Monday, November 28, 2011

Student Profile: Erin Schrode (CAS '13)

Erin Schrode, among (many) other things, is a junior studying in the Department of Social and Cultural Analysis. Those "other" things include the co-founder and spokeswoman for "Teens Turning Green," the founder of "The Schoolbag" initiative, promoter of environmental education and global sustainability, actress, and model... And that's only on the weekdays.

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Erin has written for the Huffington Post, the elephant journal, Eco Age and Green Envy, to name a few. She has also been featured by NBC, ABC, BBC, CNN, MTV, FOX, E!, Discovery, New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle, New York Post, Vanity Fair, National Geographic, Seventeen, Teen Vogue, Huffington Post, The White House, AOL and BBC Radio (again, just to name a few). For her full portfolio and more, visit Erin's website at www.erinschrode.com.

Last week, we were lucky enough to catch Ms. Schrode between studying for finals and writing term papers, so we asked her a few questions about her experience at NYU and how it has tied into her life as an "ecoRenaissance" woman. Enjoy!

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What made you choose NYU for your undergraduate education? And what influenced you to focus your studies on social and cultural analysis?

I walked through the Washington Square campus when I was three years old – and that was it. I was hooked. From that moment on, I imagined myself at NYU. As a young actress, I originally thought Tisch was where I would end up, but as my interest in international relations and global studies grew, CAS emerged as the perfect fit. So, I applied and got accepted into the DEANS Scholars’ Program! Discovering the quantitative focus of our IR curriculum led me to look into other options, programs of study where I could delve into the cultural and humanistic side of international relations. I’m a people person and love seeing the diversity in experiences, communications, and approaches worldwide. While studying abroad in Ghana, someone suggested I take a look at the SCA track, where I could synthesize different areas of cultural studies… and that is precisely what I have been able to do through this department!


Since enrolling at NYU in Fall 2009, you’ve participated in the One Young World international youth conference in London, traveled to Haiti to help with disaster response, developed “The Schoolbag” initiative, traveled through the Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Israel, lived in Ghana, West Africa, and even shot with the renowned photographer, David Bailey, for Vanity Fair (just to name a few). How do you find time for your school work!?

How do I find time for school work – good question! Well, I don’t sleep. That’s the first thing. Otherwise, I have been incredibly fortunate to have teachers that support my work both inside and outside of the classroom. I have crafted schedules that allow for extended weekends, so I can travel to conferences or speak or shoot or whatnot. I have used the various abroad sites as international hubs – and my vacations and summers are always spent on the move as well!


How have your studies at NYU influenced your focus in environmental and/or social advocacy?

NYU has given me the gift of a global perspective. I have had the chance to pursue and further my environmental and social efforts on a much larger scale, launching environmental education projects with students in Accra, Ghana and facilitating cross-cultural communication among Palestinian, Jordanian, and Israeli youth around common issues of environmental resources, degradation, and conservation. Would I EVER have the chance to do this without NYU? Nope! That is rather remarkable; the entire platform of global studies excites and inspires me. I have also had the great privilege to work with the Sustainability Task Force (for the time that I was actually at the campus on Washington Square Park!) around purchasing and food services. NYU has made great strides as a ‘green’ and environmentally-conscious campus, but there is much more to be done – and I look forward to collaborating with students and administration to further this work. We can and should be a model for universities worldwide!


At the ripe age of twenty years-old, you are the Co-founder of “Turning Green” and the Founder/CEO of “The Schoolbag.” Could you speak briefly about these two endeavors—and to what do you attribute such early successes?

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Active citizenry is in my blood. I am the daughter of a television producer-turned-grassroots activist! My mother has instilled in me the belief that one person truly can make a difference in the world – and that we cannot stand apathetically in the face of injustice or wrongdoings at any level. If we can live healthier, happier lives, why not do it?! We walk through life with open eyes and ears, get involved, lead by example, and have an absolute ball in the process! Optimism is our guiding principle. We stand for collaboration in all that we do, forging partnerships and uniting people across various sectors or from differing backgrounds. One such group that I am privileged to be a part of is One Young World, an international youth network comprised of the world’s most promising leaders under age 25 from more than 170 nations!

I co-founded Teens Turning Green in 2005. TTG is a student led movement devoted to education and advocacy around environmentally and socially responsible choices for individuals, schools, and communities. TTG seeks to promote global sustainability by identifying and eliminating toxic exposures that permeate daily life, often unknowingly, yet threaten public and environmental health. What began in California in 2005 now has a presence at elementary, middle and high schools, universities, and student organizations across the United States, as well as a strong virtual platform and media presence. Chapters nationwide lead grassroots efforts that aim to raise awareness, encourage behavior change, and lobby for policy that will lessen local and global impact. We just hosted our largest and most robust initiative to date, Project Green Challenge, a 30-day eco lifestyle challenge that brought together thousands of high school and college students from across the country to transition from conventional to conscious through simple, fun, and high impact daily actions. The digital platform, interaction, and responses were phenomenal – and now we are preparing for the PGC Finals: Green University, a two-day eco summit in the Bay Area, California in December.

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After working in disaster response in Haiti following the earthquake in 2010, I founded The Schoolbag. The Schoolbag enables children to pursue an education by providing basic school supplies to young people in need, beginning with Haiti. Raising awareness about the lack of access to education around the world, each bag contains adequate materials for one student to learn for one year. The Schoolbag features environmentally sustainable and ethically produced tools and materials to initiate environmental education. Lack of access to, or availability of, satisfactory school supplies and materials prohibits many children from learning. Acquisition of knowledge is the first step on the path to global sustainability, prosperity, and world peace; innovation and progress stem from education, a universal right. The Schoolbag allows students to further their studies, particularly those living in disaster or conflict-stricken areas or chronic poverty. Our team of international and Haitian volunteers just returned from our back-to-school delivery (Sept – Oct 2011), reaching over 14,189 students with school supplies for this year! It was a truly phenomenal experience; to see the impact that a simple pencil and notebook can have on a student, a teacher, a community is beautiful. There is nowhere on earth that I love more than Haiti – and my work there will continue for years to come, I know.


What advice do you have for other young activists/entrepreneurs who might have passionate interests and creative ideas, but struggle to materialize their passion into a meaningful initiative or new venture?

Passion is the most vital ingredient. Once you find that, everything else will fall into line. Gather a group of like-minded friends or colleagues, educate yourself on the issue (you must know your facts and points of reference, particularly as a young person in an adult’s world), seek out partners – be it organizations, leaders, experts, corporations, media outlets – and get to work! Spread the word! Raise awareness about your platform via social and traditional media. Set clear goals, but arrive at them organically. You will be surprised at the unexpected opportunities that present themselves to you – seize those moments! Be innovative. Believe in yourself. Shoot for the impossible. My motto is: dream and do.


What kind of role do you see yourself taking after graduating from NYU? And where do you see yourself in twenty years from now?

What do I want to be when I grow up, eh? Yikes! To tell you the truth, I haven’t a clue. I am waiting for something to present itself to me. My life has not followed any sort of linear or predictable path – and I treasure that. I have such a rich and diverse background, filled with experiences that have prepared me for just about anything… so I am seeking an outlet in which I can fuse all that I love and do good for others and the world. Youth, education, environment – these are my passions. Food and travel too! So, we shall see. In twenty years, I imagine myself with a family – somewhere on this glorious planet. And that is about all I can say. For now, I will keep on go-go-going, learning and loving each step of the way.


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