The Lion asked candidates to tell us about their campaigns to give us insight into their aspirations and motivations for running. Here is what Ethan Kestenberg had to say:
Hi! I’m Ethan, and I’m running for Pre-Professional Representative (no party affiliation). For the past two years, I’ve worked on CCSC as an appointed representative. As a freshman, I served as Secretary of CCSC ’19. We were able to combat food insecurity issues on campus by partnering with 18 local restaurants to create discount meal programs for all 24,000 Columbia students. This year, I am working on the Committee of Finance, and am in the final stages of developing a new Student Events Fund to alleviate prohibitive event fees for eligible students on financial aid.
I want to continue my involvement with CCSC because I believe in the power of community. CCSC provides me with the greatest opportunity not only to get more connected with our community, but also to give back to it. I’ve learned that, without a doubt, the best thing our class council can do is build upon our community. The diversity of our student body, the array of our distinct individual voices, that’s our strength. I firmly believe that this position should be focused on expanding our community so that students of all backgrounds can soak in the rich benefits of our collective body. It’s not about getting everyone an interview at Goldman Sachs, or securing more offers at McKinsey. It’s about building people. It’s about paving the stones of our community. Then the rest will follow.
If elected Pre-Professional Representative, I will promote a more equitable pre-professional environment at Columbia so that students of all backgrounds can confidently prepare for their future careers. I will do so through three stages of community building.
First, I will tackle the hyper-competitive nature of pre-professional club recruitment at Columbia. It is no question that there are many aspects of Columbia that are unduly stressful; club recruitment is no exception. While pre-professional clubs provide students with incredible opportunities, the admissions processes for many pre-professional clubs systematically favor students with certain backgrounds over others, perpetuating already existing student imbalances. This club culture leaves many students feeling rejected and discouraged, particularly freshmen who are not accustomed to such levels of competition. This culture of rejection is installed by freshmen resume ‘screens’, rigorous interview processes, and students not being informed when they are rejected from student groups. I will work hard to ensure club recruitment is more egalitarian by addressing these burdensome club recruitment policies. I will implement a “no-resume rule” for freshmen applying to recognized pre-professional organizations. I will also ensure that clubs provide sample interview questions before each interview to increase transparency and level the playing field. It’s my mission to ensure that pre-professional clubs serve our entire community. This can only be done through an encouraging and cohesive environment, not one that pawns student against student, club against club. I will implement these policies by working with the Policy Committee to draft a motion for what constitutes hyper-competitive club recruitment policies. Then, I will work together with the Activities Board at Columbia to limit access to the activities fair for clubs engaging in hyper-competitive policies. I will also work together with SGA, GSSC, and ESC to curtail excess funding approvals through JCCC to clubs not complying with the CCSC bill.
Second, I will foster diversity in student career choices by connecting students and faculty through a Pre-Professional Mentorship Program. The initiative would enable students with the opportunity to build and develop close relationships with professors in their field of interest. Recent research suggests that schools that implement student-faculty mentorship programs not only reduce student feelings’ of being marginalized, but also empower students to embrace their unique identities. This program will inspire students to explore the various arcs along their career path, offering direction and encouragement to those who lack guidance in navigating the professional world. Moreover, this program will enable students with the ability to work one-on-one with their mentors through student projects, faculty research, and professional work experience. I am confident that this initiative will greatly enhance the focus and clarity of many student’s academic and pre-professional profiles. It will allow our community to soak in the knowledge and experience of our incredible, multifaceted faculty, and break away from the cookie-cutter mold so prevalent at Columbia. I will implement this initiative by first creating a taskforce on the Policy Committee to determine the preliminary structure of the program to propose to the administration. I recommend the proposal include several features, such as designating a faculty member as the program coordinator who is in charge of leading an orientation meeting with mentors and students at the beginning of the program. The proposal should also include some requirements on all mentorship participants, likely requiring each pair to meet at least once a month. Once we draft our proposal, I will work together with Dean Lisa Hollibaugh of Academic Planning and Administration to set up the role of program coordinator, and I will look to Dean Andrew Plaa of Advising for assistance in the development of our Pre-Professional Mentorship Program. Personally, I envision it will be most pragmatic to start with a small experimental group next year – say, fifteen mentor-mentoree pairs—in order to determine what works and what doesn’t work in the program. Then, the plan will be to build off our beta test by rolling out access to the program the following year to the greater Columbia community. We will create an application process for students interested in the program, which will consist of a variety of ‘fit’ and ‘interest’ questions to develop a well-rounded class of mentorees to benefit students of all backgrounds. Our taskforce on the CCSC Policy Committee will interview and screen all applicants to the program. This year on the Committee of Finance, through the Student Project Grants fund, we held a very similar interview and screen process that has proven markedly effective and pragmatic for CCSC to handle.
And finally, I will implement a CCSC database dedicated to pre-professional development that will be constantly maintained and updated each year. To name some examples, the database will include a library of Graduate School Prep Books, an archive of where current and former CC students have worked, and a series of guides on how to master industry-specific interviews. I will collaborate with CCE and our Alumni Affairs representative to ensure that this database is both comprehensive and applicable to Columbia students. This database will build on top of what CCE has to offer, however, it will have a student-minded spin. This initiative will leverage the benefits of near-peer mentorship. While CCE offers many great resources, it’s important to recognize that CCE is overtaxed in many areas and offers an adult-oriented approach to navigating the professional world. I believe that student-engineered database will perfectly complement the resources that CCE offers. Many of the greatest tools we use at Columbia are peer-developed. Think ‘CULPA’, the late ‘gradesatcu’, or Spec’s ‘THE SHAFT’. The initiative will be centered around an online forum for Columbia students to contribute tips and advice on industry-specific interviews, graduate school preparation, and relevant employer information. The forum will be built for students, by students. I hope to interweave this forum with our archive of where current and former CC students have worked so that students can contact their peers regarding specific posts or advice they’re interested in. The ultimate goal is to build a network of peer-developed resources that not only enriches our community, but also inspires interconnectedness across Columbia.
Overall, I see several clear ways of leveraging the responsibility of this position. First, by decreasing the hyper-competitiveness of pre-professional clubs and organizations on campus to expand our community; second, by fostering a pre-professional student-faculty mentorship program to deepen our community; and finally, by developing a warehouse of knowledge that enriches our community. I believe each measure will empower individual student growth and development, while reducing the necessity of students falling into the cookie-cutter mold that we so often get trapped in the vicious battle for internships and jobs.
This position is more than preparing students for the professional life. It’s more than building resumes. It’s about building individuals. It’s about strengthening a community and raising everyone together, not just supporting those already at the top. The greatest thing I can do for this community is to make it more equitable, diverse, and interconnected. I’m excited to do so by reinvigorating our pre-professional development.