Concentrating on Alumni

December 2017: Patricia Bosworth ’55

Patricia Bosworth ’55Every month, we ask a member of the alumni community five questions about their time at Sarah Lawrence and beyond. Patricia Bosworth ’55 is a journalist and biographer, memoirist, and former actress. She has written biographies on Montgomery Clift, Diane Arbus, Marlon Brando, and Jane Fonda. Her most recent book is The Men in My Life: A Memoir of Love and Art in 1950's Manhattan. She will be featured in Writers’ Night, an alumni event in New York City on January 22, in conversation with Emmy Award-winning executive producer and co-host of Theater Talk, Susan Haskins '71.

Why did you choose Sarah Lawrence?
Maybe because I have always felt most comfortable in a state of transition—all my life I’ve gotten the most satisfaction from situations where I was becoming something else—a college student, a wife, becoming an actress, becoming an editor, and then a writer. Sarah Lawrence, as part of its liberal arts philosophy, dedicates itself to educating the student simply to be.

Did you have a favorite class?
At Sarah Lawrence, I first developed my identity as a woman and became aware of other achieving women—at Sarah Lawrence, my favorite class was a writing course with the poet Jane Cooper where I first attempted to dominate my own experience on paper and give it shape and form.

What was your favorite spot on campus?
A place called "The Caf" in Reisinger (not there anymore, I don’t think). We'd go for coffee and conversation, watch television, catch up on the news...I loved to walk all over campus—up and down those rolling hills—they reminded me of my childhood in Berkeley where everything seemed on a grassy green slope.

You’ve done so much in your career, in acting, writing, and beyond. Do you have a favorite project that you have worked on so far?
Researching my biography of the photographer Diane Arbus (published by Norton). I focused on her various worlds—the world of fashion and the dark world of freaks and eccentrics she documented so brilliantly. She believed she was an adventuress with her camera. Her ambition was, “to photograph every archetype.” She once said, “A photograph is a secret about a secret, the more it tells you the less you know.”

How is the experience of writing a memoir different from writing a biography?
Ideally, my voice as a biographer is scholarly—but not academic— objective when weighing the facts. In memoir, it’s all about developing personal narrative—it’s episodic—I’m always trying to make sense of my past. But in both forms I think and interpret and, yes finally, write in my own voice. I think very hard about what I want to say.


Meet More Alumni

November 2017: Simeon Bankoff ’91

Photo: John KeonSimeon Bankoff ’91 is a historic preservation advocate in New York City. He serves as Executive Director of the Historic Districts Council. He lead a tour of DUMBO for alumni in October.

Why did you choose Sarah Lawrence?
Proximity to New York City was really important to me. As a native New Yorker, I wanted to experience the city as a young adult and take advantage of all the things I had glimpsed growing up but was too young to partake in, so all the colleges I looked at were within reasonable distance (three hours or less) to the city. Aside from that, I went to a large science and math high school (Stuyvesant) and I wanted some place which was more artistic and creative. I also liked the teacher-to-student ratio. I visited Sarah Lawrence by myself during an early winter snowstorm and was quite taken with the campus; it struck me as the sort of place Woody Allen would think of as a college campus—which spoke to my pretentiously alienated teenage heart.

Did you have a favorite class?
My favorite class was probably Wolfgang Spitzer’s class on romantic poetry. It was all medievalism, literary allegories, and horribly arcane material which completely fulfilled my fantasies of what college was supposed to be. Additionally, it was held in Professor Spitzer’s office in the basement of Dudley Lawrence, so all I had to do was roll downstairs from my room, which was very convenient. It was filled with all the stylings a good medievalist’s office needed; including an ancient radio tuned to WQXR, an imposing espresso machine, impressively overwrought baroque furniture, and a bust of his famous father—it felt like Sherlock Holmes’ apartment. Finally, my suitemate and two other good friends were in the class, so we could collectively freak out about papers and readings. Spitzer himself was incredibly knowledgeable and enthusiastic about his subject, so it was an overall nearly perfect academic experience.

How did you begin your career in the historic preservation of New York City?
When I got out of school, I worked in technical theatre for a while. That experience got parlayed into helping a historic house nonprofit out with their annual benefit. I knew them through my father who had hosted several archaeological summer school programs on their properties. Once I entered that orbit, I moved from one preservation nonprofit to another, picking up skills and knowledge along the way. Years of creative writing classes at Sarah Lawrence helped immensely; there’s a surprising correlation between poetry and fundraising letters. I was interested and aware of NYC history through my parents and growing up, so I kept at it.

You’re a lifelong resident of Brooklyn. Do you have a favorite spot in the borough?
Probably Coney Island. It’s tawdry and chintzy and full of the kind of people whom I think of as real New Yorkers. It is to be avoided on weekends at all costs, especially during the summer, but there’s a quality of light and an expanse of sky which you encounter down by the ocean that I find both reviving and humbling. Going down there always gives me a fresh perspective on the bigger things—and I am morbidly fascinated by the ongoing civic uglification campaign; it’s been going strong for decades and shows no sign of slowing down.

When you aren’t saving historic sites, how else do you like to spend your time?
Reading, watching TV, resting, and recharging so that I can continue to do what I love doing. I just finished graduate school, so there’s a mountain of books which I’ve been picking up but haven’t had the time to read until now.

October 2017: Khaliah Williams ’02

Khaliah Williams ’02Khaliah Williams ’02 is a college counselor and English teacher at The Berkeley Carroll School in Park Slope and a current fellow at the Kimbilio Center for African American Fiction. She is a member of the Alumni Association Board.

Why did you choose Sarah Lawrence?
If I were to be perfectly honest, I didn't know much about Sarah Lawrence when I first told my mother I'd be applying. I actually opened a college guide and pointed to the school name that looked the most appealing and said, "I'm applying to Sarah Lawrence," so that my mother would leave me alone. Since I had already made the statement, I figured I would at least have to request a catalog and application. If I had to pinpoint one thing, I would say that the catalog of courses the Admissions Office sent to me became my bible. I read it cover to cover. I could have told you anything and everything that was between those pages. I chose Sarah Lawrence because I wanted to study theater and Italian and film history and literature; and I knew that I would never have to sacrifice any of those disciplines because of a core curriculum. I also loved the idea of being at a place where writing was central.

Did you have a favorite class?
This is a hard question, so I'm going to ignore it and give you three favorite classes I know for certain shaped my life beyond my four years at Sarah Lawrence. “Film History of the 1930's” with Bill Park was my First-Year Studies course. It was actually my last choice, but Bill was an incredible don and I learned how to write in that class. “Writer's Gym” with Cassandra Medley was another class that was incredibly important to me. Kate Scelsa ’02, Laura von Holt ’02, and I have been writing buddies since 1999 and we can credit Cassandra for not only bringing us together but for also pushing us to write through the inner critics that are always trying to silence us. Lastly, “Advanced Italian” with Judy Serafini Sauli. When I first studied with her as a first-year, she would stop me on paths around Westlands and speak to me in Italian and I understood nothing (sorry, Judy!), well maybe I understood better by the end. But Judy helped to build something incredibly important to hundreds of Sarah Lawrence alumni through the Florence program. Sarah Lawrence in Florence and that last Italian class helped me build a great deal of confidence in myself. It exposed me to writers like Natalia Ginzburg and the conference work I did in that class was the first piece of long form fiction writing I did the entire time I was at Sarah Lawrence. I left school wanting to write a novel because of the literature we read and the writing I did.

You’re a college counselor and English teacher at The Berkeley Carroll School in Park Slope, which you’ve described as your “dream job.” What do you love about it?
I work in an environment with people, both faculty and students, who are a constant source of inspiration. In a very turbulent world, I get to come to a place that isn't afraid to confront what's outside its doors but also manages to be a respite from it all. In my daily work with students, now mostly as a college counselor, I enjoy watching them work their way through the process. I love the moment when someone discovers the college where they're going to spend the next phase of their education. I like seeing the excitement that comes with an offer of admission from a school they've applied to and I'm always impressed by their resilience when things take a different course than the one that was hoped for. I am also very grateful that I get to come to a place that supports me not only as a college counselor, but also as a writer.

