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Building Camaraderie Among Students During a Unique Academic Year

When Kate Wang began her studies at Columbia in 2020, she refused to allow the coronavirus pandemic to stop her from building a well-rounded experience not only for herself but also for her fellow classmates at the School of Professional Studies (SPS). In just a year and a half, Wang took on several leadership roles and internships, including serving as an Applied Analytics Club Vice President; intern for the SPS Office of Student Life and health insurer Anthem; and Secretary and Social Chair (2020-21) and President (2020-21) of the SPS Student Government (SPSSG). Wang completed her Applied Analytics master’s degree in December. In the month prior, she reflected on the benefits of complementing the academic experience with co-curricular offerings.

How do you think your involvement in Columbia student life enhanced your overall experience?

I really enjoyed being on campus to connect with my amazing peers, professors, and SPS senior leaders outside of the traditional academic setting. I got involved with student activities throughout my time at Columbia and it made my experience not only enjoyable but rewarding. As the SPSSG President, I gained and expanded my skills in public speaking, resolving conflict, and working collaboratively and cross-functionally. I truly believe that my co-curricular experiences thoroughly equipped me with critical soft skills that I need to succeed long after graduation.

In addition to participating in student clubs, I interned for the Office of Student Life. In that role, I had the opportunity to apply the analytical skills I gained through my master’s program and organize dynamic, cross-disciplinary events. The combination of experiences I’ve gained at Columbia have opened so many avenues for me; I would advise all new students to leave their comfort zones and take the initiative to meet people often.

I wanted to give a special shout-out to my mentor, Benjamin Sokol, who I had the honor of connecting with through the e-Mentor Program. Ben has been my strongest supporter; he served as a sounding board and encouraged me to grab coffee with as many people as possible to learn and exchange ideas. He also inspired me to build my personal brand and be a thought leader.

What are you most proud of accomplishing in the past year?

I'm really proud of what the SPS Student Government was able to do over the last year—it's definitely been a team effort. We received more than 100 applications to join SPSSG in Fall 2021, a record-high for the SPS Student Government. After an election, we on boarded 20 new members despite COVID-19-related health restrictions. Having a big team of 32 students from different programs across the School can meaningfully enrich students’ diverse experiences, needs, and interests because they represent the wide range students here at SPS. I’m excited to see how they continue to advance students’ interests.

I am also beyond grateful to be able to represent the student body as the SPSSG President and to bridge their interests and needs with school administrators. In 2020 and 2021, SPSSG organized a virtual food drive in support of the Food Bank for New York. We also planned a Friendsgiving Grab and Go event on November 18th, and we were so glad to be able to finally meet some of our classmates in person! I’m thankful for my teammates; everyone demonstrated drive and persistence even during COVID.

Outgoing SPSSG President Kate Wang (center, left) with Incoming SPSSG President Adam Gerber (far right), former SPSSG President Greg Hopper (far left), and SPS Director of Student Life Rollie Carencia (center, right)

Caption: Outgoing SPSSG President Kate Wang (center, left) celebrated the end of the fall term with incoming SPSSG President Adam Gerber (far right), former SPSSG President Greg Hopper (far left), and SPS Director of Student Life Rollie Carencia (center, right).

What was your favorite part about being on campus in the fall?

One of my favorite parts of being on campus was having the luxury to connect with so many different people by attending school events and grabbing coffee. And even as a graduate in the area, I can always stop by to reconnect with this community.

At SPS, students come from a range of professional backgrounds, from senior-level IT and PR professionals to career newcomers seeking to break into industries like data science or the non-profit sector. Each person brings a distinct and valuable perspective that makes learning and socializing here so much richer. SPS Student Government, for example, is a group of truly talented and amazing representatives. They are enrolled in 17 different master’s programs within SPS and come from various backgrounds and cultures.

One of the benefits of being a student leader is gaining access to SPS senior leaders. I’ve had lunch with Zelon Crawford, the Senior Associate Dean of Student Affairs. In addition, I led a monthly meeting with the Dean of SPS, Troy Eggers, and Dr. Tiffany Hughes, the Associate Dean of Students. It’s a great opportunity to communicate directly with the school administration and share ideas about how we can enhance the student experience at SPS. That's something that really cheers me up.

What are your plans now that you’ve graduated last month?

Last summer, I completed a digital strategy business analyst internship with Anthem, a health insurance company based in the U.S. The internship provided me with the opportunity to apply the skills I learned as an Applied Analytics student. For example, I used coding languages to source and pull data within the company; I analyzed the data, identified key trends, and then translated data findings into business insights. I feel prepared to excel in the workforce because Columbia’s Applied Analytics M.S. program equipped me with technical skills as well as management strategies. I’d love to work as a business analyst to help impact organizations’ decision-making with analytics and digital strategy.

The next SPS Student Government elections will be held in late January. Current students can learn about upcoming activities on SPS Engage. Learn more about Columbia University’s Applied Analytics M.S. Program.