As we were putting together the Fall issue, I realized it had been a while since I’d written this column. Too long, frankly. I found myself missing this chance to talk to you about the issue and also CCT in general — how we’re changing, what we’re excited about, the questions on our team’s collective mind or the questions we have for you, our community of readers. With that thought, I had one of my New Year’s resolutions (because, as anyone who marches to the academic calendar knows, the start of the fall semester is the real new year): No matter how busy the dash to production, I would be sure to take a break to reflect and write this page.
So, how are we changing? What are we excited about these days?
To begin, our new “Around the Quads” department, “Hall of Fame.” We’ve invited the eloquent and inimitable Thomas Vinciguerra ’85, JRN’86, GSAS’90 — who has an insatiable appetite both for history and all things Columbia — to write each quarter on an alum or school figure from the deeper past. Our aim is to leave you with an appreciation for Columbians whose names you might know but whose particular accomplishments might have become obscured through time, or whose influence has renewed resonance today. Tom’s first installment shines a light on Thomas Merton ’38, GSAS’39, whose call to a Trappist monastery at 27 began an unlikely journey to becoming a leading writer, theologian and social activist.
We’re also excited to welcome humor writer and New Yorker contributor Susanna Wolff ’10 back to our pages. Susanna last wrote for us in summer 2017, when she delivered a wry orientation for that year’s graduating seniors, “Welcome to Life!” Here, her take on Dante and email — two topics that all College alumni can relate to — is truly inspired.
Elsewhere, in our features, you’ll meet two people — a professor and an alumna — who are committed to positive change: Historian Frank A. Guridy is the new faculty coordinator for the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship Program, which puts underserved students on the path to a Ph.D. And Khadijah Sharif-Drinkard ’93, VP, associate general counsel with Viacom Media Networks, is answering the question, how can you be a social activist and do good from within a company?
“Columbia Forum,” meanwhile, excerpts a new book by Zak Dychtwald ’12, whose research into China’s millennials unpacks the far-reaching influence of a powerful new generation.
A note on our cover: We decided to try something different by commissioning a stand-alone illustration. I had the good fortune of taking the artist, Jorge Colombo, on a campus tour in mid-August to scout locations and consider possible scenes. In many ways, it was an exercise in imagination: We were circling Van Am Quad on a steamy day, paths and benches empty, and the sky threatening rain, while on his iPad Jorge conjured fall foliage, cool-weather clothing and the bustle of students all around. But what came from that day, after sketches turned to final art, was something we feel to be quite true and timeless — the pleasures of being absorbed by a good book, in this place at the heart of every CC-er’s experience.
To circle back, I mentioned at the outset that I wanted to use this space to bring up questions, and here are two I hope you’ll answer after reading. How did you like this issue? Which article most stood out for you, and why? We of course welcome letters to the editor after every issue, and as CCT continues to evolve, one of our goals is to see that section expand to fill several pages and include an array of voices and perspectives. A rich letters section is both a measure of an engaged readership and a way for us to learn what resonates (and sometimes, what doesn’t).
Alexis Boncy SOA’11