By Lindsey Schwarzbach
The Seahawk Spotlight is a monthly roundup covering campus happenings and student, faculty and staff accolades. Below are highlights for December 2023.
Wagner journalism students: #FreeEvan
The students in of Professor Claire Regan’s course Dying to Tell the Story joined together to call for the release of Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, who is being held in a Russian prison on charges of espionage. The Free Evan Gershkovich campaign marked the reporter’s 250th day in captivity on Dec. 4, which was also the final session of the course. “Every day journalists risk their lives to tell a story to the world. Many of them are killed in the line of duty,” reads Regan’s course description. “This course surveys works by the valiant reporters, past and present, who put themselves in harm’s way to shed light on unrest, tragedy and injustice.”
Students and staff help clean up community compost area
Wagner College community partner Snug Harbor Cultural Center & Botanical Gardens teamed up last month with Athanasia (Nasia) Theofilopoulos ’24 and environmental studies faculty to rebuild and clean up a community compost area located between the Foundation and Megerle parking lots. The composting program at Wagner helps turn food scraps from Staten Island community members and Wagner's dining hall into fertilizer. More than three dozen students, faculty, and other volunteers joined Theofilopoulos, who is the student compost coordinator, sustainability senator, and an anthropology and international affairs major.
First-year students visit the African Burial Ground National Monument
Professor Rita Reynolds of the history department and Vannessa Smith-Washington of the education department took students of LC 10: Historical Insights into the Making of the Modern World to visit the African Burial Ground National Monument in Lower Manhattan. The goal of this learning experience was for students to better understand the role the Northern States played in slavery and the background of inequality in America — specifically in New York City. All first-year students at Wagner are part of a learning community (LC) that brings them opportunities for hands-on learning. In these learning communities, professors connect theory to in-person experiences.
A welcome disruption: Colleagues deliver award to Professor DeSimone during class
Students and colleagues joined Professor Frank DeSimone for an in-class photo op last month. “Frank was thrilled that we took the award to him in class,” said Nicolais School of Business Dean Aarti Ivanic. “It was wonderful to see all our junior faculty there supporting him in addition to the students.” DeSimone, an associate professor, has taught at the college since 2005. Learn more about this fall’s faculty award honorees here.
Wagner faculty theater star Pawk earns applause
Alongside her husband John Dossett, who plays The Wizard, Wagner faculty member Michele Pawk has been starring as Madame Morrible in Broadway’s Wicked since late last year as the hit show celebrates its 20th anniversary. Pawk is a Tony Award-winning actress who has been with the theater department at Wagner since 2010. Broadway.com recently visited with Park and Dossett at their home in South Orange, New Jersey, lauding the power couple's impressive background of more than 30 Broadway credits. Pawk earned a Tony Award for her performance in Hollywood Arms in 2003. “[Performing] makes me a better teacher, in a way,” the professor once told the Staten Island Advance. “I have to go out and practice what I preach.”
Alum’s breastfeeding aid goes global
Kate Spivak (formerly Yekaterina Punyanskaya) PA ’11 is successfully helping women overcome breastfeeding difficulties with her invention, the Bridge. Acquired by Neotech earlier this year, the Bridge can now be found in thousands of hospitals. The invention boosts milk production and helps mothers who struggle with getting the baby to latch to the breast by allowing for the delivery of additional breast milk or formula when necessary. Spivak and her husband, Max, started their company, Laally, in 2018. Their company manufactured and sold Kate's invention, which received multiple patents, until 2022, when Laally sold the product to Neotech.
Accomplished filmmaker speaks at Wagner Film Festival
Award-winning filmmaker Ellie Foumbi joined the annual Wagner International Film Festival on November 15. Foumbi’s debut film, Our Father, The Devil, won the Audience Award at the 2022 Tribeca Film Festival and was a Best Picture nominee at the 2023 Spirit Awards. The film was screened at the festival before a Q&A session moderated by Professor Nelson Kim from Wagner’s Film and Media Program. Foumbi discussed her process of creating the film, a gripping psychological thriller that explores themes of memory, trauma, and war, as well as her next steps.