Noah Pizmony-Levy Drezner


Noah Pizmony-Levy Drezner

89 minutes
Melissa S. Mead
Interview/Event Date: 
October 11, 2013
Biographical note: 

Noah Pizmony-Levy Drezner graduated from the University of Rochester in 2000. He is an associate professor of higher education at Teacher’s College, Columbia University, as well as a senior research fellow at the Center for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Leadership at the University of Maryland, College Park. He serves as a board member of the Justice Policy Institute, which works for prison reform and reduction of recidivism, in Washington, D. C. He earned his master’s in higher education and a Ph.D. in education from the University of Pennsylvania.

MM: My name is Melissa Mead and this is October 11th of 2013 and this is an interview with Noah Drezner. And why don’t you start by telling me what class you were and how you decided to choose the U of R.

ND: Sure. I’m a member of the Class of 2000, also known as the Sesquicentennial Class. We – well, I’ll talk about me first. So I decided to come here . . . really towards the last minute of decidi – before the deposit checks were due. I was having a very difficult time making a decision about college. I had applied to something like sixteen different institutions, some ridiculously large number of institutions; I can’t even tell you why except for the fact that my college counselor made a long list and I didn’t take anything off the list, I think.

And I remember that literally, the decision I think was due April 1st or something like that and I was on a trip my senior year in high school to go – called “March of the Living” that goes to Poland and Israel for two weeks. And I think that I was leaving something like March 30th for the airport. And I remember as my father was dropping me at the airport I said, “Okay. I’ve made the decision. Write the check to Rochester, that’s the place for me.” And I then told him as we were saying our final good-byes I said, “Well, I’m calling you when I land. Hold off. I think that’s the decision [laughs] but I’ll let you know.”

And then I got onto my flight, I was a charter flight, it was chartered by the Board of Jewish Education for the City of New York. So there were Jewish students that were all in their senior year, perhaps there were some juniors but it was mostly seniors from high schools from around New York City and Long Island. And one of the people who was waiting in the gate was wearing a University of Rochester Class of 2000 t-shirt ‘cause he had just accepted and that was the t-shirt that was sent when you get your deposit. And we had a fantastic conversation, and I think that that conversation – I don’t think that Scott Sundick has any idea that it was his conversation that, like, sealed it, so from what I remember, we landed in Warsaw and I called to say that we landed safely and everything, and I was like, “Okay. Final, final decision, go ahead.”

And, but why I came here . . . what I was thinking about mostly was in all those long lists of places I applied I visited every campus, and one of the things I did when I was visiting campus, and I don’t know where I got this idea, I wonder – I don’t think someone suggested it, but I was really looking for a friendly place. So I knew that when I wasn’t with a group, when I wasn’t on a tour, I was going to walk the campus and just say hello to people, and clearly they wouldn’t know who I was because they’d never seen me before, and I would gauge their reaction and whether they would say hello, would they just ignore me, would they kind of say hello as if – pretend as if they know who I am, or would they engage in a conversation and realize that maybe I was a prospective student or something like that. And Rochester was one of the most friendly campuses that I was at. And one of the campuses where I would say almost everyone said hello, and a few people engaged and asked why I was on campus. And I think that that was part of the biggest sale and had nothing to do with what Admissions did. And I think that was emblematic, now that I look back over my Rochester experience of finding a place where there was a friendly attitude and a welcoming nature, and it was a small enough campus that you could probably tell this person was a prospective student, not just one of the thousands of people you’ve never seen before, and there was that sort of “jump-in” spirit.

MM: So then, what was your course of study and how did you decide on it.

ND: Sure, so. It’s kind of funny. So I was a – what I think technically on my degree says “Environmental Science” major, and, if I had to actually define it more closely to what I was doing it was Bio-Geo-Chemistry, ‘cause there was sub-specialties that we could do back then and that’s what I was doing and I clearly do absolutely nothing with that right now. But I’m also one of those few people who came in with an idea of a major and stuck with it the entire time.

I really was interested in Earth Sciences and the environment when I was in high school and I thought that that’s what I wanted to do and there was that opportunity to do it here just a few years prior to me arriving, I believe. They officially moved from a Geology department to Environmental Science, and there was still a strong geology portion of our environmental science but it was just – it was at a point where we were moving to a larger “Earth Science“ conversation within the classes. And I loved it. I thought that this was exactly what I wanted to do and then somewhere in my senior year I realized that how I was engaged co-curricularly in school and what I was doing academically in the classroom were flip-flopped in terms of where my passions were for a career. And I know exactly when that happened, actually.

I was working on my senior thesis on aqueous Iodine-129 as a geologic tracer, and if you look at that long CV, it’s actually the first publication I have, or presentation that I have in there, and, I always know when people actually look at my CV because they’re like, that – why is that there? It’s a good conversation starter. So I was working on my thesis and we were doing – I was doing some titrations and trying to get iodine out of these large amount of water, and basically my job was to try to figure out how to do it with reducing the amount of water that we needed in order to get a sample that was great enough to send off to the mass spectrometer and to find out how much of the different iodine isotopes were. And we were starting at a point where it was hours and hours of work. And often in order to get it done it was a lot of over – it was overnights. And I did one of those overnights, I was basically in the lab all by myself, and it got to be morning and the Ph.D. student who was helping supervise the project came in, and it was getting to morning and he was coming in and he saw that I was finishing up and about to weigh the little flake of iodine that I came with after all this, all these hours and hours of work. And he – I must’ve looked absolutely exhausted. So he said, “Listen. Clearly you’ve finished what you’re doing, you look exhausted, go home and go to sleep, I will take it from here and Fed-Ex it” – I think we were Fed-Exing it to Purdue University because we had a contract with them for the, to use their mass spectrometer for this project. So I said, “Thank you, I feel like I’m – I don’t even know if I’m going to make it back to…” Gilbert – where was I – at Lovejoy, “before I fall asleep in the Quad, you know. “

So I go back to my room, get into bed, and the phone rings. And, you know, I couldn’t figure out who would call me, like, I’m like, I’m bothering you not to call that day because I was not going to, I was going to be tired and all that. And the phone rings and it’s the grad student, Glen Snyder.[1] And he says, “So . . . I have . . . some bad news.” I’m like, ehhh – there’s no – what bad news is there, there can’t be any bad news, like, it’s done, all you had to do was put in a Fed-Ex envelope, like [laughs] no, there’s no bad news, I’m going to sleep. He’s like, “No, no, no, there’s some bad news.” So I said, “Okay, what’s going on.” So apparently, while he was weighing it so that we could have some data on the size of a flake and all of this, and he forgot to take the static electricity off the weigh paper, and it caused the flake to jump off in the air and he couldn’t find it anymore and even if he found it on the floor it would’ve been contaminated and lost, so he couldn’t find it anymore. And all those hours were clearly lost.

