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A Conversation with NYU Buenos Aires Students Valerio Farris and Marsha Ho about Breathing Room

Spring semester 2016 in Buenos Aires Valerio Farris and Marsha Ho served as facilitators at Breathing Room, a drop-in group made by students for students to have a safe space to talk and share their experiences while studying away. You can read more about the establishment of Breathing Room in an earlier post. They share their experiences in this conversation.

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1. What are your class years, school affiliation, and majors? How long have you studied in Buenos Aires and why did decide to do so?

M: I’m a rising senior with Liberal Studies and my major is Global Liberal Studies. I’ve been in Buenos Aires for 2 semesters and staying the year is actually a feature of my major but I like to think even if it wasn’t, I would’ve stayed by choice.

V: I’m a rising senior studying Media, Culture, and Communication in Steinhardt. I arrived in Argentina in September and spent the whole of my junior year studying at the Buenos Aires campus.

IMG_17832. What are your roles at Breathing Room and how did you come to be involved? Can you describe the aims and achievements of Breathing Room as you have envisioned and experienced them?

M: Valerio and I are basically facilitators of Breathing Room, we get the food ready, start the conversation, try and make everyone feel included and welcome. I became involved last semester when it was first started by the Silver School of Social Work Masters students by simply attending and really enjoying the space they had set up. For me, the main aim of Breathing Room was always to just be a safe space for students, by students where we could just be ourselves, talk about what we needed to talk about and have this place be ours.

V: What Marsha and I do is basically provide the support for Breathing Room to grow. After being approached last semester by two social work students, and Breathing Room’s founders, we were tasked with making sure the program got on its own two feet this semester. But after that, it really took off on its own. The students who come week after week to fill the space with their words and their thoughts are really the reason it has been such a success. We make the flyer and bring the food, but once the room fills with students every week and the conversation picks up that’s when Breathing Room really comes to life.

3. Can you explain how you approached your work with Breathing Room? How did you organize or structure the process in the Breathing Room meetings?

M: It was really organic and surprising to me really! Monika and Nohelia just approached me one day asking if I would be interested in filling their shoes when they left and I was just like, yes of course! When we started facilitating it, Valerio and I would just find some time to talk about what we wanted to bring up in the session but we were also always really open to talking about whatever the group wanted to discuss.

V: I agree with Marsha, organic is a word we really stuck to this semester with our approach to BR. Because neither of us came from a background in social work, nor were we graduate students, we wanted to really make sure everyone felt like they were on the same level. We would enter the room with some semblance of what we wanted to discuss but also made sure to let the conversation flow in whatever direction it needed to. Usually we started with a topic or theme that was relevant to current events or something that was going on around campus and from there conversations would spring forth. We often ended up discussing something completely different that what we originally intended.

4. How many students on average took advantage of the programming to go there?  Was there a core group that came regularly, or were most students one-time visitors? If there was a core group, how many students were involved?

M: On average, there were about 7 each week and there definitely was a core group who came consistently. The core group had about 3 or 4 people that we would always see each week.

5. Was there an external unique event or local or world circumstance that prompted more use of Breathing Room?

M: There were events like the US elections and spring break which were definitely topics we talked about a lot in Breathing Room but none that particularly called for more sessions.

V: Because Marsha and I were second semester students we drew a lot upon things we knew students grappled with upon coming to Argentina. We tried to focus on ways that our personal identities (race, gender, sexual orientation) played out in a new setting. You’re dealing with a whole host of stimuli when coming to a new place to study and we wanted Breathing Room to be a place where you could hash things out that maybe you don’t get the opportunity to in a classroom or in a homestay setting.

6. What theme was most recurring?

M: Hmmm, this is a tough one. I think we did talk about identity quite a few times and how being in a different city causes us to ask questions about ourselves and who we are/who we think we are. We also brought up politics, both US and Argentine, and those conversations were always interesting.

7. I understand that Breathing Room is not a clinical space. Did you ever need to interact with pertinent site staff — Assistant Director of Student Life, the Wellness Counselor, or Site Director in cases where a clinical or administrative response was called for? If such interactions occurred, how did that unfold?

M: No, never.

V: No we didn’t, but we knew from the beginning that if we needed to that was always an option. We got a lot of support form the site’s administration but they also let us take the project in a direction that we saw fit. I think I speak for both of us when I say that the freedom allowed to us from the school was greatly appreciated and very necessary for the growth of something like Breathing Room.

