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Speaker Series with Scholars

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

2018-2019 Theme: Lateness

Priority is the significance given to what is prior—to what comes first or manifests earlier. Beginnings, innovation, the precocious and avant-garde tend to attract notice, as an overture might feature a fanfare unheard in a postlude. What then is the music that comes later? Instead of priority, this year’s CUSP Distinguished Speaker Series will turn attention to manifestations of posteriority—of coming late or after. The series entitled “Lateness” will examine posteriority in the late phase of a continuum, on the one hand, or the aftermath of a historical rupture, on the other.

Latecoming within a continuum can raise the issues of belatedness, latency, limitation, or finality. In the arts, for example, lateness can manifest in the notion of “late style,” the idea that the work some artists produce toward the end of their careers reflects a conspicuous development from their earlier productions. What constitutes a “mature” creative phase in literature, music, and the visual arts? Late style may or may not coincide with late age. The concept of late age might more broadly apply to fields ranging from medicine to evolution and earth science, raising questions about the longevity and viability of biological life, on the one hand, or the geological age and habitability of Earth, on the other. It broaches ethical issues from end-of-life care and the “right to die” controversy to the global responsibility surrounding climate change.

When a late phase presents more of a departure from than continuity with the past, it may reflect a historical rupture. Posteriority thus concerns phenomena that are “post” such a break. What do these “post-phenomena” look like? What is the shape of an aftermath? An aftermath, for example, might take the form of anticlimax in post-apocalyptic literature or of efforts toward recovery in post-crisis reconstruction policy. Instead of resolution, an aftermath might encompass reverberations or echoes—aftershock. PTSD flashbacks in psychology, reproduction in postmodern aesthetics, or cultural appropriation in postcolonial politics may suggest such residual effects. Post-human discourse similarly traces the remains of humanity amidst technological advances in AI, robotics, and genetic engineering. Among these post-phenomena, the loss of a prior significance, while destabilizing, might nevertheless allow the possibility of new meaning. Lateness might then point to what is latest, or cutting-edge. Maturity might coincide with modernity, and the music of a postlude might sound the first notes of a prelude.

Each year, the CUSP Distinguished Speaker Series is united by a common thread that is the foundation of our year-long inquiry. Students and alumni are enriched by hearing from distinguished speakers, which include alumni, professors and professionals from various fields. This year's talks explore the theme of “Lateness.” We will consider this theme within the fields of the arts and humanities, medicine, evolution, technology, counterterrorism intelligence, ethics, astronomy, disaster response, and post-crisis reconstruction.

Upcoming Presentations​

Sylvain Pascaud: Exploration and the Digital (R)evolution
Monday, October 1, 2018; 6:00–8:00 p.m.

In 1985, the RMS Titanic was discovered at the bottom of the North Atlantic two and a half miles below the surface. That discovery was made with the equivalent of a torch light and a camcorder.

Thirty-five years later, the doomed Air France jet AF 447 was also found in the deep ocean, this time with the help of the latest digital autonomous robots, manned with acoustic imagery.

The digital revolution has impacted every aspect of the planet’s exploration; and we are only glimpsing the possibilities: from underwater robots to sophisticated drones and high-altitude solar vehicles, technology will enable us to go deeper and understand more about how our planet works than ever before. It will catapult us into a future we could not have imagined only decades ago. And it will also provide a key to preserving our place on that planet.

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

Ann Temkin: “The Long Run”: Artists at Mid and Late Career
Tuesday, October 16, 2018; 6:00–8:00 p.m.

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

Emily Silverman: Storytelling, Medicine and the End of Life
Wednesday, October 31, 2018; 6:00–8:00 p.m.

Founded in 2016 by Emily Silverman, MD, The Nocturnists began as a scrappy gathering of medical residents sharing intimate, personal stories about life in medicine. Today, it is a popular live storytelling event for sold-out audiences of health care professionals in the Bay Area (with plans for a show in New York City on 10/30/18), and growing podcast. In this talk, Emily will walk the audience through her awakening to the power of storytelling, how it transformed her approach to medicine, and how it helps health workers - who must hold their patients' experience of illness, suffering, and death - to heal and connect.

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

To learn more and/or register for these events, contact us at