Who We Are

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 PostThe Huffington PostThe 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.

  • 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.

  • Kira is a senior in Columbia College from Rochester, New York. She is majoring in Biology and plans to attend medical school after graduation. Kira decided to teach F&C because she fell in love with philosophy when she took Contemporary Civilizations as a Core class, and wants to share that passion with others. When not struggling through organic chemistry, Kira enjoys working as an EMT with Columbia University EMS and reading books that were not assigned for a class.

  • 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.

  • Jorge Ochoa has lived most of his life in Michigan. He is currently an undergraduate in Columbia College pursuing a double major in Neuroscience and Behavior and Ethnicity and Race Studies. Jorge will graduate in the Spring of 2019 and hopes to go to graduate school and combine his interests in the biological and social sciences. At Columbia he is a member of Proud Colors, an organization for queer people of color on campus. Jorge is excited to work through the curriculum with students this summer and, especially, to think critically about questions of citizenship, nation, civilization, and freedom. During the school year, he will be working with students to explore the topic of immigration both historically and by looking at present day immigration and the particular realities of current immigrants and immigrant communities in the United States. In his spare time, Jorge enjoys running, reading and spending time with friends and family.

  • 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. 

  • 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

  • Originally from Richmond, VA, Elise is a junior at Columbia College majoring in Socio-Cultural Anthropology and hopes to pursue a career in consulting or public relations. Her passion for social science stems from her interest in historical civilizations and the lessons that modern societies can learn from the past. This desire to mix old and new eventually led her to become a teacher’s assistant for F&C, which combines traditional doctrines with modern issues. Elise looks forward to discussing some of her favorite philosophical and political theories with the students and challenging them to consider new perspectives. Building on what the students will learn over the summer, Elise plans to lead an interactive project on the growing presence of gentrification in New York and across the country during the school year. She is eager to use her familiarity with Harlem and Morningside Heights to foster engaging discussions amongst the students about the evolution of gentrification and its effects on New York today.

  • 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,Voxand 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. 

  • Cory was born and raised in Lima, Ohio, and graduated from Elida High School. These days he is a junior majoring in Anthropology, a discipline he believes allows for interdisciplinary research and practice that suits his broad range of interests. Though he is unsure of his exact plans post-graduation, he believes he will stay in academia for quite some time. His interests include film, history, and education—specifically the ways in which the disciplines interconnect and work to define each other. He adores public school teachers, with special reference for high school teachers. And his reverence for teachers, alongside his belief in education’s power in shaping active, compassionate citizens, is what led Cory to join Freedom and Citizenship. He wants it known that he strongly prefers Plato to Aristotle, and has a lot to say about the topic.

  • Christian began at DDC as a volunteer during his undergraduate sophomore year at Columbia. His passion to mentor and tutor students developed from the mentorship he received as a high school student. As a first generation & low-income student, he hopes to help and inspire other students of similar backgrounds throughout their academic careers. After graduating with a degree in African-American studies from Columbia, Christian transitioned from being a teacher in the Upward Bound Summer Academy to a college access counselor at DDC. He now works with high school freshman in establishing habits for great academic achievement and with high school seniors in applying to and matriculating in college. He plans on attending graduate school to combine his education with his experience at DDC in hopes to become a better resource for his students.

  • 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.

  • Angela is a senior at Columbia College and a student in both the American Studies and Religion departments. Her academic interests fall mostly within the realm of political sociology -- how people interact, communicate, and comport themselves in the public sphere -- and the history of religion and spirituality in America. 

    Born and raised on the Texas-Louisiana border, Angela now calls Cincinnati, Ohio home. Though her days living in Texas are far behind her, Angela remains a devoted fan of southern blues, soul, and honky-tonk (country) music. This passion serves her well on campus, where Angela is a radio host and department head at WKCR-89.9 FM, the university-affiliated radio station. When not spinning records or scouting out musicians, Angela can be found working as a Residential Adviser, a booking manager for Postcrypt Coffeehouse (one of Columbia's oldest music venues), and an advocate for Columbia's divestment from fossil fuels. 

    Of all the authors on the F&C syllabus, Angela is most excited about W.E.B. DuBois, because she finds his writing to be as beautiful and emotionally moving as it is intellectually profound. Angela chose to teach F&C because she believes that the experience it offers --  that of discussing, forming, and defending one's opinion after encounters with complex, morally difficult texts -- is one of the best ways to grow as a citizen and perhaps even as a person. Throughout the school year, Angela will be leading the project on mass incarceration, working alongside students to understand how this issue affects not only the currently imprisoned, but the entire social ecosystem Americans live in. 

  • 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.

  • Alex Fay grew up in Oakland, California. She's a devoted student of American history. In her eyes, history explains the human world; history examines political theory in action and it crucially frames the problems of the present. Alex will graduate from Columbia College in the spring of 2018, after which she hopes to continue her studies in graduate school. Currently, Alex works as a research assistant and sings in a Columbia a cappella group. She decided to work with Freedom and Citizenship because she has a passion for teaching and she adores the F&C summer curriculum. Though she loves most of these old philosophers dearly, Locke and Rousseau are her favorites. Few topics are more exciting than the relationship between government and the governed! Alex is involved with the year-long immigration project. She sees immigration as a extremely relevant issue that not only affects countless lives, but also challenges the meaning of American ideals and identity.


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
Josh Feigenbaum
H.F. Lenfest
The Freedman Family
James Gorton
Craig Gurian
Mitchell R. Julis
Howard Levi
The Mendelson Family
The Rodin Family
Vincent Teti

and the Board of Visitors of the Center for American Studies:

Lisa Carnoy
Andrew Delbanco
Jonathan Freedman
Alan Ginsberg
Michael Hindus
Brian Krisberg
Roger Lehecka
Les Levi
Valerie Paley
Peter Temes