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NYU Prague Hosts Moscow-based Author and Journalist Anna Arutunyan

Putinism-talk-page-001-724x1024What makes Putin so popular among the Russian population?  For how long will he remain in power?  What is his relationship with the kleptocrats who want to maintain their business contacts and luxury apartments in the West?

Anna Arutunyan, a Russian American who has worked as a journalist in Moscow since 2012, discussed these issues – and many more- with Mark Galleoti, expert on Russian security, at NYU Prague during a public discussion entitled Inside Putin and Putinism: What Russia’s Leader Wants and Where He’s Taking Russia.

Arutunyan is the author of The Putin Mystique, a book published in 2015 that focuses on the Russian people why so many support Putin.  According to the Wall Street Journal “This fascinating book is an examination of a dance between ruler and ruled, swirling on amid the ruins the Soviets left behind.”  Arutunyan was born in the Soviet Union and grew up in the United States, and she is a graduate of the NYU Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute.

Ms. Arutunyan was joined for the discussion by Mark Galleoti, the former Clinical Professor of Global Affairs at NYU at the NYU Center for Global Affairs.   He has recently moved to Prague as the senior research fellow at the Institute of International Affairs Prague.
Galleoti argued that Russia is in a post-Imperial transition, pining its former Empire and defensive about its sovereignty – not unlike the UK.   There are two Putins at odds with one another: the pragmatist who keeps the economy working, and the Putin who is concerned with his historical legacy, craving a glorious, sovereign Russia which has a strong voice in global issues.    He taps into the population’s desire for the return of the Russian Empire, even when the size of the economy in the country today has shrunk the size of Spain’s.
 Arutunyan believes that Putin’s grip on power will not hold in the coming years – the kleptocrats, who want a better relationship with the West, will persuade him to step down .  “In Russian, power is the only currency,” she explained.  “No matter how much money you have, no matter how many firms you own, you have  no certainty that it will be yours with the next regime.  Stepping down from power is hard in Russia.”

GLS student Michael Leonetti Discusses his Experiences Studying in Washington, DC and Volunteering in Lesvos

image1 (1)1. What is your school affiliation and what year are you? What is your major (if declared)?
I am a sophomore in the Global Liberal Studies program with a concentration in Politics, Rights, and Development. I’m choosing between History or Spanish as a second major, and looking at minors in public policy.
2. You started your time at NYU studying in Washington, DC via the Global Liberal Studies (GLS) Program. What inspired you to study in DC? 
Choosing my site for freshman year took weeks, and I changed my mind several times. I eventually settled on DC because it’s close to my lifelong home in southeast Pennsylvania while still offering an entirely different living experience than I’d ever had, and because of the internship opportunities in politics.
3. How was your experience in DC? What was most inspiring, surprising, or rewarding about your time there? What did you find challenging?
I had just spent the summer taking classes in New York, and assumed that DC would be somehow less vibrant or memorable. Before moving there my only experiences in DC had been elementary and middle school field trips to the Capitol and memorials, or short meetings with smarmy Pennsylvania representatives. I dumbly thought that there was not much more to the city than its government and bureaucratic aspects. The most rewarding part of living in DC was gradually throwing out that mindset by getting to know and respect the different neighborhoods, locals and longtime residents, and distinctive parts of the city. I spent the spring semester interning for a Council member on the DC government, which involved frequent trips around the city, daily conversations with constituents, and a working knowledge of local problems. That internship helped me get to know DC even more and introduced me to many of the people who live and work there.
4. Were there any significant or memorable experiences during your year in DC that you would like to share?
At the time I was interning at the DC government, the staff was finalizing a program that the Council member had created early in his term called Books From Birth. The program provided a free, age-appropriate book every month to any child in the city, delivered to their door. The goal was to help the city’s children grow their vocabularies and increase their interest in reading, while also encouraging more interaction between parents and their kids. One of the first events that I went to as an intern in the office was the kickoff for BFB. I met parents who had signed up as soon as they heard about the program, some of whom had never been able to read with their children due to illiteracy or lack of resources. There are over 5,000 children enrolled in the program now. To see simple policy have a real effect on the lives of local families help reaffirm my views on government.
Michael (at the front with a coffee and bandage on his arm) and fellow volunteers.

Michael (at the front with a coffee and bandage on his arm) and fellow volunteers.

