2018 Class Day Speakers Announced

2018 Class Day Speakers Announced

April 6, 2018

Sasha Cohen
Justice Betty
Marysol Yoo

Dean Lisa Rosen-Metsch has announced the featured speakers for the Columbia University School of General Studies Class Day ceremony and reception on Monday, May 14.

Class Day, which will take place on Monday, May 14 at 8:30 a.m. on South Lawn of the Morningside Campus, is a special event that celebrates GS graduates, and each one is presented by name to President Bollinger, Dean Rosen-Metsch, and assembled faculty and guests.

Class Day Keynote Speaker | Sasha Cohen '16

This year’s Class Day keynote speaker is School of General Studies alumna Sasha Cohen, an Olympic medalist, U.S. Olympic Committee representative, contributing documentarian, and writer.

After several years as a gymnast, Sasha made the switch to skating at the age of 7, and began training seriously at age 11. In 2001, Sasha suffered a broken back, but against all odds, recovered quickly and qualified for the 2002 Olympics, where she placed fourth. She received a gold medal in the 2006 U.S. Figure Skating Championships, and took home the silver medal at the Olympics that same year. In addition, she is a three-time World Championship medalist, the 2003 Grand Prix Final Champion, and placed among the top three in 20 consecutive competitions since 2003.

In 2002 she performed at the Golden Jubilee of Elizabeth II to celebrate the Queen of England’s 50-year reign. Sasha took a four-year break after the 2006 Olympics to pursue other opportunities, including skating tours, modeling and acting. During her competitive hiatus, Sasha studied for a semester with the intensive Moscow Art Theater at Harvard University and guest starred in Project Runway, Hell’s Kitchen, Las Vegas, CSI New York, Blades of Glory, and Moondance Alexander. Following her competitive career Sasha worked as an “Inside Edition” correspondent at the Academy Awards, an Olympic Analyst for “Good Morning America” and Yahoo Sports, and a speaker at Columbia University's TEDx conference.

Sasha enrolled at GS in 2011. During her time as a student, Sasha continued to tour and perform with Stars On Ice and completed a summer internship with Morgan Stanley. Outside of her studies, Sasha supported Figure Skating in Harlem, a nonprofit organization that aims to empower girls of color through education and access to the artistic discipline of figure skating, and Robin Hood, an organization dedicated to fighting poverty in New York City. Sasha graduated magna cum laude in 2016 with a degree in political science.

Sasha continued to pursue her interest in media after graduation as a News Associate at 60 Minutes and as Head of Content at Zig.

Currently, Sasha works as a disruptive change analyst for Morgan Stanley, speaks for the US Olympic Committee, and volunteers with several charitable organizations. She also continues to write, with pieces published inSports Illustrated and the New York Times, including an op-ed about the challenge of adjusting to, and finding meaning in, post-Olympic life. In 2016, Sasha was inducted into the U.S. Figure Skating Hall of Fame.

Class of 2018 Valedictorian | Justice Betty

The valedictorian of the Class of 2018 is Justice Betty. Born and raised in Toronto, Canada, Justice knew from the age of four that she wanted to run for political office in her home country, and in the ensuing years pursued volunteer positions at varying levels of government on more than a dozen political campaigns, spoke at political conventions, and founded a civic entrepreneurship startup—the Political Youth Network. She represented Canada in the World Individual Debating and Public Speaking Championship in 2012 and 2014, when she was named one of the top 20 best high school public speakers in the world. Her interest in politics is driven by a fundamental commitment to improving the daily lives of individuals in the areas that affect them most: access to education, healthcare, and employment.

At age 17, Justice was admitted to the Dual BA Program Between Columbia University and Sciences Po, and moved to France in the fall of 2014. She served as vice president of the Columbia Organization of Rising Entrepreneurs, the student representative on the Columbia Alumni Association 2023 Task Force, a volunteer coach for Youth for Debate in New York City public schools, a GS Tour Guide and Ambassador, a Columbia representative to the United Nations Youth Forum, and an organizer for Columbia’s first women’s conference, She Opened the Door. In addition, Justice has remained active in Canadian politics during her time as a student in the Program, frequently traveling between New York, Toronto, and Ottawa to speak about youth engagement and female representation in government.

A member of the GS Honor Society, Justice has been named to the Dean’s list every semester, is a member of Pi Sigma Alpha, the national political science honor society, and is a recipient of the Dean’s Scholarship. She graduates with two bachelor's degrees: one in social sciences from Sciences Po, and one in political science from Columbia. After graduation, Justice will return to Toronto to join McKinsey & Company.

Class of 2018 Salutatorian | Marysol Yoo

The salutatorian for the Class of 2018 is Marysol Yoo. After graduating from high school in New Jersey, Marysol moved to Texas to attend the University of Texas at Austin. Due to a combination of financial issues, depression, and anxiety, she dropped out in the spring semester of her first year and began working in construction and landscaping full time, while taking night courses part time at Austin Community College.

In 2016, Marysol moved to New York City and enrolled at GS, where she found a purpose for her studies and life. With deeper insight into psychology and the importance of seeking knowledge on human behavior—gained while working with Professor Nim Tottenham in her Developmental Affective Neuroscience Lab—and a background as a fitness enthusiast, she went on to found My 1 Body 1 Life, a nonprofit whose mission is to emphasize the interconnectedness and importance of mental and physical health while making holistic health accessible to all.

During her time at GS, Marysol has performed research, run campaigns, and managed social media marketing for The Human Network, a non-profit organization designed to connect entrepreneurs and thought leaders with mentors and corporate investors to seamlessly integrate volunteering into people's everyday lives. She has also served as a fitness instructor for the Trans Wellness Initiative, an organization that provides a safe, comfortable, and private environment for the transgender community to exercise and be physically active.

Marysol was named to the Dean’s List in each of her semesters at GS, and was inducted into both the GS Honor Society and Columbia University Psi Chi Honor Society. She was also awarded the Clayton A. Blaylock Scholarship and was chosen as a Gilman Scholar. Looking to the future, Marysol's chief aim, before eventually attending business school, is to empower people by providing them with resources and inspiration to take control of their own health and lifestyle through her non-profit.

Baccalaureate Service | GS Speaker

GS student Mary Reilly will speak at the Baccalaureate Service, which will take place on Sunday, May 13 at 10 a.m. in St. Paul’s Chapel.

For more on graduation activities and ceremonies, as well as a graduation checklist, please see the Graduation section of the GS website, a comprehensive source of information for questions about academic regalia, guest lodging, and much more.