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NYU Washington, D.C.: Senator Tim Scott in Conversation with Theodore Johnson: Civility, Fairness, and Opportunity in America

On Wednesday, March 27, NYU Washington DC is hosting an event with Senator Tim Scott in conversation with Theodor Johnson. Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina continues to forge a singular path in D.C. as the Senate’s only black Republican serving at a time marked by unprecedented levels of political polarization. Widely lauded for spearheading a cross-party effort to include a provision encouraging private investment in distressed communities into the sweeping 2018 tax overhaul, Scott joins Brennan Center’s Theodore Johnson to discuss his unique views on bipartisanship, racial justice, and advancing economic opportunity for all Americans. The John Brademas Center of New York University is proud to co-host this event with the Brennan Center for Justice.


As a leader on tax reform, education and job training, and innovative ideas to reinvest in our nation’s distressed communities, United States Senator Tim Scott brings a unique perspective to the United States Senate. Growing up mired in poverty in a single parent household, Tim says that he is living his mother’s American Dream, and through his Opportunity Agenda works every single day to ensure every American family has the opportunity to succeed.

Senator Scott has served the great state of South Carolina in the U.S. Senate since 2013, and brings with him a mission to positively affect the lives of a billion people with the message of hope and opportunity. Growing up poor in a single-parent household in North Charleston, South Carolina, Tim watched his single mother work 16-hour days as a nurse’s assistant to keep him and his brother afloat.

As a freshman in high school, Tim nearly failed out, flunking four classes.  However, the next year, he met his mentor named John Moniz who shared life-changing ideas and the basic principles of business with Tim. Through hard work, education, innovation, and with the discipline his mother gave him, he began the process of turning his life around.

The lessons gleaned from his mentor still guide Tim today: you can think your way out of poverty, and financial independence is a stepping-stone for success. Having a job is a good thing, but creating jobs is a great thing. 

An unbridled optimist, Tim believes that despite our current challenges, our nation’s brightest days are ahead of us. During his time in office, he has been a tireless advocate for creating more opportunities for families living paycheck-to-paycheck and helping children who are mired in poverty have access to quality education. He launched his Opportunity Agenda, a legislative package aimed at achieving these goals, as well as the Senate Opportunity Coalition, a group of Senators committed to helping those in need.

Tim also knows that in order for our nation to prosper, we must get our spending and national debt under control. He has sponsored balanced budget amendments throughout his time in Congress, and will continue working to restore fiscal sanity in Washington.

Prior to public service, Tim built a successful small business of his own. He was first elected to Charleston County Council, to the South Carolina State House, and the U.S. House of Representatives. In January 2013, Tim was sworn in as a United States Senator from South Carolina, and was re-elected in January 2017.

Theodore R. Johnson is a senior fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice. Prior to joining the Brennan Center, Dr. Johnson was a national fellow at the New America Foundation, where he undertook projects on black voting behavior and the role of national solidarity in addressing racial inequality. Previously, he was a Commander in the United States Navy and, most recently, a research manager at Deloitte.

From 1994-2016 Johnson was a career military officer whose service included humanitarian assistance operations in Southeast Asia, as a military professor at the US Naval War College, and as a cyber operations and intelligence expert. He also acted as senior policy advisor in the Departments of Defense and Energy, and as speechwriter to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. In recognition of his leadership in public service, Johnson was selected as a White House Fellow during the Obama administration.

Since 2013, Dr. Johnson’s research and writing has explored the interaction of policy and politics with race and racial disparities. In 2016, his examination of African American voting behavior won the Dean’s Medal for most outstanding doctoral work and serves as the basis for first book project on race and solidarity in the United States.

His work has appeared in The Washington Post, The Atlantic, Wall Street Journal, POLITICO, WIRED, National Review, New Republic, and other national and niche publications. His academic lectures and media engagements include appearances at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, UCLA’s Hammer Museum, University of Chicago’s Institute of Politics, CNN, MSNBC, NPR, and TEDx.

