Annual Report


Beginning with AY 2011-2012 The University Seminars had been through a period of financial stringency, intellectual novelty and administrative change; this past academic year has been one of consolidation, review and culmination. We will institutionalize the memory of Professor Belknap in the Fall of 2015 with the emergence of our digital, searchable archive of minutes accumulated by our Seminars over seventy years. We have clarified and remedied the roles of our office colleagues. Alice Newton was promoted to Deputy Director last winter. Gessy Alvarez and Summer Hart have been recently promoted and are now Associate Director for Budget and Operations and Associate Director for Archives, Web Management & Design,, respectively.

We have recovered entirely from the fiscal stress put on our endowment by the financial dip of 2008-2009; and by our capital expenditures in 2013, and we have put in place small but important changes in policy that stabilize our fiscal future without hindering our ability to support the core functions of the Seminars themselves.

Even as the office works to maintain a high level of transparency and continuity among seminars, the seminars themselves provide a constant novelty. In 2014-2015, 93 seminars were active including three of the first five, which began meeting in 1945. Two new seminars held meetings: The Future of Aging Research and Affect Studies. Disability, Culture, and Society is scheduled to begin meeting this fall.

All active seminars continue to meet and discuss issues important to their members. These varied topics are not properly studied in any one academic department or school. Scholars from Columbia and neighboring universities and colleges meet on an equal plane to work with their peers on mutually agreed subjects.

As Director, Bob Pollack comes into contact with chairs, rapporteurs and seminar members, all of whom occasionally require answers to small or large questions. These answers allow the Seminars office to participate in Tannenbaum’s vision: answers to questions from Chairs may come not from the office, but they will always have been discussed with our Advisory Board, listed in this directory, and often with members of the seminars themselves.

Our central office and the quality of the seminars have again benefitted from the attention, kindness, and creative competence of our colleagues in Faculty House and University Events Management. We are particularly grateful to David Martin, Leslie Robinson, Emerald Currie, Leonard Zinnanti and, of course, Scott Wright and Joe Ricciutti.

In addition to the seminars, our office is responsible for the Leonard Hastings Schoff Memorial Lectures, the Annual Dinner and Tannenbaum Lecture, and the subvention of scholarly books and articles emerging from seminars. In all these matters we are assisted by our Advisory Board, chaired by Robert Remez, and made up of academicians who are knowledgeable about the University Seminars. In 2015-2016, we are pleased to welcome the President and Director of Columbia University Press, Jennifer Crewe, to our Board.

We are very proud to present here the illustrious roster of our upcoming Schoff Lecturers:

Fall 2015       Professor Robert Remez, Columbia University

Fall 2016       Professor Robert O’Meally, Columbia University