Awakening Our Democracy

AWAKENING OUR DEMOCRACY is Columbia's conversation series on disparities and justice issues at the forefront of the University's and the nation's consciousness. Events foster University-wide dialogue through discussions with thought leaders, advocates, journalists and scholars. 

Starting Soon: Awakening Our Democracy: Voters, Access and the 2020 Election

November 2019

Countdown to the 2020 Election

The last three years have brought about intense divisions related to the future of our nation. Join experts for a conversation about the 2020 U.S. presidential election and the role we play in deciding the future. 


October 2019

The Legacy of Slavery on Public Health

The legacy of slavery has shaped nearly every facet of modern life for all in the United States, and is a driving force behind health disparities in communities of color. Please join us for an important discussion about the long-term impacts of slavery on public health.

Moderated by Suzanne B. Goldberg, EVP Office of University Life and featuring Courtney D. Cogburn, Columbia School of Social Work, Geraldine Downey, Department of Psychology, Micaela Martinez, Mailman School of Public Health, Samuel K. Roberts, Department of History, Mailman School of Public Health, Department of African American and African Diaspora Studies.

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October 2019

Immigration and the Nation Now

Shifting policies and attitudes on immigration have called into question the nation's longstanding reputation as a refuge for immigrants seeking freedom and prosperity. How are these changes impacting the nation and what do they mean for the future?

Moderated by Juju Chang of ABC News' Nightline and featuring Elora Mukherjee, Jerome L. Greene Clinical Professor of Law and director of Columbia Law School’s Immigrants’ Rights Clinic; Van Tran, Associate Professor of Sociology, The Graduate Center, CUNY; David Grasso, Journalist and Media Director of GenBiz; Murad Awawdeh, Executive Vice President of Advocacy & Strategy at The New York Immigration Coalition. Free lunch included with RSVP. Bring your CUID.

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February 2019

One Nation Under Guns?

Join us for a discussion about the impact of guns in the U.S. and recent events that have shifted the national conversation. Moderated by Tiffany Hsu, breaking news reporter for The New York Times and featuring Nick Suplina, Everytown for Gun Safety; Cabot Phillips, Fox News Contributor; Sonali Rajan, Regional Gun Violence Research Consortium member and Teachers College assistant professor; and Robert Fullilove, Mailman School of Public Health professor of sociomedical sciences. Lunch will be provided to registered guests. Please bring your CUID.

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November 2018

Divided We Stand? Reflections on the U.S. Political Landscape

A conversation on the mid-term elections and the current political landscape featuring Dean Emeritus and Professor at Columbia Journalism School Nicholas Lemann; Republican strategist Rina Shah, a 2016 delegate to the Republican National Convention and former spokesperson for "NextGenGOP"; Professor Michelle Adams, co-director of the Floersheimer Center for Constitutional Democracy at Cardozo Law School; Policy analyst Laura Williamson of Demos public policy and advocacy organization; and Columbia’s Executive Vice President of Communications and Public Affairs Shailagh Murray, a former senior advisor to President Barack Obama, as moderator.


 September 2018

 Borders, Bans and Belonging

A discussion of immigration today and what lies ahead. Featuring moderator, Ahmed Shihab Eldin of AJ+/Al-Jazeera Media, Columbia Professor of History and Asian American Studies Mae Ngai, former Department of Homeland Security Deputy   Assistant Secretary for Policy Paul Rosenzweig (currently senior fellow, R Street Institute; The George Washington University School of Law), Deputy Commissioner & General Counsel of the New York City Mayor's Office of Immigrant Affairs Sonia Lin and  Sarah Stillman, Director of the Global Migration Project at Columbia Journalism School. 



February 2018 

Beyond #MeToo

A conversation about what's beyond #metoo, with a focus on gender and sexual harassment, social change and the future. Featuring ABC News' Juju Chang (moderator); former supermodel, labor activist and founder of Model Alliance Sara Ziff (GS ’11); Columbia Law School Professor Katherine Franke; long-time advocate and author Abdul Staten (Columbia Health’s Sexual Violence Response); and Professor Melissa Murray of NYU and UC Berkeley School of Law & Center on Reproductive Rights and Justice.

November 2017 

Free Speech on Campus

A conversation about debate, controversy, and free expression principles. Featuring Jami Floyd (moderator), WNYC host and legal and media commentator; Jamal Greene, Columbia Law School Dwight Professor of Law; Tanya Hernandez, Archibald R. Murray Professor of Law, Associate Director, Center on Race, Law and Justice at Fordham Law School ; and Suzanne Nossel, PEN America Executive Director.


October 2017 

Climate Change Activism and Advocacy

The impacts of climate change and how environmentalists and communities can respond, with Claudia Dreifus (moderator), Journalist, Author of "Scientific Conversations: Interviews on Science from the New York Times" and Adjunct Professor of International Affairs at SIPA; Michael Gerrard, Andrew Sabin Professor of Professional Practice and Director of Sabin Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia Law School; Peggy Shepard, Executive Director of WE ACT for Environmental Justice; and Peter M. Iwanowicz, Executive Director of Environmental Advocates of New York.

