Like many other academics, I’m writing my dissertation using LaTeX. It’s great software to use for preparing large documents with complex citations. My impression is that most academics who use LaTeX work in the sciences or mathematics, but I know I lot of people in humanities departments (especially philosophy) who use it, too.
Columbia (like most universities) requires dissertations to follow very particular formatting guidelines, and it can be tricky to get LaTeX to do exactly what you want regarding formatting. (In fact, one of the great advantages of using LaTeX is that it automatically formats your documents really well.) I wrote a template to meet the guidelines for dissertations at Columbia, and I’ve posted the template here at GitHub. The template should be really helpful for anyone writing a dissertation here. Even if you study at a different university, the template could be useful just to get your formatting on the right track.
The template includes some extra features on top of fulfilling these formatting guidelines. It sets up Unicode support, it provides a folder structure to keep your chapters organized, and it sets up a citation style (using biblatex) that should be especially helpful for students in the humanities.