Category: Profiles

As part of our elections coverage, The Lion is sharing responses from candidates about the following questions:

  1. What motivated you to run for this position?
  2. If elected, what would your goals be?
  3. What is something you want to fix at Columbia? How would you plan to address it?
  4. Any additional comments you would like to share with voters?

Below, you can find the candidate(s)’s unfiltered responses to help in deciding who you choose to vote for.

What motivated you to run for this position? 

I am a problem solver. I can’t stop myself from noticing the malfunctioning systems, unaddressed problems and subjects open to improvements. As the only sophomore running for this position, I want to bring change that will improve mine and my peers’ experience at Columbia.

Last year I went to a Bacchanal that was threatened multiple times by having an extremely divided configuration and then by last-minute security charges. I have learned that Columbia’s student journalists can face disciplinary action while covering a protest on campus. I saw that the Mathematics Building is completely inaccessible for differently able students, and many other buildings, namely Havemeyer, Uris, Earl, Philosophy, East Campus, Law Library, and Low Library can’t be accessed from their main entrances. As an engineer, I experienced the difficulties of being advised by an advisor who does not have an engineering background. I experienced the horror of seeing the Columbia Global Office at Istanbul being shut down without listening opinions of hundreds of Turkish alumni, dozens of Turkish Students, or our Association of Columbia Turkish Students.

Oppressiveness over press, inaccessibility, misguidance, and the threat to our diverse global outreach are not what engineers at Columbia deserve; they do not represent the truly free, sociable, supportive, and diverse nature of Columbia. Engineers provide solutions to problems. As an Industrial Engineer, I decided to run Senator of SEAS to seek the optimal solutions to our problems & weaknesses.

If elected, what would your goals be?

I will start with the most immediate & concrete solutions. First, I will provide a route for students with disabilities entering the Math Building so that they can reach the elevator. I will then move on to implement a Call Center for all emergencies for students with disabilities including Text and/or Video Call option for students with hearing disabilities.

Second, I will work to make our entrepreneurs more capable. With CUIT, I will create a platform where entrepreneurs can group together with skilled peers to work on their startups. I would aim to create a student government that supports our entrepreneurs by connecting them to Venture Capitalists to have guidance from start to finish on their work.

Third, I want our Engineers to be more relaxed while selecting classes and feel more supported on their academics. I will make sure SEAS students’ advisors either have an engineering background or are specialized in engineering. I will also work to establish relaxed connections between engineers from three lower class years. Pairing first years with sophomores based on academic interest, and matching sophomores with juniors with same intended major, freshmen can receive in-depth tips for balancing social life with academics whereas sophomores can get insights on internship research and challenges of their major.

As an International Student, I feel responsible to advocate for international students so that their voices are heard on campus and by the Office of Global Programs and Fellowships. I want to make sure the opinions of cultural clubs are respected when a decision about a nation’s Global Office or study/work abroad program is given. I ultimately want to expand the Global Outreach of Columbia with the support of International Students.

Additionally, I want to protect student journalists from facing disciplinary action while covering protests by making a change in the Rules of Conduct. I want to improve Bacchanal by allocating security payments to Student Government Facilities Fund and Administration while giving the Bacchanal Committee a budget to use solely use on bringing the best artist and working on staging without the fear of security payments. Also, I plan to hold multiple Town Hall meetings, possibly with the participation of all Senators to get feedback from students. If elected, I also will make sure the Senate reports quarterly on its effort of addressing the results of Quality of Life Survey.

What is something you want to fix at Columbia? How would you plan to address it?

 I want SEAS students to have much less stressful lives by having less dense midterm schedules. I plan to do this by working with the Education Committee. I hope to make sure engineers are not responsible of entering more than 3 exams within 48 hours.

Targeted advising to engineers will also contribute to their comfort. I will work with CSA to make sure advisors of engineers can provide in-depth information on classes engineers must take for their majors & minors. In-depth information, in my opinion, must include workload of classes as well as what topics they teach. This will ease the add-drop periods of all engineers as they will have an idea on how many classes they can juggle.

Lastly, with SEAS Peer Connection, freshmen SEAS students can get information on balancing social life and academics from their sophomore pair. Sophomore engineers can have an earlier insight on difficulties of their major as well as internship//job research with the advice their junior pair provides.

Any additional comments you would like to share with voters?

