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President Raab Encourages Students to Become Leaders in Macaulay Honors Convocation Address

Hunter College President Jennifer Raab welcomed 133 freshmen to the Macaulay Honors College at a convocation ceremony in the auditorium at Roosevelt House on September 21.

"Each of you was carefully and specifically selected," Raab told the students. "Someone on the admissions committee or on my staff advocated on your behalf. Sometimes I was that advocate. No one got in on name alone. Well, maybe Hunter Gross did. Of course, I am kidding, but we do have a tradition of giving a special gift to people named Hunter."

President Raab asked Gross, a freshman, to come up to the podium, where she presented him with a gift. The students laughed and cheered.

"You represent Hunter's promise to the city and the nation that we will produce the next generation of great American leaders," President Raab told the new students. "You are those future leaders. That is why we decided to hold this event here at Roosevelt House."

President Raab detailed some of the rich history of Roosevelt House, which was a wedding gift to Franklin Delano and Eleanor Roosevelt from Franklin's mother Sara, who kept half of the house for herself. Eleanor became involved with the Hunter community, and this relationship persisted even after Franklin assumed the presidency of United States. After Sara died, the Roosevelts arranged for Hunter College to purchase the house in 1942. It remained a center for student activities and served as a wedding hall for many Hunter brides.

"But when I became the president of Hunter College in 2001," President Raab explained, "I was dismayed to discover that the house was closed and in desperate need of repair. I was determined to have it faithfully restored."

The building underwent an extensive renovation and re-opened in spring 2010 as the home of the Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute at Hunter College. 

To introduce the Human Rights Program at Roosevelt House, President Raab invited its director, Joanne Mariner, to address the students. She explained that Eleanor Roosevelt was the chair of the United Nations committee that drafted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a foundational document for human rights activists around the world. Mariner urged interested students to take the 15-credit minor or the 24-credit certificate in the program. She added that there is also an 18-credit minor and a 27-credit certificate offered in the Public Policy Program, a second, interdisciplinary course of study offered at Roosevelt House.

Fay Rosenfeld, Director of Programs, Operations and Development at Roosevelt House, encouraged students to attend the wide variety of upcoming public events, including talks by the United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Strategic Planning Robert Orr and former Mayor of New York City Ed Koch. She announced a special conference featuring Anita Hill that will be held at Hunter's main campus on October 15.  She also highlighted student-only opportunities such as the upcoming financial literacy program and the many available student internship and docent programs. She urged students to visit her at Roosevelt House or to look for information on the website.

MHC senior David Weinberger took the podium to introduce Roosevelt Institute, a nonprofit organization that follows the legacy of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt by developing progressive ideas and leadership initiatives in the service of restoring America's health and security. "Three years ago, I didn't know what I wanted to do," Weinberger said. "I wanted to make a change. I knew I wanted to be an activist, and then I found the Roosevelt Institute, which is here at Roosevelt House, but it is a separate national entity."

President Raab then reminded students of the ribbon-cutting ceremony at the new Lois V. and Samuel J. Silberman School of Social Work building in East Harlem on September 27.

The School of Social Work is partnering with nearby public schools to provide them with student teachers, new workshops, and mentorship programs. "It feels great to be able to give back," said MHC graduate ('09) Lusheena Warner, who now works at Hunter. "One day I was having a conversation with one of the school's principals, and I had one of those 'aha' moments, because she said that these students don't think they can go to college, some of them don't even know what college is, and now I can show them that the college is right across the street." Warner reminded students to seek out learning opportunities outside the four walls of the classroom: volunteer, intern, or study abroad. "These are valuable and essential to a well-rounded college experience," she said. "Get involved, do something different."

MHC sophomore Agnieszka Gugala, a recent Jeanette K. Watson Fellowship recipient, talked about her experience as a fellow at a non-profit organization that provides start-up funding for social programs. She also talked about the peer-mentoring program she and a classmate are starting to aid students in East Harlem.

MHC senior Eric Yanez insisted that his fellow students get involved, join clubs, and make friends. "If you don't make friends," Yanez said. "You're going to miss out on great years and hundreds of people. And if you don't have people you're going to forget what day it is. Today is Wednesday. I thought it was Tuesday. It wasn't until I was on the bus and my friend tapped me on the shoulder and asked me if I was going to convocation later. I had forgotten. That's why you need friends... Everyone wants to be your friend."

MHC sophomore Audrey Stienon introduced Hunter's Model UN Program, advocating it as a fun way to keep informed about world events that also affords students the opportunity to travel.

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