A Spirit of Activism at Rochester

Guest Contributor–Natalie Ziegler

One of the major factors in my decision to come to Rochester was my admissions interview. I remember hearing that “a spirit of activism permeates this campus.” Even though the phrase was broad and relatively vague, it was enough to entice me.

I’d been active in social justice campaigns during high school and wanted to attend a school where I could pursue similar efforts. Plus, since so much of your time in college is spent in the company of others, I knew I wanted to attend a school where I’d find like-minded people with similar passions. I was happy to learn that Rochester is home to many students who are genuinely concerned about the welfare of others and are ready and motivated to act upon these concerns.

But it wasn’t until I arrived at Rochester and got involved that I became aware of the concrete examples of “a spirit of activism.” Luckily for me, the Rochester campus and community have countless manifestations of this ideal.

circle protest


The best example I’ve experienced thus far of a “spirit of activism,” and the one that essentially encompasses all other examples, is Rochester’s chapter of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). According to the organization’s Facebook biography, SDS “is a nonpartisan student organization and activist network that seeks to create an educated community dedicated to engaging issues of social and economic justice … [it] also provides an open democratic forum to engage in discourse about topics they may not feel comfortable discussing in other spheres. SDS is not affiliated with any political party and welcomes people with political views across the spectrum.” Through this club, I’ve had the opportunity to meet and talk with individuals of diverse backgrounds and beliefs about important issues. This semester alone, we’ve discussed and taken action on issues such as income inequality and fair wages for service workers at Rochester.

Through direct action and events such as panel discussions and lectures (often sponsored by SDS), students at Rochester have access to valuable conversations and have the chance to create change. These opportunities have been the highlights of many Rochester students’ college careers, including student activist and one of the leaders of SDS, Alsyha Alani, Class of 2015.

Alani participated very recently in peaceful protests planned by concerned students on campus regarding the grand jury’s decision not to indict officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, MO. Alani described the event, stating, “Students and members of the community mobilized to express our solidarity with Mike Brown. Coming together with my peers and allies, we chose to speak back…. It is incredibly empowering to be surrounded by people that, like you, are transforming their sadness and anger into meaningful and peaceful direct action.”

Alani’s words confirm the benefits of activism at Rochester: Students are able to express their views, form meaningful bonds, and unite and mobilize about issues that matter to them. President Seligman also supports such activism, stating, “We protect the rights of all in our University community to express their views. Peaceful assembly and expression of views are consistent with the school’s core value of academic freedom.”

And in a city such as Rochester, there’s good reason to unite and mobilize. As sophomore SDS member Christian Wooddell says, “2012 census numbers show nearly 28% of the population in the City of Rochester lives in poverty, and it’s easy to forget that in the luxury bubble of campus life. It is our duty as privileged students to engage in local issues and be activists for our communities.” Many students at Rochester are cognizant of the conditions in parts of the city, and their willingness to serve the community contributes to the spirit of activism on campus. In my short time here, I’ve come to be aware of and to appreciate this spirit, and I look forward to the next four years of continuing to embrace activism at Rochester through SDS and other venues.

Natalie Ziegler ’18, is a lover of literature and plans to major in English. She is also passionate about social justice, which has led her to pursue a double major in anthropology.

Via Natalie Ziegler/UROC Admissions Blog

Life as a Campus Times Editor

Guest Contributor–Jamie Rudd

When I wandered into the Campus Times office the Wednesday of my first official week of college, I had no idea how much the place would come to mean to me. A freshman straight out of Orientation, I had no way of knowing that the office would eventually feel like more of a home than my dorm room, that the staff would become some of my closest friends, or that CT would ultimately define my life at Rochester. All I knew was that I was interested in journalism, and what better way to see if I was cut out for the job than by joining the newspaper?

Campus times

A part of the University of Rochester since 1873, the Campus Times is a weekly, student-run publication. Typically 16 pages long, the paper is divided into news, opinions, features, humor, arts and entertainment, and sports. In addition to the section editors, our current 18-person staff includes photo, copy, and managing editors along with our illustrator, publisher, and editor in chief. While we editors do our fair share of writing, we are also supported by a substantial number of other student writers that volunteer their services to keep the paper going every week.