 By implementing my goals above and the rest which you can find at (http://izzetkebudi.wixsite.com/kebudi2016), I plan to improve our campus accessibility. I want to make sure our student journalists feel free while pursuing their simple duties of being press; this is a must at Columbia University, which is responsible of providing a progressive environment to its students. I want our entrepreneurs & engineers to be more capable when innovating, which could ultimately increase the number of successful startups rooting at our university. When it comes to academic change at Columbia, I want our engineers to have much less stressful lives, especially when they are selecting their classes for the next term. If elected, my goals will hopefully make Bacchanal much more entertaining as the capacity of the event will be higher and the artists will be selected by a more specialized Bacchanal Committee.

All of these can be done while I provide a much needed international voice to the student government of Columbia University as the only international candidate for ESC Senator.

Meet Katie Meili. Meili, a Columbia College alumna and competitive swimmer hails from Colleyville, Texas. This past summer, Meili won a gold medal for swimming the preliminary heats of the 4 x 100 relay and a bronze medal in the 100 meter breast stroke at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. We sat down with her to learn more about her background in swimming and how her time at Columbia has influenced her athletic career.

How did you originally get involved with swimming?

I started competitive swimming when I was 8. My older sister, Maureen, and I both did gymnastics but she had a bad ankle injury when she was 13 and I was 8. Her doctor suggested swimming for physical therapy and since I wanted to do everything my sister did, my mom signed us both up for the summer league swim team. The rest is history!
Did your time at Columbia impact how you swim?
Absolutely! I always say that I would not be the swimmer I am if I had not attended Columbia. Columbia made me into the person I am and I so loved and appreciated my time there. Swimming at Columbia set me on the path I needed to be on to get to where I am now. I met all the people I needed to meet, especially my coaches at Columbia – Diana Caskey and Michael Sabala, and I interacted with the sport the way I needed to – with joy and appreciation. My time at Columbia didn’t just impact the way I swim now, it created everything!
How do you clear your mind/focus before you compete in a race?
Before I race, I like my mind to be completely clear. When I step up on the blocks, I tell myself that all the work has been done and that my body knows how to accomplish the task at hand. I get to turn my brain off and race completely free. It’s an amazing feeling!
What were you most excited about getting ready for Rio? What was life in the Olympic Village and the Games Like?
I was most excited for small things that hold a big meaning to me personally. Wearing my Ralph Lauren opening ceremonies outfit (something I have wanted to have since I was a young girl); getting my American flag cap with my name on it; swimming in a pool with the Olympic Rings hanging above it. Those are the things that make you take a step back and think, “Wow, I actually made it here”, and those small moments are my favorite.
Life in the Olympic Village was amazing! I loved seeing and meeting people from all over the world, and getting to see a glimpse of their cultures and customs. To me, the Olympics are about the World coming together in a peaceful way to celebrate our similarities and our differences as human beings. It’s a beautiful event that holds significance in every culture in the World. It’s unique and important and I could feel that power everywhere.
How did you react/feel upon realizing you medaled in two different events?
I was so full of joy! I always dreamed of going to the Olympics and winning a medal but I never actually thought it would happen. It’s impossible to put in words what it feels like to have a dream of that magnitude come true. I smile every time I hold my medals in my hands. They mean so much to me… hard work and sacrifice, but also all the people that helped me along the way (and there are SO many). Those medals belong to my family, friends, teammates, coaches, and supporters just as much as they belong to me.
Do you think you will be swimming in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics? 
I have not made a final decision on Tokyo yet. Right now, I’m just enjoying the experience from Rio!
What was the greatest challenge you faced as a swimmer?
When you’re trying to be the best in the World at something by the smallest of margins, you have to have an extreme sense on non-complacency. Every day in practice, you have to want to be better, do more, try harder, etc. Even when you do something great, you have to have the attitude that it’s not quite good enough and that you still need to improve. That kind of attitude and approach is necessary for any type of success, but too much of it can get exhausting and can be detrimental. For me, finding the right balance to use that attitude to my advantage was the greatest challenge I faced swimming at this level.
What advice would you give to current student athletes?
Stay focused and if you have a dream or a goal, even if it seems out of reach, don’t be afraid to chase it. Ask for help along the way!
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Interested in interviewing students and alumni about how their time at Columbia has shaped their experiences and outlook? Join The Lion Profiles team by sending an email to team@columbialion.com.

Meet Tevis. Tevis, a first-year in Columbia College is originally from Hurricane, West Virginia. We sat down with him to learn more about his interests in Economics and some of his goals while at Columbia.

What are you current passions? How do you think you’ll pursue them on campus?

I have a few that come to mind. I love singing and want to join an a cappella group at some point. I really like playing piano, so I might take some lessons here if possible. I like making people laugh and entertaining people. Mostly helping people.

