Jennifer Rutishauser, a pre-med double major in biology and history, will be graduating in the spring as the Valedictorian of the Class of 2017 and is planning on working in the realm of pediatric oncology. I had the opportunity to talk with her about her favorite moments in the Honors program, the research she has done for her senior thesis, and her plans for after graduation.
Q:What are some of your favorite things about Honors? Do you have a favorite memory?
Jenn: I really like the social community you get with Honors; obviously, freshmen and sophomore year you’re in the same class with all the familiar faces but it also establishes who your best friends are. For me, all of my best friends that I have now are people that are in Honors even though we don’t have classes together now. It established my group for college. I also just really like how Honors set me up to do better later in college; it gave me a really good foundation in terms of it being strenuous but giving me good writing and foundational skills.
My year of Honors we played a game of Assassin sophomore year. At our interdisciplinary seminar it was down to three of us and we had this rule where if you were holding a spoon you were safe; so I was holding my spoon and one of my friends, Dom, who was also still in, was holding his spoon and Dr. Keller, who didn’t know me because I hadn’t been in her class, came up and we were explaining it to her. She was like, “Oh so if I take Jenn’s spoon you win, Dom?” and he told her yes so all of a sudden she came up behind me and started attacking me to get the spoon. This was basically my first interaction with Dr. Keller so that was pretty great. It’s so hard to pick one favorite memory because I feel like there’s so many but that’s one that sticks out.
Q: What is your Senior Thesis about?
Jenn: I’m examining the role of a particular protein in the process of cell differentiation. So differentiation is a process through which a cell becomes committed to a certain phase, and so I’m looking at skin cells. The cells that we see as skin are terminally differentiated and I’m looking at the effect that this protein called PYK-2 has on differentiation. The main way that I’m doing that is that I’m looking at a cell line that has this protein and then at another where this protein has been removed and then you differentiate the cell lines in tandem and see what the differences are between the two.
Q: What are your post-grad plans?
Jenn: I’m applying to medical school this June so I’m not going straight in but I definitely still feel very strongly and passionately about going into medicine. I just recently got accepted into a gap-year program at Kuchnir Dermatology & Dermatologic Surgeon (KDDS), which is a private practice outside of Boston that has developed a program specially intended for students on their gap year between college and medical school. I’ll be acting as a medical assistant, basically doing anything that you can do without a medical degree, so assisting the doctors and gaining clinical experience. I’m really excited about that; I’ll be there from June through July 2018 so the idea is that’s what I’ll do while I’m applying and going into medical school.
The Honors Program hosted a lively alumni reception at the Lincoln Center campus at the beginning of March, to which we were excited to welcome 60+ alumni from class years 1957 through 2016. The alumni enjoyed drinks and hors d’oeuvres while mingling with classmates and honors students from different decades, as well as honors professors, Dean Maura Mast, the Dean of Fordham College, and Dr. Eve Keller, the Director of the Honors Program.
The event also included a welcome from Dean Mast, some words on the current program from Dr. Keller, and highlighted accomplishments and experiences in honors from current students—accomplishments ranged from being recognized for work towards women’s equality at an event where the student met Joe Biden, to being admitted to Columbia medical school. The event was a joyful one for alumni to reconnect with old friends and learn about the honors program in 2017. We’re looking forward to hosting more fun alumni events in the future.
In the most recent event of the Honors Professional Development series, honors students had the opportunity to practice interview skills one-on-one with trained career counselors. This event came out of the close relationship between Honors and Career Services, and an ongoing commitment to helping honors students both discern career paths and prepare for them.
Yianni, a first-year honors student, said that the individualized attention of the workshop was “really valuable,” and that the career counselor he worked with provided him with a lot of constructive criticism and helpful advice, even adding a resume review to the experience. Yianni applied and interviewed for an internship following the workshop, and attributes his success in getting the internship partially to the practice interview experience he had in the honors event.
We’re happy we were able to offer this event for the first time this year, and are looking forward to offering it again in the future, and continuing to build our Professional Development series in other ways.
