WASHINGTON SQUARE NEWS Vol. 39, No. 53 | Thursday, December 15, 2011
letter from the editor
MOST INFLUENTIAL Jonathan Fieweger
CLASS OF 2011
I’ve been the Managing Editor at the Washington Square News for a year now, and I have taken my responsibility to cover the university’s newsmakers very seriously. In a year when NYU has rigorously expanded its global network, restructured its admissions process and updated its facilities on the Square, this wasn’t a difficult task. But always searching for the newest story can cause tunnel vision. As NYU is shaping the city and the globe rapidly, it’s easy to overlook the students making a difference right here at the heart of our campus. After all, the most influential students typically don’t seek the spotlight. This issue is dedicated to the students who stand out from a crowd of over 40,000 to make a difference and influence the lives of not only their peers but also the future generations at NYU. Take JAMES NEELY, who launched the Black Student Union his sophomore year to address race relations at NYU, or BRITTANY HOLZHERR, who turned Relay for Life into one of the most robust charities on campus.
But being influential isn’t just about starting a new club or resurrecting an old one. OLIVIA BAACKES rose above the limited scope of the Inter-Residence Hall Council to build upon and improve the greater NYU community. JUDE DWORACZYK united the athletic community at NYU through his exemplary leadership on and off the court. It’s true that NYU is overwhelming, and it’s true that it can be difficult to find community here. But skating through your four years without immersing youself in NYU’s diverse community is taking the easy way out. Though standing out at NYU is certainly not easy, as these students will tell you, it can surely leave a mark. And that is why we are proud to name these 15 individuals the Most Influential Students of 2011.
— Kelsey Desiderio, Managing Editor
OLIVIA the foundation
BAACKES When Olivia Baackes became president of the Inter-Residence Hall Council last May, she renovated the council’s office located on Broadway. The space, which once had barren walls and mismatched furniture, is now decorated with colorful posters and a custom-made Housie Maguire rug. “When we are spending so much time here, I think everyone needs to feel comfortable,” the Gallatin junior said. “I wanted it to be branded properly.” Baackes’ dedication to making her group feel at home is the driving force behind the new initiatives she has pioneered as the chair of one of the largest organizations on campus. Under her leadership, NYU residence halls began holding their own town hall meetings this semester to increase communication between students and administrators. With the launch of her “Make Your Mark” campaign, IRHC membership has jumped from 50 to over 90 active members, allowing the group to take on more projects and build a stronger network. Despite the purview of IRHC, Baackes’ influence extends beyond the bounds of NYU housing. For the first time since its launch in 2004, this year’s annual Ultra Violet Live
talent competition was opened to the Commuter Council, the Polytechnic Institute of NYU and NYU Abu Dhabi, thanks to Baackes’ leadership. “I think a lot of it in the past came down to ownership,” she said. “IRHC wanted to maintain ownership over the event. They felt that if everyone was involved, then it wouldn’t be an IRHC event anymore.” This Albany native became involved in student politics on her second day at NYU, when she decided to run for president of Third Avenue North Residence Hall. “I did it because NYU is so huge, and even my building was so huge that I wanted to have some kind of place in it,” she said. “I wanted to have something a little more, something that people would know me by.” Baackes originally planned to study musical theater at NYU, but by the beginning of her sophomore year, she realized that she was falling out of love with the field. “I felt like, you know, all these horrible things are happening in the world, and I’m learning how to sing with my precious time at NYU,” Baackes said. Now concentrating in the politics of social change at Gallatin, Baackes travels to Riker’s Island to teach artsbased workshops as a part of a class she is taking. Baackes
also volunteers at a national organization called Jumpstart every week, working with preschool children to help them develop language and literacy skills. “I think I’ve always kept myself very busy — I hate being bored,” she said. “I also feel like four years is such a short time, and there is so much that I want to get done.” As for next semester, Bacckes has been speaking with the NYU Athletics Department and plans to have all of the Hall Councils sponsor group outings to sports events. She has also been working closely with various student leaders to plan a benefit concert for Relay for Life, which is scheduled to take place in March. Baackes said she felt connected to the NYU community immediately upon her arrival. But it is only by watching others find their niches at NYU, she said, that she has found the drive to continue building community at the school. “[Our slogan] used to be ‘11,000 residents, one community,’ and I changed it to ‘Welcome home,’” she said. “I want everyone that lives in residence halls to walk in and feel like they are at home, to feel comfortable, to want to be there and to feel like they know other people in their halls. For NYU as a whole, I want people to feel at home here.” — Jaewon Kang
ALBERT the mediator
COTUGNO As I was writing an email to ask Albert Cotugno for an interview, I received something in my inbox: an invitation to a town hall meeting with John Sexton, signed by Cotugno himself, who would serve as the meeting’s moderator. The message was sent out to the entire student body by the Student Senators Council, with Cotugno as its chair, and called for a conversation with NYU’s educator-in-chief. Fast forward to the event itself. In the middle of a response by Sexton, a group of students associated with the Occupy Wall Street movement started loud chants for the “People’s Mic,” and the town hall meeting came to a disruptive standstill. Posed with an immediate conversational crisis, Cotugno had to make a decision and had to make it fast. “I was running a meeting that got taken over and out of my control,” he said. “My first gut reaction was, ‘How do I get them out of here?’ But I didn’t want to be that nerdy guy that says, ‘Hey guys, stop that.’” After the tense moment, he decided to stand aside while Sexton patiently listened to their concerns about administrative control and student debt. To Cotugno, the purpose of the town hall meeting is to “make Sexton accessible and accountable to questions he’s not prepared for,” and kicking out the students from OWS would have been hypocritical to everything it stood for.
