NYU’s Daily Student Newspaper
WASHINGTON SQUARE NEWS presents
UP -and- COMERS ISSUE
CATHERINE GELLER tisch ’16
JESSE WHEATON gallatin ’16
EVELYN SEIDLER cas ’14
WASHINGTON SQUARE NEWS Editor-in-Chief NICOLE BROWN Managing Editor
MICHAEL DOMANICO Deputy Managing Editor
CASEY DALRYMPLE Assistant Managing Editors
TATIANA BAEZ JONATHAN KESHISHOGLOU Creative Director, Special Editions
LYANNE NATIVIDAD Creative Director
CICEK EREL Multimedia Editor FELIPE DE LA HOZ Copy THOMAS DEVLIN PAIGE MANKIN Web KIMBERLY HART BENSON TSAI LAVYA YALAMANCHI
contributors LARSON BINZER, DAVID BOLOGNA, NICOLE DEL MAURO, KAVISH HARJAI, CHRIS MARCOTRIGIANO, CLIO MCCONNELL, STEFAN MELNYK, IFE OLUJOBI, ANN SCHMIDT, HANNAH TREASURE photography FELIPE DE LA HOZ, DAVID LIN, SHAWN PAIK, JONATHAN TAN
ADVERTISING BUSINESS MANAGER
CHLOE COFFMAN SALES MANAGER
ALISON LIZZIO UNIVERSITY AND ALUMNI COORDINATOR
ARIANA DIVALENTINO GRAPHIC DESIGNER
JILLIAN BRANCHAUD SALES ASSOCIATES
EMMA HOWCROFT, AMY LU, ANA SCHULER, BENJAMIN SWINEHART, JESSICA TIEN
ADVISING DIRECTOR OF OPERATIONS
NANCI HEALY EDITORS-AT-LARGE
HANQING CHEN, JONATHON DORNBUSH, RACHEL KAPLAN, JORDAN MELENDREZ, JONATHAN TAN 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 Michael Domanico at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 212.998.4302.
STUDIO PHOTOGRAPHY BY RACHEL KAPLAN Most of my high school friends and former classmates spread out across the country after graduation, some even journeying across oceans for college. But I took an hour-long train ride from Westchester County down to New York City. At first I was afraid that staying so close to home would prohibit me from meeting interesting people and having unique experiences, but just one day at NYU challenged those preconceived notions. Since I first walked under the Washington Square Arch three years ago, I have met all different types of people who are not mere fixtures on campus, but who have created names for themselves within and beyond the NYU walls. I have met people who dedicate themselves to causes, careers and interests not out of greed, but simply because they love them. The commitment I see from students every day reminds me how far hard work and a little luck can take you, and encourages me to be the best version of myself. It would
be a shame not to share this inspiration with the rest of the NYU community, which is why the WSN team created the Upand-Comers issue. This issue features 10 students who have made their time at college, and even before, matter. They have each found something to be passionate about and have tirelessly pursued it, with no sign of slowing down anytime soon. Despite there being many students who are making strides in their respective fields, we feel that these 10 have pushed their pursuits to an exceptional level and best embody the diversity of NYUâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s student body. Although the group in this issue represents various realms and fields of study, from poetry to horseback riding to politics, these students come together on these pages because they all share one thing â&#x20AC;&#x201D; they are up and coming. We will have to wait and see where their accomplishments will ultimately take them, but their achievements thus far only indicate that the possibilities are limitless.
TATIANA BAEZ assistant managing editor
AZ BA VI
THIS BODY, THIS THING YOU LIVE IN, IS DIFFERENT EVERYWHERE YOU TAKE IT, AND I’M OBSESSED WITH THAT.
