Thursday, May 31, 2012

Setting the "Benchmarc" for Fine Family Dining in New York City

food_landmarc--500x380.jpg(Photo: New York Post) Pamela Schein Murphy (GSAS '94) and her husband Chef Marc Murphy are the forces behind the successful restaurant group Benchmarc. We had the pleasure of interviewing Pamela and learning about her role at Benchmarc, her passion for film and the R.E.S.T initiative, a non-profit organization that works to alleviate the fear, anxiety and stress of chemotherapy treatment which she founded. Please listen below or download this episode (right click and save).

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

In the Zone with Ali Jaques

1997nationalChamp.jpg"New York University's Marsha Harris did not even look up. There was neither the time nor the need to. With the score tied at 70-70 last night, and time running out, Harris dribbled the ball the length of the floor, blew past two defenders and laid it in with one and a half seconds left to give N.Y.U. (29-1) its first National Collegiate Athletic Association Division III women's basketball championship." --The New York Times, March 23, 1997

Fifteen years ago, Aloysia (Ali) Jaques (CAS '98) passed the ball to Marsha Harris, who scored the National Championship winning point with a layup. This five second play has become a legendary moment in history for NYU Athletics. Those who attended will never forget the surge of elation and NYU-pride that billowed throughout Coles Sports Center at that instant.

Fifteen years later, the '97 National Title team's spirit is alive and well. The teammates still stay in contact with each other, meeting a couple times every year to re-connect, and many have gone on to become doctors, engineers, teachers, and Master's and PhD recipients. Upon graduation from NYU's College of Art's and Science, Ali Jaques went on to pursue a career in basketball coaching. Since then, her career has grown, and recently, Jaques accepted a Head Coaching position with Siena College's Division I Women's Basketball team.


We had the opportunity to speak with Ali about her memories of bringing victory to the Violets and her exciting, new role at Siena College.  

How long have you been playing basketball?

I can’t remember life without basketball. My father was a huge influence on me and probably had me dribbling a ball as soon I was capable. Growing up, there weren’t organized leagues for girls, so until I was in 6th grade, I always played on boys teams. My dad was always my coach growing up, and he and I share a special bond when it comes to basketball and sports.  

AliJaques3.jpgAt what point did you realize that basketball was more than just a sport you played, and that you wanted to make it your career?

Sports were always a big part of my life. My mother was a big influence on me academically, and my father was a big influence when it came to team sports. I am the oldest of four children (all of which played college sports), and being competitive and learning the value of teamwork were always emphasized in our house growing up. So, to answer your question, I always knew I wanted to keep athletics as a part of my life. At NYU, I was a Journalism major and envisioned myself reporting on sports or news one day. As a basketball player at NYU, Coach Quinn and my teammates made my 4 years as a Violet unforgettable. When given the opportunity to coach for a year out of college, I figured I’d try it out for a year and see what happened with it. I was hooked from day one…and I guess the rest is history.


In 1997, you were part of the NYU Women’s Basketball team that won the legendary Division III National Championship game against Wisconsin-Eau Claire. As a member of that team, what was the significance of this game?

Winning a National Championship was a huge moment in my life. When a group of young women, from all over the country with very diverse backgrounds, could overcome the obstacles we did to say we were the best…there really are no words to describe it. I wear my National Championship ring every day. Coach always said “we did it in NY fashion”. We were down by 15 points and came back to be up with a second to go…players got hurt…we fought through a lot of adversity. I think we had a toughness about us that is hard to articulate unless you were a part of it. I think I could speak for everyone on the team and say it was a really special moment for all of us.  

Now, fifteen years later, what memory sticks out most about that game?

I just remember looking up at the clock and knowing there was 1.7 seconds to go when Marsha scored. I knew that the game wasn’t over until the horn sounded. In the Final Four game we rushed the court and got a team technical…we were up 30 so it didn’t matter, then. Maybe that was the young coach in me knowing that every second counted. When the horn finally went off, I remember hugging my teammates. I remember the total disbelief and realization that we had won. Mostly, I remember my teammates and coaches – the hugs, the smiles, and our families.


Has the team kept in touch over the years?

