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A political science major who was passionate about environmental justice and healthcare reform, Arman was preparing to apply to law school.

Ajay Arman, a second-year School of General Studies student, has died, GS Dean Lisa Rosen-Metsch announced in an email to the student body on Thursday afternoon. Arman had been battling a rare and aggressive form of cancer, according to the email.

A political science major and Northern California native, Arman was preparing to apply to law school, where he would continue to explore his passions on environmental justice and healthcare reform, just as he had in his hometown where he worked to spread environmental literacy and reduce pollution.

A first-generation college student, he and his wife Michelle, also a GS student, joined the Columbia community in the spring of 2018 after juggling attending community college and an 80 hour work week. In May of 2019, Ajay participated in GS Class day following a request from the couple to help Arman accomplish his goal of graduating from Columbia according to the email

Rosen-Metsch added that those who worked closely with Arman characterized him as determined and devoted to his family, his community, and his goals.

Read the full text of the email below.

Dear Students,

It is with the deepest sadness that I write to inform you of the passing of GS undergraduate Ajay Arman, who had been battling a very rare and aggressive form of cancer. Ajay and his wife Michelle—a GS student as well—came to Columbia from Northern California in the spring of 2018. He brought with him a deep commitment to environmental justice and healthcare reform. Ajay majored in political science, and was preparing to apply to law school.

In many ways, Ajay embodied the spirit of a GS student. The son of agricultural laborers, he was the first in his family to attend college. His path to GS included working 80 hours a week while also attending community college, but his passion for his community drove him to do even more. He served in multiple local nonprofit organizations in his hometown, working to reduce pollution and increase environmental literacy. He brought this passion with him to Columbia. Throughout his battle with cancer, he remained focused on his goal of attending law school and his desire to make the world a better place. Those at GS who worked most closely with Ajay say they have never met someone with more determination and devotion—to his family, his community, and achieving his goals.

In May, as his condition worsened, Ajay and Michelle requested that Ajay participate in GS Class Day, so they could experience the joy of accomplishing their goal of graduating from Columbia. As we all come together to support Michelle, I hope we can also take inspiration from Ajay’s relentless spirit. Our deepest condolences go out to Michelle and Ajay’s family.

Whenever we lose someone within our community, we are all affected, whether or not we knew the person well. Please know that your academic advisor, the staff at Counseling and Psychological Services (CPS), and members of the Office of the University Chaplain are all available to provide you with any additional support you may need at this time. I have listed contact information for these resources below.

With deepest sympathy,

Lisa Rosen-Metsch


Information about Columbia’s Counseling and Psychological Services can be found here, and about Barnard’s Furman Counseling Center can be found here. Columbia Nightlineprovides free, anonymous peer listening services and can be reached at 212-854-7777 from 10 p.m. to 3 a.m. A full list of GS and Columbia health and well-being resources can be found here.

Staff writer Shubham Saharan can be contacted at Follow her on Twitter at @ShubhamSahara18.

General Studies
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