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A Lab for Pedagogical Innovation: Doctoral Masterclasses at NYU Paris

Galichon teaching the masterclass

Galichon delivering a coding session.

Paris hosted its first-ever master class, math+econ+code Masterclass on Optimal Transport, Choice and Matching Models, delivered by Alfred Galichon, NYU Paris site director, and professor, Department of Economics and Mathematics, Courant Institute, in late June.

Interdisciplinary in nature, the five-day course focused on “models of demand, matching models, and optimal transport methods, with various applications pertaining to labor markets, the economics of marriage, industrial organization, matching platforms, networks, and international trade from the crossed perspectives of theory, empirics and computation.”

Interestingly, it is Paris’ world renowned cooking schools, such as Le Cordon Bleu and L’Atelier des Chefs, that inspired Galichon to take a new approach to the delivery of coding lessons. Galichon says his approach was informed by “scientific-context-based learning principles, where theoretical tools are introduced just in time, as needed, at the point in time when they are called for by the specific application.” Under this model, much as culinary students would in a kitchen, Galichon’s students essentially take on the role of apprentices, and over time, move from their position at the periphery of a learning community to the center as they build their expertise.

Galichon explained that the course starts with a presentation of “the raw ingredients to the student, which in this case, means the data, such as the characteristics of consumers and of products.” Following this, he describes to the class “what we will cook, which in this case means the type of matching or pricing problems we will solve.” To make this delivery format possible, Galichon emphasized that “[t]he time-consuming data preparations” – the tasks of the sous chef – “have been done off-line. I show the ideas on the whiteboard, and then I cook/code them myself in front of the students,” explains Galichon. “The students then code themselves, inspired by what they saw.”

Galichon grounds his pedagogy in “a ‘learning-by-coding’ philosophy,” which involves creating code “in front of the students rather than showing them lines of pre-written code.” In this way, students actively learn in-situ, rather than via a scripted method that relies heavily on the passive visualization of code and other course content. Delivering immersive courses, he says, has allowed him to be “quite creative and test new pedagogical ideas that may apply to other courses of this type.”

The curriculum, said Galichon, was constructed to serve the needs of two core groups of doctoral candidates. “There is a big demand from students in economics who look to acquire coding skills, and who want to develop a deeper understanding of the mathematical structure behind the economic models,” he said, “and at the same time from students in math/computer students who seek to understand better the economic applications of their tools.” Crafted around these requirements, the “course provides students with the conceptual tools and coding skills in an apprenticeship philosophy.”

The masterclass quickly attracted “a wonderful mix of students,” said Galichon, from quantitative disciplines, including economics, math, computer science, and engineering. In addition to students from NYU, the inaugural cohort comprised international enrollees from Faculté des sciences de Tunis, and Harvard as well as others from “very strong [local] institutions” such as Sciences Po, and Ecole Polytechnique/Ensae.

The international nature of the masterclass is also part of the linguistic aspects of learning to code. The course presents several different types of coding languages simultaneously, lending to a sense of multiliteracy within the learning environment. This is accomplished, Galichon explained, with “the presence of ‘veteran students’ who, after the lectures, present the course material coded in other programming languages than the one I am presenting.” He added that “These are among the novel ideas that I will test in Paris, which will thus serve as a lab for pedagogical innovation.”

NYU Paris Liberal Studies Freshman Students Win Prize at NYU Policy Case Competition

NYU Paris Liberal Studies freshman or First Year Away students Spencer Julian, Jarrett Lash, Wendy Li, and Cecilia Wang competed in the sixth annual New York University Policy Case Competition this weekend, where the team won the international policy category and competed in the Final Five round.

The Policy Case Competition is a conference hosted by the NYU Politics Society, in which students of all experience levels are given the opportunity to propose policy solutions in response to critical current issues. This year’s first round competition had over 550 participants from universities around the world, with the competition divided into five topics: International, Domestic, New York City, Technology, and South Africa.

Julian, Lash, Li, and Wang submitted a policy memo on maritime policy, with recommendations to the Executive Office of the United States to strengthen its capabilities in the arctic region by increasing military soft power and facilitating the creation of an intergovernmental forum on arctic trade and economics.

This post comes to us thanks to NYU Paris and Liberal Studies and you can learn more here.

