Meet Our Team
Department Administrator, NYU Leadership Initiative
Daniela Acosta is the Department Administrator for the NYU Leadership Initiative. Daniela came to this role after serving as an Administrative Aide in the Faculty of Arts and Science Dean’s office at New York University.
Fundamentally, Daniela’s passion for supporting students through their educational growth and success stems from her own experiences as an immigrant and first generation Latinx woman of color. She is committed to racial equity, culturally responsive-sustaining pedagogy, and dismantling institutional oppression within educational spaces.
Daniela earned her BA in Broadcasting, Telecommunications and Mass Media from Temple University and is completing an MA in Higher Education and Student Affairs at NYU Steinhardt. She is a founder and current Events Chair of the Steinhardt Latinx Graduate Student Association, whose mission is to bring students of Latinx backgrounds and allies together to engage in dialogue on the issues that affect our communities in order to mobilize and ultimately become agents of change.
In her personal time, Daniela can be found teaching dance fitness classes and spending time with her family and their rescue pitbull, Bella.
Melody C. Barnes
Co-Founder of the NYU Leadership Initiative and Former Chair of Leadership Initiative Advisory Council
In 2013, under the leadership of Vice Chancellor Linda Mills, Melody Barnes helped found the NYU Leadership Initiative alongside Bethany Godsoe. Melody’s contributions in spearheading the inception and growth of the office are countless, first in her role as Vice Provost (2013-2016) and then as the Chair of the Leadership Initiative Advisory Council (2016-2017).
Melody came to NYU with an impressive career biography and significant accomplishments in both the public and private sectors. Her extensive experience demonstrated to her that effective leaders are not simply born, but rather they must work to develop the self-awareness, skills, and support networks needed to create change. Moreover, in this fast-paced and ever-changing world, this generation of students faces a unique set of challenges. Melody saw the need for a new way to support student success by equipping our youth with the skills required to create meaningful change in their communities and careers. She recognized that this new age calls for a new approach to leadership - one that is ethical, inclusive and collaborative. She came from Washington D.C. to Washington Square with this vision in mind. Her leadership has been critical in creating, developing, and realizing this vision here at NYU.
As Chair of the NYU Leadership Initiative Advisory Council, Melody provided strategic counsel across the department to prepare students more fully for leadership roles. She identified opportunities for university-wide collaboration to cultivate student development and arranged opportunities for students to engage with world leaders. In this role, Melody initiated the NYU Leadership Conversation Series in which prominent leaders from all sectors are invited to share their personal experiences, leadership journeys, and insights. During these public events, students are exposed to diverse perspectives, leadership approaches, and expertise on today’s pressing global challenges.
A former Assistant to President Barack Obama and Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, Melody has most recently been working as a private consultant and as chair of a new initiative at the Aspen Institute. From January 2009 to January 2012, she provided policy and strategic advice to President Obama and worked closely with members of the Cabinet coordinating the domestic policy agenda across the Administration. Prior to her work in the White House, she served on the leadership team for the Obama-Biden Transition Project and as Senior Domestic Policy Advisor to the Obama for America campaign. From 2003 to July 2008, she worked at the Center for American Progress, a progressive research institute and think tank, where she was named Executive Vice President for Policy in 2005. From 1995 to 2003, she worked for Senator Edward M. Kennedy on the Senate Judiciary Committee, serving as his chief counsel from 1998 onwards. Barnes began her career as an attorney with Shearman & Sterling in New York City.
Melody received her bachelor's degree in 1986 from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she graduated with honors. She received her law degree in 1989 from the University of Michigan Law School.
Senior Director, NYU Leadership Initiative
Grisel is the Co-Senior Director at the Leadership Initiative. As a founding member of the NYU Leadership Initiative, Grisel developed our initial leadership framework, built popular signature programs like the Leadership Fellows and Global Leadership Summit, and oversaw our assessment efforts.
