Morningside Area Alliance News, January 2013

“2013” in Morningside Heights. The start of another year in our incredible city and a good time to note David Rockefeller’s vision for Morningside Heights. “The community should be the spiritual, cultural and intellectual center of the world.”  Below are just a few member initiatives that demonstrate how the definition of our community continues to be shaped by influences beyond our borders.

Table of Contents

Once a month, please look forward to an email from the Morningside Area Alliance that features member news, collaboration opportunities, and membership services.  Please feel free to forward this email to colleagues (sign-up here) and do not hesitate to call (212-749-1570) or email me with news to share.

Jenn Beisser

Barnard: athena festival

Athena Film Festival

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The Athena Film Festival has announced its 2013 program!  The festival runs from Feb. 7-10 at Barnard College in New York City.  Once again the Morningside Area Alliance is proud to partner with the Athena Film Festival to bring you a weekend packed with the best in fiction, documentary, and short films, all celebrating women and leadership.  Please see their website for a full list of films and special events. Morningside Area Alliance members and their networks may enter the code MORNAFF21 at checkout to receive a $2 discount on any individual adult ticket.  All student tickets are $5.

Printable Schedule >
Tickets >
To view all events in Morningside Heights, visit our Arts & Community Calendar online >

Photo: valerie chow, barnard

Civic Engagement: Administration & Faculty Partnerships

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MAA recently caught up with Valerie Chow, Barnard’s Associate Director for Civic Engagement and Experiential Learning, to learn more about her department’s work in the community and her efforts to develop more service learning opportunities. More than meeting the interests of students who “don’t come to New York to be inside”, service learning represents a significant shift in pedagogy. For many faculty, putting it all together is a challenge. 

To further her office’s mission, Valerie has taken a partnership approach with Barnard’s faculty. For example, she, along with Professor Kimberly J Johnson, are actively developing an undergraduate service learning course. According to Valerie, the course, with its focus on women’s leadership, is taking shape; while they assess the comparative value and ease of implementing a sector-based versus community-based approach to meeting key learning objectives. 

Valerie is a natural partnership-builder whose affiliations include several of interest to MAA membership:

  • Member, the New York Metro Area Partnership on Service Learning Program (MAPS). Note: Barnard will host a MAPS sponsored symposium on disaster preparedness in April.
  • Member, NY Campus Compact.
  • Board member, Columbia Community Service.
  • Publisher, weekly newsletter of volunteer opportunities.
  • Valerie’s Columbia network includes Associate VP, Program Development and Initiatives at Columbia, Marcia Sells, who is helping her bring additional resources to Barnard’s partnership with PS 165 (West 109th Street).

Valerie Chow, Associate Director, Civic Engagement and Experiential Learning can be reached at or 212-854-2033. She is happy to speak with other members about her work and welcomes suggestions and feedback on any of her projects.

Distance Learning – from Master Classes to MOOCs in Morningside Heights

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As a global center for learning, Morningside Heights is connected to people, places, and pursuits far beyond our neighborhood’s borders.  Many members are developing their capabilities around distance learning, alumni network cultivation, and global extension of their work.The Manhattan School of Music, is one of the country’s leading institutions in distance learning education. For more than 15 years, the Manhattan School of Music (MSM) has taught live classes using the most sophisticated technology available and is now broadening its model to tap into opportunities in public schools.  Building on MSM’s Global Conservatory Program, MSM’s Distance Learning offers standards-based music-related programs to public and private schools throughout the country and abroad. National and New York State Learning Standards for the Arts are incorporated into each program’s content and design, as are connections to core subjects, such as Social Studies, Language Arts and World History.
Msm distance learning photo

In October 2012, MSM began a contract with a Nebraska school agency funded by a state arts grant to deliver its Distance Learning program in 8 high schools. Nebraska students are now working directly with instructors at the MSM to demonstrate the efficacy of face-to-face music instruction at a distance via high-definition video & audio conference. While this opportunity grew out of a significant, long-term development strategy by MSM, there is much that a later entrant to this marketplace can learn from their trailblazing.

