A Trip to Carnegie Hall: “America in Weimar: On the Margins”

Author: Olivia Griffin, junior

This March, the Fordham Honors Program funded a small student group to view Carnegie Hall’s performance of “America in Weimar: On the Margins” by the American Composer’s Orchestra. As a member of the Cherokee Nation, and a student from Oklahoma, I petitioned for this concert trip because of its important representation of contemporary Indigenous Classical music through family friend Jerod Tate’s performance. Two other students, Natalie and Andy, came with me to view the performance, and I’m so grateful I was able to share this unique musical experience with them. 

Olivia, Natalie, and Andy with Jerod Impichchaachaaha’ Tate

The theme of the concert, “America in Weimar,” provided an eclectic and diverse selection of music. The Weimar era, which was roughly 1918 to 1933, revolutionized a new musical style in an “experimental laboratory” of sound that transformed classical music. Black American music influenced the region, particularly by artists like Duke Ellington, who brought jazz into conversation with European classical composers. The first few songs of the concert focused on songs from this era; for example, George Antheil’s A Jazz Symphony, Duke Ellington’s Sophisticated Lady and Solitude, and a jazz opera- The Threepenny Opera. After intermission, the concert shifted thematically towards contemporary American music inspired by Weimar. Tonia Ko premiered her piece Her Land, Expanded, which was inspired by Swiss church bells and featured a video of jungle foliage. However, the finale was my favorite performance, as it resonated with my roots in Oklahoma and championing Indigenous culture.

Jerod Impichchaachaaha’ Tate, a family friend of mine from Oklahoma, had his New York premiere of “Clans” from his Lowak Shoppala‘ album. Tate is a Chickasaw classical composer who is extremely innovative in his expression of native culture through the Western music tradition. The Washington Post has selected him as “22 for ‘22: Composers and Performers to watch this year” and he is a Cultural Ambassador for the U. S. Department of State. His performance was a reimagined ancestral meeting of the Chickasaw animal clans: Bird (Foshi ̍), Alligator (Acho’chaba’), Squirrel (Fani’), Skunk (Koni), Panther (Kowishto’ Losa’), and Raccoon (Shawi’). Each clan was represented through a model wearing Chickasaw regalia designer Margaret Wheeler’s creations. It was incredible to see Jerod and his son on stage performing, and the audience thought so too as they erupted into a five minute-long standing ovation for him. I was filled with pride at seeing an audience full of fellow natives, including members of the Chickasaw legislature! We mingled with audience members after the show and heard from the organizers of the American Composer’s Orchestra. Overall, it was an honor to represent Fordham at this hub of new culture and music. Thank you to Dr. Meneses and the Fordham administration who made this opportunity possible! 

Honors Summer Internship Fellow: Andres

Author: Andres Caballero, sophomore

This summer, I had the opportunity to intern at Jonas Bronck Academy (JBA), a middle school located in the Bronx, through the non-profit Friends of JBA (FOJBA) because of the generous fellowship grant given to me by the Honors Program. As a psychology major, I aim to help others through personal connections and advocating for mental health. After a whole academic year of helping out my mentee at JBA through the mentorship program offered through the Honors Program, I knew I wanted to keep impacting students’ lives in the summer.

The mission of FOJBA is to enhance the academic and social-emotional growth of JBA scholars, which was certainly something I wanted to be part of. My time during the internship was divided into three main tasks:

  • Working with my mentee and other students during summer school.
  • Researching and planning ideas that could be implemented in the school.
  • Planning long-term ideas to collect donations for the organization.

During the first three weeks of the internship, much of my focus was on writing documents of ideas I wanted to implement in the school; one could say “proposals” in some way. The three papers I spent most of my time writing about involved mindfulness, meditation, and journaling; implementing positive habit formation; and a college preparation program for the future high school.

I also helped with researching companies we could contact and apply for funds, prepared and sent emails, and brainstormed and planned ideas that could be executed within the school to raise money. It is essential to establish long-term partnerships and school fundraiser ideas that bring a satisfactory amount of money for expenditures within the school that could be used, such as for the future college preparation program.