5. I understand that this summer you have been volunteering in Lesvos working with refugees. How did you come to do so?

At the end of the spring semester I started looking for independent volunteering opportunities related to the refugee crisis in Greece. I searched online for a while and talking with more experienced volunteers on a Facebook page for all volunteers in Greece. They guided me through the bureaucratic parts of international volunteering, e.g. age requirements set by the Greek government, registering with local police, and informed me about the current situation in different camps and cities. Through this I found out about Lighthouse Refugee Relief. Lighthouse is a Swedish organization that operates two refugee camps on the mainland and one transit camp on Lesvos, which meets incoming boats and helps the arriving people recover from their journey. The organization also works to clean the beaches of Lesvos, which are littered with deflated dinghies, clothes, shoes, trash, and other debris. I completed their online humanitarian training, got a flight to Mytilini, and planned to be on the island for around five weeks.
6. What did your volunteer work involve? Can you describe the experience overall?
I chose to live in the transit camp, which is a free option for any Lighthouse volunteer. When the camp is not in use by arriving asylum seekers, we used it as our home. I kept my pack and sleeping bag in the massive tent that female refugees changed in after arriving on the beach, and slept on the floor next to some other volunteers. Others chose to sleep in the men’s changing tent, the children’s clothing tent, and so on. Over the course of the month I moved from my original spot to a tent, then to a spot under a tree on the hill above camp.
When I arrived, the main focus was the beach cleaning effort. The group of volunteers was small, around seven to ten people. We woke up early, hiked for1.5 hours to the beach we were then working on, and went to work cutting up the boats and collecting the debris. The boat material is used by another organization as material for bags, jewelry, and other items. On the days we could secure a skipper of fisherman to pull our dinghy from our camp around the coast to the beach cleanup site, we would spend the day loading the dinghy with all the collected trash and taking it back to town, where we processed it and left it for the local trash services to pick up.
Shortly after I arrived, boats from Turkey started to arrive more regularly. Skala Sikamineas, the town I was in, is a popular landing spot for boats coming from Turkey because of its proximity. From Skala, you can very clearly see details such as trees and mosques on the Turkish coast-it’s only a five kilometer distance. I joined a landing team. We were responsible for hearing the alert from local authorities that a boat was arriving over the radio, quickly and methodically packing a camp car with food, water, clothes, diapers, and such, and going to meet the boat as it hit the shore itself or was escorted into the harbor by Greek authorities, Proactiva (a search and rescue organization), or Frontex (EU border patrol). After making sure that the people had the resources they needed, we escorted them to our camp. Volunteers not on the landing team would have prepared the camp for full service by the time the refugees arrived. We then served tea, provided bathrooms, and encouraged the people to rest as much as possible before continuing onto the next refugee camp, where they would register with Greek authorities. The adults usually took the chance to sit or lie down; the kids were usually too excited to do so and preferred playing soccer with the volunteers. After a short time buses would arrive to take the people to the next camp. We helped the authorities with this step by making sure to keep families together and trying to spot any possible cases of human trafficking.
Every landing followed this general pattern. On my very first one, the boat we were meeting had gotten through the coast guard unspotted and as such had landed on its own at a tourist beach just east of camp. We rushed there to find the people relaxing on the beach, the adults calling home to share the news of their arrival and the children splashing in the water, jumping off the sides of the dinghy. There were some mothers clutching their infants in the shade, eagerly accepting diapers and crackers from the volunteers.
Playing with the rescued little girl.

Playing with the rescued little girl.

At a landing later in the month, a fellow volunteer and I got into an energetic game of soccer with a three-or-four year-old girl who had just arrived in a dinghy on the beach right outside camp. We ran around with her while her parents relaxed at a table in the center of camp. She lightened the mood more than any volunteer could have, simply by laughing and smiling at everyone. When it came time for them to proceed to the next camp, the girl reached down, picked up the ball, and walked to the bus with a grin. Meeting her in camp was one of the highlights of my time in Greece. A few days after she passed through, we got news that a small boat heading for the southern coast had sank undetected. It was eight hours before a search and rescue team found them. Six people drowned, including a four year-old girl. For weeks I couldn’t stop picturing the girl from camp over and over in my head, thankful for her safe arrival and heartbroken by the fate of the other. Her death was a sobering reminder to all the volunteers of our responsibilities on the island.

Bringing a boat ashore.

Bringing a boat ashore.

