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Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Columbia College family demonstrates how big small can be

By Amanda Noel
arnoel1@cougars.ccis.edu

Columbia College sells itself to prospective students with the slogan, “how big small can be,” but in order to understand what this catchphrase truly means, you have to live it. When students, faculty and staff step on campus, they are not only joining an institution, they are becoming a part of a family that will support them throughout their stay at Columbia College.

Contrary to the sea of people one might feel like they are drowning in at a larger university, such as our MU neighbors, it is hard not to recognize a friendly face on the Columbia College campus. Classes rarely exceed 30 students and average around 20, which means professors genuinely get to know students – especially those who are involved in their field of study. They are also available for extra help outside of class to guide students down their educational and career paths.

Staff members also have an undeniable interest in students. It is a rarity for most college students to say they have built a personal relationship with a dean at their schools, but this level of association is not uncommon for Columbia College students. Staff members pride themselves on building rapport amongst the students. They attend athletic games to cheer on the Cougars, participate in extracurricular events and are there to lend a helping hand for students when needed.

This warmth demonstrated by faculty and staff only begins to kindle the fire of the bond that burns between the students at Columbia College. When a crisis comes along in students’ lives, they don’t have to look far for a shoulder to cry on. Fellow students fill in the role of brothers and sisters for one another, and dormitories become a home away from home for their residents. It is these people who see you at your best and worst and still stick by your side through thick and thin that make up the Columbia College family.

This semester has been especially tragic for Columbia College with the passing of one of its most esteemed faculty members and the loss of a beloved staff member while another faculty member battles a life-threatening disease. As heartwrenching as these events have been for Columbia College, they have also shown the vital strength of our unity as a campus.

Senior Shanna Seyer, head resident assistant of Banks Hall, has shown an extreme gratitude toward the Columbia College community. Seyer experienced quite a rough patch after the passing of Ryann Schmidt, and the campus community was there to help her though it. She says they have been “nothing less than phenomenal” in helping her cope with this loss. Faye Burchard, dean for Campus Life, Julie Starkey, assistant dean, and members from Counseling Services and Student Support Services did not leave Seyer’s side in her time of need. Residential Life members were also there for her despite their own grief, she says. Even students that she would not expect to show her support reached out to her.

This is just one example of students receiving quality treatment at Columbia College. I’m sure many students could relate to Seyer’s experience of the close knit, family-like atmosphere demonstrated by the campus community. Columbia College students have access to many support outlets that can help ease their minds and save them from losing focus on their educations when going through an emotional crisis. This support system, which is incomparable to most universities, is one of the many reasons why Columbia College has earned the reputation of “how big small can be.”

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