Monday, December 18, 2017

Entrepreneur Alexandra Szakats (CAS ’12) on the Importance of Learning to Think

Alexandra Szakats
Photo Credit: Jason Smith
We caught up with Alexandra, co-founder of trüFORMAT, a brain and body training company. She shared what it is like to be an entrepreneur, her early job experiences, and what motivates and inspires her.

What did you study at NYU?

I graduated with a degree in Metropolitan Studies and German. I didn’t declare until midway through my Sophomore year; there were plenty of interesting classes and coursework available, but, at eighteen, I was puzzled at the idea of having to pick a major that would guarantee a career. Instead, I chose based on my interest in the content and a confidence that it would teach me how to think. Cities are complex. My classes taught me to break down big subjects, understand the parts in relation to the whole, and reimagine their configuration. I’ve used this thinking in every (non-city related) job since graduation.

What was your first job after graduation?

My first job started before graduation on the Equities trading floor at Barclays Investment Bank. The summer before senior year, I was interning at a bank across the street. I met up with a friend who was completing his internship at Barclays, and he insisted I meet with his boss. I earned a job with her to help design strategies that generate and source new revenue streams for US equity products globally. With time, I led the equity education program designed to highlight the team’s thought leadership. I had the opportunity to travel all around the US and Asia.
Alexandra Szakats: her story continues

Monday, November 20, 2017

Suzanne Dikker, PhD (GSAS ’10) on Merging Neuroscience and Performance Art

Suzanne Dikker
Photo credit: Thaddeus Rombauer
An Amsterdam native, Dr. Dikker is a researcher in the NYU Psychology Department Poeppel Lab and at Utrecht University. We visited her lab to find out how she merges cognitive neuroscience with education and performance art in her research. She also shared her experiences working with performance artist Marina Abramovic, who is best known for sitting immobile for 736 and 1/2 hours while spectators took turns sitting across from her in The Artist is Present at MoMA.

What did you study at NYU?

I was a PhD student in the Department of Linguistics. My experience as a graduate student was fantastic. I learned a lot from the faculty and my fellow students. In the Poeppel Lab in the Department of Psychology, where I am now a Research Scientist, there are some researchers who are just geniuses. It is an honor to be in this environment and among this community on a daily basis.

During my graduate studies, I was lucky to have the opportunity to work on projects that required group work, as opposed to only solitary efforts. I had a lot of collaboration with fellow students (most prominently: Hugh Rabagliati) and interaction with research subjects. I also had Liina Pylkkanen, Professor of Linguistics and Psychology, as my advisor. She was very hands-on and invested in her students, so I learned a great deal from her.
Suzanne Dikker: her story continues

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Author Denise Kiernan (WSC ’91, STEINHARDT ’02) on the Stories that Interest Her

Denise Kiernan
Photo by
Denise Kiernan enjoys writing stories that focus on topics we are familiar with, but may not know entirely.  Her previous book, The Girls of Atomic City: The Untold Story of the Women Who Helped to Win World War II, explores the history of the women who worked in Oak Ridge, TN, one of the Manhattan Project sites.  Her new book out September 26, The Last Castle: The Epic Story of Love, Loss, and American Royalty in the Nation’s Largest Home, investigates the connection one of America’s most famous families, the Vanderbilts, has with the larger history of America during the Gilded Age.  In our interview, Kiernan shares what narratives she loves to explore and how her education at NYU helped foster this passion. 

What did you study at NYU?

As an undergrad, I studied biology. I also got my masters at NYU, and studied environmental conservation education, which was then part of the Philosophy of Education department.

Based on your educational background, how did you get into the writing profession?

There is no easy, straightforward answer to that, unfortunately! I have written since I was a kid—journals, plays, stories. However, I never considered writing to be a viable career. While I was in my grad program at NYU, I had a lot of courses that required writing—more than I had done while studying biology. I enjoyed them. During grad school I spent a semester at the University of Washington while working at an internship in Seattle. While there, I wandered into the offices of the university newspaper and…that was it. I was hooked. I ended up spending way too much time in the newsroom and on my next trip back to New York I pestered my way into an internship at The Village Voice. 

In what way has your educational experience at NYU shaped what you do now?

My professors, especially at the graduate level, were big believers in the importance of communication and being able to discuss and write about what you thought and believed. Tom Colwell and Millard Clements, my grad advisors, were incredibly intelligent and really embraced discussion and debate. I think in many ways they helped shape my desire to look at situations from a variety of viewpoints. And of course living and learning at NYU, in the Village, surrounded by such wonderful minds and enthralling history, was incredibly inspiring.
Denise Kiernan: her story continues

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Spotlight on the Class of 2017

We caught up with recent alumni who are starting careers in medicine and public policy.

John Messinger (CAS '17)

What did you study at NYU?

I majored in Neural Science and was also on the pre-medical track, granting me a minor in Chemistry.

