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Hunter Stories

The Faces of Today,
the Architects of Tomorrow

At Hunter College we pride ourselves first and foremost on our student body. Hunter has always been ahead of the times in recognizing and empowering students from diverse backgrounds. Having begun as a school for women, Hunter now represents the cultural ethos and demographic complexion not just of New York City, but of America at large. Our students come away with a broader and deeper awareness of their own and others’ cultures. Graduate students at Hunter College carry with them a rich collection of life experiences. Hunter Stories is a place for you to learn about our students in their own words.

Explore Our Students Stories

Tatiana, Art History

School of Arts & Sciences

My dad grew up in Beirut during the war. He was about 10 years old when it started, and by the time he was 15 they were trying to draft young boys into the army to fight. My grandparents were able to get him out, and he made it to the states. We've been going to Lebanon once a year for vacation since I was little, but in the past two years I've become more involved in the Lebanese art scene. I did a residency program, and then started working on some curatorial projects with artists that I met in Beirut. I was at the Beruit Art Center to see a show called Place at Last by Walid Sadek. There was this moment where my questions and thoughts of my father's identity, and more largely, my own Lebanese identity and heritage synthesized with my professional and academic interests. It was this really wonderful moment for me. Everything shifted and merged. I went back to the show twice. I said, "I’m going to school for this. This is what I'm interested in." Art is capable of articulating something you can’t, and shifting your perception.

Tom, Integrated Media Arts

School of Arts & Sciences

I enjoy filming observational subject matter and subtle ways of communication. Action, body language, and the way people interact with each other without directly acknowledging each other or addressing the camera. I'm looking for different kinds of movements or actions that are repetitive, and then creating a narrative around just motion. I have lived in Greenpoint, Brooklyn most of my life, and most of my films take place here. I made a short about this after-school program in Polish folk dancing at one of the last Catholic schools. The way this instructor works with the children is interesting because it's just like an old Catholic way of education: a little bit abrasive at times, but it's actually loving in a lot of ways. I shot over six weeks. I went there every week and shot the same the rehearsals of two different groups doing the same pieces. I cut it together as though it were one rehearsal. Surprisingly, it got into AFI Docs and True/False Festival so far. They're like hoity-toity festivals.

Reva, Childhood Special Ed Long Program

School of Education

My brother and I went to the same school in India. He is two years younger than me. I did really well, but he wasn’t motivated to study and he would score poorly on tests. The teachers reactions were, “He is slow to pick up. He is somewhat dull.” They put him in a separate class that taught the same material, but only more slowly. And it was a problem for me because at home there is a certain tension that comes with one sibling doing so well and the other that doesn’t. And this was normal in many families we knew that there would be one child that does really well, and the other child does not. And nobody ever questioned the schools or what went on in the classroom. But you tried to sort of remedy that through external tutoring or by sending your child to a different school. I think that somehow stuck with me. I used to work in IT. I was an employee of IBM for 15-years. It was a comfortable job, and I was good at my job. But there was always an emotional connection missing.