t took a few minutes scanning the room for Aziza Barnes and I to finally find each other, unknowingly sitting side by side. We laugh and she takes a seat opposite me. Her mellow voice speaks easily and, at times, hints at the strength with which she performs. We meet with a handshake but part with a hug, a clear sign of the poet’s humble and welcoming persona that mirrors the style of her poetry. The Los Angeles native is no stranger to the tension surrounding her race. People of her own color have ridiculed her for not being as dark as they were. “I’m a brown girl with lighter skin [and] they would always say, ‘Oh girl, you don’t know what it means. You ain’t been through what we have,’ and it hurt because it was completely untrue,” Barnes said. “They’d say, ‘Oh you don’t sound black enough. You too white, girl. You an Oreo.’” Barnes wrote her first poem at 9 years old. The piece was about her hair, inherited from her mother, which many black women had told her was “good hair” because of her looser curls. She said her poem challenged the notion of what truly was a “good” black trait to have. Already, her art began showing signs of her insightful nature. When Barnes came to the Tisch School of the Arts, she began writing more poetry, as well as performing it. Her first performance, a self-described mess compared to her current standards, was in a pool of widely revered poets chosen by NYU alumnus Beau Sia. “We laugh about it now, but it really was terrible,” Barnes said. “I closed my eyes the entire time, and the poem was about how I lost my virginity. Oh, it was bad.” But by viewing YouTube videos of her performances or reading her work in her first published book, “me Aunt Jemima and the nailgun,” one would never suspect this early awkward phase. The poise, sharpness and fire with which her words roll off her tongue are emotionally stirring. The majority of her work grapples with racial identity. This theme is something that Barnes said has evolved over time and she hopes will continue to evolve. “This body, this thing you live in, is different everywhere you take it, and I’m obsessed with that,” Barnes said. “I studied abroad in Ghana, and I tried to tell the people there, ‘Oh look, we’re the same, you know. My skin is your skin,’ and they would not have it. I’d say, ‘No, my ancestors were slaves who were taken from this place. My origin is here.’ But it was a completely different culture — something that I wasn’t a part of.” Now a senior, Barnes is a proud member of the NYU Slam group, professionally recognized from publications like Muzzle and a poet published by Button Poetry Press. Barnes was the winner of the company’s inaugural competition, the grand prize being the publication of her first collection. “Everyone who edited [the book] really kept true to the intent because it was their first time, and it has so much warmth and genuineness that really is so great and so important,” Barnes said. This success has not slowed her down or made her lose sight of her work, though. Still an avid writer, Barnes stressed the importance of constantly honing her craft. Whether it is through books, art museums or even Netflix, she finds inspiration in everything and never stops looking for it. “It’s more important to listen than to speak,” Barnes said. With creativity always flowing, Barnes will take some time off from education after graduating to continue workshops she already teaches around the city. She enjoys the thrill of sharing her craft and eventually would like to teach to all levels of poets. She later plans to pursue a Master of Fine Arts in poetry — just another step that will help her fulfill her biggest goal for the future. “I guess the ultimate dream is to have a huge acre of land somewhere where I can just sit on my ass in my house, write all day and send [the material] out to be published.” DAVID BOLOGNA
ONE THING I THINK WE ARE REALLY SUCCESSFUL AT IS HELPING PEOPLE UNDERSTAND THAT YOU CAN DO BUSINESS AND DO GOOD, AND YOU CAN DO GOOD AND BE SUSTAINABLE.
dele Beasley started her own business when she was in the fifth grade. It was then, in Tulsa, Okla., that Beasley and her cousin Jack Davis faced the stark realization that moving on to middle school meant they had outgrown running lemonade stands as a summer job. With cooking guidance from their mothers, the pair decided to upgrade to making and selling bread around town. “We called it Heavenly Bread because my cousin said, ‘Who wouldn’t want to buy something called heavenly?’” Beasley, a Gallatin junior, said. “We made T-shirts, built a website and then delivered [the bread] on our bikes to friends and family in the neighborhood.” But it was not until recently that Heavenly Bread Co. transformed into the popular micro-bakery it is today. When Beasley was a sophomore at NYU, she received valuable advice from her professor in an entrepreneurship class. “The professor told us the best way to learn entrepreneurship is by doing it, especially social entrepreneurship,” Beasley said. “[He said] you have to learn by doing. You’re not going to learn in a desk.” The advice proved fruitful for Beasley, who then called Davis — at school in Arkansas at the time — and suggested they relaunch their childhood bread company, but with a focus on social entrepreneurship. Oklahoma, which lacks adequate employment opportunities, has the highest rate of incarcerated females in the United States. Knowing this, Beasley wanted to help change the way the women integrate back into society. “We could use the bread business to provide employment opportunities for
women as they’re re-entering the community,” she said. Armed with nothing but a partner and an idea — Heavenly Bread did not even have a work space yet — Beasley made some calls and collaborated with the Resonance Center for Women, a nonprofit devoted to helping women in Tulsa, in the summer of 2013. Beasley stayed in Tulsa last semester to oversee the relaunch and to complete an independent study on the company. Beasley also makes an effort to inspire her peers to make a difference. In December, Beasley did a TEDx talk in Lake Aluma, Okla., using Heavenly Bread to show what social entrepreneurship can accomplish. Stern senior Erin Ahmed, who saw the TEDx talk, said Beasley’s enthusiastic yet calm demeanor helped get others interested in the discussion’s topic. “She talks a lot about empathy and that speaks a lot about her personality,” Ahmed said. “She’s very personable, very friendly. She’s really approachable, and I think everybody who meets her can see that.” While Beasley finishes her degree in New York, two employees are operating Heavenly Bread back home. Beasley said she misses the company and plans to bring a slice of Heavenly Bread to her friends here in the city. “They’ve heard a lot about the bread bakery,” Beasley said. “I think we’re going to rent kitchen space and do a bread class, and bake the bread and everybody can try it.” The kind of love Beasley has for food is genetic — her mother is a dietitian who loves to cook and her grandfather started a fast-food company that her family still operates. “I grew up in a family of foodies,” she said. “[It] is just in my blood.” Beasley has no plans of deviating from her family’s food-filled path any time soon. Her dream job is to be the CEO of a successful food company. She plans to continue working in social entrepreneurship and the natural food business. Even if Beasley were to leave the bread business today, she has already accomplished something as a college student that many entrepreneurs have been working to achieve their entire careers. “One thing I think we are really successful at is helping people understand that you can do business and do good, and you can do good and be sustainable.” ANN SCHMIDT
IT’S CRAZY HOW MUCH TIME AND MONEY PEOPLE PUT INTO SOMETHING THAT ISN’T EVEN THAT WELL-KNOWN. BUT, WE’RE PASSIONATE ABOUT IT. IT MEANS A LOT TO ALL OF US IN IT.