But the other part of it was that, you know, we actually didn’t know – we knew where the water was from, I don’t exactly remember where it was at this point, but we knew where the water was from but iodine is problematic, you don’t know the isotopes because I think Iodine-128 is exactly what was the problem in Chernobyl. So, if he happened to have, like, breathed it in, and for some reason there was a high 128 level, there could be problems. We didn’t know what was going on, blah, blah, blah. So, there could’ve been massive issues. All in all, it ended up being fine because, as we were freaking out to see, “could you have possibly breathed this in somehow,” the flake was found. So nothing had to, like, you know, we didn’t have to call the CDC in, like, you know, send him to the hospital or something like that.

But I think that was the point where I said to myself . . . “Can I see myself in a career where a great stride on something very respectable would be inching a centimeter forward in the conversation,” as opposed to being able to do something that I was more passionate about in terms of supporting universities and fundraising and making sure that others had the experience I had, where I could see, if I raised money for a scholarship, I could see a student experience that. And that changed a life. And I think at that, long story about the lab and my, was the turning point. And I feel so fortunate that I found that out in my senior year as opposed to three, four, five, seven years after my graduation and had to make a career change.

So, I would also say that, without Rochester, I don’t think – and the supportive nature of that and the supportive nature of my advisor in that department, Udo Fehn, realizing that even though he had invested four years in me, that that was the right decision for me and being supportive of helping me make that transition, I don’t know where I would be, because I was very nervous saying, “Hey I think, I think that, you know, this idea of continuing on in science is not for me.” I was really nervous about telling him about that because he invested so much time in me personally. Really so much time in me personally. But he was so wonderful about it. He wrote letters of recommendation a few years later when I was done working at – when I was considering leaving working at the Dev – for the Development Office to go to grad school; he was willing to write letters of recommendation for me and just really amazing that he was…didn’t feel like I wasted his time. And I feel so fortunate for that.

MM: So tell me a little bit about what he did in terms of – you say he invested so much time in you as a student. Do you want to talk a little more about what that means.

ND: Sure, I think that it . . . I was – I think part of, . . . my experience of being one of those few people who picks a major and stuck with it without moving around and didn’t come in undecided etc., and coupled with the fact that our department was fairly small – I think I graduated with.. no more than fifteen, twenty people, in the department. So we were small. So we got a lot of attention if we knew what we wanted to do. And I . . . I started having conversations with him before technically he was my academic advisor, my first semester freshman year. And at first it just started in his office, having conversations. Then it became, “Would you like some research experience?” I said “Yes.”

Then it came, to helping me pick courses on… especially courses that had strong, outside-of-campus experiences, whether they be – I took one course that went with John Tarduno to the West Coast, in California that was called “Earthquakes, Volcanoes, and Mountain Building”? I think it was a Quest course in the first year that the Quest courses exp – existed? I think that was my sophomore, junior year, I don’t remember exactly. [2] And then other summer courses with other faculty members or some classes where we just went regionally within, mostly within New York State. And helping me have those experiences.

And then once I really picked up into his lab, we had a very small team that was that one graduate student, Glen, and then myself and a friend of mine, Meghan Brown. And we were a research team. And not only did he ask me to work on projects that were helping him and Glen move their research project forward. He was so supportive of me saying, “Here’s a question I have. I don’t know how do I go about looking at this?” And he would help me set up a project and he would allow me to do it in his lab. And I just feel so lucky for that, because I don’t feel like most students had that, at least from my friends, they didn’t have that ability to – I think a lot of people had a research experience. We were very engaged that way amongst my friends, but I think most people who were on their faculty’s research team doing their work. And I had this opportunity to say, “Okay, I want that because you know how to ask questions and you know how to answer them,” but I also want to have the ability to say, “Hmm, this interests me, can you help me design from scratch?” And he was willing to do that. Great man.

MM: So when you came in you knew what you wanted to do, but what other kinds of classes did you take? What were the things that might stand out? Did you take languages, did you take, –

ND: I didn’t start taking languages until we – you know, I was part of the first Renaissance class, so the language requirement had disappeared. I went to a Modern Orthodox yeshiva for – from nursery through ki – through kindergarten [laughs] – through twelfth grade. So I was fluent in Hebrew before I came here and I… due to some mild learning disabilities, languages that – acquisition of languages passed starting when I was very young, was difficult for me. So I was actually quite excited that that there was not a difficult language requirement. But I ended up starting to take second semester sophomore year or first semester junior year – I think it was second semester sophomore year – American Sign Language. One of my fraternity brothers is deaf, and while he was very good at communication without ASL, I thought it was the right thing to do, to take an ASL class. And my total intention taking that class was “one and done.” I didn’t particularly think I had time do more of it, I didn’t think I was going to do very well in it because of… whatever, not being good at acquiring new languages, but I would do my best then – there. I ended up nearly Minoring in it. I didn’t have enough room to truly Minor but I had much more than a cluster, started off in, first I was only going to take one class, then I was going to cluster in it, and then the next thing I know I was taking courses on Deaf Culture, I was going to RIT for to watch musicals in sign language and – I remember one West Side Story that was simultaneously voiced and signed, where the

main actors were signing and then the voice actor was in the back, very dimly lit, so you could barely see them, but you saw their presence, so you could see and hear the voice coming from the right place. It was just so beautifully done. So I remember those classes and I enjoyed it, it was – and – for some reason they were all – at least the ones that I took were all late afternoon, very quiet space and lovely, and I found it to be one of the most relaxing times. It was like class but also taking yoga at the same time, like I felt – I always left my ASL classes extraordinarily relaxed.

MM: Where were the classes held?

ND: Oddly enough, a place where I would not say that it was ever a relaxing building, but the, I don’t know if it was the basement, but Meliora Building, but had to – you had to go down. But I don’t think it was the basement, but sub-level of the Meliora Building. You know, it’s all brick in the hallways and everything’s like that, it’s not, I would say, a relaxing building. But for some reason I left there, it was so relaxing. There was only one day that it wasn’t relaxing. That was a day where the instructor was late, and I had volunteered for MERT, the Medical Emergency Response Team. And I was on day pager duty then. And she was late and my pager went off, saying that there was a call. So I told my classmates that. And she – all my faculty knew that if I got a call that I was going to leave class. So I said, if she comes please let her know that I left and I’m going to come back, as long as, you know, class was still going on by the time I get – by the time I come back from the accident. So I went running off. And it was her that was hit by a car.

