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CUSP Distinguished Speaker Series 2021-22



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 “Resilience.” 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.

2021-22 Theme: Resilience

“Disasters shake things loose and the things we regarded as fixed and unchangeable can suddenly be changed,” Rebecca Solnit commented on a WBUR podcast last year. In 2020, we reckoned with a severe disruption in our status quo. Economies, health care systems, food chains, and the everyday lives of people were quickly dismantled, laying bare the fragility of the values and structures of our pre-pandemic world, and opening up the possibility to reimagine our futures. Since March 2020, institutions—corporate, medical, academic, familial—have called upon their members to recover the losses from the last year, to show resilience in the face of a mercurial instability that promises to last beyond the current pandemic.

In a world of continual disruptions—by climate disasters, border disputes, mutating viruses, and more—resilience is power. And who holds it determines everything. Resilience can manifest as resistance to disaster and disruption, and also to hierarchies of power and the status quo. Resilience can be mobilized as a way of adapting to challenges brought about by new political and ecological disruptions. But it can also be wielded as a tool for accepting new forms of institutional exploitation and inequality. The call for resilience has the potential to disrupt or to reinforce existing power structures and dynamics. In many ways, as Arundhati Roy states, “the pandemic is a portal, a gateway between one world and the next.” But who gets to determine the contours of that “next” world? When the nature of such rebuilding and reimagining is slow and unremarkable, visible only in hindsight, how do we begin to account for and guide the development of what is to come? How do calls for resilience and adaptability unite or divide individuals, societies, nations and ecosystems? In the face of constant upheavals, what roles do resilience and stability play in our futures?

Upcoming Talks

Mujib Mashal - Tuesday, February 8, 2022 - "Storytelling as Coping"

Mujib Mashal
Technical Writer/ Editor IV at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Center for Robotic and Deep-Space Exploration, NASA

NEW TIME! 10:00am. - noon EST
Online

Presentation Description

Mujib Mashal will discuss the impact of trauma on identity, and the place of storytelling as a coping tool when trauma becomes the overwhelming reality.

 

Biography

Mujib Mashal is the South Asia bureau chief for The New York Times based in New Delhi. Born and raised in Kabul during Afghanistan's civil war, he received a school scholarship to study at Deerfield Academy in Massachusetts soon after the fall of the Taliban in 2001. He graduated with a degree in South Asian history from Columbia University, focusing on India’s independence movement.

 

Derek Kravitz - Wednesday, March 23, 2022 -- Title TBA

Derek Kravitz
Journalist
Brown Institute for Media Innovation

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

Presentation Description

TBD

Biography

Derek Kravitz is working on grant-funded initiatives in 2020-21 through Columbia and Stanford's Brown Institute for Media Innovation. He is also an instructor for the Columbia Journalism School's Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism, where he teaches research and reporting skills. From 2016 to 2019, he was the research director at ProPublica, the New York-based investigative nonprofit newsroom, and, for the past decade, has worked as a reporter and editor at The Wall Street Journal, The Associated Press and The Washington Post.  Kravitz is a two-time Livingston Award finalist — for work with The New Yorker and ProPublica — and projects he edited or reported have won prizes from the George Polk Awards, the Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Awards, the Online News Association, Investigative Reporters and Editors and the Deadline Club. He has also been apart of three teams that have been finalists for the Pulitzer Prize. 

 

Rishi Goyal, MD, Ph.D. - Tuesday, March 29, 2022 - Title TBA

Rishi Goyal
Assistant Professor of Emergency Medicine at the Columbia University Medical Center (in Medical Humanities and Ethics and the Institute for Comparative Literature and Society)
Adjunct Associate Professor, Faculty of Humanities at the University of Southern Denmark  

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

Presentation Description

TBA

Biography

TBA

 

Eric Sanderson, Ph.D. - April 14, 2022 - Title TBA

Eric Sanderson
Senior Conservation Ecologist at the Wildlife Conservation Society. 
Adjunct Associate Professor, Faculty of Humanities at the University of Southern Denmark  