My daughter is now in fourth grade. When I started looking at public schools for her in kindergarten, I got inundated with brochures about what was so special or unique about each school, so you could make an informed decision. Up until then I had no idea that there was anything called special education -- a way to include people who are different and to try and normalize their experiences in school. I immediately thought back to several of these people I knew in India. If you were different, you were sort of isolated or somehow removed from the mainstream. So for me to come here and see that there is another way you can approach education, and perhaps limit or end how some people feel marginalized – a light turned on. I started following all the special education committee meetings. I would just go and sit and listen to what parents said. I eventually went and met the coordinator for Special Education in White Plains. She said, “So it looks like you’re really interested in not just learning about the laws and rules, but you’re also interested in how it works in practice. You should go into a school and observe what happens.” So she signed a permission for me to go into one of the schools. I would go on a Friday morning, and I would stay until lunch every Friday for five months. I got to see inside a special education classroom, and how students were served by so many professionals. I asked myself, “Where were all these people when I was in school?” That’s the basic genesis of how I decided to get my master’s and change professions. It is a challenge because between school, work, and being a mother, there is no real downtime. You have to recalibrate yourself to say, “This is the new normal,” and not gripe about it too much. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy. I’m never around to pick my daughter up when she comes back from school. It breaks my heart. When I used to work in IBM I used to get to do all these things. I could put her on the bus. I could get her off the bus. I could do flex time. I could work from home. Now there are many nights when I go back home at around 8:00 or 8:30, and I get to see my daughter for about a half hour before she goes to bed. So it feels like a hardship, and it is. And we try to compensate for it by being together a lot on the weekends. Lately I started looking at Indian schools. It’s been a while, so I thought maybe they’ve come a long way. But still the ratio of schools that do inclusion is very low. If you look at a major city, like Delhi, there are maybe three schools. The more I learn about it, the more I’m committed to doing something in India. I want to open a school there. Doing this master’s is a good experience for me because if I get into a public school as a classroom teacher with a lot of special needs kids, that’ll give me insights into how I would want my own school to work. But it’s such a pipe dream, really, because my daughter’s growing up here. I’m talking about doing this after sending her to college, so I’m really dreaming long-term. I’m dreaming big.

Julia, Geography

School of Arts & Sciences

We’ve recently passed the tipping point. The world is more urban than rural now, and we need to investigate how urban vegetation is playing a role in the urban carbon cycle. While studying plant biology in undergrad, I took a software mapping class. Mapping software gets used in lots of things – urban planning, public health, the ecology world, and national organizations use it to keep track of national resources, forestry, and other things. It basically allows you to track a space by gathering tons of information and analyzing with equations and statistics. I was interested in bigger scale questions like what’s happening across a whole landscape or between two whole species ranges when they meet. What happens on the edge of two plant species if conditions were to shift and one species encroaches onto the next? It’s hard to figure out exactly what would happen over a whole landscape, just on paper or with a few lab experiments. You need a tool or methodology that helps you display that, and the mapping software was ideal for this type of analysis.

After undergrad I worked as a neuroscience lab tech at the Cornell Medical Center before applying for a master’s program. I knew I wanted to get back to the mapping software and use it in a different way. So when I enrolled in the Geography program, I sought out incorporating data from satellite images to examine geographic spaces. Right now we have satellites taking images of the globe on a daily basis that can provide watering and nutrition information based on how differently light reflects off vegetation. This information can be used to make watering crops more efficient and help farmers cut down on waste. For my thesis I tried to classify tree spaces based on data taken from a plane that flew over forests. I was using a really cool sensor called LIDAR, and the plane has an infrared laser that shoots out roughly100,000 pulses of laser light a second to bounce off anything they hit. It calculates the terrain height based on how long it takes for the pulse to return to the sensor. It can also help differentiate among tree species just by having a different signature based off pigments that would be in one species of tree versus another. By combining the two criteria I attempted to classify the tree species. It was done on a NASA run experimental forest where we already know what’s growing, so the accuracy is tested against existing data. My final accuracy was around 67 percent. For this sort of thing that’s pretty good. I’m happy with it. The work, and my work through the program, helped me receive the Society of Women Geographers Graduate Fellowship Award. I was very honored that this very cool group of female scientists recognized my work because they focus on promoting women in STEM fields, and they have a global focus. Now, things are moving fast. This summer I got into a great internship at NASA at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland. I don’t have my exact project yet, but it’s going to be satellite imagery and data analysis. Then in the Fall I go to Boston to start my PhD in the Earth and Environment program at BU. I’m interested in vegetation, and because I’m from farm country, you’d think I wanted to apply this work to farms – and there are lots of applications – but I actually want to work in urban spaces. It’s an interesting process because all the natural life there interacts with humans who have built up the landscape. That changes the dynamics of how a lot factors circulate and function. Carbon is one that’s obviously important on a global scale. I want to take advantage of some of this new data to get a better idea of exactly what’s going on and optimize ways to progress into the future when designing urban landscapes and creating better green space. This can potentially help out the whole planet.

