More than 700 incoming GS undergraduate and Postbac Premed students, along with GS staff and Orientation Leaders, convened on the steps of Low Library to kick off the fall semester at the New Student Welcome and begin the week-long New Student Orientation Program (NSOP). NSOP is designed to introduce new students to campus, provide an overview of University policies, and facilitate socializing in small groups.
Dean Lisa Rosen-Metsch opened the ceremony by welcoming new students, as well as their family and friends, before recognizing two special guests, Dr. Maya Tolstoy, Interim Executive Vice President and Dean of the Faculty of Arts of Sciences, and University President Lee C. Bollinger, who addressed guests.
“Here you will encounter faculty in discipline after discipline, field after field, who are the leading experts. Not only will they introduce you to their specialty better than anyone else can, but they will also be able to do something that very, very few people can, which is to bring you to the edge of our knowledge—where it ends and our ignorance begins. The best education is one that prepares you for your own venture into the unknown,” President Bollinger said.
Dean Rosen-Metsch spoke next, emphasizing the unique qualities of GS and its student body, and how GS contributes to the larger University community.
“The Columbia undergraduate classroom is unlike that of any other Ivy League university because of you and what you bring to the intellectual discourse on campus. Our students prove time and time again that the classroom is far more engaging with GS students, when your diversity of life and academic experiences are brought together with students from traditional backgrounds to benefit and engage one another intellectually and socially in creative ways,” Dean Rosen-Metsch said.
Acting Dean of Students Ivonne Rojas later led a GS Orientation tradition by asking members of the audience to rise as she described different categories of students beginning their studies at Columbia, including the 80 students having served in the U.S. military, 184 international students from 35 foreign countries, to being a parent, working full-time, or being a native New Yorker. In addition, she acknowledged the 135 students belonging to one of the School’s innovative joint- and dual-degree programs—with Sciences Po, Trinity College Dublin, City University of Hong Kong, or List College of the Jewish Theological Seminary—who are beginning their studies at Columbia.
Each of these identities—and several students belong to more than one—emphasize the broad definition of diversity at the School of General Studies. The array of experiences among GS students contributes invaluably to the undergraduate experience at Columbia University, as acknowledged by faculty, administrators, and students alike.
Catherine Jennings, Vice President of Communications for the Premedical Association, also offered a bit of wisdom to incoming Postbac Premed students.
"Keep persisting through the inevitable setbacks. And most importantly, as has been mentioned a couple of times, and therefore is obviously true—believe in your abilities, the same way Columbia believed in you when they invited you to become a member of this exceptional community," Jennings said.
Incoming students also heard from Raisa Flor, General Studies Student Council President, Jacquie Viggiano, GS NSOP Student Chair, and Sarah Haiken, List College Student Council President. All described the supportive community at GS, extending a warm welcome to new students.
The School of General Studies New Student Welcome highlighted the diversity of students and their experiences, and celebrated the beginning of their journey as undergraduate students at Columbia University. Throughout the week, students attended social mixers, workshops about campus resources and academic practices at Columbia, and outings throughout New York City.