Community Scholars: Cohort I

Cohort I

The inaugural cohort of the Columbia Community Scholars Program (from left to right): Mariama Keita, Paula Kimper, John Reddick, Vivian Nixon and Steven A. Watkins.  Photo credit: Samantha Hernandez

Project: Analysis of Republic of Guinea’s historical women’s movements.

Mariama Ciré Keïta is the founder of HOIMA (HowIMakeADifference), a career development and learning initiative that specializes in leading workforce development workshops and outreach programs that prepare millennial women of African descent for competitive young professional recruitment initiatives for multinational organizations. As a communication strategist with a decade of experience, Mariama also serves as a consultant for leading US government and United Nations agencies that include UNICEF and USAID. Most recently, she managed high-level emergency portfolios for UNICEF where she also advised and provided external relations support to the UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador and Sports for Development programs. From 2010-2013, Mariama led high-level initiatives with a sub-Saharan Africa regional focus for the World Bank, UNAIDS and the White House. Her portfolios included the African Growth Opportunity Act (AGOA) and President Obama’s signature White House Young African Leadership program. Prior to her transition to international development and intergovernmental affairs, Mariama worked extensively in the fashion and entertainment industries.

Mariama holds a Master of Science degree in Global Affairs from New York University and a Bachelor’s degree in Communication from the University of Maryland at College Park. 

Project: Research in women’s studies, Africana studies, music and history toward development of new opera.

Paula Kimper is a composer of opera, music for theater, television, dance, film, and song. Her first opera Patience & Sarah premiered in the Lincoln Center Festival ’98. Kimper’s most recent opera TRUTH, An American opera about Sojourner Truth, premiered in February 2012 at the Academy of Music in Northampton, MA, and is now touring in a chamber version.  Kimper’s complete catalog of scores was recently acquired by the Loeb Music Library of Harvard University. She is a professional member of BMI and Opera America, and serves on the board of Old Deerfield Productions and The Phoenix Concerts. Kimper is Artistic Director of Salon Harlem, which presents concerts in the West Harlem home of Helen Rodgers to celebrate and showcase neighborhood artists in a salon setting to nourish, challenge, entertain, and build a diverse neighborhood audience. Kimper received a Bachelor of Music degree from the Eastman School of Music.

Project: Improve writing and communications skills with a view to placing compelling issue-based articles in popular publications, and engaging a general readership in discussions of public policy. 

Vivian Nixon is the executive director of College and Community Fellowship (CCF), an organization committed to removing individual and structural barriers to higher education for women with criminal record histories, and for their families.  Nixon joined CCF in 2001 after working as a peer educator during her own incarceration at Albion State Correctional Facility. As a College and Community Fellow, Nixon earned her Bachelor of Science Degree in Human Services Management from the State University of New York. Nixon has also held fellowships at the Aspen Institute, the Open Society Foundation and the Petra Foundation. She has received several awards from institutions such as John Jay College of Criminal Justice, Hudson Link for Higher Education, Citizens Against Recidivism and others. She is also an ordained local deacon in the African Methodist Episcopal Church and currently serves as an associate minister at Mt. Zion AMEC in Harlem.

Project: Harlem’s Black and Jewish Music Culture 1890-1930 (walking tour map, sheet music exhibition, book).

John Reddick currently serves as a curator and discussion leader for the Harlem Focus series at the Smithsonian Institution’s Cooper-Hewitt Design Center. Reddick has applied his knowledge of Harlem’s culture and architecture towards work he has done with the Heritage Health & Housing: Heritage Heights Village Business Improvement, the Apollo Theater and the Harlem One Stop. He has worked on public art & space projects at a number of Harlem-based organizations including Abyssinian Development Corporation, the Ralph Ellison Memorial Committee, Harriet Tubman Square and Frederick Douglass Circle, among others. Reddick also served as President of Cityscape Institute and held leadership positions at the Central Park Conservancy. Reddick received a Bachelor of Science in Architecture from Ohio State University and a Master of Architecture from Yale University.

Project: Cross-sectional curriculum study and analysis leading to a report for smarter private and public energy management and sustainable environmental practices in Harlem.

Steven Watkins is the founder of KUURVE (Kinetic Urban User Renewable Visionary Environment), a sustainability development and technology firm providing a platform for eco-friendly urban development building resources, renewable energy solutions, job-training and education. Watkins is a certified LEED professional and has worked with organizations in Harlem in New Jersey around sustainability efforts.  Previously, he has worked as a community organizer in Harlem, a professional arts teacher in low-income communities and as a professional actor. He is the writer, director and producer of the Broadway production, “A Broadway Tribute to Katherine Dunham & 200 Years of Haitian Independence.” Watkins has held positions at the U.S. Department of Commerce and National Public Radio. In addition to other community volunteerism, Watkins currently serves on Manhattan’s Community Board 10. Watkins holds a Bachelor of Arts in Political-Economy from Princeton University and a Master in Fine Arts from The New School University.