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

Presentation Description

TBD

Biography

Eric W. Sanderson is a Senior Conservation Ecologist at the Wildlife Conservation Society. Sanderson received his Ph.D. in ecology (emphasis in ecosystem and landscape ecology) from the University of California, Davis, in 1998, while studying with Dr. Susan Ustin. Starting at WCS in 1998, he established the “Landscape Ecology and Geographic Analysis” program to bring landscape thinking and geographic analysis tools into the conservation practices of the WCS. In 2002 Dr. Sanderson and colleagues created the Human Footprint map, the first look at human influence globally at less than 1 square mile resolution. He is also an expert on species conservation planning and has contributed to efforts to save lions, tigers, Asian bears, jaguars, tapirs, peccaries, American crocodiles, North American bison and Mongolian gazelle; and landscape planning conservation efforts in Argentina, Tanzania, Mongolia, and the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem and the Adirondack Park, in the USA. He has edited two scientific volumes and written numerous scientific papers. His work has been featured in the New York Times, National Geographic Magazine, CNN, NPR, and The New Yorker. He is also the director of The Mannahatta Project, an effort to reconstruct the original ecology of Manhattan Island at the time of European discovery in the early seventeenth century. In 2009 he published a book, “Mannahatta: A Natural History of New York City,” illustrated by Markley Boyer. From May 20 – October 12, 2009, Dr. Sanderson curated an exhibition based on the Mannahatta Project on display at the Museum of the City of New York.

 

Past Talks

Peter Basch-Thursday, December 2, 2021—My loopy, inefficient, random trajectory to Mars

Peter Basch 
Technical Writer/ Editor IV at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Center for Robotic and Deep-Space Exploration, NASA

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

Peter worked on the Mars 2020 (Perseverance to you) project at the Kennedy Space Center, documenting the 1000-odd procedures used to assemble and test the Rover and Helicopter. He will share his view of the process, complicated by Covid-19, which struck smack in the middle of his stay in Florida. He will also share his story of being a first-generation college student at Columbia. 

Biography

Peter Basch is a technical writer and editor at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in the Center for Robotic and Deep-Space Exploration at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). He studied Physics, took lots of classes in Medieval Studies (being obsessed with Tolkien), then dropped out of grad school at Berkeley to be an actor in New York. He spent fifteen years slowly realizing that maybe he should write instead. He wrote a play called English (It's Where the Words Are), which got a good review in the New York Times. This brought him to Los Angeles where he met his wife and found, to his surprise, that there were other places in the world than NYC. Suddenly needing to make an actual living, he evolved into a technical writer and got a job at JPL, where he has been for a decade.

 

Kyle T. Mandli - Tuesday, October 26, 2021- Coastal Resilience in the Face of Climate Change

Kyle T. Mandli 
Associate Professor of Applied Mathematics
Department of Applied Physics and Applied Mathematics, Columbia University

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

Coastal communities from small islands in the Pacific to New York City are all threatened by climate change. The changing risk to these communities is a central question that needs to be assessed in order to address how to best make each diverse community more resilient to the threat of climate change. This discussion will focus on some of the computational tools that mathematicians, scientists and engineers across the spectrum of disciplines, from anthropology to civil engineering, and how these disciplines are contributing to a solution that can hopefully span the diversity of communities that are under threat.

Biography

Kyle T. Mandli is Associate Professor of Applied Mathematics in the department of Applied Physics and Applied Mathematics and affiliated with the Columbia Data Science Institute. Before Columbia he was at the University of Texas at Austin where he was a Research Associate at the Institute for Computational and Engineering Sciences working in the computational hydraulics group. He received his Ph.D. in Applied Mathematics in 2011 from the University of Washington studying multi-layered flow as it applies to storm-surge simulation. His research interests involve the computational and analytical aspects of geophysical shallow mass flows such as storm-surge, tsunamis, and other coastal flooding. This also includes the development of advanced computational approaches, such as adaptive mesh refinement, leveraging novel computational technologies, such as accelerators, and the application of good software development practices as applied more generally to scientific and engineering software.

 

Susanna Coffey-Tuesday, October 19, 2021: Imagination: Source of Resilience

Susanna Coffey
Director of Undergraduate Studies-Visual Arts
Visiting Professor of Painting

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

The word 'imagination' is often associated with terms like fantasy, fairy tale, lack of reality, false memory, even lie. But if one closely considers ones imaginative activities one might understand this wonderful, vital capability... Its ability to help us survive the unexpected. Please bring your memory of your imaginative experiences to our meeting, and a piece of paper and a writing tool.

