Alumni News and Stories
In 9th grade history, students make trips to New York City neighborhoods to learn about globalization.
More than 150 educators from around the world who specialize in experiential education will gather at Riverdale Country School from Jan. 22 to Jan. 25 for the 14th annual Winter Institute of the Independent Schools Experiential Education Network (ISEEN).
The theme of this year's conference is “Beyond Borders: Experiential Education Through the Lens of Equity & Justice.” Dr. Elizabeth Pillsbury, director of experiential education at Riverdale, worked with ISEEN on the planning of the conference. "The challenge of taking on another's view is the heart of this conference's theme," said Pillsbury, a member of the history faculty who teaches a course on urban studies. Members of the Riverdale faculty will take participants to New York City neighborhoods that reflect the city's socioeconomic, cultural, racial, and ethnic diversity. They will lead discussions about how urban landscapes provide information about the people who live there.
Head of School Dominic A.A. Randolph will give the opening keynote address, and Dwight Vidale '01, Riverdale's director of community engagement, and Emily Schorr Lesnick '07, the former Upper School director of service learning who is now the social-emotional learning coordinator at University Prep in Seattle, will organize discussions along with Pillsbury related to the conference's theme.
One day will be devoted to group trips and activities led by Riverdale faculty and students that demonstrate some of the school's experiential learning opportunities. Examples include:
- Archival Research Project at the United Nations (Dr. Laura Honsberger)
- New York City Contemporary Art (Nicky Enright and Natalia Mercedes Rodriguez '19)
- Metropolitan Museum of Art Experience (Melissa Marturano and Jessica Shapiro-Weill '99)
- Theater as a Means of Connection with Verbatim Performance Lab (Emily Schorr Lesnick)
- Applications of Computer Science: Design Thinking to Mindfulness (Andrew Abate)
- Learning With Leather and Lasers (Jason Ruff)
- Exploring Landforms, Topography, and Erosion Through Augmented Reality and Maker Activities (Richard Brehl, John Mueser, Laurie Bartels, and Patrick Murray)
- Criminal Arraignments and the Innocence Project (Dwight Vidale '01, Kent Kildahl, and Jane (Tally) Pucher of the Innocence Project)
- Adaptations to Changing Ecosystems (Marshall Nicoloff, Dr. Rachel Cox, Maddy Noah '19, and Leo Pappajohn '19)
- Ebbs and Flows of Life: An Introduction to the Micro-Histories of the Brooklyn Waterfront (Dr. Elizabeth Pillsbury)
- Escape the Classroom: Escape the Room games for team-building lessons (Michael Sclafani)
- Black Brooklyn, Slum Clearance, and Gentrification (Dr. Elizabeth Pillsbury and Phyllis Dugan)
- Body and Soul: Exploring Afro-Latino Music and Dance (Jannely Almonte Ortiz and Milena Almira)
ISEEN represents educators working in outdoor/adventure education, global education/travel, community engagement/service learning, sustainability, leadership development, and classroom pedagogy.
Jake Poses ’02, above, recently launched Jumprope, an app designed to facilitate peer-to-peer knowledge sharing. Jake answers questions about his time at Riverdale, his career path, and the experience of creating a start-up below.
Give a brief overview of your app Jumprope.
Jumprope is the place to discover how it’s done. Inspiring creators from around the world share their knowledge and passion in a step-by-step format that you can tap through at your own pace. Explore guides for everything from the perfect dumpling-pinching method to your go-to glam to the killer kettlebell workout.
What was your experience in creating a start-up?
I really enjoy understanding what consumers need and designing and building experiences for them. Doing that from scratch with Jumprope has been a lot of fun.
I believe the best products are built iteratively. We had a working prototype in the hands of users a few weeks after starting the company and have continuously evolved it week-by-week as we’ve learned more about what people need.
I was lucky to join Thumbtack when we were 8 people and just seed funded. The experience of helping the company to grow to $1B+ valuation and 500 employees from 2011-2016 was amazing. Now as a founder, I feel very lucky to have first-hand perspective about the road ahead.
What are your goals for the app and its users?
Whether you’re inspired by discovering something new or need to get something done now, we want you to open Jumprope.
We’re building Jumprope to be a global community from the start. We already have creators sharing their knowledge and passion from all corners of the world. I believe that giving people an easy way to learn about other cultures and traditions can bring the world closer together.
In what ways did your time at Riverdale impact you after graduation?
Riverdale taught me how to think. I’m really grateful that the education was more focused on helping me become a critical thinker than stuffing my head with a bunch of facts.
I especially loved freshman and sophomore year world history. It was really interesting to start by understanding the current economic and geopolitical order and then getting to understand how and why we got to that place.
ILS was awesome too. I often think about my big ILS take-away: throughout history, scientific breakthroughs were the catalyst for changing worldviews. It’s clear we are in the middle of one of these seminal moments of scientific change right now and it’s fun to be part of it.
What do you miss most about Riverdale?
I miss the fall and spring days on campus when everyone’s spending time outside. People often ask me what kept me sane as a NYC kid, and I think getting out of the concrete every day was really important for me.
Bonus: Currently listening to:
Pod Save America.
Alexandra Cooper '17 along with a Columbia classmate and two Brazilian entrepreneurs have won a $20,000 EdTech Competition for a proposal aimed at improving the delivery of services to special education students within the Brazilian public school system.
Organized by the Columbia Entrepreneurship Design Studio and the School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA), the competition drew students from across seven Columbia-affiliated schools to work with 12 Brazilian entrepreneurs selected by Fundação Lemann. The objective was to generate tech-based solutions to problems within Brazil's public schools.
Cooper's team focused on special education. The seven-month challenge began in October when the Brazilian participants came to Columbia for a week of intensive design-thinking work. The teams conferred by video chats during the fall. In the spring, Cooper took a graduate course at SIPA called "Creating a Social Enterprise" to supplement her work on the project.
In May, the project, Olhares, received first place. The $20,000 award will allow the team to continue to develop the concept.
While at Riverdale, Cooper gained experience in design thinking while working on the Purpose Project, a concept developed by Riverdale and IDEO to provide a digital platform to help students develop a sense of purpose.
In addition to Columbia Entrepreneurship, Innovation, and Design, the School of International and Public Affairs Tech & Policy Initiative, and Fundação Lemann, sponsors included the Center for Development Economics & Policy, Teachers College, UNICEF, and the Nasdaq Educational Foundation,