You have a student who is now a member of the class of 2021. What advice do you have for her and the other first years?
If you find yourself afraid to take a class, then that's the class you should take. I was terrified of taking a fiction writing class while I was at Sarah Lawrence. I thought everyone would be better than me, I was convinced I had no ideas. It's a regret I'll always have. So if you think that math class sounds scary, that is probably the class you should register for.

You’re working on a novel and collection of short stories, publishing essays online, and are a current fellow at the Kimbilio Center for African American Fiction. How do you balance your writing with the rest of your life?
What is this balance you speak of? I write when I can, which is usually in the summer and during the winter and spring breaks. This past summer, I was a Writer in Residence for Writers in Baltimore Schools and in between spending time with the amazing young writers from Baltimore, I made some good progress on my novel. I always wish for more time, but I find it where I can.

September 2017: Nancy Lelewer Sonnabend ’57

Nancy Lelewer Sonnabend '57Nancy Lelewer Sonnabend ’57 is an author, researcher, inventor, and lecturer who has been engaged in early childhood development and learning disabilities for over forty-five years. Her books include The Lelewer Legacy: Traditions of a Loving Family. In 2004, she received the Alice H. Garside award from the Massachusetts Branch of the International Dyslexia Association for her outstanding contribution to the field of Learning Disabilities. Nancy is an Executive Advisor to the Asperger's Association of New England and a member of the National Board of the Hearing Loss Association of America.

What brought you to Sarah Lawrence?
I was frustrated in high school because every time I became interested in a subject, I couldn’t pursue it as I would have to study for a test for another class. As I’m dyslexic, I read slowly and it seemed to me for the most part what I was doing in high school was reading and taking tests about what I had read or on the teacher’s lecture. Sarah Lawrence, with no tests, small interactive classes, and individual conferences where one could choose what one wanted to study, sounded and was great.

What was your favorite spot on campus?
I spent a lot of time studying in the library and in my room. Occasionally I would read under a tree. I enjoyed playing on the tennis team. Barbara Katz Judd ’57 and I won the New England Regional’s doubles our sophomore year.

Which faculty members had the most influence on your time at Sarah Lawrence?
Having sat up all night on the train from Chicago to NY, I arrived at Penn Station, transferred to Grand Central, got the train to Bronxville, deposited my luggage and myself into a taxi and arrived at Sarah Lawrence College. The taxi let me off at the administration office, next to the tennis courts. I checked in and promptly learned I would be in off-campus housing a block away. As I began to lug my suitcase and footlocker down the path to the street, I thought I heard someone call out, “Nancy.” I paid no attention. There were surely other girls named Nancy at Sarah Lawrence. “Nancy Lelewer,” the voice now said. I whirled around and saw a handsome man, probably in his thirties, wearing tennis whites and holding a tennis racket.

“Hi,” he said. “I’m Harold Taylor. You are a tennis player, right?”

“Yes,” I said with some bewilderment.

“Do you have your racket and tennis clothes in that baggage?”

“Yes.”

“Well hurry up. We need a fourth and we’ll wait for you.”

That was my start at Sarah Lawrence and the beginning of my relationship with Harold Taylor. In time, I would read every press release before he released them to the national press.

I was also close to my don, Adda Bozeman, who taught me much intellectually and was a great emotional support. Justa Lopez-Rey researched all the Spanish abroad programs and encouraged me to transfer to Smith College and spend my junior year with Smith in Madrid, which I did. At the end of the year I transferred back to Sarah Lawrence for my senior year and heard Eleanor Roosevelt speak at our graduation. I have a copy of her speech.

You have written several books and contributed to others. The most recent is Aging Wisely…Wisdom of Our Elders by Silverman and Siegel. How did that book come about?
Seven years ago, I received a phone call from a man who identified himself as Irving Silverman. He told me he had recently moved to New Bridge on the Charles (a senior retirement village) that he had a profound hearing problem, was 90 years old, and was trying to get induction loops (often called hearing loops) installed at New Bridge. My name kept surfacing as the go-to person, even though I live in downtown Boston, 45 minutes away. We had dinner together and I could tell immediately that Irving was a special human being and very persistent. It took Irving five years ,but he finally got the three common rooms at New Bridge looped. Then at 95, he started on the book project. I didn’t like his title or the fact that he was only interviewing people at New Bridge—it was too narrow for any publisher to sell. Irving persisted and found a publisher who told him what I told him. Gave the book a new title (the one it now has) and he needed to find people from all over the country and of different ethnic groups. That’s where I came back in. Irving wrote me to please help him by writing a couple of chapters and finding people all over the country and from different ethnic backgrounds—which is what I did. The book came out in June and is doing well. I’m helping to promote it.

You recently celebrated your 60th Reunion. What did you enjoy most about returning to campus for Reunion?
Seeing classmates and the two lunches I attended. I would like to see the president’s house renamed the Taylor House, Home to the President. Without Harold Taylor, Sarah Lawrence would not be the school it is today. Harold Taylor made Sarah Lawrence.

August 2017: Ellen Winter ’14, Sam Monaco ’11, and A. Sarr ’13

Chamber Band

Ellen Winter ’14, Sam Monaco ’11, and A. Sarr ’13 are members of the indie group Chamber Band. Recently, they collaborated on the musical theatre podcast 36 Questions, which also features violin from Lily Desmond ’16 and many other talented writers and musicians.

Why did you choose Sarah Lawrence?
Ellen Winter: I chose Sarah Lawrence because of its 'choose-your-own-adventure' pedagogy and its theater department. I wanted the freedom to connect my arts to my academics and vice versa without having to compromise dedication to either. Sarah Lawrence facilitated a supportive environment where synthesis and interdisciplinary action is encouraged, and that inspired me to start writing musicals.

A. Sarr: Real talk—I just never wanted to take a required math class again. I ended up taking Computer Science anyway. I didn’t really want to go to college right out of high school, so Sarah Lawrence letting me do my own thing was helpful in making that decision.

Sam Monaco: My mother is an alumna (class of ’77) and she was convinced it would be the perfect school for me too. After initially rebelling and deciding on Ithaca College instead (take that, Mom!), she persuaded me to make a couple last-minute campus visits before sending in my housing deposit, at which point it became clear in my gut that I had nearly made a terrible mistake! In fact, I vividly remember mailing my deposit to Sarah Lawrence from Ithaca, NY…

What was your favorite class?
Ellen Winter: I'm torn between three. I could feel my music muscles expand in "20th Century Composition" with Daniel Wohl. Also "Movement for Performance" taught by David Neumann was incredible. And "Beyond the Matrix of Race" with Linwood Lewis was a life-changing course. I could name so many more though, honestly.

Sam Monaco: I think the most quintessentially Sarah Lawrence class I took was “The Talking Cure” with Marvin Frankel. I could listen to him talk all day, he should really have his own podcast. My favorite academic experience has to be the two-year independent research project I did on Haitian music that sprang out of “Studies in Music and Culture” with Toby King. I also have to give major credit to “Music Theory” with Pat Muchmore, and “Blues Ensemble” with Glenn Alexander, for giving me the tools and the experience to take my musicianship to a professional level.

A. Sarr: I took a spoken word literature class with Alwin Jones that so severely influenced what I’m doing now that I feel like all my student loan money should just go to him. It was also the only class on campus that didn’t have all white people in it so that solidarity was nice.

