Senior Wisdom: Rhonda Shafei

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Name, Hometown, School, Major: Rhonda Shafei, Closter, New Jersey, History and Political Science

Claim to Fame: Co-dethroning the leadership of Columbia’s Arab club, exactly two years before the Arab Spring. Raising and rearing two hundred beautiful CIRCA babies. Perpetually annoying admins about Moslem issues. Writing a column about South Sudan and consequently getting banned by its government from ever entering the country.

Where are you going? To relive Cairene memories in the city’s continental counterpart, San Francisco, exploring emerging market finance in a chiller environment (hopefully).

Three things you learned at Columbia:

  • If you have a voice, and speak up loud enough, you will get heard. I spent too much time writing opeds and complaining, and not enough time speaking to Columbia staffers and administrators directly. No one ever tells you freshman year that you can schedule a meeting with any admin on this campus, if you have something worth talking about. If you have a cause or concern, don’t skirt the issue; just talk to the power brokers directly. It will save you time, you will get taken more seriously, and you will make progress on any and all issues.
  • That having been said, people are always listening to you, everywhere on this campus, so don’t say stupid ish. Seriously, spies and eavesdroppers be everywhere. You might write this off as a cynical immigrant remark. But whether it’s Bwog’s anonymous “heard on campus” snippets, or students in classes recording discussions for studying purposes–and later repurposing on facebook– half-processed remarks can come back to bite you and more importantly are completely avoidable. As a loud-mouthed opinionated person who has too often been too verbal, speak loudly and openly but think first.
  • Butler is more of a social club and less of a library. If you really need to get those ten pages written, consider locking yourself in your room instead of hitting up 209. By sophomore year, I convinced myself that going to butler every night was making me a better student, when really all it was doing was compounding my procrastination. Despite working too little and chatting too much, I met some of my best friends in Butler Cafe (shout outs to Destiny Swan Sullens and Alan Daboin in particular) so no regrets on that front, I suppose.

“Back in my day…” You could swipe multiple people into Lerner with your ID without getting locked out. John Jay lights were spookier. The computers in Lerner were faster. The ctrl alt backspace trick worked.

Justify your existence in 30 words or less: I hope to challenge others to revisit false notions of Arabs, Muslims, and students of color more broadly. I love babies.

Is the War on Fun over? Who won? Any war stories? I don’t really think there is a War on Fun per se. I just think there are countless restrictions that are haphazardly enforced to make the lives of some unfortunate few harder than others. It pushes you to be that much more crafty and scheming. I once smuggled twenty helium balloons, two cakes, three pizza boxes, and an entire turkey into Butler for a friend’s surprise party. I also once delivered grilled cheese sandwiches and cookies into the stacks for a charity drive, convincing the guard that my delivery box contained books as their condition prevented me from carrying them in a bag.

Would you rather give up oral sex or cheese? Best answered by an influential figure in my life, Trey Songz, “You can believe that I’ll be where the cheese at.”

Advice for the class of 2016:

  • Take a history class and seriously consider majoring in history. The history department at Columbia’s is truly a gem that devotes so many resources to its students, treating you like a legitimate academic in the making. Whether you’re passionate about politics, art, activism, or economics, you can find your niche in the department and really love the assignments and readings given to you.
  • Consider interning during the school year and adjusting your schedule accordingly. A lot of fascinating opportunities open up in the fall, winter, and spring that you should take advantage of, being a student in NY. It is really tough at first to adjust school and work, but two weeks in you will feel so fulfilled.
  • See student performances on campus. Because the talent here is better than a lot of what’s outside these gates. I sadly only started doing this my senior year. So freshbabies, make sure you check out what’s going on in the Lerner Blackbox at least once a month.

Any regrets? I regret emailing a 2,000 person listserv announcing a dinner meeting with the President of Iran. I also regret not informing the Columbia community that multiple Spec editorial board members privately requested seats to that dinner despite publicly calling for its cancellation. However, on that note, I regret holding too many grudges with Spec reporters. The work you do is in fact difficult and subject to genuine mistakes and I apologize for overacting and general pettiness. Lots of love for everyone on the campus, of all viewpoints and affiliations, and I regret not declaring that love earlier.

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  1. sorry

    but this was a snooze. too many boring references to spec shit.

  2. Anonymous  

    Definitely one of the best people I've met here!

  3. this was  

    incredible to read. I wish I'd met you before this year.

  4. Anonymous  

    also the trick still least in some buildings

  5. Q  

    Welp. Still zero athletes.

