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Student Advising

City Outings

The CUSP City Outings are a way for Scholars in years 2, 3, and 4 to experience the City as a classroom.  Building on the city’s rich resources, the diversity of interests represented by the Scholars and the academic specialty of the five CUSP Graduate Student Mentors (GSMs), these City Outings are an integral part of building a foundation for civic engagement and community awareness. Listed below please find the five City Outings offered in the 2012-2013 academic year. The Outings take place in October, November, February, March and April.


1) GSM: Nemira Gasiunas, PhD Candidate Philosophy (October Outing)

 Outing Title: Global Issues from an Ethical Perspective


Objective: Philosophy draws on the tools of logic and reason to deliver answers to some of the deepest questions humans can ask. Often though, these questions seem overly abstract, and irrelevant to practical concerns : Does God exist? How do you know you are not dreaming right now? Are numbers real? One might legitimately wonder whether philosophy has any role at all to play in shaping our day-to-day existence.

The goal of this tour is to promote an understanding of how reasoning in moral philosophy can inform social policy (e.g. local and global legislation; in the media; in education; and also at the interpersonal level) with respect to biological issues of global concern. Such issues include: global health and global aging; organ and human trafficking; end-of-life care; reproductive and sexual rights; stem cell research and therapeutic applications; neuroscience and mental health; health and nanotechnology; genetically engineered food; research ethics.

We will visit the Global Bioethics Initiative, which is situated within the UN, to see how this not-for-profit organization responds to the need for solutions to bioethical issues that vitally affect people’s lives. We will see how the philosophical (and more broadly academic) tools of analysis, discussion and collaboration can be put to use in educating, advising and assisting governments and international legislators in their approach to issues such as those mentioned above.


Questions to keep in mind:

1.  Are there any problems you can think of with the concept of “applied ethics”, that is, the notion of “applying” philosophical theory to practical situations?

2.  Do you believe that there is an in principle possibility of reaching a reasoned consensus on these sorts of issues? What other factors might explain the lack of consensus in global approaches to ethical issues?

3.  What kind of issues can you identify with respect to the practical implementation of theoretical conclusions. E.g. what are there problems with a document like the International Charter of Human Rights

4.  Do you believe ethical principles are universalizable? Or that they are relative?

Dates/times of tours:

Thursday, October 11, 2-4pm

Friday, October 19, 2-4pm

Friday, October 26, 10:45-2pm

Friday, November 2, 2-5pm

Background reading:

 Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, “Theory and Bioethics”



2) GSM: Nasser Hussain, PhD Candidate Anthropology (November Outing)

Outing Title: Cabbies and Queens

Objective: My research centers on taxi cab firms in England. These firms consist mainly of drivers that are ethnically Pakistani and male. Using theories from urbanism, migration and religion, I try to understand processes of territorialization, drivers' attachments to the places they navigate and the kinds of networks that their movements produce. My research addresses popular and policy-based notions of "integration" and "multiculturalism," but does so in a manner and in terms that are very real, i.e. that are not solely based on a theoretical discussion!! My outing is directly based on these research experiences. We will head to Jackson Heights, which is heavily South Asian, spending our first part sitting in on what was described by the New York Times as "the Kaplan class for cabbies," led by A J Gogia. The class prepares newly-arrived immigrants for cabbing in NYC (see the suggested reading). We will then walk around the local area; there's quite an array of stores, restaurants and Bollywood movie theatres to keep us busy.


Questions to keep in mind:

There is one main question that we need to keep in mind on this outing, one that links the first part to the second. That question involves trying to get a sense of how the budding taxi drivers we observed in the class relate to their local surroundings. What kinds of comforts (or even anxieties) will this local Jackson Heights neighborhood provide for those new cab drivers as they branch out into other parts of this vast, metropolitan terrain? Of course, other things to think about will directly speak to you!!! What surprised you? Were you surprised? If we were to take a comparative stance, how has this outing changed or reaffirmed your opinion of the "other" Heights, Morningside?


Friday November 16, 4-7pm

Saturday November 17, 1-4pm

Monday November 26, 3-6pm

Thursday November 29, 5-8pm

Background reading:

3) GSM: Amanda Gilliam, PhD Candidate, Cultural Anthropology  (February Outing)     

Outing Title:  Making Black History: A Trip to the Schomburg

Where: Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, a Division of The New York Public Library

Objective: I am a PhD Candidate in Cultural Anthropology.  My dissertation, “Fit for Citizenship? An Ethnography of Race, Respectability, and the Politics of ‘Obesity’ in Washington, DC” explores the ways in which “overweight” and “obesity” are socially produced as distinct problems of the urban poor of color and the ways this racialization of fat may serve to designate fat African-Americans, in particular, as unfit, undeserving, and ineligible for citizenship.  Accordingly, my fieldwork examines how Black people in Washington, D.C. use practices of weight management and bodily presentation as evidence of self-control, reason, and responsibility to gain access to social and political power otherwise denied them.  Questions of racial embodiment, power, representation, and the pitfalls and potentialities of so-called “Blackness” animate my research.  The Schomburg Center, then, as the world’s preeminent curator of the myriad experiences of Black diaspora, is perfectly situated as to illuminate these intellectual questions beyond the particularities of my dissertation.   These outings, strategically scheduled during Black History Month, eschew the trite, though unfortunately enduring, one dimensional depictions of Black people as athletic machines or entertainers-for-hire, and instead invites students to explore and celebrate the full humanity of Black people.  In a historical moment fraught with unrestrained expressions of white supremacy – from the inhumane treatment of migrants and marked police violence to voter ID laws and gurdwara shooting rampages – indeed when the United States again betrays its desire to become a “more perfect union” around issues of race - these outings serve as a compelling counterpoint to a cultural narrative that all too often neglects the significant contributions and experiences of Black people in New York City and beyond.