Dr. Johnson holds a B.S. in mathematics from Hampton University, an A.L.M. with a concentration in International Relations from Harvard University, and a Doctorate of Law and Policy from Northeastern University.

NYU Prague Student Perspective: Rumburk with ROMEA: a Weekend with Romani Students from Across the Czech Republic

The Roma, the largest minority group in Europe, suffer from much institutional discrimination, including in the area of education. Nandini Kochar is an NYU Abu Dhabi film student currently studying at NYU Prague, and at the beginning of the semester she approached NYU Prague staff asking how she could meet or work with Roma, as she wanted to focus her film on this community.  Yveta Kenety is the Assistant Director of Student Life at NYU Prague and used to work for the nonprofit ROMEA running a mentorship program for Roma high school students. Yveta arranged for Nandini to do a non-credit internship there; read about her experiences meeting Roma youth for the first time.

I have the pleasure of interning at ROMEA, a non-profit organization that advocates for the rights of the Czech Republic’s marginalized Roma population. As part of the internship, my friend Vitoria and I were given the opportunity to visit the small town of Rumburk and spend the weekend with Romani high school students. What started off as an educational trip focusing on interviews and photojournalism quickly transcended into a thought-provoking and humbling experience where our preconceived notions about the Romani people were fundamentally challenged and dispelled. We went from viewing the Romani students as victims of discrimination to everyday-teenagers with dreams and experiences no different from ours.

Rumburk is situated in northern Bohemia (Czech Republic) with a population of around 11,000 people. ROMEA chose this town as the site for the eighth meeting of their BARUVAS program – meaning “We Are Growing” in the Romani language – that is offered as part of their Romani Scholarship Program. The program focuses on educating Romani students about their shared history and culture, as well as imparting relevant skills to them through workshops and seminars on media representation, networking, theatre, etc.

During the course of these workshops, we pulled aside the participants one-by-one and conducted interviews with them. We asked them about their family and childhood, their schooling experience, challenges they had faced, and their passions and dreams. Our first interviewee was Natalie from the little town of Chomutov. She is an aspiring singer, currently studying music at the Prague Conservatory. Natalie told us about her battle with identity in middle school where she found it difficult to take pride in being Romani. Her peers used to think that she was Hawaiian, and she chose not to correct them because “it was easier that way.” But after attending her first workshop with ROMEA, she began to find strength in who she is and reclaim her identity. “Soon after [the workshop], I decided to go upto my friends and confess that I’m actually Romani. I told them that if they weren’t okay with it then I didn’t want to be their friend.”

Another interviewee, Mario, shared his experience of being treated differently at school. “The most difficult time for me was in 9th grade when I wanted to pursue higher education, but my teachers refused to support me. That’s where ROMEA came in. They gave me funding so I could obtain extra tutoring. And I’m now in business school.”

As Vitoria and I spoke with more Romani students, what struck me the most was not the extent of discrimination they had faced on the basis of their ethnic identity but rather their resilience in refusing to let those experiences define them. They didn’t want to be seen as victims. Because they are not. It was at that moment that I became acutely aware of my own biases – I was so influenced by media’s one-sided depiction of the Roma and their marginalization that I had failed to see them beyond their social standing. But our personal interaction with them had quickly destabilized and shattered that reductive image. Vitoria shares the moment when this realization dawned upon her, “When we walked into the room and realized that this looks like a regular NYU Abu Dhabi class, it was a moment of wow, they’re wearing clothes I could never put together– their makeup is on point and their swagger level is amazingly high.” Indeed, they were just normal high school kids going through the typical teenage phase of being ‘too cool’.

On a more serious note, Vitoria and I – both being women of colour – found resonance with the Romani students’ experiences of identity struggle and feeling of otherness. And by the end of the weekend, our relationship with them had shifted from interviewer-interviewee to friends. So much so that we were invited to their farewell party and were able to witness the ‘gypsy dance,’ as they call it, and jam with them to Romani folk songs.