MAA and the Manhattan School of Music hope to introduce members to the people behind MSM’s program in a roundtable meeting this Spring. In preparation, MAA staff will be assessing:

1) collaboration possibilities that can maximize resources for the roll-out of single-course or event offerings and,
2) the potential collective and niche audiences for members’ existing and emerging offerings.

Columbia on cousera

In more distance learning news, February 11 marks Columbia University’s launch into the world of MOCCs (massive open online courses).  On the Coursera platform, these classes enrolled more than 6,000 students in just a few days. While Teachers College has offered certificate courses and even a master’s program for many years, Columbia’s free offering is a timely investigation of this growing platform during a critical time period in online education.

MOOCs offer a foothold into the emerging marketplace of higher-ed delivery models. At the same time, online for-credit courses are being developed through collaboratons such as the MIT-Harvard Consortium (EdX) and remarkable Semester Online Consortium that includes participation of ten top universities.

For Morningside Heights academic institutions, our  strength in graduate programming, religious studies, the arts, and teacher education are something to explore as a unique selling proposition.

Regardless of scale or point of entry, online education and the global reach of MAA’s unique assets through live streaming are rapidly evolving fields and there is much to learn from each other.

Pre-College and Young Adult Programs

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Would you be willing to offer an update or news about your organization’s specialized programs or services for young adults? As many residents, current and former, of Morningside Heights know, MAA has been an important player in offering programs to neighborhood youth and will continue to do so by documenting and promoting the resources of our members.

Following are two such initiatives I will feature.

Rap Science: The Center for African Education (CAE) is facilitating Rap Science a Saturday Enrichment Program at Teachers College for high school students. It’s goal is bridge youth culture with the scientific world through the art of “Rap Science.”  Rap Science is a collaboration with the Think Smart Project and TC’s Professor Christopher Emdin, GZA, Rap Artist from Wutang,, and educator Ian Levy are leading. The program is partnering with 10 high schools in the New York Metro Area and runs March – June every Saturday.

18rap span articlelarge

Rap Science provides academic tutoring and instruction by Teachers College alumni and graduate students in Mathematics, Chemistry, Engineering, Biology, Physics, Computer Science, Health, College Preparation and Career Development.

Project leaders seek project suggestions, off-site visit recommendations from MAA members. Contact Hugh Jordine at

JustCity: Jewish Theological Seminary recently shared information about their new initiative, JustCity. JustCity is a pre-college program offering committed high-school students the opportunity to deepen Jewish learning while living on a college campus, develop and strengthen leadership skills, understand personal and Jewish commitment to social action, dialogue with change-makers working in a variety of contexts, and learn firsthand from New York City organizations at the forefront of advancing social justice. Read more here. For further information, contact or call (212) 678-8826.

Nancy thornton, columbia gs stunt & maa marketing & communications intern

An Orientation Story – Meet Nancy

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I’d like to introduce you to Nancy Thornton, Morningside Heights Alliance’s new Marketing and Communications intern. Nancy’s initial workplan is to attend, review, publish (on the MAA website and through additional channels), and promote our neighborhood’s notable arts and cultural events this Winter.

“Romantic” and “an epicenter for culture and education” 

One of the main reasons Nancy chose Columbia was its location. “I am drawn to the history of the place and it’s romantic to me. But really, it’s only here that I could be connected with people from all over the world who like me are focused on learning. Plus I wanted a rigorous academic experience in a real place.”  Nancy was first introduced to the neighborhood at 20 years of age when she moved here to pursue a career as a professional dancer and choreographer. Like many students at Columbia’s School of General Studies, she brings a variety of life and work experiences with her.

Indoctrination or orientation?

Columbia’s orientation delivered just what Nancy hoped for – an introduction to the network of resources and opportunities for making the most of her time in Morningside Heights. 

“Throughout orientation, we (students) were given this rich context and told about so many ways to connect. I’ve learned how to take advantage of the Union Theological Seminary library, that I can attend JTS lectures, and I am really happy about CUArts. I really feel like I’ve been indoctrinated into a community of leaders.”