How did Chamber Band form?
Sam Monaco: It can really be traced back to a friendship forged in my FYS class with Lyde Sizer… years later, post-graduation, my former classmate Allie Scully ’11 and I reconnected at a party and I learned she had recently started singing in a band. At that point it was all guitar-based, including our other bandmates Chris Littler and Anthony Cerretani. She said they were looking for a drummer and invited me to their next show, where I immediately fell in love with the music and joined up soon after. The whole thing was very organic—I had played with A. Sarr in a Sarah Lawrence Blues Ensemble, so I looped him in when we decided the band could use a keyboard player. I knew Ellen from the Sarah Lawrence production of Spring Awakening in 2012, where I was in the pit band and she was a lead. Around that time, I went to see her play a set of her own music and was so taken by her earworm-y melodies and unusually complex rhythms, I sprinted up to her when she got offstage and asked to play drums for her. A few months later, Allie ended up leaving the band and so I brought in Ellen, and the band’s been locked into that same five-piece lineup for five years now. Our music has always been theatrical and concept-driven—love songs in the realm of Dungeons & Dragons, protest songs inspired by The Hunger Games, or our ode to the world of H.G. Wells coming this fall—but 36 Questions was an amazing opportunity to push ourselves and take that theatricality to a whole new level.

A. Sarr: Sam was in almost every band, so everyone knew him. One day at a party, he asked me to be in this nerdy pop band he was in. The demo he played me was tight so I agreed to try it out. Turns out it was lit. Adding Ellen in a year later was a no-brainer, she’s too good to not be in a band.

What’s the experience been working on the musical theatre podcast 36 Questions?
Ellen Winter: The experience of writing it was a whirlwind. Lots of drafts. Lots of songs. Lots of characters were cut. It was a process. The actualization of the thing couldn't have been a better experience. We were really lucky that everyone on our team was so game, and brought their own unique set of skills to the table. Couldn't have made it without Chamber Band.

Sam Monaco: It was a real full-circle moment in my eyes. Like I mentioned, I had originally connected with Ellen through a production of Spring Awakening at Sarah Lawrence. And as you may or may not be aware, the original Broadway cast of the musical featured Jonathan Groff in one of the lead roles. So for us to then be lucky enough to have him as one of the two leads in 36 Questions—it was all very surreal, like the universe winking at us.

A. Sarr: Looking back on it now, a lot of it felt like that rare form of conference work that actually gives you life. It kept going from a really serious thing to a really fun thing and oftentimes it was both. More than anything, Chris and Ellen were really in the trenches for a year and change and being able to assist in my small ways was an honor. I don’t think I’ll ever have another Lacroix though.

What do you hope to do next?
Ellen Winter: Something else that's never been done before and stirs fear in our hearts with a side of inspiration.

A. Sarr: Make a positive change in the world while constantly shutting down anyone who thinks this is a game.

Sam Monaco: The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.

July 2017: Lisa Jean-Francois MFA ’09

Lisa Jean-Francois MFA ’09

Lisa Jean-Francois MFA ’09 is a journalist and full-time content creator. Her website, Lisa A La Mode, has evolved from beauty and fashion to include a focus on the Black Feminist community. She studied nonfiction writing at Sarah Lawrence.

Why did you choose Sarah Lawrence for your MFA?
I attended a large party school for my undergraduate degree, so I knew I wanted to attend small liberal arts school for my graduate degree. I also loved that Sarah Lawrence offered conferences, as I knew I would want to get up close and personal with my professors!

What was your favorite class?
Gosh, it's hard to decide. One of them was actually an elective. I can't recall the name of the course, but we watched movies and read film scripts and it was powerful. It was there that I learned how to a) place myself in the position of my readers and b) tell three-dimensional stories. I also really enjoyed my workshops with Jo Ann Beard and Rachel Cohen.

How did your time at Sarah Lawrence lead you to where you are now?
Well, I'm writing for a living, which is crazy. I never thought I would ever make a dime as a writer. Still, I always felt that my MFA was something I had to do. I didn't want to teach, or get a law or business degree, so getting a writing degree was almost a no-brainer. It's been something I've been doing forever. Writing, that is. I can't really explain it, to be honest. I just felt that I had a story to tell and Sarah Lawrence was going to help me tell it.

Your blog, Lisa A La Mode, mixes fashion, lifestyle, and beauty with what you describe as your viewpoint as a Black Feminist. What does that mean to you each day when you decide what to write about?
Well, for one, I write for my audience. My readers are predominately black women aged 25-45 and I create content specifically for them. I'm mindful not to publish work that will perpetuate stereotypes against black women, and I'm also careful not to inundate my audience with negativity. While I share what's trending, including celebrity news, I work really hard to keep my site from becoming a gossip column. I also share things I love: makeup, hair, and fashion (which was originally the intent of the blog). About a year ago, I began to include trending stories and think-pieces and since then the site has grown considerably. I now have a team of writers who help me to stay on top of what's going on in our community.

What do you hope to accomplish in the future?
I hope to have more speaking engagements, as well as grow my site to be the premier one-stop-shop for trending topics, beauty, and fashion. I also want to continue to build my personal brand. I'm still figuring things out, to be honest. I know that I'm on an unchartered course, so there's no telling where I will wind up.

June 2017: Martha Stahl '97

Martha Stahl ’97Martha Stahl ’97 is the president and chief executive of Planned Parenthood of Montana.

Why did you choose Sarah Lawrence?
I chose Sarah Lawrence because it was the one place where I felt I was truly in control of my own education...a place where I would have the freedom to explore the things that were interesting to me.

What was your favorite class?
My first year studies class with Ilja Wachs was, for me, the quintessential Sarah Lawrence experience. I fell in love with Dickens, learned to listen for understanding, and to make intellectual connections. Having Ilja as my don was the biggest gift Sarah Lawrence gave me.

What was your career path like after graduating from Sarah Lawrence?
Right before I graduated, Ilja Wachs told me that I would be an excellent non-profit leader. I must have looked at him like he had two heads; after all, I was planning on getting my Master's and PhD in Latin American history and on becoming an academic. For once, this wise man who had given me wonderful advice over the years had it all wrong. But after I finished my Master's in Austin, I was looking for a way to stay there and so found a job as a fundraiser at an amazing non-profit. From there, I returned to Sarah Lawrence to work in the Alumnae/i office for four years. My first job at Planned Parenthood, in the Adirondacks, was a way to move to North Country to be with my fiancé, now husband. In that job, I was lucky to have an incredible mentor and after a few years, it dawned on me that Ilja was right after all.

How big an adjustment was it for you to move to Montana?
I tell people moving to Montana was culture shock, but in the opposite way they expect. Our town in the Adirondacks had 1,200 people and we moved to Montana's biggest city, with 110,000 people. Having to lock our doors was a trade-off for some of the best beer in the West, lots of family activities, and access to the most beautiful and plentiful public lands in the country. Politically, Montana is not dissimilar from upstate New York. While it might look red on the political map, Montana's voters have a strong independent streak and privacy is valued above all. And I run into lots of Sarah Lawrence alums in my work, which is always a pleasure. The most difficult thing for me has been working to overcome my fear of rattlesnakes and grizzly bears.

How has your job at Planned Parenthood changed since November 2016?
Planned Parenthood, and the patients we serve, has been in the crosshairs more than ever before. My day-to-day work has been focused on making plans to continue to serve our patients in this political climate. Having to switch gears between tactics for surviving potential defunding and strategies to build a stronger safety net for the 15,000 Montanans we serve is both an incredible challenge and an awesome opportunity for innovation. The other inspiring change is feeling the incredible love for Planned Parenthood those independently-thinking Montanans have. People are stepping up across the state to be a part defending their family and friends who need and deserve our services.

May 2017: Kathy Curto ’89, MFA ’12

Kathy Curto ’89, MFA ’12Kathy Curto ’89, MFA ’12 teaches at The Writing Institute at Sarah Lawrence College and Montclair State University where she is a 2015-16 Engaged Teaching Fellow. Her work has been published in the anthology, Listen to Your Mother: What She Said Then, What We’re Saying Now, and in publications including Drift, Talking Writing, Junk, The Inquisitive Eater, The Asbury Park Press, Italian Americana, VIA-Voices in Italian Americana, Lumina, and The Mom Egg. She is currently working on a collection of stories about coming of age in the 70s and 80s with her family’s New Jersey gas station as a backdrop.