ou often hear about people coming to New York City to pursue their acting dreams or to start a band, but Luisa Coutinho came to the city to make an impact on the horseback riding industry. Although only a freshman in Stern, Coutinho has already begun a business to transcend the limits of the city — as well as of the country. Ever since she began riding at 12 years old, she has had a knack for training horses. Now, she plans to use her knowledge of the horseback riding field to train international horses and sell them in the United States. “The most competitive horses at the moment are usually from Germany,” Coutinho said. Coutinho’s plan is to bring horses from Europe to the United States, train them and sell them. Through this transaction, Coutinho eliminates the risks of buying a horse abroad — purchasing and shipping a horse that the buyer has never seen in person or ridden before. The horse could have health problems or behavioral issues that are not stated in its advertisements, she explained. Coutinho plans to visit and assess horses over a couple of days to decide which have the potential to be trained once they are brought to the United States. Her horse, Wesley, who she competed with throughout most of her youth, was trained by
Coutinho herself. He had only been in the country for a month before Coutinho began riding him. “I want to focus on people who are in my same situation, those who can’t quite afford top-priced horses, but want something promising that they’re willing to work for,” she said. “A lot of the girls I competed with were on million-dollar horses. But I was still able to compete with them on a much lower budget, so it’s my target to find people and horses that, with hard work, have something that’s going to pay off for them.” Coutinho’s work ethic has had to extend beyond the show ring, as well — she had to keep up with schoolwork despite her involvement in national competitions that often left her unable to make it to high school. “I almost didn’t graduate because of all my absences from school,” she said. “Most of the girls on my level of competition were homeschooled, but I stayed in public school. That was really hard.” During Coutinho’s last two years competing, she traveled every weekend between Florida, Washington, D.C., Vermont and New York for competitions, missing school Wednesday through Monday, only attending on Tuesday before leaving again. Throughout high school, Coutinho competed in English riding, show jumping and equitation, an event that focuses chiefly on the rider rather than the horse. These competitions took months and months
of preparation, especially because Coutinho’s horse required extra training. “It’s crazy how much time and money people put into something that isn’t even that well-known,” Coutinho said. “But, we’re passionate about it. It means a lot to all of us in it.” Though she has not been riding much lately, Coutinho has appreciated a more traditional school schedule. She is currently taking classes in law as well as learning how to create contracts and sales agreements with her future clients. Outside of her Stern classes, Coutinho is involved with Plan Pais, a non-profit dedicated to addressing Venezuelan issues and youth culture. She has strong ties to the country — although she was born in the United States, both her parents are Venezuelan and she began riding in her grandmother’s town in Venezuela. The horse she grew up with is now being leased for the 2014 year, and Coutinho plans to continue leasing him until she graduates NYU in order to raise money for a few more horses to start her business. Karen Boysen, Coutinho’s trainer and coach, has no doubt that Coutinho’s success in the equestrian field will only continue to grow. “She’s very humble,” Boysen said. “But Luisa is tough; she’s going to make it in this business. People underestimate her for her shyness, but when she gets in the ring, she’s nothing but strong.” HANNAH TREASURE
LUISA COUTINHO JONATHAN TAN/WSN
lthough Eric Fuchs-Stengel has yet to complete his undergraduate degree, members of the environmental community already hold him in high esteem. Next month, the Gallatin senior from Mahwah, N.J., will be the keynote speaker at the Ramapo Watershed Conference, an annual gathering of professors and environmental groups to discuss water preservation and pollution in the Ramapo Valley area. Fuchs-Stengel, who studies ecological sustainability and social change, is passionate about environmental activism. He was first inspired to make a positive environmental impact during a hike in 2008 when he noticed the trash and pollution that infested his local forests. It was then, at the age of 16, that he made his first steps to found the Mahwah Environmental Volunteers Organization, a nonprofit focused on improving the environment through hands-on projects and providing environmental education to the public. “This was the first moment in my life where I saw a negative thing, a bad thing happening in real life,” Fuchs-Stengel said. “[I thought] this is something that shouldn’t be happening, people shouldn’t be trashing a beautiful area.” MEVO, which currently has a list of over 1,600 volunteers, sends students around New Jersey to complete a variety of projects such as building hiking trails, planting botanical gardens, constructing farms and cleaning up landfills. As MEVO’s executive director, Fuchs-
