Friday, January 27, 2012

From playing "Guitar Hero" to becoming a Rock Star!

garymarcus.jpgWell okay, maybe he's not a rock star just yet.

While on sabbatical, NYU A&S Psychology Professor Gary Marcus decided that he wanted to learn to play the guitar. The interest was prompted by playing the popular video game, Guitar Hero. As an expert on cognitive development, Prof. Marcus understands the consensus that, in order to learn a second language (or an instrument), one must pick it up at an early age, before the brain is fully developed. He states on NPR:

We used to believe that that was the case — that if you didn't learn by the time you were 16, you'd never become fluent. What we know now is that some adults actually do become fluent. And although it's definitely easier to learn some things when you're a kid, it's not the case that you just absolutely lose the ability later in life. There's more of a gradual decline, but it is still possible.

So, Prof. Marcus learned to play the guitar. And in his own personal experiment on cognitive development, he proved that an adult, despite lacking musical aptitude, is perfectly capable of picking up a new instrument. That is, as long as he or she commits to practicing!

guitarzero.jpgIn his new book, Guitar Zero: The New Musician and the Science of Learning, Prof. Marcus describes the experience of learning a new instrument as an adult, and he challenges certain beliefs about musical talent and training.

Be sure to listen to this podcast by National Public Radio that features Professor Marcus speaking with NPR's Rachel Martin, and read this article in the New York Times, "Applied Neuroscience, the Six-String Method," which delves further into how he learned to play the guitar.

Friday, January 20, 2012

CAS Students are Influential: Kayla Santosuosso

Over the past week-and-a-half, we have been thrilled with the opportunity to speak with three CAS students who were named by the Washington Square News as the most influential students at NYU. We'd like to extend a "thank you" to Catherine, Albert and Kayla for participating in the alumni blog and for sharing their passions with us. Be sure to read the full publication that features all fifteen of NYU's most influential students of 2011!

Kayla Santosuosso is the "sustainability queen" on campus. Although her major is in Middle Eastern studies, she is known for her involvement in all sustainability-related initiatives at NYU. As she stated to the Washington Square News, "if there's a sustainability project or environmentalist-related project on campus, I probably know about it, and chances are I might even have my hand in it some way."

Last week, we had the opportunity to ask Ms. Santosuosso a few questions about her experiences at NYU and the difficulties in persuading students to go "green."

What factors made you choose the NYU College of Arts and Science for your undergraduate education?

NYU was really one of the only schools I had considered at the time--I was eager for engagement beyond the classroom, and saw NYU as the one campus with the most opportunities. Similarly, CAS offered me the same kind of flexibility with my academics. I declared an English major when I first entered, but am graduating this Spring with a Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies degree. Being able to change my mind and explore different fields was a necessity. CAS allowed me to do that, but still afforded me a strong department and plenty of academic support when I arrived at a major.

Can you talk briefly about how you became involved in the NYU community and which engagements are most meaningful to you?


I didn't feel particularly connected to the NYU community until I started getting involved with environmental and social activism on campus. It actually started on one particular day when I reached out to my Environmental Studies professor, Julianne Warren, and talked to her about some of the ideas I'd been throwing around. At the time I was trying to do an independent research project on composting in New York City, and Professor Warren (being the gracious educator that she is) offered to connect me to others on campus doing this work. A few weeks later I found myself on the Sustainability Task Force, with a bunch of composting, food, and waste experts talking about projects they wanted to do on campus. Needless to say, I never finished my research. But I did start meeting folks who were interested in the same work, and that's when everything really took off.

I eventually ended up working for the Office of Sustainability, under Jeremy Friedman (the Manager of Sustainability Initiatives) who has really empowered me and made me realize my potential to lead. This empowerment was crucial, because it led to me starting the Student Food Cooperative at NYU, which has undoubtedly been the most meaningful engagement. It's a community-based project which uses consensus-based decision making to test out a new economic model on campus, while seeking to provide the NYU community with local, organic, sustainably-sourced food. Not only is the group full of stellar, passionate students, but it's through this project that I've gotten to work with administration, like Beth Morningstar, who has also helped to make me feel valued as a leader at NYU.