She was – she ended up being fine, she refused medical treatment. But it was also very interesting because at that time we didn’t have an interpreter yet, right, for the for MERT, so I was using my broken ASL to make sure that [laughs] she was okay, while also checking her out. So that was the only day that I remember not being – having a little bit more stress when I left I think than [laughs] than when I walked in, but my ASL classes were some of my best stress-relieving part. The other classes I took, I took a lot classes in political science.

MM: And who were the professors? Or a stand-out.

ND: I took one with Gerald Gamm. There’s another one – it was a cour – so I took it in ’96 during the Presidential election and it was it Stanley that was our professor – Stanley –

MM: Stanley Engerman, but there’s also – oh, I could be wrong but that Curt Smith –

ND: Nope.

MM: – would’ve done Presidential potentially.

ND: I know Curt and I don’t think it was Curt. It was a class specifically on Presidential elections. And it was – I’ll recess and get the name –

MM: But I can look it up.[3]

ND: Yeah. It was such an amazing class. It was my first election and, you know, because I turned eighteen just, you know, prior to coming. And it was a real-time class. Like, I remember there was some time where it was Clinton-Dole, and there was an – we met twice a week, and I don’t remember – Tuesday/Thursday, Monday/Wednesday/Friday, whatever, I don’t remember what it was – but the night before Dole was giving a speech and reached over from the stage to give someone a handshake. And he fell off the stage. And it was the talk of, you know, this was, you know, we already had CNN, but this – we weren’t, like, this 24-hour news ridiculousness that we are now. But it was still the talk of everywhere that he fell off the stage and it was being made, you know, the evening comedians picked up on it right away and were making fun of it, and that next day in class we talked about it but from a political science standpoint and we watched the video and we talked about how do you recover from this and how – and what is appropriate for the Clinton campaign to respond to it and where is the line before it becomes bad taste, etc., and how does that, you know, how does that frame in terms of his frailty and all – and that was how the class was every week. We literally were ripping things from the headlines and talking about it in class. And I feel like I became such a more informed voter because of that. But I still think about that class whenever I’m talking, you know, when I’m thinking about elections. Yeah, that was one of – and it was my first – you know, my first semester freshman year.

The side note is, of that, having nothing to do with that class but it just came to my mind, was – I was absentee voting at that point to New York City and I was very, very anal [to say the less word?] about wanting to make sure I voted, this is my first time I’m going to have my voice heard, blah, blah, blah, whatever. So I made sure that I got my application for the absentee ballot way in advance and I was going to vote and everything was going to be good. And we’re coming to the election, that ballot’s not there. The ballot’s not there so I’m like calling up New York and they’re like “We can’t send you a second one. It’s been – it has to have been delivered.” And I’m like, I’m on a college campus, it’s not in my mailbox, I don’t know, blah, blah, blah. So I went to Todd Union to the campus postal service, and I must’ve looked absolutely dejected and, like, horrible, because I remember going to the person and saying, I’m looking for my ballot and it’s not here, the election’s in, like, five days and they said it was sent x number of days ago and it has to be here and I don’t know, could’ve it have gone to someone else’s box, and I’m not going to have the chance to vote, and this is my first time voting, and, you know, I’m going to be disenfranchised because of the postal service and all, you know, I don’t know what I – all these things that were coming out of my mind that I must’ve looked so pathetic that they looked and they looked and they looked but they couldn’t find this ballot.

And I remember – and at this point it just seemed like Election Day was coming and I just was not going to have an opportunity to vote. And I was really upset about this but they put their time in, circumstances, whatever, I sort of knew that my vote was never going to technically be counted ‘cause New York was gonna go with Clinton anyhow, he didn’t need me but, you know, I just wanted to participate, right?

I got a phone call in my dorm room – ‘cause it was before we had cell phones and everything –from someone at – from Todd Union saying, “We found the ballot, come and vote.” Like, we found it, I don’t know where it was, blah, blah, we found it. We’ve been searching and we found it. This was on Election Day so it had to be postmarked, right? So of course I get this just moments before the postal office on campus was going to close, I don’t remember what time it closed but it was, you know, sometime in the afternoon. I go running from Tiernan Hall like, thank god it was a short amount I go running and busting down the stairs to it and they see me, they’re like, calm down, go vote, we’re not going to close the door on you, we’ll get it postmarked, you’re going to vote, blah, blah, blah. And you open up this thing, it was, like, you know, the size of this table, you know, ballot, and I’m looking at it and, you know, and I’m looking at it and I’m voting or whatever. I finish it all up. It’s now clearly past when they normally close but they kept open whenever, and I just remember that there were three people back there and they started clapping when I handed it in. It was like some sort of movie take or something, I don’t know –

MM: That’s wonderful.

ND: I felt like I should have been on Candid Camera or whatever--whatever it was, but it was like a culmination of me must’ve looking so absolutely pathetic when I first pleaded my case for not being able to vote. But they followed through. And they took it – my passion as their passion. And it was one of those stories that I don’t think of all too often but talking about that Presidential Election class, that whole thing came back.

MM: So –

ND: Gosh, it’s random what comes back to your mind when you start thinking about these things.

MM: Well, that’s – and I think that’s the fun part. So then, so you were living in Tiernan as a freshman and all four years you lived in… where?

ND: So I lived in Tiernan my freshman and sophomore year. I remember actually when, so Tiernan was a community service dorm back then still, and there was a separate application process to get in. And I remember when, in some ways being more nervous about opening about my – opening of my letter about my freshman housing than opening up letters about applications to college, ‘cause I knew I wanted to be in Tiernan.

MM: Why did you want to be in that – ?

ND: Community service was always very important to me. I think it connects to why I’m interested in philanthropy and pro-social behaviors. It’s just something that has always been what I did and had an interest in. And when I heard that there was a dorm or residence hall that was devoted to that, I knew I had to be there. So I was very nervous about getting into Tiernan before I got into it. And then of course I came and found out that there was not an overabundance of men applying, so – [laughs] so I was pretty much guaranteed based on my gender that I was going to get in, but of course that wasn’t made clear to me beforehand, right, so, yeah. So I lived in Tiernan for my freshman and sophomore year, I was on the exec board of Tiernan my sophomore year, and then I pledged at Sig Ep, Sigma Phi Epsilon, my first semester of sophomore year. And junior and senior year I lived on what was then the SigEp floor, which was the basement of Lovejoy, so one building off. And all four years were in the basement, ‘cause freshman, sophomore year I was in the basement of Tiernan.

MM: And where did you eat?