After our first night in Rumburk, I was reminded of something Nigerian novelist, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, had said in her Ted Talk, “The Danger of a Single Story”, that has stuck with me through the years:

“What struck me was this: she had felt sorry for me even before she saw me. Her default position toward me, as an African, was a kind of patronizing, well-meaning, pity. My roommate had a single story of Africa. A single story of catastrophe. In this single story there was no possibility of Africans being similar to her, in any way. No possibility of feelings more complex than pity. No possibility of a connection as human equals.”

I will forever be grateful for my weekend in Rumburk because it saved me from falling into the pitfall of a single story of the Romani people. There are multiple stories and experiences and people existing within that one dominant narrative. And once we realize this, we begin to see that our similarities outweigh our differences, and we share so much more than we think.


Student Perspective – Accra on a Budget

Valerie Ugochi Egonu, currently studying at NYU Accra, describes budgeting for her rich experiences studying in Accra.
One of my biggest concerns when I decided that I wanted to study abroad was the financial aspect of it. I love exploring, trying new foods, and going out with friends, but on the New York campus those activities can be pretty expensive and immersive cultural  experiences really add up. To my surprise, when I got to Accra I realized how budget friendly this city is, especially as a student. Today I’ll be spending a day in Accra for less than 50 cedis (10 USD).
Osu is a bustling neighborhood with street vendors, restaurants and nightlife, which make it an ideal place to spend the day. The uber to Osu from the NYU dorms is anywhere from 5-7 cedis. If I forget to bring a snack, I can easily buy plantain chips or nuts while in the car for 1 cedi. The main road, Oxford street, is a great place to take a walk and do a bit of people watching. If I get thirsty, which is bound to happen under the hot Ghana sun, I might stop and get a refreshing coconut for 3 cedis or a coke for 5 cedis. When I start to get hungry, I’ll head over to a kiosk and get waakye and kelewle, local street foods consisting of rice, beans and fried plantains, which ends up being about 10 cedis. As night falls, I head over Republic, a chill local bar, and meet a friend for drinks. I get a cocktail and watch as locals and tourists go up for karaoke, this ends up being 18 cedis. As the night winds down, I head to my favorite ice cream spot, Pinocchio’s, and get one scoop of the hazelnut ice cream. Spending the semester in Accra has given me the opportunity to explore and have fun without breaking the bank.

Conversations Podcast Hosted by NYU President Andy Hamilton

In this new podcast, President Andy Hamilton interviews NYU faculty, students, and alumni who are using their intellectual gifts, determination, and creativity to make a profound difference in our world. With each guest, he pulls back the curtain to learn the origins of their inspiration, the current focus of their work, and their vision for the future. His first guest is Rubén Blades(Fear The Walking Dead)— Steinhardt’s scholar in residence.

NYU Prague Hosts Conference: Women Friendly Employers: Together for Diversity

Panelists discussing what companies can do to promote gender equality

Two years ago CEZ, the largest energy company in the Czech Republic, launched an internship program for recent female high school graduates.  To select the young women, they ran a competition in which bikini-clad applicants posed in a nuclear power plant’s cooling tower – the women with the most votes on Facebook was awarded the internship.

Is this exceptional in the Czech Republic?

The question and many others associated with the struggle that women in leadership confront were discussed at Women Friendly Employers: Together for Diversity,  a conference hosted by NYU Prague.  It was initiated by the Women in Leadership platform which hopes to encourage cooperation in promoting effective approaches to gender diversity and women in leadership.  The platform was created by the Czech Diversity Charter in partnership with Vodafone and NYU Prague and it aims to adress the fact that Czech Republic has only 7% of women in leadership and the situation is not progressing.

All of the presenters

Speakers included Muriel Anton, NYU Professor and the former CEO of Vodafone, Alena Sochorova, a top executive at Microsoft, Dinah Spritzer, a journalist for the Jewish Telegraphic Agency and an NYU Prague professor, and Jonathan Rutherford, Vice President at Vodafone Czech Republic.  They spoke about Czech society’s perception of women as the primary caregivers of children, the importance of education to change attitudes, how the government can provide structural changes such as investing in quality daycare, and what top companies can do to lead the way.

