Antigone in Ferguson, an Honors Alumnus Review

Author: John Murray, Class of 2016

It will be readily apparent to any graduate of the Honors Program that the themes of classical art and literature are, sometimes frighteningly, relevant to our contemporary society. Historians take this for granted; I still am amazed whenever it is revealed to me yet again. Twice this summer, it has been by the Theater of War’s production of Antigone in Ferguson at St. Ann & The Holy Trinity Church in Brooklyn Heights.

It is important to note that Antigone in Ferguson is not, in fact, a modern restaging of the Greek play in present-day Missouri. The director’s note says it best: ­­­­­­”The production is not an adaptation set in Ferguson, Missouri, but rather a ritual of mourning and of hope that does not aim to fix a specific meaning to Sophocles’ play, but rather to inspire audience members to voice their truths and explore the infinite possibility of interpretation.”

The production had two parts: the performance itself, and a guided audience talkback afterwards. Impressive and moving as the performance was, the talkback was the real gem of the night. The creative team posed a number of questions about the show and its applicability to modern times, first to a curated panel, but then to the audience at large. Responses varied, as one might imagine, to the standard, “What about the show felt relevant today?” The theme of civil disobedience was a popular subject: Antigone’s actions were compared to disruptive protests or providing assistance to migrants from the southern border. The words of the creative team ring true: “At its core, Antigone is a play about what happens when personal conviction and state law clash, raising the question: When everyone is right (or feels justified), how do we avert the violence that will inevitably take place?”

For me, the most striking and awe-inspiring moments of the night occurred when someone voiced a thought that seemed to come from the deepest, most genuine parts of their soul. It would be a simple observation, or an interpretation of some passage, or a feeling that was inspired in them by a single line of the text. The speaker might be an elderly man, or an eight-year-old girl, or a high school boy. They might fumble with their words, but the message was clear: something in this production had moved them, to the extent that they wanted to speak it aloud in front of a hundred strangers. 

Discourse—not to score participation points in a classroom, but as raw, unfiltered expression that cannot be kept to oneself. That, to me, is a magical part of theater: the ability of a play and its actors to capture the human experience so well that the audience walks away changed, as if we ourselves had lived through all the emotions and the events that transpired before us. It is, in this production, also a testament to the timelessness of the themes Sophocles chose to put on display and how inextricably intertwined they are with that human experience. We will never be able to fully correct the blindness that our pride imposes upon us, and there will always be a struggle of the governed against their governors. Love will inevitably come into conflict with law so long as both exist. Failure to heed the warnings of our conscience and of the wise will end in tragedy.

It is a great privilege of living in this city that such an event can be made accessible to all. Concerned citizens, thoughtful scholars, inspired activists, and random passerby are strongly encouraged to avail themselves of the opportunity to be moved, educated, and challenged by the space that productions like Antigone in Ferguson build for us.

Senior Spotlight: Stephen

Author: Megan Schaffner, junior

The Student 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, Megan Schaffner, a current junior in the Program, interviewed graduating senior, Stephen Lebak. Stephen is majoring in Mathematics and minoring in Computer Science.  He has been a dedicated member of the Fordham Pep Band since his freshman year and will begin an exciting job with Boeing after graduation this May. Within the Honors community, Stephen has become well-known and loved for his incredible baking.

Megan: Was there something that drew you to your major and minor?

Stephen: I did come in as a math major, but just as a math major. I had little to no interest in computer science [originally.]  When Fordham made my first semester schedule, they put me in an introductory Computer Science course… I had a really good professor and she got me interested in the material. I felt like I understood it and enjoyed it, so I kept taking classes and tacked on the minor.  I nearly switched to the major, but a lot of what makes computers run is based on linear algebra and math in the first place, so it seemed more logical for me to follow the math major.

Megan: I hear you will be working with Boeing after graduation.  I am curious to hear more about that.

Stephen: [My interest in them] is something that’s come up over the past couple of years.  The team I’ll be working on specifically programs flight simulations, which are then used to train air-force pilots.  A lot of jobs in the contracting/defense industry are perhaps not as ethical as one might hope. So, especially after coming out of a Jesuit school [where there is an emphasis placed on ethics and justice], I was lucky to find [a job aligned with those values].

Megan: And where will you be?

Stephen:  The job is in St. Louis.

Megan: Are you from around here?  

Stephen: Yes, I’m originally from Queens; I went to high school in New York and lived with my grandparents then.  Before that, I was in Boston, where my parents still are.

Megan: So is the move to St. Louis a daunting task for you or is it not too big of a deal?