Biography

Susanna Coffey, Director of Undergrad Studies in Columbia University’s School of Visual Art has been a  Visiting Professor of Painting since 2018. She recently retired as the F.H. Sellers Professor in Painting at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. After receiving her BFA magna cum laude from the University of Connecticut at Storrs she graduated as a MFA from the Yale School of Art. A respected figurative painter, her works in self-portraiture are investigations of the iconic human head. This work is driven by questions about what a portrait image can mean. What is a beautiful appearance? Why do conventionally gendered images involve caricature? Can inchoate feeling-states be adequately portrayed? 

Meticulously observed, the works show her face in many guises and locations: under dramatic lighting, highly costumed, inside a studio, within landscapes, places of fiery devastation, and amidst phantasmagoric patterns. Some portraits seem almost entirely abstract with only the barest suggestion of a human face. Her series of paintings portraying other women artists and writers at work in their studios was recently exhibited at Steven Harvey Fine Arts Projects. 

In addition to her work in portraiture she is involved in other projects. Her book Night Painting was recently published in its second edition by MAB Books. This book features her nocturnal landscape paintings as well as essays, poems and prose poems by Dr. Carol Becker, Brice Brown, Jane Coffey, Jane Kenyon and Mark Strand. Currently she is working with The Leroy Nieman Center for Print Studies on a series of woodcut illustrations for Apostolos Athenassakis’ English translation of The Homeric Hymn to Demeter.

Coffey’s work is included in the collections of The Art institute of Chicago, The National Portrait Gallery, National Academy of Design, The Hood Museum, The Honolulu Museum of Art, Minneapolis Museum of Art, The Weatherspoon Art Museum, the Yale University Art Gallery, and others. This year she was one of the recipients of the “Artist x Artist Award” given by the Hirschhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. Other awards include the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship, the National Endowment for the Arts Award, and the Louis Comfort Tiffany Award. Her many one-person exhibitions have been written about in The New York Times, Art in America, Art News, the New Yorker, Hyperallergic, and other publications. Several books and monographs have included, or featured, her work. She received honorary degrees from the Pennsylvania College of the Arts and the Lyme Academy of Art. 

This coming fall her work will be exhibited at the High Museum in Atlanta, Georgia and the Yale University Art Gallery in New Haven, Connecticut. Ms. Coffey is represented In New York by Steven Harvey Fine Arts Projects.

 

Scott Barry Kaufman- Wednesday, October 13, 2021: Post-Pandemic Growth—“CUSP Inaugural Lecture"

Scott Barry Kaufman, Ph.D.
Cognitive Scientist and Humanistic Psychologist
Founder and Director of the Center for the Science of Human Potential

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

Can we grow from traumatic events? If so, how can such growth be fostered and cultivated? In this talk, I will present the latest science of post-traumatic growth and help people find meaning and process the events of the past year. Humans have a great capacity for resilience. I will help people tap into it using the tools of gratitude, exploration, purpose, and other areas of positive and humanistic psychology.

Biography

Scott Barry Kaufman, Ph.D., is a cognitive scientist and humanistic psychologist exploring the mind, creativity, and the depths of human potential. He is founder and director of the Center for the Science of Human Potential and is an Honorary Principal Fellow at the University of Melbourne’s Centre for Wellbeing Science. He is author/editor of 9 books, including Transcend: The New Science of Self-Actualization, and is host of the #1 psychology podcast in the world— The Psychology Podcast— which has received over 17 million downloads. Dr. Kaufman received a Ph.D. in cognitive psychology from Yale University and has taught courses on intelligence, cognitive science, creativity, and well-being at Columbia University, Yale, NYU, the University of Pennsylvania, and elsewhere. In 2015, he was named one of “50 groundbreaking scientists who are changing the way we see the world” by Business Insider. 

 

Patricia Cruz — Tuesday, February 9, 2021: A Change Is Gonna Come...Or Is It?

Patricia Cruz
CEO and Artistic Director
Harlem Stage

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

Patricia Cruz will discuss how the roles and responsibilities of individuals, and groups of individuals, united by shared values can effect lasting change. Octavia Butler has said “the only lasting truth is change.” She hopes to be able to touch on the impact that art has in inspiring and reflecting change or transformation. 

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: On a Slippery Slope: The Science and Story of the Potential Instability of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet

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

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

The Antarctic Ice Sheet is the largest ice sheet on this planet. It is beautiful, surrounded by the Southern Ocean, with icebergs and sea ice moving with the waves, the winds, and the tides near its coast.

