Senior Spotlight: Amelia

Author: Gigi Speer, junior

The Senior Spotlight Series is an opportunity for Rose Hill Honors students to interview their peers in the Program and share the conversations with the broader community.

For this article, sophomore Gigi Speer interviewed Amelia Antzoulatos, a senior Honors student majoring in Theology and Economics and minoring in Comparative Literature.

G: Do you have any passions that still exist today that were founded in your childhood?

A: Passion is a strong word, but I guess Greek music most closely fits here. I took a class with Professor Mohamed Alsiadi, another incredible Fordham professor, director of the Arab Studies minor, and world-renown oud player, who once said that listening to traditional Arab music “rips your chest open and makes you want to fly.” It’s not a violent sentiment so much as a deeply spiritual one, wherein you’re moved so profoundly you don’t know if you should jump out of your chair and dance or just let that ineffable joy or pain or nostalgia swell up from your chest and water your eyes. I can’t think of a better way to describe how I feel when I listen to Greek music. 

It might have been the hours spent writing Honors essays that got me exploring new playlists & following different musical leads while I (should’ve) worked, but I’ve got to thank Professor Walsh for also allowing me the intellectual space in our sophomore Honors Contemporary Literature class to research 19th and 20th century Greek urban music. Last year, too, I finally bought myself a bouzouki, a traditional Greek instrument, and it was Prof. Alsiadi who actually helped me find an instructor and prepped me & my instrument before my first lesson. 

G: Who were the Honors professors that made the biggest impact on you?

A: Wow, so many I’m not even sure I can list them all, but here are just a few.

Dr. Fiano, who introduced me honestly to the world of academia and the possibility of doing scholarship & “pursuing knowledge” in the long-term. And wow, constructing a syllabus really is an art.

Prof. Davis, my advisor, who inspired a wild excitement in theological texts and is probably the reason why I’m a Theology major. 

Prof. Callaway, for making me feel, for the first time here, like we were partners in scholarship.

Prof. Burnett & Prof. Gribetz, for being the truest examples of compassionate, innovative, and attentive scholars and educators I’ve ever met. Also so brilliant. How they teach is just as important as what they teach.

G: What will you miss most about Honors?

A: It really is a community in the end. And, as with any community, my relationship with it evolved over the course of my time at Fordham; I stuck close to it, grew disillusioned then grew nostalgic, reflected upon it, but, ultimately, always knew I could return to it whenever I wanted, even if only to pop in for some warm seltzer and free pizza. For all its exclusivity, Honors can be whatever we want it to be, and I’ll miss its flexibility (except when it comes to fulfilling the core) and the communal spaces it offers students and professors to discuss and react and adapt and act together for those things most meaningful to us. 

G: What has been your best internship or volunteer experience while at Fordham?

A: My internship experiences have been somewhat limited, but during my sophomore year, I very, very briefly volunteered with a Hellenic-American radio/television station called Aktina FM. The previous summer, a friend of mine had invited me to a Greek/Cypriot event at which the station’s founder, Elena Maroulleti, was a speaker; I ended up approaching her after the event about the possibility of working with her and she obliged! The commute was a little unsustainable for me (3 hrs each way to Astoria), but I really enjoyed learning from Elena’s experiences (she was a Cypriot refugee to the US in the 1970s who built her station on her own, becoming one of the first major advocates for Greece & Cyprus in this country, but who doesn’t hesitate to criticize the male-dominated leadership of the Greek-American community). At one point, I helped her cover an event attended by the Prime Minister of Cyprus and interview a member of his cabinet.

G: What have you enjoyed on-campus?

A: Late night walks around campus, exploring new spots to hang with friends. There’s nothing better than texting someone at 1am on a Thursday and taking a break to talk with them outside in the fresh air.

G: Favorite off-campus spot?

A: Pick a cafe and Isabel Velarde and I have been there for a mid-afternoon existential interlude. Prince. Luna. DeLillo’s. Dealy Starbucks in a pinch. 

G: Any favorite authors?