Stephen: It depends on the day.  I will certainly say that sometimes it’s really exciting—I get to go to a new city, start from scratch.  On other days, I’ll ask [myself], “What am I getting myself into?” It basically is a full overhaul. I do know one person there, but that’s really it, so it will be completely new.  It’s exciting though; it should be fun.

Megan:  I’ve also been told that you’re quite the popular baker, so I was wondering if you’d want to talk a bit about that?

Stephen: [laughs]  Who told you that? Okay, so this goes back to my late high school days.  Every now and then I would bake cookies, except I lived with my grandparents and my grandfather immediately would go on a diet and my grandmother wouldn’t eat them either! And then I’d have all of these cookies.  So I would bring them to school, feed my lunch table, all that kind of stuff. That carried over to Fordham, [especially] last year and this year, since I live in an apartment where I have my own kitchen. It’s the same logic: I’ll make a batch of cookies and I can’t eat all of them.  So I go around, distribute them to friends, many of whom I have met through Honors, one way or another. It’s also a great way to see people and catch up, talk—and then they get a cookie out of that.

Megan:   Do you have a signature baked item?

Stephen: Yes, chocolate chip cookies are my signature.  Not particularly fancy, but a classic.

Megan: And well-loved by all!  So, in terms of Honors, do you have either a favorite thing about the program, or a favorite memory, looking back now that you’re just about done?

Stephen:  There’s definitely a few!  I would say the fact that you’ve got 13 kids per class, really.  The fact that you can have really close discussions in basically every single class because of that [is really special].  Also, the nature of the class brings everyone together really fast. By the end of the first year, my [cohort] was very tight-knit.

Megan: Yeah, that’s really great!  Do you have a favorite Honors professor?

Stephen: I have different ones for different reasons.  First semester, I absolutely loved Dr. Harry Nasuti. He’s wonderful.  He would tell us about back in the day when he was the director [of the Honors Program].  He told our class the first day, “These are going to be your best friends” and I told him two years later, “Dr. Nasuti, you were 100% right.”   

All [of the Honors professors] have been good—we’re talking about the best of the best of the best.  I had Professor Nick Paul for Medieval History and no matter what the subject was, he was able to make it fascinating.  The way he talked about everything would make it seem so interesting and you would get just as invested as he was in the subject

Megan: What’s one thing you’ll miss most about Fordham?

Stephen: I have thought about that one a little bit because Pep Band season just wrapped up.  The [women’s basketball team] won the A10, so we went to the NCAA tournament in Syracuse and that was basically my last game.  Other than Honors, Pep Band was a really good group for me; I met a lot of my close friends there. I’ll also miss the Honors Program.  I’ll miss having a community around me of people of that caliber of intelligence and being able to hold discussions with them about virtually anything—that’s going to be something that I don’t think I’ll be able to find outside of Fordham or really anywhere.  So I’ll certainly miss that.

In terms of what I’m excited about, I’m moving out to St. Louis and I’m starting from scratch.  I’m excited to start over and build up a great group around me, or try to! I think it’s something that certainly daunting as a task, but it’s one of the most rewarding things.  I’ve done it twice now—once in high school and once at Fordham—and it really is just so rewarding. And I think Fordham prepares you well to do that by teaching you to care for the whole person, teaching you how to think and connect, and giving you the knowledge base to be able to connect with other people.  It all prepares you well, and I think it’s prepared me well to do that [in St. Louis].

Honors at La Morada

Author: Jack McKernan, first-year student

Honors students at La Morada.

This past Wednesday, a group of Honors students and staff made the hike down from the Rose Hill campus to the Mott Haven neighborhood of the South Bronx to have some challenging discussions about the issues of gentrification and immigrant rights, as well as learn about how locals are fighting back. In the process, we got to enjoy a delicious meal at “La Morada,” where one can find New York’s best Oaxacan food, and some have said, the best Mexican food north of the border.

When you step off the Bx15 bus that takes Fordham students right from the Plaza to the doorstep of the restaurant, the first thing you notice is the message painted in bright red on the door: REFUGEES WELCOME. The folks at La Morada are not shy about their activism; rather, it is a core part of their identity. As legendary Fordham professor Dr. Mark Naison said, La Morada is “the center of immigration and anti-gentrification activism in the South Bronx.” In addition to serving food to the community, they hold workshops, fundraisers, and rallies to support their neighbors. When you enter the restaurant you’re immediately drawn to the various banners calling for an end to deportations and other criticisms of US foreign policy.

Some of the many flyers at La Morada’s entrance.