Unprecedented climate change related ocean warming is causing the ice sheet to lose mass rapidly in the recent decades. The western part of Antarctica is one of the most vulnerable section of the ice sheet. Large portions of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet are deemed susceptible to rapid disintegration, partly because of the warmer Amundsen Sea melting the ice shelves and grounding line from underneath, and partly because it is situated on backward-facing bedrock slope that renders it inherently unstable, defined as the marine ice sheet instability.

In this session, Indrani Das will talk about the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, discuss its present state of vulnerability and climate change. She will also share field pictures and stories of Antarctica, her life, science and art in this extreme environment that she is trying to understand to predict how it may change.

Biography

Indrani Das has a Glaciology and Atmospheric Sciences background with expertise in satellite and airborne remote sensing. The main area of her research includes mass balance of ice sheets and ice shelves. She studies physical processes that impact the mass balance and stability of ice sheets and ice shelves, ice-atmosphere and ice-ocean interactions using a combination of satellite remote sensing, airborne radar and laser altimeter, ground based measurements, and modeling.

Indrani earned her Ph.D in Atmospheric Physics from Indian Space Research Organization in 2007 where she worked on radiative transfer algorithms to retrieve marine aerosols from satellite data. After briefly working on estimating snow depth in the Himalayas, in 2007 she came as a postdoc to University of Alaska Fairbanks to work on mass balance of Alaskan glaciers using airborne laser altimetry.

In 2010, Indrani came to the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory to work on surface processes impacting surface mass balance of Antarctica. She is now an Associate Research Professor and her work has evolved to include both surface and basal processes of ice sheets and ice shelves. She also works on paleo observations of accumulation rates and climate history of Greenland ice sheet.

Her active projects include the NERC-NSF-funded ITGC project PROPHET for which she is the institutional PI. Indrani uses airborne radar to study ocean water intrusion in the grounding line of Thwaites. She compares observed bed slippery conditions with ice sheet modeled drag and friction.

Indrani serves as a committee member on the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine (NASEM). She is also a council member of the International Glaciological Society (IGS) and on the Organizing Committee of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) Meeting.

Norrell Edwards — Tuesday, March 16, 2021: Translating Your Research Outside the Academy — “Research and Industry In Action (RIIA)/Cool Jobs”

Norrell Edwards
Chancellor's Postdoctoral Fellow
Texas Christian University

6:00-8:00 p.m. EST
Online

In December 2019, Norrell Edwards completed her doctorate in English literature from the University of Maryland, College Park with a specialization in 20th and 21st century Black Diaspora Literature. Dr. Edwards will share her experience weaving together her research interests with working outside of academia. Both her employment experience and research interests place her work at the nexus of global Black identity, cultural memory, and social justice. She has worked with several criminal justice and education-focused non-profit organizations including: The Drug Policy Alliance, Advancing Real Change, John Hopkins Institute for Education Policy and TandemEd.

Biography

Dr. Norrell Edwards recently joined Texas Christian University as a Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Fellow from her position at Georgetown University where she served as Assistant Director of Education of the Prison and Justice Initiative. Norrell also currently serves as the volunteer director of communications for the Next Step Forward Initiative, a New York-based grassroots organization focused on making progress to eradicate systemic racism. To learn more about Norrell’s work and scholarship, follow her on Twitter @Norrellexplains or stop by her website, www.Norrelledwards.com.

Irwin Redlener — Tuesday, March 30, 2021: Getting to Here: From Lee County to COVID-19

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

Sometimes career paths are linear, heading in a single direction and sticking to the well-worn path. “I want to be a surgeon, or an electrical engineer. That means college in a certain set of acceptable majors, grad school and advanced training, and, if all goes as planned - Voila, I've made it!” But other times, life is more of an adventure; serendipity is a driver, paths are indistinct or malleable. This can be wildly gratifying or deeply unsettling, provoking anxiety or worse. “What am I doing? I'm lost!” Dr. Redlener will share what it has been like to have a terrific time pursuing an eclectic path, hardly always perfect, to be sure, but never, ever boring.

Biography

Irwin Redlener, M.D. is a pediatrician and founding director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University’s Earth Institute and director of the Center’s Pandemic Resource and Response Initiative.