NYU Paris Professor Valérie Berty Presents Her Book on Sembène Ousmane

On April 1, NYU Paris hosted an event featuring one of its professors, Valérie Berty. Professor Berty presented her book Sembène Ousmane (1923-2007): Un homme debout. Sembène Ousmane was a Senegalese film director, producer and writer. He was considered one of the greatest authors of Africa and he has often been called the “father of African film”. The program also included a screening of Sembène Ousmane’s first movie Borom Sarret (18mn) introduced by journalist and African cinema specialist Catherine Ruelle and by Alain Sembène. After the screening there was a panel discussion with Valérie Berty moderated by Elisabeth Molkou (New York University Paris) with  Marc Cerisuelo (Université Paris-Est Marne-la-Vallée) and Boniface Mongo-Mboussa (writer and literary critic). It was a lively and informative evening.

NYU Paris Hosts Symposium on Joan Miró

Joan Miró : Dessin-poème L’Été, 1937 (détail). Fundació Joan Miró, Barcelona © Successió Miró

On 9 – 10 November, 2018, NYU Paris will host a symposium on Joan Miró. Joan Miró: Painting – Poetry will focus in the main on Miró’s dream of merging painting and poetry, as well as his awareness of the existence of an inexorable duality between the text and the image. His simultaneous exploration in his works of these two contradictory paths constituted a major contribution to the art of his time. This symposium will also provide greater insights into the influence of French and Catalan poetry on Miró and his contemporaries.

NYU Paris Hosts Aurélie Samuel, Director of the Yves Saint Laurent Museum

On April 15, NYU Paris will host Aurélie Samuel, Director of the Yves Saint Laurent Museum in Paris, for a lecture and Q & A. The event is a wonderful opportunity for students to discover the wealth of the collections held at the Yves Saint Laurent Museum and get a better understanding of the various stages of the musealization precess. 

The GRI Writer’s Dissertation Workshop Experience in Paris – A Student Perspective

As part of the Provost’s Global Research Initiatives program, doctoral students in any discipline and in the advanced stages of dissertation writing are eligible to apply to summer intensive dissertation-writing workshops held at the Berlin, London, Paris and Washington, D.C. institutes. Each site hosts an average of six doctoral students for a period of six weeks. Students from all fields and disciplines are welcome to apply to these workshops. Today we are in conversation with Marybec Griffin-Tomas, who participated in the program last summer in Paris. In addition to her academic focus described below, Marybec has also worked at the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene in the areas of HIV/AIDS policy and program design as well as helping to evaluate the quality of sexual health services and contraceptive coverage in NYC.  

Can you tell me about your school affiliation, field, and focus of your dissertation?

 I am a double graduate of NYU’s College of Global Public Health. I will complete my PhD this May in the field of socio-behaviourial health and completed a MPH previously. My research focuses on healthcare access among LGBTQ young adults and my dissertation focuses on health care access among adult gay men aged 18 – 29 in New York City. 

How did you get interested in this topic?

I have had a long-standing interest in sexual health issues. I am a child of the 80s and I watched the HIV epidemic unfold on television at an impressionable age, my interests are now focused on healthcare access among LGBTQ young people. With the HIV epidemic in the 1980s, we witnessed people being denied access to basic health services because of stigma and discrimination based on identity. Seeing people being categorically denied care because of who they were or who they had sex with expanded my research interests out to the broader questions of access for the LGBTQ community and contraceptive access.

How did you hear about the GRI Dissertation Writer’s Program and why did you decide to apply?

I first heard about the Dissertation Writer’s Program through promotional emails a few years before I was eligible to apply. So I always had the idea in the back of my mind that I would do it the summer between my third and fourth years.

I found the program appealing because of the opportunity it provided to simply be away and have protected time just to write. In the hustle of my daily life – with work, research hours, teaching, etc. – finding time to work on my dissertation was challenging. The idea of being away from it all – from my personal life, work, school commitments – was attractive. I was also drawn to the community aspect of the program. I welcomed the opportunity to meet new people going through the same process I was and at the same stage, trying to finish their dissertations, but in different disciplines. I also liked the idea of being able to get regular feedback on my writing and being held accountable for making progress.

What was your experience with the GRI Dissertation Writer’s Program?

My experience was really positive and productive. It was a comprehensively structured program and a very supportive environment. I made deep and quick friendships, even with students from very different disciplines. For example, my office mate is pursuing a PhD in musicology and focusing on feminist representation in popular music. Although we share some common interests, our academic pursuits are not at all related. We would nonetheless often bounce ideas around together or, if one of us was stuck, take moments together to relax or recharge.

The leader of the Paris GRI program, Phillip Usher, is simply an amazing person and was a wonderful resource for us all. His research is in French culture, so his support was not discipline-focused. He really helped us to settle into the disciplined practice of writing – setting a schedule, developing a routine, and just getting the writing done.