A: Barbara Kingsolver, Robert Penn Warren, Sally Rooney. Also Abraham Heschel; every time I read a line I’ve gotta put the book down and find someone to share it with. A few books I’ve read at Fordham that I can’t stop thinking about are I & Thou by Martin Buber; Mr. Mani by A.B. Yehoshua; and Sisters in the Wilderness by Delores S. Williams. One book that I never actually read but can’t stop thinking about: Memoirs of Hadrian

G: Any last things to add?

A: It’s been wonderful meeting some of the Honors underclassmen. They’re seriously impressive, and I’m really excited to see how else they’ll transform Honors and Fordham.

Honors Summer Internship Fellows: Elizabeth

This is the final post in a series of four posts written by the Summer 2020 Honors Internship Fellows. The students received a stipend that enabled them to work at non-profit organizations for the common good.

Author: Elizabeth Lurz, junior

I began the summer doing extensive research on the current job market in the U.S. and Fairfield County, with special attention to jobs both impacted and created by the COVID-19 pandemic. My goal was to locate the gaps where B1C clients could enter the particularly tricky and unprecedented job market, while also becoming familiar with the organization’s systems. Simultaneously, my boss encouraged me to seek out other projects within B1C, and I connected with the Legal Team to help build an improved webpage, which nicely connected my interests in law and computers, as I am minoring in Cybersecurity.

By July, I began to work with my boss on the Unpaid Wages team, a clinic set up to assist clients who were unpaid for a completed job, often an unfortunate result of employer exploitation of a worker’s immigrant status. After developing an in-depth project management tool and reworking intake forms to accommodate the new online environment, I became one of the primary contacts for new clients. I met with them over the phone to gather their information, understand their case, and help prepare their supporting documents for our volunteer attorney. Though I had to quickly brush up on my loosely conversational Spanish, and learn to adapt when a language barrier occasionally emerged, this soon became my favorite task of the summer.

My work with B1C has been an extremely rewarding experience. It was challenging to work in a fully remote setting, but I pushed myself to still develop positive relationships with coworkers and clients. Truthfully, without the Honors curriculum, I do not think I would have been able to make meaningful contributions to B1C. Honors pushed me to embrace my community and connect with and learn from others. I used my interdisciplinary knowledge on the movement of people and changes during crises to sympathize with clients. I was empowered to stand up to injustice, even when the results are farsighted, as they always are with slow courts and uncooperative employers. Though the summer has come to an end, I excitedly agreed to continue working remotely for the Unpaid Wages Clinic throughout the fall semester. I am looking forward to our upcoming cases and hopefully obtaining hard-earned money for several amazing people.  

Honors Summer Internship Fellows: Amelia

This is the third post in a series of four posts written by the Summer 2020 Honors Internship Fellows. The students received a stipend that enabled them to work at non-profit organizations for the common good.

Author: Amelia Medved, junior

For eight weeks of this unconventional summer, I interned with the North Shore Land Alliance, a non-profit that owns and maintains nature preserves on Long Island. Many of these preserves have trail systems for hiking, which staff and volunteers maintain for public use. 

Amelia with a porcelain berry root.

An Honors Summer Internship Fellowship allowed me to work from home full-time for the Land Alliance. My primary responsibility was to design interpretive trail signs for the Cushman Woods preserve in Matinecock, NY. I painted mostly in watercolor and then used digital media to assemble the final signs. I’m majoring in Environmental Studies and plan to complete a Visual Arts minor; I gained professional experience in both design and non-profit work by collaborating with my supervisors, researching local history and ecology, and executing multiple designs for the Land Alliance.

I worked most closely with Stewardship staff, and though my work was mostly remote, I was glad to spend one day a week at Cushman Woods performing trail maintenance. Working one-on-one with my supervisor, I learned plant identification to inform my trail signs. We also picked up trash, weeded native plant gardens, and sawed fallen trees after storms.

Watercolor of a Wood Thrush.

I also did a significant amount of invasive plant removal along the trails. The international nature of the city and its surrounding region allows plant species from all over the world to find their way to New York; the plants that face no natural predators can grow out of control, decimate native biodiversity, and compromise an ecosystem’s resilience. While removing garlic mustard and mugwort originating in Europe and multiflora rose and mile-a-minute weed native to Asia, I observed some local consequences of globalization. Especially through the lens of the coronavirus pandemic, I considered how connected the world is and precarious our systems have proven to be.

