Education and Experiential Learning

From courses addressing civil and political rights to degree programs with involving fieldwork, Columbia University has a broad range of opportunities helping students and professionals engage with the University's Fourth Purpose.


Building on the foundational knowledge of the Core Curriculum, the Holder Initiative sponsors courses, public events, student internships, and fellowships for practitioners that extend the themes and questions of the Core into a contemporary context.

The Collaboratory supports the development of innovative, interdisciplinary curricula that embeds data or computational science into more traditional domains, or embeds business, policy, cultural, and ethical topics into the context of a data or computer science curriculum.

      Design for Social Innovation is a project-based initiative and course aimed at solving complex global problems through design.   

        Designing for Humanity

        • A course that identifies a real-world problem and actively engages stakeholders in developing solutions. Read more about Designing for Humanity.

        A new funding opportunity that aims to provide faculty with opportunities to expand the reach of their teaching beyond their own school and department, and advances the frontiers of Columbia’s educational offerings by supporting the creation of cross-disciplinary courses that count toward the degree programs for students at two different schools. Learn more about Cross-Disciplinary Frontiers.

        THE FUTURE CITY: Transforming Urban Infrastructure

        Faculty Collaborators
        • Kate Ascher, Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation
        • Andrew Smyth, Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science

        This course will introduce students to technological innovations that are helping cities around the world create healthier, safer, more equitable, and more resilient futures.

        Its foundation is based in two sets of traditional disciplines – architecture, urban design, and real estate development, and structural, civil and mechanical engineering – but also incorporates newer areas of study – such as data analytics and smart communication technologies - that offer opportunities for major advances in the quality of municipal service delivery. The syllabus will cover five distinct sectors in the field of urban infrastructure: transportation and mobility, buildings, power, sanitation, and communications. For each sector, the nature and framework of current urban delivery systems will serve as the foundation for exploring a handful of key technologies in the process of changing – and in most cases radically improving – the ways the built environment can support the lives of city residents. Columbia students from diverse backgrounds will be motivated to help realize the promise of tomorrow’s “smart city” in terms of livability, safety and inclusion.

        Course is open to all graduate students, and select seats are available for undergraduate students upon application.

        This course is part of a University initiative to promote cross-school courses:

        The Scientist and the Storyteller

        Faculty Collaborators

        This course will bridge the gap between scientific research and the distribution of important health information to the public. Students will be given an in-depth look at how science journalists work: their reporting techniques, writing and producing methods, and, ultimately, how they contextualize and distribute scientific information to their audiences. Students will be taught best practices for collaborating with journalists to ensure that their research reaches the public in the most intelligible and factual ways. Topics include how journalists gather and interpret information, the editing process in science vs. journalism, how narratives are created and distributed, and presenting scientific information for non-scientists. For students training in science journalism, this course will provide perspective into how scientists think and the way they are trained to report research findings to scientific and lay audiences.  Providing an opportunity for cross-talk between journalism and technical disciplines, this class will train scientists to be better communicators and journalists to be better translators of scientific information. 

        The Roman Art of Engineering: Traditions of Planning, Construction, and Innovation

        Faculty Collaborators

        This course will provide an interdisciplinary study of Roman engineering, and will address the questions of how and why they were built and critically, why these questions are relevant today. Through a holistic examination of Roman buildings, monuments and infrastructure that draws upon the fields of history, architecture, archaeology, and engineering, we will articulate principles used for the construction of roads, bridges and aqueducts, including iconic buildings and lesser-known examples. Themes that will be addressed throughout the course include: building materials and their affordances; the organization of labor and power hierarchies; the standardization of construction procedures; the epistemological premises of technological innovation and its societal consequences; the role of failure and error; the aestheticization and politicization of engineering “feats”; engineering and empire; and dissemination and transformation of engineering knowledge beyond Roman antiquity. A substantial portion of the course will be devoted to cross-cultural comparisons with other pre-modern societies across the globe. Collaborative assignments among the students will build on the respective skills and talents to develop a shared base of knowledge.

        Degree Programs

        Engages multiple disciplines to explore critical global issues, challenging students to engage with new concepts and generate innovative questions as they examine the complexities of our interconnected and always evolving world. Students take courses taught by members of the Committee on Global Though. Learn more about the MA in Global Thought

        A minor in entrepreneurship and innovation is offered by the Department of Industrial Engineering and Operations Research


        Experiential Learning Opportunities

        Community Impact is an independent, nonprofit organization through which students, faculty, and staff volunteer to serve people in need in the Morningside Heights, Harlem, and Washington Heights communities.

        The Office of Government and Community Affairs (GCA) provides assistance to Columbia undergraduates interested in spending the summer interning in the office of a U.S. Member of Congress through its Congressional Internship Program

        The Double Discovery Center is a holistic college prep program that equips first generation students from low income communities in Harlem and Washington Heights with academic enrichment, socio-emotional learning, and a long-term network of support, all while expanding the perspectives of our students and ourselves. 

        The Social Impact Fellowship is a program for rising Columbia University juniors and seniors to explore careers in social impact and help solve complex global challenges.

        From the Columbia Experience Overseas internship program to the Engineers Without Borders chapters to 150 study abroad programs spanning six continents and 40 countries, Columbia undergraduates join world-class faculty members and the broader Columbia community in research and classwork that advances the principles of mutual respect, greater understanding and common humanity through Global Experiences.

        The Obama Foundation Scholars at Columbia University brings rising leaders from the U.S. and around the world who have demonstrated a commitment to finding solutions to challenges in their communities and countries. Scholars complete a fully-funded 9-month residency on campus at Columbia World Projects, deepening their knowledge and skills, and building new capacities and networks to accelerate their impact.

        Projects for Peace is a national grant program which provides a $10,000 grant to help undergraduates implement a grassroots project that addresses root causes of conflict and promotes peace.

        Through he Tamer Center for Social Enterprise, Experiential Learning opportunities offer students the opportunity to work with faculty and staff on initiatives and activities that help strengthen the program.

        Through initiating events, action in the community, internships, and extracurricular projects, students not only integrate social enterprise into their own MBA experience, they also further build the foundations of social enterprise across Columbia Business School.