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Seminar Syllabus 2013-2014

The Columbia Journey Seminar, modeled after the Core classes, combines presentations and small discussion sections facilitated by a Graduate Student Mentor (GSM).  It offers students the opportunity, while developing community among peers, to develop critical thinking skills and discover the campus and New York City resources that will support academic and community engagement throughout each student's tenure at Columbia.

The seminar is based on a discovery of both New York City and of Columbia University, playing off the University's formal title of "Columbia University in the City of New York."

Learning Outcomes:

1. Provide First Year Scholars with experiential learning opportunities that highlight Columbia University's multifaceted identity in the context of New York City's diversity.  Explore Columbia's history and that of its neighbors as background to a discussion of the role of a liberal arts college education in the 21st century.  

2. Hone First Year Scholars’ critical thinking skills by exposing them to the many resources of Columbia and the broader city and by inviting them formulate creative and critical responses.

3. Lay the foundation for a diverse"Scholar Community" that, alongside advising, the CUSP Speaker Series, cultural outings, and research opportunities, will enhance the Scholars' undergraduate experience.

Columbia Journey Seminar 20132014: “Columbia University in the City of New York”

General Overview:
The Columbia Journey Seminar (CJS) is the cornerstone of the Scholars Program.   Anchored in the principles of community, exploration, and engagement, the CJS brings first-year students together with advanced graduate students, faculty and administrators who will guide the new Scholars as they push beyond the boundaries of the classroom to seek out opportunities for academic and personal growth that will positively impact the larger community.   In hour-long meetings once per week, students cultivate community and connectedness with their own group of approximately 10-12 students.  Frequent outings empower students to go beyond the confines of Morningside Heights and explore resident life in other neighborhoods.  Finally, seminar discussions facilitated by Graduate Student Mentors (GSMs) allow students to critically connect their outings to broader contemporary debates about society’s most pressing issues.  Throughout the course of the year, first year students will not only make new friends, build relationships with professors and acclimate to college life – they will also be encouraged and supported as they grapple with questions about what it means to be an engaged and responsible member of the Columbia community and beyond. 

Expectations and Responsibilities:

  1. Columbia Journey Seminar: attendance is mandatory for all First Year Scholars
  2. CUSP Speaker Series: attendance to 3 out of 6 speakers per semester is mandatory.  Attendance is recorded through online evaluation process following the event.  If, due to class conflict, you cannot attend the minimum number of events required, contact the CUSP Office, attend a campus lecture and fill out an alternate event evaluation online)
  3. CUSP Summer Enhancement Fellowships (1st, 2nd and 3rd summers): Scholars are eligible to apply for summer funding and will be considered based on their good standing in CUSP.
  4. Academic & Enhanced advising: CUSP staff undertakes the academic advising of all College Scholars (John Jays and Kluges).  Engineering Scholars (C.P. Davis) receive enhanced advising by the staff.

The Columbia Journey Seminar 2013-2014 is inspired by the name of alma mater, Columbia University in the City of New York.  The year-long seminar, divided into two semesters, takes as its focus the city of New York and Columbia University, respectively.  Utilizing a stimulus and discussion model, Scholars are motivated to consider the ways in which each encounter – a lecture, film, neighborhood visit, an interview with Columbia faculty, or a tour of university spaces --, shapes and is shaped by their college experiences. 

Outline of Course and Purposes:
The fall semester opens with a two-hour guided walking tour of Harlem, given in partnership with Mr. Neal Shoemaker of Harlem Heritage Tours.  Mr. Shoemaker walks the First Year Scholars through a nuanced and vibrant living community as it negotiates the challenges and successes of being a center of African American urban life among the exigencies of changing demographics and the onslaught of gentrification.  Building upon the rich discussion sure to be generated from the Harlem tours, Scholars are invited to expand their boundaries beyond Manhattan and into the borough of Queens as the semester continues.  Celebrated as the most “cosmopolitan” area of the city with residents hailing from as many as 100 different countries, Queens is an essential story of migration, diaspora, and New York.  After viewing the critically acclaimed film, New York’s Number 7 Train, A Journey Through Immigrant America, small student groups will select and explore in teams a specific area of the borough and share their experiences with their seminar.  Far from voyeuristic outings where students merely peer into communities and lives perceived to be unlike their own, these neighborhood visits unite the theory of the classroom to the lived experiences of everyday people.  Further, with the guidance of their GSM, students are able to draw connections between what they’ve seen on their visits to broader debates in society.  For example, what does it mean to recognize that Queens is celebrated for being a truly global borough, while also being the former site of one of the country’s largest immigration detention centers?  As the semester draws to a close and students become increasingly comfortable with their new roles as college students, indeed, as New Yorkers, the CJS issues a final challenge when it asks the students to consider what it means to belong. 

