Student Profiles - Class of 2021
Among the more than 18,000 graduates in the Class of 2021, we highlight exceptional students from each of our schools and colleges. The profiles below were published in May 2021.
Meet Our Student Speaker
As a Global Liberal Studies major concentrating in politics, rights, and development and a double minor in German and Psychology, Diya Radhakrishna embarked upon a challenging course load right from the start. During her time at NYU, Diya has been on the Dean’s Honors List multiple times, participated in the highly selective Dean’s Circle honors seminar, and completed her senior thesis titled, “‘A Place Marked by Difference’: Divisions, Reunifications, and Identities in the Punjabi and Vietnamese Diasporas,” a topic she chose to focus on because of her personal background, study abroad experience, and academic interests. “I’m from India, a country that experienced the largest mass migration in human history as a result of partition,” she says. “I also spent a year studying away in Berlin, Germany—another place whose present communities speak to divided pasts in the most fascinating ways. My thesis looks at the Punjabi and Vietnamese diasporas, in Canada and Germany respectively, as heterogeneous, diverse communities originating from home countries with histories of separation. Identity is incredibly multifaceted. When we talk about topics like integration or living in multicultural societies, it’s crucial to consider diasporas and migrant communities beyond monolithic depictions.”
I’ll take this quest for multiple narratives with me beyond NYU. It’s something I will apply not only in my professional and academic life but also in my personal relationships in order to practice inclusivity and contribute to making society more equitable.
Read Diya Radhakrishna's full profile.
To complement her studies outside of the classroom, Diya participated in numerous internships across the globe. During the summer of 2018, she interned for Durga India, a nonprofit organization that strives to tackle gender-based violence and discrimination. There, she facilitated workshops on assault awareness for children in underprivileged schools in Bangalore, where Diya was born and raised. In the summer of 2019, she interned for the Goethe-Institut Max Mueller Bhavan, where she organized Indo-Germanic artistic collaborations, such as an exhibition on the politics of the digital image. She also interned at Freeartus gGmbH in Berlin, Germany, where she coordinated support activities for artists with a background of forced migration. During the COVID-19 pandemic, she worked remotely with ila Generation in the United Kingdom, where she executed the online InspiHer master class series featuring diverse women innovators to support survivors of human trafficking.
In addition to her coursework and internships, Diya served as an active member of the Liberal Studies–Wide Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee as well as the NYU BeTogether initiative, a service ambassador for the GO Project in New York City, and a peer mentor for international Liberal Studies students. She also served as the global equity fellow at NYU Berlin, a role she deems one of her biggest accomplishments at NYU. “As an introvert passionate about community building and social work, I have always found it difficult to reconcile popular images of what leadership looks like with my own quiet personality. At NYU Berlin, I slowly became comfortable in my own skin as a leader. During the onset and chaos of the COVID-19 pandemic, I shared my phone number on social media, made myself fully available to my community on a personal level, and communicated between the administration and students to offer information and comfort. I felt a sense of accomplishment knowing that I was able to provide support and solace to my peers while helping the student life staff during such a challenging time.”
When thinking back on her college years, Diya says that NYU ultimately taught her the importance of inclusivity and diversity. “Being part of the stunningly diverse communities that make up NYU has taught me that many stories matter and it is crucial to seek out multiple perspectives on different situations, philosophies, and events,” she says. “I’ll take this quest for multiple narratives with me beyond NYU. It’s something I will apply not only in my professional and academic life but also in my personal relationships in order to practice inclusivity and contribute to making society more equitable.”
Featured Class of 2021 Graduates
Graduates' names are listed below in alphabetical order by school.
- Adler Guerrero Zúñiga, College of Arts and Science
- Emilie Grodman, College of Dentistry
- Kaylee LaMarche, Gallatin School of Individualized Study
- Stefan Bucher, Graduate School of Arts and Science
- Allyson Alfonso, Grossman School of Medicine
- Thomas Khadoo, Leonard N. Stern School of Business
- Tamara Moctezuma, Liberal Studies
- Gabrielle (Gabi) Branche, NYU Abu Dhabi
- Xinze Li, NYU Shanghai
- Bría Mathis, Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service
- Hannah Moses, Rory Meyers College of Nursing
- Dalhia Gouba, School of Global Public Health
- Jes Tenaglia, School of Law
- Jake Drucker, School of Professional Studies
- Sonia Cornejo, Silver School of Social Work
- Shanteria Carr, Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development
- Adriana Pink, Tandon School of Engineering
- Zahra Budhwani, Tisch School of the Arts
College of Arts and Science
As a young boy in Peru, Adler Guerrero Zúñiga was fascinated by fish. “It’s how I fell in love with science,” he says. “In the Andes Mountains, there were these ponds with a bunch of fish in them, and I’d always wonder, ‘Why is this fish colorful? Why is this one not?’ When I came to Long Island, I started mating betta fish to sell them as a side hustle, and I eventually turned it into a biology project for my high school.” If it weren’t for those fish, Adler says, “I’d probably be doing something completely different.” At NYU, Adler majored in Honors Biology and Chemistry on the prehealth track, which allowed him to study topics like cancer biology, molecular biology, and developmental biology. He was a member of the Placantonakis Lab at NYU Langone Health (led by Dr. Dimitris Placantonakis), where he conducted research on brain cancer, and he was awarded the Amgen Scholars Program summer research fellowship in 2020. Adler also served as a University Learning Center tutor, the president of the Minority Association for Pre-Med and Science Students, and a mentor to local high school students.
Read the full interview with Adler Guerrero Zúñiga.
How did you become a mentor to local high school students?
I collaborated with the Opportunity Programs at NYU to work with middle school and high school students from underrepresented communities in New York City. I was an instructor, so we mated betta fish, just like I did when I was in high school, and the students were really excited. Now that I know more about science, I can teach them about the scientific process. High school science is boring. Learning about the cell, DNA, and RNA doesn’t really make sense until you know the big picture. You always want to see cool results in science, but the scientific process is also cool once you get to love it. Most kids in high school, especially kids from underrepresented communities, don’t get a chance to be in the labs, so it felt great to take two or three hours from my week and show them what it’s like.