Their activism hasn’t gained them many fans in law enforcement, however. It came to a head on January 11, when Yajaira Saavedra, whose family owns and operates the restaurant, was arrested without warrant or stating probable cause by undercover NYPD as they attempted to carry out a sting operation against the restaurant. Saavedra was eventually released as community members crowded the 40th Precinct, but her upcoming court date means her status is still unstable. That hasn’t stopped her activism or her incredible spirit, as she took the moment to tell her story and the story of the restaurant to the Honors group, as well as indulge us in a selfie outside the restaurant.

Dark Chocolate Mole and Chicken, one of the five different mole dishes La Morada shared with us.

In addition to their activism, La Morada’s Oaxacan roots mean that they have a solid indigenous identity, and that was reflected in the fantastic meal served. Our main course featured five (!) different Moles, which doesn’t even comprise the entire selection offered on their menu. These were the capstone to a meal which already had us salivating with Guacamole, Rice and Beans, and Sopes, not to mention the various fresh juices and teas that were passed around. As she spoke at the end of our meal, Yajaira was sure to be clear that the delicious food  we had just enjoyed is culture that will be erased if the gentrification of “SoBro” or “The Piano District” (as it is somewhat ridiculously marketed by developers) is to continue.

Yajaira poses with Honors students waiting for the bus.

The main lesson learned from the experience– aside from where to take someone in dire need of good Mexican food– is that as Fordham students, we should be conscious of the impact we have on the communities and neighborhoods we interact with. We should step off our home neighborhood of Arthur Avenue to explore the rich diversity the Bronx has to offer and help to break down the psychological barrier between Fordham University and the community we are within.

Gathering with Honors Students Across the Country, United by Jesuit Mission

Authors: Megan Farr, first-year; Hannah Teligades, first-year; Andrew Souther, sophomore; Rachel Daso, sophomore

Often, when we think of Fordham’s Honors Program, we get so caught up in our specific program, curriculum, and community that we forget that we, as a Jesuit university, belong to a much larger network of other honors programs. A few weekends ago, we had the opportunity to travel to the American Jesuit Colleges and Universities Honors Conference at John Carroll University in Cleveland, Ohio.

Andrew, Rachel, Hannah and Megan at John Carroll University.

We spent the weekend being reminded of our interconnectedness and dependence on not only other Fordham Honors students, but also on other honors programs across the country. At the conference, various schools volunteered to lead discussions on their favorite aspects of their respective programs, so we could all learn from each other’s strengths.

We presented on our Student Activity Committee (SAC), which organizes student-led, Honors-specific activities and events throughout the school year. Several other honors programs shared that they struggled to create an honors community within their larger universities, and we felt like SAC offered a unique way to build community within Honors, but in a more social, rather than academic, setting. We focused on a few specific committees within SAC: Wellness, Alumni Relations, Recruiting, Alpha House Upkeep, and Bronx Exploration. Other schools were interested in how flexible and fluid our SAC committees are, and how easily students of all experiences, grade levels, and fields of interest get can involved. We learned from other programs’ presentations and brainstormed what we might like to incorporate into our own program in the future.

We also had a great time building community and getting to know each program through its students and their unique personalities. Besides the obvious common ground of being honors students at Jesuit schools, we found that many of us had taken similar classes and read similar materials, which gave us a starting point for conversations. Being in this conference environment gave us an opportunity to talk about serious topics, but also to have fun learning about different parts of the country and different schools. Not only did we learn about other programs, but we were able to build friendships with honors students from across the US.

Overall, our experience at AJCU gave us an opportunity to learn about other honors programs, brainstorm possible additions to Fordham’s Program, and further build our Jesuit community.

The Honors Student Fighting for a Sustainable Fordham

Author: Stephanie Albert, junior

Honors sophomore Gabby Perez is an Environmental Studies major and the United Student Government’s Sustainability Committee Chair. I sat down with her during the February 12th snowstorm to chat about Fordham and the Sustainability Committee’s efforts to make Fordham more sustainable.

Installation of the solar panels on the roof of Fordham’s parking garage.

As reported on the Fordham Changemaker’s blog “20% of Fordham’s energy is offset by a solar farm in Staten Island.” The University also runs partly on renewable energy from solar panels on top of the parking garage. Though the University has expressed concerns about the cost of solar panel installation in the past, the Climate Action Plan: 2018 Annual Executive Update released in July states that the University will annually save about $190,000 from solar panels installed on top of the parking garage, as well as the Staten Island Project. Both initiatives demonstrate that the University could save money in the long term despite the initial costs of switching to renewable energy.

