Calling for Columbia University to Reimagine Its Potential to Contribute to Society, Post-COVID

April 9 @ 10:32 pm
By Courtney Cogburn

In this post for our special series on social work research during and after COVID, Associate Professor Courtney Cogburn, who leads the Cogburn Research Group, shares lessons learned and some new directions and priorities for its current and post-COVID research agenda.

SEE ALSO: Cogburn’s SSRC essay on this topic: Who Produces Science During Crisis?


One of the greatest challenges of the past year has been continuing the routine of on-going research (data analysis and manuscript preparation) in the context of major and mounting national and personal crises.

In addition, my own research closely aligns with both racial inequities in Covid-19 infections, deaths, and vaccinations as well as structural racism tied to police violence. The nature of my scholarship has meant that I’ve been called to “apply” my work to various efforts tied to responses to these challenges in legal, corporate, academic, health, and medical settings as well as media—further dividing my time.

The work of my research group is already closely aligned with these dueling pandemics. Some of the positive impacts have been that I’ve been able to apply my scholarship in ways that are having a direct and immediate, as well as the potential for long-term, impact.

The current moment in history demands that Columbia University reimagine its potential for contributing to society—to push beyond the speculation of impact to building mechanisms that support meaningful University engagement in the world’s most significant problems—including but not limited to the translation and application of academic scholarship.

It is my hope that the upheaval we’ve all experienced will push us to see and respond to the world as it is rather than stubbornly holding on to what we would like to believe it to be. We have an opportunity to be bold—and I hope we take it.