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Speaker Series with Scholars

The Columbia Undergraduate Scholars Program (CUSP) provides named scholars with enhanced academic and cultural opportunities.

2019-2020 Theme: Dissonance

Dissonance is typically defined as the absence of harmony. In music, a lack of conformity or unified pattern in sound can often lead to unpleasant compositions that can be jarring to the listener’s ears. However, this dissonance can be deliberately used as a tool to create moods that evoke powerful emotions, such as excitement, anguish, or sorrow. Dissonance engenders tension, but from this tension springs innovation and novel experiences. Beyond the confines of music, dissonance exists similarly in the ways in which artists, scholars, and scientists meld seemingly disparate media, inquiries, and philosophies to produce surprisingly consonant works. Dissonance reverberates in the pages of popular and poignant literary works, as the rising action among protagonists settles into satisfying narrative resolution. It echoes in the meeting rooms of large corporations and small start-ups alike, where individuals with diverse specializations and varying levels of expertise come together in pursuit of a shared goal. It rings in the awareness of the painful histories of conflict in nations and societies that, today, exist in a state of peace that could have never been anticipated. In many ways, dissonance embodies the rhythm of life itself, an existence fraught with the uncertain and unexpected that somehow still manages to give way to beauty and closure. More than just curiously placed notes on a musical staff, dissonance captures the value of navigating through and learning from the discomfort of the known past and an unknowable future.

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 “Dissonance.” 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.

Upcoming Talks​

Katja Maria Vogt: Disagreement and Relativism
Thursday, October 10, 2019; 6:00–8:00 p.m.

If we disagree about how many people are in the room, we count them. If we disagree how the people in the room should act whether someone's views are offensive, someone's actions hurtful, and so on what do we do? We don't seem to have a method of resolving the disagreement. And typically, we are invested in our views. We care about what we see as good and bad, right and wrong. This talk examines what's special about value disagreement, why it is so persistent and so pervasive, and what, if any, the truth in relativism might be.

Location Davis Auditorium on the 4th floor of the Schapiro Center for Engineering and Physical Science Research, 530 West 120th Street

Scott B. Kaufman: The Light vs. The Dark Triad of Personality
Wednesday, October 23, 2019; 6:00–8:00 p.m.

We all have a light and a dark side. However, we all vary in the extent to which we consistently exhibit light vs. dark patterns of thoughts, feelings, and behaviors in our daily lives. Over the past 15 years, psychologists have studied the “dark traits” that are associated with ethnically, morally, and socially aversive beliefs and behaviors. This includes traits such as narcissism, psychopathy, sadism, and spitefulness. However, in only the past few years have psychologists begun to investigate the light side of personality, and our capacities for forgiveness, trust, honesty, caring, acceptance, and seeing the best in others. In this talk, Kaufman will review his recent research on "everyday saints," and discuss implications of the light side of personality for healing the many divides we are seeing in the world today.

Location Davis Auditorium on the 4th floor of the Schapiro Center for Engineering and Physical Science Research, 530 West 120th Street

Brad Garton: Computer Music: A Dissonance of Disciplines
Wednesday, October 30, 2019; 6:00–8:00 p.m.

What exactly is computer music? What makes a contemporary computer musician? Brad Garton will describe how different, perhaps "dissonant," disciplines such as music, art, computer science, data science (and others!) can harmonize to form an exciting area of technological creativity.

Location Davis Auditorium on the 4th floor of the Schapiro Center for Engineering and Physical Science Research, 530 West 120th Street

Past Presentations

Robert O’Meally: 'This Music Demanded Action': The Challenge of the Core
Monday, August 29, 2016

George Michelsen Foy: Finding North: How Navigation Makes us Human
Thursday, September 22, 2016

Gareth Williams: Navigating Life: The Odyssey
Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Dimitris Christopoulos: Is it Really a Crisis or Just Another EU Failure? Contradictions and Dangers of the Dominant European Discourse on Migration.
Monday, October 10, 2016

David Helfand: Navigating the Misinformation Age
Thursday, October 20, 2016

Kaitlyn Parkins: “Cool Jobs” Nocturnal Navigators: Understanding Migration Patterns of New York City's Birds and Bats
Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Jeff Kluger and Alan Stern: Cosmic Navigation
Monday, November 14, 2016

Greg Milner: Time To Go
Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Steve Bellovin: Software and the Problem of Complexity
Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Allison Cuneo: “Cool Jobs”
Monday, March 6, 2017

Lincoln Paine: A Map and a Sense of Time: A Guide to Navigating the Global Past
Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Kathy Nagel: Olfactory Navigation in Fruit Flies
Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Beau Shaw: Navigation, Education, and Democracy in Plato's Republic
Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Professor Gareth D. Williams: What's the Score with the Core? — "CUSP/ASP Annual NSOP Lecture"
Friday, August 31, 2018

Professor Bernard E. Harcourt: On the American Counterrevolution: The Long View of History in Politics and Law — “CUSP Inaugural Lecture”
Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Gareth Williams: The Core and More: The What, Why and How of a Columbia Education
Friday, August 30, 2019

Ravi Kailas and Cathy Guo: The Striver vs. The Witness: An Entrepreneur's Search for Value
Wednesday, September 11, 2019

J. Ralph: Evolocean
Tuesday, September 17, 2019

To learn more and/or register for these events, contact us at ccalumni@columbia.edu