This entire experience has been much more enriching than I could have possibly imagined. But I had to be proactive to get it, and I was very fortunate to get connected to the right people at the right time.

What roadblocks have you experienced while encouraging NYU students to lead a more sustainable lifestyle?

The first roadblock is apathy. It's hard getting folks to care about preventing climate change, much less feel responsible for it. We're constantly trying to communicate to students the urgency of action and behavioral change without seeming threatening, so we opt instead for "get involved with sustainability" because it's positive. But it's a challenge to use such passive language when you're nearly desperate to see immediate change.

The second is basically the typical New York City overstimulated lifestyle--no one has any time, and if they do, they never have enough to be totally committed. We're fortunate to have a solid group of students, faculty, and staff in our programs and support networks, but it's constantly a race against the clock. At the Office of Sustainability, for example, we're forced to pick and choose projects each year based on what we feel are the utmost priorities. Students often ask me: "why don't we have composting all over campus" or "shouldn't we have an Office of Sustainability at Abu Dhabi?". Of course, but we don't yet have the staff and support. In 2006, President Sexton took a bold, important step by signing the ACUPCC commitment to become a climate-neutral campus by 2040, and our office is totally committed to seeing it happen. But since then we haven't seen nearly enough support or commitment from senior university leadership to do so. I fully believe that sustainability is central to our mission as a university, and the real challenge is getting everyone on campus, from students to leadership, to agree.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

CAS Students are Influential: Albert Cotugno

Albert Cotugno, named by the Washington Square News as one of the fifteen "Most Influential Students of 2011," is known at NYU for his influence in student government. As a philosophy student, he has strong beliefs on how governments should be run, partly drawing upon the beliefs of Socrates who dedicated his life to reason. In fact, Mr. Cotugno has two very strong qualities that strengthen his political influence at NYU: One, he values truth in government. And two, he knows how to get stuff done! Throughout his time at NYU, Mr. Cotugno has certainly made his mark at the University, especially after having been sent to NYU Abu Dhabi to set up their student government.

We had the opportunity to ask Mr. Cotugno a few questions about his experiences at NYU.

What factors made you choose CAS for your undergraduate education?

I knew that a liberal arts education was something I valued as I was looking for a school. NYU's College of Arts and Science accepted me, and I was invited to New York City for a weekend where I had a chance to meet current students and also meet deans and faculty and hear their views on pedagogy. I began to realize that NYU had a unique ability, in virtue of its location, to provide me a world-class liberal arts education that would draw from and be seriously complemented by New York City. There were also many cross-school opportunities presented to me, such as the Business Studies minor through the Stern School of Business. I wanted to expand my horizons in college, to become more worldly and understanding. I knew I could accomplish this at NYU in a way I could not anywhere else.


Can you talk briefly about how you became involved in the NYU community and which engagements are most meaningful to you?

I heard about the club fair shortly after settling into my residence hall, so a few friends and I decided to see what we might want to get involved with. Though I never expected it, I ended up joining a fraternity, Sigma Phi Epsilon. I was impressed with the fraternity's unique commitment to anti-hazing and pledging. Diversity of interests and backgrounds amongst the membership was encouraged - it seemed like a perfect community to be a part of at NYU. Through one of my fraternity brothers, I became involved in the Student Senators Council, and I enjoyed the work of advocacy very much. In SigEp, I learned how to work with and lead my friends; in the SSC, I learned how to think about wide constituencies. This combination has allowed me to build a skill set I really value. I have also made many friends and connections that have and continue to have a really positive impact on my life.

You stated in the Washington Square News that you hope for student government to grow and become more effective. In your opinion, what would student government at NYU look like if it were to reach its full potential, and how could that effect the NYU community?

