Sam Abrams and Kate Bahktirayova ’19

Fostering Inquiry, Channeling Ambition

For Kate Bakhtiyarova ’19, political journalism is a family tradition: her family was forced to leave Belarus and relocate to Cleveland, OH, in 2002 after the KGB took exception to her father’s investigative coverage of the state’s activities.

When Kate came to Sarah Lawrence College, she knew she wanted to pursue a similar calling, but she wasn’t sure how her academic work would support her passion.

Enter Sam Abrams, who teaches American and international politics at Sarah Lawrence and worked with Kate in her First-Year Studies class. Sam recognized Kate’s exceptional curiosity and drive early on, and saw the potential for something much larger than a class project. Kate was in the right place to leave traditional learning boundaries behind.

“We want to find out what every student’s personal passion is and how their passion can evolve into something productive after they leave us. That’s the essence of what we do at Sarah Lawrence,” Sam notes. “If we can offer a platform to nurture, grow, develop, and promote our students’ voices, then that is one of the greatest things we can do as a college.”

Launching Her Path: From a Trump Rally to The Huffington Post

A trip to a Donald Trump rally ultimately became the catalyst for Kate’s first major break as a political journalist. Sam brought students from his “American Dreams and Ideologies” class to the event as observers, and then put Kate in touch with an unexpected connection—Arianna Huffington—to share her insights from the experience.

Kate recalls, “I wrote Sam this long e-mail after the rally: ‘I don’t know if I should submit this piece I’ve written. Do you think it’s worth it? Where should I send it?’ He just wrote back, ‘Huff Po.’ Just sending an e-mail to Arianna Huffington is crazy, but Sam gave me confidence. The idea that anything I want to do is completely feasible and possible is not something another school could have given me.”

Kate’s piece was not only published, but Arianna invited her to stay on as a correspondent for The Huffington Post, covering the national election from a millennial’s perspective. Kate sees this as the first step in realizing her vision of launching a political journal that speaks to the viewpoints of her generation.

Faculty and Students: Collaboration and Confidence

Sam believes the collaboration between students and faculty at Sarah Lawrence is an essential aspect of the value the College offers: “There are brilliant people at many schools, but a lot of them need the guidance they can only find here to be their best. I didn’t have that when I was a student, so it’s wonderful to be able to provide that support when you have a student like Kate.”

Kate continues to evolve her voice and perspective through her studies at Sarah Lawrence, and her confidence in her work is evolving, too. “If I can ask the people I’m meeting through Sarah Lawrence questions, I can ask anybody a question. I can feel confident in my opinions and perceptions, because my opinion is valid, and I have the right to question anything.”