Whelp, we've done it again: another journey around the sun, another 365 anything-but-typical days (plus an extra for Leap Year!) trying to capture some small slice of the NYU story as it unfolds.

For the NYU News team, 2016 was the year we welcomed a new provost and a new president (in Latin!), crowd-sourced the ultimate summer vacation reading list, tracked our faculty's analysis of the most talked about (and maybe most contentious) election cycle ever, released a downloadable NYU coloring book and a quiz about all of our past presidents, started a series where we ask top scholars big questions they have to answer in just 90 seconds, and assembled a comprehensive guide to busting finals (and holiday!) stress.

Whew. What's that about settling in for a long winter's nap? Before we bid 2016 a final farewell (and duck out for a quick break), here are 16 favorite stories from the past year to mull over as we look forward to 2017 together.


Developed by faculty, staff, and students, along with formerly incarcerated people, NYU's Prison Education Program works to ensure access to higher education for people in prisons and jails. The program currently offers courses leading to an Associate of Arts degree in liberal studies (with transferable credits) at Wallkill Correctional Facility in Ulster County, NY, and provides education support services for students upon their release. In this video, PEP instructor Laurie Woodard and students Jose and Vincent reflect on what they've learned.

"Imagining Possibilities": In Class with NYU's Prison Education Program


photo: man playing a guitar

Music is what we turn to when we don’t have the words to express what we feel. It’s what we crave when we’re celebrating, when we’re grieving, when we’re falling in love. Music is what makes horror movies suspenseful and what makes us tear up at weddings. It connects us to other people. The question is why? And how might knowing more about music and the brain help people struggling with autism? 

'What Can Music Do?' Rethinking Autism Through Music Therapy


To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the original Star Trek series premiere, NYU physics professor (and sci-fi fan) David Grier leads a tour of his lab—the birthplace of the real-life tractor beam. In this video, Grier explains how the technology works and how it could find practical use in everything from environmental science to—yes—space exploration.

Straight Out of Star Trek


photo: collage of images of student veterans

“I’ve been in a war zone and I’ve seen real life and death situations. It really puts everything else in perspective. I now practice triage in my everyday life.”

For Veterans Day, Portraits of Service


photo: collage of firefighter and images from 9/11

I think that girls and young women should know that while it may not always be easy, it’s valuable to not take no for an answer. It helps open the doors to others in the future, and it not only helps women and girls to have these stereotypes broken down—it helps boys and men too. Nobody, whether you're a boy or girl, should be forced into a box just because you happen to be born one gender or the other.

On 9/11, Women Were Heroes Too


photo: James Brown performing

James Brown really wanted peace from the burden of racism, the burden of race that he was forced to carry on his shoulders. I think most people want that. That’s why Rodney King’s statement, when he asked, “Can’t we all get along?” was so poignant to me. Because I understand. You grow tired of trying to prove your humanity to every single person. You just want to be a human being.


NYU economist William Easterly goes hyperlocal—focusing on 486 feet of Greene Street between Houston and Prince Streets in SoHo—to explore cycles of development and decline over 400 years of New York City history. In tracing a single block's series of reincarnations as a red light district, the center of the garment boom, an artists' haven, and finally a luxury strip, he celebrates the role of individual citizens and entrepreneurs in charting the economic destiny of their neighborhood.

Brothels, Sweatshops, and the Apple Store: 400 Years On One NYC Block


illustration: computer with bullhorn, fist and twitter bird rising out of it (shapes are made of newsprint)

We are getting past a day when bodies in the street are the only, or even the preferred, show of activism. If we say, “nothing is going on if I don’t see bodies in the street” or “something is happening, but only to the degree that I see folks holding signs outside,” we miss a lot of what is actually important.

