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GSAPP Announces Inaugural Community Fellows

Gsapp community fellows
Najha Zigbi-Johnson and Andrew J. Padilla, the inaugural cohort of the Columbia GSAPP Community Fellowship
October 7, 2021

Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation (GSAPP) is pleased to announce the recipients of the 2021-2022 Community Fellowship: Andrew J. Padilla and Najha Zigbi-Johnson. The inaugural call for applications received many strong proposals, and we are excited for Padilla and Zigbi-Johnson to join GSAPP for the 2021-22 academic year.

Established as one of the key initiatives of GSAPP’s Anti-Racism Action Plan, the Community Fellowship Program is a three-year commitment to award two $20,000 fellowships to local practitioners each academic year. Fellows will participate in lectures, programs, and classes related to one or more of the disciplines of the built environment addressed at GSAPP. The new Community Fellowship Program will promote 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.

Andrew Padilla, born and raised in East Harlem, is an award-winning artist and educator who has lectured on displacement and urban politics across the U.S. After studying international development in Geneva, Switzerland at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Padilla won a MacCracken Fellowship to study the impact of fourth industrial revolution technologies on democratic governance at New York University. He currently serves on his local Manhattan Community Board 11 where he sits on the budget and land-use committees.

Najha Zigbi-Johnson, born and raised in Harlem, is committed to building Black power social movements through cultural and civic engagement work. She is a graduate of Harvard Divinity School, where she explored Black American social movement history and Black cultural production as a Presidential Scholar. At Harvard, she co-founded and led the course “Freedom School: A Seminar on Theory and Praxis for Black Studies in the U.S.” and is the co-editor of associated publication Freedom School Magazine. Zigbi-Johnson is the Director of Institutional Advancement at The Shabazz Center in Washington Heights. She is a product of Ignite North Carolina and her commitment to the Movement for Black Lives and sovereignty work is grounded in the legacy and teachings of Malcolm X and Dr. Betty Shabazz.

As a School of architecture and the built environment, it is imperative that Columbia GSAPP acknowledges the role our disciplines and practices have played in constructing and upholding racial inequities in the built environment. GSAPP is engaging every aspect of the School with a collective commitment to changing these approaches, and through shared efforts is intensifying its focus on the advancement of diversity, equity, and inclusion as a community and across our disciplines and practices. GSAPP recognizes that its current curricular engagements with the Columbia Campus’ neighboring communities are not enough, and is committed to identifying and developing opportunities for meaningful community partnerships.

More information about the Community Fellows will be shared on the GSAPP website throughout the 2021-2022 academic year, and student and faculty will have opportunities to meet and interact with Padilla and Zigbi-Johnson as they join the intellectual and cultural life of GSAPP.