Community Citizenship and University Life: A Message from Suzanne Goldberg

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Welcome, and welcome back, to Columbia and to the Office of University Life. For this opening-of-the academic-year post, I want to introduce you to the Office, invite your involvement, and share a bit of my own background along the way. 

As I often tell my students, I never imagined that I would become a professor or help to lead shaping university life and community citizenship here at Columbia. Yet I couldn’t be happier to be in both roles. In college and law school, my dream was to become a civil rights lawyer and work on social justice issues, especially race and sex discrimination. As it turned out, I joined Lambda Legal, the nation’s oldest and largest organization focused LGBT and HIV-related civil rights.  During nearly a decade there, I had a full litigation and legislative advocacy docket, with some high school and law school teaching on civil rights, race relations, and government regulation of sexuality in the mix. 

These experiences – and an inclination to spend more time teaching about the issues I had been working on – led me back to academia and a broadened focus on barriers to equality. I joined the Columbia Law School faculty full-time in 2006 and last summer became President Bollinger’s Special Advisor on Sexual Assault Prevention and Response, before taking up this role in our new University Life office last January. 

The Office of University Life

A University community such as ours is a unique place – we are the size of a small city, with each school as its own neighborhood, both virtual and real. Within this community, the Office of University Life offers a place for engagement with issues of University-wide interest and concern. 

Our three focal points are intellectual life, student life and community citizenship across Columbia.  You can learn more here, on the rest of our website. But a bit about what these mean, here:

Student Life.  Intellectual Life.  Community Citizenship.

Our Student Life work focuses on issues of importance to students’ experiences, agnostic to areas of study and across membership in Columbia’s many schools.  Last semester, we hosted “working conversations” with students, faculty and administrators on issues related to inclusion and diversity, mental health and wellness, first-generation students, gender-based misconduct, and much more. Fill out the form in Get Involved to join one of our cross-school working groups. 

Intellectual Life refers to our aim to create and elevate University-level conversations, both in-person and online, about the pressing issues of our day – and to promote the related programming of the University’s centers, institutes and schools. This fall we will launch Awakening Our Democracy -- a series of forums, facilitated panels with thoughtful guests, and related events; look for those details on our Events page.

Community Citizenship focuses on fostering a sense of mutual responsibility within a vibrant University of robust -- and vital -- viewpoints. The Sexual Respect and Community Citizenship Initiative, in which all incoming Columbia students will participate, is an important part of this. Also in the works are more events like last year’s Selma screening and conversation, that invite and enable reflection on how the world’s events reverberate within our own community and beyond. 

Join us.

Through fresh analysis and exploration, collaboration and exchange, we will build on tradition and produce transformative results. To share your ideas, suggestions, and interest in our work this year, email

We look forward to your participation in all that the University community has to offer. Here's to a thought-provoking, enriching and enjoyable academic year.

Suzanne Goldberg


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