            Students will explore the Center’s permanent and current exhibitions and programming with the aid of a tour guide.  Information about the Center’s collections can be found on the website – the specific exhibits for 2013 have not yet been posted.

Questions to keep  in mind:

 Why is this kind of library collection necessary?  What differences and similarities does it have with other libraries that you have visited and used?

Background Reading:

TBD once 2013 exhibits posted

When (awaiting final confirmation):

            Friday, February 1, 12-2pm

            Friday, February 8, 12-2pm

            Friday, February 15, 12-2pm

            Thursday, February 21, 2-4pm


Address: 515 Malcolm X Boulevard New York, NY 10037-1801

Directions: 2 & 3 trains to 135th Street

                    MTA buses M7 and M102 to 135th Street


Additional Resources:



4) GSM: Ariela Zycherman, PhD Candidate, Applied Anthropolgy (March Outing)

Outing title:  Indians Represent: Navigating Contemporary and Historical Forms of Identity through Museum Materials, Space and Politics

Where: The National Museum of the American Indian

Objective: I am PhD candidate in Applied Anthropology. My dissertation looks at the complex and evolving relationships between labor, food and regional development among the Tsimane Indians in the Bolivian Amazon.  One important aspect of this work is identifying the ways Indigenous identity is created, recreated, and expressed through practices and materials, particularly in relationship to larger political, economic and environmental changes. The National Museum of the American Indian in New York is a Smithsonian Institute, and is connected to the Washington D.C. location with the same name.  These museums and their collections represent the first time in the United States that Native Americans were consulted in the creation of a public representation of themselves for the nation. Indigenous groups throughout the world (particularly in the U.S., Canada, Australia and across South America) are becoming more vocal in demanding recognition of their rights, particularly their ability to maintain historically important lifestyles.  On this trip we will explore the ‘Infinity of Nations’ permanent exhibition and discuss the ways materials serve to perpetuate or reimagine forms of identity, the role of materials for representing Indigenous cultures in museums and other forms of public display, and the relationship between broad representations of indigeniety and individual tribal or nation identity.

Questions to keep in mind:

1.  How are/ were museum materials collected? What is on display and what is not on display? Are these decisions reflected in the presentation? Can museums adequately present the self-identification of Native Americans?

2.  What are the pros and cons of a large “Native American” movement? Who is represented in this movement and how do they benefit? Who is excluded?

3. How does the American approach to cultural sovereignty and representation for Native Americans compare to other countries with indigenous populations and colonial pasts?

Background Reading:

1. Cobb, Amanda J. 2005 “The National Museum of the American Indian as Cultural Sovereignty” American Quarterly, Vol. 57, No. 2 pp. 485-506

2. Rickard, Jolene 2007 “Absorbing or Obscuring the Absence of a Critical Space in the Americas for Indigeneity: The Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian” Anthropology and Aesthetics, No. 52, pp. 85-92


When:  Monday, March 4, 10:30am -12:30 pm

              Friday, March 8, 2-4pm;

              Sunday, March 10, 11am -1pm

              Thursday, March 14, 6-8pm


Address: NMAI, Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House, One Bowling Green (south side), New York, NY 10004

Directions: 2 & 3 trains to Wall Street

                    1 train to South Ferry

                    4 & 5 trains to Bowling Green

                    R train to Whitehall Street

                    J & Z trains to Broad Street




5) GSM: Ruaridh (Rory) MacLeod, PhD Candidate, Education & Philosophy (April Outing)

Outing Title: Philosophy of Spaces: Neighborhoods, Networks & Reason

Objective: Part of my research in the areas of philosophy and education involves the effects that network theory has on our ideas of how we come to learn. If we consider neighborhoods as an interlinked system of networks, we come to understand that neighborhoods are not predetermined places or locations: they are created, they evolve, and they can also be destroyed. Using Jane Jacobs’ analysis of the Village neighborhood in NYC, we will explore the ways in which the seeming complexity, randomness and chaos apparent within the everyday interactions of city neighborhoods are in fact essential to the operation of a successful community. From there we will consider the conditions necessary for a successful neighborhood, along with the notion that illogical factors such as vibrancy and redundancy show how reason, logic and order – the very foundations of the modern approach to urban planning and building design – are in fact inimical to the creation and sustenance of welcoming, effective communities. We will then investigate the reasons why this should be so, linking our findings to theories of human nature, human development, and elements of political theory.

 Concurrent to this, we will also spend time considering the ways in which space itself can be viewed as something generated by social activities. Once again, this idea runs counter to the prevailing modernist assumption that space is a uniform entity and one that transcends the scope of human perception and agency. Space can then be considered as an indicator of social arrangements and practices, and thus reflective of the distinctive character of communities, societies and nations.

Questions to keep in mind:

What is your current conception of what constitutes a neighborhood?

  1. What are the various different activities, uses, systems and relations you see evident in the neighborhoods we visit?
  2. How does the time of day affect the factors listed in question 3?
  3. How does the idea of space link with the idea of a neighborhood? How does the one have an effect on the other? Is there a reciprocal relation between them, or does one element supervene upon the other?

Dates/times of tours:

Monday, April 1, 2-4pm

Tuesday, April 9, 4-6pm

Wednesday, April 17, 10am-12pm

Thursday, April 25, 6-8pm


Background reading:

Selections from Jane Jacobs, The Death and Life of Great American Cities

 Blackwell Encyclopedia of Sociology Online entry on ‘Henri Lefebvre’ (online subscription currently being arranged with CU Library/or else I will distribute paper copies)

Columbia Undergraduate Scholars Program


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