Take Five with LaToya Tavernier ’05

LaToya Tavernier ’05 is an educator, sociologist and content creator, and the host of Figure Out Your Life with Toya T, a weekly podcast that tries to find answers to life issues, large and small, from ghosting to coping with racial trauma. Tavernier earned a Ph.D. in sociology and Africana studies from the CUNY Graduate Center in 2015 and has taught sociology and criminology in higher education for more than 10 years. She recently transitioned to secondary education and will teach advocacy and activism at KIPP Academy Lynn Collegiate in Massachusetts this school year. Tavernier is a proud child of Black immigrants and an avid traveler who has visited six of the seven continents. She plans to complete her goal to see them all and visit Australia once it’s safe to travel.

What were you like when you arrived at Columbia?

I first visited the College for an overnight visit organized by the Admissions Office. I was 17 and extremely excited. I’d wanted to attend Columbia since the fifth grade, after learning about it from my favorite show at the time, Saved by the Bell. The smartest character on the show, Jessie Spano, attended Columbia and because I was a “smart girl” I had to attend Columbia, too. Despite having a neglectful student host, I explored campus and Morningside Heights on my own and became even more sure the College was where I belonged.

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

It was like The Real World, with students from different classes picked to live in a suite to see how they could live together and learn from each other. LOL. I lived in Wallach 5B; it was ideal for me. I loved living with mostly upperclassmen, whom I was easily able to ask for advice, especially when registering for classes. Wallach was quiet and much less chaotic than the freshmen-only dorms, like John Jay. Plus, we had a semi-private bathroom that I didn’t have to share with an entire floor of girls (which grossed me out).

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

Lit Hum. It was an interesting experience because I had read most of the assigned books when I was in high school. I already knew this from my overnight campus visit the year prior, when I noticed my freshman host’s bookshelf was filled with books that I was currently reading in my Greek appreciation class. I saved my reading notes and then referenced them in Lit Hum. During the second semester, I found out that I was one of two students in my class who had read The Aeneid in its original Latin. Suffice to say, I did very well in that class.

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

Low Steps is my all-time favorite spot on campus, especially when the weather is nice. It is the great meeting place. I remember the first time I sat on the Steps, during Perspectives of Diversity weekend. I spent hours talking and looking over campus with the other students and made lifelong bonds. Low Steps is the best place on campus to hang out, people watch, eat, talk, read and just be.

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

I would take advantage of the study abroad programs. My college bestie, Thu Tuyen To ’05, studied at the University of Sydney the second semester of our junior year and she had such a great experience. I loved looking at the pictures of her adventures in Australia. I love traveling and I wish I had taken the chance to live and study in another country.