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. 

An Engineer’s Praise of A Liberal Arts Education

Author: Daniel Joseph, senior

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 The Iliad, 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.

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. 

From Honors Music Major to Budding Concert Conductor

Author: Kristina Lazdauskas, junior

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. 

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.

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.  

Attending the Global Climate Action Summit as a Student Reporter

Author: Robin Happel, senior

Jane Goodall and Alec Baldwin in conversation at the Global Climate Action Summit.

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.

Robin (second from left) and colleagues at the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco, CA.

 

Honors Summer Internship Fellows: Kelsie

**This is the second 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: Kelsie O’Leary, sophomore

Kelsie tutoring with City Year

This summer, the Honors Summer Internship Fellowship allowed me to work for City Year New York, an education nonprofit whose mission is to provide quality education to students in New York City’s most underserved schools. City Year employs AmeriCorps members in 28 cities and hundreds of schools across the country to combat the dropout crisis.

As an intern for their Corps and Site Operations department this summer, I managed day-to-day office tasks as well as helped prepare incoming AmeriCorps members for their year of service. I developed content for training, collected and organized compliance forms, and helped coordinate events in the office. This was my first time working on the administrative side of nonprofit, and I gained valuable experience for my future plans in nonprofit management.

Although I did not work directly with students this summer, I understand the impact that City Year has because I served in City Year Los Angeles for two years before attending Fordham. The AmeriCorps members serve not only as tutors to students but as mentors and role models. I witnessed firsthand the tremendous impact of having a positive adult role model in a student’s life, and the City Year AmeriCorps members provide that to hundreds of students in NYC’s schools. I am grateful that the Honors Program gave me another opportunity to serve such an important cause.

Kelsie and her colleagues at the City Year Corps and Site Operations Team.

Honors Summer Internship Fellows: Julia

**This is the first 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: Julia Hammond, junior

Julia and her co-workers take a day trip to the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center to attend a discussion about racism and white supremacy in light of the one-year anniversary of the violent rallies in Charlottesville.

This summer, I was lucky to work at an organization called the Connecticut Women’s Education and Legal Fund as the Development and Communications Intern. CWEALF works to advocate for and empower women and girls in Connecticut, particularly those who are underserved or marginalized. They pursue this mission by providing free legal information (including individualized, bilingual community advocacy) and advocating for public policies that support Connecticut’s most vulnerable citizens.

As the Development and Communications Intern, I was able to translate fundraising skills I’d learned at larger nonprofit organizations to a smaller-scale organization with a different donor base. I spent time creating informative and emotionally engaging content for social media and email blasts, as well as taking photos and creating video content for the website. I was also able to write several articles about important events and their policy implications, such as the anniversary of Title IX and the significance of Black Women’s Equal Pay Day.

In the spring of my sophomore year, I worked as an unpaid intern at a larger organization called charity: water, and fell in love with nonprofit work. However, I knew that I couldn’t spend the summer continuing to work as an unpaid intern, so I was incredibly grateful to receive this opportunity; the Honors Fellowship enabled me to learn about a different part of the nonprofit sector and solidify my passion for nonprofit work. Working for CWEALF helped me to see firsthand the difficulties our laws and justice system often present to individuals who face language or income barriers, and it has inspired me to continue working with nonprofits in the future.