During my first semester, I wrote for several different sections and spent as many Wednesdays as I could in the office for production night—the 12-hour period when the staff comes together to lay out pages, fill them with content, and circulate them through several levels of editing before sending them to the publisher Thursday morning. Along with a number of other new freshmen, I did preliminary copy editing for the editors and headed home around 11 pm, leaving the staff to finish up the higher-level stuff.

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I enjoyed the work that I did for the CT those first few months, but I knew that what I really wanted to do was become an editor. So when the end of the semester rolled around, I ran for the position of 2014 features editor, and got it. While I knew that the position would be quite the time commitment, I admit I wasn’t quite prepared for how much it would consume my life—the constant emailing, worrying about my writers meeting their deadlines, worrying about having enough writers, struggling to get all my Thursday homework done by Tuesday, and of course, the constant sleep deprivation that comes from only getting approximately two to four hours of sleep every single Wednesday for a semester. The spring semester last year was rough to say the least.

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Thankfully, all the stressful (and at times, nearly insufferable) aspects of being a CT editor (did I mention the heartbreak of opening a newly published issue and spotting mistakes—often ones you know you fixed—all over your pages?), all the stuff that makes you question why in the world you’re putting yourself through this torture, are matched by just as many wonderful, exhilarating, and blissful moments that remind you why it’s all very much worth it.

Yes, coming up with article ideas each week and making sure they all get written can be tough. But it has made me to be so much more aware of and involved in the campus community, not to mention an expert networker and problem solver. Yes, production nights can go pretty late and sleep deprivation can make doing anything  on Thursdays pretty much impossible. But Wednesday nights are also one of the most fun parts of my week: hour upon hour spent with my friends listening to music, talking and laughing together, goofing off occasionally, and making more wonderful memories than we can count. Yes, there have been times when I’m not sure how I’ll be able to handle all the pressure. But I always have my features coeditor (and one of my closest friends) Dani right there with me to get our section through. What’s more, we got our jobs down to a science this semester and have been finishing our pages around midnight (rather than the typical 3:30 am completions last year).

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While working on the Campus Times might be the epitome of a love-hate relationship, at the end of the day, there’s a whole lot more love than anything else. It’s challenged me and made me grow in so many ways, and while it hasn’t always been the easiest thing to admit, I’m truly grateful that I walked into the office last September and decided to keep coming back.

Jamie Rudd ’17, is a sophomore studying English and Anthropology. Originally from a small town in Oregon, she is happiest when traveling, reading, writing, and listening (or making) music.  She currently a member of the Students Helping Honduras service group, secretary of the Undergraduate Anthropology Council, and features editor of the Campus Times newspaper.  

Via Jamie Rudd/URoc Admissions Blog

“WWOOF” Away Summer in Puerto Rico

By Som Liengtiraphan ‘17
University Communications

“What did you do this summer?” is a common conversation starter at the start of the fall semester. Some undergrads picked up work skills internships or made some extra case with a seasonal job. Nina Listro, though,  ‘17 traveled to Puerto Rico and spent part of her summer “WWOOFing” at an organic fruit orchard.

World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF), Listro explained, is an organization that connects farmers to people who want to learn and experience organic farming. Volunteers receive food, accommodation, and the opportunity to “dig in.”

Listro, along with two friends, Katie Wolfe and Steven Whitney, spent three weeks at an organic fruit orchard this summer in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico. A typical day on the farm started at 7:30 am with a breakfast of oatmeal. Then from 8:00 to 11:30 am, the volunteers took care of chores and manual labor on the farm. These tasks include planting cacao trees and weeding. This was followed by a three hour lunch break. After the siesta, another three hours of work was completed before dinner.  Dinner was usually included fruits and vegetables grown on the farm.

After two weeks on the farm, Listro, an English Language, Media, and Communications major, and her friends traveled through Puerto Rico before returning for a final week on the farm. On the bus out of Mayaguez, Listro and her friends met a villa ownership and his son.