The CJS will undoubtedly expose the first-year Scholars to novel experiences and material.   The critical thinking that the seminar fosters is fundamental to a student’s scholarly development and of utmost importance to the intellectual and social leaders our Scholars aspire to be.  To that end, the second semester of the CJS invites Scholars to use the human and material resources of the University in order to channel those critical thinking skills. 

The spring semester opens with a sustained exploration into Columbia’s role in the social movements of the late 1960s.  Scholars will be invited to draw connections between the student activism and political realities of that time to their own on-campus engagements with social change to see what, if anything has changed, and why.  As the semester winds on, Scholars are reminded that, inasmuch as the University holds a storied place in the American political imagination, it also does so in the intellectual realm.  Encompassing a dazzling array of rare printed materials spanning four millennia, the Columbia Rare Book & Manuscript Library is an almost endless trove of information for students as they peruse the collections and consider not only Columbia’s history itself, but its role in producing, shaping, and collecting history, as well.  Spurred to investigate a piece of Columbia’s intellectual genealogy, Scholars will identify, research and report on a favorite Columbian, and then work in small groups to interview a current member of the faculty.  This mini project will give the Scholars an opportunity to explore the faculty structure of the University, as well as meet, interact, and build rapport with budding and established professors, an experience that will undoubtedly help them as they plan to pursue opportunities for independent research, lab assistantships, or internships through CUSP Summer Enhancement grants. 

All of the year’s events – from the Harlem Tours to the CUSP Speaker series, from the archives presentation to the faculty chats will culminate in a final capstone project that invites Scholars to harness their creativity and multimedia finesse to explore the seminar theme “Columbia University in the City of New York.”

FALL SEMESTER: The City of New York

See spring semester

CJS #1: What is College?

Week of 9/23–9/27

This introductory CJS session will present an overview of the goals, expectations, and procedures of the Columbia Journey Seminar.  During this session we will discuss this year’s theme – “Columbia University in the City of New York” and make connections with Professor Delbanco’s September 19th CUSP Speaker Series talk on the value of a liberal arts education.

The CUSP Speaker Series with Andy Delbanco (September 19, 2013; 6:008:00 p.m. Earl Hall Auditorium) is mandatory.

CJS #2: Morningside Heights & Harlem

Week of 9/30–10/4

During this session we will explore your personal reactions to the Harlem Tour and reflect upon Columbia University’s place in the fabric of the surrounding neighborhood.  During this session students will choose a partner with whom they will return to Harlem and further explore a topic or theme of their choice.

 Homework Assignment for CJS #3: Students will be expected to post their results of their Harlem visit on the CJS Wiki prior to CJS #3.

CJS #3: Impressions & Presentations: Student Reportage / Harlem

Week of 10/7–10/11

During this session students will present the results of their exploration of Harlem.

No homework assignment for CJS#4

CJS #4: The Local and the Global: Forays into Queens

Week of 10/14–10/18

Branching out beyond Columbia’s immediate neighbors, Scholars will explore the impacts of immigration, diaspora, and globalization on the borough of Queens.  As a follow-up to the film “New York’s Number 7 Train, A Journey through Immigrant America,” Schoalrs will select partners with whom to explore a particular community in Queens. Please see the handout for suggested neighborhoods. 

Homework Assignment for CJS #5: Students will be expected to post the results of their trips to Queens on the CJS Wiki prior to CJS #5.

Additional Resources:

CJS #5: Impressions & Presentations: Student Reportage / Queens

Week of 10/21–10/25

During this session students will present the results of their exploration of Queens.

Homework Assignment due for CJS #7 – week of November 4Over these two weeks Scholars will be expected to visit the Museum of the History of New York.

Scholars may go independently or coordinate with a partner or small group.  Following your visit to the Museum of the City of New York, your assignment for the CJS #7 (Week of November 4) will be to write a critical review of the museum (or an exhibit at the Museum).  The idea behind this assignment is to have you create an “authentic” piece of journalism. For directions and information regarding the museum, please visit the following site:

Critical Review Examples:

CJS #6: NO CLASS: Individual or Group Trips to the Museum of the City of New York

Week of 10/28–10/31

Expanding upon students’ exploration of the neighborhoods of Harlem and of Queens, Scholars will visit (either independently or in groups) the Museum of the City of New York.  In a critical review (due on CJS#7) students will explore the Museum’s representation of the City’s history and identity.

