#general studies
A Wild Flagpole Appears!

Despite the apparent apathy of the general studies students, the GS flagpole went up in front of Lewisohn earlier this week. It’s intended to help integrate general studies students with the rest of the undergraduates…somehow. There’s supposed to be a flag-raising ceremony sometime later this week, according to Spec.

General studies flagpole

The finishing touches

Paying It Forward: Student Debt at GS
Illustrations by Elisa Mirkil

Illustrations by Elisa Mirkil

Another article from the May issue of The Blue and White. Read on forthe final installment of managing editor Anna Bahr’s three-part series on the student debt at Columbia. This last part looks at General Studies. To review the first two pieces, which examine student loans in CC/SEAS and financial aid for international students, please visit theblueandwhite.org.

Just two years ago, Peter Awn, Dean of the School of General Studies, described the limited financial aid available to GS students as “untenable.” That year, GS students received, “percentage-wise, functionally half the financial aid dollars that [were] available to Columbia College students,” a dearth cornering GS undergrads into a future of student debt. Today, GS has surpassed its $25 million fundraising goal as part of the university-wide Campaign for Undergraduate Education—92 percent of which Awn estimates will expand the aid pool in the form of scholarships and grants. With this addition, he believes “the school has turned a corner.”

Awn’s optimism for the future of Columbia’s nontraditional undergraduate college surprised me. Nearly every GS student I interviewed shared a common grievance—the same frustration echoed in opinion pieces in the Spectator and desperate Bwog comments for years—that the value of a Columbia degree is compromised when it demands that scholars be borrowers.

When Hal Levy, GS ’14, graduates, he will owe nearly $160,000 in private student loans. “If I don’t go bankrupt, at the very least I will have no spending money for ten years. I’ll probably be wearing these same ratty clothes, trying to pay off my loans,” he sighed. GS prides itself on being one of a kind—a unique education, nonexistent at other Ivies, in which a diverse collection of nontraditional students earn traditional bachelor’s degrees. But its current program remains a feasible option for only one kind of student: he who can readily afford it. (more…)

Meleagris Gallopavo

Dean Peter Awn sent out this email to all GS students earlier today, subject line: “Meleagris Gallopavo.” (That’s the Wild Turkey, to you plebs) If this (or this) doesn’t get you in the mood for Thanksgiving, we don’t know what will.

Dear Students,

They cluck, they flail, they fold their necks back to catch the rain
and drown—meleagris gallopavo is, in Ben Franklin’s opinion, more
American than the bald eagle.  In its domesticated version, however,
it exhibits a diminished intellectual capacity equaled only by members
of Congress.  Perhaps that is why the bird is so thoroughly American.

Whether you want to or not, you must this festive Thursday consume the
tasteless treat, whose cardboard like texture is renowned around the
globe.  In order for you to steel yourself for this culinary trial,
you will need to dedicate time this evening to meditate, fast, and, if
necessary, flagellate yourself with a drumstick.  May the loving aura
of the Cosmic Turkey embrace you tomorrow and for many years to come.
Have the happiest of Thanksgiving holidays!

Peter J. Awn


Columbia University School of General Studies

Bwoglines: College in a Nutshell Edition

Your whole life just got squeezed into one of these

Applying: Columbia sure isn’t the easiest school to get into, but they’ll be much more excited about you if you happen to be a military veteran. (NYTimes)

Extracurriculars: Outside of classes, you may find time to participate in student groups like the Quidditch team. And maybe you’ll even make it to the Quidditch World Cup, which took place this weekend (Gothamist)

The Job Hunt: Before long, your parents and more exceptional friends will provide not-too-subtle reminders of your unemployment. Panic will ensue, and you’ll probably apply to Apple or Google. But let’s be real: it’s Columbia, so odds are you’re shooting for that I-Banking job too. (WSJ)

Coming Back for More: After a few years in the real world, you might be overcome by a strange desire to return to school. Turns out Columbia isn’t a bad place to do it, as our Executive MBA Program is number two in the nation. (Bloomberg Businessweek)

Deciding to Donate: After amassing your wealth many years down the road, you might decide to increase your children’s chance of admission display your bottomless generosity by donating. But you might not want to do it to a school’s science program. (NYMag)

Trivialization of your existence via Wikimedia

SGA Presents Leadership: The Next Generation


Dane Cook reports.

