Faculty Spotlight

Nobel Laureate Maria Ressa to Join SIPA Faculty

Posted Jun 28 2023
Nobel Laureate Maria Ressa Will Join SIPA Faculty


Maria Ressa, the Nobel laureate and Filipino-American journalist known for her pioneering efforts to protect media freedom in the Philippines, will join the Columbia SIPA faculty in July 2024 as a professor of professional practice. In the interim she will serve as a Carnegie Distinguished Fellow this fall at the School’s forthcoming Institute of Global Politics (IGP).

Ressa was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2021, along with Russian journalist Dmitry Muratov, for “their efforts to safeguard freedom of expression, which is a precondition for democracy and lasting peace.” She is probably best known for the intrepid journalism of Rappler, a digital news site she cofounded in the Philippines. Rappler drew attention — and the ire of then president Rodrigo Duterte — for exposing government corruption, human rights violations, and other crimes related to Duterte’s war on drugs. Its groundbreaking data journalism chronicled the information operations enabled by social media that manipulated the public sphere in a country dubbed “ground zero” by Facebook.

At the IGP, which will launch this fall, Ressa will lead several projects related to the role of artificial intelligence in democracy. These include projects to examine online harassment, coded biases in algorithms, and the effects of AI on human rights across the globe.

“I’m thrilled to welcome Maria Ressa to SIPA and Columbia,” said Dean Keren Yarhi-Milo. “She embodies what it means to be an ‘academic activist’ and will be integral in making SIPA's scholarship more impactful and global in focus. Her passion for seeking the truth and long history of holding those in power accountable are invaluable assets for our students as they grapple with how new digital technologies are reshaping the global order.”

University President Lee C. Bollinger played a major role in recruiting Ressa to join SIPA.

“Maria Ressa has devoted her life to promoting freedom of expression, exposing corruption, and battling disinformation.” said Bollinger. “We will benefit immeasurably from her presence on our campuses and from her thoughtful analysis of the complex challenges confronting democracies around the world, in particular the threat of online disinformation. I am thrilled she will continue her work at Columbia.”

Ressa was born in the Philippines and moved at age 10 to New Jersey. After graduating from Princeton University, she received a Fulbright fellowship that sent her back to the Philippines.

In the late 1980s, Ressa established and led CNN’s Manila bureau, shortly after the People Power uprising of the Marcos era. In 1995, she set up the Jakarta bureau. Because of her investigative reporting, Ressa has been arrested several times and charged with various infractions in ten arrest warrants — all chronicled in her 2022 memoir, How to Stand up to a Dictator. Over the years, Ressa has received numerous honors for her work and activism.

Ressa was the featured speaker at Columbia SIPA’s graduation ceremony in May. In her remarks, she ominously warned graduates that we are living in “science fiction times” because of Big Data and the unchecked power of new digital technologies.

Soon she will be grappling with such issues at SIPA, where she will be teaching courses related to AI in the public sphere.

“This is an existential moment for the world on so many fronts, and our window for action is closing,” Ressa told SIPA News. “I’m looking forward to consolidating our work on these critical issues at SIPA. The solution in the long term is education; in the medium term, it’s legislation. But right now we need to move in as thoughtful way as possible to match the exponential speed of technology.”

Ressa’s courses and research will help address several of the School’s Global Policy Challenges, including its focus on Technology and Innovation and Democratic Resilience.