The Freedom and Citizenship Team
Our program is built on the principle that talented teachers share their passion for learning best by teaching in small seminars that allow for plenty of individual attention to students. By bringing together gifted professors, graduate student coordinators, and undergraduate teaching assistants, we are able to make a profound difference in students' ability to read, write, and participate at the college level.
Professors, Teaching Assistants, and Staff
Tamara Mann Tweel was a committed Freedom and Citizenship student before she became a teacher. She first encountered F&C as a graduate student, sitting in the back of Professor Montas’ seminar and studying the noble obligations of being a free citizen. Since that first summer, there is little Professor Tweel loves more than spending July with her F&C students reading and discussing the Great Books.
Before entering Columbia, Professor Tweel received a Masters in Theological Studies at the Harvard Divinity School and worked for years building interfaith coalitions in New York City after September 11th. She returned to Columbia to study for her Ph.D. in American History where she wrote a dissertation on the political and ethical challenges of aging in America. In addition to being a professor, she works outside the classroom to bring the ideas of F&C into the policy and non-profit space, assisting think tanks, foundations, and major philanthropists on their social welfare work. In 2009, Professor Tweel received the K. Patricia Cross Future Leaders Award from the Association of American Colleges and Universities. In 2015, Professor Tweel testified before Congress on the value of the humanities, bringing the stories of F&C students to our national representatives. Her writing has appeared in such publications as The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, The Journal of World History and The Harvard Divinity Bulletin. Her current academic research includes the ethical repercussions of how Americans have defined life, death, and care.
Sarah Kinney is a junior in Columbia College at Columbia University studying human rights and education. Originally from Missouri and Arkansas, she now loves living in New York and exploring everything the city has to offer. Sarah is passionate about equitable access to education and dedicates herself to this cause by teaching ninth graders in NYC public schools about sexual, mental, and physical health through Peer Health Exchange. She spent the spring of 2018 interning for Senator Kirsten E. Gillibrand, and she hopes to continue working in the political realm in years to come. When working with students, Sarah believes in forging personal relationships that encourage students to be both vulnerable and self-confident. Sarah is planning on attending law school after she graduates from Columbia, but in the meantime, she spends her days balancing her studies with her love for music, books, and friends.
Rory Varrato is currently pursuing a PhD in Philosophy and Education at Teachers College, Columbia University. Prior to his arrival in New York City, Rory worked as a teacher at Scottsdale Preparatory Academy, a Great Books-based liberal arts school in Scottsdale, AZ. Before that, Rory earned a B.A. in American History and an M.A. in Political Theory, both from Arizona State University.
Rory’s attraction to Freedom and Citizenship flows from his belief that the program offers to its students a radically democratic and, therefore, properly subversive form of education. Undergoing such an education means that — through reading, writing about, and discussing with one another the texts of the program — Freedom and Citizenship students embark on what Alfred North Whitehead called an adventure of ideas. This adventure, to paraphrase Milan Kundera, teaches students to comprehend the world as a question. And questions, as Neil Postman has told us, are the principal intellectual instruments available to human beings. An important challenge for students, then, is to practice using these instruments by participating in deliberative dialogue in the classroom. Through actualizing this ideal — what John Dewey called democracy as a way of living — students empower themselves to become authentically autonomous persons. Indeed, this process, according to Paulo Freire, is “the practice of freedom,” or “the means by which men and women deal critically and creatively with reality and discover how to participate in the transformation of their world.” Precisely that kind of human liberation is what Rory is proud to facilitate through his work as the graduate coordinator for Freedom and Citizenship.
Roosevelt Montás was born in the Dominican Republic and moved to New York as a teenager. He attended public schools in Queens and was admitted to Columbia College in 1991 through its Opportunity Programs. He graduated from Columbia in 1995 with a major in Comparative Literature. In 2003, he completed a Ph.D. in the English, also at Columbia, where he began teaching in the faculty of the English Department in 2004. In 2008, he was appointed Associate Dean of Academic Affairs and Director of the Center for the Core Curriculum at Columbia College. Roosevelt specializes in Antebellum American literature and culture, with a particular interest in American national identity. His dissertation, Rethinking America, won Columbia University’s 2004 Bancroft Award. In 2000, he received the Presidential Award for Outstanding Teaching by a Graduate Student and in 2008, he received the Dominican Republic’s National Youth Prize. He regularly teaches moral and political philosophy in the Columbia Core Curriculum as well as seminar in American Studies called Freedom and Citizenship in the United States. As Director of the Core Curriculum, Roosevelt speaks widely on the history, place, and future of the humanities in the higher education.