During this time, we generally fielded one boat per day, usually in the early morning. Several months before, the scene was much more grim. Hundreds of boats arrived daily, carrying thousands of asylum seekers. The international organizations and humanitarian groups had not arrived yet; local fisherman became the search and rescue teams that pulled children out of the water in the dead of night after boats sank, and bar owners converted their spaces into field hospitals if the situation called for it. I now know many of these people personally, have heard their harrowing stories, and consider them the true and earliest heroes of this crisis. Despite their efforts, over a thousand people died in the Aegean Sea between Turkey and Lesvos. The situation may return to the dire levels of this past winter in October, as the president of Turkey is threatening to open the borders and allow two million more refugees to make the journey if the European Union does not grant visa-free travel within the EU to Turkish citizens.

About two weeks into my time on Lesvos, I started spending three or four evenings a week at a nearby camp for unaccompanied, male minors who had made the journey from Turkey to Lesvos. The boys were from Pakistan, Afghanistan, Syria, and Iran. In their camp, the job of Lighthouse volunteers was simply to play sports, paint, talk, and generally be friends with them. We were there as lightning rods for their endless energy. Each time I walked into the camp I tried to predict if they’d choose to completely wear me out through basketball, soccer, or the inevitable hybrid of the two. I struggled for a week or so to find my place in the camp. I was the volunteer closest in age to the boys, who were mostly between fourteen and eighteen, and found it difficult to ignore the injustice of the situation. We were similar in many ways besides age; we had siblings to talk about (in their beginner English and my embarrassing attempts at Farsi/Urdu/Arabic) and show each other pictures of, homes that we loved, many of the same hobbies and interests, and so on-the biggest difference, obviously, was that I had not been displaced by war, had a passport with a seal on it that allows me to go virtually wherever I want, a future of certain education and probable success, and had not lost friends and family to violence. After a week or so, we found ways to ignore this divide and form friendships that have lasted past my return to the U.S. I learned a few days ago from the camp manager, a woman from Save the Children, that all of the boys have been relocated to safe shelters in Athens. Getting off the island is a huge step in their journey. Soon after she sent the notification to the volunteers, I started to see the social media flurry on my accounts from the boys-selfies on the ferry from Lesvos to Athens, group shots in cafes in the city, and the like. I am extremely happier for them, but that happiness is tinged with knowledge of the reality of their situation. Many asylum seekers have made it to the country they hoped for, only to be greeted with racism, violence, political fury, and discrimination.
The graveyard of life vests.

The graveyard of life vests.

After returning from Lesvos, I’ve had the time to reflect on my month there. I see it now as a perfect and horrific symbol for the refugee crisis- a place where the desperation of the war-stricken and impoverished places around the world meets the relative opulence of Europe and the West; where refugee boats land next to sunbathing French tourists and people drown just a few thousand meters from Greek resort hotels and hot springs. It is very much a frontline of the refugee crisis, like Italy in the Mediterranean or the border between Spain and Morocco. Being there revealed the failure of the West in responding to this crisis.

7. Did your time in DC and / or your connections with the GLS and NYU community contribute to wanting to become involved with in Lesvos and personally take action in relation to this international crisis?
GLS, being a global program, helped orient me outwards towards crises that I cared about instead of looking to stay stateside. It most influenced my decision to go to Lesvos by showing me the importance of having firsthand experience in crises such as this one. I think that in the same way a federal politician should experience local politics first, anyone looking to work up the ladder needs experience at the first rung. This is why I interned at the DC government instead of applying to federal offices. As someone who might have a career in humanitarian work or international relations, I recognize the importance of being a volunteer. It informed my position on the crisis and added a human element to it, which is impossible to feel from the West. I gained an immense respect for asylum seekers and the people that try to make their journey easier.
8. What are your plans – academically and personally – for the remainder of your time at NYU?
I’m currently in the process of starting a student club that will provide free tutoring to refugee families settled in the New York metro area. I am hoping to get the help of the International Rescue Committee, which helps these families with education, employment, housing, and cultural adjustment, for this effort. Academically, I will be looking for areas of study that allow me to focus on human rights, issues of refugees and asylum, and crisis response.
9. Have your experiences in DC or in Lesvos influenced how you are thinking about your future studies or career? If so, how?
At this point, I am looking for internships in humanitarian organizations such as the IRC, Save the Children, Amnesty International, and some others. My ideas for possible careers are all geared towards humanitarian work. I’d like to keep working at the bottom of the international humanitarian organizational structure for now, which will allow me to be directly involved on the ground in areas of crisis.