ND: All over the place. Looking at your questions beforehand, I was trying to really answer that question. All over the place. My freshman year, a lot of Danforth. And there was a whole bunch of us that randomly started going to Danforth around the same time. And I remember there were TVs there and Days of Our Lives on NBC was on, and we ended up getting sucked into these ridiculous soap opera stories, because we all ate at the same time and this was always on and that was the section that we were – of Danforth that we sat in, so we got drawn into this ridiculous Days of Our Lives story and then next thing we knew that we were, like, arranged – not arranging our class schedule, but, like, arranging our lunchtime around figuring out what was going to happen next on this ridiculous story of – someone was possessed by the devil – I don’t even remember what exactly was going on, but I do remember, like – that was one of the things I did freshman year. And then thankfully that stopped, because [laughs] it’s ridiculous.

But then, I was on the kosher meal plan, so a lot of Danforth was there because that’s where the kosher meal plan which I think was only literally two or three of us back then, was – out of the whole University. Literally, I was known by the, by the workers as having the chance – I just – when I went in, they would swipe my card, and I would walk straight back to – into the kitchen myself and I knew where in the freezers my meal was kept, and I had my own microwave. And I would microwave my meals, and then go out and eat with my friends. I was somewhat like eating airline food . . . but they were kosher and I was able to eat, so it was good.

In fact actually, going back to one of your questions before about why I choose – chose – to came – to come to Rochester . . . I wouldn’t go so far as say this was a bait and switch, but when I came to visit just before making that decision, I was up here during the holiday of Passover. And the trip that I was leaving on where I was making this decision left as soon as Passover was over. And I came up with two friends from high school. The three of us took the train together. I remember eating matzoh on Amtrak and playing Monopoly for eight hours or whatever it took to get up here. And I really enjoyed the campus experience, and there were meals at Hillel. And there was a nice number of people that were there, and we had a number of meals there and everyone was so friendly and things like that. No one ever mentioned to me that this was just what happened at Passover. It seem like – like – and I don’t think – I certainly don’t think that they purposely didn’t say anything, but my understanding of what the Jewish community was going to be and what the kosher food situation on campus was very much distorted by that visit so when I came here and it was – “Here’s your meals that are frozen and here’s your microwave” and whatever – was a little bit, a little bit of a shock.

But we had just hired a new Hillel rabbi, a new executive director my freshman year, Ari Israel, who ironically is the executive director of the Hillel at the University of Maryland, so I still get to see him on a regular basis and I’m on his board of his Hillel down there now. And he knew that if Rochester wanted to maintain the ability to continue bringing in a Jewish population there would need to be more kosher options. So by the time my junior year came, we had a kosher deli on campus. And while it didn’t – it wasn’t all meals, but I was fine eating vegetarian otherwise and things like that, but there was other food, and there was the ability to, to not feel like you were microwaving food and things like that, so it was it was nice, so there was a nice little evolution that – that happened there, but so, yeah, I spent a lot of time in Danforth but there were other opportunities for, you know, the Pit and all of that kind of stuff when – and then . . . I guess – I really started going to Douglass when the kosher deli opened in Douglass. I don’t remember what year – it moved around, it was in the Pit one year, and the it moved to Douglass afterwards, but yeah, most of the time it was Danforth.

MM: Where did you eat off – did you go off-campus to eat and what did you do?

ND: Every so often, not too much.

MM: Did you have a car?

ND: I didn’t have a car. . . . I think, you know, the Distillery on Elmwood was a destination sometimes, . . . on Sundays and whatnot, before I was a senior, more so after I turned twenty-one I was there a little bit more often on…. Thursday nights was big senior nights at the Elmwood. But I don’t – I feel like once in a while I went off campus for a meal, but it was for something special. Otherwise I was on campus.

MM: Did your parents visit a lot?

ND: My mother had passed away when I was in fifth grade so it was just my father. My father was – and grandmother, came up, you know, and my father certainly was up to drop me off and to pick me up or starting my… my junior year I was…I stayed on – in Rochester, for the summers, but he certainly was there at those times. And then, usually, another time during the year, I think, once during Family Weekend and other times. But – and then when I lived here during the summer, there were more visits because, there was more opportunity to come out and we would do long weekends and things like that in the area and whatnot, and then I would go down to New York for holidays and whatnot.

MM: So you’ve used the term “co-curricular,” and that was one of the things that someone else who had looked at the draft and he said, “Oh, I would never call them extra-curricular.” They were co-curricular because they meant – they were so much integrated into what he did and where he was going. And you’ve used the same term, so let’s talk about it, because obviously you did a lot.

ND: Right.

MM: So tell me what you di – how you got into doing co-curricular activities.

ND: Sure. Yeah, you know. . . It’s funny. I remember – so where I – when I – the high school that I went to, Ramaz, was, started at 8:30 in the morning and went to 4:45. So that was a lot of classes, dual curriculum, all of that. So then you come to college and someone says, on the average day when you’re taking a normal set of classes or even an overload, you’re in class for two to three hours, and that’s it. And then you can do some other things. Then you do your work. I just didn’t understand what that meant? Like, that didn’t seem like enough to do. So I think that I honestly started getting involved and thinking about what I wanted – not necessarily thinking about directly that I wanted to be involved in all these things but I wanted to be open to different ideas and try different things. Part of it was also, I had all this time that I was not used to. I was not used to doing a half day of school and then being done with that. I just needed more to do. So I think that that’s what allowed me to say, “Okay, I can do many things and what do I want to do?”

I got involved in student government very quickly. I was in – I was elected my fresh – first semester freshman year to represent the Residential Quad. And was there until – for three years on student government, in the Senate. I ran for SA President my junior year and my senior year. My junior year I got the CT [Campus Times] endorsement. They gave me a full-page endorsement. It was quite nice. And I think I was, at least at that point, in terms of people’s short-term memory, but it was legend to say that I was the first person to get the CT endorsement and then not win. I still have that editorial hanging in my office. [laughs] “Drezner for President – dot dot dot – he didn’t make it.” But it was also the time – the first time we – that the SA had changed the election rules. It used to be by plurality, I believe, and then that year we moved to a run-off stage, if there was no one who got a majority. So, yeah. Hard part is I feel like the system changed and that’s why I didn’t win, but whatever. So student government was always really important to me. I felt like students needed a voice.