I am so glad to have spent my summer as an intern at the North Shore Land Alliance. It was an environmentalist’s dream to work out in nature at a time when I really needed to get out of the house. Thank you to the Honors Program and to Dr. Keller for this opportunityーa valuable internship and time to see my local ecosystem up close and hands on.

The Inaugural Van Cortlandt Park Scavenger Hunt!

Author: Julian Navarro, sophomore

On September 5th 2020, Honors Program First-Years completed a scavenger hunt as a part of the Honors’ orientation programming, a tradition hundreds of First-Years before them have had the fun of experiencing as well. This year’s scavenger hunt, however, was quite different than years prior. Instead of taking the D Train down to Columbus Circle and running around Central Park to take photos in the Shakespeare Garden or at the Bethesda Fountain, the Class of 2024 logged into a Zoom call for a virtual scavenger hunt “in” Van Cortlandt Park. 

The idea to move the annual Honors scavenger hunt from Manhattan’s Central Park to the Bronx’s Van Cortlandt Park first came about during one of this past summer’s Honors Mission Discussions, a series of meetings between current Honors students and professors that served to assess the Honors Program’s role in newly prevalent public dialogues on racial justice. Honors Sophomores Erik Brown, Amelia Medved, Julian Navarro, and Pilar Valdes designed, organized, and hosted the hunt with the intent of creating a Bronx-affirming program to highlight disparities in care, treatment, and accessibility between Van Cortlandt Park and Central Park. Fordham’s hybrid approach to the Fall 2020 semester complicated the original plans for an in-person event, but the scavenger hunt was quickly adapted to an online format as a Google Form.  

The First-Years were asked to research and answer a series of trivia questions that were scored on correctness and timeliness. The trivia emphasized Van Cortlandt Park and the Bronx’s historical significance as well as their contributions to the beauty of New York City. Examples of such questions are, “Which park is one of the 3 largest parks in New York City?” and, “Which park has over 1000 acres of land considered to be ‘Forever Wild Reserve,’ an NYC Parks program that was established to protect ecologically valuable land?” The correct answer to both of those questions is “Van Cortlandt Park.”

Julian and Honors first-year students overlooking the city from Van Cortlandt Park.

After the virtual scavenger hunt, an in-person, socially distanced trip to Van Cortlandt Park was planned for those who could safely attend. A total of eight First-Years, accompanied by three of the hunt’s organizers, Erik, Amelia, and Julian, as well as sophomore Nick Urbin, walked northward to the park along Mosholu Parkway. Everyone noted the difficulty of reaching the park from anywhere south or southeast of it as Sedgwick Avenue and the Major Deegan Expressway’s on-ramps are formidable opponents to foot traffic. However, trumping the sight of such deficits on the trip was the beauty of Van Cortlandt Park and the Bronx. Friendly hellos were exchanged with people barbecuing along the Parkway on the walk; the historical Van Cortlandt House stood in all the vibrant green of New York City’s third largest park; and from the Vault Hill Overlook everyone caught a glimpse of the Manhattan skyline and the roofs of the wonderfully colorful borough the Honors Program has the privilege to call home.

Honors Summer Internship Fellows: Amalia

This is the second post in a series of four posts written by the Summer 2020 Honors Internship Fellows. The students received a stipend that enabled them to work at non-profit organizations for the common good.

Author: Amalia Sordo Palacios, sophomore

The Covid-19 pandemic would have made obtaining an unpaid internship impossible for me this summer, which is why I am incredibly grateful to Dr. Keller for awarding me with the Honors Program Summer Fellowship Grant that made my work possible. I had the opportunity to intern with Autism Community Network, a nonprofit in San Antonio that serves children by providing autism diagnostic services, occupational and speech therapy, and classes for parents and caretakers of kids diagnosed with ASD (autism spectrum disorder). Because I began working with ACN at the same time that they started transitioning to telehealth, I witnessed a historic shift in the way autism diagnoses are performed and, alongside my coworkers, learned how to make remote services successful.

