District’s Schools

Ronald Mason Jr. ’74CC, ’77LAWRonald Mason Jr. ’74CC, ’77LAW has been named president of the University of the District of Columbia. Mason was previously CEO of the Southern University and A&M College System, a five-campus university system in Louisiana.

Literary Citizens

Claudia Rankine ’93SOAThree Columbia affiliates have won 2015 PEN American literary awards. Poet Claudia Rankine ’93SOA won the PEN Open Book Award for her collection Citizen, which also won the 2015 National Book Critics Circle Award.  Adjunct writing professor Rob Spillman won the PEN/Nora Magid Award for editing for his work on the journal Tin House. Poetry student Meg Matich won a PEN/Heim Translation Fund grant for her translations of the Icelandic poet Magnús Sigurðsson. 

La Embajada

The US Embassy reopened in Cuba on July 20 after a fifty-four-year diplomatic rift, and Jeffrey DeLaurentis ’78SIPA has been named its top official, and a likely choice for ambassador. DeLaurentis served in Cuba during the early 1990s and again from 1998 to 2002, when he was the chief negotiator in the Elián González custody case. He has been stationed in Cuba as the chief of mission of the US Interests Section there since the summer of 2014.

Motor Skills

Matei Ciocarlie ’10SEAS was among the recipients of the Office of Naval Research’s 2015 Young Investigator Program Award. Ciocarlie will receive more than six hundred thousand dollars over a three-year period for his research on robotic manipulators — smart devices with arms and hands that can interact with their environment. An assistant professor of mechanical engineering who joined Columbia in 2014, Ciocarlie is working with Joel Stein ’82CC, the chair of the Department of Rehabilitation and Regenerative Medicine at the College of Physicians and Surgeons, to understand how robotic-manipulation technology can help stroke victims and others with motor impairments. 

Precision Decisions

Elizabeth Gross Cohn ’09NRSThe White House recognized Elizabeth Gross Cohn ’09NRS as one of nine “champions of change” who are using precision medicine to transform the way we treat disease. Cohn is an associate professor of nursing and public health at Adelphi University, where she also directs the Center for Health Innovation; additionally, she is an adjunct professor in Columbia’s School of Nursing. Cohn’s research focuses on the ethical and social issues surrounding precision medicine, and the ways scientists can better interact with the communities they serve. The “champions of change” honors follow the launch earlier this year of the president’s Precision Medicine Initiative, which promotes ground-breaking biomedical research. 

The Tony and I

Columbians had a big night at this year’s Tony Awards, with sixteen affiliated productions taking home honors. Fun Home, produced by Barbara Whitman ’05SOA and co-produced by Amy Kaissar ’05SOA, won for best musical. Adjunct theater professor Sam Gold won for best direction of a musical for the same show, and its composer Jeanine Tesori ’83BC took home the award for best original score. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, which stars Jocelyn Bioh ’08SOA, won for best play, and The King and I, which was associate-directed by Tyne Rafaeli ’14SOA, won for best revival of a musical. Columbia professor Gene O’Donovan, a veteran theater technician, won a Tony Honor for Excellence in the Theatre, recognizing his career contributions to the field.


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