What are you most proud of during your time at NYU?
Apart from motivating high school and middle school students to pursue science, I’m most proud of receiving the Amgen fellowship and being a finalist for the Truman Scholarship; one of them is a very prestigious science award and the other is a career-in-service award. I didn’t think I’d have a chance with those, but you don’t really know until you try. But it’s not about getting the award or being a finalist. It’s about what you learn about yourself along the way. For the Truman Scholarship, I learned that while I want to be a good neurosurgeon and a good scientist, I also want to be an even bigger motivator for people. I want to encourage people to get excited about science.
What’s next for you?
In my first year, I looked at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and said, “I want to go to that medical school.” My friends said, “You’re crazy. You’re a first year.” But I looked at what was needed to be done, and I did it. Now I have a National Institutes of Health–funded research position at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. After that, I hope to do my MD-PhD there as well.
College of Dentistry
After volunteering for an organization called Health Care for the Homeless in New Orleans, Emilie Grodman decided to pursue dentistry. “That’s what really solidified it for me,” she says. “Health Care for the Homeless provides free dental care to the homeless and people undergoing rehabilitation. I saw patients who had been through so much come in with maybe a handful of teeth. They couldn’t eat. They couldn’t speak. They couldn’t smile. They couldn’t get jobs. And then we could deliver full upper and lower dentures and change their lives in three appointments.” Ultimately, Emilie chose NYU because of their outreach programs and research opportunities. “There were these really amazing opportunities to build your own research project,” she says, “and research was just so accessible. I started my research as an incoming dental student with no prior experience, and that’s really where my love for research began.” In addition to her traditional dental courses, Emilie took various honors courses like Honors in Oral Pathology and Honors in Oral Maxillofacial Surgery. Outside of the classroom, Emilie participated in the Student Leadership Track and presented her research at several symposiums like the Hinman Student Research Symposium in Memphis, Tennessee, and the American Association for Dental Research General Session in Vancouver, Canada. Upon graduation, Emilie will work as a noncategorical first-year oral surgery resident at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
Read the full interview with Emilie Grodman.
What topic did you focus on for your research?
When I first started dental school, I was placed in a basic science laboratory with Dr. Deepak Saxena. He focuses a lot on the gut microbiome in many different processes including liver cancer and type 2 diabetes. I was placed in a study where we looked at a consortium of bacterial species, which you could think of as good bacteria, on glucose metabolism and diabetic control. We developed an animal study in which the gut microbiome was depleted and subsequently repopulated within that group to determine whether glucose tolerance could be improved. Later, I completed research with Dr. Robert Glickman in the oral surgery field. We conducted a retrospective chart review on patients taking direct oral anticoagulants to determine the possible bleeding risk associated with oral surgery. All of this research experience made me more confident to build other projects, think critically, and develop further into an evidence-based practitioner. I’m very grateful to NYU for making this possible and also to my incredible mentors, without whom I wouldn’t have had these incredible and formative experiences, for sharing their knowledge, time, and guidance.
What did you learn from the Student Leadership Track?
The Office of Student Affairs and Academic Support Services at NYU Dentistry developed the Student Leadership Track. In the beginning, they’d offer programming led by various faculty who are great speakers, accomplished researchers, and established leaders. You could attend whichever program or topic interested you or most aligned with your leadership style. Then they offered this great program every summer, the Student Leadership Track retreat. You had to apply for admission to attend. As a collective, we participated in activities to help us understand who we were and what our strengths and weaknesses are as individuals and future leaders. It included a lot of team building and professional development.
What is one of the biggest lessons you learned during your time at NYU?
Be gritty and persistent and continue to work as hard as you can, then the opportunities will follow. I always tell incoming NYU students to take advantage of all the incredible programs and faculty at NYU and speak to people to help nurture their interests. NYU provides students with the community and opportunity to explore and grow in your field.
Gallatin School of Individualized Study
Kaylee Lamarche chose the Gallatin School of Individualized Study because she wanted to keep pursuing both of her passions: dance and science. “Gallatin allowed me to create this grand master work of all my interests across the board,” says Kaylee. “I took a lot of my dance classes through the Tisch School of the Arts and then other classes in anthropology, philosophy, and biology, plus interdisciplinary courses, through Gallatin.” Kaylee’s coursework culminated in an individualized concentration called plagues, epidemics, and disease. She focused her studies on the concept of contagiousness and how it can impact both identity formation and social structures over time. During the summer of 2019, Kaylee received the NYU Gallatin/Africa House Bergman Summer Fellowship Award, which allowed her to study contagiousness and infectious disease at the University of Cape Town in South Africa. She’ll pursue a Master of Public Health in the fall.
Read the full interview with Kaylee LaMarche.
What kind of work did you complete during your time in South Africa?
I was interested in learning more about infectious disease within a different context of what I already knew in the United States. HIV is very prevalent in South Africa, so I felt the University of Cape Town would have a lot of insight on infectious disease and how it impacts the community. I worked with the University of Cape Town medical school to create training materials for teachers and daycare workers that explained how to detect early signs of illness in children so they could mitigate the effects of any infectious disease they might encounter in their daycare centers and schools. These guides also explained how to navigate conversations with parents on destigmatizing HIV and AIDS to ensure that the children in their care received the medications they needed to manage their HIV status.
What was your biggest takeaway or lesson learned from your time at Gallatin?
Gallatin was the perfect place for me to challenge how I take in knowledge, how I learn things, and how I seek to understand the things around me. I like that I was never restricted in understanding something in one way. That’s something I want to carry with me even beyond Gallatin—just being open-minded and challenging myself to understand things outside the context I may be comfortable with, whether that’s career related or life related.
What was your biggest accomplishment during your time at NYU?
My biggest accomplishment is not something that I can measure by awards or grades. I’m a first-generation student, so I think having the confidence in my abilities is my biggest accomplishment. Imposter syndrome—grappling with your own internal doubt and insecurity no matter what’s reflected outward—is a big term people throw around, but it’s very real. That’s something I really worked through in my undergraduate career, so I’m proud of myself for that.
