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.

Senior Spotlight: Kristen Cain

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 Kristen Cain, a senior International Studies major with a concentration in the Middle East and North Africa.

G: Where are you from?

K: The Poughkeepsie area [of New York].

Kristen in Morocco last spring.

G: So I know that you were just abroad.  Do you plan on travelling more?

K: I traveled abroad last spring in Morocco, which was perfect since I study both French and Arabic.  It was my first time travelling out of the country. I got lots of practice interning at a refugee organization and teaching English classes, which was really cool. I just found out last week that I got accepted into the Peace Corps, so I’ll be in Morocco for another two years working in youth development, teaching English classes, running after school programs, summer camps, and depending on the area, running some female empowerment programs as well.

G: Was there anything from Honors that came to mind when you were in Morocco?

K: Having a small community of thirty people in the program and classes that all relate like our interdisciplinary schedule reminded me of Honors. The other students were mostly American and there was one other Fordham student, but some were from China and Germany as well.

 G: Is there anything that you brought back that you really loved from Morocco?

K: I got really into their mint tea. Not just the tea itself, but the culture. Sitting and having tea with people is such a good way to get to know them. I’ve definitely been trying more Mediterranean stuff like couscous. I really didn’t know what I wanted to do before I went, and once I was there I got really interested in refugees, so I decided to write my thesis on it along with youth development and education. Most of the refugees are from West Africa and Sub Saharan Africa, and the government wasn’t really receptive to them; most of them were homeless or living in crowded apartments, whis is obviously not a great environment.

G: Are you still interested in refugee resettlement?

K: I’m interning at the International Rescue Committee, working in refugee resettlement, working with refugees coming into the U.S. They have offices throughout the country, and we help them their first 90 days, enrolling in food stamps, SNAP benefits, and trying to find apartments in New York. It’s not a great program, but its better than what they have in Morocco. I get to use my language skills, which is cool since I haven’t been able to practice since being in Morocco.

G: What will you miss about Honors?

K: I definitely like the community, especially freshman and sophomore year when we all spent so much time together. Every seminar class was people you knew, so you felt more comfortable talking to people.

G: Has there been any teacher that has had a big impact on you?

K: There’s been a lot of really good professors. From freshman year, definitely Professor McGowan.  I feel like everyone says their Ancient Literature professor is the best, but he can truly make any topic interesting.

G: Do you have a favorite memory from Honors?

K: I loved going to the Classics Halloween party with my class freshmen year; I dressed up as Athena.  At the same party, Devin D’Agostino came in a blow up T-Rex costume—which he’s worn multiple times—and put a Greek robe over it to be Oedipus Rex.

Senior Spotlight: Onjona Hossain

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, Gigi Speer, a current sophomore in the Program, interviewed graduating senior, Onjona Hossain. Onjona is a biology and philosophy double major in the Honors Program.  She is currently preparing for medical school and has a plethora of different achievements. I interviewed her to learn more about these accomplishments, in addition to the many other things she’s done with her time here at Fordham.

Onjona Hossain, Honors Class of 2020

Gigi: What has been your favorite Honors memory?

Onjona: My favorite Honors memory is the freshman Scavenger Hunt in Central Park. As a native New Yorker, I had no idea about all the different sights to see at Central Park and so it was nice to finally get to explore my city. It was also a great opportunity to get out of my comfort zone and spend the day with other Honors students who I had never spoken to before. It was also fun because I love competition and this event brought out all of our competitiveness.

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

Onjona: Through International Samaritan, a non-profit, Jesuit organization, I volunteered as an EMT in Guatemala on a medical mission the summer after my freshmen year. As a volunteer, I helped organize a makeshift clinic including a triaging station, physician consult area, pharmacy, and distribution center. I also spent time as a medical scribe to Guatemalan and American physicians to improve efficiency. This allowed me to learn from two unique cultural and practical approaches to medicine. My time in Guatemala reignited my passion to provide medical care to those underserved and taught me that basic treatments can make huge impacts on others’ wellbeing and health. I was so inspired my trip, I began a subchapter of International Samaritan at Fordham for other students to participate in. 

