The long line of students, parents and friends snaked up the steps of Launer Auditorium and around the venerable building. Some were in jeans or capris, but the majority were in shorts and T-shirts; it is August after all. Student advisors, otherwise known as community consultants, wore "I've got the power!" T-shirts. They kept the crowd moving and kept their spirits up with jokes.
The bright-eyed new students weren't going into the auditorium to see a main attraction. They were the main attraction in one of Columbia College's newer traditions, the pinning ceremony, where all new incoming students are given a pin and a white rose.
As Dr. Terry Smith, executive vice president and dean for Academic Affairs, called their name, 154 incoming new students mounted the steps onto the stage to receive the pin from a faculty chair; a white rose from Courtney Lauer-Myer, the 2010-11 student government president; and a firm handshake of welcome from Dr. Gerald Brouder, college president.
The pin bears three words: "Columbia College" and "commitment."
"We commit to you opportunity. We commit to you quality. We commit to you an increase in competence and confidence," said Brouder, "and we ask that you commit heart and soul to academic success." Columbia College, he said, can be a catalyst for life, adding, "We truly are at your service."
The white rose – "the flower of light" – symbolizes unity, sincerity and loyalty. At the end of the pinning ceremony, Columbia College staff retrieved the rose to safeguard it until graduation, when it will be returned in the Ivy Chain ceremony.
The guest speaker was author, women's business expert and media personality Susan Wilson Solovic ’80, whose latest bestseller is The Girls’ Guide to Building a Million-Dollar Business.
Solovic, a history and political science major, said she wished she could trade places with the students and be an incoming freshman again. She told the freshmen to not be afraid to fail and never worry about what they were going to be when they grew up, stating that she had been so many things in her life and had failed so often it would take a very long time to list them all.
Solovic also emphasized that the students should finish what they started, quoting sociologist Malcolm Gladwell that achieving greatness in anything takes 10,000 hours, be you Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg (co-founder of Facebook) or Ray Kroc (founder of McDonald's).
The day before, Solovic spoke at a Columbia College faculty conference and was greeted with a standing ovation; and at a Women in Business luncheon. She also signed books at the luncheon and used her own story - from high school baton-twirling lessons to CEO - to illustrate women's journey to success.
Women often don't think big enough, she told the assembly of alumnae (and one man), and don't delegate enough. This "mothering" instinct to do it all themselves is more than tiring, she said, it can stifle initiative and creativity.