Amalia at the Rose Hill Campus.

Some of my roles included observing diagnostic and therapy appointments, administering the social media platforms, serving as a translator for Spanish-speaking families, and conducting research to assist with the grant-writing process. By working alongside clinical professionals, I learned a lot about careers in healthcare. I was reminded of the Honors Program’s interdisciplinary curriculum while observing how the diagnostic team came to a decision: each clinician specialized in a different field, but their collaboration and input ensured a more accurate autism diagnosis for the child. I also worked on finding research to support several grants; this was really exciting because I learned more about the real-world applications of neuroscience (my intended major). I was even able to give a presentation to parents about my own experiences growing up with a sibling with ASD. 

Throughout my internship, I reflected on the Honors Program’s idea of being scholars for justice and how it connected to my work. Prior to the pandemic, autism diagnoses were difficult to obtain due to long waitlists, shortages of trained professionals, and geographic barriers. I thought the pandemic would exacerbate these issues; however, I found that the transition to telehealth was a step towards ensuring accessibility for all families by helping them overcome geographic or financial barriers. ACN also developed a new program for parents struggling with mental health issues, supporting the Jesuit tradition of cura personalis. Through this internship, I’ve had the chance to explore different career paths and observe concrete examples of the role that the tradition of homines pro aliis (men and women for others) plays in nonprofit organizations. Despite working fully remotely, I was able to do really meaningful work this summer, all made possible with the Honors Program’s support.

Honors Summer Internship Fellows: Caitlyn

This is the first post in a series of four posts written by the Summer 2020 Honors Internship Fellows. The students received a stipend that enabled them to work at non-profit organizations for the common good.

Caitlyn Humann, Honors ’22

Author: Caitlyn Humann, Junior

Thanks to the Honors Summer Internship Fellowship, I had the opportunity to intern at my regional food bank, Long Island Cares Inc. – The Harry Chapin Food Bank, this past summer. Long Island Cares brings together all available resources for the benefit of the hungry and food insecure on Long Island and aims to provide for the humanitarian needs of the community.

Initially, my goal for this internship could be summed into one statement: to learn, from the perspective of LIC, the relationship between non-profits and all levels of government. I wondered if it is easy for non-profits to get funding and personal acknowledgement from legislative bodies and the extent that food banks rely on federal and state support.

What I didn’t know at the time I applied for this fellowship was that the COVID-19 pandemic would put New York in a state of emergency starting in March and that by May 4th , the demand for Long Island Cares’ services would increase by 64%.

What was initially designed to be a government advocacy internship – during which I would draft letters to representatives, attend in-person legislature meetings and help expand LIC’s Veterans Project by hand delivering food to veteran’s homes – expanded. I worked under LIC’s Chief Government Affairs Officer and drafted letters to advocate for COVID-specific support for food insecure communities, attended virtual local government and advocacy meetings, tracked new legislation on the federal, state and local levels and outlined testimonies on LIC’s new developments, successes and challenges since the start of the pandemic.

As increasing amounts of Long Islanders faced unemployment and food insecurity, I saw first-hand the vital role that food banks play in communities across the nation. I analyzed the impact that COVID had on all demographics of Long Islanders along with representatives’ actions that supported food banks. I was also able to make positive impacts in the moment by packing boxes full of nutritious food for members of my own community.

Just as the Honors Program builds a sense of community by bringing diverse groups of students together to collaborate and support each other in reaching their academic (and personal) goals, Long Island Cares brings together people of all demographics to form a community that stretches across Long Island in which everyone plays their role in fighting against hunger. In our Honors classes and conversations, we often discuss the “missing voice.” Through this internship, I heard
the voice of food insecure families, who rely on non-profits to live a happy life. I am grateful to the Honors Program for giving me this opportunity. As I enter my professional career and strive towards my goal of representing my community as an elected government official who advocates for justice, I will keep this experience with me.

