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The Core Curriculum

Core Lecturers

The Core Lecturer position was created at Columbia in 2006 as a way of retaining Columbia College’s best graduate student instructors. The position offers three-year, faculty-rank postdoctoral appointments in which Core Lecturers, sometimes referred to as Core Faculty Fellows, teach almost exclusively in the Core Curriculum.

Core Lecturers represent some of the most skilled and dedicated teachers in the Core faculty. Harkening back to figures like Jacques Barzun and Lionel Trilling who, as young instructors, had a decisive impact on the energy, tenor and ambition of the Core, Core Lecturers bring fresh and cutting-edge perspectives to the classroom and contribute substantially to the weekly pedagogical discussions held by the broader faculty.

Contemporary Civilization

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Nicole Callahan

Department of English and Comparative Literature

Nicole Callahan CC‘05, GSAS'17 received her Ph.D. in English Education from Columbia's Graduate School of Arts and Sciences in 2017. Her research focuses on composition pedagogies and the history of the essay. In addition to teaching Contemporary Civilization, she also teaches a Columbia course called “Humanities Texts Critical Skills” to the Justice-in-Education Scholars, a group of formerly-incarcerated men and women. She works on the Justice in Education Initiative, in collaboration with the Heyman Center and the Center for Justice, building a curriculum connecting canonical texts in core classes at Columbia (like Literature Humanities and Contemporary Civilization) to issues of mass incarceration for the “Justice in the Core” program. In 2016, Callahan was awarded the Graduate Student Core Preceptor Award for excellency in teaching Contemporary Civilization. She is also an adjunct instructor in English Education at Teachers College, Columbia University and a fellow of the National Writing Project at UCLA. She first encountered the texts of Contemporary Civilization in 2002-2003 as a student in the course, and although her favorite Contemporary Civilization text changes every year, Thomas Aquinas might be the current winner.

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Michelle Chun

Department of Political Science

Michelle Chun LAW’13, GSAS’17 is a political and legal theorist, whose research focuses on democratic theory, American pragmatism and jurisprudence. She also maintains research interests in American constitutional law and civil liberties, early modern liberalism and epistemology (especially the works of John Locke), and 20th Century continental political theory. She is currently revising her dissertation, "John Dewey and the Democratic Life of the Law," for publication. She received her PhD in Political Science from Columbia, where she also completed an MA, MPhil, and a JD as a dual degree candidate, and holds an undergraduate degree in Social Studies from Harvard University. Her favorite Core authors to teach are Karl Marx, Aristotle and W.E.B. DuBois.


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Daniel del Nido

Department of Religion

Daniel M. del Nido GSAS’17 received his Ph.D. in Religion from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. He also holds an M.A. and an M.Phil in Religion, both from Columbia. He received his B.A. in Philosophy and Religion, highest honors, from Swarthmore College in 2010. Daniel’s research focuses on the intersection between philosophical and religious practices of self-formation, and particularly on how ideas of happiness, the good life and spiritual exercises drawn from ancient Greco-Roman philosophy are received in modern and contemporary religious thought. His dissertation, “Just Like Nature: Habit and the Art of Life”, is an investigation and assessment of a conception of the nature of habituation and its role in self-formation through philosophical and liturgical practices developed within a tradition of 19th and 20th Century French philosophy. Daniel is currently working on expanding his dissertation into a scholarly monograph, and has other work forthcoming in the Journal of Religious Ethics. Along with serving as a preceptor in the Core Curriculum, teaching Contemporary Civilization in 2015 and 2016, Daniel has also worked as an Adjunct Professor at Pace University from 2013 to 2014, where he taught "Religions of the Globe and Normative Ethics: Contemporary Problems." He is extremely excited to be returning as a Core Lecturer this fall, and is looking forward in particular to teaching his favorite Contemporary Civilization texts, Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics and Rousseau’s Discourse on the Origin of Inequality.