What is your favorite memory of your time at NYU?
John Messinger
My favorite memory from NYU was all of the time I spent with the wrestling team. From October to Mid-March each year I would travel all over the country each weekend to compete. Wrestling was one of the most challenging parts of my NYU career, especially when balanced with academics. However, because of how demanding the sport was, it was also extremely rewarding. My closest and dearest friends are all from the wrestling team. I was able to achieve some amazing feats such as competing in 150 matches and winning 115, qualifying for nationals twice, and earning Academic All-American honors three times during my career. Most importantly, wrestling gave me the discipline and focus to accomplish everything I have in my four years. I truly do not know where I would be without having wrestling as my center piece.

What are your current plans?

Right now I am finishing up the project I completed as a part of my senior honors thesis in the Glimcher Lab in the Center for Neural Science. This project works with recovering opioid-addicted individuals in Bellevue Hospital's Methadone Maintenance Treatment Program to study the effects of drug craving on their decision making abilities. The hope is to eventually publish this work in a peer-reviewed journal.
John Messinger: his story continues

Monday, August 7, 2017

Travel Tips From Serena Guen (LS '13) Founder and CEO of SUITCASE Magazine and Co-Founder of the #CookForSyria Movement

What did you study at NYU?

Liberal Arts, with two years abroad in Paris.
Serena Guen

Do you have a favorite memory from your time at NYU?

Graduating from the Yankees stadium was pretty cool. Also seeing a purple Empire State Building. Made me feel very proud!

How has your educational experience at NYU shaped what you do now?

NYU has an enormous community and alumni network, all of which offer so much opportunity for their students, from reaching out for internships to alumni lectures, I felt that the world was opening up to me. Coming from an English school education, NYU offered me a more diverse alternative where I could study lots of subjects of interest and keep my options open, without narrowing my outlook too early.

However, without a doubt the most important opportunity NYU granted me was the chance to live in cities spanning the globe. It was in Paris that I began to consolidate a word document ‘city guide’ I shared with my friends and they shared with theirs. I did the same in New York to an equally receptive audience. It was in doing this that I discovered a demand for authentic travel curated by locals.
Serena Guen: her story continues

Thursday, June 29, 2017

CBS Sunday Morning Producer Amy Wall (GSAS ’94) on Her Passion for Telling Stories

Amy Wall
Amy Wall (GSAS ’94) is a producer for CBS Sunday Morning.  She has done stories on a wide range of subjects such as the Carnegie Hero Awards, The Women’s March, government funding for art organizations, and profiles on every day people, such as the story about a man who takes care of the horse Waco Hanover, a retired harness racer.  She recently shared with us how NYU helped to shape her journalistic career, and how Czech puppet-maker and filmmaker Jiri Trnka inspired her to go into journalism.

Do you have a favorite memory from your time at NYU?

I studied English and American literature at NYU.  I was a part-time graduate student so I didn’t spend a huge amount of time on campus.  I was working at CBS News full-time so it’s always been about work for me.  I had an early morning shift at CBS back then working in the affiliate video newsgathering and distribution department called Newspath. When I ended my work day, I started my student day.  Night classes were brutal.  I still feel bad for my linguistics professor.  That was my latest class and I had a very hard time keeping my eyes open.  The class was great – it wasn’t his fault!  But I will say…I absolutely loved the NYU library.  I spent a lot of time there.  I remember riding home on the subway with books piled high on my lap.  I must have been quite a sight, but I also remember feeling so proud to finally be an NYU student.
Amy Wall: her story continues

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Tausha Cowan (CAS ’07) on her Travel Blog The Globe Getter and How to Balance Seeing the World with a Full-Time Job

Tausha Cowan in front of El Castillo at Chichen Itza in Mexico
Tausha in front of El Castillo at Chichen Itza in Mexico
We caught up with blogger and travel expert Tausha Cowan (CAS ’07) to find out her tips for planning vacations, booking summer travel, and balancing globetrotting adventures with a full-time job. She works in the Travel & Lifestyle Services department at American Express and has visited more than two dozen countries since she graduated from NYU.
What did you study at NYU?

I majored in Journalism and had minors in French and Africana Studies. I particularly enjoyed my Journalism classes because of my natural curiosity; it’s my inclination to ask questions. I also participated in the CAS Presidential Scholars program, which was a great experience. When I found out about the program, during a prospective student campus visit, I knew that NYU was where I wanted to go.

Some of my fondest memories of NYU are from the CAS Presidential Scholars trips and my study abroad experiences. I traveled to Florence my freshman year and to Prague my sophomore year. I also studied abroad in Paris for a summer and spent a semester in Ghana. I think very highly of the Scholars program, and I am still friends with several of my former classmates. I was also very involved in extracurriculars at NYU, especially the Academic Achievement Program (AAP). 
Tausha Cowan: her story continues

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Alumni Mentor Jill Jichetti (CAS ’97, Gallatin ’01) and her Student Mentee Korey Caron (CAS ’19) Talk about the CAS Alumni Mentorship Program

Korey Caron
Photo Credit: Lauren Elizabeth Photography

Student Mentee Korey Caron (CAS ’19)

What are you studying and what are your professional goals?

