Maged is speaker and a member of the task force that organized the first Columbia University-wide women’s conference, “She Opened the Door,” being held on campus this weekend.
What were you like when you arrived at Columbia?
I grew in New York City and had older friends already at the school. I’d been hanging out in The West End for a few years (just don’t tell anyone that!), so I was pretty familiar with the campus and surrounding area. I wasn’t exactly what you’d call an out-of-towner, but I also wasn’t the “tough” New Yorker. Being alone for the first time is intimidating to anyone. I remember being really nervous that first week of Orientation, especially walking into Carman for the first time. All these new people, the cinderblock nature of those dorm rooms. I remember being jealous of a friend’s room in McBain! I thought I was part of the coolest University and was so impressed, right away, with how diverse my class was. There were these really smart people, from all over the world, with such different backgrounds. I loved it right away.
What do you remember about your first-year living situation?
I had the most incredibly diverse living situation, and whoever chose us all had a great time with the names! I had a student from China in my room named Mitzi and a very funny Japanese student, with a ton of style, in the adjacent room named Mitzu. And with Mitzu was Audrey, the daughter of a rabbi, also with a great sense of humor. The four of us got along famously — albeit we gravitated toward different groups. I was barely in my room freshman year. I spent a lot of time right across the hall with my close friend Joey Campanella ’89 and my friend Frank Seminara ’89 on another floor. I was always running from floor to floor and room to room. Or in McBain with my bestie and with another bestie at Barnard. But I did love Carman and all the close friends I made from my floor and throughout. I remember spending a lot of time hanging with them all downstairs doing laundry in the basement lounge. We also spent a ton of time at the end of our hall, in the tiny lounge area, watching TV and listening to music.
What class do you most remember and why?
My favorite class was Contemporary Civilization. It really had a lasting impact on my life. Aristotle, Plato, Machiavelli, Hobbes and Locke, Gandhi. The list goes on. I mean, what a combination. It was a boom force — an entire world of human behavior and impact on a society opened up to me. I have reflected during the last 25 years on the lessons I took away from studying each of these philosophers — how they helped me identify and correctly read human behavior and interpersonal dynamics. I’ll never forget that class; it changed the way I think and reflect.
Did you have a favorite spot on campus, and what did you like about it?
Does the diner The College Inn count as “on campus”? That was by far the place I spent the most amount of time aside from the Law Library and Butler. That’s where my friends and I would gossip about what happened the night before, always end our current night and dream about our future. I have the most incredible memories of that place. The Low Steps would have to rank second. My friends and I would watch the world go by and stare at the beautiful Butler Library building in awe. Sometimes I would just sit there by myself — looking out at the expanse and, honestly, just pinching myself for being as lucky as I was to be at Columbia.
What, if anything, about your College experience would you do over?
The only thing I would probably do over is academically push myself a little harder those junior and senior years. I was really busy those two years — having to make money doing things like waitressing and checking IDs in dorms to pay my expenses, and also interning 15 hours a week at a sports agency. I was beginning to take the steps toward building my career. With my social life, classes and working, I was buried and maybe missed out on taking a few more of the best classes the University had to offer.