About Us

The Office of Government & Community Affairs (GCA) is the University’s primary liaison with federal, state, and local government, as well as with residents, community leaders, and civic organizations in surrounding neighborhoods. The office serves as a gateway to Columbia, responding to a range of inquiries concerning the University. GCA also manages Columbia Community Service (CCS), a program through which Columbia faculty and staff contribute to local non-profit organizations, and the Columbia Community Scholars Program. The office has special responsibilities with regard to development of the university's campus expansion in Manhattanville and the associated West Harlem Community Benefits Agreement.


Meet Our Staff

  • As Associate Vice President for Planning and Community Affairs , Victoria Mason-Ailey is responsible for interfacing with area residents and stakeholders on matters of urban planning, land use, and community affairs. Victoria is the liaison to civic groups that include the Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce, the Morningside Area Alliance, and the 125th Street Business Improvement District. She also responds to matters that arise at the Department of City Planning, the Department of Transportation, the Parks Department, and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. Victoria has a B.A. from Brown University and a M.S. in Urban Planning from Columbia’s Graduate School of Architecture Planning and Preservation.

  • Tricia Shimamura is the Senior Project Coordinator in the Office of Government and Community Affairs and the liaison to the University Trustees Committee on Public Affairs. She works to support GCA’s engagement efforts with federal, state, and city government. Tricia received her BA from Kenyon College and her MSW from NYU. She previously worked as Deputy Chief of Staff for Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney.

  • Shaba Keys is Associate Vice President for Government & Community Affairs. She has a broad project portfolio on behalf of GCA that includes fostering partnerships, serving as a bridge to University programs and directing the Connecting Youth Initiative. Prior to joining GCA, Shaba was a consultant to nonprofits on strategic planning and organizational development. She previously worked at LISC leading strategic assessments of program expansions and at The Surdna Foundation where she evaluated industry practices for integrative approaches for community development programs. Shaba holds a B.A. from Tufts University and a J.D. from Catholic University, The Columbus School of Law.

  • A proud Harlem native, Phoebe-Sade Arnold is a Project Coordinator for Planning & Community Affairs. Phoebe responsibilities include project tracking, constituency outreach, and oversight of special projects and programs that relate to matters of urban planning, land use, and community affairs. Working in conjunction with the Associate Vice President of Planning and Community Affairs, Phoebe attends Community Board meetings, public and private forums, and other community oriented events on behalf of the University. She also sits on the Morningside Area Alliance Board. Phoebe’s portfolio also includes managing the University’s portion of the West Harlem Development Corporation in-kind space process. Phoebe received her Bachelors in Political Science from the State University of New York College at Old Westbury, and her Master’s in Public Administration from Baruch College.

  • Nathan serves as Assistant Vice President for Government Relations in the Office of Government and Community Affairs. In this role he focuses on federal and state policy, advocating on a variety of priorities for the university including federal support for scientific research and student financial aid. Prior to his work at Columbia Nathan served as a political analyst at the Japanese Consulate in New York. Nathan received his BA and MA from the University of Chicago.

  • As Project Assistant, Maggie provides research support for a variety of GCA projects, ensuring that staffers have comprehensive information on topics such as neighborhood history and local and university outreach programs. She also contributes to the GCA newsletter and helps manage the website. Maggie has a BA in Psychology and Sociology from the University of North Carolina.

  • Loftin Flowers is the Associate Vice President for Government Relations and leads the University’s engagement and advocacy efforts with federal, state and city government. Loftin holds a B.A. in History from Haverford College and an M.P.A. from Columbia University. Prior to his role at Columbia, Loftin worked in Washington, DC at the national offices of the Children's Defense Fund, the Democratic National Committee, and John Kerry’s 2004 campaign for President.

  • Karen Jewett, Vice President for Government & Community Affairs, is the point person for the University’s interaction with the West Harlem Development Corporation and directs the Columbia Community Scholars Program. She previously worked in public programs and continuing education at Cooper Union and New York University after having received her AB from Dartmouth College, and MA, MPhil, and PhD from Columbia University Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.

  • Kamaria Brisseau, Director of Budget and Administration in the Office of Government and Community Affairs, oversees the department’s operating and capital budgets and is responsible for managing all human resources and administrative functions for the department. Previously, she was a Financial Analyst for The Office of Management and Budget at Columbia University. Kamaria received her BA from CUNY Brooklyn College and MPA from Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs.

