Introduction and Interview by Caroline Skou, Holy Cross'20
This the first year that I’m watching ‘back to school outfit inspo’ videos on youtube for no other reason then I love fall fashion. Being a part of the infamous class of 2020 means that the end of my senior year was grand in that every celebrity came forward to give a commencement speech, and yet I unceremoniously watched it all from my parents' living room. Nonetheless, graduation was a defining time. But a few months have passed, and now conversations with friends who are still in college are turning to their schools reopening plans. With each chat I’m struck by a tinge of sadness, followed by a bit of relief. Of course I miss the community that was so apparent over the last four years, but if I never have to try reading middle english again, it will still be too soon. With my diploma acting as an exit ticket, my autumn will take a different shape this year-- nonetheless, I'm excited to see what is to come.
I’m sure I’m not alone in this mentality. For this segment of our MMXX series, Finley Paey, a new Fordham alum, reflected on how she sustained a virtual community for herself and many others during remote learning, and how she will continue this community building as she begins her masters remotely this fall.
Could you reflect on your last few months at Fordham. How were you able to maintain community at this time?
I did my best to stay involved in my school community in the final months, and really focused a lot of my energy there. I was the president of the health and wellness club, so we tried to host virtual events for students and post ideas of how to stay active inside or with limited outdoor space. I also helped out with admissions presentations for my school, and offered to answer student questions. I feel like now more than ever it is paramount for people coming to university to understand how strong of a community they’re joining is. I loved having the chance to talk to people from around the country and around the world and share my experiences.
I feel like now more than ever it is paramount for people coming to university to understand how strong of a community they’re joining is.
I was and technically still am the chair of all the senior celebrations for my campus as well, so in addition to cancelling all the in person events my committee and I had been planning, I also did my best to make the Fordham University Class of 2020 feel seen and special. We put together a number of resources for the graduates, made videos, ran surveys, and more, just to try and give the Senior Class some sort of celebration, and let them know they still have some sort of celebration to look forward to when and if commencement is replanned.
I felt like I was responsible for a lot, and responsible for keeping things running as smoothly as possible. It was a learning experience for all of us, and I think because of the abrupt transition from in-person to remote we didn’t have the time to formulate a clear plan. I found as long as I communicated clearly with my committees, professors, and advisors I was able to stay on top of everything and produced quite a number of things that I was very proud of. I’m hoping that the end of Spring 2020 semester serves as a learning experience for the future, and if these groups carry on remotely in the fall, they’ll have some knowledge upon which to build. Technically, despite graduating I’m still in charge of Senior Week 2020 for if and when commencement is replanned, so I am in a holding pattern with the administration waiting for more details on that. The other groups, I have faith, will be able to continue strongly with wonderful new leadership.
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It’s great you were able to stay involved in your community despite the distance. Now, for the infamous question for all grads: Do you know your next steps? What have your plans looked like post-graduation?
I was meant to be a senate intern in New York this summer, and that program has been postponed for the safety of the full-time staff and student interns. I am going into grad school at New York University starting Fall 2020 though, and will have an accompanying graduate assistantship! Both my masters program at NYU and my assistantship have been moved primarily online but that decision was made quite recently. For me, the biggest challenges of this process was doing interviews remotely, as I’m not incredibly comfortable speaking on Zoom, especially with people I’ve never met, and the general sense that no one has any idea what’s happening, and while everyone is frustrated and stressed there’s been very little any of us could do about it. We have all been in limbo for what feels like ages.
For me, the biggest challenges of this process was doing interviews remotely, as I’m not incredibly comfortable speaking on Zoom
Congrats on the graduate program! Has the Black Lives Matter movement shifted your career trajectory? Are you considering corporate responsibility and your university's response to BLM?
The Black Lives Matter movement has definitely affected my career outlook - I wouldn’t say shifted the trajectory but solidified my trajectory and strengthened my passion. Higher education and education as a whole can play such an important role in people’s lives, and can open so many doors. I’ve always been aware that education is a privilege, especially attending a university where BIPOC communities feel comfortable and represented. In addition to educating myself by reading and participating in actionable parts of the movement, I am working with mentors to figure out a way to include the ideology of BLM and mindfulness of the movement taking action during the pandemic in how I will conduct my daily life as a professional in higher education. I have also been paying close attention to the statements released by the universities with which I am affiliated and have been heartened by the statements made, plans formed, and money allocated. I hope by attending NYU and working at Columbia I learn more about how to better lend my voice and work to be part of the change sweeping across universities.
Higher education and education as a whole can play such an important role in people’s lives, and can open so many doors. I’ve always been aware that education is a privilege, especially attending a university where BIPOC communities feel comfortable and represented.
That's great to hear. And finally, how your idea of community in general has shifted during quarantine. How have you maintained a sense of community while at home?
I’ve tried my best to stay in touch with friends! We’ve done a number of socially distanced activities, including picnics and walks. We also schedule semi-regular zoom and FaceTime calls to check-in, chat, and play games. I am also lucky enough to be able to run outside, and seeing other people outside with friends, family, and dogs always makes my day a little brighter.
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