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Kevin Elliott

Department of Political Science

Kevin J. Elliott received his Ph.D. in political science from Columbia's Graduate School of Arts and Sciences in 2015, an M.Sc. in political theory from the London School of Economics and a B.A. in political science and public policy from UCLA (summa cum laude, departmental and collegiate honors). He studies political theory and American politics. Drawing on both theoretical and empirical sources, Elliott's research focuses on the normative justification and design of political institutions, particularly with the aim of improving the representation of marginalized groups. His research interests include democratic theory, modern political thought, public opinion and political behavior, particularly as the latter two relate to political interest and political participation. His work is forthcoming in the Journal of Politics.

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Jeremy Forster

Department of Philosophy

One of the most rewarding opportunities Jeremy Forster had as a graduate student at Columbia was teaching Contemporary Civilization. He has taught CC twice before, in the 2013-2014and 2014-2015 academic years. He is thrilled to return as a Core Lecturer and to continue to be involved with Columbia undergraduates in the collective intellectual endeavor to make sense of some of the most difficult texts and ideas in the history of political, social, religious, moral and philosophical thought. Jeremy received his B.A. in philosophy from Brown University and recently his Ph.D. in philosophy from Columbia's Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. His dissertation, "Nietzsche and the Pathologies of Meaning," traces Nietzsche's shifting understanding of an axiological crisis at the center of modern life, a crisis which he eventually calls nihilism and which has as its center the sense that life in the modern world lacks meaning. More than tracing his evolving conception of this predicament, Forster’s dissertation focuses on the different solutions Nietzsche offers or that are available to him depending on how he conceives of nihilism. His research is also focused on other figures in 19th and 20th century German philosophical tradition, such as Hegel, Marx, and the Frankfurt School, and how they too take up similar questions about how we can live well in the modern world. Intricately connected to this research are interests in ethics, aesthetics, and social philosophy. Forster’s current research projects are centered on questions of how Nietzsche understands the notion of affirmation and its relation to questions of meaning and value. For instance, what does Nietzsche mean by affirmation? What is the object of affirmation, in other words, what exactly is it that is affirmed? What conditions have to be in place that allow for a properly affirmative stance, and what type of attitude or comportment to the world does it involve?

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Charles McNamara

Department of Classics

Charles McNamara GSAS’16 is a classicist who studies the rhetorical tradition, intellectual history and ancient philosophy. He holds an A.B. from Harvard University and a Ph.D. from Columbia University. His doctoral research explored one widespread notion of certainty in antiquity—where certainty is understood as a matter of consensus, not demonstrative truth—and this notion’s afterlife in early modern Italy. After completing his Ph.D., he was a fellow at the Bayerische Akademie der Wissenschaften in Munich, where he was a lexicographer for the Thesaurus Linguae Latinae, a monumental dictionary of all Latin texts up to the seventh century. During his graduate education, Charles taught literary criticism, ancient languages and Contemporary Civilization. In addition to his appointments at Columbia, he regularly teaches with the Paideia Institute, a nonprofit educational organization dedicated to promoting the study and appreciation of the classical humanities, both in New York and in Rome. Before beginning his academic career, he taught English in an Arkansas public high school through Teach for America. Although he finds Plato and Aristotle endlessly fascinating, his favorite text to teach in Contemporary Civilization is Adam Smith's The Wealth of Nations on account of its provocative, perplexing and enduring contributions to many strands of modern thinking.

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Stephanie Ramsey

Department of Psychology

Stephanie Holstad Ramsey received her Ph.D. in cognitive studies in education under the advisement of Deanna Kuhn at Columbia University's Teachers College. Her dissertation explored the development of multivariable thinking in the middle school years. Stephanie's past experience includes serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in Malawi as a teacher in a community secondary school. Her research in cognitive development and experience teaching children and adults inform her teaching philosophy. Her classrooms are heavily discussion-based with active students and deep engagement facilitating not only the learning of content knowledge but enriched thinking and cognitive development. She does not play favorites among her students or Core texts, but if pressed she would admit that her favorite texts to discuss are Rousseau's Discourse on the Origin of Inequality and Social Contract. More information about her research and teaching can be found at

Literature Humanities

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Humberto Ballesteros Capasso

Department of Italian

Humberto Ballesteros, born in Bogotá, Colombia in 1979, holds a B.A. in literature from Los Andes University, a M.A. in literature from Pontifical Xaverian University, an M.A. in humanities and social thought from NYU and an M.A. and Ph.D. in Italian from Columbia's Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. His academic work focuses on the intersection between medieval philosophy and the Italian literary production of the Trecento, with an emphasis on Dante’s poetry. He is also an accomplished writer of fiction and the author of three books, including an award-winning novel.

