Founder of Model Alliance Sara Ziff to Speak at Columbia University Graduation Ceremony
Sara Ziff, American fashion model, filmmaker, and founding director of the Model Alliance, a nonprofit research, policy, and advocacy organization that advances equal opportunity and sustainable practices in the fashion industry, has been selected to speak at the Columbia University School of General Studies (GS) 2019 Class Day Ceremony. Ziff graduated magna cum laude from the School with a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science in 2011.
As the Class of 2019 prepares to enter the next chapter of their lives and contemplates how they might use everything that they have gained at Columbia to make a positive impact on our world, the example Ziff has set by advocating for fair treatment is a powerful one, brought even further into focus in light of the #MeToo movement.
Born and raised in New York City, Ziff has worked as a model for the last two decades and has appeared as a face of Stella McCartney, GAP, Kenneth Cole, and Tommy Hilfiger, among others. In 2009, she produced the feature documentary Picture Me, which chronicles her and other models’ experiences in their industry.
Without the breadth and flexibility of a Columbia GS education and the support of key Columbia faculty members, I would not have developed my intellectual curiosity in this emerging legal field.
After graduating from GS, Ziff collaborated with researchers at Harvard to conduct the largest study to date on the prevalence of eating disorders in the modeling industry, and worked with lawmakers to champion the Child Model Act in New York and the Talent Protections Act in California. To curb sexual harassment in New York’s modeling industry, she has also worked to introduce the Models' Harassment Protection Act.
“Without the breadth and flexibility of a Columbia GS education and the support of key Columbia faculty members, I would not have developed my intellectual curiosity in this emerging legal field,” Ziff said.
Most recently, with the support of more than 200 models, she developed the RESPECT Program, a private sector initiative that invites businesses in the fashion industry to commit themselves to creating and maintaining safe, inclusive, and accountable workplaces. Ziff received her M.P.A. from Harvard Kennedy School in 2016.
In addition to improving labor conditions for fashion’s creative workforce, she has collaborated with local and international labor rights organizations to raise awareness for garment workers’ concerns, including fair pay and factory safety. Ziff is a recipient of the National Organization for Women's Susan B. Anthony Award and was named one of Fast Company’s “Most Creative People” of 2018.
About the Columbia University School of General Studies
The Columbia University School of General Studies (GS) is the premier liberal arts college in the United States for nontraditional students seeking a rigorous, traditional, Ivy League undergraduate education. GS students take the same courses, study with the same faculty, and earn the same degree as all other undergraduates at Columbia University.
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