Your Weekly Low Down | Jan. 22, 2016

Catch up on the latest news from your Columbia alumni community this week.

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Columbia Case Study Analyzed Reporting Featured in "Spotlight" Movie

Before the story about The Boston Globe's Spotlight team revealing a sexual abuse scandal in the Catholic Church was depicted in the new movie Spotlight, the reporting was studied by the Knight Case Studies Initiative at Columbia Journalism School. 

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Who Is the Columbia Alumni Association in 2016?

Columbia is the fifth-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States, founded 22 years before the founding fathers (including Columbia alum Alexander Hamilton) signed the Constitution. The Columbia Alumni Association, in contrast, is the youngest among the Ivies, having celebrated its first decade in 2015.

This duality brings together something that is uniquely and utterly Columbian in nature—a sense of tradition, gravitas, and history paired with an innovative and contemporary spirit.

Take a look at today's Columbia alumni community by the numbers:

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Columbia Alum Unearths 'Biggest Dinosaur Ever'

If you thought that the fictional 'Indominus‍ Rex' in the sci-fi adventure film Jurassic World was big, just wait until you get a glimpse of the real-life remains of the enormous titanosaur that has recently invaded NYC's American Museum of Natural History (AMNH).

This 122-foot-long beast (about the length of three school buses - or twenty-two Alma Maters placed side-by-side) is a species so new that it has not yet been formally named by the team of paleontologists who discovered it - a team led by Dr. Jose Luis Carballido and Columbia alumnus, Dr. Diego Pol '04GSAS.

In 2012, a local rancher in southern Argentina reported that he found fossils on his land to the Museum of Paleontology Egidio Feruglio in Argentina. 

By 2014, Dr. Pol and his team of paleontologists excavated 223 fossil bones belonging to six titanosaur dinosaurs at the site, including an 8-foot-tall femur bone now on exhibit at AMNH.  These giant herbivores roamed the earth some 100 million years ago, during the Late Cretaceous period. 

By measuring the length and circumference of the femur, Dr. Pol and his team estimate that the behemoth dino may have tipped the scale at 70 tons - more than 10 African elephants. 


Photo: Pol next to the femur of the behemoth titanosaur via BBC News

How does one go about measuring the size of a prehistoric daunting dino? In this video, Dr. Pol explains how the measuring process works. 

Today, you too can marvel at this prehistoric wonder at AMNH, where the titanosaur has invaded not one, but two rooms at the museum. It dwarfs AMNH's famous blue whale by nearly 30 feet (although the blue whale still takes the crown in mass, weighing as much as 200 tons, or 3x as much as the titanosaur).

Photo: PBS NewsHour via AMNH


Congratulations, Dr. Pol, for the incredible discovery. And for the record, we think "Columbia-osaur" has a nice ring to it, if you're brainstorming names.  


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8 Things You May Not Know About Butler Library

You may have pulled all-nighters or stolen a kiss or two in the stacks of Butler, but here are 8 things you may not know about Columbia's preeminent library. 

1. Butler Library houses more than two million books. (That's six times the number of Columbia alumni we have on record.)

2. Butler Library was funded by Columbia Law alumnus, Edward Harkness, who also supported original portions of the Columbia University Medical Center.  In 1918, he was ranked the 6th-richest person in the United States by Forbes magazine's first "Rich List."

Photo of Edward Harkness (You can tell he enjoyed a good book.)

3. The library's facade features inscriptions of the names of 18 writers, philosophers, and thinkers, including: Homer, Herodotus, Sophocles, Plato, Aristotle, Demosthenes, Cicero, Vergil, Horace, Tacitus, St. Augustine, Dante, Cervantes, Shakespeare, Milton, Voltaire, and Goethe. Of the 18, only Demosthenes has never been required reading in the history of the undergraduate Core Curriculum. 


