New students seek – and find – connection at Convocation – The Columbia Chronicle

Dancing ensues as DJ beats fill the air at Columbia Convocation in Grant Park on Friday, Sep 1, 2023. Live bands, freebies, food and more are all found at the annual event.

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Moth Bradley, a first-year social media and digital strategy major, walked through the crowds of students at Convocation and was excited by the scene of students dancing, mingling, snacking and visiting different booths. 

“I’m from Montana,” Bradley said. “It’s so non inclusive there, so when I came here I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, it’s my people’,” Bradley said. “I’ve been walking up to people and can’t stop making friends. It’s amazing. I feel like I’m in another world right now.”

Grant Park bustled with activity during the annual celebration of the upcoming school year, with new students getting a glimpse of the college’s clubs and services at 70 different booths. 

The event on Friday, Sept. 1, kicked off with a welcome from the Student Government Association and a pep talk from Kwang-Wu Kim, president and chief executive of Columbia College.

Kim told the crowd he had to get into a “Columbia frame of mind” and traded his glasses for green-rimmed shades.

“We know we live in a world where time after time, individuals are experiencing discrimination, are being excluded. Probably most of us, including me, have felt that directly. So keep in mind these three words,” Kim said. “Not. At. Columbia.” 

“My goal for my speech and just today, in general, was to convince incoming freshmen to join a student organization,” SGA President Tyler Harding said. “Joining a student organization will help you find community on campus; my advice for anybody would be to get involved,’ the junior film major added.

Jauryn Franklin, a junior cinema and television major, attended Convocation to help with the booth for WCRX, the student-run radio station. She had not attended Convocation since her first year at Columbia. 

“It’s very interactive. It’s a lot of people, so you’re bound to make some friends or meet new people,” Franklin said. “It’s very welcoming, very positive.”



Third year music business major Hunter Meisel (left), Second year arts management major Jasara Goldsborough (middle), and second year film major Syvanah Torres speak to students about the Student Programming Board at Convocation on Friday, Sep. 1, 2023.

A variety of clubs, student services and sports teams were represented at Convocation, with each group occupying their own booth in a grassy area near the main stage.

Senior film and television major Brianna Ramirez is the president of Body Haven, a student group focused on body positivity and fat liberation. Ramirez was one of the group’s founding members during her first year at Columbia.

“We do photoshoots, we have book recommendations, song recommendations, we have an annual fashion show in the spring, mostly just reclaiming spaces.”

Ramirez said that Body Haven hopes new students that visit them at Convocation “feel comfortable to wear whatever they want and just be comfortable in their own skin.”

Students from the Muslim Student Association also welcomed first-years. Sarah Hasany, a sophomore fashion studies major and journalism minor, was excited to meet new students and hopes the organization, which traditionally had a small number of members at Columbia, grows their membership. 

This year, they are planning several events, including a World Hijab Day Booth and an Iftar potluck.

Club president Sumana Syed, a senior film major with a minor in voiceover, is intent on reaching out to all students.

“We are open to non-Muslims joining as well; whether you are a practicing Muslim, you grew up in the culture or you are spiritual, wherever you fall on the spectrum, everyone is welcome,” she said.

Black Student Union president Karington Cox emphasized the importance of the club at a predominantly white institution like Columbia. “I think that having a space cultivated for our people, a space where we are allowed to connect, to create, and collaborate is very important on campus,” said Cox. 

BSU hosts an annual party, the Blackout, and productions such as Paint It Black.

“I want to make sure everybody has an equal opportunity to showcase their talents and showcase what they can do,” said Cox. 

Along the western edge of Grant Park during the Columbia Convocation festivities, the Columbia Services for Students with Disabilities table was open for business and ready to give information regarding their office and what they do.

Senior creative writing major Chloe Meltzer, who works at the disability office, represented the group at Convocation. “I am personally disabled,” she said. “I feel it has been really rewarding to help disabled people and also see myself represented at this school.”

Syvanah Torres, a sophomore film major and communication director for the Student Programming Board, said the group is focused on bringing in more members and making the program more known on campus.  “We would like to have more involvement and a better retention rate,” Torres said. 

In addition to putting on events such as Big Mouth and the annual Halloween drag show, SPB organized the live music performances for Convocation, including rap duo Social Introverts, pop-rock band Disco Lemonade, and Manifest Song Contest winner Tanya Guerro. There were also DJ sets from DJ Ayu, The Prophitt, J. Holmes, and Proxoxie.



Columbia student and musician, PROXOXIE, kicks off the sounds at Columbia Convocation while DJing in Grant Park on Friday, Sep 1, 2023. Following their set, Columbia

Transfer student Nah Young, a film and television major, and first-year Trinity Veal, a music business major, ventured through their first Convocation together. They took their time to explore clubs, appreciate the artists on stage, and connect with other students.

“I came from a really small private art college so I really want to get myself out there more and meet more people,” said Young.  Veal said this year, they’re looking forward to, “getting myself out there, getting my music out there, and just having fun –  but also studying hard.”

With additional reporting from Senior Staff Reporters Cierra Lemott and Robin Sluzas, and Staff Reporters Miranda Bucio, Jordan Dawson, Uriel Reyes, Sydney Richardson, Vivian Richey, and Allison Shelton.

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