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Janet Min Lee

Department of English and Comparative Literature

Janet Min Lee holds a B.A. in English literature (2006) from Columbia College and a Ph.D. in eighteenth-century British Literature (2015) from Columbia's Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. In her dissertation, “How Allegories Mean in the Novel: From Personification to Impersonation in Eighteenth-Century British Fiction,” she examined the disorienting effects of allegory’s ongoing presence in eighteenth-century fiction. Operating alongside the currents of empiricism and realism in the period, allegory, she argued, was foundational to establishing literary techniques that would later be termed “novelistic.” Her favorite allegories in Lit Hum are Delusion (Homer’s The Iliad) and Eros (Plato’s Symposium) – both continuously touching things with their soft feet.

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Katharine McIntyre

Department of Philosophy

Katharine McIntyre received her Ph.D. in philosophy from Columbia's Graduate School of Arts and Sciences in 2015. Prior to starting her Ph.D., she earned a B.A. from Dartmouth College with a major in philosophy and a minor in English. She works primarily in 19th- and 20th-century European social philosophy, especially Hegel, Nietzsche, Foucault and the contemporary critical theorists. McIntyre's interest in Literature Humanities began with a desire to indulge in reading the classics and to expand her repertoire beyond works of traditional philosophy. But her philosophical work has been invigorated and transformed by the Lit Hum texts, which together provide a genealogy of modern, Western values and social practices.

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Jennifer Rhodes

Department of Italian

Jennifer Rhodes CC’00, GSAS’17 holds a PhD in Italian and Comparative Literature and Society from Columbia’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. Her research investigates sites of interchange between literature and the visual and performing arts in Europe and the Americas. Her current book project explores the influence of Richard Wagner on the 20th century novel. Jennifer draws extensively upon the disciplines of film studies, performance studies and gender studies in her work. She spends summers on the staff of The Santa Fe Opera, where she runs and writes subtitles and speaks frequently on opera and drama.

Jennifer is a devoted fan of the Core Curriculum as a whole. She completed her B.A. in Comparative Literature at Columbia College and credits the Core with sparking her enduring fascination with the ways in which narratives move across the permeable membranes of medium, culture and time. While a graduate student, Jennifer received the 2015 Meyerson Award for Excellence in Core Teaching for Lit Hum. She is deeply invested in experimental pedagogy, particularly in strategies that incorporate performing and visual arts practices into the literature classroom.

Her favorite cross-Core transformation is Richard Strauss’ Elektra, a 20th century operatic remix of Aeschylus’ Libation Bearers and Sophocles’ Elektra.

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Sahar Ullah

Sahar Ishtiaque Ullah holds a PhD in Arabic and Comparative Literature from Columbia University. Her dissertation "Ingenious Beginnings: The Poetics of the Medieval Arabic-Islamic Prelude” examines Arabic poetics and literary form from the thirteenth century to the modern eras that extend the Iberian Peninsula, Africa, and Asia. Ullah’s research lies at the intersection of literary culture, material culture and longue durée trans-regional intellectual and political histories. Her work has been published in the Cambridge Journal of Postcolonial Literary Inquiry and the Journal of Arabic Literature. Ullah is currently working on an article about a medieval Arabic-Iberian love treatise. Ullah received numerous prestigious teaching awards including the Core Preceptor Award and the Presidential Teaching Award – the highest teaching honor at Columbia University. She has been invited to speak about her work at the United Nations, U.S. Embassies, and universities around the world as well as media outlets including BBC NewshourChicago Tribune, and the Miami Herald. She holds a BA from the University of Miami in English, Religious Studies and Political Science and an MA from the University of Chicago in Middle Eastern Studies. Through Fulbright and CASA Fellowships, Sahar studied at the University of Yarmouk, Jordan and the American University in Cairo, Egypt. Committed to bridging her scholarship with the arts and creative pedagogy, Ullah is the Creative Director and Head Writer for the Hijabi Monologues, and she has consulted for a number of theater and television productions on Muslim cultures including Orange is the New Black.