Coming to college, Cotugno never thought he would come anywhere near the roles he now finds himself in. But during the first day of his freshman year, he tagged along with his roommate to the club fair and stumbled upon the event desk for the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity. Greek life was something he dismissed due to the “Animal House conception” attached to it. Four years later, he’s the president of the fraternity’s NYU chapter, which he describes as the stepping-stone to the SSC. “I wouldn’t be in the Senate without Sig Ep,” he said. “All the things I do there are somehow rooted in my experience with Greek life.” In an organization like a fraternity, Cotugno sees its members as his brothers and co-workers. The dividing line between the two categories has strenuously trained him in what is now a vital skill: the art of compromise. Last spring, the adjunct professors went on strike as their contract with NYU was coming to an end just a month before the semester ended. Sitting on the SSC and the University Committee on Student Life, Cotugno realized that cancellation of services would have a huge effect on students who rely on adjuncts to teach and consult them outside of class. In an effort to learn more, he sat down with both the
adjunct union and NYU’s labor relations office separately — not to help settle the matter but simply to advance the discussion and ensure that the negotiations would leave the students unharmed. Cotugno calls Socrates the ideal politician because he dedicated his life to reason — a reference to Cotugno’s philosophy major in CAS and his love for truth in government. He brought this knowledge with him to the Abu Dhabi campus last year, when NYU sent him there to establish its student government. While in Abu Dhabi, Cotugno sought to create “a clear understanding of what it would do.” A year later, the SSC overseas is up and running via communication with its Manhattan counterparts. For Cotugno, his biggest hope for when he leaves NYU is that “student government grows and, by virtue of growth, becomes more effective.” But as graduation nears, Cotugno is confronted with the question of, “What’s next?” Disenchanted with his original goal of law school, he is more interested in the present moment and keeping his Google Calendar intact. He has contemplated a return to Abu Dhabi but, for now, he’s just trying to make sure every student’s voice is heard. — John Surico
JUDE the captain
DWORACZYK Since he arrived from San Antonio four years ago, Jude Dworaczyk has dedicated himself to pursuing leadership roles with the goal of helping the university community. “San Antonio is a big city, but it’s nothing like New York,” Dworaczyk said. “Coming to New York City and the fast pace of life, it’s really just energized me and fed my ambition to do a lot of different things.” Since, Dworaczyk has become a leader in NYU’s sports community, as he is now in his fourth year on the NYU basketball team. But his success stems from high school where he was a three-year starter and had a career marked by accomplishments and award. He was team captain as a senior, three-time All-District honoree and was named All-State by Texas Basketball Magazine. Today, with exemplary leadership, hard work and persistence, Dworaczyk earned the position of co-captain for the 2011-2012 season. According to NCAA rules, coaches are not allowed to lead team practices during the offseason, so the captains use that time to become the new leaders of the team. Along with co-captains senior Andy Stein and junior Kyle Stockmal, Dworaczyk led his teammates during conditioning in the weight room and pick-up games on the court. He has also focused on transforming himself and his teammates into well-rounded, tougher competitors. In addition to solidifying roles on the squad, the collective routine
enhances team chemistry. “Being a part of a basketball team is like being a part of a fraternity, except that you travel with everyone,” Dworaczyk said. “You’re practicing two-and-a-half hours a day. You spend a lot of time with these guys and they start to become your best friends. Those are friendships that will be around for a long time.” Dworaczyk is also a leader for the broader NYU athletic community serving as the current president of the Student Athlete Advisory Committee, which operates through the NCAA and is responsible for student-athlete activities and community services. The SAAC organizes “Tear It Up!” events to promote school spirit and the Special Olympics Regional Basketball Games. The regional games occur at the end of the year, involving disabled athletes from all five boroughs, with student-athletes serving as referees and instructors. In addition to his success and leadership as a collegiate athlete, Dworaczyk works hard to maintain a stellar academic record. He is an economics major and a business studies minor with a 4.0 GPA. He has received multiple University Athletic Association Academic All-Conference honors, the Presidential Service Award and the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Student-Athlete Award. Dworaczyk was a Rhodes Scholar finalist and recently
traveled to Houston, Texas, for interviews with representatives from the Rhodes Trust. After graduating in the spring, he plans to attend law school and become an attorney. And by volunteering with College Connection, Dworaczyk has helped to introduce high school students to life at NYU. The program, which operates through Steinhardt, gives students from low-income areas information about course requirements, exams, extracurricular activities and other useful information for potential college applicants. “I was raised in a single-parent household, and my mom didn’t have a college education until I was in kindergarten,” Dworaczyk said. “That inspiration of a college education was something I was fortunate enough to grow up with and realize, but a lot of kids aren’t.” Now an experienced member of the NYU community and a representative of NYU athletics, Dworaczyk guides young students around Coles Sports Center and emphasizes the benefits of athletics for the application process and for life on campus. In fact, Dworaczyk views outreach to public school students as an extension of his role as a student athlete at NYU, which involves “trying to get athletes involved as much as possible in NYU athletics, the NYU community and the broader community.” — Daniel Hinton
The “trickle-down effect” is a term often associated with the economy. But for Gallatin senior Jonathan Fieweger, it describes the community-oriented legacy he wants to leave behind at NYU. Whether he is feeding the hungry, energizing the NYU campus or lending an ear to a resident in need, Fieweger has not only made a difference, he has set an example for future NYU philanthropists. Community service has always dictated Fieweger’s actions. Having been encouraged by his parents to give back at an early age, Fieweger adopted an approach to life stemming from the guarantee of lifelong happiness by helping others. He came to NYU with the intention of cultivating that charitable commitment. And the most influential way Fieweger has given back during his time at NYU is by sharing his contagious passion for community service. As the Resident Assistant of the Community Outreach Performing Service Part 2 Exploration floor in Gramercy Green, Fieweger straddles the line between a leader and a friend, while making it easier than ever for students to get involved. Channeling his own interest in serving the less fortunate, Fieweger has created a living environment that informs and encourages Gramercy CORPS residents to allocate time in their busy schedules to give back. “We can get lost in this NYU bubble, and we don’t realize the huge community outside of Greenwich Village that really needs help,” Fieweger said. “I think that as NYU