“My friends (Katie, Steven and Max–a student from San Diego that worked on the farm with us) and I met Luis Ortiz and his son Tsunami on the bus from Mayaguez to San Juan for an organized march against Monsanto,” a US company that specializes in developing genetically modified organism (GMO) seeds.

“Luis owned an oceanside villa that he rented to vacationers, and he had a week where he didn’t have any guests,” Listro explained. “He asked us if we wanted to help clean and paint the villa during that week and in exchange we would get to stay there and he’d pay for our groceries.” The villa was in Rincòn, the surfing capital of Puerto Rico. We worked Monday-Friday for about six hours a day cleaning bathrooms, washing windows, painting the exterior….  The rest of the time we were free to do what we pleased, which tended to be swimming in the crystal clear, turquoise water. Max even taught us to surf on one of our days off!”

“One day we were cleaning the kitchen window that looked straight out to the ocean and saw 7 wild manatees. We hurriedly put on our swimsuits, grabbed some goggles and snorkels, and got to swim with them. I even touched one–It was magical! We worked there for a week, and  stayed for a few days longer before we had to go to the airport. We still keep in touch.”

To Listro, this experience was a time of learning. Not only did she learn about organic farming and its lifestyle, she also learned a lot about herself. “What I learned most was to control my own anxiety. There were no parents there and I had to learn to deal with it on my own,” she said. “But I had two friends to support me, and I grew up a little.”

Listro said she would recommend WWOOFing. “Definitely! I wished I had stayed longer than five weeks, but five weeks is a good place to start. I would recommend getting to know the farmer you are working with before you go. Travelling is the best way to be in tune with yourself, and by going, I learned a lot.”

For more information on WWOOF, visit their website.

Spotlight on Humanities and Social Sciences Alumni: Greg Skipton

gskiptonName: Greg Skipton      

Other UR Majors/Minors: English

Additional Education: currently pursuing MBA from Ohio Dominican University

Current City, State of Residence: Columbus, OH

Job Title: Branch Administrator

Employer: AXA Advisors, LLC

Family: Kate (Cieply) Skipton – Class of 2009

Community Activities: Capriccio! Vocal Ensemble, American Wine Society – Columbus Chapter, US Master’s Swimming – Columbus Sharks


How did you choose your major(s)?

I came to college undecided. I knew I loved history and English, and my high school history teachers had told me to pursue more historical studies opportunities in college that went beyond the traditional high school text. Thus, I jumped into in-depth studies of Germany & Austria from 1800-1945, the Russian Front in WWII, and even the Samurai. I wanted to major in something I loved, and the U of R history department made that extremely easy and fun to accomplish.

What activities were you involved in as a student and what did you gain from them?

I was involved in the Music Interest Floor for three years and served as their social chair. I also was extremely active with Off Broadway on Campus, where I got to combine my love of history and theater in a rendition of “But Mr. Adams” from 1776. I also was a member of the UR Crew and the Symphony and Chamber orchestras. My extra-curriculars brought me a wide variety of people to connect and interact with, and built friendships that have managed to stay strong in spite of distance, difference in career paths, etc. I had several OBOCians as my groomsmen, and over 30 college friends at my wedding.

What is your opinion regarding graduate school vs. working right after graduation?

I chose to go right into the workforce after graduation because I did not know what I wanted to continue studying.  I believe that one should not just go to school for the sake of school. Real world experience helps develop you as a person and leader, and hopefully will guide you to find what it is you truly wish to study. However, you must realize it is harder to go back to school the longer you are out, so be prepared to make a work-life balance when the time comes.

What was your first job after graduation? What college experiences prepared or qualified you for that position?

My first full-time job after graduation was working as the Patron Services Manager for the Syracuse Opera Company. I believe that my writing skills and conversational talents, developed through the U of R History and English Departments, truly helped land the job. It eventually grew to a Patron Services & Education Manager position, and I was able to combine my love of music and theater with my writing talents. I also got to dabble in history as we researched periods in order to accurately represent a scene.

What early career advice can you give to current UR students studying history?

