Each year Columbia University’s School of Professional Studies offers students in their final year of study the opportunity to be awarded a $2,000 Innovation Scholarship. The funding comes from the Class Gift, generously sponsored through donations from SPS graduates and matched by the School. For the 2016–2017 academic year, SPS has awarded six students who have demonstrated strong academic performance and professional promise as leaders in their field.
The awardees and their associated master’s programs are Rakiba Kibria and David Tamaki of Nonprofit Management, Jacqueline Bartolommeo and Gabriel Lamas Arias of Sports Management, Tausif Khan of Executive Strategic Communication, and Lauren Goodwin of Executive Technology Management.
Kibria aims to create an aggregate resource for philanthropic innovation and research as a way to access capital.“In order to solve the world’s most pressing problems,” she says, “you need an ecosystem of partners that are concerned with building sustainable solutions that benefit investors, institutional funders, governments and nonprofit actors alike.” For Kibria, her Innovations in Philanthropy class, and the flexibility offered by SPS, gave her the tools to think beyond traditional philanthropic giving.
As a professional ballet dancer, Tamaki is utilizing his love of dance as a way to study the biomechanics of individuals with Parkinson’s disease. His research objective is to use “arts as an agent of change” and bring a new perspective to movement research. His program, Dancing for Parkinson’s, has partnered with the American Parkinson’s Disease Association and the dance department at Rutgers University.
Bartolommeo says she was able to shift her focus from marketing and advertising to fundraising management. Currently, she is working at the National Hockey League and overseeing program initiatives such as Hockey Fights Cancer and Hockey is For Everyone. Her coursework in fundraising, grant writing, and financial management prepared her for reviewing grant proposals from NGOs and gave her a “deeper knowledge on the importance of transparency within nonprofits.”
After founding a sports consulting firm, Arias has partnered with one of the largest soccer clubs in Brazil. The success of his projects in attaining partnerships “were heavily inspired by the Sports Management program’s curriculum and vision, which put data analytics, globalization and revenue-driven mindset at the heart of the sports business practice. I was fortunate enough to acquire hands-on experience and knowledge from the faculty, comprised of top sports business professionals and scholars,” he says.
While studying for his master’s in Strategic Communication, Khan volunteered at CHINAR, an American-based nonprofit in Kashmir, India. “I left the glamorous world of luxury hotels to pursue a higher calling; improving the lives of marginalized and at-risk populations across the world. I wanted to give a voice to and highlight the suffering of disenfranchised populations . . . ” In his role as communication strategist, his goal is to create a new campaign at CHINAR that seeks to provide a positive impact on education and build self-esteem as a means to lift families out of poverty.
Overcoming personal tragedy, Goodwin discovered a way to utilize virtual reality technology to educate and help cancer patients and their families cope with the effects of disease. “I partnered personal experience with the lessons from my Technology Management program, where we learned technology is more than something cool or new, but rather something that enables change and solves problems.” She adds, “VR offers immersive learning, but it also offers therapeutic escape for patients.”