Grisel brings a breadth of experience integrating leadership theory in to the design and management of professional and leadership development programs for diverse audiences including undergraduate and graduate students, nonprofit professionals and senior executives in the US and abroad. She also brings prior experience in career development at NYU Stern and in fellowship advising and management at Harvard. She earned a B.A. in economics from Boston University and a MPA from NYU Wagner where she also serves as Adjunct Assistant Professor of Public Service.
Director, Office of Global Awards at New York University
Kurt Davies is the Director of Global Awards at New York University. Kurt has been helping students realize their full potential for the better part of two decades. His current role is born of many adventures through school, careers and the world, from which he has learned to leave no stone unturned in the pursuit of a life you love.
He comes to NYU from James Madison University, where he served as the Director of Prestigious Scholarships. He has also worked in the Center for Undergraduate Research and Fellowships at Villanova University and the Alliance for Higher Education and Democracy at the University of Pennsylvania. After a career as a travel agent, Kurt returned to college as a non-traditional student, receiving a bachelor’s degree in linguistics and anthropology from the University of North Carolina and a master’s in higher education from the University of Pennsylvania. Kurt received a Fulbright grant in 2010 to research post-Soviet language policy in Kyrgyzstan.
When he is not advising students on fellowship opportunities, Kurt is likely to be found in line for discounted theatre tickets, playing tournament Scrabble, or watching UNC basketball. Kurt has lived in seven states and five countries and is particularly excited for this next chapter in New York City.
Interim Senior Associate Vice President of Student Affairs
Bethany Godsoe is Interim Senior Associate Vice President of Student Affairs. She provides strategic leadership and oversight for the Center for Student Life, NYU Leadership Initiative, Student Affairs Research and Assessment, and Wasserman Center for Career Development. Bethany is committed to promoting innovative approaches to holistic student development; cultivating inclusive and engaged communities for students and staff within the Division of Student Affairs; and ensuring that students graduate with the skills, experiences, and relationships they need to thrive in their lives beyond NYU.
Bethany brings two decades of experience at NYU managing high performing teams in enrollment, student services, research, and career and leadership development. Bethany is particularly proud of her role co-founding the NYU Leadership Initiative. Before joining Student Affairs, Bethany served in two critical roles at NYU Wagner: first, as Assistant Dean for Enrollment and Student Services and then, as Executive Director of the Research Center for Leadership in Action.
Bethany has also served as Adjunct Assistant Professor of Public Administration at NYU Wagner, teaching Strategic Leadership to the Executive MPA students and The Meaning of Leadership for undergraduates. She received her BA in Anthropology from Cornell University and her MPA from NYU Wagner. Bethany is currently a doctoral student in Educational Leadership and Policy at NYU Steinhardt. She lives in Brooklyn, NY with her husband, their three children, and a dachshund named Sonny.
Assistant Director, Office of Global Awards at New York University
An employee of NYU since 2000, Kris Larsen began his career as an administrator for the Department of Psychology. For eight years he oversaw admissions to to the doctoral program in Social Psychology. In 2008, he began working for the Graduate School of Arts and Science in the Office of Academic and Student Affairs. Here he managed global and internal fellowships for GSAS students as well as graduate students from across the University.
Kris holds a BA and MA in Philosophy from the University of California, Riverside and Stony Brook University respectively. During his time as a graduate student at Stony Brook University, in association with the International Association for Philosophy and Literature, Kris gave panel presentations on phenomenology and architecture in Helsinki, Freiburg, and Nicosia.
Kris has intellectual and agricultural interests in wine and the wine industry. He has worked as a cellar rat for a prominent Oregon winemaker. Unable to produce, what he would call “good wine” in a Brooklyn apartment, his practice of zymology is currently limited to brewing beer.
Assistant Director, Breakthrough Scholars Leadership Program
Stephanie Liu serves as the Assistant Director of the Breakthrough Scholars Leadership Development Program. In this role, she supports a community of undergraduate students who receive generous scholarship awards through NYU Stern. Students gain leadership development and have access to mentorship opportunities throughout their four-year course of study.