4. Dan Futterman '89CC wrote parts of the screenplay Capote in Butler Library. He told Columbia College Today: “As anyone knows, normal people in NYC can’t afford apartments with office space. Having a free office (actually, a daily choice of a few of them) up the road from our place on 105th Street was an enormous blessing. If I wanted solitude, I’d go hide at a desk in the Butler stacks. If I wanted to people-watch while I wrote (which I often do), I’d go to Avery or the East Asian Library — each attracts a different crowd."


5. Areas of Butler remain open 24/7 during the academic year. Remember this scene?


6. The range of collections in Columbia's Rare Book & Manuscript Library, located on the 6th Floor of Butler, spans more than 4,000 years, 500,000 books, and 14 miles of letters, records, and manuscripts, including three “noble fragments” of Gutenberg’s 42-line Bible. 

7. In 1934, Columbia had to move 22 miles of books from Low Library to the new Butler Library. The solution? A giant slide. 

 8. Columbia's libraries, including Butler, provide greater access to alumni than any other Ivy League institution. All Columbia University alumni who have earned an undergraduate or graduate degree are eligible for lifelong reading privileges at Butler. Take advantage!

In our humble opinion, this is the most magnificent library in town. 


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Don't Risk Failure in Your Executive Job Search

By Debra Feldman '74PH of the Columbia Career Coaches Network

You got where you are today by virtue of hard work and producing results. If you don’t get the strategy right and execute it correctly, a project fails. This success principle applies to your personal career: you need the right job search strategy to support an effective campaign effort. If either your job search strategy (focus or target) is wrong or your job search execution (tasks and activities) is inadequate, your job search can’t succeed. In other words, if you don’t know where you are going, then you are not going to get anywhere.

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Advancing the State of the World in Davos

Each year, global leaders convene at the World Economic Forum's annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, to address topics at the forefront of the world agenda. Among those in attendance are prominent Columbia alumni and faculty.

This year's conference took place on January 20-23.

Hear directly from some of these Columbians, who provide insight on its significance and why you should pay attention.

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Inside MOOCs: Continuing Your Columbia Education


Eric Foner (Photo: Columbia Center for Teaching and Learning)

If you haven't heard of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), you may be in the minority. Ever since the New York Times declared 2012 “The Year of the MOOC,” more and more universities have used platforms such as edX and Coursera to experiment with online education; and Columbia is no exception.

Through MOOCs, Columbia's preeminent scholars are showcasing the highest quality offerings of the University to serious learners everywhere. Previous course leaders have included economist Jeffrey Sachs, virologist Vincent Racaniello, and computer scientist Michael Collins. So far, Columbia has produced more than a dozen courses and some are part of edX’s XSeries. According to the edX website, an XSeries is a “group of courses that add up to a rich understanding of an area of study.” Later this month, Columbia is re-launching one of its most successful MOOCs, which also happens to be an XSeries: “The Civil War and Reconstruction” with Professor Eric Foner '63CC, '69GSAS, a Pulitzer-Prize winning historian and one of the world’s leading experts on 19th-century America.  

Starting January 31, alumni, students, and anyone with an Internet connection around the world can sign up for this series of three free courses on that pivotal era in American history. The first part of the series (Politics of Freedom: The Civil War, 1861-1865) narrates the history of the American Civil War, focusing less on military conflict and more on political change during that time.

Check out a preview of the course:

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Your Weekly Low Down | Jan. 15, 2016

Catch up on the latest news from your Columbia alumni community this week.

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The Year of Lear

Columbia Professor James Shapiro '77CC is no stranger to Shakespeare. He has lead lectures and seminars at Columbia about the bard since 1985 and has written several books on the subject. The talk we recorded specifically references his newest book, "The Year of Lear: Shakespeare in 1606."

In this talk, Shapiro discusses the significance of that year, the events that influenced Shakespeare’s writing, why he chose to focus so intensely on Lear in this new book, and when his fascination with Shakespeare first began. So, curl up in a cozy armchair with a nice cup of tea and enjoy.

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