University Seminars

The University Seminars at Columbia University is an ongoing community of partnerships each of which is constituted by scholars from multiple academic departments and disciplines, often including experts from outside academia, and is devoted to the study of an institution, practice, or issue of theoretical and/or practical importance.  The University Seminars originated in, and maintains its vitality through, spontaneous intellectual initiatives and is therefore considered a movement.  The mission of The University Seminars collectively is to enable the intellectual missions of its individual constituent seminars.

Seminars are closed to the general public; however, seminars welcome new members, both from Columbia and from the larger community. To be invited to attend a seminar, please write to the seminar chair expressing your interest and qualifications in the seminar’s area of study.

There are currently over 90 independent University Seminars, from “Affect Studies” to “Population Biology” to “Women in Society,” all of them supported by an endowment established by founder, Frank Tannenbaum and his wife, Jane Belo. Seminars may bring in outside speakers, or keep the discussion between members. Some seminars organize public conferences and other special events to continue the conversation beyond their private meetings.

Each seminar elects a chair or co-chairs who administer meetings. Chairs hire a graduate student rapporteur, who takes minutes at all seminar meetings and submits a copy to the office. The office keeps these records private for five years, at which time they are incorporated into the University Seminars Digital Archive.

Guiding Principles:

  • Meetings are private; scholars and other experts are invited to join on an ongoing basis
  • No honorarium is paid to any speaker
  • Membership is voluntary; dues are not collected
  • Seminars are meant to foster unfettered intellectual exchange
  • Membership is intended to create a collegial community; a sharing of meals and ideas
  • Guests and graduate students may be invited to attend meetings