The University has also made small steps towards becoming more sustainable all around campus. Gabby commented that tech recycling bins, which can be used to recycle electronic devices that were recently installed on campus are a very good measure to move towards being more sustainable. Some other examples include changing all of the light bulbs to LEDs, having water bottle refilling stations in a few locations on campus, and using paper bags in dining locations. Both New York City and universities at large are taking steps to minimize their environmental footprint; Fordham is joining them by continuing to make environmentally sustainable enhancements to the campuses. Though, there is more work to be done.

USG’s Sustainability Committee currently has a petition for Fordham to commit to 100% renewable energy by 2040. Two members of the Committee are working specifically on this campaign with Environment America, an organization that helps university groups press their administrations to move towards renewable energy. This partnership followed Environment America reaching out to the Sustainability Committee to expand their impact through connecting with more college campuses.This semester, the Committee is hoping to stage demonstrations and showcases on Eddie’s [the main green space on the Rose Hill campus] to inform the community about the dangers of fossil fuels and to try to persuade the University to move towards renewable energy. Gabby also shared that although they have a long way to go, the Sustainability Committee is looking to have the University divest from fossil fuels. This would mean that the University no longer invests money in the stock of fossil fuel companies. This is an aspect of the Transparency Initiative that aims to get the University to bring clarity about where the money from student tuition goes and be more specific in the breakdown of where money is spent when they release their financial report. Gabby cited an article from The Ram, the main Rose Hill newspaper, stating that $10,000 is spent on plastic utensils and plates per week each time the conveyer belt in the Marketplace, the major dining location on the Rose Hill campus, breaks down. The University could prevent this expense and be more environmentally friendly by finding a way around this solution to a recurring problem.

As for what students can do to be more environmentally friendly in their daily lives, Gabby says, “Buy less and take care of what you have. Overconsumption, especially in wealthier nations like the United States, is what fuels the environmentally-destructive and exploitative corporations that dominate today’s global capitalist system. Be a conscious consumer. Think about your connection to the people who make your products. Think about where your products will end up when you’re done with them. Your dollar is your vote; know that you as a consumer have so much power! The most sustainable thing to do in any situation is to use what you have. If you can’t do that, see what you can borrow. Only after you find you have no other options, buy something — but try to make the choice that will mean you won’t have to buy it again any time soon.”

Let’s hope that we can all can continue to look for ways to be more sustainable and to lessen our environmental footprint.

Professor Spotlight: Dr. Dana Miller

Recently, junior Matt Brewer had the opportunity to speak with Professor Dana Miller, who is known among current Honors students for his first-year Ancient Philosophy course. Professor Miller will remain a part of the Honors Program’s new curriculum, as he is set to teach the new Foundational Texts: Philosophy course this coming fall. During their conversation, Matt asked Professor Miller about his past, the Honors Program, and his current interests in philosophy.

Matt: How long have you been a professor in the Honors Program?

Prof. Miller: I have a syllabus from 1999, but I might have one from before that, I’m not sure. About twenty years.

Matt: What do you like most about the Honors Program?

Prof. Miller: Well, I like the seminar format. And, I like the fact that the students are engaged; they work hard, they actually do the reading, by and large. The students’ writing is almost always good. So it’s rewarding to teach Honors students because they’re smart, hard-working, interested, and interesting. I think that’s a big factor.

[pauses to think for a moment]

It is interesting to me, the fact that I get the incoming freshmen. It’s a plus and a minus. It’s a minus because it’s kind of my job to turn high school students into college students.

Matt: I think that’s why people remember your class, in particular. They go through that transition there.

Prof. Miller: That’s right. [laughs] I apply the iron to their flesh. I think that’s why.

Matt: Well, someone has got to do it.

Prof. Miller: That’s right, exactly. But, it’s also a good thing that [freshmen] haven’t really made up their minds, one way or another. A lot of people haven’t taken philosophy, so they haven’t been misinformed about philosophy. It’s harder to get ideas out of people’s heads than it is to get ideas into people’s heads. And so, it’s more of a blank slate and it’s a lot easier to write on a blank slate. And, I think incoming freshmen are more receptive.

Matt: Especially with all the disciplines and perspectives that you’re exposed to in the Honors Program.

Prof. Miller: Yeah, for sure. I also like the fact that I get to know basically everyone [in the Program]. And, if there are issues, then there’s somewhere to go to talk to, the leaders of the Program. So, there’s this oversight of the students as individuals that you don’t get in ordinary classes. By the end of the semester, I know people pretty well, and I think that’s a good thing. I think it allows more communication both ways.

I said at the beginning of the semester to the freshmen last year, don’t look at me or any of the other professors as replacement fathers or mothers. I’m not your father, but I am your friend. And, I’m here to try to be useful and helpful to you, but I’m not going to treat you in some kind of paternalistic way. You’re here for a purpose, and I’m going to fulfill that purpose.