Spring 2020 Bronx Talks & Coronavirus

Author: Amelia Medved, sophomore

Earlier this semester, the Honors Program hosted a series of Bronx Talks, in which Honors students and the wider campus community were invited to engage with expert speakers working in the borough. On February 11th, Dr. Jane Bedell and Ms. Kim Freeman gave a presentation called “The State of Health in the Bronx.” Both work at the Neighborhood Health Action Center, which the City Department of Health placed in Tremont to address location-specific health disparities. In the talk, Dr. Bedell and Ms. Freeman discussed the historic policies creating inequity in the city (redlining, for example) and the systematic inequality that perpetuates problems today. In the Bronx, severe pollution, insufficient access to healthy food, and other deep-rooted issues amount to a 5 to 7 year difference in life expectancy compared to the rest of the city.

All around the country, the coronavirus outbreak has given existing inequalities like these more urgency. As of May 18th, the Bronx accounted for 23% of cases in the city, though Bronx residents only make up 17% of the population. Bronx residents are contracting COVID-19 at a high rate, and are also more likely to have severe cases. Dangerous pre-existing conditions such as asthma, hypertension, and diabetes are more common in the Bronx than in other parts of the city. In the Belmont neighborhood where Fordham’s Rose Hill Campus is located, for example, 22% of adults have been diagnosed with diabetes, compared to 11% for the entire city.

Since being sent home due to the coronavirus, I have been thinking about the Bronx often, not only because I miss my Fordham friends, classes, and Honors community, but also since the borough is being hit hard by this crisis, and may continue to be affected years into the future. However, I am also reminded of the resilience which Carolyn McLaughlin described in her Bronx Talk on February 24th. In a Q&A forum with Honors students and in her book South Bronx Battles, Ms. McLaughlin gave a first-hand account of the community efforts she witnessed over the last fifty years as a social worker in the Bronx. She shared numerous examples of successful advocacy and rebuilding efforts following insufficient city funding and frequent fires in the 1970s, and her testament to the previous endurance of the community is a reminder that the Bronx can do the same following the current coronavirus crisis. From my home, I recognize the privilege I have to be able to leave the city to protect my health and the health of other Fordham students, and I hope that when we return to campus, I have the opportunity to contribute to the Bronx’s recovery.

Showcasing Honors Talent with the Student Art Gallery

Author: Megan Schaffner, senior

It’s no secret that the Honors community is full of incredibly talented students. From scholars to actors to everything in between, Honors students have a wide set of skills that make them unique, well-rounded individuals.

In the beginning of the 2018-2019 school year, the Student Activities Committee decided to create an Alpha House Art Gallery in order to exhibit photography, paintings, and poetry created by Honors students. The gallery, first unveiled during the annual Honors Fall Fest event, was an immediate hit!

From then on, the Alpha House Art Gallery was updated each semester with new artwork by Honors students. This spring, although we could not be physically together due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Student Activities Committee wanted to keep the Art Gallery alive.

Thus, we are proud to announce that the Spring 2020 Study Art Gallery is available in digital format. Please use this link to view Honors students’ amazing work!

Professor Spotlight: Dr. Greg Acevedo

Author: Amelia Medved, first-year student

In Fall 2019, Dr. Greg Acevedo, Associate Professor in the Graduate School of Social Service and Director of the Social Work Bachelors program, taught the first-ever semester of Bronx Explorations, a key component of the Honors Program’s new curriculum. With a focus on social justice that drives the mission of the course, students gain knowledge  of the community surrounding our Rose Hill campus by studying Bronx history and culture. Every Honors student will start their time at Fordham by taking the course in the fall of their first semester. I met with Professor Acevedo a few weeks ago to talk more about how this course will continue shaping current and future generations of Honors students.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Amelia: First, I was wondering if you’d like to speak about your relationship to the Bronx and to Fordham University? 

Dr. Acevedo: I first came to the South Bronx in a volunteer capacity; I had just finished my first year of undergraduate studies, and I was living and working in a Christian Brothers community in the South Bronx at 150th and Melrose. And it was life changing. It was really at that point that I decided that my talents and my passions were something that were going to be best pursued in something like social work. I think that those types of experiences are crucial opportunities for learning and personal growth, and we should encourage them as much as possible. And as you know, the reputation of the Bronx, and not just the South Bronx, looms so large in a negative way. I think that that was something I wanted to counteract, tell a different story. When you move to Rose Hill as an undergraduate, initially it’s like the Bronx is hosting you. But you’re also becoming a member of the Bronx community.