April 2017 

The Politics of Mental Health Care

A conversation about mental health needs and access to care, with Nikki Webber Allen, founder of “i Live For…” Inc.; Dr. Kim Hopper, professor at Mailman School of Public Health; Dr. Billy E. Jones, former senior advisor on mental health and healthcare reform at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and Commissioner of the New York City Department of Mental Health; and Dr. Kathleen Pike, CUMC faculty member, clinical psychologist and Executive Director of the Global Mental Health Program; Suzanne Goldberg, Executive Vice President for University Life moderates.

View photos | Watch the video | More Wellness Days @Columbia events

March 2017

Borders, Bans and Walls

Immigration, national security and our communities with PBS NewsHour Special Correspondent Duarte Geraldino, ImmigrationWorks USA President and CEO Tamar Jacoby, Center for Popular Democracy Senior Attorney Kumar Rao, and New York City Mayor's Office of Immigrant Affairs Assistant Commissioner of External Affairs Bitta Mostofi. 

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January 2017

Global Populism and Political Power

Trends in populism in the U.S. and around the world, with author and journalist John B. Judis ("The Populist Explosion"), Barnard Professor of Political Science Sheri Berman, New York State Democratic Party Executive Director Basil Smikle, and Columbia Journalism School Professor and Chair Todd Gitlin.

November 2016

Feminism, Media and the State of the Union

A lively post-election discussion that asks: What does feminism mean in this moment? With ABC News’ Juju Chang (Moderator), Columbia Journalism Professor Helen Benedict, Barnard Professor of History Premilla Nadasen, MTV News’ Jamil Smith (formerly of The New Republic and MSNBC) and author-activist Marianne Schnall (“What Will it Take to Make a Woman President?”) for this timely panel.

October 2016

One Nation Under Politics

The 2016 Presidential election and impact of a dominant two-party system on our country and communities. With Jelani Cobb (moderator), The New Yorker, Columbia Journalism School; Dave Levinthal, The Center for Public Integrity; Linda Sarsour, MPower Change, Arab American Association of New York; and Robert Y. Shapiro, Wallace S. Sayre Professor of Government, Columbia University for this edition of AWAKENING OUR DEMOCRACY.

March 2016

The Politics of Gender

The intersection of gender, feminism, and masculinity, with Vladimir Duthiers, Correspondent, CBS News (Journalism ’11), Cherno Biko, Co-Chair, New York City Council Young Women’s Advisory Council; Dana Edell, Executive Director, Sexualization Protest Action Resistance Knowledge (SPARK) Movement (School of the Arts ’03); Chase Strangio, Staff Attorney, ACLU; and Kendall Thomas, Nash Professor of Law, Director of the Center for the Study of Law and Culture, Columbia Law School.

February 2016

Food Access, Security and Justice

Food insecurity and access, and impact on public health, with Simran Sethi, author, Bread, Wine, Chocolate: The Slow Loss of Foods We Love; Cristina Fernandez, Post-Doctoral Clinical Research Fellow, General Pediatrics; Anthony Giancatarino, Director, Policy and Strategy, Center for Social Inclusion; Rafael Aponte, Farmer; Founder, Rocky Acres Community Farm; and Diana Robinson, Campaign and Education Coordinator, Food Chain Workers Alliance.

January 2016

The Politics of Religious Freedom

The intersection of faith, freedom and politics, with Patricia Sabga, Al Jazeera America Global Affairs correspondent; Imam Khalid Latif, Executive Director, Islamic Center at NYU; Senior Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum, D.D., Congregation Beit Simchat Torah; and Josef Sorett, Professor of Religion, Columbia University; Director, Center on African American Religion, Sexual Politics and Social Justice.

November 2015

Ferguson, Charleston and Beyond

Race, violence, policing and community safety, with Kimberlé Crenshaw, Professor of Law, Columbia University and UCLA; Michael Skolnik of; Mychal Denzel Smith, writer, The Nation; and Maya Wiley (Law '89), Counsel to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.

October 2015

The "American" Dream, Immigration and Belonging

Controversies surrounding immigration with TED Fellow and social justice comedian Negin Farsad, Columbia Professor of Sociology Van C. Tran, Co-director of the Dream Coalition Cesar Vargas, and moderator Duarte Geraldino of Al Jazeera America.

Co-sponsors for the Awakening Our Democracy series include:

Center for American Studies | Center for Children and Families | Center for Institutional and Social Change | Center for Intersectionality and Social Policy Studies | Center for Justice | Center for Race, Philosophy and Social Justice | Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race | Center for the Study of Law and Culture | Center on African American Politics and Society | Center on African-American Religion, Sexual Politics and Social Justice | Columbia Population Research Center | CUMC Deans for Diversity | Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma | CU Speak | Engineering Student Council | Heyman Center for the Humanities | Institute for Religion, Culture and Public Life | Institute for Research in African-American Studies | Institute for Research on Women, Gender, and Sexuality | Institute for the Study of Human Rights | Office of Multicultural Affairs  | Office of the University Chaplain | Office of the Vice Provost for Faculty Diversity and Inclusion | Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. Center for Leadership and Ethics | SIPA Diversity Task Force | Social Intervention Group | Students of Color Association | Tamer Center for Social Enterprise | Temple Hoyne Buell Center for the Study of American Architecture | White Coats 4 Black Lives | Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Council