Why did you choose Sarah Lawrence?
SLC was thrown into the mix very late in the college application process by my guidance counselor who saw it as a place that might offer me a scholarship. At the time, I had no idea where it was located or what sort of school it was. It wasn't even close to being on the radar of anyone in my universe at the time. But I applied, came for a visit, felt a connection, and was awarded a scholarship.

What was your favorite class as an undergraduate?
In true SLC fashion, there is not one answer to this question. As an undergrad, I have vivid memories of studying with Esther Broner, Charlotte Doyle, Regina Arnold, Lina Brock, Chuck Wachtel and, of course, Joe Papaleo ’49. I still learn from these teachers as well as the greats I studied with in the MFA program as well as at The Writing Institute.

How did Joe Papaleo ’49 influence your writing?
Joe Papaleo was exactly what I needed in 1986. I was a freshman at Sarah Lawrence College trying to stay afloat in a new culture that, initially during those early months, felt nothing like the Italian American household I called home. When I walked into his office that first time, he was this perfect combination of familiar and comfortably eccentric. He read my stories. I asked him questions. He called me a writer. I found my voice.

What brought you back for your graduate degree?
It was what felt natural.

You are part of The Joe Papaleo Writers' Workshop in Cetara, Italy in July. What are you most looking forward to on the trip?
I am looking forward to working closely with the students on their projects—the new work they generate during workshop and also the ideas they come in with for pieces and projects that are still percolating. Along with the other faculty, I hope to cultivate a supportive and nourishing community. And, yes, I am excited for gelato and Italian sunsets, too.

April 2017: Joshua David Riegel ’02, MA ’04

Joshua David Riegel ’02, MA ’04Joshua David Riegel ’02, MA ’04 is an Excelsior Service Fellow with the New York State Industrial Board of Appeals and earned his JD at New York University School of Law. After completing his fellowship in fall 2017, he will clerk for the Honorable Victor A. Bolden of the United States District Court for the District of Connecticut.

Why did you choose Sarah Lawrence?
I was drawn to Sarah Lawrence because of its student-centered educational philosophy and the conference system, which encourages interdisciplinary and independent learning and dynamic thinking.

What was your favorite class?
The most formative class I took was called "Anthropology and the Cultural Construction of Race," which was taught by visiting faculty member Lorraine Kenny during the first semester of my first year. I came to Sarah Lawrence to study poetry, but it was Professor Kenny that introduced me to the social sciences and thinking critically about race as it related to me personally and to contemporary culture more broadly. While I continue to enjoy reading poetry, this class changed my scholastic trajectory.

How did your Sarah Lawrence experience influence your career?
My love for research, writing, and historical memory, which were honed at Sarah Lawrence, have been integral to my career as an attorney committed to racial and economic justice.

You recently attended an event on campus helping seniors practice their networking skills. What was it like talking to current students about their future plans?
I was reminded of the intellectual and creative energy that drives Sarah Lawrence students, which inspired a deep sense of pride in me and gave me great hope for an increasingly complex world.

You’re also coming to Reunion 2017. What are you most looking forward to?
I'm most excited to share the Sarah Lawrence experience with my husband, who has never visited the college before.

March 2017: Sydney Chaffee ’05

Sydney Chaffee '05Sydney Chaffee '05 teaches humanities at the Codman Academy Charter Public School. She is the 2017 Massachusetts Teacher of the Year and has been named a finalist for National Teacher of the Year.

Why did you choose Sarah Lawrence?
I wanted to be a poet. I was drawn in by the “You are different. So are we.” slogan, and I fell in love with the idea of small classes filled with smart people who were excited about learning.

Plus, my older sister (Chelsea Chaffee Parsons '00) went to Sarah Lawrence, and I wanted to do everything she did.

What was your favorite class?
Every class I took with Lyde Sizer was my favorite class. Lyde is brilliant. She taught me how to think. She would ask these incisive questions while we walked all over campus during our conferences, and I became a better writer and scholar as a result. Her expectations for her students are incredibly high, but she also exudes real warmth and caring. Her classes become little families. Lyde is the kind of teacher I strive to be.

I also have Lyde to thank for the fact that I’m in education now; she introduced me to Horace’s Compromise, her father’s book, and sent me off to do an internship at the Fannie Lou Hamer school in the Bronx. That’s when I began to realize that I was a teacher.

What was your favorite spot on campus?
One of my favorite spots on campus was on the upper level of the library, past the Pillow Room on the left. There was a section of Women’s History books tucked back there that I loved to explore when I was researching for my conference projects. That part of the library was always empty, so I could sit on a little metal footstool in the stacks and find the book I was looking for, then three or four other books sitting nearby that also looked good. It was nerdy feminist book heaven. (My high school students would laugh at me if they saw that this was my answer!)

How do you integrate what you learned at Sarah Lawrence into the classroom?
Everything I did at Sarah Lawrence was interdisciplinary, and that has stuck with me as a teacher. Now, I teach Humanities, so I get to weave history and English together, which just feels right. My students learn about history through literature, and they build their literacy skills by reading and writing about history. It’s an authentic way to learn.

What is your favorite subject to teach?
My 9th grade Humanities class is called “Justice and Injustice.” Fourteen-year-olds have a finely-tuned sense of justice, and exploring history with them through that lens is a lot of fun. Within that broad topic, my favorite moment in history to teach is the 1976 Soweto Uprising in South Africa. In learning about the various ways that South Africans resisted the injustices of apartheid, Soweto becomes a case study of young people’s voices and power. It’s compelling for the students, and it sticks with them. Discussing Soweto with my kids allows them to make connections between the past and the present, which is, to me, the beauty of teaching history.

February 2017: Ernest Hood ’75

Ernest Hood '75Ernest Hood '75 is a grant manager for Andrus Children’s Center. He has previously worked in non-profit development for Dance New Amsterdam and Theatre for a New Audience. While at Sarah Lawrence, he studied music, English, and creative writing.

Why did you choose Sarah Lawrence?
I attended a small prep school as a scholarship student. I loved literature, biology, and ancient history. I composed music, wrote poetry, acted, and directed. Sarah Lawrence was a natural choice. I also thought that I could celebrate all aspects of who I was as an Afro-Asian at Sarah Lawrence. On a practical level, Sarah Lawrence gave me the financial aid that made it possible for me to go to college.

What was your favorite class?
I will always cherish the semester of my junior year that I spent studying with Jane Cooper. It was a combination class—literature and poetry workshop. We studied masters of American poetry such as Stevens, William Carlos Williams, and Frost, plus contemporary poets of that time. We also wrote and shared our own poems. It was there that I began to find my own voice.

What was your favorite spot on campus?
Marshall Field.

How has what you learned at Sarah Lawrence helped you in your career?
My career has been spent in non-profit organizations where I have played key roles as a development professional. Gifts that I received from Sarah Lawrence are a honed curiosity, inquiring mind, solution-oriented problem solving, an ability to look at the big picture while also understanding details. I have needed all of these in my profession.

How do you stay connected to the Sarah Lawrence community?
I have one dear friend with whom I served on the Student Senate. We talk with each other every two weeks. Occasional e-mails keep me connected to a few other friends. I have also attended two class reunions, alumni holiday parties, and a few alumni readings.

January 2017: Allison Easter ’85

Allison Easter '85Allison Easter '85 is fitness professional and former dancer. She received a “Bessie” Award for her work in The Politics Of Quiet and was the first American woman to appear in the Off-Broadway percussion sensation, STOMP. She has produced and directed original works at Ensemble Studio Theatre, the NY Fringe Festival, and has taught dance and performance at Bennington College, Naropa Institute, Marymount Manhattan College, Pace University, Horace Mann High School, NYU-Tisch, and Sarah Lawrence, as well as teaching Pilates during Reunion weekend in the past.

