Taking Pride in How We’ve Thrived

As this letter is being written, preparations are under way for Columbia College Class Day and University Commencement, two ceremonies that together will cap the academic year for the extraordinary Class of 2021. These soon-to-be-graduates experienced a junior and senior year unlike any other: They navigated classes remotely; learned to connect virtually with friends, professors and mentors; and rose to meet the personal challenges, large and small, that came with the difficult experience of attending college during a pandemic. All of us at the Columbia College Alumni Association (CCAA) stand in admiration of their resilience and collective achievement; we extend our congratulations and wish them well in their next chapters.

By many measures, this has been one of the most difficult years for Columbia and indeed, for so many of us. Despite the challenges, however, we have come away with lessons for living, discovered inner resources that made us stronger and developed closer relationships with those near and far. The College community rallied to continue learning, support each other and even have some fun. Here are just a few examples of the strength, resilience and vibrancy of our community.

Meeting Future Lions

Alumni Representative Committee members interviewed prospective students entirely virtually this year, and completed 7 percent more interviews than the previous year. All told, more than 1,200 alumni served as ambassadors, and because of the virtual modality, interviewers reached more prospective students, in all corners of the globe, than ever.

Creating Spaces for Conversation

Issues of diversity, equity and inclusion came to the fore over the last year, and these topics became an even more important throughline in the CCAA’s activities. A series of AlumniTALK forums were offered so participants could discuss issues around race, inequality and social justice in a safe environment with fellow alumni and expert speakers. Throughout the year, we engaged hundreds of alumni in these events and facilitated important conversations around race and the presidential election; race and the workplace; and the evolution of Black studies at Columbia.

Transforming Traditions

Homecoming this year was virtual, but we still celebrated the College, reconnected with classmates and friends, and found ways to have fun. Reunion 2021 is similarly set to be virtual, across the two-week period from May 24 to June 4; by the time you read this, many of you will have participated. Events included faculty and alumni lectures, campus tours, discussions with students, a wine tasting, a campus art tour and a student jazz performance.

Connecting Alumni with Students

This past year close to 1,000 one-to-one mentoring matches were made through the Odyssey Mentoring Program. Alumni and students met virtually to discuss student aspirations, foster a meaningful connection for career help and simply connect with a friendly face during a difficult year.

CCAA Lends a Hand

A scene from the 2020 Black Student Summer Sendoff.

Students clearly had a challenging experience, but they demonstrated an amazing perseverance and a strong commitment to each other. The CCAA held virtual Summer Sendoffs to welcome the Class of 2024. It also stepped up its student assistance efforts, hosting dozens of events, from identity-based roundtables with alumni, to career-oriented discussions with industry leaders, to small, in-person dinners with alumni. Of special note are the two task forces the CCAA created to support the Classes of 2020 and 2021. We are offering both classes tailored events, extended mentoring support and special communications to help them transition to alumnihood and land on their feet as graduates.

We hope that reflecting on last year’s student and alumni accomplishments renews your pride at being a member of this community; we have thrived despite the many difficult circumstances and we hope to be on the other side soon. Our community still needs one another, though, so we ask that you continue to support one another, the students and alma mater. Hire a recent graduate, interview a prospective student, mentor a current student, participate in CCAA events, contribute to the Columbia College Fund and/or reconnect with a classmate. When we look back at this time, let’s remember the strength and spirit of our amazing Columbia College community.