NYU Washington DC Professor John Prados is a man of many talents. Professor Prados is an author and analyst of national security based in Washington, DC. He is the author of more than twenty books and many articles on topics of current importance, presidential studies, international security; and diplomatic, intelligence, or military history. He is also a noted designer of boardgames on military strategy, intelligence, and diplomacy. His Roman Empire-era boardgame The Victory of Arminius will be the next to appear from Turning Point Games, scheduled for December.
Students have always loved the Osadni dorm in Prague for its beautiful loft apartments, views of rooftops, and the music club in the basement. But the space in this former ham factory – constructed primariy with iron, concrete and glass- seemed cold. So this semester students brought energy and life into the building by creating a community garden on the sunny – but underused- terrace.
Early in the semester, everyone living in the dorm could adopt a box for their own plants.
At a workshop led by professional gardeners, the students chose from a variety of plants – cactuses for those who didn’t want too much responsibility, herbs for those who like to cook, or flowers for the romantics. As each box can take about 3-4 plants, the students had to learn which ones could grow next to one another and how to make them thrive – “It’s a bit like living in the dorm,” explained building manager Darima Batorova. “We need to figure out how to live different people in one box, how we can grow successfully together. “
These plants are annuals- they only live for one season- so when the students are gone, the plants will be gone too. Next semester, we can start over again – new students, new plants.
So far, the plants are thriving, and students are spending a lot more time on the terrace. “It smells wonderful up there. And everyone has his or her own names on the boxes, and now it feels like the space belongs to the students,” Darima notes.
What do the students think? “It’s really satisfying to see the progress of the plants. My plants are doing well – I’ve eaten most of my chili peppers,” reports Marilyn La Jeunesse (2016).
Jiří Pehe is well-known as a political analyst, a prolific writer of news commentary and the former political adviser to President Vaclav Havel. Fewer people know that he is also a novelist who has published three books in Czech over the past ten years. In December, he launched the first English translation of one of his novels – Three Faces of an Angel – at the Vaclav Havel Library in Prague and at the School of Slavonic and East European Studies, University College London as well as at the Czech Embassy in London. Another launch is planned for the spring of 2015 in New York City.
[Photo Credit: (c) Vaclav Havel Library / Vojtěch Stádník]
Described by Czech award-winning author Ivan Klima as “one of the most outstanding novels written in the Czech lands since 1989,“ Pehe’s book tells the story of three generations of a Czech-German-Jewish family in the 20th century. The tragic events of this period of Central European history are intertwined with the characters‘ stories: a talented musician is forced to become a soldier for the Austrian Empire during WWI… a teenage girl hides from the Nazis in a cellar for a year… an idealist joins the Communist party and is then persecuted by its leaders … a student fights for freedom during the Prague Spring….. Characters grapple with questions about history, politics, identity and religion. In the forward to the book, Dr. Marketa Goetz-Stankiewitz writes that „the novel uncovers this turbulent period with its linguistic, national and racial complexities: its brutality occasionally tempered by humour, and ultimately its absurdity.“
[Photo Credit: (c) Vaclav Havel Library / Vojtěch Stádník]
Language plays a central role in the book: characters grow up speaking Czech and German, and the choice of which language to speak is closely linked to their sense of identity. Translator Gerald Turner had to find distinct voices for the three narrators: a man educated in German but writing in Czech, a woman with only an elementary-school education writing her memoir, and a Czech university professor living in the USA.
Jiří Pehe says: “I was pleasantly surprised by the large audiences at all three book launches as well as the lively discussions the novel’s themes provoked. Hopefully, many English-language readers will agree with the quote on the back cover by Tomas Halik, this year’s winner of the prestigious Templeton Prize; that this is an unusual novel about the 20th century, the Holocaust and in particular also about God. Those three topics were foremost on my mind when I starting writing the novel.“
NYU Buenos Aires student Anushua Choudury is the first Student Senator-at-Large to study away while maintaining her university government responsibilities. Learn a bit more about this sophomore and her experience in Buenos Aires.
School of Origin: FAS – Liberal Studies / Global Liberal Studies
Concentration: Politics, Rights and Development
Congratulations, you are the first Student Senator to go abroad while still holding your post and fulfilling all the responsibilities. Does that feel like pressure?
Thank you. Yes, for sure. At first, when I was told that I would be the first Senator abroad, everyone said: “Who better to do it with, but also we’re looking at you to see how we can fit Shanghai and Abu Dhabi into the mix.” So, it’s definitely making me more aware of how to be sure I can video-conference in to all the meetings and reply to all the documents. That way the new Senators and the new Faculty on the Faculty Senators Council and on the Committees I work with will know me.