Phillip also held special one-hour work groups in addition to the scheduled ones. These were focused on topics of interest to the students, such as getting an academic job. He provided advice on my cv, my cover letter, and the application process. Without his support and insights, I would not have started looking when I did and not be where I am now. He was really responsive to student needs and I appreciated that.

I had written two chapters of my dissertation before going to Paris and wrote the last three chapters while there. With this protected time to write and the resources of through the program, I not only became a better writer and finished my dissertation, but also received amazing career support that I could not have gotten elsewhere.

I understand that you were in Paris. Why did you choose to be there?

The first reason is technical. I speak enough French that I knew I knew I could get by, but I also did not know anyone in Paris. So it would be isolating but familiar. If I had gone to DC, I would not have been able to isolate myself because I have friends there and it is too close to NY. I worried that could be distracted as an English speaker in London. And that without German, I would get lost in Berlin.

The second reason is more romantic. I feel that Paris is where my soul lives. I am my happiest and at my best there. 

Was there anything particularly beneficial about being abroad? 

I was able to be productive. I was away from everybody, my family, friends, and regular life, so I could really focus. The six-hour time difference with New York was unexpectedly helpful. By the time NY was waking up and I started receiving text messages from my mother, it was my afternoon and I had already put in a solid morning of work. I’d usually take an afternoon break to catch up with my life at home as people started to come online and then get back to work. In addition to being physically away, the time difference created sense of isolation that was useful.

This time really allowed me to say “no” to my life for six weeks. As a PhD student, this is also probably the last time I’ll have the opportunity to do something like this as I am coming to the end of my studies. So that was also quite special.

Did your time in Paris influence your work in any unexpected ways?

Well, I am now also looking into jobs in Paris. I also started reading some of the French literature in my field, specifically related to sexual health preventative care. I now have new research ideas to look at these issues with a cross-cultural or comparative perspective. For example, I am curious to explore how the different health insurance systems in the United States and France influence sexual health preventative care. In the US, the system of self-secured or employer-based health insurance and the possibility of being denied coverage because of pre-existing conditions creates disincentives for preventative sexual health care, like STD testing. In France, with universal health care, there are not the same pressures.

Is there anything else you would like to share about your experience?

The NYU Paris staff really cares about the students. They are incredible. I cannot speak highly enough of them. The support for students was amazing. 

I would also add that I grew tremendously as a person through this experience. My father passed away in March 2017 just a few months before I did the GRI Dissertation Writer’s Program. In a way, it was good for me to be there alone and to process the complicated emotions of grief. The other GRI participants and the NYU Paris community were also tremendously supportive. Between that and the protected time to write, I grew. I became more confident in my writing and in my skills as an academic. I returned to NY with more confidence and pride in my work and able to engage with my mentors more as an equal. The program changed me a lot.

NYU London Student on Volunteering – Changing Hearts and Minds in Calais

This reflection comes from NYU London student Destiny Gallegos, who shares her experiences during the joint NYU London and NYU Paris volunteer trip to Calais and Dunkirk.

What better way is there to start the best month of the year in France doing something that matters for people who need it? That’s exactly how I spent the first and second of December during the Calais Volunteer Trip to assist Help Refugees in their efforts to provide the refugees in Calais with provisions they so desperately need. There was plenty of sorting and cooking and loving happening at the warehouse those two days.

Admittedly, before going on this trip I did not know as much about the whole situation in France with the refugee crisis as I do now after the trip. It wasn’t until our debriefing upon arrival at the warehouse that I learned how awful the refugees have it in Calais. From sleepless nights and severe police brutality to their tents being slashed and them and everything they own being sprayed in teargas to suffering through endless days and nights in the miserable, wet weather — the refugees need any bit of help they can get. All of this appalls me. I couldn’t have been happier to be there helping this organization give these people some hope and kindness each day.

For both days I was on kitchen duty. I volunteered with amazing English and French people who were running the Refugee Community Kitchen (RCK) and even had the opportunity to mingle with and work alongside students from NYU Paris. The people behind RCK were so unbelievably devoted and made the hard work we did enjoyable. There was music. There was dancing. There were jokes and giggles. All of the people in charge went out of their way to make us feel comfortable and happy while we were working for them. They also fed us some really yummy (and VEGAN!) lunches that warmed us up after spending hours in 1°C weather. Good food, good company, and good work for a good cause? I wouldn’t even have to think twice about signing up for this trip again if there was a second, third, or fourth opportunity to do it.