Monica Sobrin, a Women’s Studies and English double major with a minor in history, was initially drawn to Fordham because of its focus on being “men and women for and with others.” The emphasis that the university and its professors put on social justice and improving society strongly influenced her career path, allowing her to become the impressive advocate that she is today.
CO-FOUNDING THE STUDENTS UNITED ORGANIZATION During her sophomore year, Monica was very involved in anti-sexual violence activism on campus. in the middle of the fall semester, she joined student activists from all over New York City to found the Students United Organization. This group collaborated with government representatives to change and advocate for the Enough is Enough legislation, which was passed in July 2015 with aspects of all four of the Students United Organizations’ main additions.
MENTORING OTHERS THROUGH IT’S ON US After being inspired by the students she met through Students United, Monica went on to become one of 28 Student Advisory Committee representatives for It’s On Us:
“I just had so many amazing mentors who were juniors and seniors, mostly from Columbia [University]. They mentored me and helped me build my network and my confidence about things that I was really passionate about. I wanted to be this mentor for others.” As the sole representative from New York and one of six in the northeast, Monica acts as a liaison between students, government offices, and national partners in order to help individuals enact change on their own campuses.
WORKING WITH SENATOR KIRSTEN E. GILLIBRAND More recently, Monica worked in the New York office of U.S. Senator Kirsten E. Gillibrand, handling casework and interacting with constituents to aid them in connecting with federal agencies. She noted that her work in the office was bittersweet, being that they were able to save lives in some cases, but were also acutely aware of how many people they would not be able to help.
Looking forward, she is going to miss her time at Fordham, especially after looking back on fond memories of apple picking with Professor Jude Jones and Dr. Keller and attending the last interdisciplinary symposium in prom attire. However, Monica is also eager to start making a difference on a larger scale: “I feel ready to move on. Given the current socio-political climate, we need as many people on the ground as possible and I’m excited to go in and give my all to these issues that I care about at such an important time. It will be a tough fight, but I feel like my time at Fordham prepared me for it and I am ready.”
The Honors Professional Development Series began with Session 1, an opportunity for students to start thinking about their professional development path in college. The event started with presentations and advice by upperclassmen from each of the three broad disciplines of Humanities, Social Sciences and STEM.
MaryKate, a senior Philosophy/Theology major, shared about her internship, leadership and theatrical experiences and encouraged students to do what they are passionate about in college. Marcelle, a senior International Political Economy major, shared about her summer political internships, and her work at the UN and a smaller non-profit, highlighting skills she gained. She recommended that students take advantage of the resources Career Serviceshas to offer. Sara, a junior Chemistry major, talked about her clinical and research experiences, culminating in a prestigious summer research internship in Germany. Sara encouraged students to make connections with professors in their field.
The second part of the event was a presentation by Cassie Sklarz, the Associate Director of Career Services at Rose Hill. She highlighted the importance of a liberal arts education in the workplace, told students about Career Services’ resources, and shared tips and examples for cover letters and résumés. This part of the workshop also gave students Level 1 access to Career Services resources.
At the end of the event, students were able to talk with Cassie and another Career Counselor. Attendees found the event very useful and are looking forward to the next Professional Development workshop.
~Workshop hosted by the Professional Development Committee of the Student Advisory Council ~
The Honors Program started the semester focused on service and social justice with and the inaugural Honors Service Week. The week began with the annual Mentor/Mentee dinner, where first year students meet their upperclass mentors and hear from Fordham service partners about volunteer opportunities. The rest of the week featured events for all of the students in the program.
Inaugurate the New Alpha House with Service and Snacks: The first event of the week was an opportunity to spend some time in the newly refurbished Alpha House. Students brought books to donate to local shelters and wrote notes and colored pictures to send along with the books.
Conversation about Structural Injustice in the Bronx: Dr. Mary Beth Combs, a beloved Economics professor in the Honors Program, presented on the history of housing inequities in the Bronx. Students were able to reflect on this history and their own desire to make a difference in situations of injustice.
