Sushil Cheema ’04 Loved All the Campus Libraries

Sushil Cheema
Sushil Cheema ’04, JRN’06 is an author and executive coach based in Tampa. She began her storytelling career as a journalist, working for a variety of publications in New York City, including as a stringer/freelancer covering metro news for The New York Times and as a digital reporter covering luxury housing and real estate for The Wall Street Journal. Cheema’s clients include journalism executives as well as mid-level managers and C-suite executives in a variety of fields, including financial services, engineering, and technology. Her first work of fiction, In the Mix, a mid-grade children’s book co-authored with Broadway star Mandy Gonzalez, was published in April. In addition to her Columbia degrees, Cheema earned a J.D. from the Stetson University College of Law.

What were you like when you arrived at Columbia?

I was eager to learn and incredibly excited to be in New York City. That said, I was very shy all through my childhood, and that extended into my years at the College (being in New York for 12 years and working in the news industry helped me overcome that). Although I felt thoroughly prepared for the academics, I was in awe of — even intimidated by — my talented classmates. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to pursue academically or after college, so I was very grateful to have the structure of the Core Curriculum to get me started.

What do you remember about your first-year living situation?

I lived on John Jay 13. There was a tight-knit crew of students on my floor, and for the most part, everyone got along. But what I remember most was the stunning view from my room looking south. I could see all the way to the World Trade Center. I’d often take a break from studying to watch what I could see of the sunset.

What Core class or experience do you most remember, and why?

I most enjoyed Professor Jill Shapiro’s course on the behavioral biology of living primates, which I took as part of my science requirement. I enjoyed Professor Shapiro’s enthusiasm and humor. The American Museum of Natural History was already one of my favorite places in the city, but in taking her class, I had a greater appreciation for the exhibits on human evolution, and for museums in general. The greatest thing about being a student in NYC was having the opportunity to see so much of what I was learning about in different classes up close in some way. I left campus as much as possible to take advantage of student discounts to not only museums but also Broadway shows and other performances.

Did you have a favorite spot on campus, and what did you like about it?

I loved the libraries. All of them. Butler was beautiful, of course, but it was often too crowded and social for me to get work done. I would often retreat to other libraries scattered across campus, including the ones at the Law School (probably the quietest), SIPA, the music building and the architecture building to focus. I also liked sitting on the Steps next to Alma Mater, especially at night, when there was hardly anyone around, to clear my head.

What, if anything, about your College experience would you do over?

I would have put less pressure on myself to figure out what was “next” and enjoy the moment more. That’s a solid lesson for life in general. Oh, and I would have taken more classes with Professor Shapiro, for sure!