Volunteer Profile: Mariam Ehrari (LS ’12, CAS ’14) [She/Her]
July 15, 2021
Mariam Ehrari’s (LS ’12, CAS ’14) [she/her] student experience prepared her for post-grad life in more ways than one. When Mariam was a student at NYU, she was chair of the Student Senators Council and part of a group of students who advocated for the creation of a student spirit week (now known as the annual Violet 100). She also studied the First Amendment in a class taught by President Emeritus John Sexton.
Today, Mariam, who is about to begin her third year on the NYU Alumni Association Board of Directors, is studying for her JD at Fordham School of Law, is a judicial intern in the Eastern District of New York, and has earned a reputation as an effective social impact and political organizer (Mariam was a cofounder of the Women’s March and worked on Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign).
Read on to learn more about how Mariam became involved as an NYU alumni volunteer, how her NYU experience laid the groundwork for her work as an advocate, and her advice for NYU students and alumni who just completed an unprecedented school year.
How did you first become involved as an NYU alumni volunteer?
I was recruited by a long-time NYU alumni volunteer while in student government. I knew I wanted to stay connected with the NYU community post-graduation and was introduced to the volunteer community in the spring of my senior year as one way of doing so!
Why do you stay involved with NYU? Why would you encourage other alumni to get involved?
NYU played a significant role in my development, professional and otherwise, in ways I don’t think every university would have. And I’m invested in wanting to see the growth of an institution that can provide that unquantifiable/unmeasurable metric, especially that growth, in the form of opportunity for future students. I think remaining involved as alumni is one of the key ways to give back to help make the institution the best it can be for one key group: students.
What’s your proudest (or most fun) moment from serving as a volunteer so far?
One of my favorite events to date was my first alumni volunteer conference a few years ago. There was just something about the spirit in the air and the fact that most people there had blocked off a few days to immerse themselves again in the NYU and Greenwich Village community fully—that felt like a sweet return to home. I spent most of the weekend with alumni spanning generations and people I didn’t know. And it was the first time I truly realized and felt in my bones that NYU alumni share a spirit and experience that transcends age and class year. That spirit is so unique and special.
Did you have any NYU classes or instructors who inspired or impacted you?
Funny you should ask. I took President Sexton’s undergraduate class on the First Amendment’s religion clauses. It was the first time I was introduced to the law and the Constitution in such a tactical way, and I absolutely loved it. Coupled with President Sexton’s charismatic teaching style and love for legal education, it’s easily one of the main experiences that catapulted me to consider more seriously the prospect of going to law school.
What is a surprising way you’ve used your NYU experience since graduating in 2014?
I graduated a couple of years before the 2016 election—during a time when social demonstration and protest were prominent, but not in the way they have been since 2016. And my time at NYU was probably one of the first times I faced this form of activism as a tool for social change. Given my role in student government, I felt I was a bridge-builder between students and the faculty/administration, learning how to navigate complex issues and conversations across various stakeholders.
In the years since, I found myself more directly in organizing spaces. I believe my experiences and time at NYU helped me understand how social organizing ecosystems work in order to hold space for meaningful dialogue and to create change. I always saw, and continue to see myself on the government policymaking side of things. So to find myself organizing mass movements and protests such as the Women’s March, while not directly in my line of vision while at NYU, was definitely supported by my experience there. Broadly speaking, my work since NYU has ranged—from political campaigns, to social advocacy/organizing, to most recently, founding a media startup—I truly attribute my ability to be versatile and adaptive to what I learned and the skills I developed while at NYU.
What is your favorite NYU memory?
The Violet100! I was determined in my sophomore year for NYU to have a spirit week that broadened our sense of community. Some of my favorite memories were convincing people to trust my and some of my classmates' vision and take the leap to make it happen. I remain incredibly proud that so many people banded together to make the dream a reality in 2012 and that it continues to exist as a form of community today.
You’re a current student (at Fordham Law School). Any advice for the NYU students and new alumni who just completed an unprecedented school year?
First, take a break and don’t feel guilty about it.
Second, the bottom fell out of the rules, which meant that we all had to, and continue to have to, navigate unchartered territory. My most significant piece of advice is to speak up—ask questions, ask for clarifications, ask about misunderstandings, express your thoughts (don’t assume they’re obvious), and advocate for yourself. This is always true, but even more so in remote settings when it’s easier for things to get lost in translation or, simply, just lost given it’s no longer as easy to read the room or body language.
What is your favorite:
- Food? Long Island Bagels
- Book? The Color of Law by Richard Rothstein
- Podcast? Amicus with Dahlia Lithwick
- Song and/or Musical Artist? I don't have one favorite. But I have to say that one of my favorites is Maggie Rogers (appropriate for NYU!).
- Summer activity? Soaking up the sun with friends, NYU alumni preferred. :)