Our NYU: December 22, 2020
A Note from President Hamilton
Around this time last year, I remember heading with Jennie to Palladium, where the baseball team was collecting toys for the Administrative Management Council’s annual toy drive (naturally, my contribution was a lab-worthy chemistry set). We got a laugh out of the team’s attire—they were, fittingly, working out in ugly holiday sweaters.
Though we are still in the midst of a pandemic, community service and civic engagement remain critical values here at the University. The AMC’s toy drive wrapped up earlier this month—virtually—surpassing its goal of more than 900 donations to help the Birch School and the Coalition for the Homeless. NYU’s 2020–2021 Combined Campaign is well underway and, thanks to the generosity of University employees, typically enables us to distribute more than $100,000 to New York City nonprofits, including those in our immediate neighborhoods in lower Manhattan and downtown Brooklyn. Our students are engaged in a wide variety of volunteer work—those involved in the annual New York Dance Marathon raised more than $26,000, the most of any US college or university, to combat childhood cancer, with Sydney Searles (Steinhardt ’21) raising $10,000 as the top fundraiser.
In Abu Dhabi, the NYU community participates in hundreds of community service engagements including environmental education, adaptive sports coaching for youth with special needs, and leadership workshops for students. And our colleagues and classmates at NYU Shanghai raised more than $50,000 in three days to support relief efforts in Wuhan.
Connection with communities also serves as a basis of many of our academic programs. Last spring, the NYU Impact Investment Fund, a collaboration among Stern, Wagner, and the School of Law, invested in SmartGurlz, a company that engages school-age girls who are underrepresented in STEM to learn coding. This year the fund is identifying enterprises focused on resilience and racial justice. A major component of the College of Dentistry's mission is extensive community outreach, and this year they’ve augmented their programming with oral health training for parents via Zoom. Tisch has kept up its annual Week of Community, bringing together artists, scholars, and entrepreneurs virtually.
One of the most significant ways NYU has remained committed to community advocacy has been through the extraordinary efforts of NYU Votes. Leading up to the 2018 midterm elections, the University refocused its efforts to promote civic engagement by launching a University-wide campaign, with any eye on 2020. That effort was ramped up even further to include more than 130 student, faculty, and administrative “ambassadors,” who helped inform and inspire our students to register, make a voting plan, volunteer, and become advocates. And their hard work is paying off: the voting rate among NYU students—a mere 9 percent in the 2014 midterm elections—more than quadrupled for the 2018 midterms. On the heels of another aggressive NYU Votes effort this fall, I look forward to seeing our results from November, which should become available next spring.
I’m proud to be part of a community that steps up for the causes and neighbors that need our support, even while navigating complex national and global issues, personal circumstances, and the challenges thrown our way in 2020. It is also a community service each time we put on a mask, physically distance, and avoid crowds to keep each other safe. I want to take a moment to commend the NYU community for everyone’s conscientiousness—though it is critical that we remain committed and focused.
As we move into the winter break and look forward to a restful and restorative respite, I want to express my thanks to all of you for your steadfast dedication. May 2021 bring health, comfort—and hope on the horizon.
P.S. I am happy to report we have already begun admitting students to the Class of 2025. In case you missed it, here is a wonderful video of some of the newest members receiving the news from their college counselors and our admissions staff.
Infographic Full Text
Helping Our Communities: Last year, the NYU Community Fund distributed $105,000 to over 80 nonprofits. Since 1982, the NYU Combined Campaign raised and distributed $4.1 million to NYC organizations. NYU Shanghai raised over $50,000 (RMB 350,000) to support COVID-19 relief efforts in Wuhan. NYUAD community members participated in 900 volunteer engagements.
Serving communities through the NYU Combined Campaign: 20,000 seniors were supported through wellness calls and meal deliveries, 30,000 people were provided with pro-bono virtual legal representation, and 10,000 children were provided remote after-school homework help.