  6. bad advice about butler  

    yes, if you sit in the butler cafe, you will socialize and not get any work done. consider instead sitting on the fourth floor, which is the equivalent of locking yourself in you room (but with a bunch of asians studying intensely around you, mmm)

  7. Anonymous  

    Rhonda! Te quiero mucho! You are such a rockstar y tu lo sabes <3 ML

  8. One of those  

    swept up in that overacting and general pettiness: I trust and know that you have grown and learned so much, Rhonda. Truly a wise senior here.

  9. Quiet Rhonda fan  

    Rhonda youre an inspiration. I have quietly admired you from the day I heard about you and continue to aspire to your eloquence, intelligence and savvy.

    Good luck, don't let the corporate world suck you in.

  10. Rhonda

    gave me 25 free t-shirts once. Needless to say, it was awesome. You're the best Rhonda!

  11. Anonymous

    I love Rhonda!!! One of the smartest/nicest people on this campus!

  12. Anonymous  

    Rhonda is a gem on this campus. You will be missed more than you know <3

  13. Anonymous  

    Favorite ethnicity - African, Arab, Asian, Caucasian, Hispanic, Mixed, Reptar, Purple Drank, Mongoose, Scrotumface McGee or ruptured colon?

  14. Responsible Decisions  

    Uhh don't major in history if you're not prepared to go to graduate school, law school, etc.
    You can't make money with that degree.

  15. not a trunchie

    Destiny Swan Sullens is an awesome person, I wish her the best for the future

  16. ECN  

    Let's just say that I learned countless more reasons why next year is gonna be mindblowingly awesome. Can't wait to be loud and rambunctious together on the West Coast. <3 you, Rhonda, you've done a lot of good.

  17. Al

    Morningside Heights without Rhonda = Mourningside Heights

  18. Anonymous  

    Rhonda is the best mommy in the whole world and always orders the best pizza pies!!!

  19. curious

    What was the "uprising" against the leadership of the Arab club about?

  20. Um  

    general pettiness pretty much defines this girl.

  21. Anonymous  

    Rhonda, you are an inspiration. We will all miss you and your leadership dearly.

    Love you!

  22. so bwog  

    i geuss circa presidents are always gonna be senior wisdumbs

  23. Long Live  

    Ali Shafei CC '10 !

  24. Anonymous  

    "That having been said, people are always listening to you... so don’t say stupid ish.... [H]alf-processed remarks can come back to bite you and more importantly are completely avoidable. As a loud-mouthed opinionated person who has too often been too verbal, speak loudly and openly but think first." GOOD ADVICE!

  25. Ste

    This girl is AMAZING. Smart, funny, and sooooooo kind. It was truly a privilege to grow so close to you, baby.

  26. CC2012  

    She's definitely one of the coolest people you can meet on this campus and has the best taste in music. She makes everyone feel special when she talks to them. New York will miss you, Ma'am.

  27. Columbia alum

    Rhonda is one of the most amazing people to graduate from Columbia. She has inspired and helped so many people on campus. God bless her and all her future endeavors!

  28. Speccie

    Ive had some tough times with Rhonda before but I appreciate this shoutout.

    Ps is the thing about spec's eboard a reference to Sam Roth or someone else?

  29. wait  

    do people actually post audio from people talking in class? the fuck?

  30. de

    I love you, Rhonda!!!!!!!!!! One of the best people I've had the privilige of meeting in my life, period. Long live the Turath revolution :)

  31. Journalistic Ignorance

    You know how an editorial board works, right? Members can have dissenting opinions, the published staff edit represents the view of the majority...

    • Anonymous  

      Spec's editorial board is pretty bullshit. It's five people who generally have no clue what they're talking about and purport to speak on behalf of a staff of 200 or 300+ people (the vast majority of whom they've never met, much less spoken to). The only views they represent are their own...not the views of the paper or staff as a whole.

      • More Ignorance

        You are an ignorant one, I would hope someone informs their opinions more in the real world when they're not hid behind the mask of anonymity. I myself am not on the editorial board, but have a number of friends who have served on it. It's made up of the editor-in-chief, managing editor, editorial page editors, and 5 carefully selected campus figures. Each is completely qualified to talk about campus news, as they are experts in it (and have worked hard to achieve their opinions) and each edit is written with careful research and consideration. Just because your name isn't attached with a comment doesn't give you the right to make uneducated, foolish statements.

        • irony

          wait a minute - whose name is attached to the spec editorial page again? If you haven't gathered that the concept of the "editorial board" isn't anonymity and protection of individual fallout/feedback, then you have learned nothing in newspapering.

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