Alena Sochorova, who is now in charge of Enterprise commercial lead at Microsoft Central and Eastern Europe, recalled an experience earlier in her career when she was promoted to a top executive position and was given training for her new job.  The training – facilitated by a leading American HR expert – taught her how she could speak and act more like a man. “Many men don’t understand that gender equality does not mean that we are all the same. I will never behave like a man. We want and need different perspectives.”

The sole man on the panel, Jonathan Rutherford, spoke about how the Vodafone company has tried to help employers realize that it’s economically beneficial to have different perspectives in the business world – and that it’s the right thing to do.  He emphasized that we do not need to change women, but rather to open the minds of some men, and the only way to do this is if men are included in the discussion. “Getting people involved in the debate can be difficult. Men can be scared – they sometimes see it as a zero sum game, that the status quo is being disrupted in a way that is not in their favor,” noted Rutherford.

Pavlina Kalousova, the chair of the Czech Diversity Charter and the conference organizer, says that this is a long-term project which she hopes will lead to more programs promoting gender equality like the ones at Vodafone.  She already has two upcoming follow-up events planned: a discussion about equal pay and another about supporting working parents.

Approximately 90 people came to the conference, including representatives of  large multinational companies, government, media, as well as NYU Prague faculty and students.  Also in the audience was Michaela Chaloupková who is on the Board of Directors at CEZ, the aforementioned energy company.  She apologized for her company’s sexist internship recruitment program and noted that it was the failure of one employee which led to a disastrous public relations issue.  

The incident had positive results – the company took measures to work towards more equal environment, such as establishing independent gender audits.   Discussions and heightened awareness of the problems that women face will hopefully result in more private and governmental organizations reevaluating their policies, and the Women in Leadership platform aims to help to catalyze this.  


NYU Washington, DC to Host The State of U.S. Immigration Policy Panel Discussion

On Tuesday, March 12, Washington Performing Arts and NYU Washington, DC will convene immigration policy experts and civic leaders to examine contemporary issues in U.S. immigration policy since the 1980s, including a discussion of the role of state and local government in supporting immigrants as federal policies shift over time. Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, fiftheenth term as the Congresswoman for the District of Columbia and Chair of the House Subcommittee on Highways and Transit, will give the opening remarks.

The panel is comprised of Kathryn M. Doan, Esq., Executive Director, CAIR Coalition, David Grosso, Councilmember at-Large, Council of the District of Columbia, Lori Kaplan, Former President & CEO, Latin American Youth Center, Mary Ann Gomez Orta, President & CEO, Congressional Hispanic Leadership Institute, and Nicholas A. Brown, Director of Special Productions & Initiatives, Washington Performing Arts, who will serve as moderator for the evening.

This conversation is presented in conjunction with the premiere of Washington Performing Arts’ co-commission Dreamers, a new oratorio by composer Jimmy López and Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Nilo Cruz on March 17, 2019 at Sidney Harman Hall (via simulcast). Dreamers explores contemporary stories of Latinx so-called dreamers who are caught in the middle of the current national immigration policy debate.

For more information, visit DC Dialogues.

NYU Tel Aviv Students Featured in The Times of Israel

NYU Tel Aviv students at EMIS

The Times of Israel recently published an essay about NYU Tel Aviv students visiting the Eastern Mediterranean International School (EMIS). The essay was written by NYU Abu Dhabi student Rodrigo Ferreira who is currently studying in Tel Aviv and an alum of EMIS. NYU Tel Aviv students from New York, Shanghai, and Abu Dhabi participated in the outing. The exchange was meaningful for the EMIS and NYU students. Read Rodrigo’s essay here.

NYU Florence Considers The History of European Integration and the Common Market

On March 4, NYU Florence’s La Pietra Dialogues will host an event considering the history of European integration and the common market. Hosted by Davide Lombardo, a Lecturer at NYU Florence, the questions to be considered include:

  • How did the European Union, after World War II, grow from six to twenty eight member states?
  • How has it met the challenges following the end of the Cold War to emerge as the economic and political power that it is today?
  • Will it survive its present challenges?