Opinion | Columns

Excellence comes from both accident and intent

In Nichomachean Ethics, Aristotle writes, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” Excellence at Columbia can be found everywhere, but the Columbia Daily Spectator is the exemplar of the persistence and endurance of excellence.

My Columbia experience—my majors, my friendships, and my activities—was a combination of intent and accident. Perhaps the most accidental experience, and the one that happened to become the most precious, was at 2875 Broadway, right above Pinkberry, after dialing #11 and waiting for a soon-to-be-familiar buzz.

There are many reasons to join Spectator: hands-on learning experience, valuable connections, invaluable moments and memories. Spectator became the constant habit in my college life. I started out on the business staff, making deputy after two months my freshman year and becoming a director my sophomore year. I scrambled to keep the paper operating from behind the scenes, helping to host the first ever Columbia Media Conference and working on other such tangible results from redistribution to rebranding. After serving on the managing board, I felt like my work was not yet done, and I began writing for Spectrum and Opinion to breathe life into my own words. 

Every Speccie is linked not only by the proud feeling of seeing his or her name in print or the numb exhaustion felt from leaving the office at sunrise, the pursuit of a story, the satisfaction of getting a great quote, the taste of Champagne Night, the conception of a friendship rooted on the red couch. We are linked because being Spectator means that together we strive to absorb life on campus and in this city as best we can.

We’ve shared conversations about race, music, sex, body image—not to mention the Core, leaving the bubble, and life after college. We’ve had the difficult discussions about privilege, the Barnard-Columbia relationship, sexual assault, and loss. I tried to talk to as many people as I could listen to, even when I disagreed.

I could not have learned so much about myself or my peers without all of you who make this paper possible every day and who made every night count. Thank you to 134 and 135 for inspiring me, 136 for putting up with me, and 137 and 138 for continuing our legacy. 

A loving thank you to my wonderfully talented friends with whom I worked, with whom I drank on the roof, and without whom Columbia would have felt empty: Finn Vigeland, Abby Mitchell, Rebeka Cohan, Jake Davidson, and Trevor Cohen.

Thank you to my business partners (in crime), Rob Frech, Alan Seltzer, and Alex Smyk, and to our foreparents Spencer Duhaime, Andrew Hitti, and Mabel McLean, for reminding us not to take things so seriously, and to Mikey Zhong, Hannah D’Apice, Michele Cleary, Mrinal Mohanka, and Sam Roth, for your friendship and leadership. 

To Sarah Darville, Maggie Alden, Stephen Snowder, Maya Fegan, Lanbo Zhang, Myles Simmons, Isaac White, and Abigail Fisch, thank you for making managing board such an exemplary, close group.

To my former staffers Michael Ouimette, Audrey Greene, Marc Heinrich, Peter Bailinson, Zander Daniel, Emily Aronson, and Fred Enea, I thank you for supporting me and helping me achieve my goals. To the lovely ladies Lesley Thulin, Grace Bickers, Lillian Chen, Yasmin Gagné, and Laura Wasserman, I am grateful for meeting you.

To Eli Schultz, Muneeb Alam, Sam Waters, Emma Finder, Mihika Barua, Megan Kallstrom, Samantha Cooney, Christian Zhang, Natan Belchikov, Kiera Wood, as well as Sam Sokol, Tova Kamioner, Asif Shah, Faith Amenn, Karl Daum, Sarah Frost, and Nazli Tuncer, you continue to impress me with your work every day. 

I never looked forward to Spec so much as when Peter Andrews had his nights in the office. Thank you for your love and for always making me smile.

Thank you to Hannah Brudney, the most important person to me on this campus and the first person I told when I got the call that I would be on the 136th Managing Board. (And thank you for folding my laundry for me when I was stuck at the office.)

To anyone who has read my articles, commented on them, or talked to me about them, thank you for engaging with me. Thank you for participating in important discussions online or in person and changing the anonymous void into a personal response. Thank you for trusting me with your stories. 

College is about the people you choose to surround yourself with and how they challenge you and inspire you to be your best self. I found my best self in a room containing hundreds of volumes that contain the history of this city and this campus better than any other archive in the world. Through thick and thin, these are the people who care. Thank you for standing with me in the pursuit of excellence.

Daniela Quintanilla is a Columbia College senior majoring in political science and history. She was deputy director of finance and marketing on the 135th volume, director of finance and strategy on the 136th managing board, associate Spectrum editor and opinion blogger on the 137th and 138th volumes, and opinion Spectrum deputy editor on the 138th volume. 

 Read more of this year's senior columns »

To respond to this column, or to submit an op-ed, contact opinion@columbiaspectator.com.

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Anonymous posted on

It won't be the same without Dqueezy

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dogta posted on

shut the fuck up

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