Columbia College and Columbia Engineering welcomed the 1,420 students in the Class of 2017 and their families at a Convocation ceremony on South Field on August 26. Columbia University President Lee C. Bollinger, Columbia College Dean James J. Valentini and Mary C. Boyce, dean of The Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science, addressed students, along with Interim Dean of Student Affairs Terry Martinez, New Students Orientation Program Coordinator Emma Kim Morimoto Chaves CC’14 and Hitoshi Tanaka EN ’63, MS’65, EngScD’76, president of the Columbia Engineering Alumni Association.
“This is a special day for you because it marks your induction into the Columbia family,” Martinez said after a procession of faculty, alumni marching with banners from the decades of their graduation, and student leaders carrying flags from the home states and home countries of Columbia College and Columbia Engineering students. “You will soon see that it is a close-knit one, where ideas are exchanged, often in lively debate, traditions are passed from generation to generation, intellectual and co-curricular inquiry is encouraged and diversity of all kinds is valued and respected,”
“And though we are many in number, shared traditions, uniquely-Columbian experiences and common principles connect us all,” she added.
Valentini said diversity is at the core of the Columbia experience, especially diversity of opinions and personal stories. He said students in the Class of 2017 were “admitted to Columbia College because of [their] personal stories of development, struggle and accomplishment.”
“From these stories we concluded that you were the applicants best able to profit from and, equally important, to contribute to the Columbia College experience,” Valentini said. “And, yes, all admissions decisions are absolutely correct.
He encouraged students to enjoy the 1,359 days until their May 2017 Commencement and, when choices become stressful, to trust themselves.
He also told parents to trust their children, and recommended that they stay connected by reading the Columbia Daily Spectator and Bwog, or even by painting a room in their house “Columbia Blue.”
All of the speakers encouraged students to take advantage of opportunities at Columbia and to make connections with their classmates, with alumni and with faculty.
“You will have enormous choices—more than 100 majors and concentrations from which to choose, several hundred study abroad programs, thousands of internships and many research opportunities,” Valentini said. “Take advantage of all that the College, the city and the University has to offer and that the world has to offer as well.”
“Welcome to a place of infinite possibilities,” said Chaves. “Welcome to one of the most diverse experiences you will ever have.”
Bollinger reminded students to appreciate the experience of the Core Curriculum — the chance to engage with classic works and texts and discuss life’s fundamental and enduring questions in small seminars.
“Tell anyone about what you’re doing in the Core and predictably they will say they wish they could do that too,” he said. “You should not take for granted what a tremendous gift it is to live for a while in a community that values moving from confusion and incomprehension to at least some meaningful understanding of the greatest expression humanity has produced about our deepest questions and that nurtures us along in that difficult process which in truth never ends.”
He predicted that members of the Class of 2017 would enjoy their Columbia experience.
“We, your teachers and caretakers in all kinds of ways, are here to help you take this beginning and to turn it into a permanent and successful reality for your lives. If you are like your predecessors, alumni and fellow students, I can safely predict that you will be very happy indeed.”
The annual ceremony concluded with the singing of “Roar, Lion, Roar,” Columbia’s fight song, written by Corey Ford CC’23. New Student Orientation Program (NSOP) began following the ceremony.