Why did you choose Sarah Lawrence?
I chose SLC because I wanted three things; an academic education, a dance program, and to be near New York City. I didn't think much about Sarah Lawrence's educational philosophy, I just lucked into something that was driven by the students' interest and ideal for me.

What was your favorite class?
My favorite dance class was “Morning Technique” with Pat Catterson. My favorite academic class...I'm not sure I can pick; “Short Story Writing” with Grace Paley, “Women's Studies” with Amy Swerdlow, and “Art History” while on the Paris Program are a few favorites.

What was your favorite spot on campus?
I loved my room senior year: top of Robinson House at the top of Meadway behind the Pub. I had windows on two sides.

How did your time at Sarah Lawrence influence your career?
Tangibly, I auditioned for Meredith Monk ’64 senior year and worked with her for 30 years and counting. Intangibly, I learned how to study any subject which helped me with the vagaries of a performing career and with living a richer, more informed life.

What’s your favorite part of events like the Holiday Party and Reunion?
My favorite part of alumni events is talking to people from other years, people I don't know and might not have met but for our SLC connection. SLC grads have generally engaged in life with humor, forged an individual path, and achieved their own self-defined success.

December 2016: Florence Romanov ’67

Florence Romanov '67Florence Romanov ’67 is a pianist performing with the Shubert Club of Connecticut. She is also a Reunion 2017 volunteer.

What brought you to Sarah Lawrence?
A desire for a different kind of education from which rote learning was mandatory and the norm.

What was your favorite spot on campus?
Marshall Field. It was a beautiful and elegant building full of musical energy.

What was your favorite class?
Piano lessons, chamber music lessons, and philosophy.

How did your time at Sarah Lawrence influence your work?
I was really interested in archaeology after going to an archaeological work camp in western France between sophomore and junior year. It was so much fun! People from different nationalities, lots of wine, bread, and cheese, and Roman artifacts unearthed in the village baker’s garden!

Thanks to Jacquelyn Mattfield, dean in those years (circa 1965), I was allowed to do something different—take my senior year in Greece on a program called College Year in Athens (CYA). I truly thought I was going to become an archaeologist. I was in for a rude awakening! On a professional dig, I found out that every tiny pebble and stone had to be entered on a graph—exactly true to scale. That was (to me) a completely meticulous and boring procedure. I loved studying Greek art and archaeology in Greece and going to beautiful temples, as well as being spoiled by seeing the Parthenon every day going to school. But as for being an archaeologist, no way!

Sarah Lawrence allowed me the chance to experience a different venue from music and helped me to decide that I really loved the piano the most and would devote myself to becoming the best musician of which I was capable.

How do you blend/balance your passion and your profession?
The piano is both my passion and my profession. Thankfully, I am able to continue my study of the piano and give concerts. This is not always easy and makes me feel happy and inspired.

November 2016: Alex Delare ’10

Alex Delare '10Alex Delare ’10 is a Certified NYC Sightseeing Guide and historian who started her own business with her husband, Jonathan, out of their mutual love for the city and sharing stories together. New York Local Tours uses storytelling in order to bring the history of the city to life. She also works at the Lower East Side Tenement Museum as a Senior Educator giving tours and performs as a Costumed Interpreter portraying the lives of residents who once lived inside the historical building.

What brought you to Sarah Lawrence?
I transferred to Sarah Lawrence College my junior year and it was the best decision I ever made. I was in search of a school that would not only give me a solid education, but also feel like a second home built around a sense of community. The minute I stepped onto the Sarah Lawrence campus, I knew I had found just that. I found the most supportive professors in the world. In each class I took, I found friends amongst my teachers and inspiration left and right.

What was your favorite spot on campus?
My favorite spot on campus was the Teahaus! I used to love walking from Westlands, past the swing set, where I often swung in between classes and walk down the hill to the Teahaus. This felt especially needed on a cold, wintry day where only a tea and a sweet treat would do the trick. It was just one more element that made Sarah Lawrence not only feel like a school, but an extension of home.

What was your favorite class?
How to pick just one? I had so many incredible professors, including my don, Shirley Kaplan, who inspired me every day to dream big and think outside the box. But, I would have to say that my favorite class was one, at the time not in my field, but in literature. I just loved Ilja Wachs’ "The 19th Century Novel" course that I took in my senior year. Ilja introduced us to the whole of the Dickens cannon, his favorite, and we even read War and Peace in its entirety. He inspired me to see literature in a way that I had never experienced before. He taught me to want to be a lifetime reader because he inspired such deep connections to the characters we read. He spoke of them as friends and introduced them to us through his want to make us feel the same way. His dedication and constant love for what he did made everything we read feel important and transformative.

How did your time at Sarah Lawrence influence your career?
My time at Sarah Lawrence instilled in me the belief that I could do anything. As a student, I was taught to be an independent thinker and to create my own work. So, perhaps it makes sense that I would go off and do just that upon graduation—create my own historical walking tour company. Much like when I was at Sarah Lawrence, I mixed my passions of theater, history, and education. I created my own company with my husband, Jonathan Anderson, of a city that I love and is always teaching me new things. This freedom of thought and expression that Sarah Lawrence showed me is what inspires my tours.

What is your favorite part of the city to explore with New York Local Tours?
My favorite tour to give is our "Greetings from Coney Island" tour. On this tour, we show you a neighborhood with a rich history of diversity, passion, and even disaster. What inspires me about Coney Island is that it has an amazing ability to rebuild itself over and over again. Up until today, Coney Island is still finding ways to recover after Hurricane Sandy and organizations keep popping up working effortlessly to bring it back. As we take you through the history, we also make connections to the current story of Coney Island and the work this community continues to do to strengthen their neighborhood. We are very involved in the community ourselves through being members of the Alliance for Coney Island, friends of the Aquarium, and the Coney Island Beautification Project, not to mention we are friends with Mr. Strange. Curious who that is? Come on our tour!

October 2016: Allison Havey ’88

Allison Havey '88While at Sarah Lawrence, Allison Havey ’88 studied Russian, French, and history. She is a journalist and producer who has worked for NBC News, Associated Press, and ABC News. Havey co-founded The Rap Project, or Raising Awareness and Prevention Project, a program which aims to raise awareness about sexual assault and promote personal safety to teenage girls and boys, with Deana Puccio. Havey and Puccio co-wrote the book Sex, Likes & Social Media: Talking to our teens in the digital age.

What brought you to Sarah Lawrence?
I wanted to attend Sarah Lawrence for its liberal arts heritage, fine teaching, don program, its proximity to New York City, and the highly creative energy on campus.

What was your favorite spot on campus?
I loved the library Bates dining hall, and, of course, the outdoor spaces during the warmer weather.

What was your favorite class?
I would have to say either Frank Randall's Russian history class or Nicolaus Mills’ nonfiction writing class. They were both inspiring professors, with memorable reading lists that I devoured.

How did The RAP Project come to be?
The RAP Project's co-founder Deana Puccio is a former sex crimes prosecutor from Brooklyn, and I had worked as a TV news producer and writer for 25 years. Between us, we had five teenagers and Deana was concerned about her teenaged girls meeting romantic interests online. Using our different professional backgrounds and skills, we decided to launch our organization in schools and speak to both teenage boys and girls. Within a couple of years, our RAP presentations spread to thousands of teenagers throughout the UK. School teachers, parents, and teenagers are responding to our messages on the law, case studies, healthy relationships, erotica as opposed to hard core pornography, and looking at how social media and porn influence attitudes, expectations, and behaviors. Writing a book seemed to be a natural extension of our work, so we published Sex, Likes & Social Media: Talking to our teens in the digital age with Vermilion/Random House in September 2016. The whole project continues to be an amazing journey.

How do you find yourself using your Sarah Lawrence education in your life/work now?
There is no doubt that my Sarah Lawrence experience, in particular my year abroad in Paris, taught me a great deal. The time on campus and in Paris taught me to be more resourceful, independent, flexible, creative, and, dare I say, courageous.