Stengel said he feels his main role is as a primary educator, which entails presenting information to interested groups and creating projects that teach the public about the state of the environment. In the coming weeks, he will discuss local food and farming with master’s students in the Sustainability Studies program at Ramapo College. Fellow environmental activist Karen La Greca, a member of the MEVO board of the directors, said the organization grew because Fuchs-Stengel encourages people to learn about and change the environment. “His energy and passion just overflow,” La Greca said. “[He has] amazing productivity and the ability to motivate [and] just connect people back to nature.” It is that quality that Fuchs-Stengel said he considers his greatest success. “[I am] taking the knowledge that I have on how to take action and change society, and spreading it to people, whether it be through continuing MEVO or becoming a leader in this field in some way,” Fuchs-Stengel said. Keith Hallissey, director of the Mahwah Department of Public Works, has worked with MEVO since 2008, picking up the garbage that the organization removes from forests. He said Fuchs-Stengel’s active role in MEVO projects sets a positive example for volunteers and makes them more enthusiastic about the work. “He’s not a complete delegator,” Hallissey said. “He is a participant also. He gets people together and tells them what to do and then he participates in the actual work.” Fuchs-Stengel’s hard work paid off last year when he went from being a wellknown name within the local environmental community to one of the most respected activists in New Jersey after Gov. Chris Christie named him the state’s Environmentalist of the Year. Even though MEVO occupies most of Fuchs-Stengel’s days, he still finds time to relax — in an environmental fashion, of course. He often goes hiking and rock climbing with friends and enjoys mountain biking. He also practices beekeeping and is a member of the Northeast New Jersey Beekeepers Association, a club that promotes beekeeping and educates the public on its environmental importance. “I enjoy spending time in the spaces I work so hard to protect,” Fuchs-Stengel said. But neither MEVO nor his hobbies can provide him with enough time in the great outdoors — two months ago, he started Eric Fuchs-Stengel Consultants, a business that builds farms, gardens and beehives at people’s homes and provides lessons on how to manage them. Despite all the success that puts him ahead of many of his peers, Fuchs-Stengel shares a goal common among college seniors — to get into graduate school. NICOLE DEL MAURO
[I AM] TAKING THE KNOWLEDGE THAT I HAVE ON HOW TO TAKE ACTION AND CHANGE SOCIETY, AND SPREADING IT TO PEOPLE, WHETHER IT BE THROUGH CONTINUING MEVO OR BECOMING A LEADER IN THIS FIELD IN SOME WAY.
FELIPE DE LA HOZ/WSN
INSPIRING OTHER PEOPLE HELPS ME. IT’S WEIRD TO BE MY AGE AND REALIZE THAT I CAN MAKE A CHANGE. I CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE.
t might be old news at this point, but the entertainment business is tough to cope with. Expectations are high and tensions are higher, with everyone trying to fit a part and be someone they are not. But Tisch sophomore Catherine Geller puts it in simpler terms. “We’re in the entertainment industry, and it’s shallow,” Geller said. Geller, a musical theater major, has struggled with her personal image since high school and recognizes that this has much to do with the lifestyle of a performer. “A lot of people wind up unhappy in this industry,” she said. Speaking about her self-consciousness in the past, Geller expressed concern that the general population does not have enough understanding about issues like mental instability and emotional disorders. Upbeat and down to earth at the same time, Geller’s multifaceted, high-energy personality embodies the passion needed to raise awareness. Geller wants to use performance to turn a mirror on the entertainment industry itself. Her first step toward this goal was founding the Unmasked Theatre Company.
Unmasked, a musical theater company for social change, aims to raise money and awareness regarding the stigmas that surround mental illness. Geller established the group in the fall of 2013 with her close friend John Bautista, a Steinhardt sophomore. Like Geller, Bautista had always been interested in community service, so the pair set out to create a new way of addressing important social issues. Contentious topics have been explored before in straight theater and experimental performance art, but Unmasked is going where few activist troupes have gone before — into the realm of musical theater. “[The company is] something that can be an outreach program that includes our art and our talent and our craft,” Geller said. With her lithe grace and enthusiasm, it is clear that Geller is a dancer. Having just come from the first half of an all-day dance class, she conveyed her flexibility and openness in both her posture and words. She is a dreamer — some of her life goals include playing Elphaba in “Wicked” on Broadway and hosting a talk show, Oprah-style. For now, though, Geller is content with her theater company. Unmasked held its first event, a cabaret and fundraiser, in early March. The performance,
CATHERINE GELLER “Role of a Lifetime,” set out to introduce the company’s mission to reveal and discuss important social issues, like depression and anxiety. “[It was] a benefit concert that defied stereotypes like racial barriers, gender bending, all of that,” Geller said. One of the biggest challenges Geller has faced as the founder of Unmasked is her vow not to perform in the troupe herself. Taking the role of director and organizer is contrary to Geller’s enthusiasm for the stage — she recalls several occasions where she has been asked to tone down her energy in certain roles. Nonetheless, she enjoyed the trial of staying backstage during “Role of a Lifetime.” Though Unmasked’s social justice angle is a bit heavy, Geller said she is not trying to make viewers feel depressed or intimidated. “Our goal is to reach a mainstream audience,” Geller said. “But I don’t want it to be preachy, because that doesn’t help.” The end goal is to inspire people, and to do this Geller said it is necessary to appeal to a large demographic. “Inspiring other people helps me,” Geller said. “It’s weird to be my age and realize that I can make a change. I can make a difference.” Geller said she hopes Unmasked will one day make
