Food for Thought is a speaker series that welcomes a distinguished lineup of EMPA Faculty approaching the Covid-19 crisis and social justice reform. Each week a speaker will present their recommendation paper, highlight their perspective on the crisis, and engage in a dialogue with EMPA students, alumni, and other faculty members.

We are in a pivotal moment - full of opportunities for policymakers to transform lessons from the crisis into concrete benefits for their communities. While we cannot come together physically to exchange ideas, we believe we can leverage the virtual tools at our disposal to activate stakeholders and build out practical and innovative solutions to the crisis at hand.

Guest Lecture Series

Upcoming Events


The Role of Education in the Response to COVID-19

Stanley Litow, Adjunct Professor of International and Public Affairs


This talk will address the COVID-19 pandemic, which has put a premium on innovative solutions by the government and the private sector to protect our most vulnerable Americans, ensuring that it doesn't increase income inequality. Instead, we need to identify specific actions that protect education both K-12 and higher education, ensure the stability of the social safety net, protect and grows women and minority owned businesses and commit to addressing the need for diversity and inclusion that advances social justice.


Tuesday, August 11  12:00 PM

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Saving our Small Businesses

Robert Walsh, Adjunct Professor of International and Public Affairs




Tuesday, August 18  12:00 PM

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Communicating in Conflict and Crisis

Joann Baney, Adjunct Associate Professor of International and Public Affairs




Tuesday, August 25  12:00 PM

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Past Events


Lessons from COVID-19 to Improve the Resiliency of NYC’s Small Business Community

Brian Gurski, Social Enterprise in Community & Economic Development


COVID-19 is a disaster of unprecedented proportions for the small business community, but we know that it wasn’t the first and it certainly won’t be the last form of major disruption it will face. This talk discusses the small business resource ecosystem in New York City and how it could be better aligned to improving the resiliency of the small business community. Topics will include city and state policies and programs, program funding and accountability, technical assistance and training, access to capital and small business networks.

This event is co-sponsored with the USP Program.

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Food for Thought | Welfare Policies in the U S During COVID 19


Welfare Policies in the U.S. During COVID-19

Paola Valenti, Senior Lecturer in the Discipline of International and Public Affairs;
Andrea Bubula, Senior Lecturer in the Discipline of International and Public Affairs


This talk discusses the effects of government spending in the U.S. during the Covid-19 epidemic, with a particular focus on income support programs. Topics include aggregate effects, individual outcomes, and issues in financing.

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Food for Thought | Ethics of Economic Development, High Finance, and Mortal Pandemic


At the Intersection of Economic Development, High Finance and Mortal Pandemic

Adela Gondek, Lecturer in the Discipline of Ecology, Evolution and Environmental Biology


As the first reported raging epicenters of the COVID-19 pandemic beyond China’s western border, what else did Milan, Italy, and Qom, Iran, have in common? Knowing this may lead us toward the institution of a high-level transparent form of social distancing as an ethical preventative of similar outbreaks. 

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"Food for Thought" Lecture Series

The Coronavirus and Information and Communications Technologies

Zach Tumin, Adjunct Professor of International and Public Affairs


As we struggle to emerge from the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic, we see vast changes all around, many the result of developments in information and communications technologies. In this paper and session, titled “The Coronavirus and Information and Communications Technologies: Operating Impacts, Policy Implications, and Managers’ Imperatives,” we explore the myths, facts and mysteries still of how information and communications technologies have transformed our world over the past several months, and what this transformation might mean for our futures.

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Food for Thought | Building Trust Between Police and the Communities They Serve

Building Trust Between Police and the Communities They Serve

A conversation with New York Attorney General Letitia James and State's Attorney for Baltimore City Marilyn Mosby, moderated by Basil Smikle

As part of the Food for Thought Lecture Series, this panel of experts will discuss opportunities for social justice reform, changes in governance and policing and the Black Lives Matter movement. Political Commentator and SIPA Lecturer, Basil Smikle, will be moderating a conversation focused on building trust between police and the communities they serve with Letitia James, Attorney General for the State of New York and Marilyn Mosby, State’s Attorney for Baltimore City, Maryland. Please join us in participating in this important dialogue.

Letitia James
Attorney General of New York State

Marilyn Mosby
State's attorney for Baltimore City, Maryland


Food for Thought | Restarting Global Trade after COVID


Restarting Global Trade After COVID-19

Francisco Rivera-Batiz, Adjunct Professor of International and Public Affairs


The Covid-19 pandemic is having devastating effects on the world economy and some argue that it marks the end of globalization. This presentation discusses the current and likely future consequences of the pandemic in both high-income and developing countries and its potential short-term and long-run effects on global trade and finance, including the urgent policy implications.

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Food for Thought | The Role of Arts Education Programs in Post COVID-19 U.S.


Role of the Arts in post COVID-19 U.S.

Richard Greenwald, Adjunct Professor of International and Public Affairs


This short paper introduces the value of arts education and its evidence-based role in a well-rounded education for a child. As well, it provides an overview of the vulnerability of these programs during the COVID-19 crisis and how arts and cultural institutions are responding. It also highlights the Soulsville Foundation in Memphis as a case study.  Finally, it address what advocates and public leaders can do to capitalize on the lessons being learned in arts education during this pandemic.

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Food for Thought | The Politics of Justice Reform with Professor Basil Smile


The Politics of Justice Reform: Thoughts on recent proposals and the politics of adoption and implementation

Basil Smikle, Lecturer of International and Public Affairs


Events surrounding the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis sparked three weeks of protests and once again, police reform is front and center in American politics.  Democrats in the House of Representatives have proposed a slate of reforms, which mirror others already being discussed or advanced in state legislatures around the country.  We’ll take a look at legislation put forth in the House and here in New York and discuss their strengths, weaknesses and challenges for implementation.

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Food for Thought | The Sustainability of Sustainability with Professor Steve Cohen


Impact of COVID-19 on Current Sustainability Initiatives

Steve Cohen, Professor in the Practice of Public Affairs


In the face of COVID-19 challenges, many corporations have placed sustainability efforts on the backburner. In this talk, Dr. Steve Cohen will discuss the sustainability of sustainability in times of financial duress.

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Food for Thought | The Four Day Week with Professor William Eimicke


The Four Day Work Week

William B. Eimicke, Professor of Professional Practice in International and Public Affairs


The eruption of COVID-19 has completely altered the way that many people work, disrupting staff hours, location and commutes. Professor William Eimicke’s talk will discuss how this time presents an opportunity to revisit what the average work-week looks like.


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Contact Info

420 W 118th St Room 400 | New York, NY 10027 empa@columbia.edu

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The Picker Center for Executive Education