Welcoming the Class of 2027: New Year, New Beanie

The School’s long-standing tradition of handing out commemorative beanies to first-year students signals the official start of the academic year. 

Sep 06 2023 | By Beatrice V. Mhando | Photo Credit: Timothy Lee
New student with their Columbia Engineering beanie

First-year students receive a commemorative beanie to mark the start of their academic journey at Columbia Engineering. Credit: Timothy Lee

You know it’s officially the start of a new academic year at Columbia Engineering when beanies are involved. 

Three hundred forty students filled Lerner Hall Aug. 30 for the School’s Academic Assembly, serving as the official welcome to Columbia Engineering’s first-year students. The incoming class receive traditional beanies, a hallmark of their entry to the Engineering community. 

In his welcome remarks, Dean Shih-Fu Chang emphasized the importance of the beanies to mark the start of their Columbia journey, as a constant symbol to always be a Columbia “Engineer for Humanity,” a reference to the School’s vision.  

“It inspires our entire community–perhaps it inspired some of you to come to Columbia Engineering,” said Dean Chang of the Engineering for Humanity vision. “We do this by bringing together our strengths and investing in different strategic areas, including sustainability and climate, health and medicine, computational science and AI, and materials, devices and sensors.” As ambassadors of this vision, Dean Chang talked about the cutting edge research that the new students will be a part of, stating that “at Columbia Engineering, we want to prepare students to be 21st century engineers.”

Dean Shih-Fu Chang and Vice Dean of Undergraduate Programs Barclay Morrisson with the Class of 2027 tossing their beanies

The annual beanie toss. Dean Shih-Fu Chang and Vice Dean of Undergraduate Programs Barclay Morrisson pictured with the Class of 2027. Credit: Timothy Lee

Vice Dean for Undergraduate Programs Barclay Morrison III then introduced the other speakers: a faculty member, alumnus, and current student who all shared a few key points with the incoming class.

Treena Arinzeh, professor of biomedical engineering, shared moments from her own academic journey and gave an overview of her research. The Arinzeh Lab develops tissue engineering strategies with the ultimate goal of repairing damaged or diseased tissues, especially in bone defects such as those found in osteoarthritis. They utilize stem cells and other biomaterial scaffolds to regenerate lost tissue.

Arinzeh encouraged students to take advantage of all the various opportunities during their time here. “Learn through your peers, talk to your professors, [pursue] research opportunities, and work with companies to figure out the things you don’t like,” she added.

Like Arinzeh, Vikas Arun BS’17,who majored in industrial engineering and operations research, urged the students to explore, be curious, and trust their instincts. As a Broadway dancer and founder of two startups, Arun said that the skills they will learn at Columbia Engineering can apply to a lot of aspects of their lives. “Never stop learning,” he said.

Minju O’Rourke, a junior and co-president of the Columbia Space Initiative, connected to students on a more personal note, stressing the need to evolve in order to thrive at Columbia Engineering. “If today’s speaker is determined by GPA, I’m not going to be the first, or fifth–or even be a choice today,” O’Rourke said. “But that’s kind of the point …The biggest things that got you in Columbia are not the things that will allow you to thrive and grow here.”   

O’Rourke went on to say that collaboration has been the most important part of her success at Columbia Engineering, reflecting on a time when a fellow student gave her class notes for a course when she was struggling with a hand injury that impaired her ability to write. “This is the perfect example of random strangers going above and beyond to help you here. In addition to the faculty, everyone here really wants you to succeed.”          

The first-year students left the ceremony with an abundance of advice, in addition to their commemorative beanies. Once a mandatory accessory on campus to be worn by first-years for their entire inaugural year, the beanie today is a unique souvenir celebrating the next chapter in the students’ academic journey and the exciting new academic year ahead.

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