September 2016: John Rudikoff ’02

John Rudikoff '02John Rudikoff ’02 studied literature while at Sarah Lawrence, then went on to earn his JD from Brooklyn Law School. After working as an assistant district attorney in Kings County and general counsel and director of business development for MASS Design Group, he recently returned to Brooklyn Law School as the CEO and managing director of the Center for Urban Business and Entrepreneurship.

What brought you to Sarah Lawrence?
I was introduced to Sarah Lawrence while my mother was completing her master’s degree in Women's History in the mid-1990s, and I was set loose to roam the campus during her class. By the time I graduated high school it had become a foregone conclusion that it was the ideal forum to continue to explore my interests and ideas.

What was your favorite spot on campus?
I was always partial to the mailroom. To this day I love getting packages.

What was your favorite class?
There are honestly too many to choose from, but if I had to mention one it would be Gil Perez's year-long film survey course. After reconnecting with Gil in London in late 2014, I was reminded of how much I owed not just my passion for storytelling, but for critical thought to this insightful and dear man.

How did your time at Sarah Lawrence influence your law career?
The ability to think creatively about narrative and argument have been essential to my success as an attorney and professional. Not to mention that my years spent as a Brooklyn prosecutor were certainly enhanced by my appreciation for theatrics.

What are you most looking forward to at Reunion 2017?
Friends, friends, and faculty. It’s also always a pleasure to return to the site where so much occurred.

August 2016: Mariah Smith ’13

Credit: Jenna Bascom PhotographyMariah Smith ’13 is the creator and writer of the popular blog "Keeping Up With the Kontinuty Errors," a weekly blog that breaks down the manufactured realities, lies, and timeline falsities in the hit television series Keeping Up With the Kardashians using Twitter, Instagram, paparazzi photos, and common sense. Mariah also works on the late night show Watch What Happens Live, researching the celebrity guests that appear on the show.

What did Sarah Lawrence teach you?
The most important thing I learned from Sarah Lawrence was that I could be selfish with how I wanted to learn and produce work. Honestly, Sarah Lawrence allowed me the luxury of creating a college experience that would work solely for me. No two students are alike, and no two academic experiences are alike at Sarah Lawrence, but the ties that bind are the tight bonds with professors and the dialogue within whatever community or experience you choose. Sarah Lawrence's curriculum is so individualized you have to curate and cultivate a learning experience that works for you, and I like to think that I did just that.

You concentrated in Theatre; was there a favorite production that you were a part of?
The production I was most excited about was definitely In the Blood. The play, by Suzan-Lori Parks, is a modern take on The Scarlet Letter and it was directed by my don, Dave McRee. The theatre program at Sarah Lawrence is definitely expansive and experimental, but while I was there there were few opportunities for people of color to play roles written specifically for them. In the Blood was written for a diverse cast and Dave did an awesome job at making that happen. I'm pretty sure In the Blood was my junior year of college and was one of the last straight acting roles I've ever done, but it had the greatest impact on me as a performer at Sarah Lawrence.

How did your internships shape your time at Sarah Lawrence and after graduation?
My internships shaped my entire college experience. Had I not gone to Sarah Lawrence, I wouldn't have been able to have the internship experiences I had, and I not would have been able to incorporate them into my coursework in the way that I did. The only time I wasn't interning was my first semester, and if I could go back in time I'd probably cheat the system and find a way to change that. Honestly, when I first started interning I really just wanted a way to occupy more of my time, so that's how I started working at Sesame Street. At that point I had no intention on working in TV, and I didn't realize that was even a viable career option. After Sesame, I got hooked and realized that all of my favorite places had internship programs, so that's how I ended up at Late Night with Jimmy Fallon and then Saturday Night Live. It wasn't always easy because by my senior year I was interning up to four days a week with unconventional hours. At points, the glamour and fun would wear off, but I knew that these were the rooms I wanted to be in and I would have to find a way to make it work, so I did. Most importantly, I was able to pack my resume with jobs I was passionate about. So, I wasn't as stressed as I should have been when I graduated college without a job because I had one a week later working as a Production Assistant at VH1. My internships shaped my time at and post-Sarah Lawrence by helping me learn how to make the hard things, schedules or moments, work. If I really want something, or multiple things all at once, I can and I have to find a way to do it, and do it to the best of my ability.

Do your Sarah Lawrence skills come in handy when researching and analyzing the ‘reality’ of Keeping Up with the Kardashians for your blog “Keeping Up with the Kontinuity Errors”?
100% they do. With KUWTKE, I'm blending every single one of my passions, which is something I would do in even my academic courses at Sarah Lawrence. Sometimes I look at each post as a severely truncated conference paper because I'm researching, writing, and citing the sources for my writing. I've always been a little bit extra in how I work and present my interests, which did show itself in my conference work. The first conference paper I did at Sarah Lawrence was about the militaristic dynamic of adolescent girls and how they create cliques. If I remember correctly, I choose this topic because I was obsessed with Mean Girls and hadn't seen Heathers all the way through. Also, I wrote about Kourtney and Khloe Take Miami early on in my college career as well. Again, it goes back to never settling, being a critical thinker, and using your best skills to work for you.

Which social media platform is your favorite?
I'm absolutely obsessed with Twitter! I've been on it since high school and I really don't think I could survive without it. If I want to learn what's going on in the world, whether it be serious news or pure entertainment, I can open Twitter and find out all of the details ASAP. Twitter is also the world's greatest bonding experience and a great place to promote my work. I can also ask people to follow me @mRiah, so that's cool, too.

July 2016: Brian O'Connor ’82

Brian O'Connor '82Brian O’Connor ’82 is a personal finance columnist for The Detroit News, author of The $1,000 Challenge: How One Family Slashed Its Budget Without Moving Under a Bridge, and a Reunion 2017 volunteer.

What brought you to Sarah Lawrence?
The educational philosophy appealed to me quite a bit because I came from a very liberal school in metro Detroit, The Roeper School, founded by two educators who escaped the Holocaust, which believed in educating the whole child. And I liked the idea of being able to pursue music and drama seriously without having to major and choose between other subjects. Plus, being close to New York City was a big, big attraction.

What was your favorite spot on campus?
Anywhere near the wisteria arbor in the spring. One of my most vivid memories is the way the entire campus blooms in the spring, and there’s just this riot of fragrances wafting the whole place. One year it was an unseasonably hot May and I remember dozens of students dragging blankets out on the lawn at night. I would say my least favorite was what’s now called the Teahouse, the little stone cottage behind Westlands in front of the new dorms. That was the newspaper office for my first two years, and trying to produce an issue of the paper in February in near darkness with nothing but one wheezing space heater was about as much fun as it sounds.

My other favorites were Andrews Court 6, because I was able to live with a great bunch of folks, and the year I lived in Kober House. It was just six of us up in the third floor above the Early Childhood Center. It was a big hike from everything else on campus, so it could be quite cozy. There also was a beautiful garden out front and, when parents were dropping off their kids in the morning, a good reminder that there was a life outside of college. And, of course, the Marshall Field House studio of my voice teacher, the late Paul Ukena, who was great to me, and the downstairs studio of Harold Aks, who went so far as to line up a job interview for me with one of his old friends at Discover Magazine. Harold also shared some very funny stories of being an Army Air Corps weather officer during WWII.

What was it like running the campus newspaper as a student?
Difficult. We had no idea what we were doing, no guidance, and just the physical production of the paper in the era before the personal computer—typesetting, film processing and printing, paste-up, and proofing—was much more time-consuming and tedious than publishing is today—we spent 27 hours just on the physical production of one issue I tracked. And money was always a big problem, too. Plus, it was a complete elective, so we didn’t get credit.

Because of my experience running the paper, I was able to land a job on a weekly newspaper in Queens shortly after spring break of my senior year. I was the first person in my class to get an actual job. Despite the difficulty, I think students do need the experience of a campus publication where they can experiment, or at least dip their toes, into publishing and journalism. If nothing else, it allows a kid to get over the humiliation of typos and corrections in a setting where there isn’t a city editor to fire you.