students, if we really want to be ‘global citizens’ as all the administrators say, we really need to interact with people outside of our comfort zone.” Fieweger emphasizes that even the smallest contributions make a difference and that no one is expected to volunteer regularly. By reminding others that something like supporting a cause by buying a baked good is a simple but effective way to be involved, Fieweger has triggered an awareness among the student body. This idea of giving back in any capacity is shown in his goals as president of Two Birds, One Stone. The food rescue club delivers packaged leftovers from NYU dining halls to New York City rescue missions from Monday through Friday. While Fieweger strives to develop an even greater presence for the group on campus, Two Birds, One Stone now boasts a 70-person monthly involvement. “A lot of people at NYU think they don’t have time for community service, but our deliveries only take an hour,” he said. “And when you think about it, you are providing up to 100 meals with just that one hour.” By intertwining his ideology of finding small ways of giving back with the convenience of on-campus opportunities like Two Birds, One Stone, Fieweger has left students with virtually no excuse not to acknowledge the less fortunate individuals who share our sidewalks, parks and city. But Fieweger’s vision is also seen on campus. As aware
as he is of the suffering that exists in New York City, he doesn’t forget about the stressed, confused NYU students who may have lost their way. In addition to being an RA, he was an active participant in Gramercy’s Hall Council, Gramercy Leadership Assembly Members, to help build a community that continues to expand and involve the residence hall’s students. As an Admissions Ambassador since freshman year, Fieweger drew on his own experiences to best advise prospective students about making the right decisions for themselves. Now, as Head Tour Supervisor, it is the current ambassadors who benefit from Fieweger’s guidance. Whether you spot Fieweger rolling a cart of food over to the Bowery, rushing over to his internship at Paramount Pictures or chatting up his favorite barista at Faye’s, his authenticity and approachability are hard to miss. His ability to inspire can be largely attributed to an addictive friendliness and a willingness to lend a helping hand. “I want to serve as a mentor to people, and I think that’s why I like doing all of this,” Fieweger said. “I want others to feel like they have someone to turn to. It is important to remain true to yourself, even when you’re picking up a million things. As long as your happy, everyone else around you feeds off of that.” — Amanda Randone
the bridge builder
CHELSEA GARBELL It’s one thing to build a bridge. It’s another to make the journey across it. Chelsea Garbell does both. As president of Bridges, a Muslim-Jewish Interfaith Dialogue club, the Steinhardt junior’s dedication to fostering respectful conversation and understanding between the two religions goes far beyond the typical call of duty. Following her interview with WSN, Garbell jetted off to Fast-A-Thon — an event held by NYU’s Islamic Center. She was attending not out of presidential obligation to Bridges but in genuine support of friends. “This Fast-A-Thon matters to the friends I’ve made in the Muslim community, so it matters to me too,” she said. “It’s corny, but we really have built a lot of bridges.” In addition to fostering community between the two groups, Garbell dedicates her time to Bridges planning panels and events, including the popular Jum’ah/Shabat Fridays. Jewish students attend the Jum’ah prayer at the Islamic Center with Muslim students, and then both communities head to Friday night Jewish services. Afterwards students get together for dinner or activities. Garbell’s conciliatory influence has permeated throughout the NYU Bridges community to the national stage. Garbell was NYU’s nominee for the Truman Scholarship, and she has also acted to make her cause global. This sum-
mer, she traveled to Ghana with the American Jewish World Service to build a wall encircling a school for former child slaves. Within NYU, Bridges has become so popular that the university has planned an Alternative Breaks trip to Nashville, Tenn. As part of the trip, students from the Jewish and Muslim communities will volunteer to help rebuild the region, which was damaged by heavy flooding earlier in the year. Students will also engage with the local religious communities. Garbell and the three other board members planned the trip in conjunction with the Jewish Disaster Response Corps run by the Bronfman Center. She noted that so much interest has been generated that she still has freshmen asking if they can join. Nationally, Bridges has inspired 16 other universities to participate in the fourth-annual weekend of “Twinning of Mosques and Synagogues,” for which Garbell helped coordinate involvement. The club is also one of 250 nominees for the president’s Interfaith Community Service Challenge. “I love that Bridges has taken a huge leap of expansion,” she said. “One of the biggest ways to fix anything is to develop understanding and break down the barriers of ‘us versus them’ and recognize what we have to share and also
to respect the differences we have.” The drive to build these bridges comes from Garbell’s religious observance and upbringing, which instilled a desire to give back to the community that has always fostered her. “The Jewish community here has always been the number one driving force in my life,” she said. “It’s why I love being at NYU so much, more than anything else. I try to give back in any way that I can.” Coordinating events for Bridges has allowed Garbell to explore her other interests, like women’s reproductive rights, grassroots campaigning, global public health and, of course, interfaith and religious tolerance. With several successful discussion panels focusing on issues from food and fashion to gender and sexuality, Garbell and the Bridges board are taking the next step, a controversial one: They are planning an invite-only, sit-down conversation next semester targeted specifically for political discourse. “It will be a time and space for people to actually talk about the difficult, uncomfortable issues in a context, with people that they have gotten to know and respect,” she said. “That’s really the whole point of Bridges ... Once you have a relationship with somebody you can still have an argument and disagree and still walk away friends.” — Gentry Brown
Steinhardt senior Elizabeth Glaeser says she sees the silver lining in ever situation and works to give others that same positive outlook. She spends her time tirelessly giving to others, working with the LGBT community through Steinhardt’s Center for Health, Identity, Behavior and Prevention Studies, and at The Door, which provides services to help New York City adolescents. At CHIBPS, she interviews LGBT youth about their sexual behavior, drug usage, cognitive abilities and social support in an effort to reduce HIV rates in the city. At The Door, she conducts intakes of young, predominantly LGBT individuals to provide them with housing, health and community resources. “Working at CHIBSP, I just really emphasize the importance of using condoms to prevent disease,” Glaeser said. “People should be able to live their lives the way they want to, but they should be smart about it. Working at The Door, I find myself talking to many kids who are younger than [we are] and have gone through things that no one should ever have to go through.”
