Magazine Preview: Sean Udell, Campus Character

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The November issue of The Blue & White will be arriving on campus soon.  In the mean time, we’ll be trickling out the issue on Bwog. You might not know the following figure—but you should. In Campus Characters, The Blue & White introduces you to a handful of Columbians who are up to interesting and extraordinary things and whose stories beg to be shared. If you’d like to suggest a Campus Character, send us an email at

If you’ve ever received an e-mail from Sean Manning Udell, you’ve only seen a fraction of his ebullient personality. Take, for instance, the salutation of his first class-wide e-mail as senior class president — “Oh hay big SEEEENIOOOOOORRRRSSSSSS of Twenty Eleven” — or even just the subject line — “2 FREE PARTIES – GET THOSE PARTY HATS ON!” Although Udell admits that administrators would like him to, “tone down my emails because it seemed to suggest too much unsafe exuberance,” his capitalized cheer and long elisions are, to him, an integral part of his goals for the year: “To make Columbia a good community; a good place to have fond memories of.”

This gregarious showmanship, however, is not self-serving. His emails are not just ploys to get seniors to attends events, but rather extensions of his perpetually caps-locked personality. “It’s not a façade,” says friend and senior class vice president Alexandra Coromilas. “He always has this enthusiasm and this great attitude and it really doesn’t waver when he’s hanging out with his friends.”

Udell epitomizes gay pride. “In my life I’ve tried to be as loudly out there as possible,” Udell says. But the clash between his sexual identity and his on-campus persona has sometimes produced problems. “You do run the risk,” Udell says, “of being a one issue person, and people then just assume that everything you do is for your own self interest and for LGBT interest and I’ve really tried to separate the two worlds.”

Udell’s dual roles merge in the campaign for gender neutral housing, an initiative he spearheads as both senior class president and president of the Columbia Queer Alliance. Udell took up the issue because he recognized a flaw in the university housing system. “I wanted to live with members of the opposite sex and the policy wouldn’t allow for that,” he says. Implementation of a gender-neutral housing policy was put off by the Columbia administration last semester, news that Udell found devastating. “We didn’t really know how to respond because we had gotten so many people excited about it.” Udell is bouncing back this year with a new proposal, crafted in conjunction with housing officials. This revised plan will introduce a gender neutral pilot program to six upper-class buildings. Though Udell hopes it will assuage all parties, he admits, “it’s not perfect.”

When things don’t go his way, Udell does not admit defeat, per se, but rather reverts to Spanish curses and catchphrases he picked up from a former babysitter he had growing up in Florida. Ali Krimmer, CC ‘11, a friend from Carman 9 and current suitemate, delights in the confused stares the lanky Udell and his Spanish outbursts elicit from onlookers. “He doesn’t take himself too seriously,” Krimmer laughs. Even projects like the campaign to secure Barack Obama as Class Day speaker cannot escape his multiple exclamation points and pep. His e-mail informing seniors of the initiative asked students to “do your part! Ask not what Columbia can do for you, but what you can do for Columbia. FOR SERIOUS Y’ALL!”

This enthusiasm should serve him well in his post-graduation plans — he hopes to work as a kindergarten teacher with either the New Orleans or Denver Corps of Teach for America. His friends are optimistic about his success. “No matter what he’s doing, he puts his entire self into it,” Coromilas says.

Chris Brennan
Illustration by  Eloise Owens

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  1. ahhhh!!!!  

    why is there so much hair all over his face?!?!


    absolutely awesome & wonderful guy & smart as a whip. a huge credit to the school

    though blue&white, you need to reconsider your illustration concepts

  3. Well,

    he also has some scruffy facial hair

  4. The illustration is kind of strange  

    but Sean is amazing! Love him!

  5. umm  

    teach for america i think pays 20k anually. also that is a shitton of hair.

    • Anonymous  

      Why is it relevant now much TFA pays per year? (also, they pay 30-50k a year, it depends on what the standard pay is where you get placed) I think it's even more awesome that he is so committed to a cause like that, that he's willing to get paid so little for it.

      Also, this makes him look blond. It's weird.

      • umm  

        how are you going to support yourself on 30k a year? you do realize we are paying about 200k for our bachelors degree right? can you calculate the ROI on that or is your major too qualitative? get a clue man

        • Anonymous  

          As someone going into a finance job next year, just... shut up. You make the rest of us look bad.

        • silly  

          well if you're calculating your ROI based purely on monetary returns, that's just silly. it fails to consider the other types of gain that, though far more difficult to quantify, are often worth what you would perceive as the value of the gap in investment and returns in pure dollar values.
          also, really? how are you going to support yourself on 30k a year? many many many people in this nation do it-it's not easy, but it's something that people do. you should try it. otherwise questioning the feasibility of it just undermines anything you might say with regards to the status, practices, mindsets, values, etc. of a broad set of American consumers
          or is your major just to snobby to recognize non-monetary capital, soft variables, the things that actually matter in standard human equations and decisions; is your major too preoccupied making snooty jabs at other majors your consider too qualitative?

    • TFA  

      pays more than 20k a year. in nyc it's ~44k, although it is probably less in denver where sean is going

  6. With a pic like that  

    He should be Sean AROOOOOOOOOOOdell.

  7. CC'11  

    whoa, that is a terrible illustration.

  8. wow  

    i've only met sean once, randomly, and even in that brief moment i was impressed but how warm friendly and smart he was

  9. drawing is painful  

    but not as painful as looking at one like that.

  10. Anonymous  

    it looks like sean has pubes growing on his face. make it stop!

  11. something about  

    the illustration.

  12. really  

    whats with the hairy face picture

  13. Anonymous  

    Sean you're amazing!! :)

  14. sean udell  

    is fantastic!!! He is so committed to making this community stronger, and sets an example for what student leadership should look like.

  15. cc'11  

    Seriously, most of these comments are so irrelevant. Who cares how much TFA pays!?? Sean demonstrates passion and engagement and that is all that really matters. Congratulations to him for everything he's done, everything he is doing and surely...everything he WILL do. It was an honor getting to know him, and we need more of him at this school!!!!!

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