Notes from the CC Valedictorian

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On Monday, we learned the identities of the academic top dogs in CC, and last night, Bwog caught up with this year’s valedictorian, Arianne Richard.

How did you find out that you were valedictorian, and did you do anything special to celebrate? Dean [Michael] Pippenger emailed me about two weeks ago with the news of the committee decision.  After a laughing fit in a stairwell (lame, I realize, but I was not in a place where I could start jumping up and down publicly), I called my parents and told several friends.  My weekend then became a series of celebratory dinners and drinks.

Do people treat you differently now that you’re valedictorian? Not at all.  And I am very glad.  Except campus publications…this is new.

Did you ever find the Alma Mater’s owl? I hate to burst any legend-loving bubbles, but I never even looked for it.  I actually don’t know where it is.

What’s your go-to study strategy when trying to stay focused? I write.  Everything.  I have a terrible time paying attention to anything I read unless I’m taking some sort of notes.  (Several of my classmates can probably attest to my frantic scribbling during lectures.)  Even when I am reading my class notes before an exam, I write all over them.  In the end they’re illegible.

You’ve done a lot of dance activities on campus (Dance Marathon, Dance Theater Workshop, etc.) – what role has dance played in your Columbia experience? I actually chose Columbia, in part, because I would be able to continue dancing while majoring in a science.  Dance has been a part of my life as long as I can remember, and I am really glad that I could maintain this through college.  I am drawn to dance as a means of creative expression, so any opportunity that I have had to choreograph, improvise, or perform while at Columbia has been a highlight.  I wouldn’t call dancing a release from my academic life, but rather a welcomed shift in perspective.  The community built around the dance department here is also a spectacularly creative, brilliant, and welcoming group.

The Dance Marathon is really a 28-hour party.  I have found nothing so cathartic as jumping for 28-hours straight and few causes so worthy as preventing mother-to-child HIV transmission.  This event has been central to my winters at Columbia, and I highly recommend that everyone do it at least once.

What were your favorite and least favorite classes?

Favorite: CC (particularly thanks to Professor Scharffenberger), Intro to Hispanic Cultures (ditto Profesora Aguilar), Orgo (don’t laugh too hard), Immunology, Molecular Systems Biology, Chemical Genomics, Modern V/Modern VI/(whatever level she’s teaching) with Jodi Melnick

Least favorite: Frontiers of Science, General Chemistry Lab

General plans for the future? In the past few days, I have come to realize that I should really keep the response to this question to about two sentences.  So here we go:  I will be working at the NIH next year while applying to graduate school.  I plan to enter a PhD program in the fall of 2011, where I hope to combine my interests in biophysics and immunology in order to study immunological signaling paradigms.


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  1. :)

    Yay Arianne! Such a sweetie :)

  2. Anonymous  

    Arianne is the coolest! :)

  3. Anonymous  

    yay! A pretty and smart valedictorian!!

    recaptcha - bicuspid lower. THANKS A LOT for reminding me about my impacted wisdom tooth.

  4. Anonymous  

    who loves cute white valedictorians?

    this guy.

  5. Anonymous

    She's gorgeous and in Modern VI and VALEDICTORIAN. I don't think she's real.

  6. Anonymous

    where da pbk at

  7. This  

    girl was so mean during Dance Marathon. She wanted me to throw away the pizza that was in my hand so the other group could come and eat. I was like: 1) The food you got us sucks and 2) I need to eat and 3) stop being mean to me.

    Also she reprimanded me for sitting at the counter. . . fascist.

    Congratulations anyway, I guess.

  8. Elisia  

    I love Arianne. She is so sweet, smart and humble.

  9. meh  

    I think them pbk getting for their resumes is enough acknowledgement - don't think we need more grade-worship on this campus, as someone who didn't get it and doesn't want to know which 80 people to be jealous of/feel inferior to

    ... that said, our valedictorian seems like a sincerely kind and humble person who's obviously exceptionally smart and hardworking - a very hearty congratulations Arianne, I'm sorry we haven't met yet.

    • meh  

      arg that was meant as a reply to the posts advocating for bwog to post the pbk list ... out of context here it doesn't make much sense

    • ...  

      What, should we not celebrate the PBK people just because you didn't make it? I get the feeling that you're against "grade-worship" because it's not your grades being worshipped.