Lorendo, Childhood Special Education

School of Education

I’ve been teaching for 20 years. I was a school principal in Guyana. I had just been promoted before I left to come here four years ago. I never wanted to be a teacher, I always wanted to be an air hostess or a lawyer. There was a principal living in my area and he encouraged my mom to send me to teach. So here I am, and I have to admit I do love it; especially the interacting with the kids and parents. Now I teach fourth grade at a private school in Brooklyn, while I get my master’s degree at night. Teaching in America is much different, and a bit more challenging. At home, you can really talk to the kids and they will not talk back at you -- that’s the kind of discipline they have. If you found one kid who talks back in the entire school, that was a lot. Here, the kids sometimes say what they want to say and you must decide where you're going to take it from there. I had to learn to adjust ... I have to do more listening now.

Muhammad, Accounting

School of Arts & Sciences

I came here from Bangladesh when I was 18 years old. I had to work five or six nights a week to support myself, plus attend college. Language was the biggest challenge for me, because it’s keeps you alone. But also the culture was different. In Bangladesh, anything and everything that you do, you do with family. Here we think of ourselves first, than everything else. I don’t know if this is a good thing or a bad thing, that’s just my feeling. For example, my mom helped me a lot. Without her, this would not be an easy journey. But maybe if I was raised in America, following the American culture, maybe my parents would not have done what my mom had done for me. Maybe there would be less sharing. Maybe sometimes you wish you had more people with you, or more family members who can support you and see what you're doing now versus what you had 10, 15 years ago. It’s a great feeling to be recognized by people you care about. I want to share my feelings of joy.

Diya, Art History

School of Arts & Sciences

I work in socially engaged art; where art meets activism and social justice. I think the way art is advertised, and in general, it has this false image of being a luxury item. I don’t think that especially benefits the need for diversity in art. I used to work at the Queens Museum, but right now I work in the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs. My boss was telling me a story recently about somebody he met from NAACP who thinks it’s a PR problem that nobody thinks art is good for communities, that we don’t actually talk about the impact of the arts and what it can do for people and people's lives. Art has a lot of social impact. Art can show you how interrelated everything is; that inclusiveness means you don’t have to be a box. Then you have the freedom to just be you. I think if people understood that, then maybe it would be thought of as something as influential to a community as being a nurse, or a teacher, or a social worker.

Chris, EdD in Instructional Leadership

School of Education

I am serving as an assistant principal at West Bronx Academy for the Future, a 6 through 12 school. With high school students, I see there are a lot of competing priorities. Kids might live far away and their travel time is significant to get to school. Or they might need to be working. Those are big competitive forces that teachers have to deal with, and it's hard. You can’t tell a kid not to work if he has to work. But you have to try and find what successes they will be able to show you. It’s really important to focus on the most granular thing kids are having trouble with, and then grow that out to allow them ability to taste success. Everything is layered, and you can measure your success if you can show them, "hey, if you can do this, now let's think about it at this next level, and even think about it in this next level." That moment of breakthrough is something really powerful for both me and my students at the same time.

Kristen, Art History

School of Arts & Sciences

My dad had surgery yesterday, and it made me think about when I was a kid and I felt I would be a good doctor because I was really good at science. But I actually wouldn't be, because I wouldn't want to have somebody's life in my hands. That's something that I learned about myself really quickly, and why I didn't go to school for biology or science. I'm interested in studying things that I think can eventually help people in a much larger way. A lot of times people ask, "Why work in the field of art?'