Her undying passion for helping those in the LGBT community can also be seen in her academic work. Despite double-minoring in gender and sexuality studies and child and adolescent mental health studies, she wants to earn her post-baccalaureate after graduation and become a doctor in order to help others more directly. Her interest in the well-being of others has also been fueled by her intellectual curiosity. “I am so interested in understanding how other people see things, understanding perspectives, why those perspectives inform our decision making,” she said. When Glaeser studied abroad in Ghana, she was motivated to co-create a non-profit organization — Shelter Clothing Healthcare Education Food Organization — which provides support to the Buduburam Refugee Camp. She had been working in the camp to provide HIV testing and psychosexual counseling to victims of rape and domestic violence, but she soon realized that the women were prostituting themselves to ensure a steady stream of income for meals and other necessities. Before leaving the camp, Glaeser and
her co-founders bought fabric and beads for the women to unify our lifestyles with theirs by designing New York-style garments and paying the women for their labor. Taking hundreds of pieces back to New York, they have been selling the wares in fair-trade markets, through African fashion initiatives and through retailer Do Good Buy Us. “She has a strong ability to form meaningful connections with other students,” said Daniela Montalto, an assistant professor of psychiatry. “She is always striving to do more. She stands up for what she believes in.” The driven social activist said she hopes to leave an enduring legacy behind. “I hope the footprints I leave really touch the people that I work with at The Door and CHIBPS, as well as the women that we are helping with SCHEFO in Ghana,” she said. As for any lasting words of wisdom Glaeser wished to offer to other aspiring philanthropists, she said: “Simply be where you are.” — Sarah Kamenetz
BRITTANY HOLZHERR Brittany Holzherr had just returned home from a full day of working at a day camp near her home in Ambler, Penn., when her mom told her something that would change her life forever. Katherine Holzherr sat Brittany, then in seventh grade, and her two siblings down to deliver the news. Katherine had cancer — Stage IV-B Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Tears, confusion and utter disbelief engulfed the family meeting, but they were all ready to fight back. For Holzherr, that fight came in many forms. Whether it was keeping up with the daily household chores or helping to raise her brother Kent and sister Kristen while her mother endured life-threatening chemotherapy, Holzherr was on it. “I became head of the house,” she said. “Cooking, cleaning, doing laundry, learning things that you should be learning in college, not as a 13-year-old.” It was in the spring of that year that Holzherr participated in her first Relay For Life. She brought her family along to partake in the 24-hour walk-a-thon where 100 percent of the proceeds benefit cancer research and development. Since, she hasn’t missed a single Relay at home. Holzherr watched her mother battle the disease until her freshman year of high school, when she went into remission. Four years later, when Holzherr came to NYU, she was determined to make a difference on campus. Freshman year,
she served on Brittany’s hall council as recognition chair. Holzherr’s sophomore year was when her philanthropic work took off. In the spring of 2010, she formed a Relay team with Carlyle Embassy, where she also held the position of community service chair. Together they raised close to $5,000 — more than any other residence hall in the history of NYU. “My number one thing is that I want to raise awareness of cancer and that people are affected by it,” she said. “And there are things that you can do.” That summer, Holzherr received a rather interesting phone call from Megan Guerriero at the American Cancer Society. The society had been informed of her leadership and dedication for the cause and wanted to extend to Holzherr the position of Junior Event Chair. She readily accepted. It was also becoming apparent as to how big Relay for Life was becoming, which Holzherr believes shows how much the disease has affected society. Holzherr is now in her senior year, and the 21-year-old cinema studies major has no intention of winding down her efforts any time soon. “As long as I’m in the city, I will always been involved in this Relay to the best of my ability,” she said with a smile. Holzherr is also involved in other activities around NYU,
including Colleges Against Cancer and the NYU Quidditch team, which she helped elevate to an official club sport. This week, she was also elected club president and team captain. April 28 to 29 marks the 10th anniversary of Relay for Life at NYU. Holzherr, who is now the senior event chair organizing the event, plans on going out with a bang. “I relay 10.0” is the theme, as Holzherr and her colleagues are hard at work to produce viral videos and Facebook fan pages to spread the word. Just recently, NYU Langone Medical Center was given a grant from the American Cancer Society, some of which included money from Relay for Life, according to Holzherr. Last year, NYU came in second with $170,000, finishing behind Syracuse University as top fundraiser. This year, Holzherr is hoping to surpass last year’s total, and then some. Her goal for NYU is $200,000. “I want this to be the biggest,” she said. “I want this to be my mark left at NYU.” Holzherr’s 13-year-old self has been a constant reminder as to what she’s endured and how she can help those affected along the way. “As weird as it sounds, I’m thankful that I had that experience and thankful that my mom is okay now,” she said. “Without it I wouldn’t be who I am today.” — Krista Golia
the people’s politician
IMON LI Conflict, polarization and gridlock are all among the words that might come to mind when thinking about the current political climate. Stern senior Simon Li, however, is not nearly as pessimistic. “The first thing that comes to mind is change,” he said. The finance and politics major speaks briskly and confidently when he discusses his passion for politics. Li, a self-described progressive, eagerly gives his thoughts on the Republican debates, the Occupy Wall Street protests and the student debt issue at great length. To inspire similar zeal in students, Li and others founded the Democratic Youth National Organization in May 2009. “That was shortly after Obama got elected, and we thought, ‘We really want to see the change happen, and not just see the movement die down,’” he said. “We wanted to create DYNO to serve as a stronger voice for students.” This began Li’s burgeoning involvement in the New Jersey political scene. In March 2010, Li ran for a position on the Bergen County Technical District school board as an NYU sophomore. While he did not expect to win, he was seeking to weed out the corruption that had run rampant in his district. He started a Facebook page called SimonForNJ, listed himself as politician and began campaigning.
