UILDING ON ITS LONG HISTORY, THE COLUMBIA MAISON FRANÇAISE continues today to be a leader in fostering intellectual and cultural exchange between the United States and France, Europe, and the French-speaking world. Through a wealth of stimulating and innovative programming, the Maison Française generates debate, spotlights original scholarship, promotes exchange across disciplines at Columbia and beyond, and contributes to international and cross-cultural understanding in an increasingly global world. (To visit the Columbia Maison Francaise website for information about events, click HERE).
The physical transformation of the Maison Française, renovated in advance of its 2013 Centennial, reflects the newfound dynamism of its mission and programming in recent years under Director Shanny Peer, making today’s Maison Française an especially vibrant intellectual and cultural forum on campus. The director benefits from the guidance of a distinguished and highly engaged Advisory Board led by Chairman Paul LeClerc, who is currently also director of the Columbia Global Centers / Europe.
As a significant campus academic and cultural center, the Maison Française frequently hosts top thinkers, artists, and leaders for talks, roundtable discussions, academic conferences, and provocative conversations. Faculty and students also convene for more intimate seminars and workshops. In addition, the Maison organizes public film screenings, occasional performances and exhibits, a book club, and a weekly café-conversation, as well as dinners, receptions, and other special events. All of these draw Columbia students and faculty while also engaging broader audiences from New York City. Speakers in recent years have included French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Claude Lanzmann, interviewed by Charlie Rose for his PBS show, NEA Chairman Rocco Landesman in dialogue with French Cultural Counselor Antonin Baudry, philosopher Jacques Rancière, economist Thomas Piketty, author Maryse Condé, and photographer and environmentalist Yann Arthus-Bertrand. In the years to come, the list of visitors and topics of discussion will only grow in breadth and scope.
The expansion of discussion at the Maison Française works toward the director’s goal of making the institution more interdisciplinary, with talks and conferences ranging over a variety of topics and disciplines. While ties between the Maison Française and the Department of French remain strong, many Maison events today are organized in partnership with other departments and centers at Columbia, including the World Leaders Forum, the School of the Arts, and the Department of History.
The Maison Française is now at the hub of a network of programs that make Columbia a leading center for French-American academic exchange and for French, European, and Francophone studies, furthering Columbia’s mission as a global university that promotes research across borders and across disciplines. These include the Department of French, the Institute for African Studies, the Alliance Program (a joint venture of Columbia University, the École Polytechnique, Sciences Po, and University of Paris I), and the Columbia Global Centers / Europe (Paris). As Columbia President Lee Bollinger said at the launch of the Europe Global Center in 2011, “It is essential to a great university that our students and faculty know and understand more about our world and we are committed to providing new opportunities to deepen our engagement with scholars, ideas, and challenges across the globe.”
One hundred years ago, President Butler created the Maison Française to help Columbia become a more international university. Today, the university is focused on global education, and the Maison Française’s involvement in this mission makes it more relevant than ever.