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Welcome to the 2020-2021 Academic Year

September 8, 2020

Dear Students,

Following a long summer of careful planning and preparation, I am happy to write on this first day of classes to welcome you all to the Fall 2020 semester at GSAPP. After months spent grappling with powerful movements and heartbreaking realities, we are excited to turn our focus to our core mission of teaching and creating a rich academic experience for all of you, whether you are here in person or joining us remotely.

As we launch the 2020-2021 academic year under unprecedented circumstances, I want to share some hope by echoing the message shared by President Bollinger last Friday. I particularly want to highlight this sentiment: “This is a moment when mutual support matters. We must do all we can to help each other in this academic year, no matter where we are and no matter how dispersed our community is.” To all of you, whether in New York City or elsewhere, I and GSAPP commit to doing everything we can to foster the sense of community and the warm collegial and vibrant intellectual exchanges that I cherish so much about our School.

This semester’s Public Lectures and Events series is one of the most exciting we have had at GSAPP, with an emphasis on the intersections of racial equity, social justice, and climate change across the built environment. We will begin our lecture series next Monday, September 14, as I host the recognized American industrial designer Stephen Burks in conversation. The first Friday lunch-time event, “Site and History: On the Question of Repair,” initiates a series of discussions acknowledging and exploring the history of Columbia University’s colonialist and discriminatory practices against Black, Indigenous, and People of Color. Among many others, our programming also includes a lecture by Tatiana Bilbao, a launch for the book Paths to Prison, a lecture by the Black Reconstruction Collective, and will culminate with a two-part conference on “Health and the City” and “Climate Justice and the City” in November. To see more of our planned events, please visit the full Fall Event Calendar. All talks will take place online in an open access format with recordings posted to the GSAPP events page for later viewing, and we will continue to send out weekly newsletters outlining each week’s myriad of events.

For those of you who will be on campus, keeping our community and each other safe means following the required safety measures described in the Columbia Community Health Compact, including undergoing gateway and subsequent COVID-19 tests. This will be necessary for you to be able to access all the campus-based facilities, including the School’s classrooms, studios, and the University libraries. In signing the Compact, students, faculty, and staff agree to adhere to public health policies related to face coverings and physical distancing and to enroll in our campus testing and contact tracing program. Please continue to also visit the Office of University Life website to follow how students are working together to keep the campus safe and stay healthy. You can find GSAPP student Ochuko Okor’s video message as part of this Student Voices series, and also sign up to contribute your own!

As I have described in earlier messages and town halls, GSAPP’s spaces have been adjusted to meet lower capacity limits in accordance with government and University public health guidelines, and new procedures are in place for everything from studio and class rotations to the various Technology Labs as well as the Making Studio. You will find essential information on The COVID-19 Resources page on our website, including the Room Rotation Schedule and Hybrid Pedagogy guidance. Many of our spaces have also been technologically upgraded to support necessary and lively interaction among remote and in-person students and faculty. We look forward working with these new tools that will expand and shape our ways of collaborating and learning together.

During this extraordinary and uncertain time it is above all your presence, ideas, and potential to shape the future of architecture and the built environment, across its scales and modes of practice, that continues to propel us forward. I am inspired by each of you: your ongoing enthusiasm and creativity, your willingness and open-mindedness, and your dedication to improving the world around us, and look forward to following your progress and work throughout the coming weeks, months and years. Please join me at All-School Orientation this Wednesday as I look forward to welcoming you back to School in person at that time.