NYU Florence EU in Focus Program 2016


The EU has the world´s largest GDP, the world´s third largest population, and is among the highest ranking in the world for health, education and living conditions. Recently, the decision by British voters for the UK to leave the EU sent shock waves across the Union. Through NYU Florence´s Fall 2016 The EU in Focus series, students will learn more about what the EU is, how it works, and its role as an international actor. What will the long term impact of the British exit (Brexit) be? Join us this fall to be part of the discussion at this critical moment in Europe’s history.

Students who participate in a working group linked to the series will also develop a deeper understanding of how EU policy-making works through the study of two specific policy areas: Immigration and the Environment. The series will culminate in a visit to Brussels to visit the European institutions on the ground and to meet with actors and experts to further deepen their understanding of the issues.


An Introduction to the European Union 

These talks are open to the entire NYU Florence community and academic institutions in Florence

How the EU Government System Works
Nicolò Conti, NYU Florence and Unitelma Sapienza University
September 6, 6:00pm I Villa Sassetti

The History of Europen Integration and the Common Market
Davide Lombardo, NYU Florence
September 20, 6:00pm I Villa Sassetti

Transatlantic Trade, the Environment and Competing Interests
Gianluca Sgueo, NYU Florence
October 3, 6:00pm I Villa Sassetti

Europe´s Asylum System and its Crisis
Evangelia Tsourdi, European University Institute
October 10, 6:00pm I Villa Sassetti

NYU Shanghai Hosts Forum on the Future of Science

future_forum_940Hundreds of science enthusiasts had a blast on Saturday at NYU Shanghai by envisioning the future world with leading researchers from the most cutting-edge frontiers of life science and artificial intelligence.

Organized by the Future Forum and NYU Shanghai, the 20th Future Science Lecture saw almost five hours of thought-provoking keynote addresses and panels among scientists, entrepreneurs and the audience. It was the first time that the forum moved to Shanghai following 19 successful sessions in Beijing.

future_forum_250_2Jeffrey Lehman, Vice Chancellor of NYU Shanghai, hailed the forum as exemplary as it seeks to connect the world through science and technological innovation, which touches every aspect of our lives.

“NYU Shanghai, as part of our mission, is designed to provide a venue where we can welcome people from different communities to convene with conversations over serious issues and develop new ideas,” Lehman said.

In the first half of the lecture, William Haseltine, Chairman and President of ACCESS Health International, shared his insights on regenerative medicine and immunotherapy, describing them as “critical to the health of you and your loved ones”.

According to Haseltine, regenerative medicine seeks to generate new tissues and organs within one human body, which will reset the tissue’s age and bring body functions back to a younger stage, while immunotherapy allows us to “use our immune system to find malignant tumors”. He called for increasing investment in the two fields to produce more technological breakthroughs.

The second half of the lecture featured lively speeches over the history, nature and impacts of artificial intelligence. Yu Kai, Founder and CEO of Horizon Robotics, believed that AI will turn many of today’s user terminals into something truly “smart” and data-based.

“From an entrepreneurial perspective, it can be the biggest industrial opportunity in the next 10-20 years,” Yu said.

future_forum_250In particular, Zhang Zheng, Professor of Computer Science, and Jeffrey Erlich, Assistant Professor of Neuroscience at NYU Shanghai, joined the panel discussion over questions such as what changes AI will bring to our society in the next five years and their concerns about its expansion.

“As a citizen, I’m excited about real-time translation: something that people can wear which will allow them to talk to anyone,” said Professor Erlich.

“Considering different cultures and global security, allowing one individual on the planet to talk to another in real-time will bring enormous benefit,” he added.

This post comes to us from NYU Shanghai; the original is available here.

NYU Washington, DC Celebrates Constitution Day with Stephen Solomon

constitution dayOn Thursday, 22 September, the NYU Brademas Center at NYU Washington, DC will celebrate Constitution Day, an American federal observance that recognizes the adoption of the United States Constitution.  Stephen D. Solomon, associate director of the Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute of NYU and director of the M.A. program in Business and Economic Reporting, will provide a dialogue on his newest book, Revolutionary Dissent: How the Founding Generation Created the Freedom of Speech.

solomonStephen D. Solomon is associate director of the Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute and director of the M.A. program in Business and Economic Reporting, which he founded in 1999. His new book, Revolutionary Dissent: How the Founding Generation Created the Freedom of Speech, was published by St. Martin’s Press in April 2016. It explores how the raucous political protest of the nation’s founding period gave meaning to the freedoms of speech and press at a time when the crime of seditious libel was used to punish criticism of government.

