Volunteer Profile: Alice Cheng (SSSW ’10) & Antonio Miceli (CAS ’11)
October 15, 2020
“I love meeting people, building community, and making a positive impact where I can,” says Alice Cheng (SSSW ’10), one of two alumni being named New Volunteer of the Year by the NYU Alumni Association at this year’s Alumni Volunteer Recognition and Service Awards during NYU Alumni and Parents Weekend. Recognized for their leadership and enthusiasm for bringing people together, Cheng and NYU Alumni Club in San Francisco co-president, Antonio Miceli (CAS ’11), will be celebrated at the virtual event on Saturday, October 24.
As leaders of the NYU Alumni Club in San Francisco, Cheng and Miceli connect with alumni throughout the Bay Area and serve as community organizers for regional events. Club gatherings include social outings such as yoga and hiking as well as networking events like the monthly Career Conversations series. This year, though all the Club’s events have gone virtual, members continue to share their strong sense of community and Violet pride as they connect online.
A Bay Area native, Cheng earned her bachelors in social work from NYU’s Silver School of Social Work and currently works in the digital marketing space, where she’s able to apply her unique experiences and knowledge of consumer behavior and social work to her career.
Miceli earned his bachelor of arts in philosophy from NYU’s College of Arts and Science in 2011. After completing a masters of management from Cornell’s Hotel School, he moved to San Francisco without any close connections, but quickly found community by getting involved with the local NYU Alumni Club. Since then, he’s been making memories with fellow Violets and developing creative programs for the club.
Read on to learn more about these two co-presidents and their involvement with the NYU Alumni Club in San Francisco:
You were recently selected by the NYU Alumni Association Volunteer Leadership Outreach Committee to win New Volunteers of the Year at this year’s Alumni Volunteer Awards (Congratulations!). How did you first become involved/what inspired you to become involved as an alumni volunteer with NYU?
Alice: Thank you, it’s such an honor! I’m originally from the Bay Area but three years ago, after a decade away and a major career change, a new opportunity brought me back. I missed New York, and was looking to connect with folks both personally and professionally in my new city and field. Meeting people (including Antonio!) at those events was so lovely that I started volunteering regularly soon after. When I found out that the club needed a president, I turned to Antonio and asked if he wanted to go in on it with me. I’m so glad he said yes!
Antonio: After graduating from business school, I moved to San Francisco without any existing friendships or close connections. On a whim, I decided to attend a monthly NYU happy hour event. Luckily, Alice was one of the hosts, and she had an extra drink ticket to spare towards the end of the event. We quickly bonded and started coming up with ideas to engage the NYU community in SF. So, we decided to execute those ideas together—and we became good friends along the way.
Why do you stay involved with NYU? Why would you encourage other alumni to get involved?
Alice: This definitely comes from my social work education (shout out to the Silver School of Social Work!), but I love meeting people, building community, and making a positive impact where I can. Come join us if you’re looking for any of those things, not to mention a great way to gain personal and professional development as well.
Antonio: I greatly value the diversity of the NYU community. Like many students and alumni, I'm a child of immigrants and the first in my family to attend college. It’s energizing to meet alumni from backgrounds that span the globe as well as from a wide variety of disciplines. One of the networking highlights was connecting with a fellow Tandon alum at a hiking event who recently started a data science consultancy—we ended up collaborating and he wrote a nifty program that saved my previous employer countless hours in weekly analysis!
As technology continues to eat the world, being able to respect and connect with diverse experiences and ideas becomes increasingly rewarding. No matter where you are or when you graduated, staying involved with the NYU community provides lifetime access to a thoughtful cosmopolis.
How have the events of 2020, including the devastating wildfires on the West Coast, impacted your role as a leader in the NYU alumni community?
Alice: The impact of the coronavirus, Black Lives Matter, and the wildfires has forced me to think more critically about how I can best serve our alumni and the wider community we inhabit. What do our alumni need from us at this moment? How can I use my leadership position to educate others and directly help the vulnerable communities we care about? I still don't have it all figured out, and am humbled by the opportunity to rise to the challenge.
Antonio: They’ve inspired me to step it up! Although I was laid off due to the pandemic and am currently searching for the right opportunity, I know I’m not the only one affected. I find strength and gratitude in working with our team on ways to meaningfully boost engagement with our San Francisco and West Coast communities during this difficult time. We’ve been able to launch a Career Conversations series, curate events to support local NYU small business owners, and partner with our sister Silicon Valley and Los Angeles clubs for an exciting, two-part Alumni Weekend event program.
