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Bowled Over!

GREG GAYNE / NBC

Updated on September 13: The legendary College Bowl quiz show was back on TV this summer and Columbia won it all, defeating the University of Southern California (USC) in a neck-and-neck competition to bring home the first college trivia championship of a new era.

The team’s quick-thinking quiz masters were Tamarah Wallace CC’22, Shomik Ghose SEAS’23 and Jake Fisher SEAS’22, along with alternate Addis Boyd SEAS’22.

Wallace, Ghose and Fisher were all smiles following the win, which aired September 7 on NBC. Fisher shouldered the massive trophy as host and NFL Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning handed each a certificate for a $125,000 scholarship. The Lions extended kudos to their Trojan competitors and offered post-game thoughts. “I’m in shock. This has been such a learning experience,” Wallace said with a laugh. “I want to go to law school, so this is going to help!”

The revived show, which originally aired in the 1960s, unfolded in a series of nail-biting episodes throughout the summer. The Lions defeated Morehouse College in the qualifying round, and then the University of Tennessee and Auburn University in the quarter- and semi-finals (in the latter, Columbia came back after falling behind by as much as 220 points). Their face-off against USC was billed as “the clash of the coasts.”

“Even when under pressure, a Columbia Lion roars,” Dean James J. Valentini said in a pre-recorded video cheer — and roar they did. From identifying the tribe that lives on the mythical island of Themyscira (the Amazons) to naming the most abundant element in the universe (hydrogen), Columbia’s trio notched a 190–150 lead heading into the final round, a “two-minute drill” in which each team had the chance to answer as many questions correctly as it could in the time allotted.

After watching USC climb to a score of 775, the Lions stormed their way through their turn. Fittingly, they opted to answer questions from the liberal arts category; as Ghose said beforehand, “We have the Core Curriculum at Columbia … hopefully it’s prepared us for this.” Ultimately, Columbia’s trio gave 15 right answers to inch past the Trojans with time to spare. The final question? “Wyoming and Vermont each have what minimum number of electoral votes?” The answer was three, and the Lions’ final score was 790.

The championship marks the second time Columbia has captured the College Bowl crown. The four-man team of Elia Racah ’67, Jeffrey Rosen ’68, Derek Randall ’67 and Steven Ross ’68 won the 1966–67 season with a perfect 5–0 record. Their student foes included teams from Providence College, Indiana University, Michigan State University, William & Mary and, finally, Smith (which notably attempted to intimidate the Lions with a sympathy card sent before the taping). Columbia took home a total of $10,500 in scholarship money.


New Leader for University Life

MICHAEL DIVITO

Dennis Mitchell, senior vice provost for faculty advancement and a professor of dental medicine at the Columbia University Medical Center, has been named executive VP for university life. Mitchell succeeds Suzanne Goldberg, who led the office for more than six years before stepping down in January to join the Biden-Harris administration.

Mitchell, who earned a doctorate in dental surgery from Howard University, joined the Columbia faculty in 1991 and has held a number of positions at the Dental School. From 2004 to 2021, he was the first diversity-focused dean at a U.S. dental school in his role as its senior associate dean for diversity; he was responsible for a nearly seven-fold increase in the percentage of students from underrepresented backgrounds.

Mitchell also has been in the Office of the Provost for the last seven years, helping to oversee the University’s now more than $185 million investment in faculty diversity.

“An expert clinician, researcher and administrator, Dennis has devoted his 30-year career at Columbia to strengthening our community, perhaps most notably through his commitment to fostering an inclusive campus climate for new and rising faculty members,” President Lee C. Bollinger said in an August 17 announcement. “He is a natural leader for University Life’s critical work of building community among the next generation of thought leaders, researchers and innovators — our students.”

In taking on his new role, Mitchell wants students to know that they have an advocate in him and in University Life. “I know how central the student experience is to everything we do at this university,” he said. “We wouldn’t be who we are or do what we do without our students, and I’m committed to making their time at Columbia as rewarding as it can possibly be.”


Public Health Dual Degree

Undergraduates with an interest in public health now have a dual-degree option — a so-called “4+1” program that combines a B.A. from the College with an M.P.H. from the Mailman School of Public Health. The result of a new partnership between the schools, the dual degree enables students to earn an M.P.H., usually a two-year program, at an accelerated pace.

Students can apply in their junior year, and upon acceptance will spend the fall semester of their senior year enrolled at Mailman, before returning to the College in the spring semester to complete a B.A. After graduating they will matriculate at Mailman to complete a practicum and a year of coursework and thesis work to earn a master’s.

“Over the past several years, we’ve seen an increase in interest among our students in matters related to public health,” Dean James J. Valentini said. “This partnership between the College and Mailman creates a remarkable opportunity for students to combine an exceptional liberal arts undergraduate foundation with a world-class professional education in public health in five years. We’re delighted to be able to offer this special preparation for the future leaders in the fields that support the health and well-being of populations around the world.”


College Co-Chairs for CAA

In a first for the Columbia Alumni Association (CAA), which serves alumni across all University schools, a pair of College graduates have been elected to lead the organization as co-chairs: Michelle Estilo Kaiser ’87, PH’92, PS’97 and Mary Kuo ’92. The duo will lead several important initiatives during the next two years, including the development of the next five-year strategic plan. The CAA will also launch the CAA Scholarship program in September, addressing financial, career and life concerns for students across all 17 Columbia schools. Other College alumni elected to their first term on the CAA’s Board were Peter Kang ’05 and Danielle Maged ’89, BUS’97.