Columbia Connects


Ra Reyes (GS 2002) and Josie Little (CC 2018).

At Chicago Midway Airport after competing at Nike Nationals 2014.

As the youngest in my family, I had the good fortune to be given an education. I was born in Mali, West Africa, into a very poor family where women have limited privileges. I was seven years old when my mother passed away and I was lucky enough to be raised by my grandmother in Senegal, West Africa. As the youngest girl of seven children, my grandmother was very determined to give me a good education, which was never granted to any of my brothers and sisters.  She believed that by sending me to school, her unfulfilled dreams, would in a way, come true. She had a strong faith in my unrealized strengths and abilities. I completed my elementary education in Senegal, and at the age of fourteen, I was sent to live with my aunt in France. There was where I continued my schooling and my dream today, is to become a social work and work with immigrants and refugees. I came to this country almost six years ago with that hope burning in my heart.

 My name is Safiatou Coulibaly and I received my Master of Science in Social Work; with concentration in Advanced Generalist Practice and Programming (AGPP) and a field of practice in International Social Welfare for Immigrants and Refugees with a minor in Law. 

Coming to Columbia was one of the most important actions that I have taken because of my background and financial restriction. However, being a young African female, coming to Columbia creates limitless professional opportunities. Columbia gave me the opportunity to grow emotionally and socially, therefore, helped me think differently. I believe that even in this age of digital communication and individual learning, we still need people to help us, challenge us, and guide us, and that is what Columbia did for me. The people I met there were people I would NEVER come across - not even in industry networking. In Columbia, I had such a wide range of experiences that I truly believed I was learning something new every single day.

Columbia is the perfect school for any student that has an interest in diversity. I have came to so many different types of people, and they all had their own unique interests and talents, and it was great to see how we could all come together in one classroom. I am grateful for having teachers who were passionate about the learning and knowledge of their students. There is nothing better than knowing that you are surrounded by people who love to learn and work hard to achieve their goals, because this only helped make my own goals seem more feasible. With my education at Columbia, I felt empowered to envision a better world than the one that confronted me before I went to Columbia. Columbia equipped me with the knowledge, tools, and experiences to make change. Columbia gave me the knowledge and skills to participate in society in a meaningful and productive way. As a citizen of the world, I owe it to every single person I come across, to make a difference because Columbia gave me all I needed.

It sounds crazy, but my favorite memory — and one of the most useful pieces of advice I’ve ever gotten — came in a Corporate Finance class at Columbia Law School with the late Prof. Louis Lowenstein.  It was a throwaway line but it stuck:  ”It never hurts to have lunch!”  In other words, get to know people…see who they really are…even if you don’t think a deal is immediately forthcoming.  How much more valid is this advice today, when social media and texting have replaced face-to-face visits and even phone calls.  

This advice has been extremely useful as I’ve built a highly successful ghostwriting and co-writing firm,  By “having lunch” or just simply getting to know people, I’ve developed friendships and business relationships that have led to referrals and deals I would never have sourced by prospecting, cold calling, advertising, and so on.  My company now does 30-40 books a year for business people, financial advisors, attorneys, and others who need a book as a marketing tool.

So I would pass along that simple advice to any person trying to build a law practice, a book of business, or just a wonderful life surrounded by fantastic people:  ”It never hurts to have lunch!”

—Michael Levin, Law ‘85

My husband Nathan and I were honored to be among the Alumni guests of the 2014 Columbia University commencement. Why was this so special? Our son Isaac graduated from Columbia College this year!

- Marcia Assor

The School of General Studies in the 1960’s was a feast of different courses in every study imaginable, quite a few of which were wonderfully well conducted by very talented people.  And the variety of folks in the student body was gratifying and stimulating.  

But my most vivid Columbia memory is of several of us sitting on the mid-campus sundial towards twilight, during the Cuban missile crisis in 1962, listening on a transistor radio.                             And watching the sky.

- Sidney Shinedling

Many years ago at Columbia University, ideas began to flourish.

Our Master of Science of Real Estate Development school helped create a footprint across the nation.

I remember flying back to Los Angeles with the knowledge I gained in Manhattan.

Before I knew it, the Candelabra Group was founded.

Thank G-d there have been many accomplishments and G-d willing, many more accomplishments ahead.

