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.

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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.

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