it to Broadway and is ready for the challenge. She said she does not let challenges put down her spirits and faces each one with a positive outlook. Geller’s instructors and friends said they recognize the potential she holds and have deep admiration for her optimistic outlook. “Catherine looks for the best in everything,” said Michèle Ivey, Geller’s voice teacher in Tisch. “While living a purposeful life, she believes in doing and being good.” Capathia Jenkins, a Broadway performer and mentor to Geller, said Geller’s positivity and perseverance will serve her well in the future. “Catherine is destined for greatness because she already has a strong sense of who she is, which is paramount in this business,” Jenkins said. “She also has a heart and soul to be of service in our society — she will create opportunities where there are none.” Geller has big goals for Unmasked and knows it will continue to grow. “I want [Unmasked] to be a company that exposes a lot of issues, not just mental illness,” Geller said. “But that’s where we’re starting, and I think that’s a hot topic right now.” CLIO MCCONNELL
THERE’S NO DOUBT THAT TEACHING BENEFITS ME, BUT I ALSO JUST REALLY ENJOY TEACHING OTHERS AND WATCHING THEM GROW AND EXPLORE.
ike Jaoudi could be a very popular man around campus if he wanted to be. The CAS junior and computer science major is the creator of NYU Bus Tracker, an app that has made travel more convenient for many students by providing real-time locations and departure times for all NYU buses. “I really don’t like the [original] app they have for the bus,” Jaoudi said. “Half the time you want to know where the bus is and half the time you want to know when it’s supposed to show up.” Despite sharing such an innovative idea with the NYU community, the Pennsylvania native demonstrates a level of modesty that contributes to his kind demeanor. Even when Jaoudi sees people using the app he created, he tends not to say anything. “I’ll talk to people about it, but I won’t tell them I made it because I’m curious what people’s feedback is,” Jaoudi said. Jaoudi’s passion for app design began with the advent of the iPhone. His first breakthrough was “FencingRef,” a software that helps fencing referees score matches electronically rather than scribble results on a sheet of paper. “I had no idea what I was doing,” Jaoudi said. “I still have the code for it. Looking back on it makes me want to cry.” Despite his disappointment with how the app was originally designed, Jaoudi recognizes its importance as a stepping-off point. “I needed to actually just start and work from that place, which is good because sometimes I’ll find myself psyching myself out and thinking that this has to be perfect from the get-go,” he said. “But really, you just have to get something and from there you can start working and perfecting.” But Jaoudi does not want to keep his talent to himself — he also has an intense passion for teaching. For the past
three summers, Jaoudi has taught various courses at iD Tech Camps, hosted by Princeton University. “There’s no doubt that teaching benefits me, but I also just really enjoy teaching others and watching them grow and explore,” Jaoudi said. He has taught his students everything from basic programming to app and game design, fueling the campers’ creativity and boosting their confidence. Watching their imagination come to life is one of the aspects Jaoudi values most about the teaching experience. “They get excited, then you get excited, then everyone is excited and it’s just a grand old time,” Jaoudi said. No matter what path Jaoudi goes down in the future, he said he hopes to continue teaching in some capacity. Jaoudi’s wild enthusiasm makes it clear that he has a genuine love for helping others grow to reach their full potential. But, Jaoudi recognizes that he himself still has room to improve — teaching forces him to constantly evaluate himself and ask, “Do I really know this?” “It helps you get a real understanding of something, not just at the surface level,” he said. CAS senior Jessica Korsgaard, a friend of Jaoudi since his freshman year when they were both NYU fencers, has firsthand experience with his instructional abilities. “There have been several times where I have asked him for advice regarding computers, apps and phones,” Korsgaard said. “He never seems bored or annoyed but instead seems happy to help.” Tyler Palsulich, a CAS senior, who worked on the bus tracker with Jaoudi, echoed Korsgaard’s thoughts. “Mike is a great guy to work with,” Palsulich said. “We’ve done several projects together and Mike is always an essential part of the team.” NYU has also played a role in Jaoudi’s development both personally and professionally. “NYU has helped me incorporate other interests such as music, theatre, teaching, art and science into computer science,” Jaoudi said, adding that he would rather not write code for the rest of his life. Jaoudi may not know exactly what he will be doing in the future, but his passions and array of interests will undoubtly lead him to success. CHRIS MARCOTRIGIANO
s members walk into a Roosevelt Institute meeting, they are often greeted with a calm but friendly “hello” that reveals a slight Austrian accent. The welcome comes from the co-president of the Roosevelt Institute’s NYU chapter, Evelyn Seidler, who is likely getting ready to start the meeting, Starbucks in hand. Since her time as a high school student in Vienna, Seidler has known she wanted to pursue politics. To her, politics are what shapes the world in which we live. “I wanted to do politics because I saw that it has an influence and impact in everyone’s life,” Seidler said. “For the most basic things even, freedom of speech, whether or not we can go to college, whether people are forced to work — it’s all the result of political movements.” This belief led her to become interested in public policy. Even after spending her freshman year in Paris and knowing no one when she first came to NYU’s Washington Square campus the following year, Seidler immediately began her involvement with the Roosevelt Institute at NYU, a center dedicated to teaching students about working in public policy. With this group, she quickly learned how to connect with new people. “Even if you don’t know the people, you can really see their passions and why they are involved, and that makes it really easy to work with them,” Seidler said. “It also makes you really happy when you can help them in any way.” Seidler, who knew very little about public policy coming into NYU, became the education policy director and