GS Celebrates the Class of 2020 at Class Day Ceremony
The School of General Studies celebrated the Class of 2020 on Monday, May 18 at GS Class Day via a pre-recorded virtual ceremony. The ninth Dean of the School of General Studies Lisa Rosen-Metsch welcomed more than 1,800 guests, who joined faculty and administrators in recognizing the accomplishments of the 683 members of the graduating class, 133 of whom were enrolled in GS's dual or joint degree programs, and 116 of whom are U.S. military veterans, more than all other Ivy League university graduates combined.
Dean Rosen-Metsch began the ceremony by welcoming University President Lee C. Bollinger, keynote speaker Michael Novak '09, and distinguished faculty and guests.
President Bollinger spoke next, expressing gratitude for the GS student body and emphasizing the value of the rich life experiences they bring to the Columbia undergraduate classroom.
“No matter what the surrounding circumstances are in this fraught present moment, the undeniable and unassailable fact is that you have reached a critical milestone in life. Your extraordinary efforts and talents have led you to this achievement,” President Bollinger said.
I share my story with you to let you know that your GS education doesn’t end today.
Dean Rosen-Metsch next welcomed keynote speaker Michael Novak '09, Artistic Director of the Paul Taylor Dance Foundation. In 2018, he became only the second person to hold this position in the history of the Foundation, having been appointed to the role by Founding Artistic Director Paul Taylor prior to his death. Michael has been a critically-acclaimed member of the Paul Taylor Dance Company since 2010, having performed 56 roles in 50 dances of its ever-expanding repertoire in 130 cities in 17 countries.
Novak described his duality of being an artist and an academic while struggling to fulfill his dream as a professional dancer.
"When I came to Columbia School of General Studies in 2005, I was 23 years old and, frankly, rather lost. My dream to have a professional dance career had - essentially - failed. Malnutrition, over-work, low-pay, and chronic injuries left my artistic spirit and my drive to persevere broken."
Novak went on to detail the transformative experience he had while at GS, and how he found a passion for dance history as well as bringing people together through art. Through perseverance and dedication, Novak worked his way up the ranks at the Paul Taylor Dance Company to be appointed the Artistic Director.
"I share my story with you to let you know that your GS education doesn’t end today. Because in whatever you do - the political policies you create; the philosophical treatises you write; the communities you build; the scientific theories you develop; the students you teach; or the country you fight to protect; whether you are 19 or 71 - your education, your networks, and your experiences at the Columbia School of General Studies are the tools you have to build your future."
You embody in a spectacular way the mission and vision of GS and Columbia.
The graduating class heard remarks from Dean of Students, Marlyn Delva, "...What I have come to know is that this is a class full of determination; a class built on trust and relationships; a class that has lived through great and challenging moments and one that is ready for the next steps of your future. ...I ask that you keep your heads held high; focus on the goals you set forth for yourselves but open to the opportunities that await you – and most of all remain hopeful, that the future you desire is in sight and will be at hand sooner than you know."
Dean Rosen-Metsch went on to introduce the GS Class of 2020 Valedictorian, Sungtae Yoon, and Salutatorian, Alison (Ali) Block. The Dean then announced the Campbell Award recipient — Rachel Ballew, and the Alumni Key Award recipient — Jessica Krejcie.
Dean Rosen-Metsch closed the virtual ceremony by addressing the graduates, "Congratulations to the graduates of the class of 2020. You will always hold a special place in my heart. Some of you started your Columbia journey at the same time that I started as Dean. We have weathered great adversity together and I have been so proud to witness your resilience and grit in the most difficult moments. I am honored to be your Dean now and for years to come as you join our strong alumni community. You embody in a spectacular way the mission and vision of GS and Columbia."
The School of General Studies is committed to plans for a future in-person Class Day when it is safe to do so.