“I started the page as almost a petition to really bring out these issues, and a lot of people actually signed,” Li said. “I was really heartened by the support I got from complete strangers.” Over 300 people signed Li’s petition, many of whom were parents and students. Li was not elected to the board, but the pressure for more accountability and transparency led to widespread resignations, including the school’s principal for allegations of sexual harassment and the superintendent for allegedly pocketing district money. In June of the same year, Li led DYNO in a march against New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s education spending cuts. After the resignations in the Department of Education, DYNO proposed cuts to school administration to go along with those for students and teachers. Christie ended up doing just that. In the fall, Li worked on the campaign for Tod Theise, a Democrat running for Congress in New Jersey, going as far as creating a campaign video set to Lady Gaga’s “Telephone.” Li is also active at NYU: He is the president of NYU China Care and the founder of the group’s Dumplings program. China Care — a national non-profit organization — provides medical, social and educational programs for
Chinese orphans with disabilities. The Dumplings program established mentor groups at various U.S. colleges for adopted Chinese children. Now Li’s primary focus is SchoolDate — a college dating startup put together by a team of NYU students — for which he is the CEO and chairman. Although he was tightlipped when it came to the website’s specifics, Li thinks SchoolDate will promote an informal atmosphere that will differentiate it from its primary competitor, DateMySchool. SchoolDate is set to launch this month, and following graduation, Li will work at UBS as an investment banker, a notoriously coveted position. And ultimately, Li plans on chasing his dream of running for Congress in New Jersey. “People always say, ‘Hey look, if you work really hard, you can achieve the American dream,’ but I think that’s been dying down,” he said. “If you work really hard, you might be able to have a glimpse of it, but with the current state of the economy, the government policies, that’s really been a big issue. I want to be part of the change to make things a little bit better — to have policies that really help the people.” — Gerald Schifman
Answering to the names Sensei Stephen and the Founding Father, Steinhardt senior Stephen Marositz takes everything to the tenth degree. Well on his way to becoming the United States Secretary of Education, every aspect of Marositz’s life is geared toward engagement. Marositz is the president of the NYU chapter of the Council for Exceptional Children, which is part of a national organization that helps children with disabilities succeed in school. By interacting with adults who struggle with disabilities, Marositz has witnessed how a teacher’s influence on his or her students can last years after their time in the classroom has ended. He remembered the time he heared a 25-year-old recall how his second grade teacher impacted his life. Marositz said experiences like this would help him later in his teaching career. When Marositz first joined the NYU CEC chapter, he said the group mainly brought guest speakers to speak to attendees. Now, his job includes running the executive
board, meeting with the chapter’s advisor and communicating with other community organizations. “I feel like I have changed the club in the dynamic of the events — they are more interactive,” Marositz said. “If you are only listening to a speaker, its just like another textbook lecture. It is better to have an actual experience.” One of Marositz’s initiatives was born from the idea of bringing the joy of music to the deaf. Though this may sound like an oxymoron, Marositz said putting emphasis on the experience of music, rather than just the sound, is what he hopes to accomplish. “I feel like I need to be a pioneer for this, which is totally fine,” he said. “I’m ready to blaze the trails, knock down the stereotypes.” Marositz also engages with the NYU community as an Resident Assistant in Founders Hall. Besides his typical RA duties, Marositz is in charge of the hall’s social media and administrative tasks. He said he
became an RA because of his genuine passion for helping people. It was his sarcastic personality, Facebook presence and self-described “vicious tweets” that earned him the nickname of “The Founding Father” around the residence hall. “If they’re not connected to my floor or Founders Hall, it is my job to find them some possible outlet,” he said. “My philosophy is they need to be connected to something at NYU. They need to find their niche.” When Marositz talks about what his future holds, he does not reply with “I hope to be,” but rather states: “I will be the U.S. Secretary of Education.” Marositz wants to take his values regarding education and reform the entire country. He said he wants students’ hopes and dreams to become reality. “A dream is something you wake up from in the morning,” he said. “I don’t want to wake up from the dream. I want it to become a reality.” — Emily McDermott
Originally a music performance major focused on orchestral and chamber work, Steinhardt senior James Neely entered NYU as the only black student in both his major and all of his classes. Coming from a mostly black community just outside of Washington, D.C., Neely felt so isolated at NYU, where only 3.8 percent of the student population is black, that he even considered transferring. After his sophomore year, Neely ultimately decided to work toward giving other students the experience he wished he had as a freshman. He co-founded the Black Student Union, which brings together black students at NYU to communicate and build solidarity with one another. “It’s part of our job to make it easier for students who come after us, so it’s not as hard for them to find community,” Neely said. “And that’s not just about black students, that’s about everyone.” As the president of BSU, Neely has helped organize multiple on-campus events, including Inspired, which was held to encourage prospective NYU students of color to attend the university.