is now one of two co-presidents, the other being CAS senior Winnie Chen. “[Evelyn] is very welcoming to new members and always helps them feel accepted into our group,” Chen said. “I admire Evelyn’s ambition and professionalism. She’s also really fun to be around.” Seidler’s ambition led her to hold a position in politics before she even came to college. When she was a senior in high school, she was the youngest member ever elected to an Austrian town council seat. She has continued her political involvement in college, interning with the Austrian Parliament, European Parliament and the Clinton Foundation. Over the past four years, Seidler has developed a strong interest in women’s issues. She most recently interned with Take the Lead Women, an organization dedicated to promoting gender parity in leadership positions. Seidler first noticed a discrepancy in the way women were treated compared to men during her time interning with the Austrian Parliament under a female boss. “There were groups of men hanging out together, and [they] seemed very exclusive,” she said. “There
is a difference between forcing the women to be in these positions to meet quotas and women being truly elected.” Seidler also learned great leadership skills from her boss at the Austrian Parliament, including how to make those you work with feel comfortable communicating with you. Seidler said she remembers that she always felt her opinion was respected, and this experience has influenced how she accepts and uses any leadership role she is given. “My boss always [made you] feel like you’re on an equal level,” she said. “I really appreciated that. I was at the lowest possible level as an intern, but in meetings she was still asking [my] opinions.” Her ultimate goal is to work in developing campaign strategies — she is writing her senior honors thesis about how gender affects voting patterns, especially within the U.S. Congress. “I hope in 10 or 20 years there will be equality in gender,” Seidler said. “What strategies can we use in campaigns to get women into office? That’s something I’m really interested in.” During her free time, Seidler is like any other college student — reading, practicing yoga, drinking coffee and hanging out with her friends. Having studied at a conservatory before her time at NYU, she also looks for a piano to play when she needs to relax. More than 4,000 miles away in Vienna, Seidler’s parents proudly watch their only child’s accomplishments from afar. She dedicates much of her success and work ethic to how her parents raised her, explaining how they always supported her interests. “Something I really learned from my parents growing up is ... to do something I’m passionate about,” she said. “My dad always says, ‘Just go out and do it.’ If it’s an area you’re interested in, find a way to get involved and participate. Dedicate your time to a cause if you’re passionate about it.” Despite her vast success in almost every adventure she embarks on, Seidler still strives to stay grounded and be thankful for all of the opportunities she is given. “Sometimes when I’m out there waiting in line for Starbucks, I get really annoyed, thinking I don’t want to wait,” she said. “Then I start thinking that I’m living in New York, I can afford to buy this coffee, I’m attending an amazing university, I have so many opportunities, I’ve been given the chance to have amazing internships, I’ve worked with so many outstanding people, I really shouldn’t be standing here complaining about a wait.” LARSON BINZER
I WANTED TO DO POLITICS BECAUSE I SAW THAT IT HAS AN INFLUENCE AND IMPACT IN EVERYONE’S LIFE.
FELIPE DE LA HOZ/WSN
wo canvases, meant to portray a child’s imagination, hang above Jesse Wheaton’s bed. Yet the psychedelic patterns, brocaded fabrics and jumbled colors are more reminiscent of an acid trip, highlighting a prominent theme featured in Wheaton’s artwork. Wheaton, a Gallatin sophomore, is an idiosyncratic artist in that, until recently, he has never created a series. But, upon reflection of his art, Wheaton said most of it is laced with aesthetic expressions of sexual desire and depression. His work also explores the destruction of childhood imagination and how it compels people to experiment with drugs like LSD. In continuing with this theme of mystique, Wheaton is currently working on a series that explores the human relationship with the cosmos and the thoughts and desires that connect people. Wheaton hopes to show how taboo topics compose our human existence. “[Lust and feelings of depression] are universal,” Wheaton said. “I am trying to tie that into the visual idea that our separate individual manifestations of atoms are also connected by this theory of the violent destruction of a star.” The series has been in the works for over nine months and is, in part, featured in Wheaton’s published book “Open Me,” a collection of his favorite pieces from 2002 to 2013, which serves as his portfolio. “Open Me” was conceived after Wheaton became frustrated that his work was scattered all over because of his frequent travels, from Asia to his hometown of Oakland, Calif. Wheaton recently returned from abroad, visiting Thailand, Japan and Vietnam, which adds to the impressive list of places he has traveled to seek inspiration. Other locations include Costa Rica and Tanzania, and he plans to visit Berlin next semester. “The experiences that I have and the crazy adventures I go on definitely inspire my art, so I’m sure traveling is somehow related to that,” Wheaton said. Just by glancing at the cover — a self-portrait decorated with cosmic bursts of color — one can easily tell that Wheaton likes to venture out of the realm of normalcy for his work. Wheaton’s ice-blue eyes lure readers into his mind and work, literally asking them to “Open Me.” “I came up with the idea of creating an actual physical, printed portfolio,” Wheaton said. “I started creating it and then it eventually became a bigger project of actually producing a book.” Although similar topics are explored in each work, creating a book forced Wheaton to consider which pieces worked well together when placed side by side on a spread.