I also really enjoyed my Patient Advocacy Volunteer in Emergency Research Services (PAVERS) internship. As a patient advocate for the Emergency Department at Manhattan’s Bellevue Hospital, I aided physicians and nurses in patient transport and care, observed initial assessment of patients in the ER and interacted with patients as they awaited treatment. When I wasn’t making beds, distributing blankets and food, I found myself engaging in conversations with patients about not only their complaints and illnesses but also their personal lives and backgrounds, which not surprisingly often influenced the reasons for which they were seeking care. 

Gigi: What have you enjoyed getting involved in on-campus at Fordham?

For the second straight year, I am the Editor-in-Chief of the Fordham Undergraduate Research Journal (FURJ). After being a Peer Review Staff member and Peer Review Editor, I wanted to become Editor-in-Chief to channel my creativity and take initiative in sharing research and knowledge. In 2018, I became the first junior to become Editor-in-Chief of FURJ and, under my leadership, this year FURJ published two volumes in print for the first time, a testament to its growing demand.

I am also the President of the Minority Association for Pre-Medical Students (MAPS). MAPS increases minority matriculation into professional health-related programs. Through my leadership role in MAPS, I solidified my commitment to encouraging diversity in the health professions. I always admired diversity of health professionals, but now I actively promote and increase it. 

Gigi: How have you grown as a person throughout your time in the Honors Program?

Onjona: Majoring in biology was an easy choice, but it was not until my second semester in the Honors Program that I chose to add a major in philosophy. Ancient Philosophy was my most difficult course, but I felt intellectually challenged, and I knew discomfort meant that I was learning. I chose philosophy to further enrich my perspective on the world and to question my pre-existing ideas. In addition, being part of the Honors Program allowed me to explore courses in the humanities as they relate to all topics, even medicine. Reading authors like James Baldwin helped me recognize my passion for literature. I make the most of my Jesuit education at Fordham through leadership, volunteer work, discourse, and giving back. At Fordham, I reaffirmed my passion for medicine and am becoming the best version of myself. The Jesuits emphasize education and commitment to giving back to the underserved. I carry out this mission as I serve my community as an EMT on campus, a peer mentor for freshmen at the pre-health symposium, and as an educator at Khan’s Tutorial. I hope to practice patient-centered care with the mission of relieving human suffering which is in line with the Jesuit tradition of Cura Personalis and caring for the whole person. In my career as a physician, I will continue to be a woman for others and cultivate the Jesuit values and traditions of service through discovery, wisdom and education. At Fordham, I learned the importance of self-reflection and caring for the whole individual, qualities I will continue to cultivate as a practicing physician.

Gigi: Which Honors professor made the biggest impact on you?

Onjona: Professor Mary Callaway made a great impact on me because she changed the way I viewed my entire college education and experience. She taught me that college doesn’t just give us the tools to engage in civil discourse and live a successful life, but this is exactly what life is all about, engaging in civil discourse with others whether it be in an interdisciplinary seminar or a casual conversation with a peer. It changed my perspective on my education. College was not merely a stepping stone, but an end in its own right.

Gigi: What will you miss most about Honors?

Onjona: I will miss Alpha House the most. As a commuter, I really appreciated having 24/7 access to Alpha. I remember on overnight FUEMS shifts, I would camp out in Alpha House. It’s always nice to intermingle with other Honors kids there as well.

Gigi: Is there anyone you would like to shoutout?

Onjona: I would like to give a shoutout to Honors Program Director Dr. Eve Keller for seeing potential in me from even before we officially met.

Senior Spotlight: Rosie McCormack

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, Gigi Speer, a current sophomore in the Program, interviewed graduating senior, Rosemarie (“Rosie”) McCormack. Rosie is an International Political Economy (IPE) major with a double minor in English and Peace and Social Justice.  Rose is a senior in the Honors Program and is currently a Strategic Planning & Policy intern at the New York County District Attorney’s Office. She was interviewed by Gigi Speer (Honors sophomore) for this post.

