New Grad Notes 2011

New Grad Notes 2011

At twenty-five years old, Kokou Akpoto '11 immigrated to the United States from Lome, Togo, and two years later he enrolled at Bronx Community College. While enrolled, Akpoto won a National Science Foundation scholarship and was named 2007 Outstanding Student of the Year. He was an honors student while he completed his associate's degree in mathematics. Akpoto was awarded with a Program for Academic Leadership and Service (PALS) scholarship. At GS, he participated as a Community Impact volunteer, tutoring GED students in mathematics while keeping a full time job as a yellow cab driver at night. Akpoto secured an internship with Forex Signs Inc. following graduation and is currently pursuing a career as a financial analyst on Wall Street.

Cassia Burke '11 is a former professional ballet dancer. Following her time with Miami City Ballet, Burke began volunteering with Children of Uganda where she taught English, music, dance and bible studies. She is also currently the NYC coordinator for the 2012 Children of Uganda Tour of Light, is a performance tour that brings talented performers from Uganda to the United States to raise money and awareness to support their programs. While at GS, Burke contributed her time as an Engineers Without Borders Uganda chapter member. In addition, she was a Ballet Collaborative founding member and was a part of their first performance at Miller Theatre in 2009. Following graduation, Burke, a French and Francophone Studies major, is moving to Seattle with her husband where she hopes to enroll at the University of Washington to get a degree in Teaching English as a Second Language.

Anupam Mohanty '11 immigrated to New York City from India when he was 14 years old. Mohanty enrolled in a variety of schools including SUNY Albany, City College of New York, University of Arizona, Columbia SEAS, and the Columbia School of Continuing Education before attending GS. A series of financial, family, and health problems prevented Mohanty from completing his undergraduate degree, but he was still highly motivated. While enrolled at City College, Mohanty was hired for a position with the Columbia University Computer Science Department as a systems engineer and later on as a systems engineer for Columbia University Information Technology (CUIT), all while enrolled in GS. He has served as a GS Orientation Leader, an editorial board member for the Columbia University Journal for South Asian Studies, and mentor for Project Rousseau. Mohanty plans to continue his position with CUIT and eventually apply to graduate school for South Asian studies.

As a man who has always pushed himself into intense situations, John McClelland '11 is a former special operations forces combat medic with the U.S. Army's 1st Ranger Battalion. His enrollment at GS did not stop his intense engagement with military and veteran affairs. Since his enrollment, McClelland was the top cadet in the Ram Battalion U.S. Army ROTC and vice president and president of the U.S. Military Veterans of Columbia University Student Organization. He also lobbied on Capitol Hill for the Post-9/ 11 GI Bill® and the Yellow Ribbon Program education benefits. He strongly believes that exposure to the veteran experience is one strength that benefits the Columbia community. After graduation, McClelland began working as a business analyst for McKinsey & Company while also serving with the Rhode Island National Guard. He plans to finish writing a novel based on his experience in Afghanistan.

Barbara Robey LS '68, SCE '82, '11 has a passion for education that is evident through the string of educational degrees after her name. After attending Smith College in Massachusetts, Robey settled down as a wife and mother and put her interest for the field of medicine on hold. Later, Robey, not able to stay away from her love of learning, attended the Columbia University School of Library Service where she earned an MLS and was elected to Beta Phi Mu. She then worked with American Book Prices Current as an Editor and Consultant in Bibliography. Following the passing of her husband, Robey attended the Columbia School of Continuing Education for computer programming in pursuit of attaining a job that was more financially promising. After graduating SCE, Robey was hired by Columbia as the manager of administrative information systems and kept the position for over twenty years. At GS, Robey majored in Biological/Physical Anthropology where she nourished the passion for living organisms she developed early on in her educational journey.

Elliot Shackelford '11 graduated GS as salutatorian. He is also an accomplished pianist and has given more than 2,500 concerts to more than half a million people nationwide, including 19 performances at the White House. While a student at GS, Shackelford served on the School of General Studies Committee on Instruction, representing the academic interests of GS students; served as a GS tour guide; and served on the General Studies Student Council as vice president of policy. A political science major, he was also active in the Columbia University International Relations Forum and the Political Science Students Association. Shackelford was named to the GS Honor Society and is a recipient of the GS Dean's Scholarship and the Arthur T Ross Foundation Scholarship. He was also inducted into the Phi Beta Kappa honor society. After graduation, he enrolled at University of California-Berkeley School of Law.

After a career as a stylist in one of Newport Beach, California's top hair salons, Michael Tran '11, a first-generation college student, was accepted to the honors program at Fullerton College in California. While enrolled at GS, Tran was a sociology major and a part of the Program for Academic Leadership and Service (PALS), which provided him with a full scholarship. He was also a member of the men's water polo team, a GS Orientation Leader, a New Student Orientation Coordinator and a Community Impact GED tutor. Tran is currently working at California State University, Long Beach as a program coordinator for the Jensen Student Access to Math and Science Center.

Sara Ziff '11 has made education a top priority following her high profile career as a supermodel. Ziff has been the face of Stella McCartney and has walked the runway for numerous high-end designers. In 2006, Ziff enrolled at GS as a political science major where she became interested in labor movements and community organizing, both of which helped reframe her view of the modeling industry. She combined her interest in labor movements and modeling by co-directing the award-winning documentary film "Picture Me," which takes a behind-the-scenes look at the modeling industry. This achievement also led her to begin work on the formation of a trade organization for models. Partnering with the Fashion Law Institute at Fordham University School of Law she helped form the Model Alliance, a nonprofit organization that strives to establish basic rights and improve working conditions for models. Ziff continues to develop the Model Alliance while still modeling. She is also interested in graduate or law school.

Brian O’Hagan '11 began his studies at the University of Louisville in 1998. After taking a break from school to recover from a family tragedy, O'Hagan moved to New York City to pursue an interest in independent film production, which eventually led him to a position with the Columbia Center for New Media Teaching and Learning (CCNMTL). At CCNMTL, he works with educational technologists to develop interactive educational technologies that enhance the classroom experience at Columbia University. He also rededicated himself to completing his studies at GS, majoring in psychology, and maintaining a full-time course load while continuing to work full time for the University. O'Hagan continues to work with CCNMTL as a senior technical specialist, leading Columbia's iTunes U and YouTube programs.

GI Bill® is a registered trademark of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). More information about education benefits offered by VA is available at the official U.S. government Web site at