Volunteer Event with the GOOD+ Foundation: A group of students traveled to the GOOD+ Foundation in Manhattan to pack donations for needy residents of NYC.
Habitat for Humanity Build: On Saturday, a group of students worked on a Habitat for Humanity apartment build in Brooklyn. In between helping to put in ceilings, the students took a lunch break photo.
The Honors Service Week was both a lot of fun and a great opportunity for students to learn more about and engage in service and social justice here in New York. Thanks to the Service and Social Justice Committee in SAC for making the week such a great success!
The Honors Program’s first Student Advisory Council (SAC) meeting of the year was a great success, with twenty-five students representing each class year in attendance.
Dr. Keller, the Honors Program Director, began the meeting by recapping some of the highlights of last year’s SAC, including presentations at the AJCU Honors Conference at Gonzaga in February (pictured) and a pilot program on Professional Development. Then, she invited student leaders of each SAC committee to say a bit about their committee’s work last year and plans for this year. Finally, she opened the floor to new ideas, which ended up including the addition of six new committees.
Here’s a list of the Honors Student Advisory Council committees for 2016-2017:
The Honors Program celebrated our location in the NYC borough of the Bronx with a food tour of the East Bronx. We met our tour guide, Myra from NoshWalks, in a historic area by Westchester Square, and started off with some delicious Dominican snacks before heading off on a walk down Westchester Ave.
Besides Dominican food, we were able to sample Trinidadian, Bangladeshi, and Salvadoran foods, while getting to see a new part of the Bronx. Highlights included a mural of the 6 subway and a historic church with a graveyard whose stones show the names of Bronx streets.
Despite some rain, we enjoyed getting a “taste” of the borough we call home, and returned to campus with a deeper appreciation of the Bronx.
On Thursday, December 3rd, honors first year pre-health students met with Dean Ellen Watts, Assistant Dean for Pre-Health Advising. The purpose of the meeting was to provide some relief from the stress of the end of the semester and to inform students of different routes one can take in the pre-health track.
Dean Watts gave the students advice on “Surviving and Strategizing in Pre-Health,” then opened the floor for conversation. The group enjoyed snacks in the Honors office, some students stayed afterward to debrief, and all walked away with a sense of relief, ready to tackle studying for finals.
This was the first of what will be a continuing series for Pre-Health students in the Honors Program, and Dean Watts has agreed to meet with Honors students every semester, as necessary.
We look forward to starting these meetings early first semester next year, as the students indicated that meeting with Dean Watts very early in their first year would have been particularly helpful.
About this time last year, members of the Fordham University community were treated to a stage production of Plato’s Apology performed by Yannis Simonides. Simonides was raised in Athens but received his M.A. in Drama at Yale University, and throughout his career his interest in his heritage has been manifest through his involvement in performing ancient Greek tragedy. The performance resonated in a unique way with Honors Program freshmen, who had recently finished reading and discussing this work in their Ancient Philosophy class.
This Platonian dialogue, which is written as a speech directed to the Athenian jury at the trial of the philosopher Socrates, was made all the more engaging because Simonides took on the role of Socrates arguing for his innocence. Simonides simultaneously infused parts of the philosopher’s speech with irony while maintaining the underlying seriousness of a person trying to defend his beliefs. Lyssa Dussman felt that Socrates Now “was cool because [Simonides] showed me a different perspective of how [the Apology] would be performed out loud. I pictured Socrates as calm and contemplative because he is a man about logic and reason.” Following the performance, Simonides took questions from the audience and discussed, among a wide variety of subjects, his experiences performing in other venues and Socrates’ view of justice. That people around the world are still reading and now performing the Apology is a testament to the timeless nature of the questions that Socrates challenged the jurors not to leave “unexamined.”
This event was co-sponsored by the Fordham College Rose Hill Honors Program, the Manresa Scholars Program, and the Philosophy and Classics Departments at Fordham.