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School of Professional Studies Alumna and Executive in Residence Recognized as 2019 Columbia Alumni Medalists

Rachel Hitchcock ’06SPS, Strategic Communication, and Executive in Residence Maryam Banikarim ’89BC, ’93SIPA, ’93BUS were recognized today as Columbia Alumni Medalists at the 2019 university commencement. Recognized for building Columbia's community, medalists are honored at University Commencement and each fall at the Alumni Medalists Gala during Columbia Alumni Leaders Weekend.

Rachel Hitchcock is the senior director of principal gifts at Johns Hopkins University. She has more than 15 years of development experience, including work in annual giving, corporate and foundation relations, and campaign management, as well as frontline fundraising. Hitchcock began her career in public relations. Hitchcock earned a master's degree in strategic communications from Columbia’s School of Professional Studies (SPS) in 2006 and her bachelors in public relations and Spanish from Syracuse University. A four-year scholarship student-athlete as an undergraduate, Hitchcock was a field hockey team captain her senior year at Syracuse. Hitchcock proudly served two consecutive terms on the CAA Board as the first representative from SPS. She has volunteered on the planning committee for Columbia Alumni Leaders Weekend (CALW) since 2014 and participated in panel discussions as a moderator or speaker in several CALW programs.

In 2018, she was elected to the board of Columbia DC, Columbia’s alumni club in Washington, D.C. She serves as an alumni leader for the Baltimore-area alumni and re-initiated contact with the local Baltimore alumni representatives of the other Ivy League schools. Hitchcock is partnering with the CAA and SPS to develop the plan for the newly-reestablished SPS Alumni Association, for which Hitchcock will be the association’s first president. She was previously vice president of the Portland Columbia University Alumni Club from 2012-2017, developing new programming for the Portland area alumni. She was an active participant of the West Coast Columbia Alumni Leader Retreat in 2016. She is an avid runner, having completed 11 marathons including the Boston Marathon in 2011, and now lives in Baltimore with her wife and two sons.

Dean Dr. Jason Wingard and Rachel Hitchcock

Maryam Banikarim is a purpose-driven change agent in the tradition of Simon Sinek, Jim Collins, and Roy Spence and currently serves as an Executive in Residence at the School of Professional Studies. Banikarim shows organizations how to shift mindsets and build themselves through the lens of purpose. Known as a fearless force for change with a track record of creating and leading successful brands such as Hyatt, Gannett, NBC Universal, and Univision, Banikarim demonstrates how to define your purpose, differentiate your brand, make the case for change, rally the troops internally, and share it with the world.

As a member of the inaugural cohort of Executives in Residence, Banikarim will enrich the graduate student experience by sharing her knowledge and skills through instruction, mentorship, and research. Executives in Residence will engage with students through a variety of formats at SPS’s Career Design Labs located in New York City and San Francisco.

Watch the webcast recording of the University Commencement and SPS Graduation Ceremony.