The work I have mentioned above is most of the work I have done behind the scenes. The other part of the internship was working with the kids during summer school, which was my favorite part. Seeing the students making progress daily was very satisfactory. After the internship, seeing my work over the summer was very fulfilling. I am very grateful for the Honors Program, the staff at JBA, and the donors who made this experience possible.

Honors Summer Internship Fellow: Thomas

Author: Thomas Lercari, junior

Thomas Lercari, an Honors junior

This summer, I interned with the World Youth Alliance, a non-profit organization seeking to promote human dignity in education, policy, and culture.

The organization is a coalition of young people from developing and developed countries united in solidarity for this cause. It has over one million members from over 160 countries and is present in every continent of the world.

As the Project Management Intern, I had the opportunity to assist the European sector of the organization with day-to-day tasks, as well as important projects. One project I helped spearhead is the Dignity Defenders Campaign, which helps raise funds for the organization.

Being in Brussels, I was able to attend a multitude of conferences at the European Parliament, where I monitored and took part in the conferences. I was able to bring the importance of human dignity and the role of young people in protecting it into the discussions. My experiences as a dignity defender at the World Youth Alliance echo my experiences as a scholar for justice in the Honors Program.

My internship at the World Youth Alliance this summer greatly contributed to my professional growth. I was able to hone my communication skills by networking with numerous people of all backgrounds, as well as by advocating for human dignity in the European Parliament and with other international organizations.

I also cultivated a deep sense of responsibility during my internship, as I was trusted with important tasks such as representing the organization at conferences, as well as leading important projects such as the Dignity Defenders Campaign.

Overall, I am pleased with how my summer internship went. I gained a great deal of professional experience in a rewarding internship. I am very grateful to the Honors Program for giving me the opportunity to go to Brussels for this internship through their generous fellowship. I look forward to utilizing the new skills in my repertoire during the upcoming school year.

Honors Summer Internship Fellow: Andy

Author: Andy Diaz, junior

This past summer, I had the incredible opportunity to intern with The PVBLIC Foundation, which is a media, technology, public advocacy, and sustainable development-focused registered 501(c) nonprofit. This organization “mobilizes media, data, and technology for sustainable development and social impact.” For example, working with the UN Department of Global Communications, the PVBLIC Foundation has created the SDG Media Zone. This zone, constructed as a physical space for the United Nations General Assembly, advances the 2030 Agenda out of the policy sphere and into the public discourse through impactful in-depth interviews and conversations on global issues. My internship began the week of June 7th, and I split my week assisting with communications work for the Media Zone and the parent, PVBLIC.

In my role assisting with the Communications team, I was able to apply my media knowledge and develop my interpersonal soft skills with fellow interns and my superiors. Something I especially valued was that interns were offered the opportunity to be connected with people, offices, and organizations that we were interested in, and PVBLIC found connections to those bodies and coordinated mentorship sessions. I was provided a mentorship with someone highly involved in ambassadorial work in the United Nations, and they provided me with invaluable insight on the networking and career-building process within the UN. In fact, since my internship, I was offered a job with PVBLIC Foundation, and have since been helping the group with their initiatives as well as prepare for this year’s United Nations General Assembly taking place in New York City in September. 

I am incredibly grateful for Dr. Keller for encouraging me to apply, and Hannah for her guidance throughout the Fellowship process. The Honors Summer Fellowship allowed me the freedom to look at unique work opportunities and provided me with the opportunity to work for an organization that does incredible work towards issues I care about. It is because of the financial support from the Honors Program that I was able to explore professional and academic interests and consequently secure a job at a positive mission-driven organization. I highly encourage students to pursue opportunities within the Honors Program because they open doors for invaluable creative, academic, and professional endeavors. 

Gathering with Honors Students at Loyola Marymount University: AJCU Honors Conference 2023

Authors: Natalie Loo, first-year; Andy Diaz, sophomore; Olivia Griffin, sophomore; Harry Parks, junior

This spring, the Fordham Honors Program sent four students to Los Angeles for the annual America Jesuit Colleges and Universities Honors Conference. Held at Loyola Marymount University (LMU), the conference brought Jesuit Universities Honors programs from across the nation together. However, our travels from New York to L.A. took an unexpected turn, leaving us with an exciting story to tell. 