Rosie McCormack, Honors Class of 2020

Gigi: What has been your favorite Honors memory?

Rosie: I was in Gabelli [Business School] during my first year, so I joined Honors as a sophomore. My favorite memory is from Early Modern History when Professor Myers jumped up on the table and sang every single verse of Ghost Riders in the Sky by Johnny Cash. Devin D’Agostino, dressed in an inflatable T-Rex costume, jumped up and joined him for the last chorus (it was Halloween). 

A less silly favorite memory is when Dustin Partridge took the Honors Science I students to the green roof of the Javits Center – it was a cool thing to see. 

Gigi: Which Honors professor has made the most impact on you?

Rosie: Susan Greenfield is probably my favorite professor at Fordham. I had her for Early Modern Literature, and I loved her teaching style. She reminds me a lot of my favorite English teacher from high school, and she’s one of the few teachers I’ve had who I felt really pushed my writing to be better. I took her Homelessness service-learning class last spring, and it was my favorite class in the past 4 years (take it!). She’s on sabbatical this year, and I’m so excited to be working as her research assistant while she’s working on other projects. 

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

Rosie: My favorite internship is the one I have right now, as a Strategic Planning & Policy intern at the New York County District Attorney’s Office. A few years ago, New York County received criminal forfeiture funds from some foreign banks on Wall Street, and DA Vance decided to use the funds to start the Criminal Justice Investment Initiative (CJII), which increases community and alternative-to-incarceration programs in New York to help keep people out of the criminal system. The SPP office runs that initiative. I spend a lot of time researching the progress of current programs (like the progress states have made on testing their rape kit backlogs) and writing literature reviews to help develop future programs (like a program to support sex-trafficked NYC youth). It’s really cool to work for the government but be a part of trying to reform the system, rather than just being a cog in the machine of prosecution. 

I’m involved in a lot of areas on & off-campus! My main activities at Fordham include serving as Vice President of the Humanitarian Student Union and co-founding and leading the Our Story program, which is a student storytelling event. I also do work-study in Fr. McShane’s office and have been an Urban Plunge Leader throughout my time at Fordham.

Gigi: Do you have any favorite authors?

Rosie: Some of my favorite authors are Barbara Kingsolver and Anne Lamott!  I also really like Abraham Verghese, Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche, John Boyne, although I admit I’ve only read one of each of their books…

Gigi: Anything you still want to try/change in the Honors Program, Fordham, or New York City in general?

Rosie: I wish I could have been a part of the new, justice-based Honors curriculum! Learning more about social justice has been a huge part of my Fordham experience, and I think it’s so cool that Honors has taken up that banner in a substantial way. I hope Fordham will always educate students to think critically about systems of oppression and work as an institution to better the New York City community.

Gigi: What will you miss most about Honors?

Rosie: I will miss being around other students who are motivated. In some non-Honors classes, I feel like there are only one or two students who you could count on to be present and participate, and in Honors almost everyone had something they wanted to contribute. 

Study Abroad Spotlight: Literature and Theology in Dublin, Ireland

Author: Ashley Conde, junior

This past fall I had the privilege of studying abroad at Trinity College Dublin. There, I encountered a rich and fascinating academic environment. During my time at Trinity, I discussed controversial literary theories in class, learned to encode texts, and even had a pint with a former president of Ireland. Trinity is widely regarded as one of Ireland’s most prestigious universities and I was initially nervous about taking upper-level classes there. I soon found that my time in the Honors Program prepared me well for my courses. 

Trinity College’s “Long Room” library, which houses the Book of Kells, the 1916 Proclamation of the Irish Republic, and the Guinness harp.

