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Photo: Char Smullyan

Class of 2014 Senior Snapshot: Kalena Zimmerman

Strengthening the Native American and native Hawaiian communities at Columbia “has been my biggest goal here.”

This profile will appear as part of the Summer 2014 Columbia College Todays Senior Snapshots feature.

As she was planning Perspectives in Diversity and Days on Campus this spring as co-chair and programming coordinator for the Multicultural Recruitment Committee (MRC), Kalena Zimmerman CC ’14 paused to reflect on her time in the College. “I’ve come full circle, as these are the programs that got me to pick Columbia,” she says.

As an incoming student, Zimmerman traveled from her hometown of Hilo, Hawaii, for the overnight visit programs, held each April. “I really enjoyed the atmosphere,” recalls Zimmerman, a Kluge Scholar. “I wanted to experience four years in a place where I didn’t know anyone and I would have to find myself.”

As a member of MRC, Zimmerman also interviewed prospective students in collaboration with the Alumni Representative Committee (ARC) and contributed to a college application guide expected to be available online to the Class of 2019. Designed with first-generation students in mind, it includes a timeline. “The idea is to spread everything out so they know what is coming,” says Zimmerman, the first member of her household to go to college.

From November 2012 until she graduated, Zimmerman also was an outreach intern with the Office of Undergraduate Admissions, which entailed corresponding with prospective students and leading campus tours and information sessions for groups from local schools and community organizations. Zimmerman, who is part native Hawaiian on her mother’s side, contributed to recruitment efforts by helping to establish relationships with community organizations that reach indigenous populations in her home state.

Zimmerman was a liaison between Admissions and two student groups: Mālama Hawaii and the Native American Council. As a junior, she helped revive the former, which celebrates the islands’ culture through an annual luau and other activities. During her first three years in the College, Zimmerman also helped plan and promote the Native American Council’s annual Powwow and Native American Heritage Month.

Strengthening the Native American and native Hawaiian communities at Columbia “has been my biggest goal here,” says Zimmerman, who as a senior mentored a Native American student raised in Hawaii through the Columbia Mentoring Initiative, a program of the Office of Multicultural Affairs that pairs first-years with upperclassmen. She received a King’s Crown Leadership Excellence Award for her support of current and prospective students and for fostering a “diverse, tolerant, and inclusive community” on campus.

Zimmerman, who also was honored as a Senior Marshal, majored in East Asian languages and cultures and wrote her senior thesis on tourism marketing techniques in Hawaii, Japan and South Korea. Among her favorite memories of her College years is writing a paper for Art Hum on Pieter Bruegel’s The Harvesters while sitting in front of the painting at the Met. “I loved that Columbia allows students to learn from the city,” she says.

Zimmerman plans to return to Hawaii to share her knowledge of college admissions with indigenous and first-generation high school students. “I want to work with students to give them the opportunities I was given,” she says.

Nathalie Alonso ’08, from Queens, is a freelance journalist and an editorial producer for, Major League Baseball’s official Spanish language website. She writes “Student Spotlight” for Columbia College Today.

Published Tuesday May 6, 2014

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