This Monday’s SGA meeting featured special guest and master of alliteration Professor Kathryn Kolbert. Recently appointed as the director of the Athena Center for Leadership Studies, Professor Kolbert spoke at length about the Athena Center’s soon-to-be-launched leadership program. Aiming to improve leadership training both inside and outside of the classroom, the program will bestow the coveted ‘Athena Scholar’ distinction on participants’ transcripts.  The program will have four main requirements, including a curriculum of approved courses, an internship or mentoring activity, and an off-campus independent leadership project.

“Leadership is something you learn to do, and therefore keeping the program open to as many students as possible is my goal,” Kolbert explained. She explicitly extended an open invitation to the council for input and involvement and hopes the program will reflect students’ wants and needs as accurately as possible. Moreover, Kolbert intends to include a student advisory board that will aid in shaping the program alongside the faculty advisory committee and an alumni council, as well as a board of women leaders around the country. By creating such a collaborative project, the Athena Center aspires to reach beyond any given pool of participants to the Barnard community at large: “I’m hoping more than anything that we create at Barnard the ethic that leadership involves not only the current group, but also the next group.” 

After a brief Q & A, Professor Kolbert graciously expressed her gratitude for SGA’s efficiency. As she bid farewell, she praised, “Thank you for keeping questions short so I can catch the Eagles game,” before qualifying, “You better watch it,  because I’m an Phillies fan too.”


Housewife Details GS’s Rigorous Entry Process

Several New York blogs have picked up on an Obsessed TV interview with “Real Housewife of New York” Kelly Killoren Bensimon, and all seem to agree the best quote is about how she got into the School of General Studies:

A friend of mine said you should really go to Columbia, they have an amazing journalism department there. And so I actually went to the school and I said to them, I said, ‘You know, if you take me, I, you know, you just gotta give me a chance, and if you take me, then I will be the best student, I will do whatever it is, whatever you need whenever you need it. I promise you, you know, I will not be a mistake.’ And this man, the dean, was like, ‘Who are you? Like, what? No, no, no. We have a process here. You have to fill out an application.’ And I was like, ‘No no no, It’s nice you have an application, I’ve already sent that in, but I want to go here, and I really really wanted to go there.’ And he let me in.

Combined with the allegations against her for assaulting her boyfriend and stealing jewelry ideas, GS students everywhere haven’t been this embarrassed since the last time they had to…oh screw it, the Varsity Show beat those jokes into the ground.

But perhaps GS can claim Bensimon is simply dumber with age. In April 1996, she talked about balancing her studying, modeling, and charity work to the now-defunct Columbia Observer, saying “Columbia is like just one of my fingers. But being part of my body I treat it with the same respect that I do my work or charity or whatever I’m doing.” Then again, maybe not.

BS in GS: Former Student Convicted of ID Theft

Harvard rejects can always feel bad that Ted Kaczynski was accepted, and now Columbia has its very own esteemed criminal alumni. Esther Reed, a Montana woman who attended Columbia for two years under an assumed identity, was sentenced yesterday to four years in prison for identity theft.

Starting in 2004, Reed spent two years studying in New York under the assumed name Brooke Henson. Reed is pictured on the right, and Henson is on the left. Henson, a South Carolina woman, went missing in 1999. Though police still have a missing persons webpage for her that’s still soliciting leads on her whereabouts, the lead detective believes the real Henson was murdered (Reed was not involved in her disappearance). The working theory is that she stole Henson’s identity after seeing a news story about her. More after the jump (more…)

Kindly Welcome General Studies’ New Owl

Bwog would like to invite you to say hello to GS’s new Owl Logo! You’ll recall that their old Owl, Gulliver, was owlnapped from Harford Community College.