Matthew Ravi Kumar was born and raised on the Jersey Shore. He studies computer science and philosophy at Columbia College, and is interested in studying formal logic and the structure of language to build algorithms to write poetry. Matthew is the Censor of the Philolexian Society, the first student organization at Columbia and the oldest literary society in the country, and has edited the Society’s literary magazine, Surgam, since his first semester on campus. He is excited to discuss Aristotle, who he believes to be the smartest person who ever lived for his focus on the real world instead of Platonic ideals.
Luz Romero is a recent graduate from Barnard College. This is her fifth summer with Freedom and Citizenship and her fourth summer as the RTA Supervisor. She has spent the last three years working in youth development and college advising at the Double Discovery Center. In her position, she managed and facilitated three college prep programs designed for high school juniors and seniors. Luz has continuously served as a liaison between the full time staff, volunteers and students. Apart from her work at Freedom and Citizenship and Double Discovery, Luz is a volunteer at The Opportunity Network participating in their College Transition Bootcamp and College Access and Success Symposium. She served as a mentor for two years counseling OppNet College Fellows around academics, diversity, campus social life and personal well being. She is currently interested in pursuing a career in higher education, particularly in college access or college admissions. Her aim is to help prospective students find the best fit college where they can enhance their intellectual curiosity, authenticity, and commitment.
Kathy H. Eden is the Chavkin Family Professor of English Literature and Professor of Classics. She received her B.A. from Smith, her Ph.D. from Stanford, and has been teaching at Columbia since 1980. Professor Eden teaches both Literature Humanities and Contemporary Civilization--Columbia's core curriculum courses upon which Freedom and Citizenship's seminar is based. She specifically studies the history of rhetorical and poetic theory in antiquity, which is why she's a perfect person to speak to our students on Thucydides' History of the Peloponnesian War.
Her books include Poetic and Legal Fiction in The Aristotelian Tradition and Friends Hold All Things in Common: Tradition, Intellectual Property and the ‘Adages’ of Erasmus. Her most recent book, The Renaissance Rediscovery of Intimacy (2012) examines how writers of the Renaissance were influenced in their own writing by reading the letters Ancient Greeks and Romans (including Aristotle, Cicero, and Plato) wrote to their closest friends.
In 1998 Dr. Eden won the Great Teacher Award from the Society of Columbia Graduates and in 2001 the Mark Van Doren Award and the Award for Distinguished Service to the Core Curriculum. In an article about her teaching in Columbia College Today, Professor Eden revealed that in addition to speaking French, Spanish, Italian, German, and some Japanese, she memorized all of Hamlet when she was 15.
Juan Diego (or J. D.) was born and raised in the Colombian immigrant communities of the Boston area before being whisked away to a boarding high school in an affluent suburb. He has always loved reading, and loves nothing more than grappling with art and meaning in whatever form. A rising junior at Columbia College studying American studies and philosophy, he has recently been maddeningly concerned with the state of living and learning in contemporary society, and how civic duty must assert itself in public consciousness. Before starting at F&C this summer, he was an intern in the mayor's office of his hometown of Revere, MA, mostly composing commendations and proclamations and preparing for an impending war on rats.
Jon Carlo Dominguez is a Columbia College Pre-Law Senior studying Sociology. You can call him JC for short. He grew up right across the river in North Bergen, New Jersey which is a Latino community where everyone speaks Spanish. Growing up, the racial and economic disparities between his Latino community and the private schools his family could afford always frustrated him. He sees sociology as a lens through which one can understand how inequality and injustice are structurally reproduced in society. After he graduates in 2019, he intends to eventually go to law school to advance issues of justice and equality, especially for the minority community he grew up with and loves.
