Going Places

The Columbia Campaign sets an Ivy League record, allowing the University to break new ground.

Published Spring 2014
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Access to the Best

Today, as a result of the campaign, students from across Columbia receive more generous financial-aid packages than they used to. They are taught by professors who are among the most distinguished in the institution’s history. And they have access to new science labs, art studios, athletic fields and training facilities, residence halls, and academic advising services.

“I believe that this campaign has changed Columbia more than any campaign has ever changed any university that I know of, in the United States or beyond,” Bollinger told the fundraising and alumni-relations staff at a recent gathering. “It’s been a transformative event for this institution.”

Raising money for financial aid has long been a priority for Columbia, and an influx in donations for undergraduate financial aid over the past decade has enabled the University to significantly enhance the assistance it gives to students. For instance, the College and the engineering school have in recent years instituted a policy eliminating parent contributions from families earning less than $60,000 per year.

“Financial aid allows us to bring students here who can best benefit from, and contribute to, Columbia without concern for how they will pay for the experience,” says College dean James J. Valentini.

Recruiting and retaining top-notch faculty is another enduring priority for the University’s fundraisers. The creation of some 265 new endowed professorships over the course of the campaign was vital to this end; these prestigious positions are used by the University to reward its best faculty and to lure eminent scholars. Donors tend to create endowed professorships in fields that are of personal interest to them and are growth areas for the University.

A new Medical and Graduate Education Building, funded in part by P. Roy Vagelos ’54PS and his wife, Diana Vagelos ’55BC, will open on Columbia’s medical campus in 2016. / Courtesy of CUMCAmong those to receive an endowed chair in recent years is Michael B. Gerrard, a prominent New York City environmental lawyer who was recruited to Columbia Law School to take a new professorship funded by Andrew Sabin, a businessman with a long devotion to environmental causes. Gerrard and a team of graduate assistants are now studying the novel legal issues that will arise if island nations get submerged by rising seas as a result of climate change.

“The questions we’re interested in, such as whether a nation whose entire population gets displaced should retain its sovereignty have little or no precedent in international law,” says Gerrard. “The endowment that Andy created is making possible work that might not be done otherwise.”

Profiles of other faculty members with newly endowed professorships, in fields as varied as nursing, economics, African art history, and brain science, can be read online at

Room to Grow

There is probably not a student or faculty member at Columbia who has not benefited from the campaign in some way. Hundreds of millions of dollars have been raised for new graduate fellowships. New research centers and institutes have been established in digital journalism, sustainable development, climate science, data science, business law and policy, motor-neuron research, Israel and Jewish studies, Mexican studies, and dozens of other areas. A network of Columbia Global Centers has been set up in Amman, Beijing, Istanbul, Mumbai, Nairobi, Paris, Rio de Janeiro, and Santiago so that faculty and students can easily undertake research and teaching projects in collaboration with local partners around the world.

For visitors to campus, the most visible change is a wave of construction that has been made possible by the campaign. Half a dozen buildings have sprouted up in recent years or are now taking shape, while several major renovations have been undertaken. The new buildings are ambitious, created by world-class architects such as José Rafael Moneo, Renzo Piano, Steven Holl, and Liz Diller. Most have glass façades that enable passersby to view what’s happening inside and spacious interiors that are intended to foster serendipitous interactions among scholars and students.

Half a dozen buildings have sprouted up in recent years or are now taking shape, while several major renovations have been undertaken.

“These architects are helping Columbia reimagine what a university campus should be,” says Mark Wigley, dean of the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation. “One of the changes you can see is that the new buildings are not weighty structures that speak merely to the accumulation of old knowledge. Rather, they have a brightness about them, a lightness and an energy that is meant to inspire new ideas, such as those that come from collaborations. They are wonderfully forward-looking.”

Columbia has long been pressed for space, and by the time Bollinger became president in 2002, he says, the cramped quarters were holding back some of Columbia’s departments from growing. He decided early on that constructing new facilities was among his top priorities.

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