NYU is a huge place, and there are a lot of students with many different interests and concerns. Luckily, there are individual student councils at each of the schools. At its full potential, NYU's student government would always be working for the best of the most. We would have strong advocacy, which means all representatives would have a deep knowledge of the complexities of their constituencies. This way, we could discover which particular issues were facing many students and then solve them. Another big impact we have on students is the regulation and budgeting of clubs. We can always improve these processes to make it as easy as possible for students to do what they want to do. Taking it a step further would be to make it as easy as possible for students with similar interests (or interests that complement and complicate each other) to get in touch, through cross-club activities.

CAS Students are Influential: Catherine Peña

In December, the Washington Square News released its annual publication, "The 15 Most Influential Students: Class of 2011" along with a short introductory video. We are proud to say that four of the fifteen are CAS students! And over the past two weeks, we've been able to talk to three of them: Catherine Peña, Albert Cotugno and Kayla Santosuosso.

Catherine Peña is known on campus for her strong passion for empowering minority students and uniting diverse groups across NYU. She is highly involved on campus in organizations such as Latinos Unidos Con Honor Y Amistad (LUCHA), the Hispanic Scholarship Fund, La Herencia Latina and the Student Resource Center. Ms. Peña is also a recipient of the Higher Education Opportunity Program Scholarship.


What factors made you choose CAS for your undergraduate education?

As a senior at NYU, I am closing a wonderful chapter of my life and preparing myself to begin the next one: life as a law student. My academic focus has been based on my desire to obtain a legal education. Ever since I realized, in high school, that I wanted to pursue a career in law I have strategically planned my decisions to ensure that I will reach my goal. While researching where I wanted to pursue my undergraduate studies, I discovered and fell in love with the field of Sociology. When I applied to NYU this is what I looked for and the College of Arts & Science was where I found it. After my first semester, I knew that Sociology was perfect for me and I also knew that CAS was the right place for me. The school is large enough to provide me an array of learning environments, resources and opportunities, yet it is also small enough to allow me the opportunity to meet, interact and work with amazing students, faculty and staff.

Can you talk briefly about how you became involved in the NYU community and which engagements are most meaningful to you?

In August, before beginning my studies at NYU, I began working at the Student Resource Center. This office is an information center for the University, it also holds events for students and is a division of Student Affairs at the university. Working there I became acquainted with everything going on on campus, along with the many opportunities and resources available to students here. This all led me to become involved with student organizations during my freshman year at NYU. I wanted to do something beyond academics during my time here. During the fall semester, I discovered various student organizations oriented towards Latino students, such as Bella Quisqueya, BQ (the Dominican student organization on campus), La Herencia Latina, the planning committee Latino Heritage Month at NYU, and L.U.C.H.A. (Latinos Unidos Con Honor & Amistad, Latinos United with Love and Friendship) the oldest and largest Latino student organization on campus. pena_lucha.jpegThe BQ executive board creates a small committee to be in charge of Dominican Independence Week at the University, which takes place during the month of February. When they advertised the committee positions, I decided to run for secretary, and won. From there, I remained in the organization and was eventually elected president for the 2010-2011 school year. Working with BQ also led me to become involved with L.U.C.H.A., for which I am currently president. From all of the work I have done with these organizations, there are three things that hold the most meaning for me. The first was reinstating and reviving the Latino Unity Conference (LUC) at the university. LUC is a student ran and organized conference and was an important part of L.U.C.H.A. in its prime years. It had not taken place at the university since 2007. The second was a celebration of the 40 years of L.U.C.H.A at NYU, for which we created the Fuerza Award, intended to commemorate and recognize the many faces that make LUCHA the powerful organization that it has become. The third, was receiving a 2011 President's Service Award on behalf of L.U.C.H.A. Overall, however, it has always been the small things, such as bringing people together, that motivate me the most and push me to continue onward with the work I do.

