Updated: Jul 2, 2021
By Nia Brown
You might not know the following figures—but you should. In Campus Characters, The Blue & White introduces you to a handful of Columbians who are up to interesting and extraordinary things and whose stories beg to be shared. If you’d like to suggest a Campus Character, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kate Christensen, BC ’14, once gave up suffering for Lent. She resolved to expel negativity from her life, and that was rather apparent as she, smiling and effusively upbeat, sits down with me in the cafe of the New York Historical Society.
We begin with her childhood. Kate recalls that she was always much taller than her classmates—closer in stature to her teachers, which she believes partly explains her tendency to speak up. From standing up to her grade school teachers for “every little injustice” to being the first to raise her hand and secure a take home final for her current American Congress course to spearheading the Columbia University Republicans as president, Kate has always seized opportunities for leadership.
Guiding CUCR, Kate has strove to “increase the palatability” of the organization to those on campus and focus on “embracing the plurality of conservative thought.” To a large extent she has succeeded: CUCR has increased its membership and sought to establish a more cordial relationship with other campus groups and students, though Kate makes it clear she is not solely responsible.
But what Kate has enjoyed most in her Barnard years is her WBAR radio show, Superiority Complex. She often invites guests—including her parents, campus celebrities, and friends—making them do karaoke and discussing their taste in music. The playlists she crafts manage to meld the musical stylings of seemingly disparate artists, from Bruce Springsteen to Johnny Cash to Radiohead to 2 Chainz, for instance, all in the same set titled “Songs They Should Really Play at the RNC.” Her show has also featured an Anti- Patriarchy playlist, a mix titled “Playlist,” and tribute to Nate Dogg titled “All Doggs Go to Heaven.”
Kate is also almost zealously committed to showy displays of affection towards her friends. She once learned the chords for and performed a song by friend Nellie Gayle’s, BC ’15, favorite boy band, One Direction, as a surprise when Gayle was a guest on her radio show. On a Habitat for Humanity trip that she attended with Christensen, Gayle noted that her friend wielded the power tools rather impressively for a DJ who goes by WBARbie. In true Christensen fashion, Kate kept spirits up during even the most mundane and difficult tasks. She once made it rain glitter over the door of a friend on the eve of her birthday. The friend, Ellen Watkins, BC ’14, called it a “feat of engineering” and “the best birthday surprise ever.” Watkins went on to describe the “office hours” of sorts that Kate has at the end of each day. “She will take the time to hear about every part of my day,” Watkins remarks.
I asked Kate to use just a few words to describe her four years at Columbia. She quipped that it was “resilience inflicting.” When school or life at large took its toll, what kept her sane were visits to a midtown 24-hour nail salon with karaoke in the basement. She takes respite in the quiet and calm of sitting and simply getting a manicure.