What drew you to personal finance?
Newspaper jobs were unbelievably hard to find when I graduated, but business coverage was expanding at papers and, thanks to a friend’s bald-faced lying, I nabbed one after a few years at the Queens Tribune. Personal finance was a neglected corner of business, so I handled much of that editing. It gave me enough background that when Bankrate.com needed a managing editor to build the website (now the leading personal finance site on the web), I was hired because I was familiar with the topic. After Bankrate, I’ve found so much deep, unexplored territory in personal finance that I’ve stuck with it ever since.

It probably surprises people to know that I was never very good with money, even though I somehow scraped by at my first job in New York, which paid the princely sum of $215 a week ($535 in today’s dollars) before taxes. My finances still aren’t perfect, given what’s happened to the newspaper industry, the great recession, and the fact that reporters aren’t very highly paid to begin with.

Right now, I think readers have big reasons to reject most personal finance coverage because we did such a lousy job with both the high-tech and mortgage bubbles. In addition, we really don’t speak to the concerns of growing income inequality, the looming retirement crisis, and all the issues tied to a lack of financial literacy and the politics behind that.

How do you stay connected to the Sarah Lawrence community?
I’m still close friends with several classmates, as well as a few from the previous classes. In fact, I’m probably better friends with some of them now than I was in school, and that’s all owing to Facebook and attending reunions. I think of my Sarah Lawrence friends as part of a tribe, and when you find funny, smart, concerned, interesting, and nontraditional people in that tribe, you don’t want to leave.

June 2016: Lydia Winn ’15

Lydia Winn '15Lydia Winn ’15 may have graduated, but she hasn’t left the College just yet. Instead, she began working in the Office of Marketing & Communications. Along with her duties as Assistant to the Vice President and Project Manager, she still mentions German philosopher Georg Hegel regularly.

What was your favorite class?
I took so many amazing classes, but I think my favorite is still my first-year studies class, Marina Vitkin's “Philosophy: Varieties of Intellectual Dissent.” It was one of those classes where everything came together. The material had something for everyone—from Freud's Dream Theory to Shakespeare to Plato's Republic. Everyone in the class was really invested in it, so the discussions were always fully engaged, and the material were things that we were all struggling to think about for the first time. It was a uniquely transforming class.

What was your favorite conference project?
That's tough. I think it would have to be from the first Ancient Philosophy course I took with Michael Davis. I read Plato's Phaedo, a dialogue about what it means to live philosophically and what it means to die. I tracked the different Greek words that Plato used for the concept of dying as a way in to understanding the structure of the arguments. That conference project actually led to me enrolling in Ancient Greek the next year.

Are there any classes you wish you had taken?
There are loads of classes I wish I could have taken—that's the hardest thing about Sarah Lawrence's amazing pedagogy, choosing only three classes a semester! I always wanted to take one of Bill Shullenberger's classes and German with Roland Dollinger.

What has the transition from student to alumna (and also staff) been like for you?
The transition from student to alumna has been pretty seamless. Like a lot of alums, I'm still really close with a lot of my professors. The student-alumna-staff transition has probably helped the student-alumna transition because I've stayed so close to Sarah Lawrence. I'm still in a class and writing conference papers, and I still go to lectures and other events that take place at the school. Because of this, I'm fairly certain that I'll always feel completely connected to the College.

Do you have a favorite spot on campus?
It's a tie. Sheffield, because that's where my first-year studies class was, and because it used to house horses, which is just awesome. I also have a particular fondness for the Slonim Woods/Willow cluster area.

May 2016: Elissa Sussman ’05

Credit: John PetajaElissa Sussman ’05 describes herself as “a writer, a reader, and a pumpkin pie eater.” She has worked at animation studios such as Nickelodeon and Disney, and been credited in movies like The Princess and The Frog and Tangled. Her debut novel, Stray, was published in 2014, followed by Burn.

What brought you to Sarah Lawrence?
Getting a handwritten note at the bottom of my acceptance letter was the determining factor in deciding to go to Sarah Lawrence. The small classes and proactive approach students are encouraged to take in their education only confirmed that I had made the right choice.

What was your favorite class at Sarah Lawrence?
I absolutely loved the fiction workshops I took at Sarah Lawrence. I’m envious of current students that get to study with David Hollander MFA ’97, Nelly Reifler MFA ’96, and April Reynolds ’97—they’re amazing mentors. I was also lucky to have Kevin Confoy not just as my teacher for DownStage—a truly unique class—but he was also my don and a great one at that.

You came back to campus for Reunion 2015, what was your favorite part of the weekend?
It was wonderful to catch up with my fellow '05 graduates. Everyone is doing such amazing things—I can’t wait to see what we’ve accomplished by our 20-year reunion.

Your books Stray and Burn combine, as you said in a class note, three of your favorite things: “fairy tales, feminism, and food.” Tell us more.
Both books take place in a fairy tale world where only women can do magic, but it’s considered a curse (basically like getting your period). In writing them, I was able to combine so many things I enjoy: there’s the influence of fairy tales like Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Little Red Riding Hood, and Snow White, with my own feminist twist. There are also recipes at the end of each book, which were a lot of fun to include.

What’s keeping you busy right now?
I’m finishing up my MFA in Fiction—my thesis is the first fifty pages of an adult novel and I’m excited to continue developing it after my graduation in January. I’m also working on the next book in The Four Sisters series.

April 2016: Jane Freeman ’71

Jane Freeman '71Jane Freeman ’71 is an artist and teaches writing at New York University. For several years, she has painted and exhibited scenes from 19th-century English novels such as Jane Eyre, Persuasion, Silas Marner, Frankenstein, and Wuthering Heights, chapter by chapter. Her new show coincided with Charlotte Bronte’s 200th birthday.

What was your favorite class at Sarah Lawrence?
My three lit classes, with Danny Kaiser, Ilja Wachs, and James Zito.

Did you have a favorite place on campus?
On the rooftop of Garrison, I read The Wings of the Dove three times my freshman year. From the top stairwell of the new dorms, I watched my first snowfall all night (having been raised in Miami). In the morning I dashed outside coatless, and pitched into a chilly downhill slide. Other favorite places: my attic room at Andrews, and nearly every inch of Bates, especially the post office, where I mailed letters home daily; the art studios, where I learned printmaking from Mr. Uchima; and the dining room, where I acquired my lifelong enthusiasm for coffee.

When did you first connect your passion for reading and writing to your painting?
In second grade, our teacher read to us every day after lunch, books like The Call of the Wild. Most kids dozed off, but I drew. The impulse to pictorialize books continues. “The Painted Novel,” 147 captioned paintings depicting every chapter of Jane Eyre and Frankenstein, just opened at the Municipal Building, in lower Manhattan. The reception on April 21 will honor Charlotte Bronte’s 200th birthday. My intention is for viewers to “read” a novel by perambulating the room. I’ve also painted Persuasion, Silas Marner, and Wuthering Heights, which are posted at www.janefreemanart.com, and at www.bookdoors.com. If you’d like to come to the reception on April 21 (6-8 p.m.), please RSVP by calling 212.669.4448. The Municipal Building is at Chambers and Centre Streets. The show is on the 19th floor. To receive an announcement, please e-mail me.

What’s your process when translating a novel from the page into art?
Painting feels something like acting. In automatically pretending I’m the characters as I paint, I become them, all of them. (I especially relished turning into the Frankenstein creature.) A friend recently reminded me that the experience of reading is an inner act of imaginative co-creating. Going further by transposing absorption in narrative into a different genre, one does become even more of a collaborator with the author.

Do you have a favorite book?
Well, I’d have to say Jane Eyre. But I am now enthralled by the intoxicating prose of W. G. Sebald (the veracity of his fiction enhanced by an abundance of characteristically enigmatic photos), and by the peculiar yet oddly familiar writings of Robert Walser.