I think for me, art is much more about allowing people to re-experience paths. I've known a lot of people who've passed away suddenly throughout my life. When I was 13, someone I was really close with OD'd. Then when I was completing my undergraduate, I was dating my best friend from high school, and we broke up and he took his life. I've experienced a lot of those kind of sudden tragedies. My thesis is not about undertaking why he would do that, but it's about understanding how culture has dealt with the suddenness of death. The medieval period is a really fascinating period to think about death, because it was all around you. It was much more embedded in your life in a way that it's not today. We have developed really socially effective ways of dealing with death that remove you from it immediately. You have three days off of work or five days off of work, and that’s maybe if it's a close family member. Grieving is not a socially accepted part of culture. I became really interested in memorials and tragedy, and that’s how I discovered votive objects, which is the thrust of my thesis. Votives can have a dual purpose, because you can give votives to the personality of the deceased person in a very secular way, in a way that's today very divorced from religion. But people still give votives in the religious context of being saved. So there's sort of a duality to them in which -- on the one hand -- you give them as a way to relieve yourself and to affirm that this person somehow still exists, or comfort the fact that they died, but you can also give them as a dedication in thanks for being saved from something. In the beginning of Christianity, magi were just being used as a justification for Christ’s arrival, but later on, they're used to promote bringing gifts to the church. And you see that when pilgrimage really started picking up in the 1200s, we start to see Adoration of the Magi imagery on the outsides of the churches and on the inside there's a cult statue of the Virgin and Child, because the Mary cult was also developing and becoming more popular. Because of this, and I will eventually finish writing this book one day, the development of votive culture and the way that it developed, is what enabled portraiture to happen – it’s what enabled high art to happen. Portraiture comes out of donor images. In the Renaissance, say you’re Cosmo de' Medici and you commission a painting of yourself kneeling. Medici would be at the bottom, but there would be a religious scene at the top. But eventually, people started commissioning paintings only of themselves. That wasn't happening in the medieval period at all, because there was a rejection of naturalistic portraiture. I really think that a lot of what has happened in art has been enabled by a rejection of votive culture, yet it still exists and continues to persist. I think there's a really inherent desire to dedicate objects artistically to discharge pain that you've experienced from tragedy. The tragedy is really what you should hold on to.

Eileen, Deaf & Hard of Hearing

School of Education

I grew up with sound but I lost my hearing when I was eight years old. I started regressing academically, so my parents made the decision to send me to a school for the deaf up in Massachusetts. I was there for three years and it completely changed my life. The teachers were able to get down to my level where I had lost everything, and catch me up. They gave me the tools that I needed to succeed, not just academically but also personally. They instilled a lot of confidence in me, and they instilled knowledge -- a broad knowledge base. They made a huge impact on me. I knew that I wanted, in some way, to give back. When I went off to college, I kind of veered off the track a little bit. I decided to go into psychology just because I really loved the inner workings of the mind. And then after I finished undergrad, that’s when I decided to go for school counseling and that opened the door to education. Life works in such mysterious ways, that it just so worked out that here I am now doing what I love and giving back.

Irini, Art History

School of Arts & Sciences

Art is a big. It’s one big set of questions about the world that you can't ask in any other way. In art history we may work toward finding answers, but at the end of the day, there are so many different ways to define art and to talk about art, or artists, that it’s in constant development, and it doesn’t really have a lot of concrete answers. My thesis is about Franz Roh, a German modernist, art historian, art critic, and artist who coined the term “magic realism”; and specifically about a photo book he created. I started discovering his photographs and was immediately drawn by this seemingly unexplainable quality that made his photographs feel so unique, yet looked very similar to other photographs by well-known photographers at the time. I had the chance to look at these photographs unframed in the backrooms of the MET. When you see something in a gallery space, it's kind of like in this rarified setting, but when you are that close to the object, you're able to have this really intimate experience and search deeper into the enigma of the art.

