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Courtesy of Columbia University /

Hannah Bender, left, and Sam Goldberg, right, were named salutatorian and valedictorian, respectively, for the Columbia College Class of 2018.

Sam Goldberg, CC ’18, had just come out of a weekly meeting with her thesis adviser when she saw a chain of emails from the University congratulating her for her nomination as valedictorian.

“I was walking through Barnard’s campus when I got the email, and I was alone and wasn’t sure who to tell. I just texted my friend a picture of the email and was like, ‘Is this real?’” she said.

Selected by the faculty Committee on Honors, Awards, and Prizes, the valedictorian and salutatorian are chosen for their intellectual promise and academic achievement in and out of the classroom. Goldberg will be speaking at the Columbia College Class Day ceremony held in May, where class salutatorian Hannah Bender, CC ’18, will also be honored for her academic achievements.

Goldberg, who was also a Phi Beta Kappa inductee as a junior, was named a Global Fellow in Sustainable Development, which has enabled her to conduct research for her senior thesis on the intersection of immigration enforcement and farm labor structures in New York.

Outside the classroom, Goldberg teaches middle school students about urban agriculture through the non-profit City Growers. She plans to continue this work after graduation, in addition to conducting research on climate change and urban agriculture at NASA.

Goldberg said she will miss all of college’s unique learning opportunities both in and out of the classroom, through which she has developed valuable relationships with her peers.

“I’m happiest about having made strong friendships that I feel like are going to last far into the future and feeling like I have a nice home here, a home that will stay with me even when I leave,” Goldberg said.

When Bender isn’t studying or doing research for her work as a biology major, she can be found hiking outside as a leader for the Columbia Outdoor Orientation Program, or mentoring other students in her sorority, Sigma Delta Tau.

“It’s great having the opportunity to mentor other students, especially through things like COÖP and some programs through the sorority,” Bender said. “Everyone is so passionate, and it’s great to be able to feed off that energy and share all the things that I love about Columbia.”

Bender, who plans to travel abroad and attend medical school after college, has pursued her passions for biology both academically and extracurricularly. Under the mentorship of Brent Stockwell, professor of biological sciences and chemistry, Bender has conducted research on programmed cell death and presented her own work at conferences throughout the country.

Bender has also attended service trips to Israel, Argentina, and Poland; helped run a free clinic in rural villages in Honduras; and studied religious pluralism in India.

Upon leaving Columbia, Bender said that she will truly miss the numerous opportunities, both scholarly and extracurricular, that are offered to Columbia students.

“I really appreciated the breadth of opportunities at Columbia and how easy it is to have access to some of the most amazing minds in the world,” Bender said. “Being able to open my email and see that I can hear from world leaders and experts or have amazing traveling opportunities there if I want to take them is incredible. I’ll really miss that.”

karen.xia@columbiaspectator.com | @ColumbiaSpec

Hannah Bender Sam Goldberg Columbia College CC Salutatorian Valedictorian
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