Matt: Do any moments or memories stand out to you from Ancient Philosophy classes of the past?

Prof. Miller: Funny moments stand out for me. This one girl, she got one of these cards, right in the middle of the semester. [Former students of Professor Miller may recall his deck of playing cards, which he uses to randomly select a student to speak in the seminar]. And she yelled out an expletive! So that was pretty hilarious. [laughs] There was one student years ago, on a midterm, she drew on odd picture, so then, when I returned the midterm, I added to her picture. She kept that, and senior year, at the end of the year, she presented it at the Honors Banquet. That was funny.

Matt: Have you always studied philosophy?

Prof. Miller: So, I studied philosophy in undergraduate, and both Mary Callaway, [Honors first-year literature professor] and I went to undergraduate at St. John’s Annapolis. We were there at the same time, but I don’t think we were in the same year. So that was mostly philosophy. I found that really quite interesting, as we moved through the program, we took ancient, some medieval, then early modern. I never felt that I understood the ancients. Actually, I was pretty radical at that time, and I thought reason was the enemy of humanity. So I had to be persuaded that there was some purpose to it, that reason had some purpose; I should have been reading Hume. But then, after an entire year of that, I actually came around, and said, “well, yeah, I can see it.” Philosophy is all about reason and making rational sense of things, and after a year, I saw the point.

Matt: So philosophy has always been something you’ve been interested in?

Prof. Miller: Well, I was curious, but I didn’t really study it in a formal sense, I just studied it on my own. Then, I had this first year [at St. John’s], and I had read a lot of Nietzsche back then, that kind of stuff. So that was intellectual stimulation. I was also reading a lot of nineteenth-century French poetry, and a lot of literature, Joyce, lots of stuff, so I was filling my mind with all kinds of things. So I got into it in college, but then I felt that I never really understood the Greeks, and then after college, I decided I had to figure out what I was going to do.

Matt: Did you have other jobs after college, before you entered academia?

Prof. Miller: Yeah, I had a few jobs and they were enjoyable, but they weren’t using my mind. I had done tree-work for quite a bit, and I enjoyed it, but, tree-work is not a job for old men. [laughs] So, I tried a bunch of other things, and said, what am I going to do? So, I decided to go back to school. I went to Boston University to get an MA, and then I got into Harvard and got another MA there, and by that time I was already interested in the ancients again — ancient Greece, the classics. Then I got kind of bored with the classics. It’s wonderful literature, but if you really study it professionally, nobody asks the question, “why?” It’s always “that,” right? So, you’re looking at a text, and you try to figure out the grammar, and you try to figure out what they say, and once you’ve done that, you’re done. There’s no attempt to take it deeper, to get beyond what’s there on the page, and that got pretty tedious to me in a hurry.

Matt: So, are your research interests now exclusively in ancient philosophy?

Prof. Miller: Not exclusively. What I’m really interested in now is the intersection between philosophy and neuroscience; so philosophy of perception, connections to skepticism. I’m currently working on a project that has to do with an interesting question in neuroscience, [whether consciousness is multisensory or unisensory]. Interestingly enough, Aristotle spends quite a long time wrestling with this very same problem, and he’s got some very, very very complicated discussions of this in one of his treatises. So, I’m spending time trying to see where Aristotle might be situated in this contemporary debate. That’s the kind of thing I’m interested in: bringing [ancient philosophy] into what we’re thinking about now, rather than it being an historical inquiry. There’s no difference between a fifth-century Greek and me with respect to perception. So, it’s perfectly sensible to look to see if there are links between their perception of what’s going on and our perception of what’s going on.

Matt: Do you have a favorite philosopher?

Prof. Miller: Yeah, I’d say Hume. When I read Hume, I just laugh, and laugh. He has a fantastic sense of humor, and he’s so radical, and he’s radical in this twisted way, with a smile and a twinkle in his eye; it’s like he has a knife, and he takes hold, and he keeps twisting it. He’s not entirely right; I think he’s starting from assumptions that I think aren’t quite defensible, but that’s what people thought in the day, and what he does with that, is unbelievable. And, he was right about a whole lot of things. His primary arguments and primary positions are still valid today. The guy was a genius, and on top of that, a wonderful writer. It’s such a joy to read his philosophical works. I like good philosophy in general, Plato obviously, Aristotle obviously, but Hume is special. Maybe it’s easy to read because it’s English; with Plato and Aristotle, you have to dive back into the Greek.

Matt: In closing, is there anything you’d like to say about the Honors Program?