The work was almost spooky, which was typical of other work from the 1920s, but it still had this different life to it. I told myself, "there must be something about this artist, something that I can try to pinpoint that brought him to make something that looks so strange.” The '20s through the '40s in Germany was a locus for new developments in photography and print culture. Germany and in Eastern Europe at that time were teeming with international exchange and so many weird political changes between World War I and World War II. But with Franz Roh, I didn’t find any real political reasons for him to create work this way, or even to promote modern art the way he did. But I did find that Roh was not only a co-editor of the book, but he was its biggest author, which is interesting because he has not been studied much as an artist. It was obvious that he had developed a technique to translate his scholarly theory of magical realism to what I felt was the deceptiveness of these photographs. Another interesting tangent to this story is that he wrote the book in 1925 and the first language it was translated into was Spanish, in 1927. I haven’t gotten too deep into it, but it definitely influenced Latin America and its artistic movement of magic realism. His work is a perfect example of art offering different ways of asking questions about the world and having effects on the real world because of it. I think there's this magic in the experience that you have when you encounter a work of art and don’t understand it right away. I enjoy the challenge of getting to know the work and I think the questions that you ask should come from the experiences you have -- it should all come from the art. As a society, one challenge we face is trying to find a place for art to fit in our lives. I’m still figuring out where exactly that is. But whether that's in a museum, some kind of nonprofit public arts wing, or helping artists have their work shown in the business sector, my greater goal is to help artists communicate with the public, and use their work to make suggestions about how we can move forward as humanity.

Kate, Clinically Rich, Childhood Education

School of Education

In undergrad I was determined to do Teach for America. I got in and they based me in Phoenix, Arizona. I quit after six months. People had been pretty nice to me throughout my first 22 years of life and then I was in a position where I was bullied by my co-workers, the veteran teachers. I had no defenses for it. I moved back to my hometown of Seattle, got into marketing, and put my teaching dreams on hold. When I moved to New York, I had a social media marketing job already lined up. I was good at marketing and found a lot of success in the career and enjoyed my co-workers a lot. But I always missed what could've happened had I been able to stay in that classroom and really see it through.

After 5 years in New York I decided to give teaching another try. I wanted to be able to tell right away if this was what I wanted to do. The clinically rich education program puts you immediately in a classroom, whereas most programs wait till the final year. There’s no better way to know if this is what I wanted than doing actual fieldwork. One thing I learned at Teach for America was that every teacher's experience is not just different, but it's wildly different. Every combination of 25-30 kids is going to create a totally different culture and dynamic. Then you add the community, the school, and yourself into that mix, and the challenges become wildly unique. So I knew that the only way to get those teacher reflexes was to actually be in a classroom. In New York City, I didn't have a lot interactions with children. My friends don't have kids, and you forget that kids are just as deep, complex, interesting humans as adults. They're just smaller. I'm not good at giving clear directions. When kids aren't doing what they're supposed to do, I tend to offer this passive observation in which I'll describe what they're doing and hope they'll take that description to mean that they're supposed to be doing something else, instead of actually telling them what they need to be doing. It’s so Seattle of me. That's a huge thing I'm excited about with this profession, is being forced to become an incredibly clear communicator. The stakes now are much higher than they felt in my previous career. The fact that I have two years of my life where I consistently focus on how to communicate very clearly is something that I know will ripple into all parts of my life. My advisor’s told me to find something that works for me within my own personality, because kids can smell inauthenticity very, very easily, and then you lose them. And they want you to succeed as much as you do yourself. Just on Wednesday, a cooperating teacher announced that I would be teaching the whole next day, and two kids that were sitting nearby turned to me and immediately gave a pep talk. "You're going to be really nervous and I understand that, but what you have to do is just calm yourself down, have a goal in mind, and work towards it." I was blown away. Kids are awesome.

Cathleen, Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing

School of Education

In 1975 I was at a woman’s concert. It was summer. It was hotter than hell. I was into jazz and performing at that time. For this show there was a woman on stage signing. I couldn’t take my eyes off her, and I said, “I can do that.” And I did. I’ve been signing for thirty-five years. I’m a full-time sign language interpreter. Anywhere people go, I go. So I do a lot of doctor’s appointments. I do a lot of education. I do a lot of work on theatre. I work the Paper Mill Playhouse three times a year. I’ve done Broadway. I’ve done “Beauty and the Beast.” I’m doing Shakespeare in the Park. I’ve done a million and a half shows. I don’t have to be the star. They place the signers between the stage and the deaf group, so they see me and the stage at the same time.

