Bridging the American Divides Application

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Submissions for this form are closed.

Applications for the Fall 2021 semester are now closed. Reach out to Zina Sockwell ([email protected]) or Gwen Shufro ([email protected]) with any questions. 

Bridging the American Divides: Business Leadership in a Divided America is a fall semester elective designed for Columbia Business School students to gain a better understanding of the causes and consequences of the American divides — and how to address those divides as business leaders. A primary focus will be on the linkages between business decisions and practices and these divides. The course also examines how each of us plays a personal role in directly or indirectly enabling and fueling the divides.

A wide variety of business issues and social impacts will be discussed, likely to include globalization, immigration, tribalism, job loss, and divides including race, income, geography, education, media, and/or politics. The course will be held in-person and relies on heavy student participation in discussions. Students should only take the course if they can actively engage in all the assignments and class discussions. It is not a course for “observers.”

Class sessions will be followed by a four-day visit to Decatur, Alabama, where students will engage in a variety of learning activities. During the trip, students will have the opportunity to engage with local individuals working in business, community, government, religious, and nonprofit organizations. You should be comfortable meeting and speaking with individuals in a context that is very different from Columbia Business School, and you will be expected to engage in the course and on the trip in an open and thoughtful manner.

Course Requirements

Students are expected to be prepared for and participate thoughtfully in all aspects of the course, including the seven class sessions at CBS and site visits in Decatur, AL. Attendance is required for each class, and missed classes are heavily frowned upon, and participation points deducted accordingly. If there are extenuating and excusing circumstances, this must be shared in writing prior to class with your Professor and CA.

Students must be available for the duration of the trip and will be responsible for a program fee of up to $900 and booking their own flights.  The program fee includes group transportation to/from events, lodging, and meals.  Students will also have a final class meeting after the trip.

Course Details:

This 3.0 credit class meets in both the Fall A and B terms.  The class is taught by both Professors Bruce Usher and Todd Jick. Each student will be randomly assigned to one of two sections. The class will meet all together for most sessions, and split into the two sections from time to time for discussion. There will be seven classes on campus on Mondays from 2:00pm – 5:15pm and one trip over the following dates:

On campus classes:

  • September 13, 20, 27
  • October 4, 11, 25
  • November 8


  • October 29 – November 2 (students must arrive in Decatur, AL on the evening of October 29th). Note that there are no classes at Columbia on November 1 and 2.

Course Cancellation Risk

Students should be aware that this course will be cancelled up to and including the first week of September if Columbia University deems the travel to be unsafe due to the COVID pandemic. As well, the trip may be cancelled at any point in the semester if Columbia University deems the travel to be unsafe due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Application Requirements:

Students must apply for a seat in the course and will be notified on whether they are accepted on July 27th (after the course matching process is completed). If you are selected and join the class, you will be charged 1,000 bid points. Students have the option to apply for a need-based travel fund award after the application period. Do not reference your financial aid needs in your class application, as the application process is needs-blind (reviewers will not learn of your request prior to making their decision). As this course is application-only, it will not be visible in Course Match unless you have been accepted to be part of the course by our professors. If you are interested in the course, please submit an application.

Course Assistant Applications

A course assistant will be hired for each section. This is a rewarding opportunity to work with Professors Bruce Usher and Todd Jick in collaboration with the Chazen Institute and the Tamer Center. While this will be a personally enriching experience, it is also a highly demanding role. You are also required to be enrolled in the class and complete all deliverables for a grade in the course. As CA, you will play a crucial role in the cultural aspects of the student learning experience, building on the long tradition of student leadership. CAs also support the academic needs of the class and the faculty. In your role, you will be paid hourly based on time spent working. Responsibilities include, but are not limited to coordinating in class activities and discussions and working with the staff and faculty to organize the trip to Alabama. CAs will also take attendance at each class, track participation, and upload items onto Canvas.