Steve received his B.A. degree from Pennsylvania State University and his J.D. from Georgetown University Law Center. In addition to business journalism, he teaches graduate and undergraduate courses on the First Amendment. He was awarded NYU’s Golden Dozen Award for excellence in teaching.His last book,Ellery’s Protest: How One Young Man Defied Tradition and Sparked the Battle Over School Prayer, explores the landmark 1963 case (Abington School District v. Schempp) in which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that state-sponsored prayer and Bible reading in the public schools violated the religious liberty protected by the First Amendment. The case still inflames passions today as Americans debate what role, if any, that religion, prayer, creationism, intelligent design, and the Ten Commandments should play in the public schools.

Steve was a writer at Fortune magazine and has written for many other national publications including The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times Magazine, The New York Times Book Review, and Inc. His articles have won the two most prestigious awards for business writing, the Gerald Loeb Award and the John Hancock Award for Excellence, as well as the Hillman Prize. He is also co-author of Building 6: The Tragedy at Bridesburg, an investigation of the working conditions that caused the deaths of 54 men from respiratory cancer at Rohm and Haas, at the time a Fortune 500 chemical company in Philadelphia. The revelations in the book led to legal action by victims’ families against the company, and they received a multi-million dollar settlement.

Revolutionary Dissent: How the Founding Generation Created the Freedom of Speech

When members of the founding generation protested against British authority, debated separation, and then ratified the Constitution, they formed the American political character we know today—raucous, intemperate, and often mean-spirited. Revolutionary Dissent brings alive a world of colorful and stormy protests that included effigies, pamphlets, songs, sermons, cartoons, letters and liberty trees. Solomon explores through a series of chronological narratives how Americans of the Revolutionary period employed robust speech against the British and against each other. Uninhibited dissent provided a distinctly American meaning to the First Amendment’s guarantees of freedom of speech and press at a time when the legal doctrine inherited from England allowed prosecutions of those who criticized government.

Solomon discovers the wellspring in our revolutionary past for today’s satirists like Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, pundits like Rush Limbaugh and Keith Olbermann, and protests like flag burning and street demonstrations. From the inflammatory engravings of Paul Revere, the political theater of Alexander McDougall, the liberty tree protests of Ebenezer McIntosh and the oratory of Patrick Henry, Solomon shares the stories of the dissenters who created the American idea of the liberty of thought.

More information about the event is available here.

NYU Prague Site Director Jiri Pehe to give talk on Fiction vs. Reality of Central Europe in NYC

Pehe Flyer 1CJiří Pehe, Director of NYU Prague, will give a talk entitled “Fiction vs. Reality of Central Europe” on Thursday 22, September at 7 pm at the Bohemian National Hall in New York City. The talk will discuss Central Europe as it is portrayed in literary fiction and compare it with the reality of current affairs.

Jiří Pehe, PhD, is Director of New York University Prague and a faculty member at the Center for European and Mediterranean Studies at NYU in New York. He also teaches at the School of Social Studies of Charles University in Prague. Pehe emigrated to the US in 1981 and after completing his studies at the School of International Affairs at Columbia University served as Director of East European Studies at Freedom House in New York from 1985 to 1988. Later he was Director of Central European Research at Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty in Munich, Germany. From 1995 to 1997 he was Director of Research and Analysis at the Open Media Research Institute in Prague. He was the head of the Political Cabinet of Czech President Václav Havel from 1997 to 1999. He is a member of the Research Council at the International Forum for Democratic Studies, the National Endowment for Democracy, Washington, D.C. Pehe is the author of hundreds of analytical studies on developments in Eastern Europe and transition to democracy, as well as a political commentator for Czech and international media. He has written and edited five books on politics as well as a volume about the Prague Spring.  He is also the author of three novels. His novel Three Faces of an Angel was published in an English translation in Great Britain and the USA in 2015. More here: www.pehe.cz

Organized by Czechoslovak Society of Arts and Sciences (SVU) in New York www.svu2000/newyork/  in cooperation with Vaclav Havel Library Foundation www.vhlf.org

RSVP: newyork@svu2000.org


Thursday, September 22 at 7pm

Bohemian National Hall

321 E 73 Street, 3rd Fl

New York City

Former NYU Berlin Student Anna Reiff Shares Her Experiencing Doing Volunteer Work with Refugees

Anna with friends visiting from NYU London at the Berlin Wall.