      • I realize  

        that anonymous internet comments aren't where anyone is inclined to be particularly trusting of others... so you can either take me at my word or not that I would feel the same way if I had gotten it.

  10. woo!  

    concord academy represent!

  11. CC peer  

    Yay for Prof. Scharff...by far the best way to learn about mind numbing philosophical dribble is to have a cool hippie teacher.

    Congrats Arianne!


    While I COMPLETELY and WHOLEHEARTEDLY admire everyone who made the PBK list... I just wanted to say:

    It's not the end of the world if you don't make it, and the world isn't yours if you DO make it. So stop working so hard and enjoy your undergrad years. As long as your GPA is above a 3.5, you do NOT need to make PBK to get into a good graduate program or internship.

    I knew plenty of 09's and 10's who never made the PBK but are attending Stanford Law, Harvard Law, Columbia Law, Hopkins Medical, etc...

    So honestly, I don't know what exactly is to be jealous of. It's not a requirement for a top-5 grad program and it never was. I know none of you claimed it was either, but unless PBK brought you prestige beyond the honor of a top graduate/PhD program or an awesome job or tremendous wealth, I don't see it as more of a simple undergraduate honors.


      ps. I personally know guys with RIDICULOUSLY-HIGH GPAs who were on the PBK last year who got rejected from Harvard/Yale law schools and guys who weren't on the list get in. So chill out people, congradulate the PBK guys when they come out, and don't be jealous. It's no big deal really.

      • while

        i agree with your long-winded argument, i would just like to point out that for seniors applying to graduate programs, you wouldn't even know early pbk before you submitted your application. so, how could it make any difference?

    • wrong!  

      "As long as your GPA is above a 3.5, you do NOT need to make PBK to get into a good graduate program or internship."

      This statement is just false in reference to a good internship. Having above a 3.5 GPA definitely cannot hurt, but you are wrong to think that this arbitrary cut-off makes you a better candidate. The only times your tool-ish statement may be true is in terms of law school and business school applications. Internships and work opportunities however definitely look for candidates with a well-rounded profile and not just socially awkward people who spend their whole lives in the library trying to surpass the holy "3.5".

      Get a grip people!

  13. Curious

    What kind of GPA do you need for PBK?

  14. PBK Comment

    There is no strict GPA Cutoff for PBK. It is often confused with the top 10 percent of the class but this is incorrect. It is based on recommendations and a committee takes these, as well as your academic performance, into account when deciding who to induct. Granted, there is a strong correlation between how high your GPA is and if you get inducted but this does not have to be the case. I know people who received the distinction of cum laude at graduation but got into PBK, while people with a higher distinction did not. However, if you're not in the range for any type of latin honor, getting PBK is highly unlikely.

  15. Anonymous  

    captcha = "soon nietzsche"

  16. Anonymous

    captcha=lusty of


    I wonder what the comments on these BWOG posts would be like if we found out the graduation plans of our Val and Sal:

    Val: Will be starting as a first year financial analyst at Goldman Sachs FA. Senior Quote: "I guess my extremely high GPA impressed the VP who was interviewing me so much he pretty much hired me on the spot! I guess I'm one of the lucky ones to still snag an internship at the most creme of the crop bank in the world! However I'm quite anxious about the bonuses this year due to the new taxes on banks."

    Sal: Will be entering Harvard Law School's Class of 2013. Senior Quote: "I will be attending Harvard Law in the fall and will be specializing in Corporate, Securities, and Financial Management Law, particularly in the areas of litigation. My future goal is to either make partner at a top Big-Law or start my own litigation law practice firm."

    If those were the new cases, would these 2 high achievers still get the congragulatory commendments they're getting?

  18. my gpa is  

    a 2.86 and i'm perfectly happy =)

  19. I  

    work my ass of for a 3.4 and I am happy as well!

    I am very involved in student activities, am the only undergrad research assistant in my department and despite brief, monthly existential crises, I am a pretty well adjusted person.
    That is all the prize I need.

    As far as this summer is concerned, I doubt I would have found a paying internship in my city with a 3.8

  20. Concord, Concord  


  21. CC '08

    2.6 GPA cumulative here, 3.0 in major; got into grad school, and in about a week I graduate with my masters (MPH!!) You can be a sub-3.0, but if you can prove why g-school is still for you, it can totally happen :-)

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