8. What would you do to improve Breathing Room at NYU Buenos Aires?

M: Due to difficult scheduling, Breathing Room was kind of at a weird time this semester and I think it would be nice if NYUBA could set aside a time for it, the same way they do with Tuesday Lectures so that more people can attend if they want to!

9.Do you think you could successfully bring Breathing Room to NYC or your home base? Have you thought about doing so?

M: I definitely think Breathing Room would be really great on the New York campus and I have thought about it but because the audience is also so much bigger and varied, the logistics of making it happen to the same effect and level of intimacy might be difficult. However, it’s not out of the question!

V: I think that Breathing Room would be a great idea anywhere. I think it’s so important, however, to think about BR in the context of study abroad campuses where the resources for students to discuss amongst themselves might not be as varied or abundant as they would be in a place like New York or Shanghai or Abu Dhabi. Studying abroad is such an enriching, but taxing, experience and while each site has its own wellness counselor, I think BR provides something for students that is completely unique. It’s a time for us to melt away the world outside and bounce ideas and opinions off of one another. When you’re living in a new place there’s so much for you to think about, so much to keep track of, but BR really became a place to leave all of that at the door, step inside and take a deep breath.

NYU Abu Dhabi Researchers Build Secure System for Encrypted Cloud Computing

1462779738646This post originally appeared on NYU Abu Dhabi’s Salaam blog.

By Brian Kappler

The “cloud computing” we hear so much about is cheap and efficient, but it’s not completely secure. Encrypted data — payroll information, for example, or hospital records — can easily be stored on servers run by Google, Amazon, Oracle, or another company. But only non-encrypted data can be processed “in the cloud” and that creates an obvious security risk in our era of hacks, exploits, and cybercrime.

Now, however, NYU Abu Dhabi researchers have taken a long step toward solving this problem, in HEROIC fashion. The acronym stands for Homomorphically EncRypted One Instruction Computation. In simpler terms, it’s computer architecture that permits the processing of encrypted data.

1462773606014Nektarios Tsoutsos, Ph.D. candidate in computer science, has published a paper on HEROIC, along with his advisor Michail Maniatakos, the director of NYUAD’s Modern Microprocessor Architecture Lab and assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering. Their research is connected with TwinLab, a $2.57 million project on trustworthy computer hardware supported by GlobalFoundries and the NYUAD Institute.

More recently Tsoutsos, Maniatakos, and postdoctoral associate Oleg Mazonka have developed a newer version of HEROIC, known (non-acronymically) as Cryptoleq.

Tsoutsos explained the purpose of both systems this way: “Let’s say I have a proprietary algorithm, and I want to apply it to a large database. The job is much too big for my computer, so I’ve got to outsource this to somebody in the cloud, Amazon for example. But I don’t want that company to have access to the data — let’s say it’s a fingerprint or DNA database, or medical records, something that has to be confidential. I’ve got to be able to outsource to the cloud, but not let the cloud service provider figure out what I’m doing.”

Enter homomorphic (“same-shape”) encryption. “If I want to use an application it is possible to first encrypt the data, and then apply an algorithm as a sequence of mathematical operations, and then reverse the encryption process — and I can get the correct result and the remote service can’t read the data,” Tsoutsos explained. None of this is simple – it’s based on algebra involving “nested abstractions”, he said — but it can be done, so that attackers can be thwarted.

One form of this process, partial homomorphic encryption (PHE), has been known for about 35 years, Tsoutsos said, while fully homomorphic encryption (FHE) became possible as recently as 2009. A key difference is that PHE works only for addition or multiplication, while FHE is versatile and “because of computer science tricks we can use sequences of additions and multiplications to execute computer programs,” Tsoutsos added.

But there’s a drawback. FHE remains painfully, impractically slow. It’s a little faster now but when it was first discovered, a simple Google search with FHE would have needed fully one thousand years, Tsoutsos said. “So, we don’t have computers today to take advantage of FHE. Fully homomorphic encryption is the most powerful tool cryptography can give us, it solves all the problems, but it’s too slow.”

Here, HEROIC and Cryptoleq come to the rescue. “We’re trying to simulate FHE, using PHE,” Tsoutsos said. “On its own it cannot do as much as FHE, so we gave HEROIC a little help: additional memory, look-up tables, and in Cryptoleq an ‘obfuscated module’ that users can’t look inside. With these tricks that we play, it’s much faster than FHE, so it is practical.”