Unless you know what you want to do, be willing to explore your career options. Always look for opportunities to intersperse your historical knowledge into your current field. It is easy in a field such as the arts, but even if you work in a bank or a factory, learn the history of your company. It may serve you well in the future, and may link you to some other fascinating historical events and times that you are interested in learning more about.

What do you do now and why did you choose this career? Where would you like to be in five years?

My current career is one of opportunity. I got it through great recommendations from people I already knew inside the company. It has given me an opportunity to work in the for-profit world and gain some insight into a totally different way and focus of doing business. In five years, I hope to take this knowledge and be back in the not-for-profits, hopefully helping them become a community force to be reckoned with. I also hope to continue to develop and explore my love for history by continuing to expose myself to the things that the areas I live in have to offer.

Spotlight on Humanities Alumni: Mary O’Brien

o'brienName: Mary O’Brien

Occupation: Communications

Education (UR and additional): BA (English/Minor in Journalism), University of Rochester, 2003; MBA, University at Albany – SUNY, 2009

Current city/state of residence: Slingerlands, NY


Why did you choose to attend the University of Rochester?

Rush Rhees Library and awesome financial aid.

When and how did you choose your major?

I entered U of R as a biology (pre-med) major. It took me three semesters to be positive it wasn’t for me. It was a difficult decision, and one that I wish I’d made before that unfortunate grade in organic chemistry, but I ultimately became an english major. While still headstrong and committed to bio, I received encouragement from Professor David Bleich – he was right. I looked forward to my English classes while dreading long hours in lab. Listen to yourself. I also got a journalism minor. (Memmott – I use the inverted pyramid on a daily basis – thanks!)

What activities were you involved in as a student and what did you gain from them?

I was active in my sorority, Delta Gamma, as well as the Panhellenic Association. My time in DG taught me about loyalty and philanthropy, as well as time management. I also made incredible friends. As President of Panhel, I had direct contact with administrators, practiced dreaded public speaking, learned about crisis management, and gained leadership experience – all critical skills in the workplace. I also spent a lot of time at Pellegrino’s and watching Sex and the City DVDs – thank you Anderson 740 & Fairchild 410.

What did you do immediately after graduation? How did you decide to take that path?

Immediately after graduation I returned to Albany and went back to my summer job at the New York Summer School of the Arts.  I was able to keep working there until I started my first “real job” in January as an Editorial Assistant at a publishing company. I worked at the publishing company for several years ending my time there as a Product Manager working on products for the professional health care market.

What do you do now and why did you choose this career?

I currently work in the corporate communications office of a health care system – the perfect place for a former pre-med English major with an MBA. Several of my jobs led me to my current position including my time in health care publishing and a two year stint in the University Health Promotion office. I get to write and edit, contribute to committees, interact with vendors, clinicians, and the community. Every day can be different from the last which keeps things interesting.

How do you balance your work and personal life?

Know what is most important to you and define your version of success accordingly. I’ve had different priorities at different times since graduation – work, family, grad school, relationships – and as they change you have to make adjustments.

How are you still connected with the University?

I am a UR Involved volunteer. I have enjoyed meeting with prospective students, making congratulatory phone calls, and meeting other alumni and parents. I was on our five- and 10-year reunion planning committees. I have been to very fortunate to stay in touch with friends and return to campus several times over the years.

Spotlight on Humanities and Natural Sciences Alumni: Katie Hiler

hilerName: Kathryn Hiler

Occupation: Graduate Student

Education (UR and additional): (’09) B.A in Brain and Cognitive Science; B.A in English Literature

Current city/state/country of residence: New York, NY


When and how did you choose your major(s)?

By the spring semester of my freshman year I was pretty sure I would major in BCS. I was in BCS 172 with Elissa Newport and was really drawn to the study of the developing brain. I was also taking English classes, about one a semester. I love to read and I would choose the class based on what books were going to be on the syllabus. I didn’t take this interest seriously until I had racked up enough courses to fulfill an English minor, and had no interest in stopping. I was headed towards getting a second major in English, which is what I did. 

What resources did you use on campus that you would recommend current students use?