Our community outreach efforts, like our University operations, shifted to mostly remote engagement, but have been no less robust in New York and our portal campuses.
As many of us retreated during the pandemic, so, too, did the volunteers upon which citizen science projects rely. Students in the NYU Gallatin course NYC Coastlines: Past, Present, and Future provided the only volunteer-collected data for the River Project’s oyster monitoring program in 2020 and participated in the Citizens’ Water Quality Testing project. Led by Visiting Assistant Professor Karen Holmberg, the students collected oyster data from the Hudson River, tested water samples from Upper New York Bay, created artwork, and presented their data. Photo: Emma Comrie.
It was only a matter of time before a dog photo made it into Our NYU! This semester, 20 NYU students tutored New York City sixth through 10th graders virtually as part of an undergraduate course, Service Learning Through Community Engagement, taught by the Silver School’s Professor Peggy Morton. Through the collaboration, facilitated by Publicolor, a program that supports youth who are at risk of dropping out of school, students learned about therapy dogs (like Razz, above) to help middle schoolers develop socioemotional skills.
No community has been immune from the impact of COVID-19, and it has hit Asian/Pacific American communities especially hard—from anti-Asian hate crimes to higher rates of deaths among South Asians and Pacific Islanders. The Asian/Pacific/American Institute established A/P/A Voices: A COVID-19 Public Memory Project to document the pandemic through oral histories and artifacts, to be housed at NYU’s Tamiment Library & Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives. Above: Excerpt from A Comic on Resiliency by Monyee Chau for the Wing Luke Museum.
I am deeply proud of all of our students who have been studying both on campus and from home this year, but I want to take a moment to recognize Nayan Pallavi Saha (LS ’24), a remote student who found time in between online lectures and assignments to make masks and cookies, package them up, and send them to classmates in New York. Now that’s a reason for Violet pride!
For our students who do clinical rotations, like our nursing students at NYU Meyers, serving our communities is a learning experience—they get to know local populations and needs. Above, family nurse practitioner students braved the pandemic healthcare environment to provide care in Queens, including assisting with well-child visits and administering routine vaccinations. This is a critical public health service now, as many children have fallen behind in vaccinations due to families staying at home during the pandemic.
NYU Steinhardt’s Art and Art Professions student Daniele Gentile (’21) launched an art therapy forum to foster conversation and expression around racial injustice. Students and alumni met on Zoom to discuss recent events, as well as how protest art often communicates what words cannot. Gentile acknowledges that art therapy tends to be a white, female-led field, and believes that fostering community around these important issues will help shift that makeup. “This community stands with people of color,” she said.
Our in-person athletics may temporarily be on pause, but they are by no means stopped. At NYU Abu Dhabi, for example, student-athletes launched a virtual fitness program where they conducted sessions to virtually train with Special Olympics athletes. The initiative built on the legacy of the Special Olympics World Games held in Abu Dhabi in 2019. (Above, Special Olympics athlete Nour El Akhdar trains with NYU Abu Dhabi student Salma Abdelaziz.)
Most of us know how lonely quarantining can be, in particular for students who may be far from home for the first time. In Shanghai, a group of 60 students volunteered to support their classmates by helping them order food, get essential documents, or drop by for a window visit (above).
As the days get shorter, and spirits need a boost, faculty housing residents participated in a community project called Acts of Kindness. Faculty Housing, Work Life, and Community Engagement collaborated to lead this effort to distribute DIY kits for residents to take home and decorate over 60 greeting cards and gift bags to distribute food and toiletries to neighbors, including Visiting Neighbors seniors.
Finally, thank you to everyone for all of your hard work this semester and the extra steps we’ve had to take due to COVID-19. I know we’re all tired of wearing masks and physically distancing—and long for a time when we can ease up a bit. But please remember, with rates rising, we can’t get complacent. For as long as it takes, we must remain vigilant and continue to work hard to keep each other safe (and don’t forget to turn in those test kits!).