“I wanted the book to tell a story,” Wheaton said. “I want the reader to kind of get a grasp of the perspective I was trying to portray with my paintings. My art is not just a personal pursuit. My pieces try to affect the viewer in more than just an aesthetic [way] by actually making you think what it means and show my perception of the world.” Creating visually pleasing art may come easily to some, but Wheaton aims to weave in intellectual and philosophical ideas to bring dimension and meaning to the work — something that forces him to painstakingly obsess over every detail. That attention to detail and refusal to produce anything but his best work manifests itself in other areas of Wheaton’s life. Wheaton runs Wheaton Design and Media, a graphic design company that creates apps, T-shirts, websites and logos. Tracy Lemmon, who Wheaton helped to create a logo for her company Digital Dreamcatcher, said Wheaton’s skills go beyond the typical art student. “He has drive and good business practices, executed in a casual but directed way,” Lemmon said. “He is mindful of logos, brands [and] direct marketing uses that infuse his work.” Wheaton also dedicates his passion to another form of art — music. He currently serves as the West Coast coordinator for Elektro Magazine and dabbles in music production. Wheaton’s interest in music pervades the atmosphere he cannonballs into when creating his art. Sonically, his environment consists of electronic music, hip-hop and old-school rock — fitting music to keep him company during the dark, early hours of the morning, when he prefers to work. “My taste in music probably influences what I’m painting,” Wheaton said. “I listen to loud fucking music when I paint.” A mind as active as Wheaton’s sometimes needs to find peace away from the pulsating music and trippy thoughts that consume most of his days. Wheaton relaxes in Central Park near 73rd Street, where he finds himself at ease. “If you get off the pathway, hop over a fence and go to this tiny peninsula in the lake, you are sitting among these trees, this kind of beautiful forest area and you’re looking over this gorgeous lake,” Wheaton said. “There are these ducks on the side and the iconic gothic structure of the Manhattan skyline is splayed out above the trees.” Wheaton also likes to escape to New York City rooftops. He plans to take his canvas to the roof of his Williamsburg apartment and use the Manhattan skyline as inspiration, restoring his vitality and pushing forward until the next pulse. KAVISH HARJAI
MY ART IS NOT JUST A PERSONAL PURSUIT. MY PIECES TRY TO AFFECT THE VIEWER IN MORE THAN JUST AN AESTHETIC [WAY] BY ACTUALLY MAKING YOU THINK WHAT IT MEANS AND SHOW MY PERCEPTION OF THE WORLD.
FELIPE DE LA HOZ/WSN
o most people, mochi is a chewy, sweet Japanese rice cake. But to Tisch senior Kayla Wong and the team at Mochi Productions, mochi takes on a whole new meaning. “[The name Mochi] represents who we are because we want to release small things that you can enjoy, like desserts that you can eat whenever,” Wong said. Mochi Productions, professionally known as 8-Player Pictures, LLC, started when Wong was a freshman studying film and television. She befriended a group of sophomores who were working together to enter film competitions like NYU’s Tisch 48 and discovered that many of them had similar goals and filming styles. “We learned that we work very well together, so from there we started to work on each other’s school projects,” Wong said. “We finally decided that if we were going to be working together anyway, we might as well try to make a company of it.” For Wong, who currently serves as Mochi’s brand
manager, the production company is more than just a way to hang out with friends — she sees it as a way to positively change the media landscape. “Something that’s really important to me is representation of minorities,” Wong said, citing recent research from the Geena Davis Institute that found audiences will most likely assume characters are white males if gender and ethnicity go unspecified in the script. “That is something that’s ingrained in our culture that slowly has to change,” she said. “The more that people are conscious of this when they’re creating work, [the more] it will help slowly change the landscape of media and representation of people as people and not caricatures.” With the Mochi team at her side, Wong plans to effect change within film and also across all media platforms by producing films that cultivate more minority representation — something that aligns with her East Asian studies minor. The company also undertakes other types of video projects such as its “Sun and the Art of Dating,” a comedic web series that showcases an ethnically diverse cast.