When it came time to consider what I would do after college, I found the career center to be extremely helpful. They were very knowledgeable about everything – from practical resume and cover letter stuff, to how to translate your interests into a job you will like. I still use the resume format the counselor at the career center gave me and I always take their advice of “start early and be prepared” whenever I am applying to something. They are really an incredibly helpful resource, so don’t be afraid to use them!

What did you do immediately after graduation?  How did you decide to take this path?

I was lucky enough to get a job right after graduation. I was already thinking about my next steps beginning in January of my senior year. I was looking for jobs at publishing houses and found what I thought was the perfect position at an academic publisher for an editorial assistant in the behavioral sciences department. I applied for the job, but was told that, while I was a good candidate for the position, they needed someone sooner, and I wouldn’t be graduating until May (it was February). I was crushed, but I waited until April and applied again to a different position at the same company. This time I got to say “Remember me?” and I was accepted right away for an interview. I definitely believe applying early and getting turned down helped me get that position.

What do you do now and why did you choose this career?

I’m currently working towards getting my masters in science journalism with NYU’s Science, Health and Environmental Reporting Program. I left Rochester with degrees in BCS and English and I thought I wanted to work in academic publishing. But after working in that field for a while I realized there was an even better way to merge my interests in science and writing – by becoming a science journalist. I ended up working in publishing for three years and then applied to NYU’s science journalism program. 

Where would you like to be in five years?

Ideally I would like to be a science reporter for a public radio station somewhere in the United States.

What advice do you have for current students?

My advice to current students would be to think outside of the box when it comes to figuring out what to do with your major(s). When I was considering what to do after graduation only the most obvious option stuck out at me – go to grad school and become a researcher. It took some time before I thought of going in to academic publishing, and science journalism after that. There are so many things you can do with your degree. Don’t let someone tell you an English degree is useless or that the only option you have in science is research.

Spotlight on Humanities and Natural Sciences Alumni: Allison Goldstein

agoldsteinName: Allison Goldstein

Occupation: Marketing

Education (UR and additional): BA: English, Brain & Cognitive Science

Current city/state/country of residence: Jersey City, NJ

Current Community activities: Jersey City Writers Group, Gotham City Runners


Why did you choose to attend the University of Rochester?

I was drawn to the flexibility of the curriculum. I didn’t quite know whether I would major in English or something in the sciences—as it turned out, I was able to do both!—so I wanted the ability to explore lots of subjects before making my decision. University of Rochester’s curriculum gave me that freedom.

When and how did you choose your major(s)?

I knew from the outset that I would major in English, but I was also interested in science, particularly in Biology. However, after my first full semester of hearing from both students and the professor himself that introductory Biology classes were designed to weed out anyone who wasn’t going on to med school, I shifted my plan and decided to try a cluster in Brain & Cognitive Science. As it turned out, I loved those courses so much, I ended up double-majoring!

What did you do immediately after graduation?  How did you decide to take this path?

Immediately after graduation, I accepted an internship with This Old House Magazine and moved to New York City. Time Inc, the parent company, was undergoing a hiring freeze, so I applied to other publishing companies around the city until ultimately, I was hired at Wiley as an editorial assistant, working on neuroscience journals.

What do you do now and why did you choose this career?

I am currently an Associate Marketing Manager at Wiley. I market life science books, which are mostly monographs written by scientists for scientists, with a few lower-level textbooks and “science self help” books thrown into the mix. I chose to move from an editorial job working on scientific journals to a marketing job working on books because there is a certain “sameness” to working on academic journals that gets a little monotonous. A books frontlist changes every year, with new books publishing every month, so it is a more interesting and dynamic product to work on.

How you are still connected with the University?

I donate my time, rather than my money, in order to give back to the University of Rochester. Over the last two years, I have volunteered to conduct alumni interviews with prospective students during recruitment season. This gives me the opportunity to help both prospective students and also to promote the University of Rochester. I also participate in most other “networking” opportunities—like this one!—that can help prospective and enrolled students make choices about the future.

What advice do you have for current students?