Some of my best friends in life are the ones I made at NYU. We get together a few times a year and re-connect. Facebook has become an easy way for us to keep up with each other. It is great to watch each other get married and have children. I think my teammates and I have found tremendous professional success in whatever fields we chose. I’m really proud of what we’ve all accomplished. We are doctors, engineers, teachers, some have earned masters and even PhDs. We are a pretty high achieving group.  

Was it difficult to transition from being a basketball player to a coach?

Because I started out as a Division I Coach and was a Division III player there might have been some initial insecurity. I learned pretty quickly that I didn’t have to be a great player to be a great coach. Coaching involves a lot more than going to practice every day. Most people don’t realize what it actually takes. Yes, we teach the game of basketball. The recruitment of potential student-athletes is a big part of it. Mentoring the players we have on and off the court is another important aspect. Preparing for opponents by watching hours upon hours of film, and then preparing game plans is crucial to success. At the end of the day, when the ball goes up, we get judged by wins and losses. It can sometimes be a daunting way to earn a living. I wouldn’t trade it for anything right now!


As a college basketball coach, if you found yourself in a game against NYU, you would let us win, right?

Absolutely not!!! Funny question, though. I think Coach Quinn would be disappointed in me if I answered any other way. I love the idea of competing and winning. If you ask any of my former teammates…losing wasn’t really an option! If we did, I can promise you we left everything we had out on the court!  

Is there anything else you would like to add about your time at NYU, your career, or anything in between?

I’m really grateful for my time at NYU. My family sacrificed a lot for me to be educated at such an amazing place. I’m thankful for my coaches, the Athletic Department and even President L.J. Oliva for all of the support we had. I can look back on my playing career, my education, and the relationships I built with my teammates and know deep down that I got the most out of my experience as a Violet!  

Be sure to follow Ali Jaques and her team on the web, Facebook and Twitter.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Tobi Tobias (GSAS '62): Renowned Dance Critic, Pulitzer Nominee--and she Blogs!

tobitobias.jpegTobi Tobias is a well-known critic and blogger known nationally and internationally for her writing on dance. She was New York magazine's dance critic for twenty-two years, wrote for Dance magazine for nearly a decade, and has regularly published reviews with Bloomberg News and the Village Voice.

Most recently, Tobi was recognized as a finalist for the 2012 Pulitzer Prize in Criticism for her blog titled, Seeing Things, published by ArtsJournal. Tobi's work, according to Pulitzer, "reveals passion as well as deep historical knowledge of dance, her well-expressed arguments coming from the heart as well as the head."

We had the absolute pleasure of speaking with Tobi about her career in criticism and her experience in breaking "the blogger barrier."  

Can you talk about what elements of your education or career eventually led you into dance criticism?

As a pre-adolescent I saw a small black and white photograph in Life magazine. It showed a woman in an extraordinary pose--strange and beautiful. I showed it to my mother as she stood at the stove preparing dinner and asked, "What's that?"

My mother gave the picture a quick glance and said, "That's ballet."

"What's ballet?" I asked, but my mother had already turned her attention back to housewifery. Inevitably, though, one thing led to another. The woman, by the way, was Diana Adams, one of George Balanchine's muses. I should add that I had been a writer from grade school on.  

You were recently one of three finalists up for the 2012 Pulitzer Prize in Criticism for posts on your Seeing Things blog hosted by ArtsJournal. In another article published on ArtsJournal, you were described as having “broken the blogger barrier.” How did your career in criticism transition into the blog-sphere, and how is Pulitzer’s recognition of your blog ground-breaking?

My career in print publication was cut off because of the disastrous state of the economy. I was fortunate that Doug McLennan then invited me to write for ArtsJournal. The Pulitzer recognition will strengthen the public's belief that serious dance writing is being done on the Internet.  

How does writing criticism on a blog format differ from writing for print? Does it require a change in writing style, process or approach?

Blog format offers the writer an immense freedom, an occasion to, if you will, find one's voice. In most cases it does not offer editorial services at any level, technical assistance (for which I am grateful to my husband), a wide audience, or financial compensation. My work at ArtsJournal has expanded to the point where I feel that I'm running a small magazine, now with three departments: The title is SEEING THINGS, which comprises in-depth dance reviews; 150-words, tops, pieces called GLIMPSES; and PERSONAL INDULGENCES, an ongoing series of personal essays on non-dance topics. I hope to write enough of these, eventually, to constitute a book.  