MY FRIENDS ALL THINK I’M REALLY WEIRD. THEY THINK I’M CRAZY, BUT HOPEFULLY THEY UNDERSTAND THERE’S A REASON BEHIND THE CHAOS.
Wong plays an instrumental role in everything Mochi does and she takes special pride in the company’s message and relationship to the community around it. “Kayla is the spirit of Mochi,” Mochi member Paolo Bitanga said. “It’s no surprise how much she gets done in a day, considering how passionate she is about her field.” Even after the Mochi cameras stop rolling, Wong continues to work toward ameliorating minority representation. The daughter of an Asian-American father and an immigrant mother, she is involved with NYU’s Asian American Women’s Alliance and the New York City Asian American Student Conference, and she also helps organize NYU’s Asian Heritage Month in May. Samantha Seid, Kayla’s co-worker at the NYCAASC, said Wong’s commitment to making change inspires those around her. “Kayla is one of the best collaborators I’ve worked with,” Seid said. “She is really the person everyone looks up to. Without Kayla, we wouldn’t be able to make so many of the changes to NYCAASC for this and the coming years.” Whether she is coordinating an event or working on her latest thesis film, “For the Love of Mangoes,” Wong does everything to the best of her ability — a quality she obtained from her family. “My parents taught me to give back to my community and be a part of it,” Wong said. “And my mom pushes me to do the unexpected and to always do more than you think you can.” From just one conversation with Wong, it is easy to see that her mind is in different places at once, often thinking about her many projects. “My friends all think I’m really weird,” she said. “They think I’m crazy, but hopefully they understand there’s a reason behind the chaos.” Indeed, Wong’s constant work overload never goes unnoticed, but many of her friends consider it admirable. Shefali Lohia, Wong’s collaborator and roommate, said she continues to be in awe of her friend’s dedication and drive. “I’ve always known Kayla to be something of an enigma — she always seems on the verge of working herself to death, but somehow she never does,” Lohia said. “Kayla Wong is a force.” IFE OLUJOBI
I ALWAYS WANTED TO DO SOMETHING DIFFERENT.
he typical path for children with an early start in show business is one of initial success followed by a prompt and seemingly interminable rest on their laurels. Sofie Zamchick, however, took a different path. Zamchick, a Tisch sophomore, started playing the piano when she was 3 years old and moved on to acting in voice roles at 4, landing the leading part of Linny the guinea pig on the Nick Jr. series “Wonderpets” at 8 and continuing in the role until she was 16. Going forward, she took percussion classes at the Juilliard Pre-College Division as a supplement to her high school education and, throughout this time, continued to write and perform a steady stream of original songs — a habit she had picked up in middle school. Such a lineup of achievements has already put her ahead of many older aspiring creatives, but she is nowhere near the end of her career. Zamchick seems to actively relish pushing her abilities into unexplored arenas. In a departure from her music-focused training, she enrolled in NYU for the Tisch Experimental Theatre Wing. Her level of commitment to this new creative territory is clearly genuine, to the point where she has almost entirely put her singing gigs and conventional acting auditions on hold to give her new pursuits adequate attention. “I really want to focus on college right now,” Zamchick said. She speaks with excitement about combining what she has learned in her classes with her own personal music. “Sofie is a dream student,” said Lisa Sokolov, a drama and voice instructor at Tisch. “[She] has taken what NYU has to offer and run with it. She works hard to develop her gifts, and her openhearted attitude is a boon for everyone in the room.” In spite of the intense focus, she has hardly allowed her other skills to atrophy. In addition to rehearsing for the current ETW mainstage production and preparing her own experimental project, Zamchick arranges for and performs with the Cleftomaniacs, the all-girl a cappella group at NYU. The way she describes her relationship with music casts the interaction in a joyous but almost compulsive light. “If there’s an instrument nearby I will be playing it,” Zamchick said. “When I’m walking from my dorm to studio, I’ll take out my iPhone and sing into my voice memo. I’ll have to record it, it’s necessary.” This image is reinforced when she mentions the few skills that she cannot regularly exercise. “I’m away from my marimba and that’s my favorite instrument to compose on,” Zamchick said, explaining that this instrument is at her home in New Jersey. Zamchick is always looking for new inspirations for her music. Reading the news or simply peoplewatching can set her songwriting muse spinning. “When I hear something that interests me, I just filter it in my artistic perspective,” she said. She credits the environment fostered by the ETW for giving her the freedom to take this approach. “I’ve been able to become so much more open about my art,” she said. While the amount of creative liberty granted to Zamchick is significant, the fact that she finds this freedom so exciting is perhaps even more telling. She is extremely innovative, always looking to turn life into art. Quitting while she is ahead never seems to have been an option for Zamchick. Her need to keep moving goes beyond a simple imperative — for her, it is a delight unto itself. “I always wanted to do something different,” Zamchick said, and there is every indication that she always will. STEFAN MELNYK