Graduate School of Arts and Science
After completing a bachelor’s and a master’s degree at ETH Zürich and his second master’s at the London School of Economics, Stefan Bucher moved to the United States to pursue a PhD in Economics. “I chose NYU for my PhD because it has one of the world’s best economics departments,” he says. “Plus, the faculty is really world-class.” Besides working on his dissertation, Stefan joined the NYU Chorale ensemble and later sang with The Cecilia Chorus of New York, where he got the chance to perform at Carnegie Hall. After graduation, Stefan will continue his academic research as a postdoc with Professor Peter Dayan at the Max Planck Institute in Germany.
Read the full interview with Stefan Bucher.
What inspired you to pursue a PhD in Economics?
I’m fascinated with how people make decisions and what consequences those decisions have on our world. My research focused on how decision makers process information. Nowadays, decision makers have increasing amounts of information available to them due to the advent of technology. Although that amount seems limitless, the capacity of the human brain to process it is not. So the goal of my research is to understand some of the cognitive and neural foundations of choice behavior. From this research, we hope to gain a more principled understanding of the many departures from perfect rationality that behavioral economists have documented in past decades and what types of consequences they have for markets.
What is one of your biggest takeaways from your time at NYU?
Honestly, I think the biggest lesson is pretty simple: perseverance pays off in research. Especially in a PhD, it’s normal to hit some roadblocks. What matters is how you deal with them and how you address them. I think that’s true in life beyond research as well.
Is there anyone in particular you’d like to thank?
I’m most grateful to my advisers, Dr. Andrew Caplin and Dr. Paul Glimcher. They’ve both been fantastic mentors, and their visionary scholarship is inspirational. Over the course of six years, you have so much interaction—it is a special type of relationship that develops, and I have learned so much from my advisers.
What will you miss the most about NYU?
I’ll miss the friends I made here. I’m going to miss having lunch in Washington Square Park and the vibrant atmosphere. I’m grateful to NYU for the opportunity, the education, and the experience. It’s been a tremendous six years, and honestly, I’m sad it’s over. It’s been stressful at times, no doubt, but it’s been so fun. I know that I’m going to miss this place.
Grossman School of Medicine
From a young age, Allyson Alfonso knew she wanted to be a doctor. “The understanding that there was some kind of profession out there I could truly work hard toward and then help people in the end led me to pursue medical school,” she says. During her time at NYU, Allyson trained in various health-care settings, including Veterans Affairs, NYU Langone Health, and NYC Health + Hospitals/Bellevue. She volunteered (and continues to volunteer) at a nonprofit called myFace—which sparked her interest in plastic surgery—and conducted research on concepts like wound healing and transplantation. Outside of the classroom, Allyson participated in Student Council, the Violet Society Program peer mentorship, and intramural sports including the All-University Games and the Violet Society Olympics. After graduation, she will continue her education at NYU for her residency in plastic surgery and complete a Master of Health Professions Education degree.
Read the full interview with Allyson Alfonso.
What was your most memorable moment in medical school?
What’s really unique about medical school and where it really transforms into an experience that’s going to stay with you for life is when we actually turn the hospital into a classroom. It’s an interesting situation that we’re put into because we’re challenged to take care of patients and learn from them in a setting that is so real and emotionally taxing, but also intellectually stimulating and challenging. So I think the most memorable moments of medical school occurred in that transition, when you take what was in the textbook and then apply it in a way that you feel like you’re becoming someone who will have a career in medicine.
What inspired you to focus on plastic surgery?
My volunteer experience with myFace was one of the inspirations that got me into plastic surgery. They provide care for individuals who have craniofacial differences and also support their families. I was able to share this type of practice and team-based care with some of the medical students by exposing them to patients and putting together volunteer opportunities for everybody to support the cause. That’s what makes the medical school so great—everybody can come up with their own idea of how they want to help the community.
What kind of research did you conduct at NYU?
My research started with the concept of wound healing and the question, “How do you improve outcomes?” Then I did two years of research where we focused on tissue transplantation and face and hand transplants. I was given the opportunity to apply that learning to explore how to teach these concepts and integrate them into medical school. For example, how do you teach students about anatomy and give them real-life examples of what some of their coursework is going to look like? One of the things I take the most pride in is not necessarily only the work I do but how I’m able to share it with others so they can do the same. Teaching is the only legacy you can leave that lasts longer than the time you’re here for, so I found that very important.
Anyone in particular you’d like to thank?
I can’t go without thanking my family because they’ve supported me beyond the classroom. The patients, the residents and attendings, the classmates that taught me along the way, and then NYU Langone's Hansjörg Wyss Department of Plastic Surgery, especially Dr. Eduardo Rodriguez for his support and mentorship.
Leonard N. Stern School of Business
When it came time for college, Thomas Khadoo knew he’d most likely stay close to home. “I was born and raised in Queens, so I kind of always envisioned myself staying in New York to live and learn,” he says. At NYU, Thomas majored in Business with concentrations in finance and entrepreneurship. As a Business major, Thomas took a breadth of classes to explore his interests. “I wanted to be well-rounded, so I took a lot of social science, creative writing, and social impact classes. Focusing in finance gave me all the hard skills I needed, while concentrating in entrepreneurship kind of balanced that out with soft skills.” Beyond the classroom, Thomas served as the president of the NYU Stern Undergraduate College Street Team, supported underrepresented students as a member of the Supporting Excellence and Advocating Diversity (SEAD) initiative, participated as a mentor for the Academic Achievement Program, and was a member of the Stern Diversity and Inclusion Committee. He also spent ample time working as a digital communications intern for the school. After graduation, Thomas plans to work in public service for a year before attaining his master’s degree in Public Policy.
Read the full interview with Thomas Khadoo.
What have you gotten out of your experience with the Street Team?
As a part of the Street Team, I helped prospective and admitted students by giving them tours, presenting information to them, and hosting digital events. I joined the Street Team as a first-year student. I liked that people were able to tell their authentic story while representing the Stern student body. That was something I gravitated toward. It’s been a great way to help a lot of prospective and admitted students find their way like I did. It’s also been a great way to reflect on my own college experience. Sometimes, I feel like the four years fly by so fast, and people don’t stop to reflect. But this job kind of forces you to do that because you have to communicate your story to someone else.
