have resulted from the drastic changes to everyday life in recent months? More generally, in what ways does the Core provide an apparatus for very practical reflection on the shaping of our daily lives amid all of the urgent socio-political challenges and crises that we have witnessed in recent times?

Biography

Gareth Williams has taught at Columbia since 1992. He received a Ph.D. in 1990 from Cambridge University for a dissertation on Ovid’s exilic writings that subsequently resulted in two books: the first, Banished Voices: Readings in Ovid’s Exile Poetry (Cambridge, 1994), and the second, The Curse of Exile: A Study of Ovid’s Ibis, Proceedings of the Cambridge Philological Society Supplementary Volume 19 (Cambridge, 1996). Two distinct research phases followed, the first of which focused on the Latin ethical writings of Lucius Annaeus Seneca. Two monographs resulted, the first an edition with commentary of L. Annaeus Seneca: Selected Moral Dialogues. De OtioDe Brevitate Vitae (Cambridge, 2003); the second, The Cosmic Viewpoint: A Study of Seneca’s Natural Questions (Oxford, 2012), was awarded the Goodwin Award of Merit by the Society for Classical Studies in 2014. Most recently, among various other projects and edited volumes in the area of Roman philosophy, his research has focused on the socio-literary culture of Renaissance Venice, an interest that recently resulted in the publication of Pietro Bembo on Etna: The Ascent of a Venetian Humanist (Oxford, 2017).

William Deresiewicz — Wednesday, September 30, 2020: The Fate of Art and Artists in the Age of Disruption — “CUSP Inaugural Lecture/Alumni Journeys”

William Deresiewicz
Author, Essayist and Literary Critic

6:00-8:00 p.m. EST
Online

Silicon Valley says there’s never been a better time to be an artist. Artists say they've hardly ever had it worse. So who is right? And since people are still making a living as artists today, how are they managing to do it? If artists were artisans in the Renaissance, bohemians in the nineteenth century, and professionals in the twentieth, a new paradigm is emerging in the digital age, one that is changing our fundamental ideas about both the nature of art and the role of the artist in society. 

Biography

William Deresiewicz is an award-winning essayist and critic, a frequent speaker at educational and other venues, and a former professor of English of Yale. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, the Atlantic, Harper’s Magazine, and many other publications. He is the recipient of a National Book Critics Circle award for excellence in reviewing and is the best-selling author of Excellent Sheep: The Miseducation of the American Elite and the Way to a Meaningful Life. His new book is The Death of the Artist: How Creators Are Struggling to Survive in the Age of Billionaires and Big Tech.

Angelica Patterson — Monday, October 19, 2020: The Road Not Taken: A Journey from Tangled Paths to Open Forests — “Research and Industry In Action (RIIA)/Cool Jobs”

5:00-6:00 p.m. EST
Online

In the presentation titled, “The Road Not Taken: A Journey from Tangled Paths to Open Forests,” Angelica Patterson will highlight her experiences as a first generation college student finding her passion towards the world of plant ecology and the challenges she faced along the way. You will also hear how she became an outdoor environmental educator and the career boosting opportunities she encountered throughout her professional journey.

Biography

Angelica Patterson is the Master Science Educator at Black Rock Forest. She received her B.S. degree in Natural Resources from Cornell University in Ithaca, NY and her M.A. and M.Phil degrees from Columbia University, where she is currently completing her doctoral degree in plant ecophysiology. Her interests in the physiological mechanisms behind plant community shifts due to climate change inspired her to examine tree physiological responses to changes in surface air temperature for her PhD research. More specifically, her dissertation compares the photosynthetic and respiratory responses of over 20 tree species with differing historic range distributions in order to evaluate which species may be better able to tolerate climates that are predicted to occur within the next 50-100 years. Patterson is a strong advocate for diversity, equity, and inclusion in the environmental sciences and has served on various committee and working groups. She has served as a speaker at several US universities, environmental organizations, and K-12 institutions, and has recently been profiled in The GuardianThe Forestry Source, and the National Environmental Education Foundation.