Brian Tabaroki, CEO, Candelabra Group

I ran for School Board in my local community last year, losing by only 11 votes. Pretty amazing, given that I’ve been a journalist in one way or another all my life, before and after J School at Columbia (‘74). Despite my being a “newbie” and forever a “come here” in my small rural community, folks appreciated my disciplined research into and articulation of the main issues in that election. I remember my highly disciplined training at the J School, for it has served me well all my life, in all aspects of my life. It taught me, first, as a reporter on the street, to listen, and not just to those “in power.” It trained me to give voices to those who thought they had none. It taught me to do far more research than I could ever fit into a set-length story by deadline, but the richness of which was reflected in that story nonetheless. I entered Columbia at a time when few women were anywhere near the top in journalism. Today, we have many fine women at the top, including ‘74’s own Susan Page. And that is in part thanks not only to those women but to the J School’s courage, back then, to accept more qualified women into the School. I cherish every moment I spent at the J School, on the Columbia campus, and in New York City in general. All those experiential times have served me well throughout my personal and professional life. Live long, Columbia ! Continue educating those who would give hope and courage to the world. 

Kit Johnston 

I went to Columbia for an M.F.A. in Creative Writing, specifically poetry, in the early 80s.  New York was vital and dangerous—great for poetry.  The faculty gathered uptown by Daniel Halpern, the director of the program, was stellar, drawing Nobel laureates and other world class writers week after week—Joseph Brodsky, Italo Calvino, Jorge Luis Borges, Derek Walcott, just to name a few.  I was a California boy recently transplanted, living in Hoboken, bartending, and taking Path Trains, then the IRT uptown to bask in the light of the world’s greatest intellects.  I was able to develop rapidly as a writer, in both short line and long line (I tried desperately to muscle into stylistic company with C.K. Williams, who came to teach us as well). Managed to get appointed Poetry Editor of Columbia: A Magazine of Poetry and Prose my second year there.  Thrilling.  Those two years were perhaps the best of my life.  There are many reasons why, but to keep this short, I’ll simply say, hats off to Columbia, to Dan Halpern, and to the energy of New York City.  Thanks. 

Eliot Anthony Schain

Brian and I met freshman year at CU 1999, we never dated, but sophomore year, I did crawl through his 47 Claremont window and up the fire escape to my room when I would lock myself out of my suite (The boys always left theirs open).  We lost track of each other after college until Brian showed up after a stint in the peace corps as the best man in the wedding of our respective sophomore year roommates Joe McGinn and Trish Kern.  Kristin didn’t give it another thought until he then showed up again in Philadelphia, where I was living, to attend medical school.  The McGinns (also in Philly) and Kristin hung out regularly, and Brian began to hang around and before we knew it we were at our 10 year reunion (see photo) just one week before we got Married! June 8, 2013!  Go Lions! - Kristin Connors Kaderli and Brian Kaderli CC 2003

As a boy, Wen C. used to walk thru fields of overgrown high sugar cane and on miles of pathways that would get flooded, just to get to high school in Taiwan. No running water or sewer existed in his family’s extremely poor farm village, where he and his brothers maneuvered water buffaloes thru rice paddies – his farming mom’s workplace. 

In 1963, Wen C. and Po-Ying C. – both fresh immigrants from Taiwan – married in NYC and lived behind Butler Library (now “frat row”) in low affordable housing. He pursued his civil engineering doctoral studies at Columbia, and I was born in 1966 at St. Luke’s Hospital – behind Columbia on Amsterdam Ave. – as a result of my parents’ love story. Back then, times were tumultuous…The civil rights protests were prevalent. My Dad had limited income as a teaching assistant, yet he still sent money home to his parents… In 1968, Wen C. earned his PhD at Columbia. Twenty years later, I earned my Columbia civil engineering bachelor’s degree when female engineering students were exceptionally rare, and Columbia College had just turned co-ed.

My architect Mom died after my Columbia freshman year, but her enduring love and support for my Dad helped him become the pioneering engineer, land surveyor, general contractor, entrepreneur and real estate developer who has designed drainage, roads as well as water and sewer lines – amenities he never grew up with – for numerous subdivisions, office buildings and shopping centers throughout Sarasota County, Florida and even built numerous houses and condominiums for retirees. I am grateful for their love story at Columbia, their Columbia pride and their love for buildings, which have resulted in my being an active Columbia alumna for 25+ years and becoming a construction consulting engineer with a heart… - Lee-En C., ‘88SEAS