March 2016: Stephen Anderson ’96

Stephen Anderson ’96

This month, we talked to Reunion 2016 volunteer Stephen Anderson ’96. Anderson has written and produced nonfiction programming for networks including the Discovery Channel, A&E, TLC, and HGTV. He now writes and produces original and archival content for NBC Learn.

What brought you to Sarah Lawrence?
One of my favorite TV shows when I was in high school was a late 80's/early 90's sitcom called Head of the Class. It was about high school kids in New York City who were in a gifted program. One of the characters who excelled in English and writing mentioned she was going to Sarah Lawrence College when she graduated. When I got the Sarah Lawrence brochure in the mail, it made me think of that show, so I gave it a thorough read. It seemed like a perfect fit for me in terms of small classes, and I could pursue my interests in social sciences and writing without having to choose just one discipline.

What was your favorite conference project?
It's hard to pick one, but one of my favorites was when I had to write a series of children's stories for my children's literature class. I did research, but I also had a chance to work at the Early Childhood Center for the semester to get an accurate voice of what kids were like at the preschool age.

How do you use what you learned at Sarah Lawrence in your life now?
I use it everyday. I have to research and write stories about a lot of different subjects from history to science, and just having an interest in "finding out more" has always driven my work. At Sarah Lawrence, you have to have a natural tendency to want to learn more and go beyond the surface of many subjects. And for me, Sarah Lawrence taught me that pretty much anything is interesting the more you read and research it.

What are you most looking forward to at Reunion 2016?
Seeing friends I haven't seen in a very long time (some since graduation)!

You’ve produced a lot of educational programming for NBC News and others. Do you have any TV guilty pleasures?
I have a thing for nostalgia, so any kind of scripted TV from when I was young or in college are my favorites. I love watching old Melrose Place or Beverly Hills, 90210 episodes or Three's Company.

February 2016: Mark Kaplan ’87

Mark Kaplan '87This month, Mark Kaplan ’87 is our valentine. Kaplan studied theatre, literature, and art history as a student, and is now the vice president of sales and marketing for the Sound Services Group of Technicolor and volunteer director for Repertory East Playhouse.

What was your favorite spot on campus?
I didn’t have one favorite spot on campus, but a few. Since I spent so many of my days and nights there, the Workshop Theatre is probably tops, the coffee house was my late night hang out, and when I would go “missing” on campus, you could usually find me with a stack of song books in one of the Marshall Field piano rooms playing (and singing) for hours on end.

Do you have a favorite production you worked on while at Sarah Lawrence?
Again, tough to pick one. Whittling it down, “Hooters” where I had a crew import several tons of sand from Jones beach to the Workshop stage (via a Sarah Lawrence van that got stuck in the sand at Jones Beach) and had a brilliant cast of four: Jeff Jowdy ’86, Evan Georgopoulos ’89, Betsy Brody ’87, and Julianna Margulies ’89. I am sure they have all gone on to do great things.

How do you keep in touch with Sarah Lawrence friends?
Phone, text, Facebook and yes, an occasional letter!

How do you blend/balance your passion and your profession?
I am lucky in that my profession allows me the opportunity to continue my passions. A few times a year (television pilot season, the start of the new TV season, etc.) it becomes difficult, so I have learned not to work on any projects during those time. I direct 1-3 plays a year, develop new projects for film and broadcast, and sometimes do some stand-up. I have to also balance family within everything. It can be challenging, but worth it.

You’ve interviewed two alumni as part of Conversations with Alumni in Los Angeles. What’s that been like?
AWESOME! It was incredible to have Holly Robinson Peete '86 as our first guest with this new program. We went down memory lane and then discussed her experiences of raising an autistic son (whose twin sister was there and participated), her father, and her philanthropic activities on top of raising four children and having a successful career.

The second one was vastly different, having the “conversation” with Caroline Lieber ’80, one of the top genetic counselors in the field (listen here!). It was incredibly engaging and informative. The “Conversations with…” program is a great opportunity for alumni to get to know more about what happens after graduation…whether it be 10, 20, 30, etc. years later. At Sarah Lawrence, our classes were often conversations revolving around what we were learning. Here, we have a conversation and learn something (hopefully) new about an alum and their life. The response has been incredible and I look forward to many more “Conversations with…” and hope the program will expand to other regions.

January 2016: Katherine Schreiber ’11, MFA ’15

Katherine Schreiber '11 MFA '15Katherine Schreiber ’11, MFA '15 earned her MFA in Nonfiction while co-authoring The Truth About Exercise Addiction. Her writing has appeared in a variety of in-print and online publications, such as Psychology Today, TIME, and Psychcentral.com.

What made you decide to come back to Sarah Lawrence for your MFA?
Several factors! First and foremost: I wanted to return to a place in which I felt comfortable exploring a part of myself through writing that I have hesitated to introduce into unfamiliar environments. I knew that I would feel safer at Sarah Lawrence because I'd been groomed as an alum and also because I had a taste for what the faculty was amenable to, in terms of thesis subject matters. Though I don't doubt I could have received a comparable education elsewhere, I think I would have wasted a great deal of time getting to know a new program, a new set of institutional hoops to leap through, and a new set of faculty. I also wanted to pick up where I'd left off on some writing projects I began during undergrad, specifically a few items I'd started with a faculty member who taught both grad and undergrad courses. And Jo Ann Beard. Just, like, her alone.

What was your favorite class at Sarah Lawrence?
Oy, that's a tough one! ALL of them. Okay, if I had to choose....in undergrad it was "The Talking Cure" with Marvin Frankel. But I also loved the opportunity to take science and statistics courses because in any other school, I likely would have miserably failed at these subjects. Thankfully, I was able to get some serious knowledge under my belt in these realms prior to graduating given the efficacy of Daniel King, Leah Olson, and Drew Cressman's expert instruction.

As for grad school, it's a tie between Jacob Slichter's seminar (because he's insanely awesome...and also happened to be my thesis-advisor-turned-life-guru...and I also think he should get paid more) Jo Ann Beard's seminar (because, again, Jo Ann Beard) and Jeff McDaniel's poetry/prose class.

How does conference week compare to writing on a deadline for places like greatist.com and Psychology Today?
For me, conference week was a breeze compared to my future work. I actually loved conference week because it was expected that everyone would be holed up cranking out 30 plus page papers. I was pretty socially isolated during my undergrad years, so this, to me, was kind of an ideal Friday night anyway. It just felt a lot better when I wasn't the only one doing it. Students should consider the pressure experienced during conference week as training for the real world, and take advantage of the anxiety and stress to learn and practice every single coping skill you can. (Ahem, health services are there for a reason.) This will serve them well once they graduate and face even more strenuous demands, often with much less empathy from higher ups who could care less about their position on Nietzsche.

Granted, I'm a workaholic.

Do you have any new year’s resolutions?
Emotional regulation. Work/life balance. Being kinder to my fiance.

Many people resolve to ‘get fit’ in the new year. You co-wrote a book on the dangers of exercise addiction. Where’s the line between bettering yourself and binging on exercise?
Well, the short answer is if it's causing you more problems and making you more stressed, it's an issue. Pushing through the burn is one thing. Exercising despite illness and injury, another. The sense that you MUST get to the gym, that you CANNOT be flexible in your routine is a hallmark of exercise addiction. Exercise addiction often comes hand in hand with an eating disorder, in which case its consequences (to health and overall wellbeing, not to mention interpersonal relationships) are far more dangerous. It can be tricky because getting to the gym or finding the time to exercise does introduce conflict and stress into many people's schedules—be they exercise addicts or comparatively "normal" folk. Also: Most people work out even though they sometimes hate it. And any regular exerciser gets bummed when they can't workout as they'd planned. But if you're constantly pushing yourself past your bodily limits, unable to deal when you have to alter your routine, obsessed with results (from calories burnt on a cardio machine and the number of reps you do to your weight or body fat percentage), or you feel your exercise regimen prevents you from pursuing meaningful relationships and hobbies, you've likely crossed the line from passion to pathology.