What was your experience like at NYU—are there any memories in particular that have stuck with you?

I can't really say it was an experience. It took me three years to acquire a Master's degree that should have been earned in one. During that time I brought two children into the world and undertook the job of hand-raising them. I went to class and did the studying and paper-writing at home. I had a couple of terrific professors--Richard Poirier and a gentleman who was not convinced I was A+ material (a useful corrective). I remain grateful to the Woodrow Wilson Foundation for supporting part of my NYU studies.  

When we spoke on the phone, you mentioned when you conduct an interview, you love to ask about favorite travel destinations. I’d like to turn the table and ask you that question—if you could travel to any part of the world, where would it be and why?

Paris and Copenhagen, familiar destinations, where I can exercise my French and my Danish in addition to being in these cities' well-known delights; Japan, where I've never been, though its art and literature amaze me.

Do you have anything you’d like to add about your career, NYU, or anything else?

I never really think of my writing as a career. It's simply what I do. In addition to the dance writing, I've published some two dozen books for children.  

Be sure to subscribe to Tobi's blog, Seeing Things, published by ArtsJournal.

Friday, May 18, 2012

The Cusp of EVERYTHING by Laura Huntt Foti (WSC '78)

Cusp%20Cover.jpg The Cusp of Everything is the first novel with a full audio soundtrack, bringing readers back to Westchester County, New York on the eve of America’s Bicentennial. The story depicts a young adult couple attempting to escape from their suburban surroundings for a more exciting, rewarding future in Manhattan. The novel can be purchased on Amazon, and the soundtrack can be heard via

laurahunttfoti.jpgLaura Huntt Foti received her B.A. from NYU's Washington Square College in 1978. Laura grew up in Westchester County, New York, the setting for The Cusp of Everything, and has lived in Los Angeles for more than 20 years. Following a successful career in journalism, the music business and the interactive world pre-web, she now works as a freelance writer, editor and consultant.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Liberal Studies Student Co-Founds Travel/Fashion Magazine - Launching Tomorrow

serena.jpgSerena Guen is a student in the Liberal Studies Program set to graduate in 2014. And tomorrow (May 16, 2012), Serena will be launching SUITCASE, a quarterly fashion and travel magazine. The publication will feature international design talent, cuisine and travel hot spots.

Serena is a well-rounded, cultured student in the Global Liberal Studies Program who grew up in a family that emphasized travel. In fact, during a gap year before attending NYU, Serena explored Peru, New Zealand, Germany and France extensively. As the co-editor of an impressive, soon-to-be-released quarterly publication, Serena is certainly making her mark on the NYU community.

We had the chance to speak with Serena about her love for travel writing and how the idea for SUITCASE was born. Be sure to follow SUITCASE on the magazine's Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and Google+.  

What first spurred your interest in travel writing?

I would say that my interest in travel writing ‘grew slowly’ rather than being ‘spurred’ by something specific. I grew up in a very international family and loved the fact that holidays involved visiting relatives around the world. However, I only started to write about travelling during my gap year, where I wrote and illustrated (rather crudely due to my lack of artistic talent) two travel diaries, one of which was sadly stolen. I got a few chuckles out of the one that survived from New Zealand. However, I only really realized that people were interested in what I had to say after I was making the move from NYU Paris to NYU New York; I wrote a small travel guide for for my friends who were moving to Paris and sent it to them, who sent it to their friends and so on and so forth.  

Are there any magazines or books that you simply cannot live without?

Anything by Oscar Wilde or Evelyn Waugh.  

In all of your travels, what has been your single most unique experience while abroad?

Standing on the edge of a 4000m precipice, with no safety ropes, in the Colca Canyon watching condors. I fell in love with Peru; I never wanted to leave! My friends even joke about my Peruvian alter ego called Gloria Jimena.  

suitcase.jpgAs a high school student, what was most appealing to you about NYU?