But Neely’s initiatives to build a community of black students go beyond the walls of NYU. This fall, he also organized Keepin’ It 100, which brought together over 200 black undergraduates, including students from Columbia University, Cooper Union and Brooklyn College, to discuss black student life. At the event, students were presented with the first-ever Black Students’ Guide to NYU, which Neely co-wrote with other members of the BSU. “I consider myself a unifier of people,” Neely said. Last spring, Marc Wais, NYU Vice President for Student Affairs, gave Neely the green light to organize the first-ever Black Graduation, which was held last May. Attendees of the graduation ceremony were presented with Kente cloth stoles to wear around their necks at the all-university commencement. According to Neely, leadership is anything but selfreliant. It is all about encouraging others to harness their own abilities. “I take great pride in investing in the development of my peers,” Neely said. “As a leader, I’m not somebody who
tries to go out and do everything.” “I see myself more as like Phil Jackson than as like Michael Jordan,” Neely added. “I look at my e-board as the ’96 Bulls, and I map out who is the Dennis Rodman, who is the Michael Jordan.” Neely’s influence as a leader is directly tied to his interests in marketing and music. The Steinhardt senior is majoring in music technology, plays the saxophone and was the drum major of his high school marching band. “I like connecting people in a room,” Neely said. “As a musician, I like the feeling that everybody in this room right now, not only are they locked into me, but they’re locked into each other.” Upon graduation, Neely hopes to find a job in digital marketing with a major media outlet. “Live music — there’s no feeling like that,” Neely said. “So anyway I can try and duplicate experiences like that, be they student club events or marketing professionally, that’s what I want to do.” — James Lanning
For the last four years, the Student Resource Center has served as a second home for Catherine Peña. It was from here that she began her work with Latinos Unidos con Honor y Amistad, and it was here that she worked to create awareness for higher education, the economy, the DREAM Act and, most recently, childhood obesity. Peña, who juggles studying for her LSATs with her academics, an internship and work with LUCHA and La Herencia Latina, hopes to use her future degree in law to work on promoting education in her community. During her freshman year, Peña joined Bella Quisqueya, NYU’s Dominican student association. From there, she joined LUCHA, a historically political organization that also holds social and educational events. Peña is now president of LUCHA, where her responsibilities include planning and executing events such as the Latino Unity Conference and Annual Gala. She also coordinates and supervises LUCHA’s collaborative efforts with other student organizations, university offices and departments to create university-wide initiatives, as well as its community service projects.
As part of the planning committee for La Herencia Latina, which is NYU’s month-long celebration of Latin heritage, Peña made it her goal to revive the tradition of having an annual conference. She has been in charge of planning, coordinating and executing the conference ever since. One of the moments that touched Peña was at a La Herencia Latina event last month. An attendee from Cooper Union expressed how he is a shy student and that the competitive environment of Cooper Union doesn’t foster community, but he is grateful to have been able to come to NYU for the event. “It really hit home for me because it’s kind of a reminder of why I do what I do,” Peña said. “Regardless of how stressful it is or how much time it takes, it’s something that is of value.” Peña demonstrated her dedication to the SRC even while studying abroad in Florence, keeping in touch with the staff despite being so far. “She would check in with us at the SRC via Skype and was taking advantage of every opportunity she could
to explore abroad,” said David Vogelsang, director of the Student Resource Center. “She will leave a legacy of why it is so important to take advantage of all the opportunities that both NYU and NYC offer a student who is willing to put in the effort.” CAS senior Jazmin Molina met Peña, on a rainy summer day during their Higher Education Opportunity Program Scholarship orientation. Molina works with Peña collaborating on events for LUCHA, the Hispanic Scholarship Fund and Bella Quisqueya, and calls Peña a superwoman. “She is the epitome of what it means to succeed aside from all the hardship that a student like her, like us — minority students — have to go through,” Molina said. “[She represents that] a student of color can make it to a school like NYU and that giving back is the best way to repay others.” At NYU, Peña, who will graduate in the spring, hopes to leave NYU having brought communities together through her work with LUCHA, La Herencia Latina and the Student Resource Center. — Julie DeVito
CAMILO the advocate
Third-year law student Camilo Romero thinks activism has an image problem. “Activism is often pigeonholed as throwing rocks, smelling bad and hugging trees,” he said. “But it’s never been about that for me.” Soft-spoken, with a friendly face and quiet eyes, Romero doesn’t look like this kind of activist at all. As we walk through the law school, he takes the time to introduce me to everyone we pass. They know him, and he knows them, and he wants me to know them, too. “All the events I’m in now capture some moment of community,” he said. “They may be considered activism or not. That’s not so much the point. But they define togetherness.” In 2005, Romero spearheaded a movement to get CocaCola banned from NYU after allegations of human rights violations were brought against the company. Controversially, the university lifted the ban a few years later, undoing all of Romero’s work. But as he recalls the experiences, there is no bitterness in his voice. “It’s not so much about me and my union and big, bad Coca-Cola,” he said. “It was a tangible application of what
we were learning. That type of political awakening is so powerful. I hope that beyond my time here on this planet, people will continue to believe in that work.” For Romero, activism is not just a series of causes and talking points. It’s a way to connect to the rest of humanity. Today, Romero has continued to foster this connection through a variety of outreach programs. He mentors high school debaters through a program called Legal Outreach, and he has co-founded BlackBrown Projects LLC, an outreach group meant to foster community in Black and Latino communities. And he still has time to mentor undergraduates who are considering law school. “It’s about equaling the floor,” Romero said. “It’s to make the idea of getting into law school or any graduate school a bit demystified.” Activism, by its nature, is a very communal activity, and Romero believes this community is what makes us happier people. “It’s so that we can be comfortable with our own skin,” he said. “I don’t think anybody is fully happy when they see themselves above someone else.”