Of the two systems, HEROIC is faster, but demands more memory; Cryptoleq is slower but needs less memory. Tsoutsos and Maniatakos have patented HEROIC in the US, with the patent assigned to NYU, and Cryptoleq – computer language, compiler, and execution engine — is available as open source software. Once this work is complete, Tsoutsos added, he will have the “foundation for my Ph.D. thesis.”

NYU London Professor Benedict O’Looney Creates New Wing in Local Mosque

Croydon-Mosque OLooneyNYU London Professor Benedict O’Looney, who teaches Seeing London’s Architecture, is currently working on a new project in South London – a women’s and children’s wing for the Croydon Mosque, opening in June 2016. The Croydon Mosque is one of the biggest in Britain and this recent addition marks the third stage of development since the 1980’s. The project has attempted to harmonize traditional Islamic architecture with London’s familiar brick Victorian and Edwardian public buildings and includes a new men’s wudu (bathing area), a last rites room (janazah) and day-lit double prayer room for women and children. The project echoes the international spirit of NYU! More information can be found here: www.benedictolooney.co.uk/croydon-mosque

NYU Florence to host 2nd Biannual Meeting of SMaPP-Global

02SITOOn 23-24 May, 2016, NYU Florence and the La Pietra Dialogues will host the 2nd Biannual Meeting of SMaPP-Global to Florence. SMaPP-Global is a joint initiative of the NYU Global Institute for Advanced Study (GIAS) and NYU’s Social Media and Political Participation (SMaPP) laboratory (smapp.nyu.edu). SMaPP-Global’s goals are three-fold: (1) to better understand how social media impacts political participation; (2) to better understand how elites utilize social media to pursue political goals; and (3) to develop open-source tools that facilitate the use of social media data for the study of politics. SMaPP-Global is made up of 25 scholars from across NYU, the United States, and Europe who meet biannually to share ongoing research, collaborate on new research ideas, and develop new research strategies. The conference will feature individual paper presentations, discussion, and roundtables, all of which the public is welcome to attend.

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NYU Global Leadership Summit 2016: Taking Action On The European Refugee Crisis

SummitSocial2The NYU Global Leadership Summit 2016: Taking Action on the European Refugee Crisis will be held in Prague from 21 – 24 May.

Global issues like the European Refugee Crisis demonstrate that the challenges of the 21st century are simply too large and complex to be solved by a select group of people. Our times call for a new approach to leadership – one that is ethical, inclusive, and collaborative. This is the challenge at the core of the Summit theme. A cohort of undergraduate students from across New York University’s campuses and global sites are invited to participate in weekend long, intensive leadership development program to rethink leadership as collective work and examine the European Refugee Crisis from a “systems” perspective. Summit participants will engage in peer-to-peer experiential learning workshops and learn from leadership development experts, as well as thought leaders, practitioners and policy makers.

We welcome everyone in the NYU community to join this global conversation to share questions, thoughts, and insights. Stay tuned to the dialogue on social media by following @nyuleads throughout the weekend! You can tweet @nyuleads and follow our hashtags #NYULeadershipSummit16 #NYUGlobalLeaders to see what Summit participants are talking about. Please direct any questions by emailing leadershipsummit@nyu.edu.

NYU Florence Discusses Civil Society Activism & Democracy


On May 2, NYU Florence hosted an event entitled Civil Society Activism & Democracy: Risks and Promises. Moderated by NYU Florence Professor Gianluca Sgueo, the panelists included Vigjilenca Abazi, Centre for European Research in Maastricht (CERiM), Giulio Carini, Riparte Il Futuro, Angelo Gennaro, Campaigner, Jamal Shahin, Institute for European Studies (Vrije Universiteit Brussel). Their discussions were followed by a lively Q & A.

Civil Society activism opens up possibilities for more democratic national and supranational governance. But there are also tensions: chief among them issues of accountability and competition. The event panelists discussed the risks and promises of civil society activism in promoting democratization.

A Conversation with Emily Wang, Artist and Former NYU Berlin Student

Emily Wang, who has studied abroad at NYU Berlin and also NYU Abu Dhabi, recently won an award for her work in the exhibition The Guest as Host, which showcased work by students from NYU Berlin and Universität der Künste Berlin, and was at the Deutsches Haus at NYU. She reflects on her time overseas and her work below.

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What is your school affiliation, class year and major? When did you study in Berlin and what has that meant for your NYU experience?

I’m a Junior studying studio art at Steinhardt. I studied in Berlin in the spring of 2015. The experience in Berlin has been a big growing experience for me personally and artistically and I’ve met some of my best friends there in the program.

