School Welcomes Class of 2019

Some 300 first-year students attended the annual SEAS Academic Assembly—the official kickoff to the academic year.

Sep 08 2015 | Photo: Timothy Lee Photographers

Members of the Class of 2019 packed the lecture hall in Havemeyer September 1 to hear from Dean Mary C. Boyce; alumnus Jon Oringer MS’99, entrepreneur and founder of Shutterstock; faculty speakers who talked about their exciting research; and current students who offered some words of wisdom.

Dean Boyce, Jon Oringer, and the SEAS first years wave their commemorative beanies to mark the Class of 2019's entry into the Columbia Engineering community.

In welcome remarks, Dean Boyce underscored the important and evolving role of engineers today; how engineering is a field that has truly crossed disciplines and is critical in many varied fields like medicine, sustainability, and technology. She also stressed that engineers are not just problem solvers and builders, but they are creators and innovators. “We want you to be our engineering ambassadors,” she said. “We’re creative. We’re rigorous. We’re creative engineers who can really think about the future.”

Addressing the lively group, Oringer talked about his time at SEAS as an MS student focused on computer science and a passion for entrepreneurship. He encouraged the students to be innovative, and as someone who has started 10 different companies before experiencing success, he reinforced the old adage to never, never give up.

The first years also got to hear from Shiho Kawashima, assistant professor of civil engineering and engineering mechanics, and Shree Nayar, T.C. Chang Professor of Computer Science, about their breakthrough research in cementitious materials and novel cameras, respectively. They also heard from a current SEAS student, chemical engineering junior Christina Michaels, who shared this piece of advice: take advantage of everything Columbia has to offer.

“Work with your peers on side projects. Stay after class to speak with a professor. Participate in faculty research. Have coffee with a mentor,” she said. “In short—go out of your way to meet people. We have amazing people here at Columbia and now you’re one of them.”

As a school tradition, members of the Class of 2019 also received a commemorative beanie to mark their entry into the Columbia Engineering community. Once a mandatory accessory at Columbia, the beanie is now a souvenir for incoming first years. In photos taken with Boyce and Oringer before the program began, first years waved their beanies in the air, filling the room with the kind of contagious energy that comes with new beginnings—a new school, new friends, and an exciting new academic year ahead.