Columbia alums: ‘Oh, the places you’ll go’

By Zoë Eitel, Editor-In-Chief

Lena Waithe, a 2006 television alumna, made history Sept. 17 by becoming the first black woman to win an Emmy award for outstanding comedy writing in a television series. Though definitely the most memorable, she was not the only Columbia alumni to win at the Emmys that night.

Columbia is a place where everyone can agree they are pushed and inspired by the work of previous graduates who have made waves in their fields. Whether in writing, acting, producing, dancing, reporting, business, design or the many other careers Columbia prepares its students for, you’d be hard pressed to find an alum not making an impact. Waithe is just the most recent example of this.

Waithe won the award with actor Aziz Ansari for their work on the episode “Thanksgiving” for Ansari’s Netflix original series “Master of None.” In the episode, Waithe’s character Denise goes through years of Thanksgivings with her family as she works to accept her sexuality and get her family to do the same.

As a queer black woman, Waithe is representative of the diverse student body at Columbia, and what that student body can accomplish if they focus and don’t listen to people who say they can’t.

During her acceptance speech, Waithe said, “The things that make us different, those are our superpowers,” which perfectly exemplifies what it means to be a Columbia student. She went on to explain, “Every day, when you walk out the door, put on your imaginary cape and go out there and conquer the world because the world would not be as beautiful as it is if we weren’t in it.” There’s a reason it is so easy to spot the Columbia student walking down State Street: We all have our capes on.

As reported on the Front Page, Waithe told The Chronicle how important her time at Columbia was to her determination.

Just visit Columbia’s notable alumni page to see all the success that comes out of the college, but in particular, I’d like to highlight some who won big or were nominated for awards this year at the Emmys, made their alma mater proud and gave current students something to strive for.

Dan Kenyon, ’10, winner

Outstanding sound editing for a nonfiction program for “The Beatles: Eight Days A Week – The Touring Years”

Lena Waithe, ’06, winner

Outstanding Comedy Writing for a Television Series for “Master of None”

Daniel Kibblesmith, ’05, nominee

Outstanding writing for a variety series for “The Late Show with Stephan Colbert,”and outstanding writing for a variety special for “Stephen Colbert’s Live Election Night Democracy’s Series Finale: Who’s Going to Clean Up This Sh*t?”

John Zuiker, ’05, nominee

Outstanding production design for variety, nonfiction, event or award special for “74th Annual Golden Globes”

Julie Altus, ’01, nominee

Outstanding sound editing for a series for “Gotham”

Heather Gross, ’97, winner

Outstanding sound mixing for a limited series or movie for “The Night Of”

Tiffany Griffith, ’92, winner

Outstanding sound editing for a series for “Stranger Things”

Columbia alumni are often award winners, statement makers and world changers, and I hope years after I’ve graduated, I read about former classmates of mine making history like Waithe.

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