How did you support underrepresented students during your time at NYU?
I learned early on that there weren’t too many people like me at NYU. I’m a first-generation student. I come from a low-income background, and I think sometimes there’s a lack of representation. For me, it started out with a group called SEAD, or Supporting Excellence and Advocating Diversity. That was kind of the low-level way to connect with students who were like me and support them as a mentor. I was also a mentor in the Academic Achievement Program, which is for students of color on campus. In my junior year, I was asked to be on the Stern Diversity and Inclusion Committee, which was the high-level way of advocating for students, thinking about what’s on their minds, and trying to enact some changes.
What is one thing that you’re most proud of from your time at NYU?
I’m most proud of my thesis. I looked at the disproportionate effect of COVID-19 outcomes (cases, hospitalizations, deaths) on different New York City neighborhoods and how that coincides with social and economic factors like employment and education. It’s near and dear to me because a lot of the neighborhoods that I grew up in got hit really hard with the pandemic. I was also really blessed to become part of the Emma Bowen Foundation. It’s a fellowship that helps students of color get into media and technology. They set me up with a cool internship opportunity at an organization called the Institute for Nonprofit News. I owe the foundation a great debt of gratitude.
Tamara Moctezuma chose NYU after attending an admissions event in Houston, Texas. “They were talking about all of the global opportunities and studying abroad, and that really spoke to the college experience I wanted to have,” she says. “I remember thinking that it’d be a great opportunity to travel and live in different places and have a built-in support network while you do so.” Ultimately, Tamara majored in Global Liberal Studies with a concentration in politics, rights, and development. After her first two years at NYU, she delved deeper into her major, taking more specialized courses like International Diplomacy and Human Rights Law. Tamara’s coursework culminated with her thesis on the Inter-American System for the protection of human rights. She also completed three different internships during her time at NYU. Tamara is graduating as the valedictorian of her school, and she will go on to complete a master’s in Human Rights and Politics at the London School of Economics and Political Science.
Read the full interview with Tamara Moctezuma.
What topic did your thesis cover and what did you learn from that experience?
I looked at the Inter-American System and analyzed the relationship between legal compliance and local impact. I read a lot of literature that focused on why states in the Americas aren’t complying with rulings made by the court or the Commission on Human Rights. I found a quantitative study that looked at the compliance rates and learned that the states with the highest compliance rates actually have very low respect for human rights on the ground, while other states that don’t comply have higher rates of protections securing human rights on the ground. I focused on Mexico, which had the highest compliance rate in the study I found, and analyzed why compliance wasn’t making a difference on the ground. I looked at all the cases from the 21st century in the Inter-American System and ultimately argued that there needs to be a paradigm shift in the way we measure the system’s success.
What kind of internships did you do?
Last summer I worked as a political affairs intern at the UN Department of Safety and Security, which is in charge of ensuring the security of all UN personnel out in the field. It was very eye-opening because it taught me the value of working from a more top-down perspective. But, coupled with my other internships, it also taught me how there needs to be a balance with collaboration from more grassroots movements. I also interned for a nonprofit immigration legal services organization in Houston called Justice for Our Neighbors. That involved on-the-ground work where I was helping clients who were developing their personal statements for asylum application or facing deportation. Finally, when I studied abroad in Abu Dhabi, I interned at an organization countering violent extremism. My team would go into communities and train key people in the social network on how to spot and counteract radicalization.
What advice do you have for first- and second-year students?
Be open to what your time at NYU brings and don’t be afraid to make mistakes or change your mind. I really believe that if I had stuck to my original plan when I came into Liberal Studies, I would’ve been miserable. So just be flexible and don’t hold onto your plans so securely.
NYU Abu Dhabi
Before Gabrielle Branche attended Candidate Weekend, she wasn’t sure if NYU Abu Dhabi was the right place for her. But once she got to campus, she fell in love. “I just thought it was such a unique community,” she says. “There were so many international students, and it seemed like an interesting way of going through classes and learning.” Throughout her college career, Gabi studied at all three NYU campuses. She began her first year at NYU Abu Dhabi and then went to NYU Shanghai to study dance and interactive media. In the fall semester of her junior year, she returned to Abu Dhabi and then traveled to New York City to complete her dance concentration. “From the beginning, I knew I wanted to study dance. I could either spend one semester in New York City taking only dance courses, or I could split it up between Shanghai and New York City. Once I switched my major from Biology to Interactive Media, I realized that I could get the best of both worlds at Shanghai because it’s known for its interactive media arts program.” As an Interactive Media major, Gabi took classes in web development, virtual reality, and bio-art. For her Capstone Project, she weaved together her interests in physical computing and dance. Aside from her studies, Gabi contributed to the First Year Dialogue program, served as copresident of the Dance Society, and was a founding member of the Caribbean Students Association.
Read the full interview with Gabrielle Branche.
What was the inspiration for your Capstone Project?
I really like building things. For my capstone, I made an interactive immersive dance theatre project where I built the sets. I also choreographed the piece and wrote the script. I made it about Trinidad and Tobago folklore because that’s where I’m from. The inspiration came from a class I took my junior year called Performing Robotics. We basically built robots that we showcased through performance. I really liked that and decided to put an element like that in my capstone. Then in New York City, I took a class called Site-Specific to Immersive Dance Theatre, and I thought, “Since I have the skill set to make physical components, why not make an immersive piece that also integrates technology?” I’m really happy with how it turned out.
What is one of the biggest lessons you learned at NYU?
One of the things that I feel passionately about—that NYU has done nothing but reinforce—is that you can always engage in your community and surroundings. All three campuses were like that for me. I was only in Shanghai for a semester, but there were still so many ways to engage, and once you are willing to engage, there’s always a group of people who will help you facilitate that. Despite all the challenges with COVID-19, I love that there’s always a relationship with the administration, faculty, and fellow students, and we all want to do things to create change.
What would you say is one of your biggest accomplishments during your time at NYU?
