When I became dean of Columbia College in 2011, I understood the College from the perspective of a chemistry professor who had taught thousands of our students across a span of 20 years.  I marveled at these students — intelligent, determined, thoughtful and imaginative — committing themselves in and outside class for remarkable destinies still unknown, though undoubtedly promising and purposeful. 

One’s college years are often viewed as a springboard for the future. Students are prepared for successful careers, connected into supportive networks and communities and offered guidance for building what Plato called “the Good Life.” As such, an exceptional undergraduate experience has the potential to be a cornerstone in life’s journey. This is a responsibility that Columbia College is embracing more fully as we launch Core to Commencement, a Columbia College campaign to create what we all believe to be the greatest undergraduate experience there is.

Most students I meet, including chemistry majors I’ve taught, tell me that the undergraduate course of greatest significance to them was one from the Core Curriculum. This is an indicator of what makes Columbia College so distinctive: its commitment to providing all students with an education that can be both specialized for the skills they need for particular career aspirations yet also strengthened by an expansive course of study that develops them as human beings, citizens, leaders, neighbors and community members.

For almost one hundred years, the Core Curriculum has challenged our students to think beyond their individual experiences, beyond their careers and beyond today.  

Our world is bigger, disruption is more frequent and agility and innovation are more important than ever before.  Our challenge — and that of Core to Commencement —is to educate our 4,500 students to embrace that world, to engage that disruption and to exhibit that needed agility and inventiveness.  Preparing students to also live fruitful, meaningful and satisfying lives, while exercising a consciousness that extends into greater society is a monumental challenge- one that will continue to exist as long as human beings endure.  This campaign is an opportunity for all of us who believe in Columbia College’s commitment to nurture and propel thousands of students into society each and every year, both here in the greatest City in the world or wherever they choose.

Through this campaign, we will continue to bring extraordinary students to Morningside Heights who will contribute richly to our diverse and exceptional student body, so that our graduates are prepared to deal with every mindset and viewpoint they may one day encounter.  We will also make it possible for all students to augment their classroom learning through internships, research projects, fellowships and global experiences that will expand their minds and allow for true application of their ideas or interests.

Through this campaign, we will support our faculty, those great scholars who teach, guide and mentor our students, encouraging them, challenging them and driving them to great aspirations and accomplishments of which we all can be proud. 

Through this campaign, we will deepen our commitment to the greatest collective educational endeavor in the world,  our Core Curriculum, by rewarding our finest faculty for contributing to it, by enriching its programmatic elements, by strengthening the ties between its parts and by exploring ways to evolve the Core for its next one hundred years.

Core to Commencement is a transformational campaign that will expand the necessary resources to sustain the distinctive education of Columbia College in Columbia University in the City of New York, resources that will enable excellence in all that we do.  Our students and our alumni deserve nothing less than to see Columbia College reach its greatest potential in shaping the lives of thousands who will go on to change our world in ways we cannot yet see or even imagine.

Thank you for being a part of making Columbia College even greater than it has been.  Thank you for being a part of this remarkable endeavor for Columbia College.


Roar, Lion(s), Roar!


James J. Valentini

Dean of Columbia College
Vice President for Undergraduate Education