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CUSP Alliance


The purpose of the CUSP Alliance is to place the Columbia Undergraduate Scholars Program in the hands of the Scholars by recognizing and formalizing a core of proactive Scholar leaders who desire to play an integral role in developing the Program. The CUSP Alliance offers the Scholars creative and constructive opportunities to serve as ambassadors between the CUSP administration, the Scholar population, and the greater Columbia, New York City, and global communities. They gain experience organizing and facilitating long-term community and civic programming that serves not only as an opportunity to foster a sense of community within CUSP but as one of many examples of the powerful results possible through application of CUSP ideologies.


Founded in September 2005, the CUSP Alliance became a structure through which Scholars are empowered in their own Program under the direct guidance and supervision of the CUSP Administratiors. This Scholar leadership upholds the CUSP Leadership Pillar and was initially conceptualized and implemented by the CUSP administration as a natural extension and enhancement of the original Scholars Advisory Board (a panel of twelve Scholars appointed to the Board by application, who acted as liaisons between the Scholars and the Office and helped brainstorm ideas for the Program). Scholars immediately participated and assumed leadership roles with an unforeseen vigor.  Formerly known as the Scholars Governing Board & Scholars Advisory Council, the CUSP Alliance renamed itself to distinguish the organization as a collective of like minds inclusive of not only Scholars, but also their growing supporters in the Columbia community. 

Meet the CUSP Alliance Organizers of 2017-2018

Busola Akinniranye, Director of Communications is a sophomore in Columbia College Class of 2018 majoring in Neuroscience and Behavior.

As well as serving on the CUSP Alliance, she is involved in the Undergraduate Recruitment Committee giving tours on campus every week spreading her love for her Columbia community. Busola is also a part of the American Medical Students Association, specifically in the Women in Medicine committee. Most recently, she is helping spearhead the new Columbia chapter of Sci-Inspire, an organization made to facilitate volunteering in the STEM field between underprivileged communities in the Morningside Heights area and students. She hopes to become a physician in the future, particularly an obstetrician and gynecologist. In her free time, she loves to watch more hours than Netflix than is good for her and find all the good food in New York City. Busola constantly misses the warm weather, kind people, and sweet tea of her home in Sugar Land, Texas and is always ready to talk about anything and everything southern. She hopes to help the CUSP Alliance in bringing Scholars together in the next few years to create a strong CUSP community.

Veniamin Gushchin, Humanities Representative, is a John Jay Scholar sophomore at Columbia College, studying Comparative Literature and Society with concentrations in Computer Science and Linguistics.

Aside from the CUSP Alliance, he is on the editorial board of the Columbia Review, a Senior Editor for the Journal of Politics and Society, and participates in theatrical productions on campus such as the Rocky Horror Picture Show and Latenite.

Edward Ko, Engineering Rep, is a senior at Columbia University School of Engineering and Applied Science majoring in chemical engineering.

Edward has been a dedicated member of the CUSP Alliance since his freshman year, primarily organizing community service events such as the annual Columbia Community Outreach event and the JJ’s Thanksgiving meal preparations for the homeless. Apart from the CUSP Alliance, Edward volunteers regularly with the Columbia Community Impact group where he helps to serve the local NY community.  In his spare time, Edward loves playing sports, practicing ukulele, attending movie screenings, and cooking.  Recently, he learned leather working and began making leather wallets and clutch bags.  Edward is excited to be a part of the CUSP Alliance where he can help actualize creative new CUSP events so as to bring the CUSP community together.

Alicia Kysar, Senior Officer, is a John Jay Scholar Senior in Columbia College, majoring in English and Political Science, with a strong focus on Pre-Law.

Her interests include the role of women in Cubist writing during Modernism, constitutional law, and the applications of American and international law in securing and protecting rights for women, immigrants, and refugees around the world. She is passionate about non-fiction writing and the role it can have in creating an informed populace and instigating change, and as such she serves as Senior Editor on the Columbia Political Review and Print Editor on the Columbia Undergraduate Law Review. She has written and collaborated on several feature articles and web columns for the Columbia Political Review, and has reported on world leaders visiting Columbia University. She is also a columnist for the University of Pennsylvania Undergraduate Law Review - The Roundtable. In her spare time, she loves theatre and going to all sorts of plays in New York, as well as visiting art museums and galleries around the city. She runs her own theatre and arts blog, “Dispatches from the Midnight Radio” (, where she publishes reviews and updates on the arts world, mainly in New York. She is also an active member of New York Roadrunners and is currently training for (and a little scared of) her first New York City marathon in the spring.

Charles Sanky, Vice-President,is a senior in Columbia College from Long Island, New York, studying psychology and business management.