Hashtags in the ‘Real’ World: How #BlackLivesMatter Changed Activism


In Tehran in 1961, the young Parviz Tanavoli—part of the saqqakhaneh group of artists drawing on Iranian religious and cultural imagery to create modernist, often abstract works—met art collector Abby Weed Grey, who arranged for him to serve as artist-in-residence at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design near her home in St. Paul. The two became friends, and in 1964, Grey helped Tanavoli, then teaching at the University of Tehran, set up Iran's first bronze foundry there. Grey went on to purchase 80 of Tanavoli's works, which often incorporate mixed media and found materials, and Tanavoli helped her build the collection of modern Iranian work now held at NYU's Grey Art Gallery, which she founded in 1975.

Parviz Tanavoli, Father of Iranian Modernism, at NYU's Grey Art Gallery 


illustration: feet sticking out below gender neutral bathroom stalls

As recently as 2001, trans students arguing for a “Restroom Revolution” at UMass Amherst were coolly dismissed—by the university vice chancellor and the campus press alike—as attention-seekers looking for a problem where there was none. Only 15 years later, their cause is anything but a fringe issue: Even the President of the United States is now playing an active role in a heated national battle over which restrooms transgender citizens may use—one that gets to the heart of how we as a society think about gender. The debate moved from college campuses and cable news shows to the courts with the introduction of North Carolina’s HB2 bill, which states that people must use the public bathroom that corresponds to the sex listed on their birth certificate.

Where To Go: Making the Case for All-Gender Bathrooms


illustration: harriet tubman on the $20 bill

We are talking about a landscape in which the vast majority of our public commemorative spaces commemorate white men who participated in war. By changing the language of commemoration, by, say, erecting a monument to Martin Luther King on the National Mall, or opening an Afro-American history museum in Washington D.C., or by changing the name of a street, or by putting Harriet Tubman on our money, we’re saying that there’s an expanded place of commemoration. We are recognizing that there other acts of heroism that we need to address.

Tubman on the 20: What the Choice Says About Our Time and Hers 


illustration: grid of frowny emojis

It’s normal to feel a little down in the winter, when the days are shorter and we see less of the sun. That can affect your brain chemistry and can make you feel sad or tired. But when those feelings don’t let up, and begin to interfere with your life, that could be a sign of Seasonal Affective Disorder—a subtype of major depression that only manifests during a particular time of year.

Wellness Tips to Beat the Winter Blues 


illustration: cecil dreeme book

It’s a sensational story complete with blackmail, mistaken identity, all kinds of yearning, and a gender-bending twist that seems to foreshadow some of our current discussions about pronouns and what it means to depart from a strict gender binary. In other words, Cecil Dreeme is a queer (maybe even proto-trans) novel all about bohemian life around Washington Square. How could NYU Press not publish it?

NYU Press Reissues Cecil Dreeme, the Queerest American Novel of the 19th Century


screenshot from virtual reality rendering of Lenape New York

When Europeans arrived in the Americas, the Lenape homeland—known as Lenapehoking—encompassed the upper and lower Delaware and Hudson river valleys and included all of present-day New Jersey, New York State’s Rockland, Orange, Westchester, Putnam, and Nassau counties, and the five boroughs of present-day New York City. “Manhattan” derives from the Lenape word Manaháhtaan.

Decolonizing New York 


photo collage: girls legs in socks and mary janes

I must have buried the feeling, the anxiety or whatever, so deep inside. My daughter became a commercial airline pilot, and when she read this book she said, “Mother, how could you never have told me this story?” I never told my husband of 36 years. I never told anybody, and you know, I will talk about anything. It is amazing to me that it was locked away for so long. I think I was just meant to tell it now, as my final long, complicated novel.

The Story Judy Blume Buried 


illustration: founding fathers with american flags censoring their lips

Back in the colonial times, so much of what they were saying was offensive. Not all speech is erudite and conducted on a high level—not now and not back then. You had your pamphlets that went deeply into English history and the writings of Enlightenment thinkers and all that. But then there was speech that was vitriolic and mean-spirited, obnoxious attacks on individuals and groups. The problem with punishing offensive speech—and the Supreme Court has pointed this out—is that you will often suppress ideas in doing so, ideas that we would all benefit in discussing. And the Court has pointed out that offensiveness is a vague standard. What's offensive?

We the Protestors: How America's Founders Forged the Freedom of (Ugly, Vitriolic) Speech