On campus, he has sung with the a capella group Nonsequitur and leads incoming first-years to do community service through Columbia Urban Experience (CUE). He also works with Bridge 2 Brilliance to inspire young low-income and first-generation students to apply to college. He will combine the sociological insights he learned at Columbia with the law in order to better fight for racial and economic equality.
John H McWhorter is an associate professor of English and comparative literature at Columbia University. He earned his B.A. from Rutgers, his M.A. from New York University, and his Ph.D. in linguistics from Stanford. His linguistic and literature backgrounds come in handy when he lectures F&C students on Jean-Jacques Rousseau and explains why it was so unfortunate for Mr. Rousseau that his last name sounded a lot like "ruisseau," the French word for "stream."
Professor McWhorter is an author of more than a dozen books including The Power of Babel: A Natural History of Language, Losing the Race: Self Sabotage in Black America and Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue: The Untold History of English. In 2016 he published Words on the Move: Why English Won't - and Can't - Sit Still (Like, Literally). He also regularly contributes to newspapers and magazines including The New Republic and The Atlantic. Students might be particularly interested in his article on how immigrants change languages in The Atlantic and an essay on policing the "N-word" in Time.
Jessica Lee is the Associate Director of Freedom and Citizenship. Jessica received her Ph.D. from Columbia in 2016 and her B.A. from Bryn Mawr College in 2008. Throughout college Jessica worked at a summer camp; developing summer programming for campers and supervising undergraduate cabin counselors. She enjoyed it so much that after graduating college she wasn't sure if she wanted to pursue a Ph.D. in history or become a director of a summer camp. In the end she decided to attend graduate school at Columbia University where she quickly found a way to combine both passions as the graduate coordinator of F&C. There, she could immerse herself in the history and philosophy of citizenship while also growing a tight knit community of motivated high school students each summer, developing meaningful summer and yearlong programming, and teaching and mentoring undergraduate college students. While working for Freedom and Citizenship and teaching in Columbia's Center for the Core Curriculum, Jessica finished her dissertation on the formation of an American ethnic voting bloc during the Great Depression. As Associate Director of Freedom and Citizenship, Jessica continues to think a lot about how new citizens can make an oversized impact on the country's political trajectory. Rather than writing about it, she now gets to act on it.
Bella Heshmatpour is a rising senior at Barnard College where she studies American history and philosophy. On campus, Bella serves as the President of the Veritas Forum at Columbia, a club that facilitates debates and discussions between students and faculty from different religious backgrounds. This year, Bella plans to write a senior thesis on American radicalism during World War II, particularly wartime critiques of bureaucracy. She enjoys papers and projects that mix history, philosophy, and theology. As a Residential Teaching Assistant, Bella is excited to engage in thoughtful discussions with students and to work together to understand challenging ideas.
Ian Reinicke hails from Janesville, Wisconsin. He is a Senior in Columbia College, studying Political Science and Anthropology. Outside of the classroom, Ian is a member of the Track and Field team, where he competes in the horizontal jumps. He enjoys exploring everything New York City has to offer including museums, Broadway shows, and especially NYCFC or Knicks games. His favorite class at Columbia has undoubtedly been Contemporary Civilization. He is excited to help younger students through the journey that engages with authors such as Aristotle, Hobbes, and Rousseau. Through Freedom and Citizenship, Ian is excited to share his enjoyment of these fascinating philosophical texts with students.
Ericka Ekstrom was born in Songtan, South Korea and raised all over the world while traveling with parents in the military and foreign service. She is a student at the School of General Studies majoring in American Studies. She chose the major due to its interdisciplinary nature which allows her to study American art and literature. Accordingly, she is most eager to work with students on the American Experience portion of the syllabus, particularly James Baldwin. Ericka will graduate from Columbia in 2019, after which she hopes to attend graduate school and pursue a career in education. In addition to her studies, Ericka works on the ESOL program at Community Impact, helping to offer free English classes to immigrants living in New York City. She will lead a year-long project on domestic violence, working with students to explore how violence in the home affects us personally and politically.
Professor Foner specializes in the Civil War and Reconstruction, slavery, and 19th-century America. He has written and edited nineteen books about American history, including The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery, which won the Pulitzer, Bancroft, and Lincoln prizes in 2011. His latest book is Gateway to Freedom: The Hidden History of the Underground Railroad. Professor Foner is also active in public history: he has curated and advised on several museum exhibits from Disneyland to Gettysburg, and he writes often for newspapers and magazines. Freedom and Citizenship students might be interested in his open letter to Bernie Sanders and article defending birthright citizenship in The Nation.