I remember – I was actually just talking to someone about this the other day, yesterday, When I first got here, we were talking about, Bill Green when he was Dean and then my freshman year he started the Residential College Commission. And for whatever reason Dean Green decided not to have any freshman on the RCC. And that bothered me because we were the ones that were going to be affected by these policy changes and all these things that they were going to be talking about because they were slated to be implemented my senior year. And all the other student representatives would have graduated at that point. So I thought it was really important that we were on there and he came to the Senate to talk about the RCC and I raised the point of saying, “You need to have representation from my class. We’re going to be affected by this committee, why don’t you want freshmen on the Senate?” And he came back and he said something to the extent of, “You don’t have enough experience in college to know what you need and what you want. So we need to have people who have more experience on the committee.” And I just didn’t – it never sat with me. And that was the beginning of my contention with him, that lasted for the remainder of my years here, but also was where I think that, really the importance of student voice was amplified. I had this idea beforehand when I decided to run for Senate that it was important that we be involved in the decision-making process, but it was at that point that I really became more committed to that cause. And – so student government was probably where I was most involved.

But I ended up doing all sorts of other things. My second semester freshman year I got my New York State licensing as an EMT and then I did MERT for the rest of my time there, evening shifts and day shifts, and whatnot. Joined a fraternity sophomore year. Was involved in STING, Students Together In Networking Graduates, which is, I would say, between student government and STING, what set me up for my career now. It was through meeting alumni and having conversations with them and ask – and understanding their passion for Rochester and their decision-making process for giving gifts and creating scholarships that made me think about why people do that and ultimately my connections to that office as a volunteer led me to being a student employee there and working on Reunion 1999, which, you know, that’s Meliora Weekend now and there’s hundreds of staff members; we had four people, two students, two staff, and a $30,000 budget for the entire reunion.

And then the next year [laughs] the Sesquicentennial happened. I picked the wrong year to be in charge. But that set me up, to ask my senior year if I could take on some prospects at the University, some low-hanging fruit, you know, they didn’t give me anyone difficult to talk to and to ask them for gifts. And that led me to working in the office for three years and I don’t think I would’ve done that without STING, and that experience. And then it was my experience as an employee that really got me to ask questions about who gives, who doesn’t give, is it because of the way that we engage, what we do as a University, how do we engage people of non-majority-- not white wealthy males, to be quite honest--how do we engage them, heterosexual males on top of that, and sent me to go – and they sent me to a lot of conferences to ask – to beginning to ask these questions that, while I was on the staff here was mostly about race that I was asking these questions at the time. And never got a good answer that I know of – at the professional conferences that they were sending me to and that’s what made me decide that I wanted to leave what I thought was going to be a couple years away, to get – to go to grad school to get some answers and come back either here or a different institution as a practitioner.

And then the research bug bit and I realized that I perhaps could have a larger effect on, higher ed and philanthropy and fundraising more broadly as a faculty member that also writes in a way that is accessible for practitioners to change their practice and to think differently. And that’s really – so it’s really all those things that I’ve never tied back down to STING but I think that, you know, that decision to get involved in STING, I don’t think made all those decisions but sent me down that path. It was co-curricular activities like I said earlier, flipped the academic aspect of where my career was gonna go. And Keidaeans. That was more – but that was more of an honor socie – you know, an honor, you don’t choose to do that, that’s chosen for you.

MM: It’s chosen for you. But it’s chosen for you because of what you’ve done the previous three years.

ND: Sure.

MM: – and I’m fascinated by Keidaeans but that’s a different question. So – from the co-curricular side of things, who were the people who influenced you the most, the professors or the staff in the offices that you remember.

ND: Sure.

MM: …having the same kind of effect as Professor Fehn.

ND: Hmm-hmm. Rob Rouzer, who’s no longer here, who was the director of Wilson Commons . . . I think was probably – I had great relationships with almost everyone in Wilson Commons but I think his relationship to advising the student government and allowing us to understand from his insider perspective what was going on, really opened up this whole idea of how higher education works, and that there were things that you didn’t see and there were decision-making processes that they wouldn’t let us know which – there was good reason for not – for perhaps us not knowing but at the same time, it hadn’t – had we known part of that, our anger about whatever was going on would have been totally allieved [sic] or somewhat allieved so that we would not want, you know, to stir the pot or whatever. So, conversations with him about about what he suspected or perhaps what he knew going on behind the scenes was really influential and made – has made me think about higher ed differently, and obviously informs my work and a lot of my teaching of higher ed and administration courses now.

. . . I would also say, as I mentioned before, Ari Israel and Hillel was really helpful and I was really involved in Hillel and Chabad also. We – at that time there was a number of us who did one weekend one Shabat at Hillel and then next Shabat at Chabad because we were a fairly small religious Jewish community, we were still 28% or so of the campus Jewish, but in terms of people who were looking for services and things like that, fairly small. So we didn’t have enough of a basis necessarily to have services each week, and he… giving us space for that and to explore Judaism in different ways, culturally and religiously and all that was very helpful. It also opened my eyes to cooking for massive amounts of people my sophomore year, I was, like, every other week I cooked for whoever was RSVP’ing for Friday night dinner, so anywhere between sixty and a hundred dinners. I could’ve started a catering agency because of that, that option. I don’t regret not doing that at all but [laughs] but chicken soup for ninety people, it’s possible to do as sophomore in college. So–

MM: But can you get the kneidlach to rise?

ND: That’s right. Well, that’s a whole different story. You have to use seltzer – have seltzer and have regular water to get them to rise.

MM: Mmm – my mother never did that.

ND: Yeah, well, when – perhaps it’s –

MM: Not for ninety. [laughs]

ND: For ninety, it means you use a trick. [laughs] So, who – who else from the lot of other “little” people, and I would say from a professional standpoint, – I don’t think that these people know that –, I would say Gary Simpson –

MM: Can you sp – say that again?

ND: Gary Si – Gary Simpson.

MM: Okay.

ND: Who I actually just saw in Wilson Commons and he just celebrated twenty-six years on staff last month, really helped me transition from being a student in his office to being a full-time, staff member and opened my eyes to doing development work and not just volunteering in the office and things like that and kind of saw in me, I think, the ability to be successful in Development. And that was, you know, started probably my junior year, when he hired me to work on Reunion ’99, and, so, yeah. I was saying that I should probably tell him some time that, I that I see him as being so influential in that decision-making.

MM: Who else, because I think that, you know, one of the things that are sort of – are different in the questions we have for alumni versus the questions for people who were staff or faculty is we’re asking mostly about professors. But in fact if we go into this co-curricular side and, depending on the depth of the interview subject, that is a huge influence. So Gary Simpson and – and who else?

