Effective July 1, 2023

Occasionally, a seminar’s central concerns involve scholars too distant for regular participation, or a seminar wants to engage a broader audience. On such occasions, seminars may request conference funding from The Seminars through a formal application process, with the understanding that funds are limited and that The University Seminars does not pay honoraria to conference speakers. Organizers are encouraged to seek additional funding sources for costs not covered by The Seminars. Seminar-supported conferences come from the work of a seminar, its members, and chairs. Conferences may not be organized and run by graduate students or post-docs. The role of graduate students in conference organization and execution is limited to the work of a rapporteur paid by The Seminars.


Submit a Conference Proposal

Once organizers have received formal notification of the funds awarded for the conference, they can plan conference expenditures in consultation with the office. Restaurants, caterers, food delivery services, venues, and other service providers may demand payment (or deposits) at the time of reservation or day of service. Conference organizers should contact the University Seminars office when this occurs. The University Seminars office will determine the best payment arrangement available at the time of the request. If time permits, The University Seminars office will ask vendors whenever possible to register as suppliers of Columbia University (see Payments for Goods and Services). 

Conference organizers may be asked to use their personal credit card to make any expedient payment. Any expenses charged to a personal credit card should be reported to the University Seminars office for reimbursement (see Reimbursements page).

Timely and direct communication with vendors and with The University Seminars office is key. Contact the University Seminars Administrative Assistant, Giran Ceballos ([email protected]) to confirm whether a vendor/supplier is active in the University accounting system.

Columbia University utilizes the PaymentWorks system for vetting new suppliers/vendors. The approval process for new suppliers/vendors can take a minimum of six weeks to complete. Whenever possible, hotel and travel reservations should be arranged through The University Seminars Administrative Assistant. All travel arrangements booked through The University Seminars office are paid directly. See Payments for Goods and Services page for details.

Conference Timeline

  • Establish conference goals and objectives, in consultation with the seminar.
  • Set a proposed budget, considering fixed and variable expenses.
  • Secure other funding sources to share costs.
  • Consult with the Seminars office about budget figures.
  • Submit Conference Proposal through Submittable.
  • Once a conference funding application has been accepted, organizers work with members of the office to make practical arrangements.
  • Submit Conference Planning Worksheet
  • Schedule planning meeting with Pamela Guardia ([email protected]).
  • Hire a conference rapporteur (can be the seminar’s usual rapporteur or another).
  • Finalize title, date, location.
  • Invite speakers and confirm their participation.
  • Design online and print publicity materials.
  • Build a website and choose a registration portal (if applicable).
  • Communicate all audio-visual needs to the venue.
  • Select all vendors, establish all methods of payment.
  • Submit all Traveler Information Form.
  • Submit publicity materials to Summer Hart ([email protected]). 
  • Confirm with Giran Ceballos ([email protected]) that all travel arrangements and hotel reservations have been made. The rapporteur can do this.
  • Consider all other accommodations or services:
    • Office of Disability Services: wheelchair rental / sign language interpreter.
    • Public Safety: security guard.
  • All invoices from all vendors must be submitted to Giran Ceballos.
  • If invoices cannot be submitted by this deadline, organizers may need to pay with their own credit cards (e.g. for catering) and be reimbursed after the conference. 
  • Contact the Seminars office with any payment issues or to make special payment arrangements if available at the time of the request.
  • Make sure everything is in place and everyone knows what they need to do. 
  • Confirm arrangements with Pamela Guardia ([email protected]), the rapporteur, all speakers, and vendors.
  • Plan an AV run-through.
  • Plan a building walk-through.
  • Traveling speakers should request car service if needed.
  • Conference attendees reserve parking if needed.
  • Submit documentation to Summer Hart ([email protected]).
  • Conference organizers submit any receipts for reimbursement to Giran Ceballos ([email protected]).
  • Confirm receipt or payment of vendor/supplier invoices.

Travel and Accommodations

When conference speakers have been confirmed, the conference organizers or rapporteur will direct traveling speakers to the Traveler Information Form. Travel is not arranged outside of this process. Speakers should avoid making their own arrangements and request reimbursement. If necessary, the conference rapporteur may complete the form on behalf of the traveler for most hotel and rail bookings. However, due to the sensitive data required under TSA Secure Flight Rules, traveling speakers are expected to complete the Travel and Hotel Accommodation Request Form for any flights.