What are some of the most memorable moments from your involvement with the club?
Alice: Ordering all the things at Dragon Beaux during our Lands End Hike and Dim Sum Brunch event! It was so much fun chatting with alumni along the beautiful coast and ending with a hefty family-style brunch.
Antonio: It’s hard to forget opening an overnighted box of Russ & Daughters bagels and babkas for our Twin Peaks Hike and NYC Bagel Brunch event. There were no leftovers!
What can alumni expect if they attend an event hosted by the club?
Alice: Antonio and I are both huge foodies—so depending on the event, usually good food, drinks, and always great company.
Antonio: Like the spirit of New York City, we’re an ambitious and welcoming bunch. Also, for the parents out there, we encourage you to join our virtual events and let your young ones make a guest appearance!
Did you have any NYU classes or instructors who inspired or impacted you?
Alice: Professor Elizabeth Ouyang literally changed my life. I took her Constitution & People of Color course during my sophomore year, which led me to take on my law and society minor and eventually go on to law school. In my final semester, the prejudice course with Professor PJ Henry was fascinating and helped frame the lens with which I still view social issues to this day. Last but not least, much gratitude to Professor Susan Pelosi who not only taught me so much about the social work profession, but also served as a wonderful cheerleader throughout my undergraduate years.
Antonio: The topics in Samuel Scheffler’s ethics lectures and Tamsin Shaw’s Nietzsche seminar remain close to me years after graduating, particularly in recent months. Actively connecting the dots between what matters to us now and the future we will leave behind can powerfully transform our industries and social policies, as well as our personal lives.
What is your favorite NYU memory?
Alice: It's a toss up between the excitement of freshman year when everyone was so eager to make new friends, and experiencing life in a new city while studying abroad in London.
Antonio: It's more of an unfortunate collection of memories, but I somehow managed to get lost searching for a classroom at the start of every semester.
What is your favorite:
Alice: Any type of noodle soup—my ultimate comfort food!
Antonio: Growing up behind a Long Island pizza counter, there’s always room for a “regalah” slice, well done, with a couple shakes of oregano and chili flakes.
Alice: Favorite this year is The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. The writing is so visceral and evocative, and brought back memories of living in New York. I also read The Third Plate by Dan Barber, based on Antonio’s suggestion, actually. As a “flexitarian” now for several years, I really enjoyed the way it made me think further about food ethics and the future of dining.
Antonio: Too difficult to answer, but favorites this year include Time Remaining by James McCourt and The Third Plate: Field Notes on the Future of Food by Dan Barber.
- TV Show and/or Movie?
Alice: When Harry Met Sally is a perennial favorite. All the shots around Washington Square make me so nostalgic for New York!
Antonio: Mostly anything narrated by David Attenborough. And Schitt’s Creek.
- Song and/or Musical Artist?
Alice: My music tastes are all over the place, but I’ve been playing a lot of Khruangbin recently to simultaneously calm and energize me during the workday. Also, lots of dance pop (old and new) for at-home workouts, and Spotify’s Jazz for Sleep playlist in the evenings to wind down.
Antonio: Also too difficult to answer, but I can’t wait for in-person performances to resume. The last concert I attended was a solo recital by Chick Corea where he played his own “From Scarlatti to Jobim.” It was a synthesist paradise!
Alice: How I Built This and This American Life.
Antonio: The Drive by Dr. Peter Attia—there’s so much to learn from his guests.
- Place in San Francisco?
Alice: The Presidio.
Antonio: I’m grateful to live across from The Presidio. Morning runs are fueled with the scent of fog-moistened eucalyptus, and on evening hikes, desiccating lilac bushes whisper their headiness from a distance.
- Social distancing activity?
Alice: I love dropping off care packages for my local family and friends with freshly baked scones, homemade cocktails, and herbs from my garden. I enjoy throwing a good dinner party, so during these times when that’s not possible, it’s such a gratifying way to continue to feed my loved ones and stay connected.
Antonio: Speaking of The Presidio, you’ll find me (responsibly) collecting Boletus mushrooms in the rainy season, dandelion and onion weeds in spring, or blackberries and fennel pollen in summer. I sometimes cold-steep the fennel pollen in cream overnight, then strain and softly whip it to accompany the blackberries. I promise to leave you a spoonful from at least six feet away.