With signing, I’m trying to capture the meaning and their affect simultaneously. Just by saying the words themselves doesn’t really translate the meaning in sign language. The trick is to get a verb and a noun, and then you build from there. So you get the main concept, and then you build out from it. It’s almost like the center of a flower. You want the core of the flower, and then you start adding the leaves and everything else. I feel that there’s not enough teachers for deaf children that are fluent enough in sign language, not only in New York City but in America. If you move to France tomorrow and sat in a French class without a translator, how much would you learn? Probably not a lot. You’d pick up some, but you wouldn’t pick up everything that the French kid next to you is getting, who is also going home and speaking French. The problem deaf kids face is that a lot of their parents aren’t deaf. They’re hearing; and a lot of these parents don’t learn sign language. Add that to a poor interpreter in a classroom, you need to ask, what do they learn? Then they’re tested like every other student to be promoted to the next level. Something’s wrong. The deaf kids are always playing catch-up. Two negatives make a positive in math, but that doesn’t work here. I think as a school teacher we should either be taught, or we should stop and think about it for a half a second: “Gee, if the kid can’t hear, they might want the paper in advance. They might want it the day before. What a great idea to share it with the interpreter. Gee, you think?” Just an idea. I know a lot of smart deaf adults. And they obviously had family support and they had tutors, and they were in a different socioeconomic class. If you have a socioeconomic class that can’t afford tutors, and parents don’t take the time to teach themselves to sign along with their kid, then the kid’s only getting one third of the tripod. Where’s the other two thirds going to come from? I want to fill this gap one deaf kid at a time. I really want to help.

Dina, Childhood Special Education

School of Education

Before this war nobody in the States knew much about Syrians, because Syrians never had a reason to leave their country. I was born and raised here, but I'm very, very tied to Syria. My dad and a friend came here to finish medical school. There’s this small group of doctors from Aleppo, Syria that are working now in the States doing amazing things. They're all like super heroes. One of my Dad’s friends runs an organization called Smiles. I followed them on Facebook for months; I would constantly check their feed and see these pictures of refugees that just moved me entirely. But pictures weren’t enough. I felt I couldn’t understand the whole picture, so I said “what the heck, I am just chilling in my bed right now, and if I'm not going to do something I don't know how we can expect anybody to do anything.” So I reached out to my Dad’s friend and I said I want to go help. He agreed to it, as long as my Dad agreed – which he did, despite being very worried.

I got the whole community involved. I let everyone know I was going and most people were thrilled because they could trust me, because there are dozens of organizations that are claiming to help the refugees, but a lot of them are taking money to fund the organization itself and not helping the refugees. I wouldn’t call it stealing, but it’s definitely not what a lot of people think they’re getting with their donation money. What I was doing was much more grass roots, volunteer-based. Initially, medical volunteers were sent because people were coming off of the boats in Lesbos, Greece, injured. But they also needed more Arabic speakers, because, believe it or not, there were actually very few Syrian refugees when I was there. I should have expected it. When there's an open border situation anybody is going to try to take advantage of that. I was seeing Afghani's, Iraqi's, and Moroccans, but the most were Iranian's speaking Persian. Our team was all stunned. It was crazy. They all claimed to be Syrian. They adopted this kind of false identity of being Syrian, because of the preferential refugee status Syrians received by fleeing a worn torn country. That’s when security started to get really tight. It would break my heart because I understand exactly what was going on. Maybe they're not fleeing war, but they're fleeing something. This is human nature. I ended up staying in Lesbos for a total of 10 days. I helped with translation and I just basically worked under the hands of the doctors and nurses. It was an insane experience. But the funny thing is, I realize I was less nervous there than I am here right now. I have one semester to go and I’m still so intimidated by teaching. I have a very practical father, and he influences me to think very practically about everything. Teaching, and special education especially, is practical: after school I have a job, it's good, and I'm giving back. I could have done my Ph.D. in anthropology and it could have made me happier in the moment, but at the end of the day, special education is something that is just so good and valuable, and there's such a shortage of special education teachers. I grew up with a younger sister that has an IEP, an individualized educational program, which means she gets extra help and has a learning disability. Initially, she inspired me to want to know more about this and how I could help her. My advisors recommended that I pursue special education, and I’m glad I did. Before it was scary. You hear the word disability and you think the worse. But now I understand a learning disability is only limiting inside the classroom. Face-to-face my sister is extremely creative and very thoughtful. In many ways she’s advanced for her age. Yet, in the classroom, she gets anxiety. The learning disability simply means that she can't go the conventional route in school. It means that learning-disabled people actually need intensive instruction. It means that they probably need a little bit more time. Just more, a little bit more.