Anna with friends visiting from NYU London at the Berlin Wall.

1. What is your school affiliation and what year are you? What is your major?

I am a rising senior at NYU in the Global Liberal Studies school. I am set to graduate in the spring of 2017. I am a Global Liberal Studies major concentrating in Politics, Rights, and Development. I also have declared a double major in German language.

2. What inspired you to study in Berlin?

It was multiple reasons. I already had some good German language experience as I attended Kindergarden in Basel, Switzerland (German speaking part of Switzerland). I also loved that Berlin was located very centrally in Europe. This would allow me to meet people from all over the continent and allow for easier travel to other countries. The biggest inspiration for my choice was the current world refugee crisis. I had been reading reports on Germany’s record breaking in take of people in need and was fascinated by how they were able to accomplish this where other countries shied away from the challenge (The US included).

3. How was your experience? What was most inspiring, surprising, or moving about your time there? What did you find challenging?

The experience cannot be described as anything short of incredible. I owe a big thank you to the truly amazing NYU Berlin staff and professors. They really take into account an individual students interested and go out of their way to connect you with resources in and around Berlin. It was surprising to see how different and yet similar it was to NYC. You have the same melting pot of people aspect and your surrounded by amazing art and culture. However, it feels a bit more relaxed and slower than NYC. People take their time and sit out side at cafes for coffee rather than running around with Starbucks to-go cups!

I had a very moving experience with the family of a close friend. He was German-Polish and his family essentially adopted me for the year allowing me to do laundry at their home as well as never letting me leave without a full bag of groceries from their grocery store in Poland. I even went with them one weekend in January to visit their family farm in Jutrosin (6 hour car ride from Berlin). That was my first contact with the Berlin migrant community.

The most challenging aspect was trying to adjust to the framework of the EU political system. I had always had an interest in human rights but had really only approached in in previous classes from a US perspective. My first months in Berlin I was overwhelmed with the dynamics involved in EU legislation and how various member states worked together to address humanitarian issues and crisis.

4. I understand that you worked with an organization, FreeArtus: Artists and Refugees United for Freedom, while in Berlin during your second semester in Berlin (Spring, 2016). How did you come to intern with FreeArtus? What did the work involve?

I came to work for FREEARTUS artists and refugees united for freedom as part of my coursework. For Global Liberal Studies majors we perform an internship in the second semester of our junior year in our study abroad site. I had expressed interest in working in some capacity with the many refugees that were flooding in to the city.

The work involved research for fundraising opportunities, event planning and executing, some light translation work, writing grant proposals, and special project monitoring. FREEARTUS has many wonderful programs that bring together refugees and Berlin artists through the universal language of the arts. I was able to sit in on meetings with the German government as well as aid first hand in the implementation of integration programs.

5. Do you feel as though the work you did as an intern was valuable and did you see its impact? Did the experience change your understanding of issues of migration, integration, and community? If so, can you describe how?

I felt that the work I was doing was incredibly powerful. We would see newcomers come to a workshop, such as our acting workshop, and really be able to express themselves, despite not speaking perfect German or English. It was a place where they could be heard and not judged. The key to the program is that it was ‘for and with refugees’. Frank Alva Buecheler, one of the CEOs would always take in to account what the newcomers were asking for and made sure their needs would always be heard. He was an excellent supervisor because he really showed me what it looked like to go over and beyond for people in need. One evening I went with Herr Buecheler and one of our newcomers to a meeting with Amnesty International to try and locate a friend of his who had gone missing along the refugee route. It was not part of one of FREEARTUS’ integration programs, it was just a small gesture of compassion and solidarity with one of our program’s users.

Integration is a two way street. I realised that you cannot expect all the work and effort to come from new comers. Members of established communities have a responsibility and even the privilege of meeting these people half way and showing that they are supported, respected, and cared for.

6. Did you feel as thought the NYU Berlin community was generally aware of or engaged in thinking about the refugee crisis?