Once the Traveler Information Form is submitted, Giran Ceballos ([email protected]) will communicate with the traveling guest directly to make travel and hotel accommodations. 

Each academic year, Columbia releases a list of preferred hotels and rates. Please request the 2023-2024 PREFERRED HOTEL LIST from the The University Seminars office. for reference before submitting requests for guest accommodation. The Seminars office makes hotel reservations and pays hotels directly; speakers should not make their own reservations. However, guests need to be aware that upon check in, they must put down a personal credit card for incidentals.Hotels may temporarily charge guests’ credit cards for the amount of the entire stay. Contact The University Seminars office immediately if the hotel fails to reverse this charge. 

The University Seminars provide funds solely for the speaker’s accommodations and coach air or rail fare. The Seminars do not make payments for additional persons traveling with the speaker, extended stays in a hotel for vacation, or extraneous expenses such as room service. 

Seminars may request to use their gift account funds to cover some additional costs allowable by the University, but budgets should be reviewed carefully before confirming these provisions. To check whether an additional expense is allowable by the University, contact the Program Director, Pamela Guardia ([email protected]).

If a pre-arranged travel or hotel reservation is no longer needed, inform the Administrative Assistant, Giran Ceballos as soon as possible so that it can be canceled in a timely manner. If a reservation is not canceled, charges will be applied to the organizer’s conference funding and/or seminar’s gift account.

A traveling guest, or rapporteur on the guest’s behalf, may request car service with Luxury Transportation LLC for transport to and from the airport or to and from the University by submitting a Car Service Request Form

A separate form must be filled out for each destination, even for a round-trip booking. Once the car service is reserved, the traveling guest or rapporteur may contact Luxury Transportation LLC directly to make changes to the reservation using the phone number and reservation number provided on the confirmation email. 

The Seminars office can reserve parking for any seminar conference attendee at the rate of $25 per vehicle, per day. Attendees must submit parking requests directly to Giran Ceballos with no fewer than three business days’ notice. The reservation will hold a spot at one of the garages, the guest will not be turned away. If the preferred garage is full, the guest will be directed to the other garage. See Parking at a Columbia University Garage page for details.


Publicity and Documentation

Email publicity and documentation to the Chief Creative Officer, Summer Hart ([email protected]).

  1. 1-2 months prior to the conference - for the website and newsletter
    Full title of the conference
  2. Date/s of the conference
  3. Location of the conference
  4. Name and number of the affiliated seminar or seminars
  5. Primary conference organizer’s name and email address
  6. Website or registration links, if applicable
  7. One paragraph description of the event (350 words or fewer)
  8. Print quality* PDF of poster or flier with proper acknowledgement**

*What do we mean by print quality?

  • For posters/flyers: 300 dpi or no fewer than 2400 pixels on the shortest side. 
  • For photographs: 300 dpi or no fewer than 1000 pixels on the shortest side.

**What is the proper way to acknowledge co-sponsorship of a University Seminar?

The conference is sponsored by the individual seminar, not The University Seminars or Columbia University. Correctly acknowledge co-sponsorship in one of two ways: 

  1. Co-sponsored by The University Seminar on [FULL NAME OF SEMINAR].
  2. Co-sponsored by The Columbia University Seminar on [FULL NAME OF SEMINAR].

1 week after the conference - for the directory and newsletter:

  1. Final program 
  2. Links to other documentation if hosted on external sites: video, audio, etc.

Hiring Conference Support

Chairs may ask their current rapporteurs to work for a conference. If the rapporteur is not available to work extra hours for a conference, the Chair may hire a CU graduate student.

Current rapporteurs will receive their designated rapporteur hourly rate.

Chair should contact Gesenia Alvarez ([email protected]) with the name and email of the  part-time/temporary student employee to begin the onboarding process.

Temporary student employees who are not current rapporteurs will receive $25/hr.

  • The University Seminars will pay a rapporteur up to 20 hours of additional service for a conference from our part-time student employee budget.
  • Any hours beyond those 20 additional hours will be paid from the funds allocated to the specific conference.
  • Full-Time Columbia University graduate students may not work more than 20 hours per week in all CU positions. If a full-time student is offered a casual job in addition to their student officer appointment, please discuss with the departmental administrator in the department in which the student holds the student officer appointment. Some academic departments have additional limitations on work hours. University and academic holidays must be observed.