Fifth Year Fellows

Application Due Date: February 29, 2012



Under the sponsorship of the Columbia Global Centers, a pilot program for up to ten Columbia College, General Studies, and Engineering graduates of the Class of 2012 will extend their liberal arts education through a Fifth Year of individualized itineraries of travel and learning. This is a capstone experience for selected graduates of Columbia’s celebrated liberal arts education -- linking back to the foundational knowledge acquired in the Core Curriculum while presenting a unique opportunity to reflect upon  and extend that education in the changed contexts of today’s world -- before moving on to careers, graduate school, or professional training.

The Fifth Year will provide freshly graduated students with a structured intellectual experience of globalization.  As discussed in more detail below, it  relates to but differs from standard classroom learning, familiar study-abroad programs, post-baccalaureate travel grants, and international internships.  It is a course, but one that is tailored to each student, and involves travel and learning in multiple regions of the world.

Fellows will be selected by a group of faculty members representing a range of departments.  Applications are due by February 29, 2012. Successful candidates will be notified by the end of March. 


The Program’s Three Phases:

1) A three-week Pro-Seminar in September 2012.  The specific content of the Fifth Year will be determined by each Fellow, to be refined on a case-by-case basis in consultation with faculty after the Fellow is selected.  Fellows will refine their plans over the Spring and Summer, and begin to establish appropriate contacts in the sites they will visit.

The Pro-Seminar is, by contrast, an integrated preparatory course that provides the means for cross-disciplinary conversation and the basis for the kind of critical engagement ensuring that the travel phase becomes the basis of new understanding, and not merely a confirmation of previously held stereotypes.  In its lived directness and intellectual depth, this understanding will take students beyond classroom-based learning and the otherwise often-useful information command available through the internet.  It will ensure that the travel is the basis of a transformative encounter and not a touristic overview, and; it will allow the lessons learned to be animated as part of the enlightened common sense that Fellows will then bring to their specific disciplinary projects and future professional pursuits. 

The seminar will orient participants toward the intellectual tasks of their program by re-anchoring them in a reflection on the Core Curriculum.  In this process, students will grasp the conceptual and analytical tasks that they will need to perform in order to deepen and transform their earlier education so that it can be re-activated for a life in the world, and not merely in the university.  Following a discussion of key concepts and modes of questioning, students will be assigned select readings on questions they might keep in mind as they confront a globalizing world


2) Travel Phase: October 2012 - March 2013. The Fifth Year differs from study abroad programs; it is individualized and it offers the opportunity to spend time in multiple sites. It is not a research project that ends in a knowledge product; it is an opportunity for self-knowledge and change.  It differs from internships:  it is not career training, but can make use of scholarly institutions in various parts of the world, using that term broadly to include universities, research centers, museums, laboratories, and libraries. It differs from travel grants: it is a structured program in which students work in close consultation with relevant faculty in intensive seminars both before and after their global travel.  A dedicated postdoctoral advisor will guide them while they are away from campus.

Travel itself is an important part of the experience. We encourage Fellows to be involved in study outside the normal academic settings – encountering people, institutions and ideas that will move them to reflect upon their Columbia education as a tool for living in a globalized world. . The Fifth Year is not intended to help Fellows “solve a problem” or “prepare for a profession.”  The program is deliberately open-ended, but the successful applicants will be students who approach the year as an opportunity to extend and enrich their liberal arts education.

The Fifth Year is designed to be a transformative encounter that enables Columbia graduates to think differently about themselves, about the globe, about their Columbia education, and ultimately about their role in the world as they interact with it during their future studies and careers.  While the Fellows will make use of digital technology, we expect them to learn that actual encounters in the world are more instructive than virtual classrooms.

Fellows can take advantage of the Columbia Global Centers  -- Amman, Beijing, Istanbul, Mumbai, Nairobi, Paris, Rio, Santiago – to make contacts and to facilitate logistics in their respective world regions.  Some Fellows may choose to spend periods of time in one or more of the Centers, where workspace is available. Fellows will be in regular contact with a Columbia postdoctoral fellow who will enable each Fellow’s intellectual progress, as well as monitor their whereabouts and safety.

Approximately every two weeks, all Fellows and the members of the faculty group will convene a conference via video-link, in which they will discuss the questions from the original pro-seminar and new questions that have arisen in the course of the Fellows global experiences.  This component of the program cannot be fully defined until we are in it. The 2012-13 cohort of Fellows along with their faculty are engaged in a dual exploration: each Fellow will learn from his or her individually tailored intellectual quest, and Columbia University will use this pilot program to explore a new strategy for enhancing the relationship between its college curriculum and the challenges of global learning.


3) A six-week Pro-Seminar in April-May 2013. Fellows will discuss their study experiences, reflect on those experiences with reference to their original plans and the questions raised in the preparatory Pro-Seminar, and produce a written account and analysis.  Through prior interaction with the assigned postdoctoral fellow and faculty, Fellows will have acquired the skill of reporting in a way that leads to group sharing and mutual instruction.  In this wrap-up seminar, faculty will connect current interdisciplinary knowledge and thinking about globalization to what the Fellows bring to the table.  This is an exciting moment, and this first post-voyage encounter will give everyone involved the means and the material to think the future differently. The Fellows will be enabled for life and career in a world rapidly becoming more densely interconnected, though in ways and with consequences that we have not yet foreseen or imagined.  Details of the Seminar will be customized for Fellows by rotating faculty, but the principle of interactive learning will carry through.

Columbia University and its faculty will learn from this pioneering cohort of Fellows. An important university goal is to reflect on how to re-think and enrich the powerful Columbia core curriculum, devised for a great university to suit the world as it was a century ago, so that it lays the groundwork for new teaching while preparing graduates for the challenges and opportunities of a world very unlike that earlier world.


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