At Columbia, Dr. Foner teaches the history of the Civil War and Reconstruction, which is now available for free as an online course through ColumbiaX. He also teaches a popular class on "The American Radical Tradition" that reads many of the same texts from the summer seminar. Students can find out more about Professor Foner on his website and from the Columbia History Department.
Emmett was born and raised in Burlington, Vermont, and moved to Brooklyn in high school. He has worked on political campaigns since the age of 10, when he first knocked on doors for Barack Obama. A sophomore in Columbia College, he majors in American Studies and is interested in the cultural and social forces that shape American democracy. Passionate about civic participation at the local level, Emmett works for Columbia’s Project for the Homeless, which operates two homeless shelters in the Upper West Side. He will draw on this experience as he leads a group of F&C students to tackle the crisis of housing in New York City.
Denise Xu is a Columbia College student studying English and philosophy. After she graduates in 2019, she hopes to attend English graduate school with research interests in 19th and 20th century American literature as well as classical Greek philosophy. Outside of class, Denise works with a non-profit organization called Symposium to increase access to cross-cultural dialogues and humanities seminars. With Symposium, she has led comparative political philosophy seminars for high school students, and has initiated the involvement of undergraduate teaching fellows in a Columbia University Seminar series on Global Core pedagogy. With the Freedom and Citizenship program, she looks forward to leading the civic leadership project on immigration. She hopes to work with students to better understand the values that undergird a diverse and inclusive democratic society, and to examine the policies and problems that shape the experiences of immigrants in America.
Dany Sturdivant was born and raised near Atlanta, Georgia. She's a sophomore in Columbia College studying anthropology with interests in human evolution, gender, and diversity. During her freshman year, she joined Model United Nations, participating in the travel team and helping to host conferences. Last January, she was an Under-Secretary General for the Columbia Model United Nations Conference and Exposition, a conference for over 800 high school students from different parts of the world. Recently she was more inspired by campus social life and the idea of progress in education. After meeting a variety of new people she made a quasi-home in the Black Student Organization as the Sociocultural Chair. She was deeply inspired by the Core, shocked by the depth of understanding reached in Art Humanities and Contemporary Civilization. She can't speak highly enough about how influential the course was in her path, sparking her to question the world in new ways. The supportive teaching staff on campus inspired her to pursue teaching, and she's thrilled to be able to help students read and write about these phenomenal texts.
Undocumented and (briefly) homeless as a child, Dan-el Padilla Peralta was inspired by his high school teachers to study Classics at Princeton University, where he graduated as the salutatorian of his class. He continued his studies at Oxford (MPhil in Greek and Roman History) and Stanford (PhD in Classics). After two years at Columbia’s Society of Fellows, Dan-el returned to Princeton as an assistant professor in the Classics Department and is affiliated with the university’s Program in Latino Studies. His 2015 memoir Undocumented: A Dominican Boy’s Odyssey from Homeless Shelter to Ivy League (Penguin) received an Alex Award from the American Library Association; more recently he has written short pieces for the Guardian,Matter,Vox, and the NYT. He is now plugging away at a second book on the religious world of the Roman Republic (under contract with Princeton University Press); other projects in progress include a co-edited volume on appropriation in Roman culture, two article-length explorations of classical reception in the 19th and 20th-century Hispanophone Caribbean, and a study of forms of citizenship ancient and modern. Dan-el teaches in Columbia’s Justice-in-Education Initiative and in the Freedom and Citizenship Seminar out of a firm belief in the importance of humanistic learning to the promotion of social justice. He also sits on the editorial board of the public-facing Classics journal Eidolon, to which he has contributed articles on Greco-Roman receptions in hip-hop and the interplay between ancient xenophobia and modern anti-immigrant politics.
Casey Nelson Blake is the Director of Columbia’s Center for American Studies and a historian of modern American thought and culture. He is also Director of the Freedom and Citizenship program, which he launched in 2009 in partnership with the Roger Lehecka Double Discovery Center.