My biggest accomplishment was my ability to be in control of my time in a way that I wasn’t when I first arrived. Because I always wanted to do everything and be everywhere. It seems like something small, but it can definitely affect your health, both mentally and physically if you’re not able to prioritize things. I don’t think I’m an expert at it now, but I’m definitely proud of how much I’ve improved.
Born in the Gansu province of China, Xinze Li chose to attend NYU Shanghai because of his love for his home country. “The inclusive community at NYU Shanghai satisfied my expectations of a university,” he says. “Plus, I was trying not to live too far from home.” At NYU Shanghai, Xinze majored in Global China Studies, which required him to take courses in Chinese history as well as other courses from a social science and philosophy perspective. In addition to his schoolwork, Xinze participated in the Dean’s Service Scholars program where he had the opportunity to explore different regions of China. He also served as the vice secretary of the Youth League and taught NYU students in New York City how to take classes via Zoom during the pandemic. After graduation, Xinze hopes to work at NYU Shanghai so he can share his own experiences with incoming students.
Read the full interview with Xinze Li.
What did you do as a member and leader of the Youth League?
Youth League is an organization that exists in every Chinese university. It’s usually related to government and politics, but at NYU Shanghai, we changed our purpose to helping our students get to know China better. We also help our students with career development and university life. We do public service as well. For example, we have the Walk the Road of Love event that focuses on groups like people who are blind and stray animals. On the other hand, we also have an event named This Is China, which helps students learn about Chinese culture. At another event, the Sing Off, we cooperated with other schools around Shanghai and invited students who wanted to sing to do so in front of the whole campus.
How did you connect students during the pandemic?
The pandemic started during my junior year. At this time, China was the first country facing the pandemic. So after the United States was in the pandemic for a couple months, I thought, “Let’s do something to help students through it.” I made slides to show students how to use Zoom for online classes because we had been doing this in China for about three months already and had the knowledge. It’s a small thing, but I do think it was helpful.
What would you say is one of the biggest lessons you learned during your time at NYU?
If you love something, just do it and feel free to make some mistakes. NYU always supported my studying and my life. If I had trouble choosing my major or questions about my academic path, NYU Shanghai helped me figure out what I really wanted to do. Before I came to NYU, I thought about majoring in Economics or Business and Finance or Data Science. Those would be very good majors for after graduation. But when I entered NYU Shanghai, what I really wanted to do was learn about China and the questions related to China. To incoming students, I’d say follow what you think. That really helped my development. NYU Shanghai helped me become the person I wanted to be.
Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service
When Bría Mathis started her search for graduate programs, she knew that she wanted to stay local. She also knew she wanted a program that felt contemporary. “I wanted to be able to study a wide array of things,” she says, “and Wagner offered a lot of amazing courses that covered just about everything. What also attracted me was the fact that you’d be taught by practitioners working in the field. So there was that connectivity to the New York City landscape as well.” Ultimately, Bría pursued a master’s in Public Administration with a concentration in management and leadership, which she chose because of her prior experience working for the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation. “I worked with really high-level professionals there, and I realized how important being a good leader is,” she says. “Being able to set a vision and getting people to follow are huge parts of how the work gets done, but not enough study and intentionality is put into them.” Outside of the classroom, Bría served as the chair of the Wagner City Government Network and worked as a project assistant for the Office of Student and Alumni Engagement.
Read the full interview with Bría Mathis.
What did you do as the chair of the Wagner City Government Network?
I led a brilliant group of folks who were very passionate about city government. We talked about all things local policy, both at the New York City level and the New York State level, and then brought that discussion to the Wagner students. We gave students not based in New York City a taste of what it’s like to go to a school in a city filled with so much. We brought in people who work in city government and hosted events such as State of the City, where folks from city government, immigrant affairs, economic development, transportation, and the COVID-19 test and trace program talked about the future of New York City. So as a group, we guided students to think about city government as a real career path where they can have a deep impact on the community.
What did you learn from your experience working with the Office of Student Engagement?
I worked directly with the associate director of student engagement and supported all of the wonderful student groups at Wagner—everything from professional-based groups to identity-based groups. This semester all student events were completely virtual, so I tracked all of those events, captured their impact, and supported student leaders in navigating tech issues, marketing their events, and recruiting panelists if necessary. I also planned the student leader training from start to finish. Some trainings were more informational. Others were about community building, sharing knowledge, and offering a space for professional development. And we also provided strategic planning for how to transition executive boards to the virtual realm.
How would you say NYU has prepared you for your future job?
Writing and the value of being able to communicate an idea succinctly and effectively is the first thing that comes to mind. Before I came to Wagner, I considered myself a decent writer, but the coursework really pushed me to hone and refine my skills. There are times when you can be flowery, but we’re talking about cities and their governments and working in fast-paced environments, so you have to be able to communicate in a very succinct manner.
Rory Meyers College of Nursing
Since high school, Hannah Moses always thought she’d end up in the medical field working as a surgeon or a bioengineer who made prosthetics. When she started touring colleges, though, Hannah switched her focus to nursing. “While I was touring schools, a few of them mentioned their nursing programs,” she says, “so I researched the most accredited nursing schools around New Jersey because I didn’t want to be far from my family. I also knew I wanted to be in a city. So that narrowed down my choices,” she says. “NYU became the perfect fit for me. It allowed me to pursue a minor and study abroad while still getting a degree in nursing.” As a traditional Nursing major, Hannah took courses like Microbiology, Introduction to Modern Chemistry, and Nutrition and Health and completed her clinical requirements in different health-care settings like Mount Sinai, NYU Langone Orthopedic Hospital, and NYU Langone Hospital—Brooklyn. Outside of her coursework, Hannah served as the president of the Undergraduate Student Nursing Organization (UNSO) and as a resident assistant in Founders Hall. After graduation, she hopes to work as a registered nurse for NYU Langone Health or another hospital in Manhattan.
Read the full interview with Hannah Moses.
What was your favorite thing about the nursing program?
I love that it’s in New York City. We have amazing exposure to a diverse patient population, and the fact that our clinical placements are within different health-care systems in the city really makes the school stand out. My cohort is also very small. There’s about 65 students whom I started with from day one. Because we have such a small community, I’ve been able to attain a leadership position and become close with the course faculty and administration within the building.