Maury Harris — Thursday, October 22, 2020: COVID-19 Economics

Maury Harris
Economist

6:00-8:00 p.m. EST
Online

The COVID-19 crisis has spawned a huge amount of new and exciting economic analysis. For example, exploiting big data has enhanced understanding the relative roles of lockdown policies and the COVID19 infection and death rates in driving consumer spending and economic activity.  A variety of macroeconomic stabilization policies have provided a laboratory for testing major theories of household behavior. Also, the debates over Federal deficits and Federal Reserve balance sheet expansion/monetization have been revisited in a totally unprecedented environment for macroeconomic stabilization policies.

Biography

Dr. Maury Harris for 36 years was the Chief US Economist for UBS and PaineWebber. Prior to his Wall Street career, Dr. Harris worked at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and the Bank for International Settlements in Basel, Switzerland. He earned his PhD in economics from Columbia University after graduating Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Texas. Dr. Harris has served as President of the Forecasters Club of New York and in 2015 published Inside the Crystal Ball: How to Make and Use Forecasts.

Lyle Owerko — Wednesday, November 11, 2020: A Long Way from Anywhere

Lyle Owerko
Photojournalist, Artist and Filmmaker

6:00-8:00 p.m. EST
Online

Lyle Owerko is a photographer and filmmaker with a diverse roster of clients that include major brands, corporations and human rights groups. Known for a keen perception and knowledge of urban movements, his instinctually crafted visual images have found an indelible place in the lexicon of both pop culture and journalism. Recognized for his high-resolution documentation of Sept 11th (featured on the iconic 9/11 cover of TIME Magazine), to his in-depth survey of the history and impact of Boomboxes on popular culture, to his seminal portraits of distinct cultures residing in Africa and Mongolia. He’s seen and experienced disruption both on the global frontier and on the global stage. Turning a page in to a new era with his work, his current projects bridge the borders of both sculpture, photography and technique in a manner that documents the basic human inclination to elevate the universal condition. A recipient of numerous awards, editorial and television profiles, his work is collected and exhibited around the world. Lyle was raised in Calgary, Canada, studied at The Pratt Institute in New York, and currently resides in Los Angeles.
 

Biography

A photojournalist, artist and filmmaker, Lyle Owerko has documented a diverse range of subjects, from early 80s neon-colored BMX bikes to members of Kenya’s Samburu tribe. However, his most iconic image is the 2001 photograph The Second Plane, capturing Flight 175 as it struck the second tower of the World Trade Center on September 11. This image appeared on the cover of the September 14, 2001 issue of TIME magazine, and stands as an unforgettable record of a national tragedy. Often working with human rights organizations, such as Charity:Water and the United Nations Millennium Promise, Owerko frequently merges art with a social mission in his work. His seminal body of work, The Boombox Project, began in 2005 as documentation of vintage portable stereos and now includes a series of sculptures and a documentary on the subject. In 2010, Abrams Image published a book of those photos, which included a foreword by Spike Lee and interviews with some of the most distinct contributors of that era. Owerko’s work is included in the permanent collection of the Library of Congress, and is included in the permanent collection at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, among other galleries and institutions globally.

Caroline Marvin — Monday, November 30, 2020: Rekindling Curiosity

Caroline Marvin
Professor of Psychology and Director of Academic Affairs
Department of Psychology, Columbia University

6:00-8:00 p.m. EST
Online

Psychologist William James posited that by age 25 we've gained all the ideas we'll ever have and we cannot learn anything new: “Disinterested curiosity is past, the mental grooves and channels set, the power of assimilation gone.” While there is little empirical evidence to support this rather bleak view of growing up, we do tend to become more efficient -- but also less flexible and expansive -- in our learning as we age. If there can be one small hope in this otherwise devastating year, it's that disruption has the power to jolt us awake, to remind us to ask difficult questions, and to approach ourselves and each other with generous, genuine curiosity.  

Biography

Caroline Marvin teaches in the Department of Psychology, where she also serves as Director of Academic Affairs and Director of Undergraduate Studies for the Neuroscience & Behavior major. Her research examines curiosity and its neural substrates, aiming to understand how curiosity motivates information-seeking and drives learning.

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