Prof. Miller: Teaching three classes back-to-back is tough. It involves the same preparation, but people don’t realize how much effort is involved in making a seminar work. You’re at maximum level of attention, trying to hold things together, and trying to get people to understand things. That’s a lot of nervous energy poured into every class. So, it’s a commitment. But it seems to me that the quality of the Program comes from the students, and how much they put into it, and that’s why I like it. If I didn’t enjoy the students, then I wouldn’t be in the Program.

Matt Brewer and the Honors Program thank Professor Miller for his time and for the insightful answers he provided for this interview.

Senior Spotlight: Andrew & Kacie

Author: Megan Schaffner, junior

After meeting through the Rose Hill Honors Program, seniors Kacie Candela and Andrew Seger started working together on their WFUV podcast, Prickly Politics. The podcast covers a range of topics, providing crucial information for the everyday listener to become an informed voter in New York elections.  With two complete seasons, Prickly Politics has gained attention and traction, receiving shout-outs from multiple New York reporters and WFUV alumni. Kacie and Andrew recently spoke to me about the podcast’s beginnings, both past and future projects, and how their work on Prickly Politics has shaped their experiences in Honors.

Q: Can you introduce us to the podcast?

Kacie: The podcast is called Prickly Politics– prickly like a cactus. It started two years ago and I was one of the original co-hosts. Andrew came on for the second season, and we were covering Mayor De Blasio’s 2017 election for his second term. Then this last election season, we covered the midterms in New York, focusing on Governor Cuomo’s race, the Democratic Primary with Cynthia Nixon, the Attorney General race — which was a surprise race because Schneiderman had to step down last year –and other crazy midterm and state legislature [elections].

Q: So how did the podcast get started? Kacie, you said you were an original member?

Kacie: We definitely saw a need at the [WFUV] station for a politics podcast, because a lot of our day-to-day coverage, which Andrew and I have been doing for years, is day-of or  day-to-day press conferences. It’s not really a zoomed-out guide for voters to be educated moving into an election season. So, for example, if you care about the environment, [we cover] what you need to know about the candidates’ stances on the environment for you to be an educated voter. We spent an entire episode talking about that, talking about the [environmental] issues in New York state, and talking to a Green Party candidate.

Andrew: I think the big idea was to be a go-to resource for all things on the election, whereas if we were doing day-of reporting on, say, Governor Cuomo talking about an issue, this kind of [big picture] stuff gets swept under the news cycle. [We wanted to have], like Kacie said, episodes devoted to topics, [such as] months of a candidate’s policy stances and speeches — just being able to be the resource for people wanting to know what’s going on in the election.

Kacie: It’s for the everyday person. A lot of talk shows are geared towards insiders who are following the day to day, political nitty-gritty, and we were hoping to reach a wider audience of people who may not know anything about local politics and just want to be able to make a good decision on election day.

Q: Has the podcast grown or changed in any ways you weren’t expecting?

Andrew: I think we got a solid following this season. That didn’t [necessarily] surprise me, but I was impressed by how much of a reach we had and how many influential reporters or political heads listened to us. We got a lot of shout-outs on Twitter from big New York politics reporters. Scott Detrow,  a WFUV alum and the NPR congressional correspondent, is a big deal and for him to shout us out on Twitter, it’s a really rewarding feeling to know that people are listening and people are taking stuff away from this.

Kacie: And on that note, FUV has provided us with a network of really amazing, supportive reporters who have maybe stayed in New York, maybe went national, who want to support people who work at FUV and our work.  We’ve had a handful of FUV alums who are still covering New York politics join us on the show about what they’re covering right now. Having their support, their Twitter retweets, things like that, has made us feel like we’re part of this wider community.

Q: Has being involved in this podcast shaped any of your course decisions or the way you approach Honors course readings or classwork?

Andrew: Actually yes! It’s been very helpful tying in current events to different course topics, especially studying the Modern period [in the Honors curriculum]. For example, in an economics and ethics class with Professor Mary Beth Combs we focused on contemporary issues that we know are affecting New York. Or, in [our modern religion class], knowing what’s going on in New York’s Jewish community and the political turmoil surrounding that. In the craziest circumstances, I can say “Oh, this is going on in New York right now!” and it relates so perfectly to what we’re talking about in classes now at the end of the Honors curriculum.

Kacie: I have a lot of distinct memories of incorporating things that I’ve experienced working at FUV in my Honors classes and I think that more than half the time, the professor [had no idea].  It’s so interdisciplinary because the things we learn about in Honors are applicable to Society [as a concept], and things we cover at FUV are societal problems of poverty, healthcare, immigration and education [at a local level]. Things that we’ve learned about in a global, historical context still relate to New York.