What is UNSO and what role did you play in the organization?
The Undergraduate Student Nursing Organization functions as the official student government for the undergraduate nursing program. Our purpose is to connect students with faculty and staff and strengthen community across the board. We collaborate mostly with the administration on different initiatives to provide professional and academic support for the students as well as increase the general sense of belonging within the school. My role specifically as president is twofold between those things and my responsibility as the sole representative of the nursing school on the Presidents Council within the greater NYU Student Government Assembly.
What would you say is one of your biggest accomplishments at NYU?
Honestly, I would say graduating. To get into NYU was a big accomplishment for me. I’m a first-generation student and the only child of a single mother, so it was very hard work. This graduation is really for the both of us. I’m also graduating with honors, which is exciting. NYU was kind of like a match made in heaven in the end. Four years later, I’m very happy that I made that choice.
School of Global Public Health
Before attending NYU, Dalhia Gouba earned a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and then a bachelor’s degree in Biology on the premed track. But after she became a mother, Dalhia started to rethink her career path. “As I grew up, I started to think deeper about the meaning of life and how I could make a change in other people’s lives,” she says. “I think that public health is one of the most impactful professions you can have. Saving lives is great, but if doctors or medical providers don’t have the right policies in place or the right support from the government in place, there’s only so much they can do. So that’s why I decided to get my Master of Public Health.” When searching for a graduate school, Dalhia had two key qualities in mind: diversity and inclusion. “Everywhere I’ve been besides my country, I’ve been a minority,” she says. “So it was very important for me to go to a place where it’s not just about diversity but also inclusion. I looked at the faculty, the student body, the alumni—NYU is different. You really see every continent represented. To be my authentic self—that’s what I was looking for.” During her time at NYU, Dalhia worked as the community engagement coordinator at the Office of the New York City Public Advocate. She also served as a COVID-19 contract tracer. She now works as the special assistant to the CEO at NYC Health + Hospitals/Elmhurst.
Read the full interview with Dalhia Gouba.
What inspired you to become a COVID-19 contact tracer during the pandemic?
It was an opportunity for me to really play my part. I’m a Public Health major. I have to do something. We want the pandemic to stop. I’m an advocate and a public health person, so it made total sense. I saw it as a duty.
What was your role as the community engagement coordinator for the Office of the New York City Public Advocate?
The public advocate represents all of the agencies in New York City. They are the voice of the community, so they work with a lot of grassroots organizations to listen to their needs. The grassroots organizations do a lot of the prerequisite work. We get feedback from them, and then we have the capacity to connect them with a council member. You have to really know where people are to meet them there, and that’s what the public advocate does. They have close proximity to the community and advocate for their needs. I specifically worked under the Justice, Health Equity and Safety portfolio.
How did you help address vaccine hesitancy during the pandemic?
Before I left the Office of the New York City Public Advocate, the vaccine rollout had started. Community-based organizations were reporting that the system to actually book your appointment was way too complicated. Some people don’t have smartphones, they don’t have a computer, they don’t have access to the internet. So how do they even schedule an appointment? I thought, “We can start a team here at Elmhurst.” We work with community-based organizations. They send us a list of people and we call them to see if they’d like to come in for a vaccine. If they have vaccine hesitancy, then we have our plan. We’ve worked with two of our doctors here to try to identify all of the different buckets of hesitancy. NYU students make up the vaccine outreach group. It was offered as one of the organizations for their Applied Practice Experience. They attended an excellent set of trainings conducted by some of the greatest doctors, the chief officer for patient experience, and the executive director in charge of the vaccination center.
School of Law
For Jesica Tenaglia, the dream of becoming a lawyer happened when she got DACA and started interning at organizations that fight for immigrant rights. “It was powerful to work with the community that I saw myself reflected in,” she says. After finishing her undergraduate degree at the University of California, Berkeley, Jesica served as an immigration paralegal for three years at a nonprofit in Oakland, California. That’s when she started applying to law schools. Ultimately, Jesica chose NYU for three reasons. First, most of her family lived on the East Coast. Second, NYU offered a lot of funding opportunities for students interested in public service. Finally, she received the full-tuition Latinx Rights Scholarship. At NYU Law, Jesica focused her coursework on immigrant rights and the injustices within the criminal legal system. She participated in the Immigrant Rights Clinic (IRC), served as the copresident of the Latinx Law Students Association (LaLSA), and completed internships with the Bronx Defenders and the Neighborhood Defender Service of Harlem. After graduation, Jesica will continue her work at the Bronx Defenders as a staff attorney with their Immigration Defense Practice.
Read the full interview with Jes Tenaglia.
What did you accomplish as the copresident of LaLSA?
LaLSA is a home for Latinx students at NYU Law. Fostering community was my biggest goal with the organization. Law school is generally a very white, wealthy space, so for someone with a background like mine, it can be a struggle at first. It wasn’t until I found community with LaLSA that I started to feel comfortable in my own skin walking through the halls. Through LaLSA, I met my closest friends. Last year, with the board’s support, we were able to put on some incredible events. We hosted a charity ball to raise funds for the Safe Passage Project, which is an organization that provides lawyers for immigrant and refugee children in New York. We organized a trip to Washington, DC, for the DACA oral arguments. We did great work with the organization and had so much fun together. Law school is stressful, so it’s really beautiful when you find a supportive family to get you through all of those difficult and challenging moments.
Can you talk about your experience with the IRC?
The Immigrant Rights Clinic is a beautiful reminder of why I came to law school. Their clinic is different from most other clinics at NYU because you’re very much the point person for your client—you make all the strategic decisions. This year I actually got to work on a Third Circuit appeal for my client who was deported after speaking out against the conditions at the detention center. We’ve been appealing his case, so my clinic partner and I both wrote the Third Circuit appeal and filed it not too long ago. So that’s our tangible work product, which is really incredible because I have friends who are currently immigration attorneys and this is something that you do maybe five or 10 years into your career, if ever.
What would you say is one of your biggest accomplishments during your time at NYU?