I am a Dramatic Literature major with a minor in Business of Entertainment, Media, and Technology (BEMT) through Stern, Tisch, and Steinhardt. I learned about the BEMT program through the CAS cohort program.

I want to direct theater. I have been doing theater since elementary school, both on stage and backstage. I just had the opportunity to assistant direct “From up Here,” the CAS Theater spring production. It was written by NYU alumna Liz Flahive (Tisch ’02). I also co-founded a student club this year, Broke People Theater, with some of my classmates. We had our first festival in the fall and our second festival this spring. Next semester, we are planning to expand to three events.

Can you tell us about your experience having an alumni mentor this semester?

I am building a professional website for my capstone project and Jill has been giving me her input, as a director. She advised me to include a full production history and a resume, as well as photo content. I am excited to get involved in professional theater in New York, and she encouraged me to direct a fringe festival play before I graduate, if possible. Since she has prior experience directing in fringe festivals, she was able to give me specific advice.
Korey Caron: her story continues

Friday, April 7, 2017

Blair Simmons (CAS ’16) on Creating “Staging Wittgenstein” Which was Accepted into the 2017 Edinburgh Fringe Festival

Blair Simmons
Ella Barnes (Tisch ’16) Photography
Alumna Blair Simmons (CAS ’16) created her play “Staging Wittgenstein” when she was awarded the DURF research grant her senior year at NYU. She presented the theory of the piece at the 2016 Undergraduate Research Conference. Her play was later workshopped and staged for Dixon Place on January 28, 2017. It has since been accepted into the 2017 Edinburgh Fringe Festival and will be performed at the festival in Scotland this August.
Blair Simmons: her story continues

Monday, March 13, 2017

Greg Howard (GSAS '12) reflects on NYU and his Experience as a Journalist So Far

Greg Howard is currently a writer for The New York Times, and was recently named to Forbes’ “30 Under 30” list for 2017.  He has written for a variety of publications, including Deadspin, The Village Voice, The Dallas Observer, and Esquire.  We spoke with him about his experience at NYU (which included a nerve-wracking elevator ride) and his journalistic writing thus far, centered on what kinds of topics he enjoys writing about.

Greg Howard
What did you study at NYU?

I went to the journalism school, but it was for magazine writing, which was a specialization, and I [studied] under Meryl Gordon [Director of Magazine Writing at the Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute], but I had a bunch of teachers—David Samuels, Lisa DePaulo—who were two of my favorites along with Meryl.  Magazine [articles] are profiles and investigations, [and] more of a long form thing, so [it consisted of] how you would go about constructing a long form story.  It was a lot of fun.  We put together a fake magazine as a small group.  A lot of us wanted to become magazine editors, not just writers, so you could take editing classes and stuff like that.  It was cool.
Greg Howard: his story continues

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Sherrie (ARTS ’66) and Michael Pollack (ARTS ’64) on How They Fell in Love on the NYU Heights Campus Fifty Years Ago

Sherrie and Michael Pollack at Alumni Day 2016
The Pollacks will be celebrating their fiftieth wedding anniversary on July 16, 2017. In honor of Valentine’s Day, we sat down with them to find out the secrets to dating on campus, making love last, and their “fifty-year love affair.”

How did you meet?

Michael: Our story starts in the spring of 1963. There were two fraternities on campus which were very active in student government, Phi Epsilon Pi, which I was a member of, and Phi Sigma Delta. Generally each fraternity would have a candidate for each office, and you had to get enough signatures to be included on the ballot. Once that was done, the presidents of each fraternity would meet and determine who would move forward for the election and who would withdraw.

One day, I was in the student center looking for students to sign my petition. I walked in to the newspaper office, and saw this lovely blonde lady sitting at a desk. I asked her if she would sign my petition. She said “no.”

Sherrie: I didn’t know him, and I wasn’t signing his petition. He knew right off the bat…I was a little confrontational.

Michael: I was somewhat taken aback. I told her that it wasn’t as if she would have to vote for me, it was just to get me on the ballot. But I couldn’t persuade her.
Sherrie and Michael Pollack: their story continues

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Alumna Kristina Shull (GSAS ’06) on Giving a Voice to Individuals in Immigration Detention Centers

Kristina Shull is a lecturer in the Department of History at UC Irvine and an activist who shared with us how her education shaped the work she does to bring attention to the problems facing immigration and immigration detention centers in the United States.

Kristina Shull
Photo credit: Axel Dupex for the Open Society Foundations
Can you talk about your experience at NYU and how it helped shape what you do now?

I am so grateful for my time at NYU.  The interdisciplinary Master’s Draper Program in Humanities and Social Thought was foundational in several ways.  It allowed me the flexibility to pursue and hone my intellectual interests, and it introduced me to theories and methods for understanding issues like immigration detention within the larger frameworks of global histories and human rights.  The program’s rigor prepared me well for doctoral work, and its opportunities for community engagement helped me envision a career in academic activism.  I think it’s most important contribution in shaping my career path was providing a model for a “hybrid” approach to making academia actionable in the world, where history can be marshaled as a catalyst for change.
Kristina Shull: her story continues