Brandon is here to tell you to take care of yourself, build genuine friendships, and find inspiring mentors who share your identities. “You, too, can survive and thrive.”

Name, School, Major, Hometown: Brandon Shi, Columbia College, Econ-Poli Sci (and a concentration in CSER), San Ramon, CA

Claim to fame: Being suitemates with Tamarah Wallace, the winner of the Capital One College Bowl on NBC; asking for your vote for CCSC/University Senate

Where are you going? Downtown, to work in consulting

What are 3 things you learned at Columbia and would like to share with the Class of 2026?

  1. This may be cliche, but prioritize your friendships and relationships over your grades and your accomplishments! I wish I had done this more. I definitely won’t remember the extra hours I spent in Butler writing papers, cramming to finish a problem set, or doing work for [insert student group here] instead of going to Senior Night or a campus event, but I will cherish the memories I’ve created with my friends here and the conversations I’ve had with classmates, professors, alums, etc. during the times that weren’t intended to be conventionally productive. I wish I had said yes to more invitations to go out, grab coffee, or get lunch (or had taken the initiative to extend these invitations), and I wish I had more consciously taken the time to follow up with people and check in on them. 
  2. In many cases, just showing up and being present (for relationships/friendships, for class, for student group meetings and events, etc.) is more than half the battle. Especially at a place like Columbia where people often spread themselves thin and are overbooked (and I have definitely been guilty of this), it can be hard for people to keep commitments or even maintain basic attendance, so consistently showing up and being there can go a long way. On a related note, I learned that it’s definitely better to commit to a few things that you care a lot about than to spread yourself too thin (that being said, don’t be afraid to try new things at any point in your college experience — for instance, I never had any student government experience before I decided to get involved with CCSC towards the end of my first year). The people around you will also appreciate it — it can be pretty frustrating to work with classmates who are too booked and busy and don’t have the capacity to be good team members.
  3. Definitely find time to connect with Columbia’s alumni community. Speaking as a QPOC, I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have been able to connect with alumni who share some or one of my social identities and with whom I have been able to discuss issues of equity, justice, representation, career choices, and more. Alumni can be reminders that you, too, can survive and thrive at an institution that was not built for you in mind and in many instances can be downright harmful to your health. There are different programs, resources, and administrators that can help you connect with alumni who share your social identities — and despite all the hate it gets, LinkedIn is great for this as well. If you work a job or internship, try to find a similar identity-based community there too, whether it has Columbia alumni in it or not (and if there isn’t one, that is a very valid reason to look for another opportunity). And at the same time, don’t count out potential great mentors or advocates just because they don’t share your identities.

“Back in my day…” JJ’s was open 22/7, classes didn’t get recorded (and yet we still skipped them), we had pre-orientation programs (RIP), Liz’s Place served Starbucks

Favorite Columbia controversy? Venmo me for my emotional labor, although an honorable mention goes to the Senior Scramble Wars of 2022

What was your favorite class at Columbia? I truly can’t pick just one (because in many cases they supplement and build upon each other), but I really enjoyed Colonization/Decolonization with Mae Ngai, Sexuality and Citizenship with Justin Phillips, Comparative Constitutional Challenges with Elizabeth OuYang, Intro to Asian American Studies with Glenn Magpantay, History of Capitalism with Carl Wennerlind, Contemporary Civilization with Hannah Farber, and American Constitutional History with Robert Tortoriello. Notice how none of these are Econ classes … anyways

Would you rather give up oral sex or cheese? I love cacio e pepe — and pasta in general — wayyy too much to give up cheese

Whom would you like to thank? My family, friends, professors, and TAs, the alumni and older students who took the time to mentor and invest in me, CSER, the CMI chairs and CMI LGBTQ+ Family Tree, QTAB <3, my lovely fellow CCSA e-board members, certain people on CCSC and the University Senate, CUE (now CARE!), the Columbia Bartending Agency, the USL staff in Multicultural Affairs and Student Engagement, and so many more.

One thing to do before graduating: Take classes outside of your major and the Core, fail at something, and watch the sunset on Low Steps.

Any regrets? Not checking out more cool spots on campus like Postcrypt or the Barnard Greenhouse :(

Portrait via Michael Ito Edmonson