Alumni Celebrate their Stories at Reunion 2014

Alumni Celebrate their Stories at Reunion 2014

Alumni Celebrate their Stories at Reunion 2014

June 11, 2014

Dean Awn and alumni at Reunion 2014
Alumni created hastags describing their GS experience and posted them.
Elizabeth Hollister '07 Reunion Chair
Gergana Pancheva '12
Mason Beard '04
Christopher Riano '07 and Elizabeth Hollister '07
“What’s the fun of being traditional?” asked Gergana Pancheva ’12 when she addressed more than 100 alumni and guests on Saturday, May 31 during the 2014 Alumni Reunion Cocktail Reception and Dinner. “I want to break the rules,” she said, as she described her journey from being a non-English-speaking Bulgarian immigrant to a Columbia GS graduate and now Vice President at a private equity placement group. Gergana’s journey was one of many stories highlighted at this year’s all-class Reunion held Friday, May 30 through Sunday, June 1 on the Morningside Campus.
 
Throughout the weekend, Reunion Chair Elizabeth Hollister ’07 encouraged the more than 240 alumni from graduating classes spanning from 1948 to 2014 to, like Gergana, share their stories by creating hashtag phrases that described their GS experiences. Hashtag-phrases such as #Rebirth, #AlwaysWelcome, and #GSsavedMyLife demonstrated the diversity of the GS alumni community, as well as a common thread—that their nontraditional paths converged at GS, where they sought a world-class education that would transform their lives.
 
Transformation was another powerful theme of the weekend, as Dean Awn and leadership of the Recent Alumni Leadership Committee (RALC) rolled out the new General Studies Alumni Association (GSAA). During his remarks at the Dinner, Dean Awn introduced the nascent organization as a way to strengthen GS’s alumni and student community and fundraising efforts. Furthermore, GSAA co-chairs Mason Beard ’04 and Christopher Riano ’07 invited attendees to “continue their GS stories and get involved.”
 
Saturday’s dinner was just one highlight of a reunion that was packed with lectures, discussions, and social events. Another was Saturday morning’s Talks Across Campus when Pulitzer Prize-winning author Anna Quindlen ’74BC led a session garnering much discussion by attendees who reported feeling “fired up” by the lecture that addressed how much progress women have made in American society over the past 50 years. At another talk, DeWitt Clinton Professor of History Eric Foner ’63CC, ’69GSAS discussed “The Emancipation of Abraham Lincoln,” a topic that captured the interest of many history buffs. 
 
At the Dean’s Luncheon, more than 85 alumni gathered at Faculty House’s Skyline Ballroom to socialize and learn about the state of the School of General Studies. Dean Awn thanked members of the Recent Alumni Committee for their commitment and tireless work for GS. He recounted the successes GS has had in recent years raising funds for student scholarships, and he laid out his vision for building upon the school’s strides toward offering a world-class education to all deserving nontraditional students. He also discussed issues that have recently been in national news: the call to warn students about triggering content in the classroom and the discourse on sexual assault and misconduct on college campuses, and importantly, steps Columbia is taking to address them. 
 
The afternoon’s Mini-Core Courses featured classes such as Contemporary Civilization: Is It Right to “Nudge?” with humanities professor Patricia Kitcher and Frontiers of Science: Saving the Forest for the Trees led by Don Melnick, professor of conservation biology. 
 
More than thirty alumni attended the GS-sponsored veterans reception where alumni leader Richie Space ’05 and Dean Awn celebrated the 71 veterans that graduated from GS in May 2014 and that the University has raised close to $370,000 from a campaign that will support the student-veteran community for years to come.  
 
A favorite event for many attendees was the nighttime Starlight Reception and Dance. The weather was perfect, and alumni and guests from every Columbia generation enjoyed an all-school gathering on the Plaza with Low Library lit in blue flood lights and Butler Library glowing over South Lawn.