Q: What’s next for Prickly Politics?

Andrew: So we’re working on a new season of the podcast which is a little different than the way the other two have worked. They’ve been elections and political coverage, and now we’re doing a deep-dive investigative series into the problem of sexual harassment and misconduct in Albany. Within the State Senate and Assembly, there’s historically been this culture and tolerance of corruption and misconduct, so we’re doing a little bit historical, but mostly recent, overview talking with survivors who have lived through this harrassment, either in Albany or in different district offices around New York City and New York state.  We have already talked to legislators who have served alongside these perpetrators and [we are hoping to] also talk to new faces who are bring change to the issue — either new politicians who are entering their first time in office or advocates who are taking a stand against the sexual harassment in Albany.

Kacie: The incidents we are looking at are from the last 20 years or so, basically the start of the century until now.  Some things have changed, but some things haven’t, and our hope for the project is that we can shine a light on how the institution of the New York State Legislature and ethics bodies have really failed survivors of workplace harassment and misconduct and how efforts at reform have been successful thus far, looking to the future. It’s probably my favorite thing I’ve ever worked on – and that’s saying something because I love covering elections.

Andrew: We’re looking forward to it! It’s exciting, but there’s still a lot of work to be done.

Kacie Candela is an IPE (International Political Economy) double major and Philosophy minor.  She will be attending law school after graduation.

Andrew Seger is an IPE major and Philosophy minor. He hopes that his two past internships at CNN will help him land a job there in May and plans to pursue a career in news production.


Check out all of the Prickly Politics podcasts on their website (https://pricklypolitics.atavist.com/) and follow them on Twitter @pricklypodcast!

Engineers Without Borders: An Honors Duo’s Trip to Uganda

Author: Stephanie Albert, junior

Honors students Kelsey Vinzant ‘20 and Meg Whelan ’21 first connected with each other through the Honors Mentorship Program, which pairs incoming Honors students with upperclassman peers. In one of their first conversations, Kelsey mentioned her involvement with Fordham’s chapter of Engineers Without Borders (EWB), which has since become another shared experience for the pair.

Kelsey, the current president of the club says, “At Fordham, EWB is a group of students of many disciplinary backgrounds and we are partnered with a community in Uganda through an NGO there called “Selocoffi” which stands for Serere Local Community Fish Farming Initiative. Through their partnership, we are linked to communities that are interested in building fish farms. Our task is to visit and survey land, then design a suitable fish farm for their community.” Thus far, the Fordham chapter of EWB has successfully built two fish farms.

This past August, Kelsey and Meg, along with several other Fordham participants, visited their partner community in Uganda. The trip lasted for 10 days and involved almost 48 hours of travel to get from the United States to the small villages in Uganda. The main purpose of their trip was to oversee construction to make sure things were going well. Three people who went on the trip were very involved technically so they could help with any issues or any necessary deviations from their designs that arose. They also met with the community to sign contracts and assign roles, such as a security guard, for the new fish farm. The Fordham group also was able to briefly look at land for a new breeding center project location, which is the third stage of Fordham’s EWB project. It will allow the club to have a more widespread impact because more Ugandans will have access to the center, making the project more sustainable for the communities. The Fordham students were also able to go visit a full-scale fish farm that is funded by numerous organizations including the UN, so they were able to get to see how a larger-scale project operated and what their project could possibly grow into in the future.

While visiting, the group stayed at the home of the man who operates Selocoffi. “His family was really wonderful and his daughter Lucy was always cooking for us and bringing out these amazing meals.” “The trip didn’t seem as busy [while we were there] but looking back on it, we were able to do quite a lot.”

Both Meg and Kelsey noted that community interactions were the most memorable parts of the trip. A particularly special interaction was meeting the Ugandan students who benefit from the portion of farm proceeds that goes to local education and healthcare initiatives.  They interacted with the students by exchanging language lessons — the Fordham students shared some English phrases with the kids, who then taught them some words in Ateso, their native dialect. This was Meg’s first ever trip abroad, so a lot stood out to her but learning about the culture of the people they were visiting was the most impactful.

For each Fordham EWB delegation, there are a few students who have participated in previous visits. Their leadership helps facilitate introductions and interactions with their host community. The most rewarding aspect of the trip was the meeting with the host community because they presented gifts to the returning Fordham delegates. “We have an adult professional engineer who travels with us and they gave him a live chicken which is a big deal,” shared Kelsey.