Harry, Olivia, Natalie, and Andy at Loyola Marymount University

With just an hour left in our flight, the plane emergency landed in Albuquerque (firefighters even boarded the plane!) and we remained grounded from 7 pm that night to 2 pm the next day. Although we missed a portion of the conference, we like to say that our adventure taught us to apply our Jesuit Honors values in an unpredictable context. Not every experience in life will go perfectly according to schedule, despite the number of hours spent planning. As Jesuit Honors students, it is our responsibility to set an example of patience, wisdom, and kindness that we would like to see in the communities around us. 

We eventually arrived in Los Angeles where we listened to passionate student speakers at Loyola’s gorgeous hilltop campus. Then we had an amazing meal at Grand Central Market where we made friends with various students from around the country. In fact, our group was able to connect with an Honors cohort all the way from the University of San Francisco!

Director of LMU Honors, Trevor Zink, hosting a session at the conference

During our time at the conference, we specifically focused on the theme of curiosity. Curiosity drives us to devote ourselves to the pursuit of knowledge. But we also learned that university-level intellectual cultivation isn’t tied down by your major or classes. Jesuit Honors students from across the country presented about the niche research projects they’ve embarked on, such as redefining story narration through stop-motion or designing a new public transportation system for rural areas. As we listened to these talks, we felt inspired to impart similar creativity and playful curiosity to the Fordham Honors community. 

Andy at the Albuquerque Airport during the delay

Additionally, we discussed our role as Jesuit Honors students in being catalysts for change in the institution, as well as being motivated by compassion and wisdom. The tagline “scholars for justice” embodies this commitment to thoughtful involvement in the university and surrounding communities. In collaboration with the other students at the conference, we revised the “Essential Characteristics of Jesuit Honors Institutions,” a document that lists core values shared by Jesuit Honors programs across the country, to align with our modern ideals of justice. This practice of reflection was helpful in evaluating the aspects of our own community that we want to change or implement throughout Fordham’s Honors Program.

This trip might not have been what we expected, with an emergency landing in Albuquerque and 45-degree rainy weather in Los Angeles. However, the sense of tenacity and friendship we developed, as a result, was incredibly valuable. We’ve discussed the trip many times since, and none of us would give up the formative experience that this AJCU conference granted us. Going forward, we hope to inspire Fordham University with the new patience and compassion that we learned, in tandem with the ever-present goal of cura personalis

Attending the Hispanic Heritage Foundation Summit in D.C.

Author: Andy Diaz, sophomore

Andy Diaz, Honors Class of 2025

With the financial support of the Honors Program Ambassadorial Grant, I had the opportunity to attend the Hispanic Heritage Foundation’s Latinos on the Fast Track (LOFT) Summit in Washington D.C. While I was there, I had the incredible opportunity to attend a panel of prominent Latinx White House leaders and visit the White House. Following that panel, I and 50 other students participated in a day of Open Sessions: students proposed topics of discussions they wanted to lead and others were able to join. I also had the opportunity to network with White House officials as well as employees within the financial and national security realm. To cap it off, students were invited to attend the annual Hispanic Heritage Celebration and Award show that took place in the Kennedy Center for Performing Arts. 

The conference provided a perfect opportunity for me to explore and learn about my areas of interest: political science and marketing. Hearing from Latinx leaders and learning about their experiences working in our nation’s capital was both inspiring and motivating. I was moved by their stories of coming from diverse and underrepresented backgrounds and making their ways to D.C. where they now head offices and advise the President. Overall, the conference was the experience of a lifetime at which I was able to connect with other Latinx students, network with professionals, and learn from peers and leaders about their fields of interest and work.

I am so grateful to the Honors Program for encouraging me every step of the way and for assisting me in lodging in D.C. for the duration of the conference. I encourage other Honors students to seek opportunities that foster their professional and intellectual growth; the Ambassadorial Grant can open so many doors.