Susan, Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing

School of Education

I've been in writing and editing my whole career up till now. I started out in LA as a correspondent with People Magazine. I was with Modern Maturing Magazine for ten years at various levels of editor. I was with Bon Appetit as managing editor. My husband is a writer and cartoonist, and we did two historical graphic novels for children, and that was what got me interested in working with kids. We would go to a lot of elementary schools and talk about the books, about writing and rewriting, and the process of putting a book together. I loved it. I got so much energy from the kids. To me there is a sweet spot around fourth, fifth, and sixth grades because they're so curious, uncensored, and eager to participate. They want to ask questions, and answer questions. They want to be heard.

You hit 50 and you realize you don't have an infinite amount of time. How do you want to spend it? Do you want to just keep shoveling the stuff? Or do you want to do something else that's got more human content to it? It’s sort of a cliché to say, but I was at a certain point in my life where I asked, is this all there is? I'm a fairly empathetic person in my own life, but I hadn't used that in my working life. What I saw myself doing in these classrooms was communicating and helping others to communicate through teaching. It’s a much more human offshoot to the communication work I've done. In the deaf and hard of hearing program, this idea strikes an even deeper level. I've had an interest in it for a long time. People laugh when I say this, but I played Helen Keller in high school in The Miracle Worker. And that was the first time I had this revelation about how people were experiencing the world in a much different way than I was. To learn about the character I went to the John Tracy Clinic and met with deaf children. That experience set off a spark that just took a long time to come to fruition. Before that, like many hearing people, I saw deafness as a tragedy. It seems obvious; of course everyone would want to be hearing. But then you realize there are people who are absolutely happy the way they are. We judge things by our own standards, and to realize that they’re not victims opened this whole cultural and political aspect that is of real interest to me. So, the whole onion around deaf and hard of hearing is a big part of the inspiration behind this life change; the kids are the other part. Whenever I start to doubt if I'm doing the right thing, the minute I get with the kids it's immediately clear why I'm doing it. The energy comes resurfaces, especially when I feel a sort of mind meld with the person I’m working with. There is always going to be kids that make it difficult to get that communication going, but they all need to be heard. They need to feel listened to and valued, and you need to meet them where they are and not try make them something they're not or treat them as if they're something they're not. There is no one size fits all. So far I’m finding that I could do that pretty well with kids. More importantly, I want to, and that's 50 percent of it.

Erica, Accounting

School of Arts & Sciences

Comfort is very important to me. I have an extremely close-knit family that lives very close to each other. One cousin lives next door, another lives around the corner, and more live really close by. Going away to school was not the norm in my family. But there’s an organization by my house that pushed me to get comfortable with the idea of it. It was a big step, but leaving home for my undergraduate was good for me.

The education behind accounting prepares you for life in general—it’s a cornerstone of anyone’s life, or business. In high school I had a job at a cell phone store and got the opportunity to jump in and help out the owner with bookkeeping, bank reconciliations, and other simple accounting tasks. When I took my first accounting classes in undergrad, everything I learned in that experience came full circle. It made me feel very comfortable with accounting – that theme again.

Now I got a job at Ernst & Young as an auditor. I want to learn a lot and earn my stability. I think that one day my career will lead into the non-profit sector, but I'm still far from that. I do want to give back somehow to the non-profit that helped me with my academic work and got me comfortable with the idea of leaving home. I want to be a part of that for someone else.

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