The NYU Berlin community was very engaged in thinking about the refugee crisis. Various students would lead volunteer groups to play soccer with refugee children or help out in other small ways. The NYU Berlin housing staff set up a clothing/food drive at the end of the semester to use anything students wanted to part with at the end of the semester before they returned home. I had a lovely conversation with Gabriella Etmektsoglou, Director of NYU Berlin, shortly before leaving Berlin about the work that NYU Berlin has been doing with teachers in order to support refugees. I would say that the NYU Berlin community is discreet in their support for refugees but strong. They realise the value and potential that each of these people has just as they value the potential of all of their students.

6. I also understand that this summer you interned in Washington, DC at the CWS Immigration and Refugee Advocacy Program. Can you describe the work involved? Did your experience in Berlin inspire you to continue working on issues involving refugee?

This policy internship threw me right back into the the American political system and forced me to brush up on my government knowledge! I assist in tracking state and federal legislation that is or might be anti-migrant. When a bill is detected our branch formulates action alerts and sign on letters in order to stop the bill in its tracks and hopefully keep it from being adopted into law. CWS is also one of the six resettlement agencies that the United States government uses to resettle all refugees  in the United States. I have met some of the most hardworking and inspiring colleagues at this organisation and truly aspire to have their moral and dedication to this humanitarian cause. My experience in Berlin defiantly inspired me to continue working on refugee issues. The global climate demands a better response to the 60 million people around the globe that are displaced because of persecution. Working first hand with refugees in Berlin really grounded me and made me connect with people on a human level. It is on this level that it really hits you that these are people just like your friends or neighbours.

7. How would you compare these two internship experiences and what do you feel you’ve gained from each?

The FREEARTUS internship was much more hands on and on the ground work. The CWS internship is totally in the policy world and research realm.  It all worked out perfectly for me because I really have a great perspective on policy because I had the opportunity to work on the ground with refugees. Hearing staring from the source what could be changed or improved is incredibly powerful.

8. Have these experiences informed your thinking about your future plans? If so, how?

My experiences have greatly informed what I want to do with my future. I am currently in the process of studying for the LSAT and think of which law schools to apply to. I would love to steer my law studies toward international human rights. Hopefully one day I will be able to work for an organisation such as UNHCR, US Department of State, or a non-governmental organisation dealing with human rights.

9. Is there anything else you’d like to share about your time in Berlin or while at NYU?

My time in Berlin has been the most valuable and enriching experience of my undergraduate education so far. I look forward to one day returning to Berlin while pursuing my work in human rights.

NYU Shanghai Computer Science Students to Present at Major Conferences

cs-9401Five NYU Shanghai undergraduate students have had their Computer Science research papers accepted by prestigious international conferences.

Class of ‘17 students Che (Watcher) Wang, Yanqiu (Autumn) Wu, Carson Nemelka, Cameron Ballard and Kelvin Liu have been invited to present their papers at the highly competitive Annual AAAI Conference in San Francisco, the ACM Internet Measurement Conference in Santa Monica, and the International World Wide Web Conference in Florence, Italy, which have acceptance rates between 14% and 25%.

The research, co-authored with academics at New York University and NYU Shanghai, investigates novice AI planning algorithms in real-time strategy games, the vulnerability of anonymous social media platforms, and risks to children’s privacy online.

Che (Watcher) Wang’s article “Portfolio Online Evolution in Starcraft,” which was co-authored with NYU’s Pan Chen, Yuanda Li, Christoffer Holmgard, and Julian Togelius, details a new method for playing real-time strategy games through “evolutionary search in the space of assignments of scripts to individual game units.”

The evolutionary algorithm, Wang says, is “based on and inspired by natural selection” and was test-proven to outperform previous methods in a combat simulator for Blizzard Entertainment’s StarCraft game.

“I was inspired by my advanced course called AI in Games. I only had a little over one year’s experience in programming before I got AI, but now I plan on taking on a DURF project this summer with a focus on reinforcement learning,” said Wang.

img_20160831_330The paper has been accepted for oral presentation in The Twelfth Annual AAAI Conference on Artificial Intelligence and Interactive Digital Entertainment (AIIDE-16) this October.

Popular on college campuses, Yik Yak is an app that lets users post anonymous short messages — a “yak”– which can be seen by other users in the vicinity. However, anonymous social network services like Yik Yak 4chan and Whisper, are likely to come under scrutiny after the publication of You Can Yak but You Can’t Hide: Localizing Anonymous Social Network Users [pdf] by seniors Ballard, Liu, Nemelka, and Wu.

