Keep your eyes open for the September issue of The Blue & White, coming soon to campus. Until then, Bwog will honor our heritage/amorous affair with our mother magazine by posting highlights of the upcoming issue online. Among the treats to look forward to: a litany of bizarre and outdated freshman hazing rituals, a conversation with a luminary on DIY education, and a (half-fictional) account of romance in the John Jay dining hall. 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. In the current issue, staff writer Carolyn Ruvkun profiles lovely earth-mother-goddess Elizabeth Kipp-Giusti, CC’12.
You could spill all of your secrets to Elizabeth Kipp-Giusti, CC’12. EKG—most friends know her by her initials— “has this sense of being able to relate to everything on some level,” marvels Maddie Provo, BC’12. Indeed, our conversation darts from hydroponic gardens and immigration policy to pickle brines and the surprising intimacy of jury duty. “She’s just so nurturing,” adds Kipp-Giusti’s “husband,” Emily Tamkin, CC’12. In their freshman LLC suite family, EKG was made mom. Her signature flowing frocks, bear hugs, and cooking prowess enhance her “old soul” vibe. “Maybe I just have this strange impulse to coddle,” Kipp-Giusti jokes. “Here, I’ll feed you an olive.”
The New York native is best known around campus as the Mother Nature of environmental activism who got sucked into student council. “But for a long time I was seriously considering going to conservatory for acting,” she remembers. Young Kipp-Giusti trained as an opera singer and did voice-overs for Ultraman, a Japanese live-action show. She broke into the Columbia theatre scene playing an East German Nazi transvestite. “It was type-casting, clearly.”
“For a long time I had a very difficult time justifying any kind of artistic pursuit because it felt narcissistic. You can use theatre as a tool for conveying ideas that you may not have been able to in paper, but it can be easy to fall into vanity,” Kipp-Giusti explains, enunciating each syllable like a true former Shakespeare camper. “And I think the mark of a good actor is having something to say.”
EcoRep and member of the Greenborough Special Interest Community, Kipp-Giusti has become a leading environmental activist at Columbia. As sustainability liaison to CCSC, she attended policy meetings and penetrated the student council “fortress.” Come election time, she ran with the UniteCU party for executive board as the VP Policy, the number-two position on the ticket behind the president.
Kipp-Giusti soon realized she “was not the right person for the job,” and withdrew the day before the election. “I was disturbed by the thought that I was ruining [UniteCU’s] chances… but the reality of running for the CCSC board is that you have to really feel like you can work together as a team, and it didn’t feel like we were gelling.” Still, she is quick to praise the other members of her former party. Ever committed to the elusive Columbia community, she and a few friends now hope to start “I ate a pie,” a mock eating club and Internet platform for cooking circles.
Kipp-Giusti, initially a neuroscience major, quotes the famous Harold and Maude line, “people are my species,” to explain how she gravitated toward religion. “With the religion major I felt like I could still do the kinds of things I wanted to do with a neuroscience major: explore motivation and how people contextualize themselves in a larger system.” With a Buddhist nun for a nanny, Kipp-Giusti grew up singing in a church choir. “And I desanctify holy water.”
She seamlessly segues from silly to serious: “I do feel like most of my beliefs are predicated on the necessary interconnectivity of things,” she explains. “Everything after that can be argued about, but nothing happens in a vacuum.”
Curious and creative, Kipp-Giusti turned an old acting exercise into a subway ritual. “I list visuals around me and take stream of consciousness notes,” she reveals. It is this keen attention to people that helps hone her hilarious impressions—the Liza Minnelli is legendary. Just as she keeps her audience spellbound, Kipp-Giusti is genuinely listening, hanging on to your every word.