ND: Yeah, so like I said, Rob Rouzer, also Anne-Marie Algier, who’s still in Wilson Commons, who took over for Rob. Her… I think that what influenced me most about– from her was,. . . her – her way of empowering students’ leadership. And I knew that she was in many ways behind the scenes there to make sure that if we failed that there was a safety net and so we wouldn’t fail too bad, but gave us the room to do our own thing and to fail a little bit so that we can learn from it. And I knew she never directly advised any other groups that I was in, but she was always a good sounding board for what I was working on and things like that. And. . . well, actually, I should – I should take that back. She advised Senior Class Council, which I was on. I think that that’s where I had seen it and had conversations about that, but very practically, in terms of giving us the room to create our own programs and to see what worked and what didn’t work, was that senior year. But I feel like she was informally advising me throughout the prior three years as well. Another person that I’m thinking about all these different influences that was just a great person to have long conversations with about all sorts of topics was Jody Asbury. She had many different roles at the University but while I was there she was either the interim or the Director of the Interfaith Chapel.[4] And I remember very long conversations in her office, or in the kosher kitchen of the basement while the kneidlach were learning to rise, just about everything and anything. Yeah . . . It’s funny how, . . . And then, of course, Paul Burgett. Paul Burgett, there’s one of the… besides his “earth’s crust was cooling” speech that I’m sure he still gives –

MM: He does. [laughs]

ND: One of my favorite experiences from my time at the U of R, but also like a quintessential Paul Burgett moment was – guess it was my junior year, a number of us who were in student government were getting frustrated with the administration because we had been asking for a admissions counselor specifically to work on diversity initiatives and to increase our diversity of our class. And they kept on saying that they were gonna hire someone and it never happened, and we were being pushed off and pushed off. And Sean Vereen[5] who was then the Speaker of the Senate, an African-American, decided that we were at a point where we couldn’t just hear what’s going to happen, we’re committed to this, blah, blah, blah, and nothing happened.

So then there was a decision that we were going to have some sort of social protest. And we had long conversations, a number of us, about what this should look like and how do you organize it and whatnot. And we decided that – I don’t know if this was, if it was yet called Wallis Hall. It was around the time when administration was being switched to Wallis Hall. It was just after President Wallis passed away[6] but I don’t remember if this was before President Wallis passed away or not, so.[7] We decided that we were going to take over the Administration Building. But unlike the more the sixties on this campus where perhaps we wouldn’t inform anyone that you were doing this and it would be a little bit more tumultuous, we of course called everyone and let everyone know that we were going to do this. We gathered all of the students together at the Interfaith Chapel before it happened, we asked everyone to wear business casual clothing because it was going to be during the workday, we told everyone that they were not allowed to sit in front of people’s doors, and we had to be a quiet voice because they had to continue their work and then we just –we were making a stand but we were not going to “stop” the University. Security was there as we’re marching over from the Chapel. We were seeing, I forget his name, the head of Security at the time[8], and we were wondering is he going to block our entry, what’s going on, and in fact as we got closer he opened the door for us, and at this point I’m starting to say, you know, this is not g – this is, like, not going well, like, they’re being too nice, like, we need at least some show of, like, contention or something like that. So we walk in, we’re all very nice and we sit down, we had our – our sit-in begins –

MM: You were sitting in the hallway. On the floors?

ND: The hallways. We were definitely on the President’s floor, and I do believe that we had enough people that we were elsewhere as well, but we were definitely all throughout – what is that, the second floor –and I’m fairly certain at this point that Dean Burgett technically was now had transitioned to being Vice-President Burgett. And President Jackson invites a couple of us – people into his office and Dean Burgett is there and we had conversations and blah, blah, blah, and we say “we’re not leaving until there’s a real plan to hire someone” and, you know, blah, blah, blah, we listed our demands, they listened to us, it’s all very polite, we go back out, everyone’s sitting, whatever--time continues on. Other people got brought in, I think the second round, I wasn’t part of. There was some movement on – conversations about what – how would we end this, you know, ‘cause obviously we’re not waiting there until someone’s technically hired but there had to be some sort of search plan or something going on, and time’s going on. And then Paul comes out to me at one point and says, “Noah, do you have any idea how many people are here?” I said, “oh, I think” – I don’t remember what it was but I came up with a number.[9] He’s like, “Okay. It’s getting late and no one’s eaten anything. I’m going to order pizza and soda for everyone.” And I said “No!”

MM: [laughs]

ND: “That’s lovely that you’re so supportive of us. But you can’t order us pizza! This is not supposed to be, like, we’re coming over for a picnic where the, you know, like, this is supposed to be taking a stand against someplace.” And he’s like, “I understand, but this is my way of saying ‘I’m helping’.” So he ended up ordering pizza and soda for everyone. And it was just like quintessential Paul Burgett moment and I always remember that story as being both a – part of a social movement and a turning point, at least in my mind, of Rochester’s commitment towards racial diversity from being . . . words, to being action because shortly after that we did get someone who came in. I don’t think that they necessarily did a very good job in the first few years but we did get someone on board. But also an understanding that sometimes you can both protest and work within the system at the same time. It was a really interesting learning point for me that we didn’t – like, we – we didn’t want to fight, we weren’t looking for people to be arrested, we weren’t looking for anything besides, you know, making a point. But we also didn’t think that it was going to be so – such a welcoming environment of a protest. [laughs]

But yeah, so that’s probably one of my more proud moments in my Rochester time. I think that we have a long way to go on diversity on all levels at this institution; we are certainly not there. We’re doing much better in racial diversity than we have – just by walking on campus I can – I feel that. And I think that the Kearns Center is doing phenomenal programs, phenomenal things. But I feel like we have a long way to go in terms of actually having student services and thinking about having cultural centers and doing more for our LGBT students and really that’s one of the places where I feel we have the greatest room for growth.

MM: So if you – so tell me –

ND: That’s totally different from – [laughs]

MM: Well, no it’s not because – and I think partly because of – there’s no agenda for this kind of interview.

ND: Sure.

MM: But it’s also a question of your experience as one of two kosher students and now looking still at what diversity needs are. What would you have liked to have seen when you were here as a student and what would – what would it look like to you if we had those services. What would they be? What would they consist of? So this is your peaceful sit-in at this room in the library [laughs] and I don’t have any pizza with me but I managed to get you your own bottle of water, but, but what would that look like? What would you want that to look like?

ND: You know, I can speak from a very personal aspect. So, I was questioning my sexuality when I was in college and I slowly started to come out while I was here, and I didn’t fully come out until later on. But I think a lot of people suspected but I was struggling with that and a lot of that came from a – some religious questions that I was having that I’m not sure that necessarily having better support systems for LGBT students could help with, although I do think that could help because would be people that I would have felt comfortable perhaps speaking with, and being able to not just internalize all these issues. But when I was on campus there was a good [unintelligible] gay and lesbian – GLB – Gay Lesbian Bisexual Friends and Association I think were the letters that stood for.

MM: I'll look it up.