I wanted the benefits of going to a university in a city and did not want to stay in London, therefore New York seemed the perfect candidate. I loved the fact that I could spend my freshman and junior years abroad. NYU just seemed to be more avant-garde than of all the other universities that I’d applied to.  

Can you talk a little about the circumstances under which SUITCASE was born?

I’d always dreamed about starting a travel magazine but it wasn’t until I bumped into the girlfriend of a friend of mine in a pharmacy in London that ‘Suitcase’ as it stands today was born. The girlfriend was called Charlotte Summers, she is the editor and co-founder, of Suitcase; she was actually developing the idea when I met her last summer and asked me if I wanted to get on board, which obviously I did. We registered Suitcase as a LLC in the UK in November of last year and things have been on the up ever since…  

Will SUITCASE focus its stories on certain regions, or is the magazine meant to be more broadly focused on diverse regions around the world?  

Suitcase will be divided originally into two parts: the website and the printed magazine. The website will be constantly updated with worldwide events and interesting articles, it will be supplementing the printed magazine, which will focus on 5-10 destinations anywhere in the world-it could be a city, it could be a seaside town, it could be anywhere really! We are not claiming to tell you everything about everywhere, just give you little snapshots of the place that make you view it in a different light. We are essentially doing the spring cleaning and leaving you with a few tidy little gems.  

Did you experience any difficulties in creating SUITCASE, such as language barriers or funding?

There were no difficulties as such-just daily challenges. If I were able to clone myself there would not have been any, that is to say one of the main problems that we faced was simply not having enough hours in the day to do everything that we wanted to! Sadly, funding has definitely been a major challenge but we are doing everything we can to get around this.  

How can alumni obtain a copy of SUITCASE?  

Suitcase is going to be sold in shops in Australia, America, UK, Germany, Switzerland, Germany and Italy. In the US-Barnes & Noble and NYU Bookshop, UK at the till at W H Smith’s, Harrods and Selfridges and select Virgin Club Lounges.

Can you recall any lessons or experiences thus far in the Liberal Studies Program that have helped to prepare you for your future career?

All of them! Global Liberal Studies is the perfect foundation for a magazine about global fashion/travel i.e. Global culture. My senior thesis, which will be questioning the ontological status of the new, is actually linked to my magazine as an attempt to do something new.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Hats Off to the Class of 2012!

It seems like yesterday we were celebrating 100 Nights Before Commencement, and just 92 nights later we're one week away from graduation! We'd like to dedicate this week's post to congratulating the class of 2012 on making it through the past four years of hard work, paper writing, exam taking, project planning, interning, and of course, fun! Enjoy your last 8 nights before commencement. On behalf of the Office of Alumni Relations, we would also like to welcome alumni into the NYU Alumni Association. For information on alumni news, alumni benefits, alumni events and more, be sure to visit our website and connect with us on all social media platforms.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

A Visit with René Bastian (WSC '94), Founder of Belladona Productions, Inc.

rene%20bastian.jpgBorn and raised in Hamburg, Germany, René Bastian (WSC '94) is the owner of Belladonna Productions Inc. He founded the company in 1994 after graduating from Washington Square College where he majored in Political Science and minored in Journalism. René is well known for producing multiple award winning films such as Sue, L.I.E., Transamerica, A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints and Funny Games. We had the opportunity to visit René at his office in New York, where we talked a bit about his company and his transition into the film industry.  

While you were a student at NYU, did you know what you wanted to do for a career?

No, not at all! That was really an exploratory phase for me. Before coming to New York I actually went through training as a shipping merchant—Hamburg, Germany is a big port city. I did that right after school and realized that I didn’t want to continue doing that, which caused me a little confusion. I had a very early set of ideas that I wanted to do something in a creative industry but I had no role models or even an example of what that meant. NYU was a wonderful place to explore that. And I had a vague idea that when I talked about creativity that that might be in writing or involve some sort of instrument of expression, meaning a camera—so photography or film. I took my two and a half years at NYU to proactively explore everything. In my journalism curriculum I focused on writing, but also television and photojournalism. I fell in with a group of Tisch students who became my friends. I volunteered to work on Tisch student films, and I partook in the Tisch curriculum indirectly through these friends. While I was at NYU I was actually involved—in some way, shape or form—with about twenty-five student films.  