When I was younger, I always asked others about the stock market. Then I finally looked at YouTube, read some articles and took AP Macro and Micro online and realized I really love it. That’s why I want to study Economics here.

Also, I’d love to start a lip sync battle club on campus. I would be fun. I am only really good at one song, but I’m learning some new songs right now.

Of everything you’ve worked on, volunteered for, and studied, what are you most proud of?

I’m happy I was the only student from my high school to come to an Ivy League and/or New York City. People in my hometown initially were shocked that I did not choose to go to school in West Virginia because of scholarship opportunities, but Columbia was my dream school.

I first visited New York in the third grade and ever since then, I’ve always wanted to live in the city. Throughout the years, I’ve visited multiple metropolitan areas (except for LA) and realized I want to go to a good university in a metropolitan area.  Then, I toured on campus (shoutout to URC tour guide Jess Hui (CC ’18)) who heavily influenced my decision to want to come here. She encouraged me, saying that I could succeed. I felt like I had a chance because I might be able to get in Early Decision. And it worked out thankfully. A lot of people from small towns want to dream about life in the big city and I’m so excited to be here. There are so many opportunities [in NYC]. Seeing websites like Lionshare, I was amazed by the numerous amount of resources here [at Columbia] that I couldn’t fathom having in West Virginia.

My end goal is to work on Board of Governors or the Federal Reserve of NYC with my buddy Alexander Hamilton.

What are you most nervous/anxious about (in regards to college, Columbia, NYC, etc)?

My grades. But that’ll work out. Obviously everyone here likely came from the top of their classes. I remember that high school felt a lot easier, but we’ll see what happens. Also, stress.

What are you most excited about (in regards to college, Columbia, NYC, etc)?

Probably looking at all the clubs and activities and internships. There’s so much to do here and it’s so overwhelming to figure out what to do.

Throughout the semester, we’ll be featuring interviews from new students. To recommend someone for an interview or to become an interviewer for The Lion, email team@columbialion.com

Meet Brandon Victor Dixon. Dixon, a Columbia College Class of 2007 graduate, is a two-time Tony Award Nominee. During his career, he has performed in various Broadway shows (including Columbia’s very own Varsity Show). Starting in August 2016, Dixon will assume the role of Aaron Burr in Lin Manuel Miranda’s hit Broadway show, Hamilton: An American Musical. As he prepares for his role, I sat down with him to talk about his career in the performing arts and his insights on pursuing your dreams and excelling in your career.

What did you study while at Columbia, and do you have any favorite memories from your time there? 

I was an Economics major initially. I left after my first semester senior year, but when I came back and I finished, I was a theater major. My favorite memories from school were of working on the Varsity Show V107 and V108.

What first sparked your interest in theater, and how did you explore that field as a student? Was it mostly through the Varsity Show?

I came to Columbia because I knew what I wanted to do, and I just wanted to go to school in New York so that I could audition and build my career. That’s why I came to Columbia, and I appreciated that Columbia had a campus, and a vibrant curriculum that I could delve into and expand my information base in general. But no, I didn’t go to Columbia to train, or help my career, though a lot of the work I did and the classes I took were of great help and education to me in the theater department at large. I came to Columbia so that I could be in New York.

What were some of the shows you’ve performed in prior to Shuffle Along, and now, Hamilton starting next month?

The Lion King, The Color Purple, Rent, Far from Heaven, The Scottsboro Boys.

With your recent casting as Aaron Burr in Hamilton, how are you preparing for the role? Are you nervous about anything about it?

Nope. It will be a good time. I’m working on a lot of the movement. The movement style is a little different for me so I’m focusing on the movement, but I’m approaching it like anything else. I’m doing my research. I’m learning the material. It’ll be interesting replacing someone in such a big and involved show. I’m going to be learning it even as I’m performing it.

What’s the most surprising or interesting that’s happened to you while performing and go like backstage?

While performing I fell in the orchestra pit one time. That’s one of the more interesting things. I can’t really think of anything that stands out about anything that’s happened backstage but definitely falling in the orchestra pit, that was an interesting one.

 What has been your favorite role to perform so far and why?

Eubie Blake in Shuffle Along. I’ve learned more about myself as a human being in this show and about all of us as human beings in the show. Also, it’s a culmination of everything that has come before it, so you know, it embodies all of the things that you see.

What general advice would you give to students interested in pursuing their career in theater and the performing arts?

The thing I’d say to anybody interested in pursuing anything: there are no rules, your power and ability are limitless, and keep going.

With Hamilton, did you know that you wanted to play Burr, or did they offer that role to you?