Anyway, this new guy (gal?) is so snazzy with the little thumbs up. Well, thumbs up to you too New Gulliver. 

QuickSpec: Raising the Big Questions

dfdfasdfaDoes anyone actually know what anthropology is?

What does Evo love more: nationalization of oil or speaking at Columbia

Should GS deans be chosen in the same way as GS students–far too late?

Did you know that, like, East 116th is TOTALLY less gentrified than, like, Columbia?  I think she actually saw a poor person!

Can Columbia sports only win through not telling anyone about injuries to players?

ESC, etc.: GS’s Owlnapping?

 Fu Foundation Bureau Chief Sean Zimmermann reports from last night’s ESC meeting.

At last night ESC meeting, many changes were afoot within the ESC you know and love. Even though CourseWorks is maybe probably on the outs, the Council’s Director of Technology Kenny Rivera is developing a CourseWorks application for the iPhone—to better check that your professor didn’t post the assigned reading, on the go!

And then there was a bit of odd news concerning GS’s logo, which needs to be replaced because it was apparently taken from a community college. You remember Gulliver, yes? ESC did not mention which community college shares GS’s logo, but a quick Google Image search reveals that Harford Community College is a possibility.


Swipe Access: Not So Fast, Part II

Earlier today, we spoke to SGA President Sarah Besnoff, who explained that despite reports of Swipe Access’ imminence, in fact, a CCSC/SEAS survey on the issue is the next step in actually moving forward on this thing.

According to CCSC VP of Policy Adil Ahmed, this survey will be sent out “shortly.” CCSC is currently working with Housing and Dining, and then must present their efforts to Security.

As for the GS question, according to Ahmed: “[CCSC has] only talked about BC and will be incorporating GS into the discussions shortly. We’re going to work on this in stages with BC getting first priority.”  

The Armed Forces in General Studies

-founder Bari Weiss, CC ’07, writes in the (possibly ill-fated) New York Sun today about the 19 incoming Columbia GS first-years who had previously served in the Armed Forces.

(According to Weiss, GS was created in 1947 partly as a response to the high number of ex-soldiers returning from WWII.)

Weiss spoke to a number of the 19 first-years about the differences between military life and academic life, and reactions range from confident about success (“You sit down next to these girls who are 18 years old and they’ve got plastic jewelry from Claire’s and they’re trying to understand the rise and fall of the USSR. They can do it; but we’ve seen dictators rise and fall”) to thankful for the ability to appreciate the civilian life: “I’m just happy to be alive. I’m ecstatic here.”

At GS, When You’re Here, You’re Family

is reporting that a mother and a daughter graduated together from GS yesterday. “‘It was very competitive, she loves to compete. Like what grade did you get on your paper? How well did you do on your midterm? And in the end when I got a B+ and she got an A-, she was like “I did better than you did,” she rubbed it in my face,’ says mother Insaf Abdullah.” As for post-grad plans, daughter plans to return to the Middle East while mother opts for grad school.  

Bwog offers accolades to both mother and daughter, but frankly we’re a bit shocked that this exact situation has never been lampooned in a Varsity Show before.

QuickSpec: We’ve Learned A Lot Edition

Jarid Maged wrote a “17 page admissions essay” to get into GS, which apparently doesn’t impose a word limit. (Also, the title of this column makes only weird, self-referential sense.)

The Spec is extremely comfortable cursing in print now. And, apparently, fellating the Arcade Fire. Quite literally.

Tegan and Sara… still fresh. Still cool.

Apparently Columbia should “move on” from the whole 1968 thing. An eight hundred word editorial and 40-year anniversary conference are good first steps.

Take-out food… it’s delicious! Um, unless you take this article’s advice and go to Milano.

GS Valedictorian: Also an Economist-Mathematician

The School of General Studies has just announced its 2008 valedictorian: Joel Beal.

Beal, like CC’s valedictorian, is an economics-mathematics major. He is bound for Stanford in the fall, where he will be pursuing a Ph.D. in economics.