It’s starting to sound more complex already – how many government structures do you have to serve on?
I am just serving on the Student Senators Council, and within that I work on 3 committees.
Can we ask you what they are?
The Academic Affairs Committee, the All-University Events Committee, and the Global Affairs Committee.
How is this different from when you were on the Square and physically present for duties?
Last year I served on a University Senate Committee; I was on the University Judicial Board. But unfortunately due to the fact that I am not physically present in NY right now, I cannot serve on a University committee (which involves people from all of the other Councils, the Deans, the Faculty Senators, representatives from the Administrative Management Council, and other students).
How do you stay connected even though you are so far away, being in Argentina?
I video-conference in to all of our meetings, to my weekly committee meetings as well as my SSC meetings. I will also start calling in to the University Senate meetings, which are held once a month. This is a new process for everyone, so we’re all learning. If something doesn’t go right the first time around, the Executive Committee of the SSC reaches out to me; we are always in conversations about how to do things better.
Do you find this detracts from or hinders your ability to immerse as much as you’d like in the project of global study, meaning being here in South America? Can you explore as much as you’d like, can you dedicate all necessary time to your studies and planned travel? It must be a balancing act.
Yes, but it was a balancing act in NY as well. I am especially lucky to be able to stay connected like this to NY, especially after my last year of being in Student Government, which was one of the best highlights of my NYU experience. It’s also cool how I can bring in the global dimension because I have this experience. For example, for the All-University Events Committee, we always talk about Violet 100, and now we are planning to host a Global Day of Service during Violet 100 – that’s exciting to think about, and it gives me a concrete sense of how meaningful it actually is for me a Senator who is specifically drawing on having a global experience too.
When you apply to be Senator, you can be either a Senator at your school or a Senator at Large. Last year I was a School Senator for Liberal Studies. School elections happen after Spring Break, end March or beginning April, and about two weeks after School senators have been elected, we have the application process for Senator-at-Large, which is not an elected post but rather appointed by the other Senators. Last year was the first time we had global submissions for Senator-at-Large. So the current School Senators elect the Senators-at-Large (now there are several).
What would like to bring back to NY from your year spent abroad in Argentina?
On the Square we are always talking about the GNU and every committee whether it’s student services or academic affairs, the GNU always comes up. Very few Senators though have had the experience of studying abroad because when you are in Student Government, you have gone into NYU thinking “ok at some point I am going to take some time off to go abroad” because it’s so easy to do that when you’re at NYU – but then you become so involved, and it’s so intense that you end up deferring the idea of going abroad or you just go for a J-Term or a short-term experience, and that’s really not the same. So I’m really excited to go back and represent that voice that we always talk about but haven’t yet had tangibly among us.
Thank you. That is exciting. One last question: why did you choose Buenos Aires?
I have traveled a lot. Since High School, I had thought Madrid would be my spot because I’ve always loved Sevilla. But when it came time to decide where to go, I realized I wanted to go outside my comfort zone, really immerse myself in a culture that is foreign to me, new and challenging in other ways. ¡Acá estoy!
The collapse of the Iron Curtain led to the sudden creation of free media – so what does the media in post-Soviet countries look like today?
Over 50 journalists, scholars, and media analysts from around the world met at NYU Prague last week to talk about this question – and many more – at a conference entitled 25 Years After: The Challenge of Building the Post-Communist Media and Communications Industries.
The conference was co-organized by two Prague-based NGOs: Keynote and the newsmagazine Transitions Online. Jeremy Druker, Professor of Social Media Networking at NYU Prague and the co-founder of Transitions Online, explained their motivation for organizing the event: “Academics and working journalists don’t often mix. So we decided to create a rare opportunity where researchers on the media’s transition would sit side-by-side on panels with journalists experiencing that very transition from the inside.”
The variety of countries represented brought extremely different perspectives: in addition to numerous delegates from the Czech Republic, there were also speakers from Poland, Hungary, Belarus, Serbia, Italy, Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Albania, Romania, Georgia, Austria, Belgium, France, Sweden, Denmark, the UK, Canada, and the US. Their professions were also divergent, including professors, the senior communications manager of Google, activists, journalists, and analysts.
The shadow of Russia and her influence over post-Soviet countries loomed large in discussions. Keynote speaker Jeffrey Gedmin, former President of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, noted that “Communism is not coming back, but history is coming back to this part of the world.”
Jiri Pehe, Director of NYU Prague, said he believes that media is more balanced and more pluralistic than it was initially after the fall of Communism, but it is now especially vulnerable to the rise of local oligarchs who are buying up media organizations. “You can establish democratic institutions quickly, but it takes a few generations to establish a democratic culture,” said Pehe. “We aren’t over the stage of post-Communism at all.”