In the Washington Square News, your colleague, Jazmin Molina, described you as, “the epitome of what it means to succeed aside from all the hardship that…minority students have to go through.” As a minority student, what sorts of hardships have you experienced, and what factors have enable you to overcome them and become an influential figure in the NYU community?

I am very touched by what Jazmin Molina said about me. It is absolutely amazing to see that words like those have been used to describe and refer to me. It is also phenomenal to experience the effects some of the work I am involved with can have. It truly is an honor. As a student of color on campus I have faced many hardships and obstacles, but the important part is that I have overcome them all. NYU is a very big place and finding students that look like me and share similar experiences to mine has proved a difficult task. At the same time, there is a lot of segregation amongst minorities and students of color on campus, which make efforts of unity and community building even harder. As a student leader, I have taken it upon myself to create spaces of unity and community through the organizations that I am a part of. I can say that we have successfully been able to bring many different kinds of people together in one room under the same agenda, and these experiences have been phenomenal. pena.jpeg
Overall, I have never allowed for my identity as a student of color, as a minority at NYU, to dictate where I go, what I do or to create any sort of limits or boundaries. I have made an effort to take advantage of all of the resources and opportunities available to me for simply being an NYU student. I have found my own niches and created my own communities at NYU, which have enabled me to always continue onward.


Stay tuned tomorrow and Friday to hear more about CAS students Albert Cotugno and Kayla Santosuosso!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Time recognizes Journalism students

Studio 20 is a master's level concentration program at the NYU Carter Journalism Institute. In collaboration with, they created a music video called, "My Water's on Fire Tonight," also well-known as "The Fracking Song."

The video portrays a well-planned, highly researched and unbiased report on the effects of fracking. With over 220,000 views on Youtube and quite the catchy tune, the video has been well received by viewers, and has even been named by Time as the second most creative video of 2011! That is quite an accomplishment.

So if you want the quick lowdown, cliffs notes version of "what exactly is fracking?" be sure to watch the video and share with your friends. However, one word of caution: once you watch, you may be whistling the tune for hours thereafter.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Happy New Year--We're Back!


We’re ringing in the new year with a whole lot of anticipation and enthusiasm for what 2012 will bring for NYU Arts and Science. We have several exciting ideas for blog posts, interviews and alumni events, so stay tuned! In fact our New Year’s Resolution this year is to post on the blog at least once per week—so be sure to subscribe.

This being our first post for 2012, we thought it would be a good idea to start off by telling you a little more about the individuals who are behind the phone and computer screen—your alumni relations team. When you call us (at 212-998-6880), email us (at,, or, or contact us on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook, it is one of us helping you on the other end!

Ann Marie Ladisa—Senior Director of Alumni Relations, NYU Arts & Science has led the alumni team since 2006 prior to serving as Director of Alumni Relations in the central Alumni Office.She holds a BS from St. Francis College and an MA from NYU's Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development. A native New Yorker and foodie, Ann Marie enjoys all the sights, sounds and smells of Greenwich Village.

Evan Nisenson—Alumni Outreach Coordinator, NYU Arts & Science
Evan is thrilled to be working in the NYU Arts and Science Alumni Office. He began working in Alumni Relations at NYU in 2006 and has enjoyed interacting with numerous alumni, faculty and students over the years. Evan graduated from the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development at NYU with a BS in Communication Studies and is currently completing his MA at the Gallatin School for Individualized Study. Don’t be surprised if you receive an email or call from Evan asking if he can interview you for the Arts and Science Alumni Blog.

Max Kubert—Administrative Aide, NYU Arts & Science Alumni Relations
Having joined us last September, Max is the newest member of our team. After graduating from Ithaca College in 2010 with a BS in communications, he went abroad to teach English in Vietnam. About one year later, he's back in the states with a new taste for fish sauce and red hot chili peppers! Born and raised in the Garden State, he has recently given up Jersey for Queens, and is very excited to be a part of the NYU community.

We look forward to working with you in 2012 and beyond.