ND: It’s not. It’s what has now turned into Pride Alliance or Pride Network or –

MM: UR Pride.

ND: UR Pride. Has had names. Which, you know, has – is celebrating its forty-first year on campus and things like that, which is fantastic. But I don’t think it ever was very large. Like there was a presence which we should acknowledge but it was not a support system or support network. It was so small while I was here, it was a handful of people. I was very friendly with those people but I never felt compelled to join the organization or felt comfortable going there to talk about what was going on with me and finding that. So my hope for – from the very personal position, I would bring this to other minority groups on campus – is that we would have better support networks. I think that in 2013, for a top thirty-something – thirty-two, thirty-three – university, and if we believe U.S. News and World Report, and especially where we see ourselves and where we aspire to, that we don’t have either physical centers or virtual centers where there are people that are . . . like the students that are here and doing things to help them and showing, mentoring and mirroring them, in a way, or acting as mirrors for them. I don’t see how we can truly say that we’ve arrived at where we want – where we aspire to be.

And I think that that goes way beyond LGBT issues but looks at race as well. I think that we’re – we’re not there yet. It’s great that the campus looks more diverse. Do I feel that the students necessarily feel supported? I’m not sure. I go to – at Meliora Weekend, every Saturday there’s a College Diversity Roundtable and you hear stories that are unfortunately not uncommon on most college campuses, but I don’t feel it needs to be that way here. And I feel like if we had more support services we could do that. I understand we’re a small campus so having physical space and where do you draw the line with what communities do you give support services to, and whatnot. I understand that’s extraordinarily complex and not an easy answer, but the answer is also “not do anything for anyone.”

And – I just don’t think that we think it through, and we think about diversity on a very surface level. Which is very unfortunate, I feel. I feel like, we have our few University trustees that are black, that I don’t know if they would say this but I would look at them and wonder if they feel tokenized. I would feel tokenized if I was on – in their shoes.

And we talk about, for instance in the Meliora Chal – the Campaign right now, I’m on the diversity, campaign committee, campaign cabinet, I don’t remember exactly what the title of the group. And we talk about “raising money for diversity.” I’m glad we’re having that conversation. But at the same time, having a conversation about diversity as a separate part of the campaign is a conversation for the early nineties. In 2013, I’ve argued to them and we haven’t gone there yet, that conversation should be diversity is a part of every single aspect of the campaign. Diversity is about the professorships that we’re trying to raise chairs for. Diversity is about all of the student aspects. Diversity is about the capital campaign, the capital that we are raising for different buildings and things like that, so we have environments that are supportive, etc., that we have, you know, gender-neutral bathrooms in every new building that we are, and – and when you go to people who identify as any one of those minority groups for whatever – however they want to define themselves. If they see that you’re so serious about it that it’s fully integrated as opposed to marginalized as a separate part, I guarantee you, you are going to be more successful. And people will finally feel more engaged. We have so many decades of alumni, especially alumni of color, who don’t feel engaged by this university and it’s because we continue to do things like that.

And is this – do I want to say “hooray for Rochester” that we even have it as a marginalized aspect of the commu – of the Campaign? Absolutely. Like, I don’t know if ten, fifteen years ago, it would even have been a discussion at all, so yes, we’ve made a big step forward. But where we should be is nowhere near where we are. We’re two decades behind the conversation and I hope that we get to a point that that changes. That we no longer lag by two decades and somehow we skip twenty years, and we get there and we get there soon. That’s my largest concern and probably my biggest disappointment with the – with Rochester is that for some reason we haven’t – we haven’t seen it yet. We haven’t done it yet.

MM: Do you think that it’s because as a, as a population on campus we’re so relatively small to our peers? Or –

ND: I think that the population size might have something to do with it. I also feel that, . . . Rochester has always felt – so when I was here, there was this unspoken feeling, maybe slightly spoken feeling, that Rochester was always your second-choice school, right? You always came here because you didn’t get into one of the Ivy Leagues or one of the other, you know, you didn’t get into Brandeis or whatever you were aspiring to, but you got into Rochester, excellent school . . . but number two.

And I think it reflected – you could feel that when you walked on campus. You can feel it’s different now because when I walked on campus, you rarely saw a Rochester sweatshirt. Here, I feel like it’s everywhere and I know it’s not just Meliora Weekend because I come back different times of the year and it’s still that way, so it’s not like someone sends out and email and says, make everyone feel good by wearing your Rochester pride and, you know, Columbus Weekend, you know. So, there’s a difference, and I’ve talked to students that I’ve randomly met at different events or that I see on campus and there’s a – there is this feel that it is a first-choice school now which is so exciting, right?

But I feel as an institution we’ve always – we have been, from when I was here and I think continue to be, to aspire to be something different. And I think that this is probably where all of these ridiculous rumors, which you can probably tell me if they were ever true, better than I, but I think they’re so false. And there’s a myth that we were once invited to be in the Ivy League and we turned it down and blah blah blah. And I’m like, where does this ridiculous myth come from? No, we were never invited to be in the Ivy League, it’s a sports conference, blah blah blah, who cares. Let’s be the best who we – Rochester we can be.

And, you know, my favorite line of anything Rochester comes from the song “The Dandelion Yellow.”[10] And it’s “Let Harvard have their crimson and old Eli’s sons their blue, for the dandelion yellow we will e’er be true.”[11] I want us to live that. I want us to stop aspiring to be someone else and us to be Rochester and to live Meliora, which means, in my mind, to be the best Rochester we can be and only compete with ourselves, and if that means that our rankings go up, so be it, if that means that our rankings stay put, so be it. And in my mind, if we’re the best of who we can be, all these ridiculous rankings – which I don’t trust anyhow and I know how they’re measured, so I certainly don’t trust them – will go up. Because we’ll have self-confidence and we’ll actually be doing a better job educating our students and be making alumni happier and making our students happier and our faculty happier, etc.

So if we stop being who we aspire to be, try to be who we aspire to be, and be Rochester, we will get to that point. And I think that comes to part of the diversity part. We spend all this time aspiring and investing in these aspirational things, that we don’t take time to think about what do we really need to be doing to be better? We just think we need to do this because so-and-so did that. So we need to do it now. We need to do – and I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that our leadership for the most part are . . . too white, too male, and, as far as I know, has never had someone who’s LGBT. And I think that they’re coming from a perspective that they’re not seeing what else is going on when it comes to diversity. They come from great institutions that – they come with ideas, which is why we pull people from other institutions, obviously, that’s fantastic. Right, that’s why – what we do national searches for: to get – bring in new ideas. But they’re all coming with ideas about how to make us better in what they think is better – I am being very circular, I feel – but – but they’re not – they’re in a very traditional lens of what “better” is. And I think that if we don’t break out of that, we’re not going to get there – get to where I see Rochester needs to go.

