Kate Welty, SEAS ’18, hated Columbia when she came to visit. After deciding to attend last minute, it took almost two years for her to start enjoying her classes and feel supported on campus.
Welty made her mark in campus politics, becoming involved with the Columbia Political Union by pure chance when she went to a meeting with one of her friends, where she was offered an open position by the board.
She said she appreciates the fact that CPU brings together all students who want to talk about an issue, whether they agree or disagree.
“We had an event last year for first-years where the president of every club debated each other. All of our main political groups were all on one stage, and it was a great way to hear diverse opinions on this, more than the ones that are being dominantly shouted. … I fell in love with it,” she said.
By the end of her sophomore year, Welty was elected president and presided over an all-female board.
“An all-women board helped us reach out to a lot more groups that we weren’t hitting before. Having a lot of Barnard women on our board particularly … it really shaped programming,” Welty said. “It helped us do more a lot more interesting ideas that we wouldn’t have thought of doing before, because we had people of so many different backgrounds coming together to talk about these issues.”
During her sophomore year, Welty was also chair of the Columbia Elections Board, which faced backlash for allegedly promoting inadequate council elections registration. Welty said she felt that she was caught in between apathetic voters and passionate candidates who needed someone to blame for low voter turnout.
“When you’re a candidate and you think what you are doing is so important ... it’s hard to understand that some people just really don’t care, and the middleman of that was the elections board,” she said. “The sentiment [from the candidates] was not that ‘they don’t care,’ it was that ‘you’re not getting to them’ and ‘there must be some reason they’re not interested in me and it’s not because they’re not interested in me.’ So I was stuck in this horrible middle.”
During her time as chair, Welty received many emails that were personal attacks. She said she was surprised by how willing her peers were to scrutinize her over email or to the press but stay silent when they saw her in person.
“The process taught us what kindness means. … You will get in conflicts while you’re here … and it’s really easy to forget that you’re all peers,” Welty said. “We’re all going through a lot of the same stuff. When you’re screaming at me in public, telling me I’m doing a horrible job, just remember I have a midterm the next day. Columbia is not easy on anyone, and it gets a lot harder when we’re not nice to each other.”
Welty says her experience on CEB was one of her most formative at Columbia. Other experiences, such as being a New Student Orientation Program leader and a tour guide, have reminded her why she loves Columbia.
“You have to take an hour a week to look at campus and see it through the eyes of someone who isn’t slogging at Butler or isn’t jaded. You get the opportunity to remember what it feels like when you first stepped on campus and why this is a really unique and special place,” she said.
Welty wants to remind current and future students that while it is hard to feel special on this campus, everyone is valuable and makes an impact.
“It’s hard to feel like you’re valuable sometimes,” Welty said. “We celebrate success here at Columbia in some very odd ways. We constantly need to be reminded, all four years … that any impact you had ... is just as valuable as anyone else’s impact.”
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