In reflecting on taking this trip with her Honors mentor, Meg spoke about how grateful she was to have Kelsey to help orient her in addition to orienting the whole group. The last three presidents of EWB have been Rose Hill Honors students and numerous other members of the club have also been Honors students. Although there were cultural and communication barriers as well as a variety of stakeholders for the Fordham team to coordinate with, Meg and Kelsey used the skills they’d learned around the Honors seminar table to discern when to speak up and when to listen, in order to collaborate well for this global partnership.

SAC Showcase: Bronx Music Heritage Tour

Author: Kelsie O’Leary, sophomore

Three years ago, the Honors Program initiated a student-led advisory board to assist in creating co- and extra-curricular programming. Since then, the Student Activity Council has developed into a ten-committee organization with focuses varying from Arts & Entertainment to Community Engagement & Social Justice. Last year, in an effort to encourage students to learn more about history and culture in the local neighborhoods, the Bronx Culture Committee was formed.

This month, Bronx Culture Committee Chair Kelsie O’Leary (‘21) organized an opportunity for Honors students to visit the Bronx Music Heritage Center (BMHC). The students enjoyed a walking tour around the Crotona Park East neighborhood led by Co-Artistic Director of BMHC, Elena Martinez, where they learned about the rich history of hip-hop and jazz music in the Bronx.

The Honors students with Bronx Music Heritage Center staff members,Elena Martinez and Bobby Sanabria.

The Heritage Center is located near many historical areas of the Bronx, including Charlotte Street. The opening scene of the controversial 1981 film, Fort Apache the Bronx, was shot right outside its door. The film depicted the Bronx as a hostile, crime-ridden borough, and community members fought against this negative portrayal during the film’s production. Despite their protests, the film was still released. Stereotypes, like the ones in the movie, are still being combated by the Bronx community today.

A photo of the protests that students were shown on the tour

After the tour, students saw inside the Heritage Center, where a dance class had just finished. The current exhibit, titled #papielmaestro, displayed a series of photographs of musician Ray Santos, documented by his daughter. The other BMHC Co-Artistic Director, Bobby Sanabria, spoke with the Honors students about the current programs and events offered at the Heritage Center, including dance and music classes, poetry nights, live performances, film screenings, and more.

Overall, the trip was great and the students learned a lot from Elena and Bobby. The Bronx Music Heritage Center is an amazing organization that everyone should visit if they have the opportunity!

Honors Summer Internship Fellows: Kat

**This is the final post in a series of four posts written by the Summer 2018 Honors Internship Fellows. The students received a stipend that enabled them to work at non-profit organizations for the common good.**

Author: Kat Martucci, senior

Summer Internship Fellow Kat with one of her students.

This summer, I was awarded an Honors Summer Internship Fellowship to be an Education Intern at Children of Promise, NYC (CPNYC). The experience was challenging, unpredictable, and often times exhausting – but more than anything, it filled my summer with incredible joy and love.

Last year, I attended the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities (AJCU) Honors Conference as a representative of the FCRH Honors Program. There, I participated in a teach-in on criminal justice and spoke with both currently and formerly incarcerated people. The teach-in sparked a desire in me to further learn about and work towards criminal justice reform.

Because of this, I was instantly drawn to Children of Promise. CPNYC aims “to embrace children of incarcerated parents and empower them to break the cycle of intergenerational involvement in the criminal justice system.”  Its innovative model of a combined after-school/summer camp program and mental health clinic provides children with holistic support and exciting opportunities.

Throughout the summer, I could be found in many different roles. Primarily, I led a ‘Science Club’ for groups of 8 and 9 year-olds. Other days, I helped with ‘Read-aloud’ for 6 and 7 year olds, accompanied children on trips throughout New York City, and directed volunteers at CPNYC’s Saturday Resource Center. Regardless of the role I was in, every day I developed relationships with the children and grew to love their unique traits and bold attitudes.

Although my internship has formally ended, my relationship with CPNYC has not. I plan to volunteer there during the school year and am currently helping to design and implement a youth Council of Promise to provide leadership opportunities for the children.

2.7 million children in the nation, and 105,000 children in New York State, have a parent in prison. CPNYC is the beginning of a movement to support these children, whom the odds are against, and create opportunities for them to succeed.

For me, this internship has emphasized the importance of building relationships with the individuals who are affected first-hand by issues of injustice. In becoming a part of their community, their struggle becomes my struggle, and I am all the more committed to a career in solidarity with these communities.

Thank you to the FCRH Honors Program and its donors for this fellowship as well as the opportunity to attend the 2017 AJCU Honors Conference. These experiences have been critical in my formation at Fordham, and I so grateful for the continued support of the Honors Program as I enter my final year at Fordham.