In addition to her position at the NYU Leadership Initiative, Stephanie is completing her final semester as a Masters student in the Higher Education and Student Affairs program, here at NYU Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development.
Stephanie was born and raised in California (30 minutes east of LA), where she studied Sociology and Education at the University of California Santa Barbara. After receiving her bachelors, she lived on the Big Island of Hawai'i and worked as an educator in the K-12 system while simultaneously earning an MS in Elementary Education. Seeing the inequities her students faced of access, persistence, and retention in higher education, led Stephanie back to her work in student affairs.
In her free time Stephanie enjoys calligraphy, painting, dancing, and yoga as outlets and self care tactics
Associate Director, Social Impact Leadership Programs
Sasha Massey serves as Associate Director of Social Impact Programs at the NYU Leadership Initiative, where she manages immersive leadership programs for undergraduate and graduate students at NYU. Sasha is passionate about helping students leverage their leadership skills for social impact and creating pipelines for traditionally underserved communities.
Growing up in the halls of her mother’s Montessori school, Sasha was exposed to the transformative power of education early on. Through her own education and teaching experiences, she has learned that students achieve the highest when their existing skills are seen, affirmed and nourished. It was this belief that brought her to the NYU Leadership Initiative, where she helps students discover and develop their superpowers.
In her role as Associate Director, Sasha manages the NYU's Social Sector Leadership Diversity Fellowship, which equips graduate students of color with the skills, knowledge, and networks needed to take up leadership roles in organizations across the social sector. She also manages the NYU Leadership Fellows program, a project incubator program for undergraduate students. In addition to her work at the NYU Leadership Initiative, Sasha is a Math Instructor for Sponsors for Educational Opportunity (SEO), empowering the confidence and capacities of NYC high school students to get to and through the nation’s top colleges.
Sasha holds a Master’s of Public Administration from NYU’s Robert F. Wagner School of Public Service, specializing in nonprofit management, and a BA in International Relations and Political Science from the University of Calgary.
In her personal time, Sasha can be found cooking, reading about cooking, watching shows about cooking and taking trips to her beautiful hometown in Alberta, Canada.
Director, Breakthrough Scholars Leadership Development Program
Sheena is the Director of the Breakthrough Scholars Leadership Development Program where she oversees program operations and strategic direction of a robust two to four-year leadership development program for select Stern undergraduate students.
Prior to joining the Leadership Initiative Sheena held various career development, coaching, and program management roles within higher education and the nonprofit space where she helped thousands of students identify and pursue their purpose. She believes that there is nothing more fulfilling and powerful than when we identify our gifts, talents, and abilities and use them to meet a human need in the world. Her goal is to support as many students as possible toward that end.
Sheena McCullers also leads a team of students who represent NYU in the Collegiate Leadership Competition (CLC). CLC creates a unique opportunity for student leaders to learn leadership terms and concepts, and then put them into practice in a fun competition. In April 2018, Sheena’s team won the Process Award boasting the highest score received by any team to date.
She holds an MPA from the School of Public Affairs at Baruch College, where she specialized in Nonprofit Management, and a BA in Interpersonal Communication from Bowling Green State University.
Sheena loves spending time in Brooklyn with her husband and son. You can catch her brunching in Bedstuy, thrifting in Williamsburg, or having playdates in Park Slope.
Events and Communications Specialist, NYU Leadership Initiative
A graduate of New York University with a BA in English and American Literature, Jasmin Nazarian began her career in the publishing and media industries with a focus on digital marketing. Passionate about the power of higher education and student development, Jasmin joined the NYU Leadership Initiative in 2015 in order to contribute to the growth of inclusive communities of support and opportunity for all students. In this role, she is responsible for the department’s communications strategy, media publications, public events, and website and social media content. As someone with who performs both creatively and strategically, Jasmin has proven success in leveraging technology and new media to advance educational equity and student success.
She has planned and executed an array of university-wide events, including NYU Leadership Week, Leadership Conversation Series, and the Lunch & Lead open workshops, intended to expose students to diverse examples of leadership across sectors. Jasmin cares deeply about access to higher education, experiential education, and career development.
