Understatement alert: NYU is a big, big place. Think of the dozens of people you might nod hello to on a typical day—in the dining hall, at the library, between buildings, or behind a particular desk. How many do you know by name? What do you know about their lives?
By day they are office administrators or landscapers, technology specialists or event managers; by night they’re parents and poets, activists and athletes—and so much more. They’re the dedicated staffers who keep this place running, and in this series NYU Stories will go behind-the-scenes at their day jobs—and also reveal how they let off steam after work. (We’re coming for you, dude in the Bon Jovi cover band!) Look for a new and often surprising interview every other week or so. You might just see a familiar face.
Title: Residence Hall Resource Manager, Rubin Hall
Years Working at NYU: Almost 10
Degrees from NYU: B.A., Gallatin (’08); M.P.S., Interactive telecommunications, Tisch (’13)
Hometown: Sellersville, PA (about 30 minutes south of Allentown)
Favorite bit of Rubin Hall trivia: Willa Cather lived in the building from 1927 to 1932.
Favorite Rubin myth to bust: That Mark Twain lived in the building. He actually resided in the building that predated Rubin on the same lot. Twain died in 1910; Rubin was built in 1925.
What originally drew you to NYU?
This is silly, but do you remember that TV show Felicity? That was kind of my first introduction to New York City as a place I might go for college. I was coming from a rural area and I wanted a school that had a progressive feeling to it.
Why did you decide to stick around after graduation and pursue a career here?
I’m invested in it: In my role in Res Life, I have an impact on the undergraduate student experience; I know what NYU did for me during that time in my life, so I want to be able to provide some of that for other students. I feel like for everything I’ve wanted to pursue or learn more about, people here have been very receptive to talking about it, or starting a committee. We're a leader on so many fronts.
In a couple of sentences, what do you do in your job all day?
I oversee operations and logistics of a first-year residence hall for almost 700 students, and I manage and contribute to educational programming run out of the building's Resource Center. I’m also a chair of our Informed Choices program—a 2-3 hour workshop for students who violate alcohol and marijuana policies. It’s a conversation, not a “don’t do drugs” lecture.
When it comes to roommate disputes, you must have seen it all.
Yes, every permutation of a disagreement has probably happened at one point or another. Several years ago, there was a student whose roommates, about two months into the semester, had decided to rearrange all the furniture in the room without her consent. When she sat down to talk to me about it, we found the real problem: After two months of learning how to live in in New York, she had actually begun to feel quite comfortable—so to have that all change again was a shock. That's a big part of what we do—try to help students process what they might be thinking or feeling and find a way to move forward.
You studied interactive telecommunications at Tisch, and now you have your own Etsy shop for selling your art. Can you describe your work?
My thesis was about inserting aspects of someone, of who they are, into the artwork that I was making for them. So in a way it was a type of portraiture that wasn't based on their body. I collected data about various people in my life in a number of ways and then inserted that into not only my subjective visual aesthetic—what I thought they would like—but also into the algorithms I wrote to generate visual images.
Wow. So how would that process work, say, if you were creating a piece of art for me?
Well, we would first have an interview where I’d get to know you as a person and find out what your interests are. It would take place ideally in the location where you’d want the art to be—say, in your home or office. I also would then ask you to fill out a survey afterwards, to gather some more information about you that way. And I’d also make other observations of things you might not even be conscious of—with one person, for example, I incorporated how many times she apologized to me during our time together.
What’s next for you, artistically?
If I were to make another project like this I would look at biometrics—heartbeat and breathing rate, to also include the physiological aspects of who someone is. But what I’ve been focusing on for the past year is synthesizing my two interests: higher ed and visual communications. I’ve been doing a lot of print design—for example in each of our residence halls there’s a magnet in every room with tips for making informed choices about alcohol that I designed.
Sergio Albiac—he’s also interested in identity and he does generative art (writing computer code). His work is beautiful. Also one of my instructors from graduate school, Gabriel Barcia-Colombo—he was commissioned by the MTA and his work is now on view in the new Fulton Center. He focuses on monumentalizing the mundane aspects of life, like typical commuters and what they’re doing. His work is an inspiration to me because I am constantly striving to make the complex look simple and I think he does a great job at that.
What do you do to unwind after a long day at work?
My husband and I sit down to dinner every weeknight—I know, it's very traditional—and light some candles at our dining room table. Sometimes there's a homemade meal and sometimes it's takeout, depending on how exhausted we are. Then there’s some paying some attention to our two cats. Especially in the winter months it’s nice just to cuddle up with them.
How about on the weekends?
I do a lot of hiking, and also going to visit family—my husband is from Connecticut and I’m from Pennsylvania so we have family in all directions.
Is there a hike near the city you’d recommend?
Storm King Mountain—it’s just an hour and a half north of the city and there are spectacular views from the top. It takes only about three hours, though there are some difficult parts.
Favorite NYC spot for people watching?
Central Park—you see what all the people are doing, and what they’re dreaming, a little bit. In some ways that's what New York City is about.
What brings you peace?
Silence. Being secluded. I would describe myself as someone who is future oriented, so I'm always thinking What am I doing next? What's coming next? What else do I need to be on top of? I rarely take the time to just enjoy the present. So when I do find those moments, what brings me the most peace is being okay with right now.