Announcing the Sexual Health Initiative to Foster Transformation

February 27, 2015

Dear fellow members of the Columbia community:
I am writing to announce the launch of a major research initiative at Columbia to advance prevention of sexual violence.  The study, the Sexual Health Initiative to Foster Transformation, or “SHIFT,” will be led by Jennifer S. Hirsch, Professor of Sociomedical Sciences at the Mailman School of Public Health, and Claude Ann Mellins, Professor of Medical Psychology in the Division of Gender, Sexuality, and Health in the Department of Psychiatry at the University Medical Center.  As we work to address gender-based misconduct, our highest priority remains to prevent sexual violence before it occurs.  But to do this most effectively, we need to help remedy what is a national deficit in evidence-based information relevant to creating the most effective prevention programs and policies.  This study, focused on undergraduate life at Columbia, also will consider more broadly what can be done to promote healthy relationships and identify important risk factors that must be addressed in order to establish a safer and more protective environment.
Professors Hirsch and Mellins will be joined in their work by a research team involving a diverse group of faculty with expertise in gender, sexual health, sexual violence, young adult development, mental health, and the use of research to develop programs and policies directed at behavioral change.  In addition, to account for the diverse experiences and perspectives of students, faculty, and administrators, they will consult regularly with the study’s Student and Institutional Advisory Boards.  We are fortunate to be able to assemble these intellectual resources from our own community and to have the leadership of Professors Hirsch and Mellins, who possess a mix of intellectual acuity and energy for the project that, undoubtedly, will allow this initiative to make a substantial contribution to preventing sexual violence at Columbia and on campuses across the nation.
Lee C. Bollinger