I worked with the Youth Power Project organizers from Make the Road New Jersey to push legislation that would expand occupation licenses to everyone in New Jersey regardless of their immigration status. It was signed into law last September. I played a supporting role, but it was beautiful to be a part of that movement. And it feels good to be able to come in with the tools I’ve gained throughout law school and help make that happen.
School of Professional Studies
From ages 15 to 19, Jake Drucker played as a junior professional hockey player in New England and Canada. College was the furthest thing from his mind. But as hockey became more stressful, Jake looked for ways to clear his head. “I started taking online college courses and that’s when I realized that I was actually really good at school,” he says. From there, Jake set his sights on college. After NYU recruited him for the hockey team, Jake initially applied to the College of Arts and Science where he was rejected due to a lack of credits. Despite the rejection, Jake wasn’t deterred. “I really wanted to come here,” he says. “I knew this was the spot for me, so I did some research and found that the School of Professional Studies (SPS) had a bachelor’s program. But I needed 60 credits to start, and I only had 33. So from mid-June to August, I took nine online classes at my community college.” After a whirlwind application process, Jake ultimately ended up at SPS as a Social Sciences major with a concentration in organizational behavior and change. His coursework included classes like International Human Resource Management, Managing Diversity in the Global Workplace, and International Trade and Investment. Aside from his studies, Jake served as an orientation leader, a student senator, and the vice president of the Student Association for Applied Studies (SAAS). After graduation, he’ll pursue a law degree at the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School.
Read the full interview with Jake Drucker.
What was your experience like working as an orientation leader?
The School of Professional Studies is a professional school, so the vast majority of undergraduate students are working. When I first started here, I worked 40 to 60 hours a week while going to school, commuting three hours round trip, and attending hockey practice. There were so many nontraditional students who we were orienting so it was really nice to teach them how to budget their time. I’ve learned that anything is possible as long as you manage your time, plan everything out, and stick to it. It was nice to be able to give them the reassurance that they can do it too.
What did you accomplish as a student senator and as the VP of SAAS?
For two years, I was a student senator for community college transfers and super commuters, who are commuters coming from outside the New York metropolitan area. I represented those students at the university-wide level and was the point person for them if any issues came up. I tried to help students on an individual basis and do more on-the-ground assistance. The SAAS is for post-traditional students at SPS. In partnership with the SPS Undergraduate Student Council, we led a great initiative to offer virtual babysitting to student parents during the pandemic. Student parents had to do their classes via Zoom, but their kids were also home, so it was hard for them to concentrate and get their schoolwork done. We created a program where student volunteers virtually babysat their kids over Zoom so the student parents could have an hour or two to get their schoolwork done. That was really cool.
Is there anyone in particular you’d like to thank?
I want to thank the NYU donors. The scholarship I received from them allowed me to scale back from working 60 hours a week, and it was really the only way I was able to be so involved with student government and advocate for students who are similar to me.
Silver School of Social Work
While Sonia Cornejo completed her master’s degree in Social Work, she worked as a full-time student, a full-time employee, and a full-time parent. “It’s a 16-month program,” she says, “so my schedule was very much packed.” When comparing graduate programs, Sonia ultimately selected the NYU Silver School of Social Work because of its course offerings. She also enjoyed the vibe she got from her campus visit. “Dr. Aminda Heckman suggested I attend a class for nonmatriculated students, so that’s what I did,” she says. “I loved the environment, and I really enjoyed the professor. I think all of that contributed to my decision to join the program.” Within her master’s program, Sonia took traditional social work courses like Human Behavior in the Social Environment along with mini-electives like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Immigrant Families: Stressors. Outside of her coursework, Sonia completed two internships. After graduation, she will continue her work as a clinician at Saint Basil Academy in Garrison, New York, where she’ll work with children in need and single mothers using therapeutic interventions as well as vocational and employment support.
Read the full interview with Sonia Cornejo.
Were you always interested in pursuing social work as a career?
I immigrated to the country at the age of 6, and I was very involved in helping my family. At that time, I was doing social work without knowing what it was. Then, as I went through life, I learned more about it and realized that I really wanted to help kids in a school setting—but not necessarily as a school counselor. As a social worker, you’re not glued to a school, so you can explore and help other agencies, too. I’m passionate about working with youth and working with the Spanish-speaking community, so I leaned into those areas with my electives.
What did you learn from your internship experiences?
My first internship was at the high school I graduated from. I loved the fact that I could go back and play a different role and help in a more expanded way than when I was a student. After learning so much through NYU, I felt I could bring new skills to the table. It worked out well. I founded a diversity club with another teacher, and the students absolutely loved it. The social worker, who was my supervisor, was actually the social worker who was there when I was a student, so that was pretty cool. My next internship was with New Fronteras, a psychotherapy and counseling center. My focus was with youth. New Fronteras offers more one-on-one therapy, and they gave me different age ranges to work with, so it was great to step out of my comfort zone.
What advice would you give to other students going through the social work program?
Just ride the wave and enjoy the ride. This program has so much to give, and we should be open to everything that it offers us. I came in with the idea that I was only focused on youth and that was my passion, but then I learned about all the different populations and all the different organizations and ways that we can contribute and help. So don’t be closed-minded. Take everything and learn from it. And don’t forget self-care. Because as much as we’re helping others, we also need to put ourselves first.
Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development
Dr. Shanteria Carr currently works as an occupational therapist for the District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS). She chose to pursue her clinical doctorate in Occupational Therapy at NYU Steinhardt because of the program’s flexibility. “The program allows practicing practitioners to work full time while managing courses,” says Shanteria. “I was able to select specialization courses based on my clinical area of pediatrics practice and leadership, which allowed me to develop my skills as a clinician further.” Although her courses were online, they were streamed live in real time, which meant she could still foster relationships with professors and engage with other doctoral candidates. In addition to her schoolwork, Shanteria conducted research that ultimately led to the development of educational resources for parents. After graduation, Shanteria plans to transition to providing early intervention services through community-based programs as an occupational therapist in Newark, New Jersey. She will also start a career in academics to continue her research on the eradication of health disparities within the health-care profession.
Read the full interview with Shanteria Carr.
What inspired you to become a pediatric occupational therapist?
