Eyvana Bengochea CC’16 is still a student, but she is already immersed in the alumni experience.
As vice president of the Columbia College Student Ambassadors, a student organization that builds connections between alumni and students, she knows that being a Lion is a lifetime experience.
Bengochea and the other members of the group work to keep the Columbia connection strong across all class years, from first-years to those who graduated 50 years ago and beyond. “You have this amazing network around you that is so supportive,” she says. “They don’t even know you, but you are united by the fact that you both walked the same halls and sat in the same Hamilton classroom. I think it’s so special that that’s enough to automatically have a connection with someone.”
CCSA, which currently has 27 members, is the liaison between the Columbia College Alumni Association and current students, focusing on building a strong sense of pride within the College community. Established in 2013, the organization encourages alumni to attend student events (like the annual Tree Lighting Ceremony) and sends students to alumni events (such as Alumni Leaders Weekend) in order to foster communication between the two groups.
CC Student Ambassadors at the 2013 Tree Lighting Ceremony. Photo: Noor Dhadha BC
One of CCSA’s goals is to increase alumni presence on campus, inviting them to reconnect with Columbia by staying involved in traditions and school spirit activities. CCSA President Jackson Tse CC’15 says the organization’s first big victory came last year, when CCSA invited alumni to come back and participate in the annual Tree Lighting Ceremony. Bringing what Dean James J. Valentini calls “former students” back to campus helps “current students” see the enduring influence of Columbia and gives alumni the opportunity to meet students on campus today. Says Tse on the benefits of being in CCSA: “You get to contribute to the school because you’re really strengthening the ties between alumni and students.”
Both Tse and Bengochea speak about how exciting it is to be part of a new student organization on campus. Tse notes of running a program in its second year: “It presents a lot of different opportunities – in terms of designing your own events – that some older, established student organizations may not have.” Bengochea says the lack of established practices in the organization is a big draw for joining, as the members are free to explore their visions for what CCSA can be. “It’s really rewarding to put time into the CCSA program, because it’s so dependent on our own creativity,” she explains.
CCSA students also get the valuable opportunity to see the many ways a Columbia education is applicable in the post-graduation world. She says, “I think you really get a nice perspective when you meet people who went through what you went through, can compare their experiences to yours and can show you a picture of what success or what life after college is going to look like.”
Anne-Ryan Heatwole JRN’09
This story appeared in the 2013–2014 Columbia College Annual Report.