  • As the Assistant Director of Finance & Special Projects, Junior manages all activities in the accounts payable function, including all travel and business expense reports, and coordination of the Department’s financial support for community organizations. Additionally, he is responsible for coordinating the University’s campus-wide engagement efforts in, among others, blood, bone marrow, and skin cancer screening initiatives, and the volunteer lunchtime reading program. Junior holds an undergraduate degree in Business Administration from Baruch College (’01), and graduate degrees in HRM / Public Administration from John Jay College (’04) and Learning & Leadership from Columbia University (’12). Junior is a SHRM Certified Professional, and also a duly sworn and commissioned Notary Public Officer of the State of New York.

  • Joan Griffith Lee has been with Columbia University for close to 30 years. She completed her BA at the School of General Studies, MPA at the School of International and Public Affairs and a Masters in Non-Profit Management at the School of Professional Studies. As Director of Columbia Community Service (CCS), she works to expand the scope of the CCS Annual Appeal, which solicits employees and retirees of Columbia University, Barnard College and Teachers College for contributions. The on-campus campaign raises money to help fund over 60 local community organizations with grants allocated for specific projects. The campaign also includes a food, clothing and back to school drive.

  • As a Senior Program Coordinator, Henry coordinates targeted outreach and supportive engagement toward out of school and out of work youth and young adults. With his primary responsibility for the Connecting Youth Initiative, he is identifying intervention pathways to support their efforts to reengage with educational institutions, obtain a high school equivalency degree and/or post-secondary opportunities. Henry is a New York State licensed Social Worker with over 8 years of experience related to working with youth. He holds a MSW in Social work and a BA in Sociology from Stony Brook University.

  • Flores A. Forbes is an associate vice president for Strategic Policy and Program Implementation with a focus on urban planning, economic development, entrepreneurship, community development and criminal justice change. Flores is our office’s liaison to Columbia Business School and The Center for Justice. He works closely with the Columbia Harlem Small Business Development Center, The Tamer Center for Social Enterprise, and The Center for Justice specifically on the University’s Justice in Education agenda.

  • As the Administrative Coordinator for GCA, Erica acts as a liaison between departments, outside vendors and staff members. She provides staffers with support in organizing their schedules, assisting with projects, and aiding the department in purchasing supplies, working with facilities management, and securing maintenance for equipment.

  • Christa Hill joined Columbia Community Service (CCS) in August 2018. She promotes the CCS Campaign by marketing and communications through written and graphic materials, social media platforms, inquiries from the public and university administrators. In addition, she edits and maintains content of the CCS website, works closely with agency grantees to build their presence on the website, takes part in outreach efforts/events, public presentations and coordinates activities for the ambassadors.

  • Cassandra Nathan is the Administrative Coordinator for Columbia Community Service (CCS). She conducts site visits, manages all charitable gifts, and donor acknowledgements. She supports each annual campaign with donor engagement, database security and design, and event planning. Cassandra is the primary contact for CCS current and prospective donors across the Columbia University, Barnard College and Teachers College campuses. Previously, she was the Community Center Administrator for Houston Area Urban League. Cassandra received her BA in Forensic Psychology from John Jay College of Criminal Justice and MSW from Columbia University School of Social work.

  • Bashar coordinates communications and manages all things digital for the Office of Government and Community Affairs. Bashar is the Editorial Coordinator of The Columbia Newsletter...News for our Neighbors, and maintains the GCA Website, Social Media accounts, and other digital assets. Bashar also supports the Columbia Community Scholars Program. 

  • April Maldonado-Brazil proudly balances her role as an administrative coordinator to our Vice President and two Associate Vice Presidents in the Office of Government and Community Affairs. Along with managing daily office administration, April also provides assistance on special projects and programs, often coordinating with appropriate university departments and community representatives. A native New Yorker, April holds a B.S. in Business Administration from Nyack College.

  • A member of the GCA staff for over ten years, Annette Ralph is the primary contact for the coordination of select GCA meetings and special events often serving as a GCA liaison to University Events Management, catering and other related departments. Annette is a go-to for assistance with many GCA community outreach initiatives along with providing oversight for the communications and queries (both internal and external) received by GCA.