I ended up teaching [at Fordham] as an adjunct in the Sociology and Anthropology Department after getting my PhD in Social Work. Then my CV made its way to the Graduate School of Social Service, and the rest is history. Now I’ve been here for fifteen years. 

Amelia: What were your earliest thoughts while creating this course? 

Dr. Acevedo: I had a deep-seated respect for the reputation of the Honors Program, and felt very responsible to do a very good job in making a course that was rigorous but engaging and spoke to the mission of what the course was supposed to be. I was obviously very intrigued [in this Honors course] because issues of social justice are so essential to me, because it’s such an anchor for the Social Work profession.  I wanted to bring to it a very interdisciplinary perspective [with the three anchors, history, economy, and culture] Where do you start with the Bronx? How do I do justice to all the racial and ethnic traditions and heritage and current composition of the Bronx? Because it’s always changing. And I didn’t want to give short shrift to anything. […] For me important issues were rigor and relevance, and then a fidelity to what the mission of the course was, which was to make the Bronx, as your new home, an inviting and interesting place.

Amelia: Now that you’ve taught it for the first time, are you considering any changes for future semesters?

Dr. Acevedo: I think what I enjoyed the most was the content I developed on the aspects of the political economy of the Bronx. I wish I would have had time to show the documentary Decade of Fire as well, because I think that would have also made those connections. Although the [main text we read, South Bronx Battles] also does a good job of at least telling about that period in the South Bronx [fires during the 1970s], I think that it could have gotten better treatment, because I do think that it is important that we know how the Bronx got to where it is today. 

Part of my goal this next time around [is] to see how I can come up with more creative ways to deepen the connection between what’s going on in our classroom and what’s going on in our community and the various communities in the Bronx. If there are ways students can become engaged in [current events in the Bronx, for instance] a zoning issue that’s currently coming up or a public hearing or petition. Being able to communicate to students, “This is what’s going on if you want to get involved.” I got some very positive feedback about the community assessment, the walk-through [of local neighborhoods]. I think that was a worthwhile educational tool for that class. And I think that students can use that in the future, in their various professional careers in some creative ways.

Amelia: Our main text for the course was the brand-new book South Bronx Battles. First year students enjoyed this text a lot and recently had the chance to hold a Q&A with author Carolyn McLaughlin. Why do you think that text fit so well with the course and was effective in teaching First-Year students about some of the history of the South Bronx?

Dr. Acevedo: I think one of the most effective things about [South Bronx Battles] is its positive vibe. This is a story about people who managed to accomplish very concrete changes in the Bronx, even amidst challenging policy constraints and other issues. It’s a story about people actually being able to create substantive change in their communities.  I don’t think it sugarcoats what the challenges were that the South Bronx was facing at the time, but it also doesn’t leave you hanging. The worst thing you could do is create a cohort of well-informed cynics. Our students need to have concrete knowledge about the history of the Bronx, about the culture of the Bronx, and about the political economy of the Bronx. And then they need to know how they can go about doing something. That’s really one of the essential elements of the new curriculum of the Honors Program as I see it. That’s obviously an essential element of a Jesuit education. And I think it’s an ethical responsibility for us as part of the Fordham community. So I think that book does it. And it wasn’t written in this dry, academic way, although it was well-researched and factual. I think students hopefully walked away with this idea, what Paulo Freire used to call “critical optimism.” You want to be a pragmatist about things, but you don’t want to give up on your ideals. I always say this when I teach courses on social policy: “It is not your responsibility to finish the work of perfecting the world, but you are not free to desist from it either,” a statement originally made by Rabbi Tarfon. That’s pretty much a credo of mine with social change. It might not happen with me, but I’m not going to walk away from the work. And I think the stories in that book are that.

Amelia: Following the Bronx Explorations course, a couple of First-Years took the initiative to become more deeply involved in the community. Why do you think that it is important for Honors students, and the Fordham student body as a whole to engage with the Bronx? Do you have advice for students looking to learn more about and be more involved in the Bronx?