If you have the chance to study abroad, take it. Studying at the University of Sussex for 6 months was probably my favorite experience in all 4 of my years as an undergraduate. You will learn so much about yourself as a person that you simply cannot learn while living on the same college campus in the same country where you grew up. I have never met one person who regrets their time abroad.

Spotlight on Humanities and Natural Sciences Alumni: Leah Kaminsky

defaultName: Leah Kaminsky

Occupation: Writer and Writing Coach

Education (UR and additional): UR: Double major in BCS and English (Creative Writing)

Current city/state/country of residence: Austin, TX

Current Community activities: None right now

 


 Why did you choose to attend the University of Rochester?

I liked the idea of attending a small university, where I could contribute to extracurricular activities without having to compete, have easy access to professors, and have research opportunities while still enjoying the benefits of a top research university. That’s a very rare combination in a college.

When and how did you choose your major(s)?

I actually knew what I wanted to do before I entered college, though I was still unclear about my profession. I’d been a writer my whole life, so that was a given, and I’d developed an interest in the brain in my junior year of high school. I knew, however, that I didn’t want to be a doctor and that a full-on neuroscience degree would keep me too busy to double major and study abroad. Plus, I loved the idea of a major that was somewhat between psychology and neuroscience, though I didn’t quite realize how much its own field BCS really is (something I really appreciated once I did).

What resources did you use on campus that you would recommend current students use?

I definitely took advantage of professor and TA office hours, which allowed me really to make the most of the toughest classes. I also made full use of the Career Center, and applied for and received a Reach Scholarship, which allowed me to intern at a literary agency in New York—an experience that now, a decade later, has paid off, as I received some guidance from one of the agents there in trying to sell my book. I also really enjoyed the Study Abroad office, as it helped open my mind about overseas possibilities even after I returned from my semester abroad.

What activities were you involved in as a student and what did you gain from them?

I had a humor column in the campus newspaper, which I really enjoyed and which taught me a lot about working with other creatives on a team. I was in the cinema group, which was more just a lot of fun than anything else…something I needed for sure.

Who were your mentors while you were on campus?  Have you continued those relationships?

I took several creative writing classes from Dimitri Anastasopoulos, who also was my thesis advisor, and he provided really honest feedback and guidance that I still haven’t forgotten. Also in the English department, I really benefited from Russell Peck’s courses and his feedback on my papers, and he wrote me several letters of recommendation for grad school; he really taught me what it means to be passionate about your career. In the BCS department, I loved working with Professor Knill, who pushed me harder and further than I ever thought I could go, yet never left me feeling like I was out there on my own. Working on papers for his course was one of the first glimpses I had of what it might mean to work on a research team with a shared goal. And of course, Dr. Richard Aslin was tremendously influential, employing me as a research assistant in his lab throughout all four years of college, and helping me find placement in a lab in London when I graduated. Dr. Aslin always made sure to sit all of his research assistants down to see what he could do to guide us in our careers. Though I didn’t wind up going into BCS professionally, I really benefited from this kind of guidance. I haven’t talked to any of them in years, though I’d love to. 

What did you do immediately after graduation?  How did you decide to take this path?

While I applied to grad school in Journalism and Creative Writing, I headed back to London (where I studied abroad) and worked in an infant perception lab (thanks to Dr. Aslin’s connection there). After 5 months, I left London and traveled around Europe, Asia and Australasia for 7 months. Then, I made the choice to go for my MFA in Fiction Writing at the University of Washington rather than my degree in journalism. Upon receiving my MFA, I started my own tutoring business in Seattle, which I ran for 2 years.

What do you do now and why did you choose this career?

Now I’m a freelance writer, specializing in content writing, white papers, expertise blogging, and web and ad copywriting. I had been dabbling in this kind of work as a tutor, but it took moving away from Seattle to Austin and testing my talents out at TEDxAustin to fully make the switch, as I was really drained from tutoring and didn’t want to start a new business again. The freelance writing grew organically as I got more and more referrals and began to work alongside SEO consultants. I still also coach students online through my business, Just Start Storytelling, as I help them apply to college and graduate school. I also work directly with business owners to write their stories online. I’m still writing and publishing fiction stories, and I’m shopping my first book.

What skills, tools, or knowledge from your major have been most useful to you since graduation?

Despite the fact that they’re in totally different disciplines, I would say that both of my majors taught me how to think. As someone who hires writers now, I can say that I look not for their degrees, but for the kind of deep, analytical thinking and fun, creative voice that can really dig deep, do some hard hitting analysis, and communicate high level concepts in a concrete, fun tone. In my experience, this stems directly from majors like English and BCS, which foster curiosity, creative risk taking, and analytical rigger, as opposed to courses that promote safe, outcome-based methodologies. They also taught me to question and dig endlessly for answers, without fear of being impolite. Of course, both of my majors helped me understand how to deal with massive workloads and pace my time, while also balancing a real life—something I’ve found crucial in the work world.

Where would you like to be in five years?

I’m in the midst of transitioning my business into something more product based, so I’d like for that to be off the ground. I’d also like to be a published fiction novelist, with another middle grade book under my belt and my first pop science book well under way.

How you are still connected with the University?

Mostly through my best friends.

What is your fondest memory of the University?

I remember talking to a friend once in the campus bookstore about how stressed out I was and how I couldn’t wait for the semester to be over, only to be overheard by an alumni, who told us with a nostalgic grin that we should appreciate what we had, because it would only last so long. I found the advice annoying at the time, because college *was* stressful, despite all of the Animal House-type stereotypes. However, now that I’ve been in the workworld for a number of years, I do really miss the idea of taking a class focused narrowly on one subject, and delving deep, just for the pure joy of thinking and debating and wondering (and, okay, grades too, which was where the stress came in, but roll with me here…). Despite the fact that I’m in an intellectual career, there’s always money to be made, deadlines to meet, and a sense of urgency that often overwhelms that sense of wonder, and turns me away from delving deeper. I do make time for that, but it’s all up to me to carve it up, and I miss having partners in that inquiry. So I suppose my fondest memory of the University is thinking…really thinking, just to think. Oh and study abroad, which really changed my life and made me embrace the kind of risk taking that has helped me follow my passions career-wise and travel the world.

What advice do you have for current students?

Take advantage of every opportunity that comes your way, whether it’s the opportunity to lead an extracurricular club, a study abroad experience, a research assistantship, or a one-on-one meeting with a world class professor to really get it right. I know I sound so adult and cliché when I say this, but college really does only come once and you’re paying a ton of money for it, so make the most of it while you can. It’ll be over in a flash, and the rate at which time passes increases exponentially as you age.

 

Spotlight on Humanities and Social Sciences Alumni: Nicole St. James

stjamesName: Nicole St. James

UR Major:  History

Other UR Majors/Minors: English Literature major

Current City, State of Residence: Syracuse, NY

Job Title: Project Coordinator for Syracuse and SUNY ESF

Employer: New York Public Interest Research Group

Community Activities: joined a local alumni chapter of my sorority


How did you choose your major(s)?

Without explaining my entire history of switching majors numerous times, suffice it to say that thanks to UR’s open curriculum I was able to combine my interest in history with a knack for writing into a double major. It happened by chance really, when I realized I had completed more than half of those major requirements without exactly trying to do so.

What activities were you involved in as a student and what did you gain from them?

I was an athlete for a short time, a member of a sorority, some philanthropic clubs like Amnesty International, and also Class Council. It was Class Council that really helped me find my interest in politics that resulted in my current job.

What are some specific skills students should develop during an internship?

Successful interns are proactive and do not need to ask questions about what to complete next. They should understand their role in the company/organization and not need to report to someone every half hour with a concern. I learned this while studying abroad and it has really helped shaped my professionalism.

What is your opinion regarding graduate school vs. working right after graduation?

I believe this decision is different for every person based on their current academic and/or financial situations. Some students just need a break from academia for a while, which is fine. Others would prefer to continue onwards right away – also just fine.

What was your first job after graduation? What college experiences prepared or qualified you for that position?

My first job was directing the Rochester Outreach office for NYPIRG this summer. This transitioned me straight into the campus position I have now within the same organization. I believe Class Council, having planned Senior Week and also speaking with administrators regularly, helped me secure the activist-minded skills for these positions.

What early career advice can you give to current UR students studying history?

A vast majority of history majors do not anticipate becoming historians for their career. If you are one of those, as I was, I suggest focusing your career interests into your extracurricular activity time. That was how I found my interest in the environment and political change. Stay active, read often.

Spotlight on Humanities Alumni: Mary Kokinda

defaultName: Mary Kokinda

Education:  BA (English & Film Studies), University of Rochester; MA (Inclusive Education), Warner School of Education

Current city/state of residence: Brighton, NY

Job Title: Teacher

Employer: Pittsford Schools, NY

Community activities:  Foster Parent, Horizons at Warner School Teacher in summer, connected with Buffalo Pugs & Small Breed Rescue Group


When and how did you choose your major?

I began thinking that I would be a math major, eventually turned math teacher, but I had always been an avid reader and enjoyed writing so taking more English courses was a natural inclination.  Along the way I discovered Professor Johnson who taught an English/Film course.  His personality and lectures captivated me.  In my junior year I finally declared my double major in English and Film Studies on paper!  Additionally, my uncle, who is a Creative Director in Advertising in NYC, advised me to get a broad education like an English degree because it could be applied to so much and gave you rich background knowledge.  I also knew it was an important choice in case I ever decided to become a teacher.

What did you do immediately after graduation? How did you decide to take that path?

I remember telling everyone that my plan was not to have a plan because I still didn’t know what I wanted to do or who I wanted to be.  I had a close friend who had moved to NYC so I moved in with her and four other people in a studio apartment in Manhattan.  (None of us were ever home so sharing a small space wasn’t as bad as it sounds!)  I was able to work as an assistant to my uncle for a while and was quickly schooled in the minutia of working in a major city – I needed a new wardrobe and a new confidence!  When one of my many roommates, a younger girl, left to return to college in the fall, I responded to a voicemail that had been left for her on the message machine (this was pre-cell phone world) from the production office for a feature film.  The girl had been a production assistant (PA) on Sex and the City, which had wrapped, but they called her to interview for the feature film they were about to begin shooting.  I called back explaining that I had on-set experience (I had just watched my uncle’s crew film commercials for three days) and that I was available.  The next day I was hired.  After a fantastic experience working as an Office Production Assistant for the movie The Family Man (with Nicholas Cage) I returned to Rochester, my hometown, having realized that living in the city was not for me, but totally satisfied that I tried that path. In fact, the movie itself seemed to echo my life, as it’s essentially the story of a man who realizes that less can be more and that money or fame is not the same as success.

What do you do now and why did you choose this career?

As I sat on film and commercial sets I was always drawn to the children.  In fact, I’d been working off and on as a nanny all throughout high school and college.  After living in NYC I tried living in LA to see if the more residential, suburban atmosphere would be the right setting for me as I continued to work in the film industry.  My connections were all mid-project and I ended up being a nanny for the actor Thomas Gibson who was starring in the tv show Dharma & Greg at the time.   Deep in my heart I knew that I would eventually work with kids and again I returned to my hometown of Rochester.  I absolutely love being a teacher however I am so glad that I took the risks I did right after college and had experiences in the other world, film, that captured my attention.  It has made me a better teacher for sure.

What skills, tools, or knowledge from your major have been most useful to you since graduation?

Knowing how to write well and communicate my thinking has been the most useful skill that I honed in my college experience.  My professors were demanding and I was even scared of their high expectations but it brought out the best in me.

How do you stay connected with the University?

I have continued to take course work at the Warner School.  I also work at Horizons at Warner.  And I love getting Rochester Review in the mail!

What advice do you have for current students?

I was always able to approach any of my UR professors for support or advice.  I’m not a very social person so each interaction with professors was anxiety-provoking for me, however it was worth it every time.  The professors love what they do and they care.  They were always willing to help me since I was willing to make the effort to be open with them.  I encourage all college students to reach out to their professors and connect with them.