So Your Coworker Is Intolerable . . .
Arts and Science
How best to deal with an unbearable colleague? Tessa West, Arts and Science associate professor of psychology, wrote Jerks at Work: Toxic Coworkers and What to Do About Them, a book that draws on her years of research to help make you less beholden to soul-sucking jerks at work and the chaos they inflict on your life. “No one really gets training in low-level conflict at work,” she says. “We wait until somebody screws up, then punish them with, say, microaggression training.” This deficit led West to assemble this manual of tips; it includes how to spot warning signs, understanding why someone behaves the way they do, and learning how to open lines of communication so you can solve the problem quickly and minimize stress. And what if you’re one of West’s seven work jerk archetypes (“kiss up/kick downer” and “gaslighter,” to name just two)? “Lots of people go from being the victims of jerks to the perpetrators,” she notes, “from complaining about being mistreated to mistreating people, if accidentally. And the word ‘accidental’ is appropriate because most of us aren’t motivated to be jerks. It just happens because our own personality interacts with the situation and sometimes we come on too strong, sometimes not strong enough.” Go to tessawestauthor.com to take a helpful, if potentially troubling, quiz to learn if you’re the office pariah.
—Andrew Postman • Photo composite by Nathaniel Kilcer
The description for the City as Text course explains that it couples scholarly and journalistic readings with field trips to help students develop a nuanced understanding of the local, regional, national, and global forces that shape the character of a town. But how do you conduct experiential learning during a pandemic? Just ask Amy Wilkinson, clinical associate professor at Liberal Studies. “Actual physical field trips [were] very tricky,” she says, though not impossible, thanks to technology. Virtual indoor forays in 2020 to the New York Transit Museum in Brooklyn and the Museum of the Moving Image in Queens “were still surprisingly cool,” Wilkinson says. Outdoor exploration in 2021 was COVID-safe, so the participants took a walking tour of Greenwich Village, surveying the Aaron Burr House (17 Commerce Street) and the townhome where Louisa May Alcott lived and wrote a portion of Little Women (130 MacDougal Street—now part of NYU). They also visited Jefferson Market Library (425 Sixth Avenue), which was once a courthouse. “You’re standing in front of buildings you walk by all the time or take classes in, and [learning about and appreciating] the other lives that have passed through there,” Wilkinson notes. Other Manhattan destinations included Elizabeth Street Garden in Nolita, La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club in the East Village, and Little Island at Pier 55 off the Meatpacking District. Students work on creative projects that focus on the city’s past, present, or future, and the interdisciplinary approach encourages viewing a city through its arts, media, politics, economics, and social practices. The seminar is also taught at NYU Abu Dhabi and NYU Shanghai, as well as at the university’s study away sites in Accra, Ghana; Berlin; Buenos Aires, Argentina; Florence, Italy; Madrid; Paris; and Tel Aviv, Israel.
ABC, BBC, CBC, CBS, CNN, NBC, the Guardian, the Independent, Smithsonian Magazine. These are just a handful of the outlets that wrote about the discovery of the world’s oldest industrial brewery, dating to 3000 BCE in Abydos, Egypt. Archaeologists on the excavation team include researchers from the Institute of Fine Arts, working roughly 5,813 miles east of their home base of the Duke House in Manhattan. One look at the cohort’s Instagram (@digabydos) suggests that even their routine days just west of the Nile River are rather spectacular. It’s not that the tools they use in the field are high-tech—think shovels, trowels, spades, brushes, sieves, and buckets—although donkeys cart these items to the field and, on a good day, artifacts back to their lab, which does feature 21st-century equipment. What is awe-inspiring is when they unearth a treasure from an ancient civilization. While they’re rightfully celebrating that suds-related exhumation (the on-site accessory de rigueur is an FBI, or Famous Beer Inspector, hat), even smaller finds make the difficult work worthwhile. To dig deeper, visit abydos.org.