Which is weird. Activism is often depicted as a particularly arrogant form of charity. Occupy Wall Street in particular has been cast as a bunch of rich, arrogant college students stealing the voice of blue-collared workers with no time to protest. But to focus on the divisions is to miss the point. “The daily workers who are taking the brunt of it don’t have the privilege to be out,” he admitted. “But I think there’s no better place for a lot of these young people to exert themselves. I think it’s a good chance for education. It’s real street knowledge.” These protesters are trying to turn the struggles of individuals into a communal struggle. Whether they succeed in their specific goals — well, that’s not really the point. But the act of struggle for the equalization of all people, that’s what matters most. “The first thing is knowing,” he said. “The second is having the confidence to speak it. The third is to get others behind you. And that’s not just the story of activism or organizing. It’s the story of how we preserve community.” No matter what your political stripe, it’s hard to disagree with a sentiment like that. — Charles Mahoney
SANTOSUOSS For CAS senior Kayla Santosuosso, fulfilling her responsibility to protect the environment doesn’t just mean composting, recycling and turning off the lights. It means working every day toward putting environmental justice into action at NYU and the surrounding community. As the Program Assistant for Outreach and Engagement in the NYU Office of Sustainability, Santosuosso has worked to create a campus community built around sustainability, connecting like-minded students and clubs with one another. “If there’s a sustainability project or environmentalistrelated project on campus, I probably know about it, and chances are I might even have my hand in it in some way,” Santosuosso said. As a Middle Eastern studies major, Santosuosso said she never thought she would be so invested in environmental work, especially since her academic interests are so drastically different. But she said all of her work relates back to building community, personal relationships and a sense of urgency around environmental issues. One of her current projects is the Sustainable Peer Representatives Program — a social network of students living in NYU residence halls who want to foster a green community and fight for social justice alongside other students. Still in its planning stages, the program will help the NYU sustainability office reach more students than ever before. Santosuosso is also the force behind the upcoming
launch of the NYU Student Food Cooperative. The group, which will be run by students to serve other students, will serve locally sourced and organically prepared food on campus. “[The NYU student food co-op is] one of the most inspiring projects I’ve ever been a part of, I think, at this point,” Santosuosso said. “I kind of want to leave something behind and say that this is what my work led to and this is what helps create community on campus.” Santosuosso said that the co-op will start off as a mobile food cart next spring and will hopefully be given a permanent location on campus in the near future. She hopes that a permanent space will foster campus sustainability by not only providing local and organic food but also by giving students a space to talk about environmental issues to continue the green movement on campus. The group is currently among the finalists to receive a Green Grant from the university to use toward their project. Santosuosso’s sustainability initiatives go well beyond the borders of NYU. She is a board member of CoFed, a national student co-operative organization, and she is the head of sustainable sourcing at the Buschick Co-op. As Santosuosso searched for food that met the co-op’s environmental standards, she gained a new understanding of what being a part of a community was all about. Since then, she has been fully committed to community-based enterprises.
And eventually she hopes to move beyond her current borders, one day working in the Palestinian territories and focusing on either food access issues or establishing community-supported agriculture programs. Currently, she is working as a development intern for the Arab American Association of New York and a member of NYU Students for Justice in Palestine. Santosuosso advocates for Palestinian statehood and influences how others perceive Arab-Americans in the United States. “In working with a community that deeply, I’ve just become more and more attached to trying to make sure there is a fair and just representation of [the Arab-American] community in New York City and elsewhere,” Santosuosso said. Until then, Santosuosso wants to stay in Brooklyn after graduation and start a sustainable catering business for the film industry. This idea will hopefully fill a gap in New York City’s film industry, which has limited access to sustainable catering, Santosuosso said. Sanuosuosso said she is in a constant struggle to find time for herself while bearing the responsibility to foster a culture of sustainability at NYU and in the surrounding community. “I don’t think that someone selected me to be responsible for these things,” she said. “It’s just that I don’t know how to not be responsible for it. I don’t understand how to not be completely engaged, for better or for worse.” — Elizabeth Gyori
IMOTHY SHI His professors call him a student advocate, a community asset, a natural-born leader. His peers call him a ladies’ man, a master chef, a confidant. For someone with so many different identities, it’s surprising how easy it is to get to know CAS senior Timothy Shi. His charismatic smile, jocular personality and unassuming air seem to promise no surprise attacks — exactly the kind of quality needed to be a great nurse. Long before a personality test labeled him a “caregiver,” Shi decided to dedicate himself to the world of nursing. But it hasn’t been easy — responsibilities pile high. “You have to look out for a patient,” he said. “You have to know everything about their disease. You know more about the patient than the doctor does.” After spending the summer of his junior year on the leukemia and lymphoma floor at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, Shi recalled his first day on the job when a patient told his doctor that he had given up.