Homework Assignment for CJS #7: Students are expected to post their museum review on the CJS Wiki prior to CJS #7

CJS #7: Impressions and Presentations: Student Reportage / Museum Review

Week of 11/4–11/8

Debrief on the Museum of the City of New York critical reviews.

Homework Assignment for CJS #8: TBD

CJS #8: Belonging in New York City: Pathways and Barriers

Week of 11/11–11/15

In this concluding session, Scholars will discuss the City’s many personalities and the pathways and barriers to “becoming/being a New Yorker.”

SPRING SEMESTER: Columbia University

See fall semester

CJS #1: College & Society: Columbia’s role in the social revolutions of the 60s

Week of 2/17 – 2/21

During this session students will view a documentary on the 1968 student protests and explore Columbia University’s role in shaping the broader academy and the social movements of the 60’s: 

Homework Assignment for CJS #2:Before CJS #2, post on the Wiki two aspects that struck you about the film and that you would like covered in discussion next week.

Capstone Project: Scholars should begin envisioning their capstone project. The capstone project is meant to express your interpretation, in any media, of the CJS theme: "Columbia University in the City of New York." The capstone project is due at the end of the semester.

Additional Resources:

CJS #2: College & Society: Columbia’s role in the social revolutions of the 1960s

Week of 2/24 – 2/28

During this session Scholars will discuss the 1968 Columbia University Protest Documentary.

Homework Assignment for CJS #3: For CJS#3, Scholars will identify their favorite Columbian and prepare to present why they chose him or her.  Notable Columbians may include famous politicians, writers, public figures, former faculty members, prominent intellectuals, or institutional pillars of the Columbia community.  Scholars are expected to post their choice on the CJS Wiki prior to CJS #3. 

For an introduction to some of the most notable Columbians, please familiarize yourself with the Columbia 250 website.  The website features a page called “Columbians Ahead of Their Time.”  This list of short bios should provide an excellent starting point as you search for your favorite intellectual forefathers.

If you would like to include any archival materials in your Wiki posting, please consult the Columbia University Archives website.  Here, you will find the Finding Aid for the Historical Biographical Files, which features many of the figures noted in the Columbia 250 list cited above.

For a broader look at the institutional history of the university, you might also look at the Columbia 250 feature, “Columbia Through Time.”

CJS #3: Columbia's Intellectual Genealogy -- Past and Present

Rare book room visit next week--sign up for one of the scheduled guided tours on the Wiki.

Week of 3/2 3/7

During this session, Scholars and GSMs will present their favorite Columbian.

Homework Assignment for CJS #5:Students should interview--either individually or in small groups--a professor/instructor of their choice (see handout for interviewing tips) and post the highlights on the class wiki prior to CJS #5.

CJS #4: NO CLASS: Individual Site Visits to Rare Book & Manuscript Library: Discovering the History of Columbia

Week of 3/24 3/28

Through a guided visit of the Rare Book Room, Scholars  will explore Columbia’s history, its role as a repository and its role in the production of history. The GSMs will elaborate on what is expected of the Scholars in their sections.  

Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Columbia University Libraries:

Homework Assignment for CJS #5: Interview a professor/instructor (see assignment above) due by CJS #5.

CJS #5:Teachers & Mentors: Office Hours and Beyond

Week of 3/31 – 4/4

During this session, Scholars will explore the culture of the professoriate based on your interviews and the importance of building a wide range of mentoring relationships. GSMs may invite one of their professors/mentors to informally meet with their class.

Homework Assignment for CJS#6 and #7: Scholars should focus on creating their capstone project. The capstone project is meant to express your interpretation, in any media, of the CJS theme: "Columbia University in the City of New York." Scholars will be expected to post their Capstone project on the class Wiki prior to when they are scheduled to present.

Please see the class handout for capstone project suggestions and ideas.

Scholars are expected to make an individual appointment with their GSM during this period to discuss the capstone project.

CJS #6: Impressions and Presentations: Capstone Projects

Week of 4/7 – 4/11

Scholars will present their capstone projects.

CJS #7: Impressions & Presentations: Capstone Projects

Week of 4/14 – 4/18

Scholars will present their Capstone Projects.

The class will also reflect on the year’s work and the goals of the CJS.

Columbia Undergraduate Scholars Program


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