University Seminar

on Innovation

For more information: Ron Gross at

columbia seminar

The focus of this Seminar is on the process of change  -- in individuals, organizations, and society.  Its scope includes personal change throughout the lifespan, and organizational change via major institutions including mass media,  business enterprises, libraries, voluntary organizations, cyber-culture, and educational systems, as well as processes ranging from socialization and enculturation, to civic discourse, meaningful conversation, and independent scholarship.

Starting in April 2020, the Seminar has dedicated  itself to addressing issues of racism, social justice, and equity, with sessions on Microaggressions and Microinterventions, Environmental Racism, and  James Baldwin's vision as interpreted by Princeton Prof. Eddie S. Glaude, Jr.

Recent guest speakers have included:
Kwame Appiah, author of  Cosmopolitanism, and New York Times Magazine The Ethicist columnist

Jon Meacham,  Pulitzer Price-winning author of  The Soul of America

Harry Frankfurt, Prof. Emeritus at Princeton and author of On Bullshit

Randy Cohen,  former The Ethicist columnist for the New York Times Magazine (During his tenure in that role)

John Merrow, former chief-education correspondent for the PBS News Hour and author of The Influence of Teachers

The Seminar meets at Faculty House on the Columbia University campus in  New York City.

Contact Information of Members

Seminar Background


Seminar activities, contributions, and publications.

The Seminar has produced or participated substantially in the development of the following books, and conferences:  

The Power of Conversation, National Symposium, July 10, 2014, held at Faculty House.

Socrates' Way (Penguin/Putnam/Tarcher (2003)

Peak Learning  (Tarcher/Penguin-Putnam, 2001)

The Great School Debate: Which Way for American Education? (Doubleday, 1985)

Independent Scholarship: Promise, Problems and Prospects (The College Board, 1983)


Co-chairs, Roster of Members, Associates, and Correspondents

Ronald Gross, author: Socrates' Way, Peak Learning, The Great School Debate; and other books.

Elizabeth Cohn, Rudin Professor of Community Health, Hunter College, City University of New York.

Publications: The Romance of Commerce and Culture (U.of Chicago Press); IArticles and reviews on the arts, ideas, and culture in numerous publications, including The New Criterion, The Georgia Review, The Sewanee Review, The American Scholar, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Design and Lifestyles India, Aspen Magazine ,and France Today
Current Projects: Worldly Wisdom, a volume of essays on great books and good ideas; The Storytellers of Marrakesh, a volume of travel essays; She Went to the Elephant Races, a volume of travel stories; Life Line, a philosophical romance.

Founder and Director, Vehicles, Inc.
212 722-1111 665-6321
Fax: 212 722-0019
1832 Madison Avenue
Rm 202
NY, NY 10035
Current Projects and Affiliations: Doctoral Candidate - The Union Institute (Cincinnait, Ohio - Expected graduation date: October 2001; Serving two-year term on the National Advisory Council of the U. S. Small Business Administration (starting June 30, 2000).

Senior Fellow, The Vera List Center for Art & Politics, New School for Social Research
Daytime phone: 212. 866.7614
Home phone: Same
Fax phone: 212.663.1083
Address: 740 West End Avenue, Apt. 22A, New York, New York 10025
Recent books: WHITE LIES: RACE AND THE MYTHS OF WHITENESS (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1999); THE CRISIS OF CRITICISM (The New Press, 1998) CONSTRUCTING MASCULINITY (Routledge, 1995) MODERN ART & SOCIETY (HarperCollins, 1994) HOW ART BECOMES HISTORY (HarperCollins, 1992) LABYRINTHS: ROBERT MORRIS, MINIMALISM, AND THE 1960s (Harper & Row, 1989)
Current interests: I'm working on a book on the shifting nature of identity in the age of multiculturalism.