Since 2019, Dr. Redlener has been serving as an on-air public health analyst for NBC & MSNBC.

Dr. Redlener is also President Emeritus and Co-Founder of the Children’s Health Fund, a philanthropic initiative that he created in 1987 with singer/song-writer Paul Simon and Karen Redlener to develop child health care programs in 25 of the nation’s most medically underserved urban and rural communities.

He currently serves as a special advisor on emergency preparedness to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, and regularly communicates with leadership in U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services, as well as Homeland Security. He was an advisor to then Vice President Joe Biden, and, in 2015, served as an advisor to the federal czar on the Ebola outbreak. In 2019 Dr. Redlener worked with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in repeated efforts to stop inhumane treatment of immigrant families and children on the SW U.S. border.

Over his career, Dr. Redlener has created or expanded programs to treat victims of child abuse and neglect and was the principal designer and lead in the development of the Children’s Hospital at Montefiore (CHAM), the first institution of its kind in the Bronx, one the most indigent urban zip codes in the U.S. Early in his career, Dr. Redlener’s positions included medical director of a community health center in an impoverished rural county in Arkansas and directing a new pediatric intensive care unit at the University of Miami/Jackson Memorial Hospital.

As an advocate on issues pertaining to the health and well-being of children living with multiple adversities from extreme poverty to domestic violence and homelessness, Dr. Redlener has long-standing relationships with Members of Congress and, from time to time, high ranking Administration officials. He has advised every Democratic presidential campaign since 1988.

Dr. Redlener has authored and co-authored numerous articles in peer-reviewed journals on issues related to access to care for children and disaster-related topics. He a regular resource to journalists on these and related issues and has contributed opinion pieces to the Washington Post, The Daily Beast, The Hill, CNN.com, The New York Times and other media. He is the author of The Future of Us, What the Dreams of Children Mean for Twenty-First-Century America (Columbia University Press) which was released on September 19, 2017 (updated and re-released in 2020). He also authored Americans at Risk: Why We Are Not Prepared for Megadisasters and What We Can Do Now (Knopf).

Dr. Redlener completed his undergraduate degree at Hofstra University and received his M.D. at the Miller School of Medicine at the University of Miami. Specialty training was received at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center, the University of Colorado Medical Center and the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. He holds honorary degrees from Hofstra University and Hunter College of the City University of New York.

 

Kyle T. Mandli-Tuesday, October 26, 2021—Coastal Resilience in the Face of Climate Change

Kyle T. Mandli 
Associate Professor of Applied Mathematics
Department of Applied Physics and Applied Mathematics, Columbia University

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

Coastal communities from small islands in the Pacific to New York City are all threatened by climate change. The changing risk to these communities is a central question that needs to be assessed in order to address how to best make each diverse community more resilient to the threat of climate change. This discussion will focus on some of the computational tools that mathematicians, scientists and engineers across the spectrum of disciplines, from anthropology to civil engineering, and how these disciplines are contributing to a solution that can hopefully span the diversity of communities that are under threat.

Biography

Kyle T. Mandli is Associate Professor of Applied Mathematics in the department of Applied Physics and Applied Mathematics and affiliated with the Columbia Data Science Institute. Before Columbia he was at the University of Texas at Austin where he was a Research Associate at the Institute for Computational and Engineering Sciences working in the computational hydraulics group. He received his Ph.D. in Applied Mathematics in 2011 from the University of Washington studying multi-layered flow as it applies to storm-surge simulation. His research interests involve the computational and analytical aspects of geophysical shallow mass flows such as storm-surge, tsunamis, and other coastal flooding. This also includes the development of advanced computational approaches, such as adaptive mesh refinement, leveraging novel computational technologies, such as accelerators, and the application of good software development practices as applied more generally to scientific and engineering software.

 

Gareth Williams - Thursday, August 26, 2021: On the Rebound: Resilience, Bouncing Back, and Encore in the Core — “CUSP/ASP Annual NSOP Lecture”

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

10:00 a.m - noon EST
Online

Just what is resilience? How do we begin to define such a wide-ranging term? Has that quality been differently perceived over the ages within a given culture or across diverse cultures? Is resilience always a good thing? This talk will consider various forms and illustrations of resilience in different cultural settings from the past, with reference to many of the texts that figure in the Columbia Core. A major aim will be to complicate our view of what resilience is and can be in the different settings that we shall consider.

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).

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