Some of my tasks included washing and drying a seemingly endless mountain of dishes, opening gigantic cans of this and that, cutting, chopping and peeling various vegetables, and trying my hardest to stop the tears from escaping my eyes as I dealt with onions. When I wanted a different task, all I need do was ask the people in charge and they automatically had something else for me to do. It was definitely a hustle-and-bustle environment in the kitchen at all times because RCK provides lunch and dinner to the refugees in The Jungle (the area in the forests where the refugees congregate) every day. Everyone was aware at all times of the urgency and importance it was to have the food done and ready for distribution on time because we knew how hungry and cold the refugees must have been if we ourselves were shivering with our coats and hats and scarves surrounded by stoves of boiling foods. There were a few times when I became rather upset and bothered with myself and others because we commented (even complained) about how cold we were when we didn’t even have it nearly as bad as the refugees do day and night on end.  

For the night we stayed in a French hotel in Dunkirk. It had heat, warm water, and comfortable beds. That in itself was more than the refugees have and I went to bed that night counting my blessings for things that I before considered to be givens in my life that would actually be luxuries to others. It’s saddening to know that I live in a world where some people can have so much while others have nothing, not even the treatment of human decency.

To say this trip was humbling is an understatement. Not only did it make me really see how privileged I actually am, but it challenged me to want to use that privilege to benefit people who do not and never will have it as easy as I do in life. It was beautiful to see so many people wholeheartedly committed day in and day out to show the refugees that they matter and that they have not been forgotten. I’ve done some charity work in the past, and while all my experiences have affected me in one way or another, I have never felt as touched as I do after having worked with Help Refugees and Refugee Community Kitchen. The greatest takeaway I have from this trip is how easy and meaningful it is to make a difference when you’re in a position to do so.

My only complaint is that I, and everyone else from NYU, felt that we could have done more volunteering. Hopefully the next time this trip rolls around, NYU will make it a full weekend commitment. It was more than worth the £50, wearing Crocs all day in the kitchen, and the newly acquired permanent stench of onions on my hands that won’t go away despite numerous washes and showers. If you want to take a part in something that matters and have fun whilst promoting humanitarian greatness, the Calais trip is for you. The hotel being in Dunkirk was also nice because it was a 10-15 minute walk away from the beach of Mal-les-Bains. I woke up really early the second day of the trip and went to the beach after breakfast to watch the sun rise before we headed back to Calais for more volunteering.

It’s not every day that you get to have experiences that touch the core of your humanity and leave an imprint on all of your values, so if the chance to work with Help Refugees ever crosses your path, you MUST do it. But if you aren’t physically able to help the cause, then please donate. Any amount of money you give can help make the difference that these people need. It’s been said time and time again but only because it’s so true– I’ve witnessed it firsthand. Be one of the reasons a refugee finds the strength to not give up hope.

The original post can be found on the NYU London volunteers blog here.

NYU Paris Hosts Conference: Rouch in the USA

On November 9, NYU Paris will host a conference entitled Rouch in the USA. This year marks the centenary of the birth of the French ethnographic filmmaker, Jean Rouch. Founder of the cinéma-vérité movement and pioneer of techniques such as “shared anthropology” and “ethno-fiction,” Rouch not only re-defined the landscape of anthropology and cinema in France during the 1950s and sixties, he helped transform Post-Independence African cinema and documentary film practice, writ large. Having made upwards of one hundred films with countless collaborators over the course of a career that spanned six decades and several continents, the story of his complex legacy is just beginning to unfold.

Rouch in the USA aims to trace the contours of Rouch’s influence on American thinkers and filmmakers. Whether through his work with students and faculty at summer workshops on the East Coast (where he taught alongside such pioneering figures as Ricky Leacock and John Marshall), his invaluable presence at the now legendary Flaherty Seminars, or his lasting impact on scholars and artists working in the U.S., it has long been recognized that Rouch’s work has been embraced and taken up in the American context in ways that are wholly unique.

An integral part of the centenary edition of the annual Festival International Jean Rouch, the event is co-sponsored by the Comité du Film Ethnographique and has been made possible by the generous support of the Office of the Provost’s Global Research Initiatives at New York UniversityNYU Paris, the NYU Center for the HumanitiesThe Gallatin School of Individualized Study, and the Center for Media, Culture and History at NYU. Rouch in the USA will also coincide with several centenary events taking place in Paris this fall, including two major Rouch exhibits at the Musée de l’Homme and the Bibliothèque Nationale de Paris.

Organized by Beth Epstein (NYU Paris), Faye Ginsburg (Department of Anthropology, NYU), & Jamie Berthe (The Gallatin School, NYU).