213 California Road, Yorktown Hts, N.Y. 10598
914 962-3683
Mandel Fellow of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum; Adjunct Prof. of Holocaust Education in the Graduate Program at Manhattanville College, Purchase, New York.
Interest: Holocaust Studies

Prof. of Political Science, Gallatin Division, New York University
E mail:
Phone: 212-243-5909
Publications: DEWEY ON DEMOCRACY, Cornell University Press; journal articles.
Current interests: Co-editor, GEO: Grassroots Economic Organizing Newsletter

Affiliations: Consultant at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center
Adjunct Faculty Member at LaGuardia Community College
Creative Writing Instructor at Isabellla Geriatric Center
Daytime phone: 212-717-3527
Home Phone 212-874-7788
Publications: Essay in "Creating From the Spirit: Living Each Day as a Creative Act; Poetry in " 4 Centuries of Jewish Women's Spirituality". Articles in "New York Newsday, Teachers Reading, and the National Business Employment Weekly"
Current interests: teaching writing for cancer survivors

Project Consultant, Database on Archival Tapes,
International Film Seminars; Advisory Board, Library Connections
(Program to improve inner city school libraries)
E-mail address:
Phone: 212-862-7508
Fax phone: none
Address: 626 Riverside Dr. #17C, New York, NY 10031
Current projects: Creating a database on Robert Flaherty Film Seminar; working on International Residencies Programs for filmmakers; working with Gilder Foundation and Patrons Program of NYC Archdiocese to improve libraries in inner city schools.

Phone: 516-487-0235
Fax: 516-829-8426
Address: 17 Myrtle Drive, Great Neck, New York 11021
Books: The Great School Debate, Radical School Reform, High School, The Teacher and the Taught, Peak Learning, Invitation to Lifelong Learning, The New Professionals, Individualism, Independent Scholarship.
Current Project: Socrates' Way; On-line columnist, ABOUT.COM.

Professor of Health and Nutrition Sciences, Brooklyn College, CUNY
E-mail address
Daytime phone 1-718-951-5707
Home phone -212-245-5292
Fax phone: 718-951-4670
Address: 200 Central Park South, NY 10019
Current interests e.g. Bioethics

President, Bellarmine University
Daytime Phone: 502-452-8234
FAX: 502-452-8033
2001 Newburg Road, Louisville, KY 40205

John L. and Sue Ann Weinberg Professor in the Historical and
Philosophical Foundations of Education, Teachers College, Columbia University
E-mail address:
Daytime phone: 212 678 3375
Home phone: 212 866 3368
FAX 212 678 8227
Address : 106 Morningside Drive, #62, New York, NY 10227
Current projects: The City as Educator

Phone: 845-365-0024
Address: P.O. Box 575, Palisades, NY 10964
Publications: The Five Stages of the Soul: Charting the Spiritual Passages that Shape Our Lives (Doubleday, 1997);
Aging: Concepts and Controversies (3rd. Ed., Pine Forge-Sage, 1999);
Ethics in an Aging Society (Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 1992);
Abundance of Life: Human Development Policies for an Aging Society
(Columbia Univ. Press, 1988)
Current Projects: Books underway: Life-Review: Becoming the Person You Were Meant to Be; Handbook of Transpersonal Gerontology; empirical study of transformative learning in Elderhostel. Director, Institute for Human Values in Aging, Brookdale Center on Aging of Hunter College. Chairman of the Board, Elderhostel.

Lenox Hill Hospital - Department of Medicine
Faculty Member , Clinical Assistant Professor of Medicine, NYU School of Medicine
Daytime phone: 212-434-2104
Home phone: 212-628-9052
Fax phone 212-434-2446
Address: 200 East 82nd Street #19C New York, NY 10028
Publications: Articles in The Lancet, Academic Medicine, The Journal of General Internal Medicine, The Oxford Illustrated Companion to Medicine, Newsweek, and The New York Times
Current interests: Doctor-Patient Relationships; Doctor-Family Relationships; Family & Illness ; Healing the Healers (Helping clinicians care for themselves); Listening as a Healing Intervention.