Dr. Acevedo: I think Fordham has really made tremendous progress in this. There has always been the Dorothy Day Center, which is now the Center for Community Engaged Learning. The Office of Mission and Ministry also has other programs like Urban Plunge. The more that we continue to build on those, [as with] this course, it’s going to happen. I think service learning classes could be even more well-developed, [and] there could be more of them. And I think also bringing the community onto campus. Our  Chief Diversity Officer, Rafael Zapata, has been super instrumental in making that happen, in partnership with the Center for Community Engaged Learning. They’re taking their mission seriously. And I really do commend the Honors Program for taking this seriously enough to build this into their curriculum. I think that’s groundbreaking, honestly. I’ve had those experiences in the Bronx in the past that were life changing for me, and to have the opportunity to now really try to create a space for students today, that was really fulfilling. It was a lot of hard work but the kind of hard work that you don’t mind doing because the payoff was so clear.

Senior Spotlight: Megan Schaffner

Author: Gigi Speer, sophomore

The Senior Spotlight Series is an opportunity for Rose Hill Honors students to interview their peers in the Program and share the conversations with the broader community.

For this article, sophomore Gigi Speer interviewed Megan Schaffner, a senior Honors student majoring in English with minors in Marketing and Philosophy.

G: What made you choose your disciplines of study?

M: I’ve always loved books, so an English major felt like a natural choice to me. My marketing minor came a little later when I got interested in how companies communicate with their audiences and how that can affect the publishing industry. And with four philosophy courses in the old Honors curriculum, you only need one more class for a minor. So, like many Honors students, I chose to take a fifth philosophy class in order to do so. It’s been really interesting! I definitely wouldn’t have done a philosophy minor if I wasn’t so close to it, but I’m happy I did. 

G: Tell me a little about your internship!

M: I work at Beaufort Books, which is a small independent publisher all the way downtown [Manhattan].  I help the editors there with book schedules, manuscript edits, and basically whatever else they need!

G: What is the commute like? 

M: It’s not too bad.  I take a ram van for an hour and then a twenty minute subway. I sleep in the van which helps and the intern hours are 10-5 which is super nice.

G: Is this something you would like to do after you graduate?

M: Definitely!  I want to go into publishing, hopefully doing editorial stuff, so this is a good way to get a feel for the industry.

G: Is this your first time working for a publisher?

M: It is!  Over the summer, I worked for a literary agent, which was great but it dealt a lot more with the business work like finalizing book deals.  I really want to work with the actual text of books, so I’m hoping I can do that with this internship.

G: So you’ve been writing Senior Spotlights for the past two years as part of your role on the Student Activities Council.  Has writing these articles been helpful in directing your interest?

M: Yes, I think working with the Web Presence committee of SAC has  helped me a lot in general. I’ve gotten to think about the different forms of social media marketing, which is a little bit of what I’ve been doing at my internship now. So the web presence and marketing minor has been really helpful and have given me the chance to do some trial and error, figure out what I like, and figure out what works.

G: Do you have a favorite Honors memory teacher or book?

M: Yes! I love remembering the first two years of the Honors curriculum, all struggling together. I think back to freshman year, with all of us huddled in Alpha House cramming for Dr. Miller’s exams. My one friend, who wasn’t in Honors, would come with me and be my unofficial philosophy tutor. Even now, although I feel old, I like doing extra-curricular activities  with the whole Program. The book exchange last year was so sweet—people put in such an effort to figure out what their person would like to read. I got Educated, which I was really excited to read, and I was given a hardcover edition which I thought was so nice. Little things like that remind me that people are enjoying [Honors], that things are continuing, and that there will be a lot of activities still going on after I leave.  I feel like a proud mom!

G: Favorite Honors professor?

M: I really love Dr. Keller. I had her for Early Modern Lit, which is the time period I really like. Reading Shakespeare with her was the best thing ever because she really pushed us to keep thinking.  She wanted to know more than just the things that stood out to you; she wanted us to figure out why they did and how they fit into the larger scale of what we were learning. Having that practice in my head moving forward to other English classes has been helpful, since it has rewired my brain to think more.