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GSAPP Announces 2023 Community Fellows

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2023 Community Fellows Malika Khalsa and Fernando Ortiz
December 14, 2022

Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation (GSAPP) is pleased to announce that Malika Khalsa and Fernando Ortiz are the recipients of the 2023 Community Fellowship. They are the second cohort, following inaugural fellows Andrew Padilla and Najha Zigbi-Johnson.

The Community Fellow Program is a critical component of GSAPP’s commitment to Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging, which strengthens our community through advancing opportunities for students and faculty to engage and co-create with practitioners who envision and actualize projects to better serve the built environment. The program aims to create an innovative knowledge-sharing network between GSAPP and our local communities.

The Community Fellowship Program is a three-year commitment to award two $20,000 fellowships to local practitioners each academic year. Fellows participate in lectures, programs, and classes with the intention to 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. Learn more about our fellows below.

Malika Khalsa joined the Salvadori Center as the Education Director in 2017; leading a team of 11 Educators who develop curricula and deliver Salvadori’s collaborative, hands-on, and project-based in-school STEAM residencies and after-school programs. Prior to joining Salvadori, Malika was a Senior Program Director at City Year New York, a Child Protection Specialist with NYC Administration for Children’s Services, and a Pre-K Teacher at 82nd Street Academics. Malika graduated from St. John’s University with a BS in Childhood Education.

The Salvadori Center’s mission is to teach science, technology, engineering, arts/architecture, and math (STEAM) to all K-12 students but primarily those in under-resourced communities, through a collaborative, hands-on, project-based approach that uses the built environment ~ buildings, bridges, parks, and communities ~ that shows students how STEAM is relevant to their lives. The Center is named for Mario G. Salvadori (1907–1997), an American structural engineer and professor of both civil engineering and architecture at Columbia University.

Malika Khalsa writes in her application:

Studies have shown that working in careers that focus on social change is an important factor that people of color use to determine a career. Oftentimes, however, students do not connect how going into a STEAM career can still allow for this crucial social justice work. Salvadori wants to help change this and expose students to the connection between social justice work and STEAM careers.

Fernando Ortiz is a Dominican-American sustainable designer and a borough director for New York City Economic Development Corporation, where he manages government and community relations for the Bronx and Upper Manhattan. Formerly, he was a city planner in the Bronx for the NYC Department of City Planning.

Ortiz started his career as a community organizer for The Point Community Development Corporation, and he has worked on environmental justice in the South Bronx and studied across four continents, including collaborating with Native American tribes. He specializes in community engagement and has participated in several urban planning/design projects within New York City, including as a Forefront Fellow with the Urban Design Forum exploring food systems in the city.

Ortiz holds both a master’s degree in Sustainability Management from Columbia University and in Sustainable Design from the Boston Architectural College and a bachelor’s degree from Pratt Institute. As a Bronx native, he is passionate about uplifting the needs and voices of Bronxites across the city and the globe.

Fernando Ortiz writes in his application:

“As an advocate for sustainable and community-driven efforts in the Bronx and Upper Manhattan, I hope to use this experience to bring students and faculty into Upper Manhattan on meaningful community visits and engagement work to develop a research project around these neighborhoods focused on sustainable and immigrant communities and to write a collection of essays on these topics – urban planning in underserved communities, climate change, impacts to BIPOC communities, and how development does or doesn’t include BIPOC communities.”

As a School of architecture and the built environment, Columbia GSAPP continues its commitment to critically examining the construct and the impact that racial inequities have on 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 advancing 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.

We are excited to welcome our Community Fellows in January. More information about the Community Fellows will be shared on the GSAPP website throughout the academic year, and students and faculty will have opportunities to meet and interact with Fernando Ortiz and Malika Khalsa as they join the intellectual and cultural life of GSAPP.