Caroline Chiu (CRS ‘10) has been the first woman to hold both the titles of President and Editor in Chief of the Columbia Daily Spectator, the second oldest continuously operating college news daily in the US. She is currently finishing her degree in Biomedical Engineering and will start working in consulting this summer. Shai Sklar (CRS ‘16) is going back to camp this summer as a second year camper and is passionate about biology and engineering. Read their conversation below!
Shai Sklar: What are you doing now, and how did you get there?
Caroline Chiu: I am a senior at Columbia, and I study biomedical engineering. I have spent most time at Columbia over the past four years working with the Daily Spectator. It is the oldest or second oldest college paper in the US, and it is very prestigious. During 2016, I was both President and Editor in Chief of the Daily, and it has been a great honour and an opportunity to do very interesting work.
I had really enjoyed working for a newspaper in High School, and I found it a great way to make an impact. I have always been someone that likes to leave places better than how they were when I got there. It became really clear to me that beyond the obvious choice of being class president, I wanted to be part of the paper. I love writing stories about things that people care about. You can inspire people writing about positive things, or urge them to take action by making information available.
I was really inspired about being part of an organization where I had a chance to make Columbia a better place. That’s what pushed me to join in the first place. I didn’t start thinking that I wanted to be editor in chief, and I would have laughed if someone had told me that when I started. As I spent more time there, I fell in love with it. I first became editor, then ran for the editor in chief, and I was very happy to get it.
S: What do you think is the most influential thing you wrote about in the paper?
C: As an editor, I am not the primary writer, I help guide writers and reporters to chase after different stories. One of the most important ones during my time was on university spending. New York City is not very spacious, as many will know. Our President has been a visionary in acquiring new space for Columbia and 2 new buildings are being built at the moment. However, that investment has meant that some money wasn’t spent in other things. The story pointed out that while directing fundraising towards buying lands and buildings is important, a lot of departments weren’t seeing that money. This got people thinking about how universities spend their money and the importance of prioritising. Are these two buildings worth at the cost of some departments not seeing funding for a while?
One of the things that is really exciting about working at the paper is not so much telling people what’s right and what’s wrong, but putting the information out there and making people realize that there are always two sides in a story.
S: How have you managed to stay so involved in college life?
C: I study biomed engineering, which is very rigorous. A large part of it was knowing what was most important to me. Academic experience is very important to me, but one of the things that I have come to understand is that hands on experience matters most. Working at the newspaper allowed me to actively be the sachem of something. To have my own project, with which to grow and learn, and to continue learning about the meaning of leading and serving.
While you can learn this in class, you don’t learn the same skills. That to me is a very important experience that I wanted to learn at college, and american universities do a very good job at giving people these opportunities. I wanted to do this and as a result made time for it. I kept asking myself “what will I remember in 5,10, 15 years? Will I remember the extra studying hour or a really important conversation I had?”
S: How has Camp Rising Sun impacted your life thus far, and how do you think it will impact you in the future?
C: CRS has influenced me in a lot of ways that are tangible, and many others that I don’t even realize. But it has inevitably shaped my life. CRS is so unique, so few people in the world get to experience such an immersive camp with people from all around the world. I feel really lucky to have had the opportunity to go at the age of 14. The biggest lesson that has guided me is that it taught me how big the world is and it taught me to dream bigger. I’m from Queens, a borough in NY, it would be easy to just focus on that. But what I realized after camp, and in college too, is that Queens is just a tiny fraction of the whole world, and that all of us are constantly influencing each other.
This understanding of how big the world is taught me to dream bigger. It is great to make change in my community, but if I have the opportunity to not only impact my community but my country or the world, then I would like to use my life, my talents and skills to have as big an impact as I possibly can. Had it not been for CRS, I would not have an appreciation of how diverse and large the world is, and how common our interests are.
S: What advice would you give to Camp Rising Sun alumni?
C: Keep in touch and stay connected. It’s been 8 years since I went to camp, and a lot of things have happened in this time. It is easy to to lose touch as we live different lives, graduate college, move cities… But one of the greatest parts about camp is the people.
And there is so much to be gained from staying in touch. I went to the World Reunion in Budapest in 2010 and it was such an amazing feeling to reconnect. It struck me that I need to kept talking to them. With technology today, it is very easy to stay connected.
It is such a joy to hear from a fellow camper, even if you haven’t seen or spoken to them for a while.
S: How would you suggest a camper stay involved with and contribute to the CRS community?
C: It is different depending on where you are. I am lucky because I am in NY and camp is here and I can host campers when they arrive. If you are in the tristate area always volunteer to host people, it’s a great way to stay connected and make an impact. I remember hosting two campers a few years back and it really makes a difference to have a conversation with them before they go to camp, remind them to be open minded and so on.
Locally, make sure to go to and organise Alumni Association events. Make yourself go, you never will regret it. Even if you don’t know anybody there. Introduce yourself to people, we are campers for life.
If you travel where you know there’s a camper, reach out and say hello. I’m going to Amsterdam and I have messaged some people I will meet up with!
Something else I like to do is donate. It is not a lot, but I give what I can. Even if you can just give a few dollars, everything adds up. Camp is not possible if there is no fundraising. No matter how small, it will make a difference.
S: How do you think your experience and your connection with LAJF and CRS will help you in the future?
C: In general my CRS experience reminds me that the world is large, and that any impact that I am making right now I can make ten fold if I look bigger. I am starting a job in July in consulting, but before I want to travel, the curiosity that CRS had given me, and the relations I made are something you can only get through CRS.
Regarding the actual job, I get to give them preferences about where I want to take on projects. Because of CRS, I will ask to be sent as far away as I can. Those choices that I am making are very much because of my time at CRS. I just know there is so much out there that I wouldn’t have known about had I not gone to camp.
There are so many other ways that I probably don’t even know. Keeping me open minded and reflective. I am so grateful, I really don’t think there is anything else in the world like it.