Category: Profiles

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.

On July 12, CNN held a town hall in which everyday citizens asked questions of Speaker of the House Paul Ryan. Zak Marcone (CC’19) was one of those invited to ask a question. The Lion interviewed him about his experience challenging the Speaker’s decision to endorse the Republican Nominee for President, Donald Trump.

How did you get invited to the town hall? 

About two months ago, I was invited to a Ted Cruz town hall. I went to that one, but I didn’t get an opportunity to ask a question. Someone from CNN remembered me from the past town hall and sent me an email when the spot opened up for this one.

What question did you ask Paul Ryan?

It concerns me when the Republican leadership is supporting someone who is openly racist, has said Islamophobic statements, and wants to shut down our borders. How can you morally justify your support for this kind of candidate?

Even though attendees asked many questions at the town hall, a lot of publications (Huffington Post, Politicus USA, etc.) really noticed yours. Why do you think that is?

I guess it was because I wasn’t afraid to ask what was on everyone’s mind with Paul Ryan, specifically the moral issue of his support for Donald Trump. It is the elephant in the room and something that’s ignored, which he did when he answered my question. I think it’s also because I used the words “racist and Islamophobic” and he did not deny that Trump is those things in any way at all. I think that that was probably the main reason that it got so much attention.

How did you feel about confronting Ryan?

I wouldn’t call it a confrontation. I just couldn’t think of any answer for myself for why he would support Trump, and I wanted to see for myself how he would answer the question.

How do you feel about Paul Ryan’s answer to your question?

I wasn’t really expecting anything and I didn’t really get anything either. It was a last effort on my part to elicit some sort of moral compass from Paul Ryan and a larger, general stance from a Republican leader.

In your opinion, what options do young Republicans have if they don’t support Trump’s views but also don’t want to vote Democrat?

I would very strongly say that you have to vote for Hillary Clinton. I don’t think that there is a third party option unless you agree with Libertarian policy. I think if you’re a moderate Republican like me, you really need to vote for Hillary Clinton. Even though a lot of her policies are different than conservatives are looking for, the other option is  much much more dangerous. In a binary choice between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, there’s only really one option, and that’s Hillary Clinton.

Does Trump’s choice of Mike Pence as a running mate alter your opinion about Trump as a candidate in any way? Why or why not?

I really didn’t think my opinion of Trump could get any worse. Well it did. Pence is a terrible person who clearly has deep prejudices against the LGBT community as well as other groups. This makes me even more disappointed in Paul Ryan for supporting him.

Photo Courtesy of Karlee Rodrigues

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.  The Lion has yet to endorse any candidate at this time and the views below do not necessarily represent the views of our team. For more information, email submissions@columbialion.com.

What motivated you to run for this position? 

I first started attending GS’ Student Council meetings to learn about what resources, clubs, events, network, and financial opportunities were available on campus for students. I was inspired by the serious commitment and dedication from the council members and got overwhelmingly excited at the incredibly diverse opportunities they were creating for students that I was unaware even existed! I wanted to help create and spread this information with the rest of the student body. Therefore, I joined the council as part of the Communications Committee!

On council, I served as the communicator between the student body and GSSC, as well as spreading communication between committees. Adding to the council’s weekly agenda and taking Meeting Minutes made me quickly learn what’s working for the Columbia Community and what isn’t, what we had to improve on and what should remain the same, as well as how long each type of event or resource takes to plan.

Having this great overall understanding of the student body’s needs and GSSC’s needs (finance, policy, campus life, communications, international students rep, MilVets rep, etc.) made me feel qualified enough to run for Student Body President. Similarly to my goals when I first started council, I want to make sure the bountiful amount of resources academically and financially on campus are being taken to full advantage students to help and progress our Columbia community.

If elected, what would your goals be? What is something you want to fix at Columbia? How would you plan to address it?

Here are some of my key points!

COMMUNICATIONS:

As President I will enforce “Operation Organization,” organizing the plethora of diverse resources already available on campus, such as club info and important events so that they are appropriately presented to students so that they are aware of the diverse opportunities and initiatives that already exist!