Outside of her professional life, you can find Jasmin in the park with her dog Sam, binge-watching a new Netflix series, and experimenting with DIY nails art.
Faculty Advisor, Leadership & Community Development, NYU Leadership Initiative
Lorelei Ormrod, a faculty member in the Expository Writing Program, helps to convene the NYU Leadership Initiative Mentoring Groups and advises students on distinguished awards emphasizing leadership and service, especially to the UK. She spent ten years studying and teaching twentieth century English Literature in Oxford, where she was a Rhodes Scholar. A devoted teacher, she cares deeply about helping people grow into their full potential and make their way in the world. She has advised hundreds of students about distinguished fellowships, and served on several scholarship selection committees.
Passionate about international education and civic engagement, Lorelei also leads the Social Justice League for the Residential College of Goddard and Broome. Previously, she was Assistant Director of the Morehead Scholars Program, responsible for mentoring outstanding student-leaders from across the US, UK, and Canada, and for coordinating their enrichment education of outdoor leadership expeditions, public service internships, overseas travel/study experiences, and career development placements.
She also served as Junior Dean of Oxford University’s Jesus College; as Dean of Students for International Baccalaureate Summer Schools based in Oxford and Cambridge; and as a Warden and Tutor responsible for the Creativity, Activity and Service (CAS) component of the IB curriculum at St. Clare’s International College in Oxford.
Global Awards Assistant
Shirin Nadira is a PhD candidate in Comparative Literature at NYU whose research interests include postcolonial literature and theory, theories of globalization and cosmopolitanism, and philosophies of education, and she is currently writing a dissertation on the depiction of university life and international students in contemporary fiction.
She enjoys talking and thinking with real-life students as much as fictional ones and has sought out opportunities to do so through as both a teacher and advisor. Shirin taught high school and college-aged students in Singapore for 3 years and has served as adjunct instructor for NYU’s Core Curriculum at NYU. In addition to advising students on fellowship opportunities at the Office of Global Awards, she is also Assistant to the Director of Undergraduate Study for the Comp Lit department offering academic advising to undergraduate Comp Lit majors.
When she’s not reading or writing, Shirin can be found hunting down cheap eats in Queens, solving jigsaw puzzles, working on getting fluent in Spanish, and dancing salsa.
Global Awards Assistant
Amy Obermeyer is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Comparative Literature, where she researches early twentieth-century Japanese and Latin American literatures. She is currently finishing her dissertation on the articulation of subjectivity in woman-authored fiction of the era.
Amy enjoys working with students and helping them to develop their projects. In addition to her work at the Office of Global Awards, she currently teaches as an adjunct in the CORE Curriculum and has previously taught in the Department of Comparative Literature. At the OGA, she is particularly enthusiastic about consulting with students on awards focused on reducing inequality.
When she's not working or otherwise engaged in academic pursuits, she enjoys exploring the boroughs on her bicycle, hiking in the hudson valley, and eating the best (cheap) vegetarian cuisine the city has to offer.
Communications and Events Program Assistant
Yuwei Pan is an M.A. candidate at the Gallatin School of Individualized Study, focusing on "Speculative Design and Social Change." She studies the intersections of interactive art, speculative design, technology, and media studies, and how they impact our society and democracy. Yuwei is a practicing artist and designer working in New York City, working in photography, film, performance and socially engaged art.
Born and raised in China, Yuwei moved to the US to pursue art and received a BFA degree from Washington University in St. Louis. Yuwei was the recipient of the Sam and Marilyn Fox Scholarship, Morris Horwitz Graduation Award in Photography and Service, Anderson Ranch Summer Program Award and Richard J. Koppenaal Scholarship, and her work has been shown at Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis, Des Lee Gallery, and PS122 Gallery in New York.
At the NYU Leadership Initiative, Yuwei serves as the Program Assistant for Events and Communications. She loves doing editorial design, video production, writing, and social media for the Leadership Initiative.