Greetings, Class of 2013

Joe Salvatore, a faculty member in Steinhardt’s program in educational theatre, greeted the class of 2013 and their parents at the New Student Orientation in July.  Here is a transcript of his greetings:

On behalf of the faculty, I’d like to extend a very warm welcome to all of you, new students and family members, to New York University and the Steinhardt School.  In my biased opinion, you’ve made a great choice to join a dynamic learning community, and I hope that you find ways to take advantage of all that the university and this school have to offer.

Believe it or not, I remember quite clearly my own experience coming to a “New Student Orientation” in the summer of 1990, 19 years ago.  I remember the mix of nervousness and excitement that I felt sitting in a session just like this one, hoping that the day would go well.  I learned later that my parents were apparently feeling the same way, as I was the eldest child of five to go to college. I’d like to say to the families in the audience that while I am not a parent, I understand and empathize with your nervousness and excitement, as I have talked with my parents about their feelings that day as well.  So to everyone in the room, RELAX.  It’s all going to be fine, because you are in good hands.  You will find that the Steinhardt School is a great place to be, filled with faculty and students doing exciting things.  One of the ways to feel comfortable in a new place is to get to know the people who are already there, working and learning side by side.  To illustrate just this idea, I thought I’d share a bit about what a typical day looks like from a faculty perspective.

6:50am: My day is starting with a 6-mile run.  I’ve qualified for the New York City Marathon on November 1, and I need to up my weekly miles.  I leave my apartment in the Third Avenue North residence hall where I’m a faculty fellow in residence, run down to the Brooklyn Bridge, and back again.  That’s 6 miles.  I run under the Williamsburgh Bridge, the Manhattan Bridge, and the Brooklyn Bridge, turn around and run back.  So I run under three iconic New York City landmarks, and it reminds me how great it is to live in this city.  While I’m stretching outside the building, I see students begin to leave for 8:00am classes, and I’m glad that I don’t teach class at 8:00am.

9:00am:    Out of my apartment on to the subway up to LaGuardia High School, the “FAME school,” to observe a student teacher, Annaleigh, teach a lesson to 29 ninth graders who “want to live forever and learn how to fly.  High.”  Run into two Steinhardt alums that are teaching and working in that school: the Assistant Principal of Drama, and an acting teacher.  Annaleigh is a senior and has been my student for four years.  I’ve had her in a number of classes, and I’ve directed her in two shows.  As I watch her teach at LaGuardia, I can’t help but notice the learning that has taken place.  I see a significant shift in her and her teaching practice, and it’s incredibly gratifying.  Annaleigh understood that coming to NYU and New York City meant seizing the opportunity to do lots of different things, and she’s done it.  What’s even more exciting is that Annaleigh already has a job as well.  She’ll work at Grace Church School in the fall.  Her predecessor at LaGuardia, Katie, has gone on to become the resident stage manager for the Aurora Theatre in Georgia.  My students are becoming working teachers and artists, and I leave LaGuardia feeling good.

10:50am: Back on the subway, listening to my iPhone, checking email, and trying to edit a script.

11:30am: Back in my office, responding to more emails from students and colleagues.  Prepping for my class later in the day.

12:30pm: Faculty meeting with colleagues in the Department of Music and Performing Arts Professions.  We review student advisement issues, upcoming course offerings, and new university-wide policies that will affect our work.  Lots to cover.

2:00pm:    Grab a fast lunch and reply to an email from a student asking for a letter of recommendation for graduate school.  He was part of the Dean’s Research Travel Colloquium that I will lead in January 2009.  Twenty students from across Steinhardt traveled to Berlin, Germany for a week to explore the city 20 years after the fall of the wall that divided it for so many years.  I love doing these trips because they allow me to work with students outside of my discipline from the many majors and interests represented within the Steinhardt School.

3:00pm: Office hours.  See a few students with questions about next semester already.  These NYU students are on top of things.

4:30pm: Finishing the prep for my class.

4:55pm: Teach my Shakespeare course.  We’re working on The Winter’s Tale and members of our Shakespeare Youth Ensemble are with us this week.  The NYU students in the course are working alongside these middle school and high school students to make sense of a complicated play that defies some of Shakespeare’s usual dramaturgy.  One of the high school students, an actress named Caroline, makes a particularly insightful comment about Paulina’s role in the play, and her NYU undergraduate partner C.J. is beaming because she’s been working very hard with this actress, and she sees the results.  I’m gratified, C.J.’s gratified, and the young actress is very pleased with herself.  It’s another nice moment as a teacher.

7:30pm: Head back to my apartment.  As I said, I live in residence as a faculty fellow in Third Avenue North.  It’s a residence hall for about 1000 first year students.  They are my neighbors.  Tonight, I’m hosting my second study break of the semester.  I have healthy snacks available and students come by, relax in the living room, watch television, read the New Yorkers that I have lying around, talk about their spring breaks, and play with my cats, Buster and Dusty.  If you plan to live in Third North this fall and have pet separation anxiety, Buster and Dusty like and appreciate visitors.  The study break is just one example of the kind of “teaching” that I do with students living in the building.  Earlier in the year, cast members and the director from the Broadway musical [title of show] ended up in my apartment for an informal conversation with students living on my floor and then ventured down to the basement mini-theatre for a building-wide conversation about how they made this hit musical.  On another weekend, a group of 12 students and I ran a road race in Central Park with the New York Road Runners Club.  The race was the Colon Cancer Challenge, and our team raised over $1000 for the NYC Colon Cancer Alliance.

At this particular study break, a student who lives in the building comes in and we begin to talk.  He tells me that he wants to be a pediatric oncologist.  I comment that it’s a great goal and that it takes a special person to do that kind of work.  He tells me that he’s volunteered for two years in a hospital on a pediatric oncology floor, and he wants to be the kind of doctor that can communicate honestly while nurturing a child at the same time.  I look at this guy and think, “I have really cool neighbors.”

11:00pm: The study break ends, I watch the news, check my email and go to bed at about midnight.

It’s a long day, full of tasks and deadlines, but it’s also invigorating.  One day, and I have my hands in a number of different things, interacting with lots of different people about a myriad of projects.  And I think students here have a similar experience.  The pace is fast, but there are plenty of people around, faculty, staff, and fellow students, to support you.  If you’re still feeling anxious and excited, then I think that’s about right.  As I hope you can see, it’s a good place, a safe place, a nurturing place, and a dynamic place, and there are lots of us here who want to see you succeed.  I hope you have a great orientation experience, and I look forward to working with you, seeing you in Third North, having you in class, or maybe even traveling with you.

Thanks for your time and best of luck to you, the Class of 2013.

You can learn more about Joe Salvatore‘s work by visiting his Website.