“Portrait of Compassion” (above), stitched in part by Leslie Goldfarb (MEYERS ’82), is included in When the World Went Still, a permanent installation at the Rory Meyers College of Nursing that acknowledges the work of nurses in the face of COVID-19. The quilt hangs alongside photos, drawings, and collages created by students, faculty, and alumni, while newspaper front pages trace the pandemic’s timeline and the community’s response. Curated by Ching-wen Janet Chuang (CAS ’21, STEINHARDT ’23), the exhibition spreads across the public spaces on five levels of 433 First Avenue. Despite addressing the challenges of the last two years, the show narrates an upward trajectory; it’s not just a sober reflection on the past but also a glance forward, full of cautious hope. For more information, visit
—Kirsten Frances O’Regan (GSAS ’14)
Gallatin School of Individualized Study / Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development
Stephen Duncombe was a young organizer when he realized that activists might more effectively transform consciousness with a little creativity. Taking part in the ACT UP protests of the 1980s “felt like you were going to a party,” says Duncombe, a professor of media and culture at the Gallatin School of Individualized Study and the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development. Crafting demonstration as performance or a banner as an art piece could inspire in ways a petition could not. In 2009, Duncombe cofounded the Center for Artistic Activism to explore and communicate how to combine art’s power to move people with strategic planning to creatively bring about social change. Now he has cowritten the book The Art of Activism: Your All-Purpose Guide to Making the Impossible Possible based on the center’s research with artists and activists around the world. Good artistic activism must be culturally contextual, so his book focuses on cultivating creativity in general versus teaching specific techniques. One case study is about a former mayor of Bogotá, Colombia, who replaced traffic cops with mime artists. Rather than dispensing tickets, these performers would, for example, wordlessly pretend to be offended or hurt when a driver ignored a pedestrian’s right of way in a crosswalk. The result? People began to obey traffic signals and, for the first time, respect crosswalks. Duncombe says the book will have done its work “if people read it, then forget it entirely. We want them to think, ‘Oh, that’s a good idea. I wonder where I got that idea from?’ ”
—Kirsten Frances O’Regan (GSAS ’14)
Duncombe says the book will have done its work “if people read it, then forget it entirely. We want them to think, ‘Oh, that’s a good idea. I wonder where I got that idea from?’ ”
Tisch School of the Arts
The Tisch School of the Arts’ stature as a preeminent nurturer of filmmaking talent is getting turbocharged thanks to the largest gift in its history. It will honor one of cinema’s most celebrated figures, Academy Award–winning director Martin Scorsese (WSC ’64, STEINHARDT ’68, HON ’92). The donation is from the Hobson/Lucas Family Foundation, run by Ariel Investments president and co-CEO and Starbucks chair Mellody Hobson and director, producer, screenwriter, and entrepreneur George Lucas. It’s earmarked for the creation of a student scholarship fund as well as the Martin Scorsese Institute of Global Cinematic Arts, an academic and production unit comprising the Martin Scorsese Virtual Production Center and the Martin Scorsese Department of Cinema Studies.
Virtual production is a confluence of technologies that includes game engine software, graphics cards, camera tracking, AR, and VR; it is transforming the way many movies and television shows are made. Lucasfilm’s The Mandalorian and Scorsese’s The Irishman both employed some of these technologies: the former created entire worlds in real time, immersing actors in live images during production using a high-resolution LED screen; the latter used motion capture to de-age its actors. This set of tools “allows us to visualize as we work,” Scorsese says. The philanthropic husband-wife duo noted that the institute “deservedly highlights [Scorsese’s] legacy as a quintessential American filmmaker and will inspire generations of diverse, talented students.” For his part, Scorsese said that Hobson and Lucas’ generosity “is deeply moving for me, and doubly so since this state-of-the-art institute will be housed at my beloved alma mater.” The Department of Cinema Studies will also include an endowed Martin Scorsese Chair. The scholarship fund will provide tuition assistance to those with financial need and academic merit with the goal of promoting a diverse community.
College of Dentistry
Tens of millions of people in this country suffer from chronic pain, and tens of thousands die every year from the opioids designed to treat it. The College of Dentistry’s new Pain Research Center aims to find safer, more effective alternatives. “My vision is to launch it as a signaling center,” says its director, Rajesh Khanna, a professor of molecular pathobiology. He’s referring to the intracellular communications triggered by pain receptors. The labs will study pain on several levels, including looking at the structure and function of sensory receptors in cells, measuring animals’ sensitivity to touch or temperature as a proxy for pain, and conducting clinical trials of potential therapies. Funding, about $40 million to start, comes from the National Institutes of Health and industrial and philanthropic partners. Khanna notes other goals: educating the community, mentoring budding researchers, and fostering entrepreneurship so that findings can have wider impact. “Pain is not going away,” he says, “and opioids are not going away either.”
School of Professional Studies
When David Hollander, clinical associate professor at the School of Professional Studies and instructor of the course How Basketball Can Save the World, learned about the residents of Porretta Terme in Northern Italy and their petition to the Vatican to recognize their local saint, the Madonna of the Bridge, as the first-ever Patron Saint of Basketball, he couldn’t be a benchwarmer. The town’s b-ball obsession started during World War II, when American soldiers taught the game to their Italian prisoners.
Then by the early 1950s, Porretta Terme was the national center of women’s basketball, and in 1956 a space within its sanctuary was consecrated the Chapel of the Basketball Players. But the papal honor wasn’t a slam dunk: despite backing from the local priest, the Italian Basketball Federation, and fans, the effort bounced off the rim. It was a full-court press by Hollander and his students in the form of a letter to the Archbishop of Bologna that seems to have tipped the Vatican’s decision. “It’s incredible,” Hollander proclaims, “and our students had much to do with it!”
School of Global Public Health
After having spaces scattered around campus, the School of Global Public Health now has one home at 708 Broadway. There are lots of cool features—like carpets made of recycled fishing nets—but nothing tops the lobby’s living wall, a vertical system teeming with O2-rich greenery.
—Lindsy Van Gelder • Photo by Sapna Parikh