Phone: 646-559-8206, E-mail:
Affiliation: teacher of Trauma and Abuse/Death and Dying at The College for Health Science, NYC
Founder and CEO of Soul-Works
Interests: Many years of experience in Mentoring and advising students as an intervention model, especially interested in personal obstacles in learning, Inter-cultural issues, Conversations from the Heart – Learning through Listening.
Theater Works: personal life stories told and re-enacted on the spot.
Current Project: Poetry- Spoken Word -, Book underway “After kids”; Reinvention of a mother in an empty nest, Dance and Movement with seniors as healing illness and prevention.

The Juillard School
60 Lincoln Center Plaza NY 10023

New York Times College Scholarship Program
229 West 43rd St.
NYC 10036
917 445-2361
Home: 212 734-5574

Assistant Director of the Center for Academic Excellence, Fairfield University, Fairfield, CT.
E-mail:, Phone: 203 254-4000 X. 3190
Most recent publication: "Show Me the Meta: Public Discourse and the Stewart Model of Critical Thinking", in J. Holt (Ed.), The Daily Show and Philosophy, Open Court/Blackwell, 1970.

Independent Scholar
President, National Coalition of Independent Scholars
Phone/Fax: 212-222-2015
Address: 752 West End Ave #5H, New York, NY 10025-6231
Publications: Co-compiler, Classified and Annotated Bibliography of Books and Articles on the Immigration and Acculturation of Jews from Central Europe to the USA since 1933, New York: K.G. Saur, 1981.
Print articles: "Karoline Eberstaller: The Real Link Between Schubert and Bruckner?" The Schubertian, October 2000, 5-13; "Schubert as Painted by Gustav Klimt and Julius Schmid," The Schubertian, July 2001, 14-20; "Schubert at the Movies," The Schubertian, October 2001, 14-17., and others in print and on-line.
Current Projects: "The Fate of Margarethe Schindler Legler"; "Julius Schmid: Blundering Into Oblivion"; "Carl Moll, Vermeer and the Artist's Dilemma."
Interests: Music history, esp. Austria; Art History, esp. Austria; the Intersection of Music and Art.

Background on

The University Seminars

at Columbia University 

"The strength of its structure lies in the very multiplicity of its forms; each a small living world in itself, the seminars can be indestructible, as strong as the freedom and as flourishing as the play of intellect they encourage."

Margaret Mead

      The University Seminar Movement has flourished for over fifty years, growing from the original five seminars in 1945 to approximately seventy-five seminars today.  Each seminar acts as an autonomous and voluntary grouping of scholars and practitioners brought together under the auspices of Columbia University by their dedication to a particular line of investigation.  The movement is not only interdisciplinary, but inter-institutional, and involves members of the community who might not otherwise participate in university activity.

"The Seminars take each of us out of his or her ivory tower and expose us to the informed and often brilliant thinking of our peers."

Hannah Arendt

 The seminars have as their central goal the integration of otherwise fragmented knowledge, a pulling together of the many threads of knowledge and experience through the stimulus of continuing discussion.  Frank Tannenbaum, Professor of Latin American History at Columbia, founder of the University Seminars, and director until his death in 1969, was an ardent believer in the potential for enlightenment contained in meaningful dialogue.  In an essay entitled "Implications of an Education Movement," Tannenbaum wrote:  "The primary aim of the University Seminar is the attempt to see things whole, to merge the disciplines for the purpose of getting a unified view.  The aim is synthesis, insight, wisdom, the understanding of the full incidence of the ongoing phenomenon to which any collegium is devoted."

"Without money, publicity, or organization, and following a course pretty much uncompromisingly irrelevant to the needs of the front office, the Seminar Movement seems to have no other strengths than that it is a good idea."

Paul Goodman     

Members of the seminars are drawn from numerous departments in the faculties of Columbia University, from other colleges and universities, and from experts and specialists in nonacademic pursuits.  Apart from the members, seminars attract authorities in many fields of scholarship as speakers and guests.  Seminars range from small discussion groups to larger bodies that, in some cases, have become regional centers for intellectual exchange where such centers would not otherwise exist.

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