Professor Blake’s scholarly work has appeared in numerous books and journals. He writes regularly for magazines and other publications for a general audience and has also helped design museum exhibitions on American history and art. Among the courses he teaches at Columbia is a lecture course on U.S. intellectual history since 1865, which includes many of the same texts assigned in the Freedom and Citizenship summer seminar.
Professor Blake’s work as a scholar and educator explores the ideas and artistic traditions available to Americans seeking to create a more vibrant and inclusive democratic society. The Freedom and Citizenship program invites high school students the opportunity to join in that exploration. Students study how major thinkers have struggled with the big questions of civic action: “What are the responsibilities of citizenship?” “How does individual freedom contribute to the common good?” “Do civic equality depend on a particular economic system?” “In what ways has the definition of American democracy changed since the Revolution?” “Who has participated in making those changes, and how?” Students not only study a conversation that has gone on for centuries about the meaning of freedom and citizenship. They join it themselves as informed citizens ready to participate in the decisions that will affect their futures, and the future of their country.
Ben Fullerton was born and raised in Amarillo, Texas. Ben is currently a rising junior in Columbia College, where he majors in Neuroscience and Behavior and concentrates in Linguistics. He plans to pursue an MD/PhD and to, ultimately, conduct neurodegenerative disease research, specifically on either ALS or MS. Ben was an avid debater in high school and grappled with many of the texts and concepts that will be discussed throughout the program and is extremely excited to encounter all the different perspectives brought by each student. Aside from academics, Ben is moderately proficient in Vietnamese, enjoys philosophy, and absolutely loves dogs, especially his pug, Francie.
Andrew Delbanco, winner of the Great Teacher Award from the Society of Columbia Graduates, is the author of Melville: His World and Work (2005), The Death of Satan (1995), Required Reading: Why Our American Classics Matter Now (1997), The Real American Dream (1999), and The Puritan Ordeal(1989), among other books. Most recently, he wrote College: What it Was, Is, and Should Be (2012)--student can read an essay from it here. His work has been translated into several languages, including German, Spanish, Korean, Russian, and Chinese.
Professor Delbanco's essays appear regularly in The New York Review of Books and other journals, on topics ranging from American literary and religious history to contemporary issues in higher education. In 2001, he was named by Time Magazine as "America's Best Social Critic" and elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He is also an elected member of the American Philosophical Society, a trustee of the Teagle Foundation, the Library of America, and trustee emeritus of the National Humanities Center.
In February 2012, President Barack Obama presented Professor Delbanco with the National Humanities Medal for his writings on higher education and the place classic authors hold in history and contemporary life.
Alice McCrum grew up in London, England and now lives in Brooklyn, New York with her mother, sister and dog, Hershey. She is a junior at Columbia College, where she studies history, English and philosophy. She is most interested in 20th century intellectual European history, though, as well as how philosophical ideas emerge in and shape literature (most recently: Eliot’s Middlemarch; Tocqueville’s Democracy in America; Beckett’s Krapp’s Last Tape).
On campus, Alice writes quirky pieces and breaking new stories for The Eye, the online magazine of the Columbia Daily Spectator. She also leads incoming freshman on hikes in the Catskill Mountains for Columbia’s Outdoor Orientation Program (COÖP). When not writing, reading or hiking, Alice watches movies at Film Forum, visits the Metropolitan Museum of Art or runs around the reservoir in Central Park.
Alice already misses Contemporary Civilization and is particularly excited to read (and re-read) Aristotle, Locke, Du Bois and Baldwin. She looks forward to grappling with these brilliant texts, discussing how the abstract and often abstruse ideas manifest in daily life. In this way, she hopes to help students interact with the F&C authors on a personal as well as a critical level.
During the school year, she will lead the project on environmental justice. She wants to work with students to reach a deeper level of understanding––through different lenses––about the charged, relevant topic and hopes to affect some real change in the neighboring communities.
The Freedom and Citizenship Program is supported by:
The Teagle Foundation
The Jack Miller Center
The Knight Foundation
The Bram Family
Sean Eldridge and Chris Hughes
The Freedman Family
Mitchell R. Julis
The Mendelson Family
The Rodin Family
and the Board of Visitors of the Center for American Studies: