Our NYU: December 2019
A Note from President Hamilton
December is always a hectic time—there are looming deadlines, meetings to jam into our already-crowded schedules and, of course, the competitive blood sport of jockeying for seats in Bobst Library during final exams. Meanwhile, the 24/7 headlines reminding us that the nation and the world continue to operate in unusual tumult can add to our collective anxiety. Happily, this season also invites us to take some time to focus on our relationships close to home, which serve to give us meaning and comfort as a community.
Indeed, I’m immensely proud of the countless ways NYU students, faculty, and administrators endeavor to help our neighbors throughout the year, connecting with our surrounding communities, and learning from those with whom we share our cities—whether it’s through volunteer work, faculty research, service learning, or student programs.
For example, our students have been working in New York City public schools for more than 22 years, offering reading and math assistance through America Reads/America Counts, and providing almost 10,000 hours of tutoring a week. Gallatin’s Literacy Project aids adult immigrants with literacy instruction as well, which culminates in an annual reading and publication featuring works by participants. Tandon professor Maurizio Porfiri brought a robotic aquatic vehicle to the Gowanus canal to engage local citizen scientists. And at NYU Meyers, students and alumni in the Men Entering Nursing student group are teaching New York City ninth graders about nutrition, heart health, and diabetes.
At NYU Abu Dhabi, service efforts are incorporated into the lives of most students, whether that involves helping clean up the area’s beaches or pitching in at the Special Olympics World Games. This year, the NYU Shanghai community has contributed over 5,000 hours to local programs, including teaching English to children of migrant workers. NYU’s athletics teams, who already balance study and sports competition, are encouraged to dedicate a portion of their time to service. This month, the baseball team supported the Administrative Management Council’s annual toy drive by donating items from local stores (Jennie and I even had the pleasure of joining them one afternoon!).
And, of course, our Combined Campaign in New York has been a way for us as faculty, administrators, and staff to help youth, seniors, and the homeless right in our own neighborhoods.
What impact does it have? The answer to that question is most certainly a lot. Numerically, it translates to 1,600 toys and 3,400 food items for the AMC’s drives, $4.1 million in donations from employees, and more than 2,000 grants distributed by the Community Fund since 1982—just to name a few programs. NYU may be big, but this community demonstrates every day that we are also big hearted, a fact that fills me with Violet Pride.
On that happy note, I’d like to wish you a wonderful respite, and I look forward to welcoming you back in the new year.
Our scholar-athletes juggle school, work, and community service with aplomb. This month, Jennie and I got a peek at their time management skills in action, as the men’s baseball team managed a full day of study, working out, and dropping off toys for the Administrative Management Council’s annual toy drive (complete in holiday regalia!). This year, the AMC collected an impressive 1,600 toys and books from faculty, staff, and students for children in Manhattan and Brooklyn.
A number of NYU’s schools offer service learning courses; one example is the Alzheimer's Disease: Sharing the Lived Experience class at NYU Silver, developed by clinical associate professor Peggy Morton in collaboration with NYU Langone Health’s Alzheimer’s Disease & Related Dementias Family Support Program. Students visit mentors (people living with Alzheimer’s), write about the sessions, and have classes on neuroscience, caregiving, healthy aging, and related topics. (Above, student Abby Zhang [LIBERAL STUDIES ’23] and her mentor, Walter).
About 9 million of Shanghai’s population (of 24 million) are migrant laborers whose children can’t access the same public education resources as children of residents. Last spring, NYU Shanghai students led art classes and taught English and music to some of those children through the Dean’s Service Corps' Art Therapy with Migrant Kids program and the Service Learning with Migrant Families course.
Volunteering in our cities is one of the most popular ways for our students to engage with our communities. This fall, Wagner and Tandon students partnered with the Gowanus Canal Conservancy by collecting debris at the historically polluted canal in Brooklyn through WagnerCares, part of the Wagner Student Association. They will return next year to take care of trees and propagate native plants.
The numbers tell an impressive story of the ways in which our faculty, administrators, staff, and students are committed to our neighbors. Our Combined Campaign helps fund grants for nonprofit agencies that serve youth, seniors, the homeless, and others in New York City. And across the globe, thousands of people in our community impact the lives of many.
Broadening representation in the media and arts is top of mind at Tisch, which has for 30 years hosted Future Artists, a free spring program serving underrepresented New York City-area public high school students. Offering 12 weeks of instruction in dance, dramatic writing, filmmaking, game design, among others, it closely mirrors the NYU undergraduate experience (and, I might add, boasts alum Nija Charles, who just picked up five 2020 Grammy nominations!).
Did you know that singing can help patients recover from strokes or neurological diseases? Annalissa Vicencio (above), a PhD student and music therapist in Steinhardt’s rehabilitation sciences program, has started a community choir at Montefiore Hospital in the Bronx made up of patients and caregivers. The vocal exercises and practice have yielded cognitive and psychosocial benefits.
Increasingly, businesses are being held accountable for environmental and social impacts, while nonprofits must demonstrate economic efficiency. The two sectors have a lot to learn from each other, and, to that end, NYU Stern’s Experiential Learning Seminar, Social Impact Consulting, assigns undergraduate students with faculty mentors to work as consultants to nonprofits. Since 2012, students have completed over 75 projects with 35 different organizations—many of whom support low-income and first-generation students in New York City. Above, students collaborated with the RETI Center in Red Hook, Brooklyn, on plans for coastline resilience to climate change
Community outreach—where dental care is provided at no cost to patients in need—is essential to the NYU College of Dentistry’s mission (their mobile dental van can be seen throughout the five boroughs), and last year the College began a partnership with the Administration for Children's Services to provide dental care to New York City-area foster children at the Nicholas Scoppetta Children’s Center. The on-site care allows for faster, easier access to dental assistance.
Community outreach comes in many varieties, and this fall it appeared in the form of the energetic production Fiddler on the Roof SR—a collaboration between Steinhardt’s Drama Therapy program, Penn South (a cooperative that has a significant population of older residents), and Music Theatre International. Students helped performers draw out their creative sides, which in turn helped them build a greater sense of community, while reconnecting some of the seniors to their Jewish heritage.
Finally, I was able to share a toast with NYU’s December graduates earlier this month. Though a considerably smaller group than their springtime counterparts, they were not short on enthusiasm, and I was happy to be there to wish them all the best as they embark on their undoubtedly bright futures.