I initially encountered children with disabilities in 2008 while working at a daycare. Many of the children had developmental delays. They were from low-income communities whose families had challenges navigating their child’s disability and accessing the proper resources. Once I found out about the occupational therapy profession, I was captivated by the holistic approach occupational therapists use to increase children’s engagement in daily activities. Engaging with the children and families from the daycare shaped my professional trajectory. It led me to become an occupational therapist with a desire to provide meaningful intervention and resources to minoritized children and families to improve their quality of life in all aspects.
How have your studies at NYU impacted your current work in the DCPS?
During my studies at NYU, professors continuously encouraged us to practice reflexivity within our clinical practice. This process helped me critically examine my role as an occupational therapist and improve my clinical skills to provide adequate services to the children and families in the DCPS. From my education, I have adopted a strength-based approach to evaluating children and increased my utilization of health literacy principles when educating children and families. These changes have strengthened my ability to identify and build upon a child’s abilities versus focusing on their limitations or disabilities.
What did your doctoral research focus on and what resulted from that research?
My research focused on identifying effective interventions to teach parents about development for children ages 3 to 5 to increase the early identification of children with developmental disabilities so children and families can get the services and support they need. From my research, I developed educational resources for parents that cultivate a deeper understanding of how children develop and provided parents with activities at each age to foster development. The purpose of the educational resources is to empower parents to advocate on their child’s behalf when delays are detected and make appropriate referrals for occupational therapy services within the school system.
Tandon School of Engineering
Apart from her passion for engineering, Adriana Pink chose Tandon because of the diversity in the student population and NYU’s core values. “There are so many students who have so much creativity and are so talented,” she says. “I wanted to be engaged in that surrounding and use NYU’s cross-functional aspects to help me flourish into the best engineer I could be.” As a Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering major, Adriana took a rigorous course load of classes on topics like polymers, heat transport, and thermodynamics. Outside of her coursework, Adriana participated in NYU’s Vertically Integrated Projects (VIP), served as the president of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE), and interned for Walt Disney Imagineering in 2020. After graduation, Adriana will work as an associate offering manager for IBM in New York City.
Read the full interview with Adriana Pink.
What was the topic of your VIP?
Our project focused on soft robotics. I joined VIP my sophomore year and participated every semester after. During my junior year, we were able to develop our own principle or idea, which was very pivotal for me because it allowed me to see how soft robotics can play a role in daily life. We chose to build a prototype that would help prevent hand flapping in people with autism. We worked with a program at NYU called Tech Kids Unlimited. And with that we were able to see what they would prefer—a compressible belt, shoulder pad, or wrist band. We wanted to build something that wasn’t so conspicuous. It was an awesome experience.
How did the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers impact your college experience?
For me, it was like finding my home away from home. Coming from Miami, Florida, I didn’t know a single person. So I thought, “OK, I want to find my community.” SHPE is a place where like-minded individuals gather to improve themselves personally and professionally. This group of people helped me academically, professionally, socially—whatever the case may be. I was fortunate enough to obtain a leadership position every year, including president last year. That was awesome because I got to pay it forward and help other students develop their skills, take them to conferences, and help them get jobs and internships. I loved it.
What did you learn during your Disney Imagineering internship?
I worked as a project management estimating intern at Epcot, which involved learning how to best mitigate risk and how we could improve and create optimal solutions for the parks. This was a full-circle moment for me. It was awesome getting to work for a place where I went every summer while growing up. It was a great experience that showed me you’re not limited by your major. Even though there are chemical engineers who work at Disney, you don’t necessarily have to do a chemical-specific engineering role. I’m very grateful for that.
What is one of the biggest lessons you learned from your time at NYU?
Always be your authentic self. You can go through so many hindrances and life throws you so many curveballs, but it only helps to increase your resilience, build your adaptability, and strengthen your character.
Tisch School of the Arts
Zahra Budhwani chose Tisch because she liked its combined focus on the arts and academics. This meant that she could earn her degree in Drama while also completing a minor in Global and Urban Education Studies. Upon acceptance, Zahra was placed into the Playwrights Horizons Theater School, where she took courses in acting, directing, playwriting, and design. She performed as an actor in various productions, served as an assistant director, and even devised her own show called The Mother Cycle. In addition to her coursework, Zahra spent a semester abroad in China at NYU Shanghai and completed various internships, two of which she’ll continue after graduation.
Read the full interview with Zahra Budhwani.
What would you say is your biggest achievement over the past four years?
Even though I didn’t direct a full project due to COVID-19, I did experience the beginning of that process and that was really exciting. So I think devising my own show is my biggest achievement. We had to submit a proposal and find designers—a lighting designer, sound designer, costume designer, and dramaturges. We had an open call where anyone could come in and audition, and then I had my own individual auditions. None of the words for the show existed, so I guided my cast through the writing process. It was just really magical. I wish that we could’ve put on the show, but hopefully I’ll revive it at some point in my artistic career.
What was a highlight during your time at NYU?
My semester abroad in China at NYU Shanghai. It was very cool and exciting because I got to explore a lot of classes that I just wouldn’t have been able to take. I took a printmaking class there, which is something I didn’t know anything about. NYU Shanghai has an amazing arts program and a printmaking lab, and I got to be a part of the end-of-the-semester arts showcase there. Now I have supplies and produce prints on a regular basis. I also made two close friends because of studying abroad. During our October break, some of us went to Sichuan, the province known for spicy food and pandas. Then, for Thanksgiving break, we went to Japan, which was the most amazing place I’ve been to.
What kind of internships did you complete?
I interned as an assistant dance teacher at the Brooklyn International High School, which is a cutting-edge and exciting place. I taught dance to ninth and 10th graders who arrived in the United States less than four years ago. It got me really interested in theatre for immigrant and migrant youth. Since then I’ve done other internships in that same category. Now I’m working with an organization called enFamilia, Inc., which focuses on theatre for migrant communities, and another organization called Artists Striving to End Poverty.
What is your biggest takeaway from your time at NYU?
Try everything once. I was scared of going abroad, and I was scared of directing my own show. But a lot of the things I was most apprehensive about turned out to be my best memories.