With the help of the Honors Program Ambassadorial Grant, I was lucky enough to attend the national conference of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers last October, along with 8,000 other undergraduates from around the country. While I was there, I had the wonderful opportunity to attend talks and workshops by industry professionals and leaders, network directly with hiring managers and engineers, and meet other incredibly bright students. To cap it off, the career fair featured almost 300 companies from around the country seeking to snap up young and developing talent for both internships and new-graduate positions.
To be honest, I was a bit intimidated. The students I talked to were aiming at aeronautics internships at Boeing and SpaceX, or software engineering positions at Google and Microsoft. I began to think that knowing I’d want to pursue Computer Science, choosing a liberal arts school like Fordham might have been a mistake.
However, my anxieties were unfounded. In an impromptu interview with a hiring manager, it was my time and experience in the Honors Program that differentiated me from the thousands of other qualified candidates at the conference. My interviewer had also attended a university with a Great Books program (they began with TheIliad, too) and we mostly talked about everything other than software engineering. Even Larry Stempel’s music history class came in handy — as he always promised us it would. She expressed that she was thrilled to have found a candidate that both knew what they were talking about technically, but could also hold a conversation and was obviously excited about continual learning and approaching situations from a variety of perspectives. I cannot help but credit the Honors Program for honing those latter aspects.
I am incredibly grateful to the Honors Program both for helping me to get to the conference all the way across the country, and for helping mold me into a person that could stand out from the crowd.
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.
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.
With support from the Honors Program, I participated in the Choral Institute at Oxford this summer. The ten-day program consisted of lectures on the philosophy of music-making, masterclasses in conducting technique and culminated with a final performance in which I conducted in concert for the first time.
I applied for the Ambassadorial Grant to help me with this opportunity because I knew that it would prepare me to apply for a graduate degree in Choral Conducting in the future. My studies as a music major have focused primarily on music history and theory rather than performance. I knew that the practical experience I would gain at the Choral Institute at Oxford would complement the academic side of my major and help me put what I’ve learned in my classes at Fordham into practice.
The immersive nature of this institute was invaluable. Though I arrived having had virtually no experience, conducting daily in the masterclasses and receiving real-time critiques from conductors Dr. James Jordan and Dr. James Whitbourn helped me to improve my technique and musicianship quickly. Daily lectures on conducting delivered by music faculty from Westminster Choir College and Oxford University also helped me to gain a deeper appreciation for the philosophy behind conducting. These talks encouraged me to think critically about the way in which the conductor’s performance is influenced by their self-perception, which aligned well with the ideas about the self which I had begun exploring in my Honors Early Modern Philosophy course and which I continue to explore in the Honors’ Religion in the Modern World course. Now, I am expanding on this question of the role of the artist’s self and its impact on conducting in an independent study, and it’s one that I hope to investigate further in my research as I progress through the major.
Studying in Oxford also afforded me opportunities I couldn’t have had elsewhere. I was able to sing mass with the Cathedral Singers of Christ Church Cathedral, view original medieval manuscripts in the Bodleian Library, and observe featured conductors in rehearsals with the Institute’s choir-in-residence. Furthermore, the program opened up to me an amazing support network of fellow conductors and singers equally interested in fostering human connection through the collaborative art of choral singing.
My experience at the Choral Institute at Oxford has been a shaping force in my studies. I’ve narrowed my research interests to the history and philosophy of conducting, and I am more confident now that I want to pursue choral conducting in graduate school. I am extremely grateful to the Honors Program for supporting me in this endeavor.
Thanks to a generous travel grant from the Fordham Honors Program, I was recently able to attend the Global Climate Action Summit as a student Reporting Fellow for the UN Association. UN Secretary-General António Guterres recently called climate change the defining issue of our time, and this summit was a crucial step towards advancing the goals of the Paris Agreement, the Green Climate Fund, and other UN initiatives related to Sustainable Development Goal 13.
As a pre-law student specializing in environmental policy, attending this summit was a dream come true, and it was so amazing to see Jane Goodall, Al Gore, John Kerry, and other luminaries of the environmental movement speak in person, as well as hear from diplomats from the Antarctic to the Amazon. Interviewing Fordham alumna Queen Quet Marquetta L Goodwine and other inspiring diplomats for GenUN was such a great reminder of why there are still so many reasons to be optimistic.
As a Southerner with family and friends in the path of Hurricane Florence, it’s easy to be cynical, but this summit was such a great reminder that there are people all over the world working to turn back the clock and stop catastrophic climate change. I feel very fortunate to be have been able to represent the Fordham Honors Program at the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco, and I hope that my experience inspires other students to get more involved with United Nations environmental initiatives.
With support from the Honors Program, I recently attended a symposium at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service; titled “Venezuela: Charting the Future,” the symposium brought together scholars, policymakers, business leaders, and civil leaders to discuss how the United States, Latin America, and the global community can facilitate economic growth, social peace, and political stability in Venezuela.
I applied for an Honors Ambassadorial Grant to attend the symposium to support work on my senior thesis, which uses a game theoretical model of political survival to understand why chavismo (the political movement founded by former president Hugo Chavez) has survived in Venezuela since 1999. The purpose of my project is to identify the equilibrium levels of taxation, private goods, and public goods that Hugo Chavez and Nicolas Maduro have selected throughout their presidencies.
As a mathematics and economics joint major, I was prepared to work with the model. However, I did not have the necessary background in Latin American economics and political theory to apply it. Fortunately, at the symposium, I learned about potential data sources, key economic and political developments in Venezuela, and I networked with the panelists.
I thank the Honors Program for awarding me an Ambassadorial Grant and Dr. Barbara Stolz, an adjunct professor at Georgetown University, whom I met through the Honors Alumni Network, for inviting me to attend the symposium.