Take Five with Lavinel Savu ’94

Lavinel Savu ’94 is a media executive, strategist and consultant with more than 26 years of experience successfully launching, managing and scaling multi-million dollar publishing operations and category-leading consumer magazine brands, including Cosmopolitan and O, The Oprah Magazine. As executive managing editor of InStyle and Real Simple at Meredith Corp., he is the lead editorial financial and operating officer across a multi-platform brand portfolio with a combined global audience of more than 50 million and $100 million in annual revenue. A native New Yorker, Savu earned both a master’s in publishing and an M.B.A. from NYU, where he teaches graduate courses in media management, finance and leadership as an adjunct assistant professor. He lives in Manhattan with his partner, Paul Scolieri ’95, and their three daughters.

What were you like when you arrived at Columbia?

I initially embraced my high school geekiness and dedicated myself 100 percent to studying (and highlighting every other sentence in Plato’s Symposium) until, midway through my first semester, I landed a part-time gig with a photo agency as a celebrity and fashion runway photographer. After that, I started to make new friends, hang out downtown, shop at Patricia Fields, wear Dr. Martens — and quickly found a better balance between being a diligent college student and enjoying NYC living, which I found exhilarating and inspiring.

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

I lived on the first floor of Carman in a huge double that had once been a triple. My roommate dropped out second semester so I become one of those fabled freshmen with a single, which helped make up for the daily 5:45 a.m. wake-up calls from the nearby Ferris Booth Hall trash collection. My room was also directly across the hall from a computer lab that was connected to some secret futuristic network, which ended up going live that summer as the World Wide Web. In hindsight, I was literally living next door to the digital future.

What class do you most remember and why?

Intro to French Lit with Greet Van Belle GSAS’00, which inspired me to become a French major. But it’s most memorable because it was in that class, while discussing Rabelaisian adventures and medieval love poems, that I became fast friends with my now-partner of 25+ years.

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

The monthly LGBT dances at Earl Hall were a fun and low-key local alternative to the downtown clubs and a welcoming spot right on campus to meet friends and make new ones while helping to celebrate individuality and foster diversity. Another favorite spot was Reid Hall, Columbia’s incredibly charming mini-campus in Paris — which was my home away from home during my semester abroad — where speaking English was forbidden and drinking three-plus espressos a day (preferably from the très chic coffee vending machine in the lobby) was obligatory.

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

I loved my time at CC but, if I had to do it all over again, I’d figure out a way not to live in a tiny, noisy, drafty second-floor corner dorm room at 49 Claremont Ave. during sophomore year. And I’d declare a second major in art history.