Letter: Columbus State Serves Needs of Diverse Student Population
Columbus State’s fall Commencement was last Friday. Commencement is always my favorite day. To see our students march across the stage in front of family and friends is a great reminder of why I love my job. Our students represent the best of our community. They work hard. Most are working while attending school. Many have family responsibilities. They have worked to become computer programmers, nurses, and first responders. Many are on their way to bachelor’s degrees at one of our great area universities. To see a Columbus State Commencement ceremony is to see America in its beautiful, diverse glory. Truly the land of opportunity.
I was proud to join my fellow presidents in calling for the continuation of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. As the statement we signed indicates, DACA-protected students, many of whom overcome enormous disadvantages, “represent what is best about America, and as scholars and leaders they are essential to the future.” I see evidence of that every day. A commitment to ensuring that students from all backgrounds and all walks of life have the opportunity to build a better future for themselves and their families is at the very core of our mission as a college.
Nowhere is the need for that commitment — or the rewards of that commitment — more evident than at Columbus State. Ours is the most diverse institution in our region, serving students from Central Ohio and from around the world. Columbus State reflects the background and values, hopes and dreams, and yes — fears and anxieties — of our community. We embrace the opportunity to lead by example during times of prosperity and uncertainty alike. Indeed, it is during times of uncertainty and the vulnerability it creates — whether from the perspective of an individual student balancing job, family, and academic responsibilities, or the community working through a period of transition — that the college is at its best.
At last week’s Commencement ceremony, nearly a third of the graduates whose hands I shook were the first college graduates in their families. More than half succeeded despite having been among the most financially needy college students anywhere. And well over a third were students of color, including first-generation Americans. They came to us from Linden and Bexley, India and Somalia. The view from the Commencement stage was, for me, a proud and humbling reminder of the values on which not just Columbus State, but our entire nation was founded.
For more than 50 years, Columbus State has been a place where all students have the opportunity to succeed. This focus is more important than it has ever been. The college has always been responsive to the needs of our community, and our community needs us now more than ever. We will leverage the full, inclusive character of Columbus State to provide the necessary leadership once again.
– Dr. David T. Harrison
President, Columbus State Community College