Kenneth Cole Community Engagement Program

Columbia College and The Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science (SEAS), in partnership with fashion designer Kenneth Cole, present the Kenneth Cole Community Engagement Program. This exciting initiative serves to inspire and empower the next generation of community leaders, introducing a talented, dedicated and diverse group of Columbia undergraduates to the challenges and opportunities for community building in contemporary urban America.

Through this innovative program, undergraduate students have the opportunity to gain academic as well as practical experience and insight in becoming community leaders and effective agents of change. Students selected for this program, named Kenneth Cole Fellows, hone competencies in several areas that form the basis of effective community leadership such as community partnering, community understanding, information sharing, leadership and initiative. Fellows have the opportunity to see firsthand the critical role that collaboration plays in the resolution of important community issues.

A strong foundation in these principles prepares Fellows for team-based summer internship projects within community organizations, local businesses, and not-for-profit and for-profit entities in the public and private sector. The Fellows work with community partners to address critical local problems, encourage social action, build community capacity, and seek to launch and implement effective initiatives that strengthen communities and promote social change.


Program Components

The Kenneth Cole Community Engagement Program consists of three interlocking elements:

Spring Course. The program begins in the spring semester, when Fellows partake in a required credit-bearing course entitled "Community Engagement and Community Building: Strengthening Communities to Advance Social Change".  The course readings, discussions and selected guest speakers will focus on community building skills, the process of community engagement, social entrepreneurship and asset based organizational and policy efforts that impact community development.  The course will also prepare Fellows for their summer "social impact" internships.  

Spring Program Series. In addition to the course, Fellows and program administrators meet bi-weekly for internship-related workshops and planning sessions. The spring series is designed to strengthen Fellows’ knowledge of urban issues, build their community engagement skills and prepare them for their summer internships.

Summer Living-Learning Experience. The program culminates in a summer internship in which Fellows work in teams at community organizations, focusing on specific, community-based projects. Fellows receive a stipend for these internships and work approximately 30 hours per week on their projects, with regular input from staff from the Division of Student Affairs, the Center for Career Education, Columbia College, and SEAS. All Fellows complete a short report and presentation at the conclusion of their fellowships, which include presenting meaningful and constructive solutions to the various stakeholders.

Additionally, during this time the Fellows live together in a University residence hall provided for by the program. As a complement to their community projects, they meet weekly to discuss their projects and continue to learn about community engagement and problem-solving. For students receiving financial aid, their summer work contribution will be waived if accepted into this program.

While there are no specific academic requirements for the program, it is strongly recommended that students complete courses that directly address issues of community building and engagement. The following list of courses, while not exhaustive, comprises a subset of the various possibilities that may be of interest to students:

AMST W3930: Topics in American Studies: The Cultures of Harlem
AMST W3931: Topics in American Studies: Hispanic New York
ANTH BC3868: Ethnographic Fieldwork in New York City
ANTH V3960: The Culture of Public Art and Display In New York City
ANTH V3989: Introduction to Urban Anthropology
CSER V3440: The Changing American City
ECON W4228: Urban Economics
HIST BC4456: The Craft of Urban History
HIST W3575: Power and Place: Black Urban Politics
MDES W3951: Postcolonial African Cities: Development & Citizenship in the Era of Globalization
RELI V2615: Religions of Harlem
RELI V3604: Religion in the City
SDEV W3410: Urbanization and Sustainable Development
SOCI V2420: Race and Place in Urban America
SOCI V2440: American Society
SOCI V3247: The Immigrant Experience, Old and New
SOCI W2400y: Comparative Perspectives on Inequality
SOCI W3324: Global Urbanism
SPAN W3463: New York as Latin City: Origins to the Present
URBS V3420: Introduction to Urban Sociology
URBS V3920: Social Entrepreneurship


Additionally, the Kenneth Cole Program sponsors lectures, workshops, and other events related to community engagement throughout the academic year, including the Kenneth Cole Forum in October where Fellows make presentations on their previous summer experiences.


For more information about the program, please email Natasha Rossi, Program Coordinator for the Kenneth Cole Program.


About Kenneth Cole

Fashion designer Kenneth Cole is Chairman and Chief Creative Officer of Kenneth Cole Productions, Inc., which designs, sources and markets a broad range of footwear, handbags, apparel and accessories. He strongly believes that business and community service are inter-connected and interdependent, and he is known for employing messages of social responsibility in the design and marketing of his products, as well as for supporting organizations that address meaningful social issues. Mr. Cole is also the Chairman of amfAR, the largest not-for-profit AIDS research foundation; a founding Board member of HELP USA, the leading national provider of housing and jobs for the homeless; and a longstanding Board member of the Sundance Institute. He has long been committed to social activism and inspiring others to make a difference.

View the program brochure.

Student Engagement


515 Alfred Lerner Hall
2920 Broadway
New York, NY 10027

Call: 212-854-3611

Fax: 212-854-6972

Office Hours
9:00 a.m.–5:00p.m.