He is a proud Kluge Scholar and has been a member of the CUSP Alliance for the past three years. As an active musician, Charles is the Vice-President of the Columbia University Wind Ensemble and serves on the worship team for the Intervarsity Christian Fellowship. Charles also served on the New Student Orientation Program Committee for the past three years, where he worked toward creating a welcoming and supportive campus community through his roles, ranging from overseeing the coordinating committee to being an orientation leader. Charles works for Columbia University Information Technology, the New York City Health Department, and the Columbia School of Social Work. He also serves as the Vice President of the Columbia College Student Council Class of 2016. In his spare time, Charles enjoys running, swimming, reading, practicing martial arts, performing, and listening to music and Ted talks. He is grateful for his wonderful, encouraging family and friends. Charles aspires to become a physician and eventually work in health policy. In the meantime, he is grateful to be a part of furthering the Columbia University community!

Bunmi Solano, Secretary is a sophomore in the Columbia College (’18), considering majoring in Chemistry on a premedical track.

She is deeply interested in the studies and conducted research of the life sciences, along with the physical sciences that accompany them, but has always had a special space in her heart reserved for the Arts (namely visual representations). She has so far dedicated a year of her Columbia career to work involving the CU chapter of Engineers Without Borders, in which she stands as the Events and Planning Chair, while also belonging to the Power and Energy Project of the Morocco team. Though she is not an engineer, she has spent a lot of time involved with engineering based projects, in the hopes that her efforts will reach those involved in STEM careers and paths toward STEM careers, regardless of the means in which they are obtained. With the debut of a new club on campus, Sci-Inspire, which aims to connect willing Columbia University science and engineering oriented students with schools in need within the area, she has assumed the role of a board member and is working with her newly-assembled team to build help build the Columbia chapter of this club from the bottom up. She is a member of the American Medical Students Association’s Women in Medicine committee, and in the meantime, helps organize those events concerning the Columbia Undergraduate Scholars Program that promote scholarly collaboration and interdisciplinary and cultural exposure for all who are involved. Hailing all the way from Arlington, Texas, if you ever need her, she can be found browsing Tumblr or, eating something painfully sweet, or complaining about Japanese homework (in a loving way).

Eric Tong, President, is majoring in Biomedical Engineer at Columbia University School of Engineering and Applied Science.  

In addition to serving on the board for the Columbia Scholars Alliance, Eric works as a senior resident adviser for the Living Learning Center, and a researcher in Columbia's Cell Engineering Laboratory where he studies cartilage engineering.  Eric is also a founding member of the Columbia University Maker Space, and has helped transform an empty room into a space with all the tools needed for any Columbia student can build personal projects or work on design challenges.  On weekends, he spends his time playing the piano, or practicing Martial Arts.  Eric delights in taking on new challenges and experiences, whether it is chaperoning a group of exchange students through Super Bowl Boulevard in Times Square, or providing therapeutic music for the patients at St. Luke's Hospital.  Having grown up in Florida, Eric misses his fantastic family and the warm weather.  Eric hopes to continue to facilitate the Alliance's programs growth through new initiatives.

Hailey Winstead, Historian is a sophomore in Columbia College from Southport, North Carolina majoring in Psychology. 

In addition to being involved with the Columbia Scholars Alliance, Hailey serves as a Community Service Co-Chair for the Charles Drew Premedical Society allowing her to give back to her community by planning monthly service projects for the general body members. She was honored to be in the first group of Alma Mater Ambassadors, a Columbia program dedicated to reaching students in underrepresented areas. Through this program, Hailey was able to talk about her experiences at Columbia to high achieving students from her home state. This past summer, Hailey worked as an intern for the Cass Elias McCarter Guardian ad Litem Program in Horry County South Carolina, giving her the opportunity to advocate for abused and neglected children. One day, Hailey hopes to be a pediatric surgeon while conducting research on health disparities. In her spare time, she enjoys going to Broadway Shows, talking about her southern roots, and watching way too many episodes of Grey’s Anatomy on Netflix.

Amy Xia, is a junior in Columbia College (’17) majoring in Biology from Plano, TX. She is interested in pediatric medicine, research, public health, and science outreach/education. 

She is passionate about Columbia Science Review, a publication and club that aims to spread science in the Columbia community, on campus and beyond. She teaches hands-on biology classes at nearby elementary schools though HYPOTHEkids and volunteers at Terrence Cardinal Cooke (commuting to school and hospital alike via scooter)! She finds energy in talking about ideas (especially those heart-to-heart conversations at 4am) and in working with passionate, motivated people. She is excited to create a more cohesive CUSP community this year through CUSP Alliance and the Mentorship Family Tree. In the future, she hopes to pursue a career in medical research and/or practice. More importantly, she hopes to follow her motto: “Do well and do good.”

Columbia Undergraduate Scholars Program


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