Guest Speakers

Rachel Abromowitz discusses the still evolving methods of writingProfessor Martin Chalfie shares his nobel prize winning work while sharing what it takes to be a successful scientist

Every year our programs invite a special selection of guest speakers – successful men and women drawn from very different walks of life – to engage with students on a wide variety of political, economic, social, artistic, academic, and literary topics. 

Listed below are some of the speakers from recent summers.

Dr. Elizabeth Alexander

Professor Alexander is a poet, essayist, playwright, and teacher born in New York City and raised in Washington, D.C. Professor Alexander has earned degrees from Yale University and Boston University, completed her PhD in English at the University of Pennsylvania, and was the chair of the African American Studies Department at Yale University. She composed and delivered “Praise Song for the Day” for the inauguration of President Barack Obama. The poem has been published as a small book from Graywolf Press. Professor Alexander is the first recipient of the Alphonse Fletcher, Sr. Fellowship for work that contributes to improving race relations in American society and furthers the broad social goals of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1954 landmark decision in Brown v. Board of Education.

    Adam Allen

    Mr. Allen worked for Oxbridge Academic Programs for ten years before moving on to his true love — police work. He joined the New York Police Department Transit Bureau in 2008 and has since worked on “Operation Impact” with the Anti-Terrorism unit. In his talk “NYPD: Stories from the Streets” he shares his unique perspective on the city. A dedicated officer, Mr. Allen engages our students with discussions on highly charged topics such as terrorism, national security, and international law enforcement.

      Dr. Raj Bhimani

      A world-renowned concert pianist, Raj Bhimani's performances have been lauded by The New York Times as "virtuosic, heartfelt, and eloquent." He performs regularly across North America, Europe, and India and has played at New York's famous Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts on several occasions. A frequent lecturer on piano pedagogy, Mr. Bhimani has taught at the 92nd Street Y School of Music, New York University, and Concordia College. In addition to running a busy private studio in New York, he is in great demand across the country for his educational outreach programs which include master classes, private coaching for both soloists and chamber ensembles, lecture-demonstrations, as well as lectures on French piano literature.

        Dr. Robert Bontempo

        An Associate Professor of Management at Columbia Business School, Dr. Bontempo was recently named by Businessweek magazine as one of the top MBA professors in the United States. His area of specialization is the role leadership plays in the effectiveness of global organizations, and his research has been widely published in journals across Europe and Asia. It has also been featured in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Economist, as well as on network news broadcasts. Dr. Bontempo is a leading adviser to senior executives worldwide and consults on the leadership of organizational change and the implementation of business strategy with giants such as Goldman Sachs, ExxonMobil, NASA, and Deloitte, as well as governments and officials from the World Bank, the United Nations, Russia, Bahrain, and Dubai. A Fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford, Dr. Bontempo received funding for his dissertation from the prestigious MacArthur Foundation.

          Dr. Martin Chalfie

          The William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of Biological Sciences at Columbia University, Chair of the Department of Biological Sciences at Columbia University, and a member of the National Academy of Science, Professor Chalfie won the 2008 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for the discovery and development of the Green Fluorescent Protein (GFP), although he later admitted to sleeping through the telephone call from the Nobel Committee. First isolated from the jellyfish Aequorea victoria, GFP has become a fundamental tool of cell biology, developmental biology, genetics, neurobiology, and the medical sciences, not to mention its many applications in industry. Professor Chalfie tells students about the research that led him to his Nobel Prize as well as about the wider benefits of scientific research carried out for sheer intellectual curiosity.

            Chris Fell

            Chris Fell is the Assistant District Attorney for Queens County of New York City. Originally from Brooklyn, he completed his undergraduate degree at Boston College before teaching in the South Bronx for three years as part of Teach for America. Fell went to Fordham Law School hoping for a legal career in criminal prosecution and/or government, and he found himself working at the Queens District Attorney's Office.

              Agustino Fontevechia

              Since graduating from New York University and completing his MA at Columbia University, Agustino has worked for various publications in Argentina, where he was born and raised, and in the United States as a reporter and foreign correspondent. He is currently simultaneously employed as a markets reporter with Forbes Magazine in New York and as a columnist with Diario Perfil in Buenos Aires. He maintains a widely read blog with Forbes called Moral Hazard. He talks to students about how to become a journalist in today's media world, placing particular emphasis on the need to work with digital media in order to succeed in print. He also speaks about the ethics of journalism, specifically about the susceptibility of journalists and readers to manipulate.

                Kenneth Jackson

                Professor of History and Social Sciences at Columbia University, three-time Fulbright Lecturer, 2001 New York State Scholar of the Year, and founder of the National Council for History Education, Dr. Jackson engages our students with a wide variety of subjects, from modern American history to New York City's historical landmarks to the secrets of the Big Apple's subway system. A dynamic author and speaker, Dr. Jackson is the author of The New York Times notable book of the year Crabgrass Frontier: The Suburbanization of the United States and Editor-in-Chief of The Encyclopedia of New York City. He has also appeared on CNN, History Channel, and NBC's The Today Show. Although he has been welcomed to Windsor Castle by Queen Elizabeth II, to Lambeth Palace by the Archbishop of Canterbury, and to the White House by President Bill Clinton, Dr. Jackson is most at home in the subways, back streets, and gritty neighborhoods of New York City.

                  Jeff Jarvis

                  A national leader in the development of online news, blogging, the investigation of new business models for news, and the teaching of entrepreneurial journalism, Jeff Jarvis is a professor of journalism and influential blogger on BuzzMachine. He has a wealth of experience in journalism and media, having been the Sunday Editor and Associate Publisher of New York Daily News and a columnist for The San Francisco Examiner, as well as a consultant for media companies including The Guardian, Digital First Media, Postmedia Network, Sky, Hubert Burda Media, Advance Publications, and The New York Times Company at The About Group. He created and was the founding managing editor of Entertainment Weekly magazine and has worked as a columnist, associate publisher, editor, and writer for a number of publications including TV Guide, People, The San Francisco Examiner, Chicago Tribune, and New York Daily News. Mr. Jarvis specializes in marketing and privacy in a connected world, and he has spoken at world business forums to social media companies such as Facebook on issues regarding Google and the NSA.

                    Dr. Michelle Larsen

                    Dr. Larsen is Assistant Professor of Medicine at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and a Research Specialist for the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Her doctoral work in 1996 with Dr. David Figurski at Columbia University on drug resistance of broad-host-range bacterial plasmids sparked an interest in applying bacterial genetics to infectious diseases. As a post-doctoral fellow in the laboratory of Dr. William Jacobs, Jr., she studied bacterial replication and drug resistance of Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Her post-doctoral studies were foundational for developing research and teaching projects that include TB vaccine development, transmission and pathogenesis of XDR-TB, biomarkers of difficult-to-treat patients (i.e. MDR-TB/HIV and XDR-TB), HIV vaccine development, livestock and wildlife tuberculosis, a “Many Hosts of Mycobacteria” meeting series, and the training of young scientists in Africa for TB research.