Thursday, December 22, 2011

Happy Holidays from the Alumni Relations Office!!



Season's greetings from Arts & Science Alumni Relations! We are wishing you and your family a wonderful holiday and a very happy New Year!

We'd, also, like to take a moment to thank everyone who attended this year's CAA Alumni Holiday Happy Hour this year at Phebe's. The turnout was fantastic, and everyone had a fun night socializing and networking. Here are a few highlights from the night:

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We hope all of our alumni are enjoying their holiday season, and we look forward to joining you again next year, in 2012!!!





Friday, December 9, 2011

Student Profile: Dylan Anderson (CAS '12)

Dylan Anderson is a junior studying Political Communication and Culture with minors in Social & Public Policy and Russian & Slavic Studies. Coming from a White/Latino background, he found himself advocating for social equality in high school. Now, as a CAS student, Dylan is realizing his passion in meaningful ways and rapidly developing an advanced understanding of social justice.

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Earlier this week, we spoke with Dylan about featuring him on the blog. After an enthusiastic response, we sent him the following questions. His answers reveal deep-rooted passion and a mature understanding of social injustices.


Could you talk briefly about how you became interested in politics and social/public policies?

This stems from where I grew up and my family background. I grew up in Fitchburg, Massachusetts, a small city in the central part of the state and also one of the poorest cities in the state. Going to high school in an inner city school, I was surrounded by all the accompanying inner city problems: violence and gangs, drug usage, family issues – an incredible amount of factors that prevented students from being successful in school. However, one element that always bothered me was the school generally did not take these outside factors into account. Rather, students’ failure was seen as something intrinsic in the students, without consideration of these social problems they had to deal with.

A lot of the work I did in high school involved improving the resources for students to help them be more successful academically. On the Student Council, I got the library to extend its hours after school; for many students, this was the only opportunity they had to use a computer and complete school work. My Senior year I founded the AP Test Fund. Students had to pay to take their AP exams. This cost deterred many from trying for fear that they would receive a non-passing grade. However, of the students who did go on to college, most went to state schools where a score of 3 or above is accepted, ultimately saving these students money. The AP Test Fund was designed to subsidize the costs of exams so more students would take them.

In my own personal life, I come from a half Latino, half white background. Race has always been incredibly salient to me. I have fair skin, fair hair, and a fairly Anglo name; my sister (named Maria) has a much darker complexion. We’ve always been very similar – in our appearances, in how we act, in what we’ve achieved – but because of our different physical color, she always received much different treatment in schools than I did. Racial tensions were also extremely present in my high school. The school used a tracking system, and as the classes became more difficult, they also became noticeably whiter – even though minorities made up a majority of the school population. Social circles tended to segregate themselves based on these divisions, causing a lot of conflict between white students and minority students.

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I had never really thought about entering politics until I started applying to college. When I sat down and thought about what I wanted to pursue, I realized that I had already been acting as an advocate of sorts. This kind of work and what I had done in Fitchburg was incredibly important to me; entering politics on a larger scale at NYU seemed like a natural progression.



If you could change one thing about the world today, what would it be?

There are so many answers I could give for this question. But I think the one answer that I can give that would solve many problems would be for the equality of opportunity to actually exist. In the United States in particular, there’s a general sentiment that with a little hard work you can make it anywhere – without a lot of recognition of the institutional barriers that prevent most people from doing just that. I’m not saying that I would make every person equal along all lines. Rather, I would like to see a society in which the amount of work you put into your education, career, community, etc. translates into equivalent outcomes, and that people have the opportunity from the start to choose to pursue those education, career, and family paths they desire.



How have scholarships and awards influenced the direction of your studies at NYU?

The Martin Luther King, Jr. Scholars program has influenced my entire career at NYU. Through the coursework and mentor relationships I’ve developed in the program, the scholarship has given me a lens through which I approached all my studies. I learned about the self-designed honors major through a program associate, and they helped me through the application process. With my experiences with the program, my major, Political Communication and Culture, is not about studying how to win campaigns. It’s about looking at political communication systems (campaigns, news outlets, government entities, etc.) and how they operate as societal actors. I’ve looked at things like how campaign advertisements alienate certain racial groups, how the crime coverage is implicitly biased against racial minorities, and how media depictions of minorities can unconsciously imbed racist views. But without the social justice framework and support network of the scholarship, my studies probably would have turned out differently.



Where do you see yourself in fifteen years?

I honestly don’t know where my work will take me. Whenever I’m asked this, I wish I could provide a definite answer. Right now I’m pre-law, hoping to focus on media law and critical race theory. With this I would continue on my current academic trajectory, looking at how things like 1st Amendment case law and statutes regarding media regulation affect minority communities. However, my biggest priority is continuing to fight for racial justice. Wherever I end up in my career that will be ultimate goal of my work.

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I have two big “dreams” if you want to call them that. First, I want to be successful enough and to have had enough impact in my field to testify in front of Congress and retire as an adjunct professor. I have these two goals because I feel as though they indicate that you’ve achieved a high level of credibility in your field, have been able to work towards significant change in that field, and you have the ability to transfer a certain passion onto another generation. Second, my dream career is to start a Political Action Committee (PAC) focused solely on ethical campaigning. The PAC would award money to candidates based on factors like which communities are they targeting (or alienating), how they go negative, how they advertise or talk about contentious issues (like immigration), etc. It would take a lot of time and money, but I think it would be a step towards involving more communities in the political process and creating a more civil political process. For now, I guess I’ll see what happens.


Friday, December 2, 2011

Faculty Profile: Professor Deborah Landau

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Professor Deborah Landau is the Director of the Creative Writing Department at NYU Arts and Science. She is the author of Orchidelirium, which won the Anhinga Prize for Poetry, and The Last Usable Hour, a Lannan Literary Selection published by Copper Canyon Press.

Last week, we had a chance to speak with Professor Landau about what inspires her poetry, her experiences at NYU, and how alumni can get involved with the Creative Writing Department!



Were you always interested in poetry? As a graduating high school senior about to embark on your undergraduate education, what path did you initially see yourself heading down?

I’ve loved poetry since childhood. My mother gave me a book of Anne Sexton’s Love Poems when I turned thirteen and I was hooked.

When I left Ann Arbor (to go to Stanford) at first I thought I’d major in Physics or Philosophy but I couldn’t stop signing up for English classes. I ended up being an English major, writing poetry, and eventually going on to graduate school in English Literature.



Could you provide a brief synopsis of your background, and what factors influenced you to become a writer and teacher of poetry?

After finishing my PhD I thought I’d be an English Professor somewhere, but found I was more interested in writing poetry than in writing about poetry. I was fortunate enough to land a job teaching poetry at The New School, where I spent many years as an Associate Professor and Asst. Chair of the Writing Program before coming to NYU to direct the Creative Writing Program here in 2007.

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To quote Robert Frost, “A poem begins as a lump in the throat, a sense of wrong, a homesickness, a lovesickness.” Where do your poems come from? Is there a specific emotion, process or ritual that helps you get the words down on paper?

I love that quotation from Frost -- if we were content with the world the way it is why would we make anything? Writing poetry is a compulsion, and an extremely satisfying one. In my experience, poems often begin from a place of inner agitation. I work to suspend the inner critic for as long as I can to generate language, and then try to be as ruthless as possible in revision. I do need a routine--which is to try to write at least an hour every morning no matter what--because otherwise the demands of my job would take over entirely. Reading is crucial. Good music and lots of coffee are helpful, too.



In the art world, the question is often speculated, “What is art?” In your opinion, what is a poem? Are there rules one must follow to create a successful poem? Or can anyone simply declare their writing as a work of poetry?

I would say that a poem is any piece of language defined by its author as a poem. What is a good poem? That is a more difficult question to answer, and has a lot to do with personal taste. It’s hard to generalize, but the poems I love most tend to have a particular intensity and compression, and tend to be made of language that is lively, vivid, and strange, and driven by a strong interior music and currents of emotion.



You have a wide academic background that includes studying at Stanford, Columbia and Brown—all prestigious, world-class universities. How does your experience at NYU compare, and has your time teaching in the Creative Writing Department influenced your personal work in any way?

I adore my job at NYU – it’s an inspiring and sustaining pleasure to work with so many extraordinary poets (Yusef Komunyakaa, Sharon Olds, Anne Carson, Charles Simic, Matthew Rohrer, among many others). The students, too, are wonderfully energetic and smart and talented. I feel very fortunate to show up for work every day at the Lillian Vernon Creative Writers House where so many lively conversations about literature and writing occur daily.



What distinguishes NYU’s Creative Writing program?

Our world-class faculty. In addition to the poetry faculty (listed above) our fiction faculty this year include E.L Doctorow, Zadie Smith, Jonathan Safran Foer, Lydia Davis, Aleksandar Hemon, Chuck Wachtel, and Darin Strauss. The marvelous Lillian Vernon Creative Writers House on 10th street is a beautiful home for the program – classes are held there, faculty have offices there, on Thursday and Friday evenings we fill the place to the rafters and hold readings (http://cwp.fas.nyu.edu/page/readingseries) followed by booksignings and wine receptions. The students use the public areas of the house as lounges throughout the year, bringing books and laptops, ordering in food, meeting in small groups. And we have fantastic house parties whenever there is cause to celebrate.



What options are there for our alumni to become more involved in the Creative Writing program?

We love to see alums at our weekly readings (http://cwp.fas.nyu.edu/page/readingseries) and alumni are also welcome to drop by 58 West 10th Street anytime to see the house and say hello.

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A Poem by Deborah Landau:


from Welcome to the Future

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worry the river over its banks
the train into flames

worry the black rain into the city
the troops into times square

worry the windows cracked acidblack
and the children feverblistered

worry never another summer
never again to live here gentle
with the other inhabitants

then leave too quickly
leave the pills and band-aids
the bathroom scale the Christmas lights the dog

go walking on our legs
dense and bare and useless

worry our throats and lungs
into taking the air

leave books on the shelves
leave keys dustpan

telephones don't work where you were
in the chaos