University President Lee Bollinger signed an agreement with Banco de Chile on Monday, officially establishing Columbia’s global center in Santiago.
Bollinger and Banco de Chile’s Vice Chairman of the Board Andronico Luksic signed the agreement at a ceremony in Faculty House Monday afternoon. The ceremony was attended by Columbia faculty and administrators, as well as dignitaries—including Chile’s ambassador to the United States—and was preceded by a roundtable discussion with Columbia professors.
During the ceremony, Bollinger said that the agreement would put Columbia on firm footing in Chile.
“We at the University are trying to facilitate the opportunity to work with local institutions and people and connect that in a global way," he said. "This requires, in every instance, because our resources at this University are so thin, we need to have friends and have people to help us do this."
Karen Poniachik, the director of the Santiago global center, told Spectator before the ceremony that Columbia students—undergraduate and graduate—would be able to study at the center starting in December. She said that programs at the center will focus on sustainable development, entrepreneurship, journalism, human rights, and gender issues.
“Chile, and Santiago in particular, are very well connected ... very thriving from the economic, academic, and business perspectives,” Poniachik said. “And there’s a lot of outreach that can be done out of Santiago toward the rest of Latin America.”
Columbia has now opened five global centers—Santiago joins Beijing, Mumbai, Paris, and Amman, Jordan. Three more centers are on the way, in Istanbul, Rio de Janeiro, and Nairobi, Kenya.
Ken Prewitt, Columbia’s vice president for global centers, said that the five operating centers will enhance educational and research experiences at Columbia by creating a network of partnerships that merge scholars and disciplines.
“It is not just having different bilateral parts around the world, but getting all of those parts to talk to each other,” Prewitt said. “For the first time since we started this project, we can say we are a global network.”
At the Santiago center, Columbia will use existing programs such as the Business School’s Entrepreneurship and Competitiveness in Latin America Program. The Earth Institute wants to use the center to try out its Climate Risk Management system, an approach to giving locals knowledge of how climate interacts with fields such as agriculture, natural ecosystems, water resources, and health. The Journalism School, too, plans to work with the center’s leadership.
Before the document was signed, seven faculty members participated in a roundtable discussion, during which they reflected on regional themes, their personal interest in Chile, and why Columbia should have a presence there.
Panelist Nara Milanich, an associate professor of history specializing in Chilean studies at Barnard, explained her desire to more closely examine the nature of inequality both in Chile and in South America.
“It wouldn’t be hyperbolic as a historian to say that inequality has characterized the societies of South America since their founding,” she said during the discussion. “As a country with the first democratically-elected Marxist president in the world, Chile, in the present, is inadvertently a laboratory in inequality.”
The panelists also discussed human rights violations, agriculture and climate, the Chilean economy, and the changing educational system in Chile, noting that the global center will create opportunities for further examination.
“I do see having a global center as an opportunity to create small constellations of research that can provide possible mechanisms for students and visiting scientists to … participate in the work that we do,” Earth Institute researcher Lisa Goddard said.
During the ceremony, Bollinger expressed similar sentiments.
“This is truly a great moment for us. It is not possible any longer to think about your field, in all probability, unless you have a deeper knowledge of what is happening around the world,” Bollinger said at the ceremony. “The world is changing faster than our knowledge; we have to, in universities, figure out ways for us to catch up.”
Melissa von Mayrhauser contributed reporting.