Karishma Habbu, CC '13

Illustration by Jiyoon Han

In the February issue of The Blue and White, Grace Rosen profiles Karishma Habbu, CC ’13 and CCSC president. You can read the rest of February, as well as several back-issues, at theblueandwhite.org. The March issue is coming real soon.

A red knee-length peacoat, white fluffy earmuffs, and matching white gloves: that was Columbia College Student Council President’s Karishma Habbu’s uniform for three winters at Columbia. “Oh god, how do you know about that?” she grimaced when I bring it up over coffee. “I came home for winter break last year and my mom said it had to go.” The coat, now replaced with a retro military jacket, was purchased as a bit of downtown retail therapy after Habbu bombed her Orgo final freshman year. “You could say I found love in a hopeless place,” she mused.

Even if you don’t recognize Karishma by her red coat, if you’ve ever met, there’s a good chance she recognizes you. “I have this thing for names and faces. And know I will say ‘Hi’ to literally anyone and everyone; they can’t get away.” She added, laughing, “It made NSOP a little awkward.”

You may also recognize her name from the weekly CCSC emails to all Columbia College Students, or the countless initiatives she has worked on with an eye to improving student life at Columbia. As a four-year member, Karishma has spearheaded many CCSC initiatives—including gender neutral housing, financial aid reform, the Student Wellness Project (SWP), and the Turbovote voter registration drive.

“She’s at meetings constantly,” added Karishma’s roommate, Fiona Kinniburgh, CC ’13. “Karishma really feels like she has a responsibility to the whole student body. She sees it as a real opportunity to enact change.”

“She is the most ‘student council’ person I have ever met. She might as well bleed light blue,” said Will Hughes, CC ’13 and CCSC VP Policy.

“I got Karishma for CCSC’s Secret Santa, and gave her pink lace panties with ‘PREZBU’ written on them in rhinestones, which opening in front of a room of people of course left her completely mortified,” Hughes related.  “But she has taken to wearing them when she goes out. Which is the clearest example I can think of of her slowly accepting the nickname I gave her in the campaign.”

She’s “a gem of a person,” Hughes concluded. “But,” he warned, “don’t let her bubbly nature fool you into not taking her seriously. She knows how to get things done with a smile on her face and, because of that, has managed to charm the pants off every administrator in the school.”

When I asked Karishma what advice she would give herself as a freshman, she gave her response without a second’s hesitation: “Calm down, chill out. Freshman year was a low for me. I didn’t have a lot of friends, got bad grades, was lost in terms of how to handle pre-med. It was a matter of coming down from the high expectations I had from high school.”

And asked to name a high point during her time at Columbia, Karishma came up with an answer just as quickly. She explained: “The feeling of walking into my first Lerner Pub this year—oh my god. Something like 250 people showed up and I was just so happy to be with these people. It was like a middle school dance party.”