Students enrolled in the Joint Program between Columbia University School of General Studies and Jewish Theological Seminary List College accomplish something extraordinary: they earn two undergraduate degrees within four years. Different from thousands of their undergraduate counterparts across the country, Joint Program students embark on a program that is a powerful combination of traditional liberal arts and intense studies in Jewish philosophy, history, literature, language, and sacred texts. Matriculants’ dedication and commitment to such a program, in which students complete roughly one-third more credits than the average college student in the same amount of time, is a testament to the outstanding personalities that undertake such an endeavor – not only during the academic year, but also beyond.
This summer, Teaneck, New Jersey native Gil Schwartz traveled to the Middle East as an Anti-Terrorism Fellow for the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, and Riverdale, New York resident Andrea Kalish found a way to effect change in her own neighborhood as an intern for her U.S. Congressman, Eliot Engel. Additionally, this spring, Joint Program alum Hadara Stanton employed skills learned during her tenure as a student to strike a work-life balance during a high pressure time as a Deputy Attorney General for the State of California.
“The world is changing at a rapid pace, and no one knows quite how the future will develop,” said Joint Program student Gil Schwartz, as he prepared to depart for the Middle East in late July. “Considering current events, this is an opportunity of a lifetime.” This summer Schwartz is witnessing international relations and counterterrorism efforts played out and analyzed in real time through a two-week visit to Israel with the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. As an Anti-Terrorism Fellow he will attend lectures given by the Ambassadors of India, Jordan, Turkey and the U.S., visit military bases, border positions, and holy sites, and learn directly from military, intelligence, and political officials about terrorist organizations such as Hamas and Hezbollah. “Participating in the Joint Program has helped me obtain this outstanding opportunity,” commented Schwartz.
The Columbia University School of General Studies/Jewish Theological Seminary List College Joint Program offers its students the opportunity to nurture their spiritual and intellectual sides and to take advantage of all New York City has to offer. “The Joint Program enables me to study two areas I’m really passionate about while being surrounded by people of the highest caliber,” says Andrea Kalish, a nontraditional student who enrolled in the dual-degree program in order to study ancient rabbinic law alongside American legal history in preparation for a career in law and senior care. “When I went to college before, I didn’t like it. Now I’ll leave a class wildly provoked and rush home to write an essay simply for personal satisfaction.”
This summer, Kalish is interning in the Riverdale, New York office of U.S. Representative Eliot Engel, who serves the state’s 17th Congressional District, which covers sections of the Bronx and Westchester and Rockland Counties. “I am experiencing government in action,” says Kalish, “because I’m dealing directly with constituents helping them solve problems right here in my community.” In her position, Kalish has been serving as a community liaison in cases dealing with the elderly, immigration, and chronically ill children.
During the academic year, the demands on Joint Program students’ time are intense, but these exceptional individuals say it is worth the effort. For example, alum Hadara Stanton (JTS/GS 1999) is a Deputy Attorney General for the State of California. She notes that the intensity of the dual-degree program contributed to her ability to manage her demanding life. “In the Joint Program, I learned the value of hard work, and thanks to the skills I developed in its unique environment, I have been able to balance my work life, family life, and community commitments.”
Since February, Stanton has been working on a controversial, high-profile case about California’s high school exit exam requirement. “Working on the Exit Exam Case has been exhilarating,” Stanton said. “After working around the clock, I am exhausted, but I have had the opportunity to work on a fascinating legal challenge with attorneys who are brilliant and good people with great values. Just three years out of law school – I couldn’t ask for a better situation. I believe that the skills and values I developed in the Joint Program led me to this position in public service, and will continue to guide me as I strive to make a meaningful contribution to our society.”