And when you graduated from NYU and started your company, how did that come about and what was that process like?

Well as an international student I had a work permit for one year, and in that year I began to embark on a career and started working in film. I started making money and I started to consider New York my home. I worked very closely with two other NYU students and we had casually mentioned the idea of forming a company. And then one of them had visa issues and it really became a practical decision because he wanted to stay and we knew that forming a company would be a good way for him to get a visa. So he asked myself and our other friend if we would be part of the company. So we really formed it for visa issues, and without much of a plan. Some say that to succeed in the film business you need a lot of experience, a great network of people, and capital. But we had no experience, knew nobody and didn't have a penny to our name. That’s how the company started.  

Can you explain the role of the producer?

The term really encompasses a broad variety of professions and some people just do some aspects of it while others do it all. It takes a long time to learn everything required to be well rounded. We are producing mostly feature films. Here we initiate the process by choosing a piece of material that can already be a screenplay or we develop the screenplay from some other source material. We choose the director and we cast the actors. These three elements—script, director and cast constitute a financeable product, based on which we put the financing together, make the film and then market it. So it’s really a multi-faceted profession ranging from very creative tasks to financial and logistical. As a company our core business is physical production. We get paid for making the films. Our other tasks are development of material, financing of the material and then selling and marketing of the finished films.  

Can you talk a little about how social media has played a part in film production?

Social media has made it possible for us, for the first time, to speak directly to the audience. In the past distribution companies would acquire your film and it was their business to market to the consumer. Producers had really no say in that or relations to the audience. Now producers can interact with the audience well before the film is even made, and that's really quite wonderful. So all of our films today have Facebook pages and websites, and we try to build a community around the film before the film is made.  

What advice would you give to alumni who are interested in switching their career into something that is in film or producing?

Well it depends on where you’re coming from and what you want to do within the industry. One thing I really enjoy about this profession is that it requires a very diverse skill set ranging from creative to business. You're dealing daily with different types of creative people—writers, directors, actors, composers, designers—but you also deal with bankers, investors, insurers, and lawyers, etcetera. So depending on the background from which you enter the field, you may have a deficit in another field. You need to understand what your own strengths and weaknesses are and embrace the fact that film is a collaborative effort. Try to suppress your ego and learn from people around you who are better at certain things. What’s great about this profession is that you don’t have to know everything right from the start as long as you are with the right kinds of people who supplement your weaknesses. Understand that film is a life long learning experience. Embrace that and be patient.  

Can you talk about the projects you’re working on now?

We are working on a large number of films right now. We have about six projects of our own that we develop and then we co-produce a few more. To be specific, my main task at the moment is a project that is a big film for us in terms of budget. It’s also the first film we’re doing in Europe. It is a little challenging because we’re blending European ways of financing with American ones. In Europe films are often financed by public funding bodies, which are very regulated in terms of a legal framework. In the US, we work with private investors and distribution companies. Marrying these two mentalities can be challenging, but also ultimately quite beneficial for all sides. This particular film is called The Wall, and it takes place in Berlin in 1961 around the time that the Berlin Wall was built. A “Casablanca-esque” sort of film of ordinary people being tossed into turmoil by a big international event.  

Do you have other films or directors that really appeal to you?

That is always such a tough question to answer because there are so many directors that I admire for different reasons.  

Is there something you saw recently that really stuck with you?

A few days ago I saw a Danish thriller that I really liked called Just Another Love Story [written and directed by Ole Bornedal]. I thought it was quite unusual and exciting. I also enjoyed The Artist very much. I admire the audacity of making a silent movie in this day and age. It's success is just another example of how great talent and originality can defy the preconceptions of an industry.  

Is there anything else you would like to say or add?

I would like to say what a great resource NYU was for me. What I really needed at that point in my life was inspiration and to learn a variety of things. And looking back at everything I’ve just described—going to CAS gave me a strong foundation, while being able to participate in what Tisch was doing, I also learned my craft there. NYU was really quite an incredible schooling experience for me. Please click here to learn more about Belladonna Productions.