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Expanding Our Horizons

April 11, 2022

Dear GSAPP Community,

April is a time of anticipation, energy, and fulfillment. Legions of aspiring students are making critical decisions about graduate education, GSAPP studios and classrooms are brimming with preparation for final reviews and juries for theses and capstones, and the Class of 2022 are mere weeks away from marking an important point of accomplishment. A time before joyful celebrations, and a time to imagine an expansive future.

Two weeks ago when I dialed in to welcome prospective students to explore GSAPP, it was thrilling to see more than four hundred of them on Zoom. This year we have received the highest number of applications in the School’s history outside of 2021 – applications at GSAPP and across higher education were exceptionally high in 2021 as a result of delayed studies during the pandemic in 2020. Continuing our efforts, we are experiencing a positive expansion of demographic diversity: for the first time, minority applicants comprise 50 percent of the domestic applicant pool; and prospective international students come from 91 national origins. The admitted students reflect this demographic and geographic diversity. Embracing the post-pandemic new normal of virtual connections across time zones, we have introduced new formats to highlight the journey to and beyond GSAPP with international alumni representatives, and GSAPP and Columbia University staff support. While we look forward to welcoming the aspiring students as members of our incoming class, we want to be sure it’s the right decision for everyone.

When the new class is united at GSAPP in the Fall, a School-wide orientation program – GSAPP Common Circle – will be an expansive opportunity to dialogue about anti-racism work for built environment professionals and to connect with faculty and students across different programs. Moreover, we will welcome two new Community Fellows. The Community Fellowship Program promotes educational ties between the School and surrounding communities of color in response to students’ desire to learn more about the urban environment in which the School is situated. Two $20,000 fellowships to a local practitioner each will be awarded this year, and Community Fellows will participate in lectures, programs, and classes at GSAPP. The application process (add link) opens today and continues until May 11. Please spread the word to people you know in the New York metropolitan region who are engaged in community-centered work. You can also learn more about our two inaugural Community Fellows, Najha Zigbi-Johnson and Andrew J. Padilla, and I encourage you to join Najha Zigbi-Johnson’s lecture on the politics and legacy of Malcom X this Thursday evening.

For the Class of 2022 and earlier graduates, I am pleased to highlight the GSAPP Incubator Prize, an expansion of our anti-racism work at GSAPP. Established in 2019, the Prize aims to promote new models of practice by supporting alumni in the development of a wide range of new ideas and projects about design, contemporary culture, and the future of the city. This cycle will build upon the 2021-2022 theme of supporting initiatives that critically reimagine community engagement and participation. Special consideration will be given to proposals serving BIPOC communities, in particular projects that engage Harlem. Applications will open on May 16, and please visit this page to learn more about the work of current and past recipients. 

With great anticipation, I look forward to the final reviews and the Class of 2022 GSAPP Commencement on May 14, as well as welcoming back the Classes of 2020 and 2021 in a special celebration on May 19.

Weiping Wu
Interim Dean