Columbia Hosts First Student-Programmed Gala to Raise Money for Scholarships

students working on decorative signage for gala
Spearheaded by the Columbia College Chicago Board of Trustees, “Unleashed 2022” features eleven interactive showcases of student work, cocktails, and dinner followed by a performance of the institution’s award-winning gospel ensemble.

When attendees walk into the Student Center on Thursday, December 1, at 6 p.m. they will see multiple floors activated with displays of student work. One hundred and fifteen students representing academic departments including Business and Entrepreneurship, Dance, Cinema and Television Arts, Photography, English, Interactive Arts and Media, and Music will demonstrate their projects in cross-disciplinary, creative showcases.

Associate Professor and Coordinator of the Arts Management program Bob Blandford, says “the “Unleashed” Gala reflects the unique educational experience Columbia offers students; blending creative practices with business and practical skills. At Columbia, students learn from expert practitioners and are immersed in hands-on opportunities during their tenure as students.”

The Business and Entrepreneurship Event Management Practicum incorporated the gala into its curriculum this year, making every aspect of “Unleashed” part of the course. “Columbia really embraces this unique practicum model,” Blandford says. “For instance, the Hokin Gallery at 623 S. Wabash is a gallery management practicum. Manifest, Columbia’s annual urban arts festival is also fully run by students and supported by an events management practicum. We have AEMMP records, the country’s oldest continuously run student record label, which is a music business practicum.”

Chaired by Columbia board members John Holmes and Hugh Williams, attendees will experience the practicum model in action and hopefully recognize the value of creatives in all professional sectors.

“This event demonstrates that we do have a rather innovative curriculum,” said Mary Filice, Associate Professor of Arts Management. “Our pedagogy is hands on, it is professional, and it is academic. Here at Columbia, our students are committed to creating positive changes in a way that is truly transformative to the professional world, the creative world, and our overall society and culture.”

And yet, reaching the professional world is often a hard road for students. Most Columbia students rely on financial aid and students are especially vulnerable between their freshman and sophomore year. Persistence scholarships are awarded to enrolled students to help them persist towards graduation. Of the 834 Persistence Scholarships awarded last spring, all recipients stayed in school and re-enrolled.

As Assistant Dean of Student Life Kari L. Sommers recalls, “I remember asking in the very first-class session that Bob, Mary, and I taught this year, ‘How many of you are scholarship recipients?’ Man, the hands went up and one by one our students were saying, ‘I wouldn’t be here without scholarships.’”

Filice agrees, noting that she hopes that donors will use this opportunity to become more familiar with the wide range of skills students develop during their time at Columbia. “We certainly hope that our attendees will take away a deep understanding of the value of these creative disciplines our students are studying, and our guests see firsthand that they have knowledge and skill sets that are transferable across a range of industries,” Filice says. “What we have here, it’s wonderful.”

The 2022 Columbia College Chicago scholarship fundraiser will be held on Thursday, December 1st, 2022, at the Student Center at 754 S. Wabash. For more information, please visit or contact the department of Development and Alumni Relations at