I didn’t want to be Burr … I wasn’t interested in doing the show because it’d been done. I don’t tend to replace. My goal is almost always to create something new but this is a unique show, and a unique opportunity and it came on at kind of the right time. The more they talked to me about it, and the more I thought about it, the more excited I did get about the process of joining the show. I am happy; it’s going to be a new experience.

What keeps you excited about being in theater? Is it that the audience has you perform? Is it just the idea of taking on the role of a new character? What motivates you or drives you?

Creating. Creation is what drives me. The reason we are here on this planet is to connect more deeply with ourselves and with each other, and art, and performance, and theater I think is a tool that I’ve come here with to make use of. Creating stories in this way, particularly … In art in general, particularly in live theater, it is a highly communicative, community experience. We get to share something special in that moment of time and that room with one another … And we leave transformed, and that is the important to evolve, to transform, to emote, and to connect with one another.

Since a lot of the people who will be reading this are incoming students, like this is their first time in New York, some have never seen a Broadway show. Do you have any advice for them like for shows they should, or general ideas and tips about what the magic behind Broadway is, in a sense?

The magic behind Broadway is that the people on stage create something from nothing. It’s creating magic, and it helps inspire you to create something from what you have. New York is a cultural bastion unlike any other. So see everything you can, do everything you can. Big, small, do it all.

 As you prepare for Hamilton, what’s your favorite song so far, whether it’s one you’ll be singing, or one some other character will be singing?

My favorite track in Hamilton is Guns and Ships but my favorite song to sing in that obviously is Wait for It.

Can I ask why Wait for It is going to be your favorite one to sing?

I think because I’m exploring the detail of the song but the thing that it sticks out for me is the chorus. Not a love, nor death, nor life, you know. It says,

Life doesn’t discriminate

between the sinners and the saints

it takes and it takes and it takes

and we keep loving anyway

we laugh and we cry and we break and we make our mistakes

And if there’s a reason I’m still alive

While everyone who loves me has died

and I’m willing to wait for it.

So minus the coda at the end, it’s that element of that’s true. Life is that, as is love, as is death, and they are all phases of the same thing, and they do not discriminate according to who you are.

Whether you are good or bad, it’s going to take something but you have to keep giving to it. It’s kind of a mini-encapsulated message about the circle of life, and what living is about. It’s a song with no resolution. He doesn’t figure anything out by the e`d of it. He starts affirming something, and then he starts questioning it, but then he finds himself left with a question in the end of it. It’s interesting piece but it’s one that’s resonated with me.

Brandon will begin performances as Aaron Burr in Hamilton: An American Musical starting in August 2016. For tickets to the show’s New York production, visit the show’s Broadway site.

Interested in interviewing students and alumni about how their time at Columbia has shaped their experiences and outlook? Join The Lion Profiles team by sending an email to team@columbialion.com.