Co-authored by NYU Shanghai Dean of Computer Science and Engineering Keith Ross and Minhui Xue and Haifeng Qian from East China Normal University (ECNU),  this paper investigates whether the app is “susceptible to localization attacks, thereby putting user anonymity at risk.”

Ballard worked with Nemelka on collecting data for the project. One of their experiments was able to determine the correct dorm out of nine UC Santa Cruz dorms from where a ‘yak’ message was generated — proven with 100% accuracy each time.

Reflecting on the collaboration, Ballard said it had taught him how to better communicate his work: “When collaborating you have to make sure another person can pick up your work wherever you left off. For Carson [Nemelka] and I, that meant making our programs easily usable by the other members of the team who weren’t necessarily as versed in computer programming,” he said.

poe6vsiuct_270The group’s paper has been accepted by the 2016 ACM Internet Measurement Conference (IMC), which takes place in Santa Monica, California, in November.

“It’s not often that you get the opportunity to generate knowledge, and the “Information Age” we live in is the perfect time to delve into any aspect of life that draws you,” said Ballard. “This research solidified my interest in academia. Having this experience under my belt made me confident enough to apply for the Dean’s Undergraduate Research Fund (DURF) grant this summer, and I’ve been researching Twitter and the 2016 election as a result.”

How Posting Baby Photos Could Endanger Your Child

The vulnerability of online privacy was also the subject of research published by Liu and Ross, along with NYU Tandon’s Tehila Minkus, in February 2015.

Children Seen But Not Heard: When Parents Compromise Children’s Online Privacy exposed the risks of adults sharing children’s personally identifiable information on platforms like Facebook and Instagram and was accepted by the 24th World Wide Web Consortium 2015 (WWW’2015) in Florence, Italy. Read more here.

Professor Keith Ross said he was proud of the students’ achievements.

“To have their research accepted as undergraduates at these conferences is an accomplishment of which they should be very proud,” he said. “It shows that they are already thinking and asking questions at an advanced level and will help them secure places in top postgraduate research programs. The NYU Shanghai CS faculty also have high hopes for the class of 2018 students.”

This post appeared in the NYU Shanghai Gazette, available here.

NYU Abu Dhabi Student Competes in Rio Olympics

NYUAD community members gather on the pool deck to wish Nada Al Bedwawi good luck in Rio. Michelle Loibner / NYUAD

NYUAD community members gather on the pool deck to wish Nada Al Bedwawi good luck in Rio. Michelle Loibner / NYUAD

NYU Abu Dhabi science student Nada Al Bedwawi is making a splash in the history books as the UAE’s first female swimmer to compete at an Olympic Games.

Al Bedwawi — who also carried the country’s flag at the opening ceremony — was selected as a wildcard entry for the 50 meter freestyle event in Rio de Janerio, Brazil. It was an unexpected opportunity, she said, because her original plan was to compete at the 2020 Summer Games in Tokyo.

“It’s an honor for me to be the first Emirati girl to represent the UAE in the swimming event and I hope more will follow,” said the 18-year-old who grew up in Dubai and is studying biology and math at NYUAD.

We caught up with Al Bedwawi to ask about her goals at Rio 2016 and to find out what it’s like to prepare for exams and the world’s biggest athletic competition at the same time.

rio2How do you juggle school and training for the Olympics?

Time management is the key to success, in my opinion. I set a detailed schedule to make time for everything from swimming to studying to relaxing and taking time off from my daily activities.

What’s a typical day like for you?

I wake up around 7am to go running for 30 minutes. Then I head for breakfast and attend my first class. Between classes I eat lunch and study a little then go to swimming practice for 2-3 hours. Finally, I head to my room and relax before I start doing my homework and study for any tests I might have.

What helps you relieve the stress of being a student and Olympic athlete?

Hanging out with friends and watching TV shows.

How does being a competitive athlete help you succeed in the classroom?

It helps a lot with time management. I set a time for everything.

What are your goals at Rio 2016?

To represent my country in the best way possible and hopefully open doors for young Emirati female athletes who are really passionate about sports whether it be swimming, archery, track and field or whatever. It’s an honor for me to be the first Emirati girl to represent the UAE at the swimming Olympics and I hope more will follow. I am hoping to represent the UAE again in four years at the Tokyo Olympics.

By Andy Gregory, NYUAD Public Affairs