What was it like being an artist in Berlin? How did time there influence your work?

Being an artist in Berlin is ideal, but I think Berlin already gets enough publicity as it is. There is an ease of life in comparison to more grueling cities like New York, and that makes it easier for artists to survive and to work outside of market concerns. In my time there, my work was pushed a lot formally. Much of the work I produced that semester was performance, and that laid the foundation for a lot of topics I think about now.

I understand that while in Berlin you worked as a studio assistant for Berlin-based artist Timur Si-Qin. Can you describe that experience? How did that experience contrast with your internship and curatorial experiences in New York and Abu Dhabi?

The experience was fun and quite low-key. I helped Timur do materials research and went to a crazy Vietnamese warehouse/mall (Dong Xuan Center) in Lichtenberg to buy possible materials for his show at Société. I really appreciated how Timur talked me through his aesthetic decisions and clued me into parts of his process. I’m currently working as a curatorial intern at the Whitney, and to work at an institution is drastically different – there is similarly a lot of uncertainty and changes, but the work is much more streamlined and you are working on multiple projects, involving diverse groups and artists, at one time.

As someone who has studied and created across NYU’s global network – in New York, Abu Dhabi, and Berlin – how did you feel that the ability to be immersed in these different countries influenced you as a scholar and artist?

Disregarding New York, Abu Dhabi, and Berlin, I already have many cultural influences in my life. I was born in Canada to Chinese immigrants and then growing up in Atlanta, I never fit neatly into any categorical identities. I think this made me long for more “foreign”-ness, places where I was not even expected to fit into a box of familiarity the way I am in the US. Abu Dhabi has influenced me more than a short answer here can begin to describe, Berlin as well. New York has given me a new relationship to my trash and it has deflated my ego in healthy ways

I understand you recently participated in and won an award for work in the exhibition The Guest as Host, which showcased work by students from NYU Berlin and Universität der Künste Berlin, and was at the Deutsches Haus at NYU. How would you describe the piece in this exhibition? 

The piece is a short video titled Long Distance Friendship: Hamda and Emily Forever that I made together with my friend Hamda Salah, who complements me conceptually in the best ways. We have collaborated together before, on her thesis film and also on an exhibition we organized at a space in Abu Dhabi. The video set to a remix from a Stephen Universe song is a portrait of a friendship.

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NYU Prague Student Robert Ramkishun Reflects on Ally Week 2016 in Prague

This reflection originally appeared on the blog NYU Prague Now!. See the complete story and further photos there.

NYU Prague Student Robert Ramkishun recently commented on Ally Week 2016 in Prague:

“allyship (v.) is an active and consistent practice of unlearning and re-evaluating beliefs and actions, in which a person seeks to work in solidarity with a marginalized individual or group of people”

During the second week of April, members from the NYU community all over the world celebrated Ally Week. At NYU Prague, Ally Week Ambassadors Avi Grundner, Coty Novak, and Robert Ramkishun teamed up with NYU Prague’s staff to put together a series of events on various types of allyship. By highlighting the struggles and lives of different groups of traditionally marginalized peoples, both around the world and within the Czech Republic, students were able to increase their awareness of the individual and collective injustices many in society face and deepen their understanding about the experiences of others.

The week’s events included a screening of the documentary film “Czechs Against Czechs,” with a Q&A with the film’s director Tomáš Kratochvíl, a “Talk about Pride” on life as LGBTQ+ in Prague and around the world, a visit to the Invisible Exhibition, and a party at a local bar.

In “Czechs Against Czechs,” Kratochvíl, a member of the ethnic majority population in the Czech Republic, goes to live in a desperately poor ghetto in north Bohemia with a Roma, an oppressed ethnic minority, family. Along the way, he encounters far-right activists who organize anti-Roma demonstrations, as well as members of the public who don’t hide their hatred of the ethnic minority. During the Q&A, Kratochvíl and the students discussed a plethora of things, including the obstacles Kratochvíl faced in making the film and the parallels between Czech society and American society in how they treat ethnic minorities.

At the “Talk about Pride,” Tereza Pelechova, coordinator of Prague Pride, Petr Pavek, founder of LGBTQ+ club at Charles University, and Julie Koubova, an IT specialist at company in Prague, discussed life as LGBTQ+ in the Czech Republic and the obstacles many members of the LGBTQ+ community face in the country. In addition to discussing issues present in the Czech Republic, the NYU students in attendance were able to offer insight into what life as LGBTQ+ life is like in their respective cities and countries. During the talk, NYU Prague served food catered by Ethnocatering, an organization that employs migrants and uses all of its profits to aid their employees during the immigration process.

The Invisible Exhibition gave students a chance to understand what life without one of senses is like for one hour. During the exhibition, the students, with the help of a guide who was blind, had to rely on their sense of smell, touch, hearing, and balance in order to navigate various set ups including a kitchen, a forest, and a bar. The exhibition gave those who can see a greater understanding of what life is like for those who cannot and equipped them for some tools for assisting those who cannot see.

NYU Tel Aviv Students have Unique Modern Dance Experience

NYU Tel Aviv students recently participated in a rare modern dance experience. The Batsheva dance troupe practices in a famous dance pavilion located in Neveh Tzedek, a neighborhood in southern Tel Aviv with cobbled stone streets and small artisan shops. NYU students were invited into a private final rehearsal of the troupe’s choreographer, Ohad Naharin’s, most recent dance production.

A week before the rehearsal Students also had the opportunity to attend a public GAGA Dance lesson. Gaga is the movement language developed by Ohad Naharin throughout his work as a choreographer and Artistic Director of Batsheva Dance Company.

The GAGA dance lesson.

The GAGA dance lesson

Yitian Zhao, a Business and Finance student from NYU Shanghai attended the class: “This class really empowered everyone, regardless of their previous dancing background, to fully take advantage of our body’s flexibility. By offering tips on how to coordinate different body parts, Ohad Naharin took us onto a journey where we could artistically interpret our emotions via body.

The intimate performance if “The Hole” a week later had an occasional pause for the choreographer’s interjection and improvisation, which is an experience that only the dancer’s themselves are typically invited to see. Following the performance Ohad sat down with our students to field questions about his career path, creative process and choices in crafting this sort of evocative dance performance. In addition, NYU students had the opportunity to meet up with a fellow NYU alum who joined the Batsheva group following his graduation.

The NYU Tel Aviv students loved the performance. Michael Luckiman, a junior studying Neural Science at NYU Shanghai commented: “the event was astounding, well ­synchronized, immersive, and almost violently scary. There were constant surprises about the show, shocking its way into your memory“.

Daniela Echeverria, a History Major from the College of Arts and Science reflected, “Usually I am not so much a fan of contemporary dance; I went into the performance expecting to be entertained but not moved; Instead, the Company’s work had a profound emotional effect on me.” Daniela continued and mentioned she was grateful for the discussion session we had with Naharin “He left many questions and answers openended. In this way, he allows each individual spectator an opportunity to cultivate an experience of his art that is entirely his/her own.”

Two NYU Abu Dhabi Students Awarded Fulbright Grants

Two students from NYU Abu Dhabi have received Fulbright study grants, a prestigious grant that provides students with support for their research projects and graduate studies.

Established in 1946 by the US, the grant is given to both American and non-American citizens, and is meant to act as an exchange of education and knowledge. American citizens who qualify for the program are given grants to study outside the US, while non-American students are provided with grants to study in the US.

The program provides around 1,900 grants every year to students in over 140 countries around the world, and as such, it is considered one of the most prestigious study grants to obtain.

Samia Ahmed; Image credit: Michelle Loibner

Samia Ahmed; Image credit: Michelle Loibner

Samia Ahmad, who grew up in the US, was given the grant for her research project on why young Canadian Muslims are becoming radicalised, and will attend McGill University in Montreal, Canada.

The second student, Zoe Hu, received the grant for her project on empowering women in the media, and will be studying at Al Akhawayn University in Ifrane, Morocco.

“As the current global political climate continues to undergo rapid transformation, the development of more nuanced understanding of Canadian and American Muslims’ experiences is crucial for academics and policymakers alike. The Fulbright grant facilitates my involvement in this meaningful undertaking,” said Ahmad on receiving the grant.

Zoe Hu; Image credit: Michelle Loibner

Zoe Hu; Image credit: Michelle Loibner

Hu, who attended high school in the US, said she was looking forward to going back to Morocco after previously studying there as part of her NYUAD studies.

“I’m really looking forward to returning and reconnecting with people I met there. I’m also grateful to the professors of NYUAD’s Arabic Studies Department, who have instilled in me an enthusiasm for Arabic since my freshman year.

“What I learnt from them allowed me to take advantage of my experience abroad, and will be extremely useful when I return,” she added.

Read the full story and learn more from the Gulf News here.