“I almost cried,” he said. “We had to break it to the family that he was just done. It’s just seeing the family. You can’t tell a loved one that he’s going to die. It’s just hard.” Mentally and physically taxing, nursing at times forced Shi to work 12 hours at a time, unable to even sit down. Still, Shi’s passion has only grown. “You had to haul ass,” Shi said. “But I absolutely loved it.” Taking his passion for helping others to college, Shi joined the NYU College of Nursing and was elected president of the Undergraduate Nursing Student Organization his junior and senior year. Under his leadership, the group has risen from obscurity to host 10 to 12 nursing events per semester and create a sense of identity among nursing students. Always after the greater good for the greatest number of people, Shi worked tirelessly to expand the influence of underrepresented nursing students. He succeeded in establishing the first senator position on the University Senate for
nursing students. Shi also became the undergraduate representative on the Council of Ethics and Professionalism for NYUCN, a member of the Dean’s Search Committee and a cofounder of Men Entering Nursing and the Asian Pacific Islander Nursing Student Association. And with his little remaining free time, Shi serves as philanthropy programming chair of Sigma Phi Epsilon — the group behind NYU’s first Undie Run in 2010. So what about fun? For the second-place winner of NYU’s 2009 Master Chef competition, just talking about food brightens his face. But like his work with nursing, selflessness is natural for Shi in his free time. He especially finds joy in seeing others enjoy his cooking. “When I finish cooking for a big meal, I’m always not hungry,” Shi said with a chuckle. “I just like watching people eat my food.” — Amy Zhang
In a school full of high achievers, Justin Silver makes a lot of people look lazy. He’s the president of the Stern Student Council. He’s an Admissions Ambassador. He’s a member of Alpha Epsilon Pi and Beta Alpha Psi fraternities. He has interned at Goldman Sachs. He mentors and volunteers and does about a million other things, none of which he takes lightly. But the uncanny thing about Silver is that he’s just as serious about what isn’t serious — like rowing on the crew team, rapping or modeling in the South Asian Society’s all-male beauty pageants. As Stern president, one of his first accomplishments was boosting enrollment for the school’s annual gingerbread-house-making competition from 50 to 200. “I can’t take intense drama,” he said. “I like laughing and having a great time and being with funny people.” Though his interests range from traveling to investment banking, one quality applies to all his activities: He doesn’t do anything halfheartedly. When he decides to do something, he’s fully invested in it, no matter what. Silver couldn’t merely become an RA. He had to be
the first student to propose a new explorations floor — the Laugh Out Loud Explorations Floor in Weinstein residence hall — and on top of that, serve as its RA. Likewise, he couldn’t simply enter the Indian Student Talent Show just for kicks. He had to excel in the talent portion, the costume portion and the Indian fashion portion — and he had to win. He’s not even Indian. Ultimately, though, it’s not his accomplishments or even his grades that set him apart from his peers — rather, it’s his charisma. “Within this school, the brain power is overwhelming,” he said. “In my classes there are people that are much smarter than me. I say that with no worry or fear. The problem is they don’t know how to express that genius.” Expressing himself, luckily, is one of Silver’s strengths. Whether he’s representing a group project or a student organization, Silver is a natural leader whose authority is determined as much by his knowledge as the sheer force of his personality. His ease, his humor and his energy inspire confidence in others and make him a key figure within a
wide network at NYU. And for someone with such a busy schedule, he’s unusually generous with his time. He takes his residents to comedy events throughout the city. He helps the foreignborn members of his fraternity open up and acclimate to life in New York. He gives speeches at his local high school. “I’m the true definition of an extrovert in that all of my energy is based on those around me,” he said. “Seeing friends I like, meeting new people who are excited — there’s nothing that gets me more excited.” It is that enthusiasm that bars him from dropping even one of the activities that keep him active most days, from 6 a.m. all the way up until midnight. And sometimes until 3 or 4 a.m. “I enjoy and really love everything that I do and that’s why I do it,” he said. “It’s not to keep up an appearance or to get some award. It’s because each one of those things adds a ton of value to my life.” — Jordan Teicher
Washington Square News the selection process
MOST INFLUENTIAL CLASS OF 2011
All influential candidates were nominated by their student, faculty and staff peers at NYU. Members of the WSN Influential Selection Committee — Jaywon Choe, Kelsey Desiderio, Francis Poon, Russell Steinberg, and Lauren Strausser — deliberated and chose 15 candidates based on the scope and importance of their influence on NYU and the surrounding community. Though some candidates were nominated more than once, the number of nominations was not a factor in the deliberations. Committee members who had personal relationships with the nominees were excused from the vote on that candidate. For questions on the nomination and selection process, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Editor-in-Chief JAYWON ERIC CHOE Managing Editor
KELSEY DESIDERIO Deputy Managing Editor
RUSSELL STEINBERG Assistant Managing Editor
KIRSTEN CHANG Creative Director
FRANCIS POON Photography
Sonja Podesta LAUREN STRAUSSER DAVID LIN PRIYANKA KATUMULUWA
university JAEWON KANG city/state AMY ZHANG arts CHARLES MAHONEY features AMANDA RANDONE sports JAMES LANNING multimedia LAUREN STRAUSSER enterprise ARIELLE MILKMAN production TERKA CICELOVA brownstone JAKE FLANAGIN copy jack brooks senior editors elizabeth gyori,
university gentry brown, julie
devito, susannaH griffee city/state hanqing chen, brian
tam, emily yang music parker bruce film/books stefan Melnyk entertainment jonathon
dornbush theater ERIC SHETHAR features EMILY MCDERMOTT dining SARAH KAMENETZ fashion CARRIE COUROGEN sports SANCHAY JAIN, DANIEL
HINTON production MERYLL PREPOSI multimedia DAVID LIN copy MAXIMILÍANO DURÓN,
opinion editor JOHN SURICO deputy opinion editors ATTICUS
BRIGHAM, MARIA MICHALOS
advertising business manager
REBECCA RIBEIRO sales manager
Stefanie Yotka circulation manager
university sales coordinator
Emilia Mironovici sales representatives
Kaitlyn O’Brien, MICHAEL RYAN, Melissa Ynegas
advising DIRECTOR OF OPERATIONS
MICHAEL SUMMERS editorial adviser
keith leighty EDITOR-AT-LARGE
KATIE THOMPSON About WSN: Washington Square News (ISSN 15499389) is the student newspaper of New York University. WSN is published Monday through Thursday during NYU’s academic year, except for university holidays, vacations and exam periods. Corrections: WSN is committed to accurate reporting. When we make errors, we do our best to correct them as quickly as possible. If you believe we have erred, contact managing editor Kelsey Desiderio at managing@nyunews. com or at 212.998.4302.
Washington Square News
Published on Dec 15, 2011
It’s true that NYU is overwhelming, and it’s true that it can be difficult to find community here. But skating through your four years witho...