In Brief: Market solutions; Challenging autism; CUMC goes smoke-free

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Market solutions

Columbia Business School took a novel approach to promoting intercultural dialogue this summer: It brought together Jews and Muslims to discuss business ideas. About two dozen Jewish and Muslim entrepreneurs from France, Britain, and the United States visited the Morningside Campus for two weeks in July to develop their own socially conscious business plans and to learn about one another’s cultures.

“We had people from charities trying to increase their enterprising elements, and we had people from businesses trying to increase their social impact and charitable work,” said fellow Athol Hallé, chief executive officer of Groundswell, a London-based nonprofit that helps homeless people throughout the United Kingdom.

The Ariane de Rothschild Fellows Program, cosponsored by Columbia Business School and Cambridge University, was designed and funded by the Edmond de Rothschild Foundation. It combined business training from Columbia business professors with humanities-based lectures offered by Cambridge University and Columbia faculty.

“The unique combination of intercultural dialogue and entrepreneurship is something that I’ve come to value,” says fellow Sam Adelsberg, cofounder of, a New York–based company that promotes loans to socially conscious businesses in the West Bank. “And the program brought together an amazing network of leaders from the Jewish and Muslim global community.”

While the focus of the program was social entrepreneurship, discussions also explored topics such as education, environmentalism, health care, and the arts. Group excursions included trips to a synagogue, a mosque, and a kosher restaurant.

Help thy neighbor

The Mailman School of Public Health received a $14.7 million grant in August to help Ghana and Tanzania learn from each other’s health-care systems. The project, funded by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, aims to combine the most successful aspects of each country’s system into a unified strategy.

For instance, Ghana has reduced child mortality by half in the past three years, in part by stationing nurses in rural villages; this may be implemented in Tanzania. Tanzania is good at obtaining data about disease outbreaks and dispatching doctors efficiently; Ghana may follow.

“This process of transferring innovations will encompass all areas of health systems, including manpower, communications, logistics, planning, resource management, and leadership,” says Jim Phillips, a professor of clinical population and family health and the project’s principal investigator. For more information, click here.

Challenging autism

A team of engineering students led by doctoral candidate Ming Jack Po won a $25,000 prize in July to develop a computer game for children with autism. Po’s team is creating a video game that challenges autistic children, for example, to find clothing in a bedroom scene, thus mirroring the task of getting ready for school. The game can be tailored to the needs of individual children and can track their progress for parents and therapists.

“These games will help supplement existing treatment plans by providing individualized care outside of the treatment facility,” says Po, “while encouraging patients to improve targeted skills.”

The prize was awarded by the Center for Integration of Medicine and Innovative Technology, a nonprofit consortium of Boston teaching hospitals and engineering schools.

Charter school inspection

A team of 2009 journalism school graduates recently launched a Web site, The Charter Explosion, that features in-depth reporting on the charter-school education movement.

The journalists report from several locations central to the movement, including New Orleans, where charter schools have proliferated since Hurricane Katrina, and Minneapolis and St. Paul, where the trend was born in the early 1990s. Articles investigate how charter schools are reshaping community demographics, how they are influencing public schools, and how charter schools are funded; the site also contains interactive graphics and video.

The project, which is supported by the Carnegie Corporation and the Knight Foundation, began last semester under the guidance of Professor LynNell Hancock, a veteran education journalist, and Professor Adam Glenn, a digital media consultant.


CUMC goes smoke-free

Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC) officially became a smoke-free campus on August 10, meaning that employees, faculty, students, and visitors are no longer allowed to smoke within 30 feet of any University building. That includes CUMC building entrances, doorways, courtyards, grounds, gardens, parking facilities, school-owned vehicles, dormitories, and residences.

The interior spaces at the medical campus have long been smoke-free, but this wider ban makes CUMC’s no-smoking policy stricter than those at other Columbia campuses. For instance, on the Morningside Campus smoking is prohibited in all enclosed work areas and outdoor eating spaces, but it is allowed on College Walk.

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