Photo Courtesy of Trevor Rukwava
Meet Trevor. Trevor, originally CC’19, has been suspended from Columbia College for the upcoming 2016-2017 academic year. We sat down with him to learn more about his situation and to understand how Columbia works to help students facing adversity and where it needs improvements.
What is your intended major?
I have always wanted to be pre-med. I was planning on doing neuroscience and behavior. I kind of wanted to do engineering but my parents talked me out of it, saying there are no engineering jobs in Africa. I had this dream of making electric cars, and an airplane with an emergency parachute system which deploys out of the top of the plane—the engines will be detached from the plane for weight management. However, my poor performance in the past semester pretty much kills my chances of doing medicine. I was considering switching to political science, or something. Not that I would be able to make a viable career out of it in my home country. I really don’t know at this point, but I’m trying to figure that out. It would be great if I could become a neurosurgeon.
When did Columbia notify you of its intention to suspend you for the upcoming academic year?
On June 8, 2016, Dr. Lavinia Lorch—my academic advisor—emailed me telling me that my case was going to be reviewed the following day. She told me that I was at risk of suspension because of my grades. She asked me if there was any information I wanted the Board to know. I received the notification of my suspension from CSA [Center for Student Advising] on the 9th of June. I read both emails on the 9th, so I did not have time to provide Lavinia with the information she requested. I was also under the impression that she knew my whole story.
Why do you believe Columbia choose to suspend you for the upcoming year?
According to Lavinia, “A suspension is not a punitive measure but actually an opportunity for you to make up credits back home (at an accredited 4 year institution) so as to ensure that you will graduate in a timely manner.” I think Columbia (or Dr. Lorch, I do not really know who made the decision) wanted to “help” me by giving me a forced gap year of sorts, to handle my stuff. After much persuasion, Dr. Lorch convinced me to take a medical leave of absence—which I could return from at any time. I agreed to this because, I was having a rather tough time and wanted a break. I also thought it would be more convenient if I did the paperwork while I was in America, so I would not have to fly to and fro again. The fact that I was expecting a medical leave, made the suspension more confusing, since I could not really differentiate the two.
As for the actual intentions behind the suspension, I can only make assumptions. Perhaps they didn’t want me to fail again and have to be considered for academic suspension, ironically, or expulsion. I had an almost nonexistent work ethic and motivation because of my mental condition, because they probably assumed that allowing me to return would lead to another bad semester. I may not be allowed to progress to the following semester if I don’t complete enough credits. I only completed 3, from one class. I failed 2, and dropped another 2—in order to avoid failing them. It was bad. I guess Columbia doesn’t have room for subpar performance, so I had to go.
How transparent has Columbia been throughout this process?
Well, they gave a day’s heads up. They also told me explicitly that I was suspended, and that I needed to take a year of classes and reapply. They also cancelled my I-20, which made it very clear that I wasn’t coming back.
How will this potential suspension impact your academic and personal goals?
I do not think that I can do medicine anymore. Perhaps I wasn’t cut out for it? My parents won’t hear it however, and have pushed me to apply to other universities in southern Africa. I must become a doctor, they say. Since I cannot do it at Columbia, I should do it back home. They never really liked America, and would call frequently to ensure that I had not been shot by police. The recent news has only made my parents’ resolve stronger. I made my own way to Columbia, and America at large. If I give up on Columbia, then I’m essentially giving up on the United States. However, I told Lavinia this information, which is why she said, “credits back home.” I am pretty sure that if I get into one of the two universities in my country, I will not be permitted to go back to America. Time is of the essence! My parents rejected the notion of a medical leave when I got home, claiming that my mind would rot if I stayed at home. I understand where they are coming from. They don’t want me to become like my older brother who was expelled from university because of drug addiction. He has turned to a lot of antisocial behaviours to feed his habit, including gradually taking everything I own. I doubt that I will still be in possession of the laptop on which I am typing by the end of next month. My parents suspect him every time the house is robbed, and he has been caught red-handed a few times. There is a lot of drama, which I would really rather not be in the middle of.
I do not think I will be allowed to switch to the engineering school, because of the suspension. Perhaps I’m mistaken.
Politics is not really something one can talk about where I’m from, for a number of reasons that I can not talk about because of the reasons themselves. It’s rather cyclic.
Do you think Columbia’s current academic suspension processes are fair? If not, how do you think they should be improved?
I do not think that the suspension policies are fair. I was given a single strike-out opportunity, and I did not even know that that was the case. If getting kicked out of Columbia is that easy, they should at least warn you beforehand. I tried very hard to ask for help, but my depression and history made it difficult. I did not know how to ask for help. I didn’t think that I was worth helping—depression talk. Perhaps, I was suspended because I said that Columbia sucked, I really didn’t want to be there, I was having the worst time of my life, and I felt like nobody cared about me. I said these things because that was how I truly felt, and they were multiple cries for help. I strongly suspect that this depression talk made my advisor think that suspending me was a favor, and I don’t blame her. However, these “issues” started at home and being home triggers a lot of them. I don’t have a therapist here for whatever reason, and I just kind of absorb the things that come my way. My cousin’s sickness and death, for example.
I wish Columbia had given me more support during the semester. I only got disability services help at the end of the second semester. At which point, my grades were so bad that my professors practically told me not to bother writing finals.
Do you have any advice for other students who may be in your position? For those who are also fighting depression?
To other students fighting depression, it is hard. People don’t understand how hard it is. They may tell you to ‘man up’ or fix your issues. They may assume that the illness is just an attitude problem. It doesn’t make sense to them, why someone would want to kill themselves when everything is ‘fine’. They don’t know how much harder it is to get out of bed and get things done when you are questioning the value of your existence. For most of second semester, I told myself not to think. I drowned all of it out with music; some people use other coping mechanisms. But being at an institution like Columbia requires you to think, and learn, and perform; to jump through hoops. I thought people didn’t care even though I didn’t really give them a chance to care. It took too much energy, when all I wanted to accomplish each day was survival. People do care. They may not always show it, but people care. Appreciate every person in your life, and know that you matter. Your life matters.
As for suspension, don’t let it get you down. I don’t really know what to say, because this is a problem that I am yet to overcome.
Have you faced issues at Columbia in regards to mental health and/or threats of suspension? If you would be willing to talk about your story (anonymously or publicly), email us at team@columbialion.com.