I took two advanced (called “sophister” by the university) English courses— “Digital Humanities Now” and “Hamlet in Theory”— and two theology courses— “Jewish Thought and Practice” and “Imagining Moses and the Exodus in the Arts.” Each class was around 12 students– the same size as my Honors seminar classes– and I was often the only visiting student in my class. I enjoyed all my classes thoroughly and appreciated how the small class sizes fostered better class discussions.

“Hamlet in Theory” was both the most difficult and rewarding of my classes at Trinity. Each class meeting reminded me of Dr. Miller’s Honors Philosophy course, with students scrambling to copy the professor’s words verbatim. I made an effort to participate in each class (even after my traumatic experience of offering a misreading of Walter Benjamin) and attended office hours in preparation for my final 20-page paper (upon which my entire grade was based). Going to office hours is a common practice at Fordham, and especially in Honors, but I was surprised to hear from my Trinity professor that I was one of the only students to consult him before the final was due. 

Being in a foreign academic environment made me appreciate the skills and study habits the Honors Program has instilled in me. My discussion-based Honors classes empowered me to be vocal in my Trinity classes. Honors’ rigorous curriculum, furthermore, taught me to be proactive in seeking help from professors. 


Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland, popularized by Game of Thrones.

Now that I am back at Rose Hill, I plan to integrate my readings from “Hamlet in Theory” into a potential topic for my Honors Senior Thesis topic. I was particularly interested in critiquing Jean-Françis Lyotard’s reading of Hamlet. During office hours at Trinity, my professor informed me that my paper idea would likely exceed 20 pages and encouraged me to write a thesis on it in the future. 

Honors Students Attend Humanism and Self-Respect Conference

Authors: Sophie Cote and Charlotta Lebedenko, sophomores

Thanks to the Ambassadorial Grant opportunity offered by the Honors Program, we were able to attend the Humanism and Self-Respect conference hosted by Periyar International and the American Humanist Association in Maryland. Humanism is an international movement dedicated to promoting secular values and the pursuit of truth through scientific empiricism. Our passion for humanism was largely inspired by the conversations and lively debates we had in many of our Honors classes, such as Ancient Philosophy with Professor Miller and Medieval Theology with Professor Davis, where we were able to hear a diverse selection of views on topics such as ethics and religion. The chance to meet speakers from around the world dedicated to humanism provided us with the invaluable opportunity to learn and network. This conference, which placed a significant emphasis on Periyar and the humanist “Self-Respect Movement” in India, expanded our previously narrow views on humanism in the world. We had not imagined that there would be such strong, established communities of humanists in other countries such as India, and having the opportunity to meet members of that community gave us new perspectives that we will implement into our own secular experience and journey at Fordham. In addition to spreading awareness about the Periyar movement in India, the conference hosted passionate speakers from the American Humanist Association and a group of secular activists and authors from Germany. We had many opportunities to speak with these prominent members of the humanist community, some of whom actually live in New York, which has provided us with a strong, lasting network of secular leaders throughout the world. 

Ryan Bell of Secular Student Alliance with Honors students Charlotta and Sophie.

We are currently in the final steps of starting a chapter of the Secular Student Alliance here at Fordham. This organization provides a community for atheists and agnostic students on college campuses. We feel that the presence of a secular club on campus, especially at this religiously-affiliated school, will provide a safe space for students who may feel that their religious views are a minority on this campus as well as allow students who may be questioning their religious identities to explore free of judgment. There is a pressing urgency to shatter the stigmas surrounding the truly harmless titles of “atheist” or “humanist,” and we believe it is beyond important that secular students have a safe space and a platform to explore their own views just like any religious student would have access to. At the conference, we were able to meet Ryan Bell, the National Organizing Manager of Secular Student Alliance. He is the creator of the podcast “Letting Go of God” and is an author at the Huffington Post. Ryan gave us valuable advice on how to make our new chapter engaging and meaningful on a campus that desperately needs it.

As students deeply invested in the humanist cause, this conference provided an opportunity for us to meet other humanists and learn about the different ways to get involved in secular issues. We will apply the lessons we learned at this conference to our roles as leaders of the Secular Student Alliance at Fordham.