I plan to address this integration issue by making this information easily accessible to students online and physically.

– An updated online clubs page with their objective, meeting times, and meeting locations.

– Physical packets with club info available in the GS Lounge for those who have limited access to internet/social media.

– Making the GS Lounge a hub for resources. Adding a monitor that displays GSSC led events for the week! (Or for more cost-friendly purposes, a bulletin board).

– A BRAND NEW UPDATED GSSC WEBSITE. The council has worked on this during the Spring 2016 term, however, I want it to be fully implemented in the Fall! We are in negotiations for access to both the gssc.columbia.edu and yourgssc.com domain with CUIT and the former VPs of council. We have a template ready and secured. And if we do not get access to either of those domains – we have a plan C to start from scratch and the design already planned.

– On this website will be a public Google Driven calendar where GSSC students can directly import an event.

– As President, I liaise with the other university presidents to present a system so that everyone has access to GSSC events but also CC, SEAS, and Barnard.

Once this system is organized and enacted – the communications committee can reach out to groups like the MilVets to ensure that if there is an event that might be of great benefit for their members, they will know about it. Additionally, if the MilVets host an event for their club, they can easily reach other students on campus.

FINANCE:

Financial security for students is a huge topic currently being presented to council.

Once “Operation Organization” is complete, students in financial need will be able to easily locate resources to help them financially. From scheduling appointments with advisors to applying for GS institutional scholarships, GS special scholarships, outside scholarships, and scholarships for nontraditional students.

As GSSC President, I will be continuously requesting sponsorships and in-kind donations rather than using our valuable money in the budget for food, for example, at many if not most of the GS events. Our savings would be put together for a Student Body Scholarship for those in financial need (and eventually perhaps, a second that’s need-blind). Through this scholarship, applicants can write to council about their experience on campus life – what they found to be beneficial and what could be improved. This way, council will have an array of continuous feedback and we would be building a students’ financial security for the semester. I plan to address this proposal by working closely with the VP of finance to determine how much exactly we have saved that will be distributed in the scholarship. Additionally, I will speak with administration to have this scholarship apply towards tuition. This means I would also reach out to the Accounting Office for easy transactions and billing info. If the cannot apply towards tuition (although I will petition and strongly advocate for it), the scholarship could benefit students for the cost of living expenses.

Additionally, I will continue to advocate alongside prospective VP of Policy Silin for emergency meal funds and a food bank (which was just passed at tonight’s meeting woo hoo). GSers should have a food pantry in the GS Lounge for those who are in need of a meal. I plan to address this by continuing to advocate alongside the council for the construction of the pantry. We already have a contractor on board.

I also strongly agree with prospective Senator Ramond about child-care services. Right now, PHD students are offered child-care services. However, GS students are not. We must offer GS parents child-care services!! Advocating for this is extremely important.

POLICY:

As GSSC President I will promote SVR (Sexual Violence Response) initiatives that Columbia mandates in orientation. I want to review and change the TA policy on campus. Right now TAs can be hired regardless of a sexual assault violation. This should not be the case. Offenders find content in exuding power over their victim. Why then would we give these offenders (who is known to find this fulfillment in exuding power) power in the classroom?! It would be a trigger!!! Changing the policy would be ensuring students safety and peace of mind.

It came to my attention recently that a student took a medical leave and as a result, was denied to use the psychological/medical service centers during the time of their leave. This is a moment where students might be needing these services the most. Students should have access to these resources their ENTIRE TIME at Columbia. I will speak to CPS and administration to make change happen.

Any additional comments you would like to share with voters?

A suggestion box will be created in the new year so that students can share their ideas with council and how we can improve!

Last but certainly not least, if the Student Body/Committees are divided on a topic, before making any decision, I would weigh the pros and cons. I will enforce a political, financial, and social discussion. What would be the financial benefits and/or consequences of this situation. How would this decision impact students on campus? Are there any alternatives? Can there be a trail period for our decision?