Saturday, January 7, 2012

My Semester with the Tisch Dean's Scholars

During my Fall 2011 semester at New York University, I was once again very honored to participate in many exciting activities with the Tisch Dean's Scholars. I have written in previous posts about many of the amazing opportunities that this program has offered over the past three years - including the Scholars' private luncheon with Alec Baldwin, tours of nearly every department at Tisch, our invitations to Broadway performances (including Rajiv Joseph's Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo and David Mamet's Race) and meeting and talking with the actors after the performances, including Robin Williams and Kerry Washington. In this post, I want to highlight some of the amazing opportunities we were given this fall.

The past semester opened with a Dean's Reception in the Dean's Conference Room at Tisch, where returning scholars, including my good friend and fellow film student Nicole Cobb, welcomed the Tisch Dean's Scholars Class of 2015 and met with our wonderful Dean Mary Schmidt Campbell. I was unfortunately unable to attend an early September weekend trip to Dia: Beacon (because of a mandatory weekend safety tech for my Intermediate Narrative course). But on Wednesday, September 14th, I joined the scholars for an extraordinary New York Mets game at Citi Field stadium in Queens. Not only did we have our own private suite (courtesy of the extremely generous Cohen family) and private box seats for the game, we were joined by Dean Campbell, Associate Dean Louis Scheeder, Associate Dean Robert Cameron and film professor Yemane Demissie (my advisor at Tisch) for the game. We were served a delicious dinner and watched a great game between the Mets and the Washington Nationals with the best possible seats in the stadium. Not only was this an extraordinary experience for the scholars to spend time together, but it was also a great opportunity to get to know these fantastic deans at Tisch. Dean Scheeder, for instance, is a brilliant director and professor (the founder and director of The Classical Studio, among many other accomplishments), but he also knows everything about baseball. Sitting next to him during the Mets game, I learned more about baseball than I could have ever imagined.

Later in September, the scholars were invited to a dinner at Cafe Espanol, a very famous Spanish restaurant on Bleeker Street. Aside from these amazing outings, the regular Dean's Scholars meetings are held in the Tisch Office of Student Affairs at 726 Broadway. In October, the upperclassmen scholars shared our work with the younger scholars. In my case, I screened two of my Sight and Sound: Film projects from my sophomore year. In November and December, we were given private tours of both the Tisch Dance department and the Drama department. On Thursday, November 10th, the scholars experienced an evening with NYU Photography professor Shelley Rice, where she "[led] a lively discussion [and] debate on social media and interactions through technology," as described by one of our fantastic and dedicated leaders, Professor Chris Chan Roberson.

On Thursday, November 17th, the scholars were invited to a dance performance by the amazing HT Chen and Company on Mulberry Street. We were served dinner at the historic Chen Dance Center, and before and after the performance, we were offered a chance to talk with Mr. Chen. During the actual performance, warm green tea and food were readily available on small tables next to our seats. It was an outstanding dance performance, and another incredible New York experience about which I wouldn't have known if it weren't for the Dean's Scholars program.

This is somewhat unrelated to the amazing opportunities provided by the Dean's Scholars program, but on Wednesday, November 2nd, my good friend Jeremy Keller invited me to the DOC NYC Festival's Opening Night Gala presentation of Into the Abyss, the latest documentary from legendary German filmmaker Werner Herzog. The event was held at NYU's Skirball Center for the Performing Arts, and Mr. Herzog, one of the greatest living filmmakers, participated in a discussion after the screening. I attended the premiere with Jeremy not only excited to see the powerful new movie from an iconic director, but also with the hope of meeting and talking with the man himself.

As Jeremy and I walked into Skirball, Mr. Herzog stood near the front of the lobby, talking with one of our friends who also attended the screening. Both before and after the movie, Mr. Herzog was an extremely approachable man and kindly fielded many questions from the admirers surrounding him. Jeremy and I arrived in time to grab some perfect seats in the auditorium, and as soon as Into the Abyss started, I was absorbed by the documentary. I was particularly excited for this particular Herzog film, as it explores the story of a death row inmate in Huntsville, Texas convicted of murdering three people, and his accomplice, who is serving a jail sentence of forty years. The film, which studies the impact of the murders on the surrounding community, is astonishingly powerful, and Herzog allows us to see the humanity of everyone involved in this tragedy - the victims, their family members and even the murderers themselves. There is so much sadness and regret in the film, and yet Herzog shows us that beyond this horrible tragedy, there is still life and love among the survivors. It's rare that I see a movie where I feel so strongly for so many characters - or subjects, I should say - all of them so honest and so human. In the live discussion after the film, Herzog spoke about his stance on the death penalty and the process behind making the film. After the discussion, my friends and I talked briefly with Mr. Herzog about Texas (Nicole, who attended the Opening Night Gala, is also from Texas) and his Rogue Film School, which I'm hoping he brings back to New York City in the near future.

I hope to write soon about some more of the amazing experiences from my Fall 2011 semester. I am grateful to the Tisch Dean's Scholars program for providing so many incredible opportunities every semester. By the way, if you're interested, here's my friend Shaun Kim's freshman year Frame and Sequence final project - an old relic from the spring of 2010, in which I appear. Take a look:

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