Meet Dean Mitali Dave

Dean Dave, a member of the GS dual degree advising team, currently works with GS’ers from Sciences Po’s Reims campus. She shares a little bit about her GS story and advice for international students.

June 23, 2023

Dean Mitali Dave is a member of the dual degree advising team within the Columbia GS Dean of Students Office and currently works with GS’ers specifically from Sciences Po’s Reims campus. We asked Dean Dave to share her GS story, her role as an advisor, advice for international students, and more!

GS students are very familiar with this question — and we wanted to ask you as well: What’s your GS story?

Like many GS students, I was a nontraditional college student myself! After completing high school, I took a gap semester and started at a community college in Northern New Jersey before transferring to New York University (NYU). After graduation, I landed my then dream role working in publishing and spent a few years talking about books to anyone and everyone who would want to listen. Soon I realized that as much as I loved it, it’s not what I wanted long term. This led to a return to graduate school and a degree in international education. I spent some time in various roles at universities in Washington, D.C. and Boston and now I’ve returned home to New York City!

I’d spent a semester studying abroad in Florence, Italy during my time at NYU. I was also a peer advisor and some of my residents were freshmen in NYU’s Global Liberal Studies program where they spend their entire freshmen year abroad. I was in awe of these brave and ambitious teenagers and my own experience was so transformative I wanted to facilitate meaningful intercultural exchanges for college students. 

You’re part of the dual degree advising team in the GS Dean of Students Office: Tell us a bit about your role and how you support GS students and help them reach their goals.

As a dual degree advisor, I see my role first as a secondary support system for dual degree students while they are at our partner institutions and then as a guide for their time at Columbia. Simply put, my advising philosophy is student centered. I am a big believer in collaboration. I believe in providing as much information as possible and empowering my advisees to make the best choices.

I am a visual learner and do love a good spreadsheet that lays out a plan to complete all requirements. Sometimes students don’t realize how helpful it is to have a blueprint—you don’t have to start from scratch each semester! I love advising because no two students are the same. In the same day, I can meet a student who has a five-year plan down to which class they will attempt each semester, only to turn around and meet a student who is absolutely overwhelmed by the vastness of Columbia and unable to make any decisions at all. And I find it rewarding working with both sets of students to get them to graduation.  

How do you change your approach when advising international students? What advice/challenges/questions, etc. are more relevant with this cohort?

In advising international students, one thing I keep in mind is that they perhaps did not have the same advantage as their peers who perhaps went through the American primary and secondary education system. For those students, their lived experiences inform their choices and they accumulated knowledge about processes and systems by being virtual bystanders. With international students, as exciting it is to attend Columbia, culture shock is very, very real. New York City can be a vast, lonely, and intimidating place if you don’t know anyone prior to arriving here. Add in acclimating to an educational system they don’t know like the back of their own hands? It’s so tough! I am constantly in awe of our students! 

We’ve heard that you really love ice cream: What are your top three favorite flavors?

Pistachio (at Van Leeuwen’s), Wildberry Lavender (at Jeni’s), and Sea Salt Caramel. 

What’s the last book you read?

I am a huge fan of the Percy Jackson series and recently completed a reread with my 10 year old nephew. And I’ve just started Tomorrow, Tomorrow, Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin. 

What’s one piece of advice you’d give to a student about to begin their GS and Columbia journey?

Take a deep breath; this rollercoaster only goes up from here!