Certain persons who are not entitled to appointments as officers of instruction or research but who wish to use the facilities of the University to pursue their own research may be named visiting scholar or visiting scientist. This status is conferred by the Associate Provost and Director of the International Students and Scholars Office (ISSO), on behalf of the Provost, and on the recommendation of the department chair.
The title of visiting scholar/scientist is generally reserved for persons in one of the following categories:
- scholars from foreign academies and universities (or American universities and colleges outside the New York metropolitan area) who are on leave from their home institutions and who are not teaching at the University or participating in a research project sponsored by it;
- graduate students from foreign or domestic universities and colleges;
- members of research laboratories or institutions; staff and students of foreign academies and universities;
- officials and former officials of government or non-government organizations, such as the United Nations, and their affiliates;
- practicing professional and creative artists; and
- such other persons as will contribute to the intellectual activity of the University, as approved by the Associate Provost on the request of the school, department, institute, or center.
Visiting Scholar FAQs
Q. Who are visiting scholars and how may I obtain this designation?
Visiting scholars are individuals invited by faculty sponsors* and the department chair to use Columbia resources for independent, non-collaborative research. Most people who obtain the visiting scholar designation are international scholars, but domestic scholars may also apply.
Potential visiting scholars should identify and contact a faculty member about the possibility of that professor sponsoring their visit. Once a professor agrees to sponsor a scholar (and confirms with the department chair that s/he will not be on leave during the visit), the Department of History will work with the scholar to initiate an application with the International Students and Scholars Office (ISSO). The university’s description of a visiting scholar may be reviewed in The Faculty Handbook.
Please note that visiting scholars may not formally enroll in courses for credit, though they may audit lecture courses with the permission of the instructor.
*Faculty sponsors are available to visiting scholars for collegial (rather than collaborative) support.
Q. How may I obtain the necessary visa?
The Department of History works with faculty sponsors, the department chair, and ISSO to secure J-1 visas for eligible scholars. If you have already secured a visa via an avenue such as a Fulbright scholarship, the department will still need to obtain certain documents from you in order to register you as a visitor with ISSO. Information on how this process generally works within departments can be found here. Guidelines on maintaining your J-1 visa status can be found here.
Q. What borrowing privileges will I have as a visiting scholar?
Visiting scholars are automatically given borrowing privileges once they arrive to campus and pick up their ID cards. More details are provided online.
For more information on resources available to Visiting Scholars, please visit this website.
Q. What is the difference between an “exchange scholar” and a “visiting scholar”?
Exchange scholars are Ph.D. students from domestic and foreign institutions that have pre-existing agreements with Columbia. Exchange scholars may take courses for credit.
Visiting scholars are Ph.D. students, postdocs, professors, or other scholars who usually come from institutions which do not have pre-existing course credit arrangements with Columbia.
Both groups of scholars have borrowing privileges at the University. For more information on the exchange scholar program, please visit this website.
Fall 2020 Visiting Scholars, Sponsors, and Research Topics
Scholar: Madeleine Elfenbein (United States)
Sponsor: A. Tunç Şen
Research Topic: Political thought in 19th century Ottoman Empire
Scholar: Lynne Foote (United Kingdom)
Sponsor: Casey Blake
Research Topic: Black American cultural history
Scholar: Lydia Walker (United Kingdom)
Sponsor: Manan Ahmed
Research Topic: Decolonization