Nancy can be reached at our office or

Creative Placemaking & Morningside Heights Today

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I had the pleasure of attending the Interchurch Center’s Holiday Reception of community partners in December.  As you may know, TIC’s support of community groups and local artists is significant, deep, and coordinated. Paula Mayo creatively engages community leaders, her tenants, and her facility’s unique assets for maximum impact for all involved.  In looking critically at our neighborhood’s assets and resources, it strikes me that Interchurch Center is just one among our many “hub organizations” who build and sustain this community as a “creative” place.

Mornigside lights photo

Opportunities Presented by Creative Placemaking

Last week, 127 finalists from 68 cities were given ArtPlace’s (Creative Placemaking) grants. ArtPlace is an unprecedented private-public collaboration of nine of the nation’s top foundations, eight federal agencies including the National Endowment for the Arts, and six of the nation’s largest banks. Their goal? To support arts & cultural strategies that can drive vibrancy and diversity so powerful that it transforms communities. Large scale, long-term, and cross-sectoral, the unified belief in the value of “vibrancy” and proof that arts strategies make the desired impact on place is a third-sector investment trend that MAA cannot ignore. With over 800 public music performances at MSM alone, the path from “Boringside Heights” to “vibrant district” might not be as arduous as one might think.

The vibrancy of Morningside Heights comes as much from within (specifically behind the doors of institutions) as from without. Our location, demographics, proximity to Harlem, and parks, give us a “place-specific” edge when it comes to nurturing arts and artists.  Witness the overwhelming  success of the Miller Theater and CUArts “Morningside Lights” arts event in September. Residents here were thrilled to experience something “else” and something that was uniquely “here” and to share that with neighbors and friends. 

The MAA initiated project “On Common Ground” and Morningside Lights festival is not unlike those happening in what are considered to be “naturally occurring cultural districts” such as Jamaica Queens and South Williamsburg.

MAA will continue to explore the work and potential of our members, initiatives elsewhere (such as those achieved by the Fenway Cultural Alliance) to discover more about our unique “place.”

St. Luke’s PAD Screening

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St. Luke’s is offering free Peripheral Arterial Disease (commonly referred to as PAD) screenings in the neighborhood on Saturday, February 9 from 11am-2:00pm.

PAD is a common circulatory problem in which narrowed arteries reduce blood flow to your limbs. My family suffered a “PAD” misdiagnosis recently, so I can attest to the value of proper care for this treatable but life threateing condition. Thank you for sharing this with us Marian!

Registration is required, call 212-722-1441.
The Morningside Area Alliance is a resource for member organizations providing a forum for communication, fostering collaborations and partnerships, and pursuing coordinated action on issues of common concern.

Board of Directors 2012 / 2013


Paula Mayo, Executive Director/CEO, Interchurch Center | President

John Wells, International House | Executive Committee, Chair

Frank Nuara, Vice President for Finance & Administration, Bank Street College of Education | Treasurer

Rabbi Michael Greenbaum, Vice Chancellor Emeritus & Senior Advisor to the Chancellor, Jewish Theological Seminary | Secretary


Dr. Elizabeth D. Dickey, Bank Street College of Education

Dr. Debora Spar, Barnard College

The Very Rev. James A. Kowalski, Cathedral of St. John the Divine

Mark Goreczny, Cathedral of St. John the Divine

Maxine Griffith, Columbia University

Victoria Mason-Alley, Columbia University

Sonia Reese, Community Impact

Rev. Raymond Rafferty, Corpus Christi

Sarah Martin, General Grant Houses Residents Association

Rachel Rivera, Interchurch Center

Donald Cuneo, International House

Arnold Eisen, Jewish Theological Seminary

Paul Kelleher, Manhattan School of Music

Howard Haughton, Riverside Church

Rev. Stephen H. Phelps, Senior Pastor, Riverside Church

Virginia Connor, St. Hilda’s and St. Hugh’s

Dr. Frank Cracolici, St. Luke’s/Roosevelt Hospital Center

Marian Scott, St. Luke’s/Roosevelt Hosptial Center

Dr. Susan Fuhrman, Teachers College

Nancy W. Streim, Teachers College

Dr. Serene Jones, Union Theological Seminary

Richard A. Madonna Jr. ,CPA, Union Theological Seminary