MM: I think that historically, you’ve absolutely pegged it – I mean, this is not really much part of the interview, this type of thing – but I really you’ve actu – absolutely pegged it, I that we’ve often been doing a sort of “follow the flag,” somebody else has this, we have to try to do this, we have to think about doing that. And we lose focus as to what it is as an institution we want to do and should do and do really well. And I think you’ve got that exactly right.

ND: I mean, my experienced in the Development Office, when I was talking earlier about getting frustrated that we were only engaging white men for the most part, wealthy white men, and we occasionally had women but most of the women that we had, save a few that are now on the Trustees were connected to their husbands, right? And I started asking why do we – why do we do the Annual Fund or why do we Reunion the way that we do it, because it’s not engaging everyone, like, it’s us, it’s not them, right? [laughs] Sort of situation, and I said, well, I remember a distinct conversation with my supervisor at the time.

And she literally said, “Well this is what’s successful at Harvard and Yale and Princeton. So this is why we do it here.” And I remember pushing back and saying, “But we’re not those places. Why don’t we think about what’s best for Rochester when we create these campaigns or annual solicitations? Why don’t we ask people what they want and then do that, and see if it works and if it doesn’t work, then we go try something else, but I don’t think that what we’re doing works.” And to hear, literally being told we need to do it because those three institutions – ironically, Harvard and “old Eli’s sons,” so I was very directly with “The Dandelion Yellow” – Why? And I feel – and I look back at that and I – but I see it everywhere at this university.

So the campaign started when Joel [Seligman] was, you know, quiet phase of the campaign started on his first day, right. But the public launch was – what, two thousand – it’s ’13 now so –

MM: Eleven.

ND: Eleven, Meliora Weekend 2011. To go back – reassess the number of Meliora Weekends, right, it was the Diversity Campaign, Campaign Committee only started less than a year ago. So it was an afterthought. But when we went to Kiawah Island, which was this campaign planning meeting – so when we were there we heard from the campaign consultants that two of the cases that had been written at that point tested poorly amongst the focus groups. And those two were the Warner School and diversity. And we broke up into small groups and we could choose where we wanted to go and it happened to be that they put those two conversations together. So it was, you know, I guess the two that didn’t score well got put together. And I went there because I wanted to be part of that conversation; I’m a faculty member in a college of education now, I, you know, I study education, I study philanthropy towards higher education, and diversity is a passion of mine. So, like, this was the room for me to be in, right? So we knew that this was an issue when we went to Kiawah in what must have been 2009, 2008, something like that. ‘Cause it was a few years before we went public.

MM: Right.

ND: Why are we having the diversity conversation and not pulling together a campaign committee then? To say, in response to this not going well, how can we make this? And I’m sure, and I know I said at Kiawah, that I had a similar reaction to how I feel now. The issue was that people weren’t supporting diversity, not because we have a whole bunch of people who don’t support diversity in our alumni, it’s because it wasn’t integrated. And when you don’t integrate it and someone says, do you want to provide scholarships or do you want to provide diversity, scholarships are often going to be more compelling. ‘Cause it’s tangible. Support diver – what do you – what are you going to do with that money? Why isn’t that the same thing? So why didn’t we have that conversation then, I don’t know. And it’s part of this integration. Even if you look at oftentimes where on the Meliora Weekend program conversations about diversity are, they’re the marginalized times. So I’m speaking tomorrow on an LGBT panel. At nine A.M. on Saturday morning when the keynote speaker is at eleven, it’s from nine to eleven, and the keynote speaker’s at the Eastman Theater.

MM: So to get from A to B –

ND: It’s impossible. So you have to then choose a simulcast if you actually want to hear Secretary Gates speak. But what kind of attendance should I expect tomorrow when I go to the Meliora at nine A.M.? It’s not a convenient time. The College Diversity Roundtable is tomorrow. I think it starts at five to six-thirty.

MM: And everyone’s getting ready for dinner.

ND: So you’re tired. You’ve spent the entire day, these are packed days, you have seventy-two things to do at each time. Even this year where it seems like they’ve tried to lessen the load so you don’t have too many conflicting things. You’re tired. And if you’re a reunion year and you’re getting ready for your reunion dinner, that’s when we’re having the conversation about diversity. There is a Diversity Celebration Lunch in the middle of the day, but again, it’s against all the athletic events and it’s against the Greek Tailgate and all that. And yes, I know Meliora Weekend is designed in a way, for good or bad, that there’s no clear block except for the keynote speaker. And I get that. But we also have to think about what it looks like when someone just flips the pages and sees diversity sort of marginalized even in the program. What does that mean, what is that sending? Why is that? Why are we doing that? So is it just lip service? Yes, it’s great that we’re actually having a conversation to begin with, and that it’s not not there.

MM: Right.

ND: But at the same time, it’s not gonna feel too good tomorrow for lots of people in the – who come to the room and maybe we have a handful of people who aren’t on the panel there or aren’t connected to the Susan B. Anthony Center that’s sponsoring it. I hope I’m wrong. I hope that I show up and the – whatever salon in the Meliora is busting with people. But I also know the reality of what it’s going to be like.

MM: And I think – and it’s 4:20 so I’ve kept you past your time –

ND: That’s all right.

MM: But, I think that it’s because it’s – it’s hard. And it’s easy to do the same thing that was successful at Yale and Princeton and Harvard because they’ve got this huge population and it’s hard for us, it’s hard for staff who come in from other institutions to work for Development so it’s easy to do the same things –

ND: Oh, absolutely.

MM: – and it’s hard to reach out to the different community. It actually gets back to what Laura Zimmerman was talking about with the potential roots of Meliora in Ovid, which is “I see and appreciate better things and yet I make bad choices.”

ND: Absolutely. That’s actually a great parallel.

MM: And it’s almost – it’s almost that there’s sort of – we see it, it’s hard and sometimes we’re able to do the hard thing and sometimes we can’t quite pick it up.

ND: Right. And so I’ve talked about the – the – you know, what frustrates me about it. If I was only frustrated I would not come back and I would not be involved to the level that I’m involved on and, you know, I’m on this committee and that committee and I do that and I’m, you know, I’m… a good amount of my time when I’m not in Rochester is still devoted to Rochester. And it’s because of Meliora and the positive of Meliora and the possibility and how much faith I have that we can actually turn that corner, that I stay involved. And I – I hope that – I think we’ve – we’re sneak – we’re looking acro – around the bend, but we haven’t started turning yet. And hopefully that turn’s gonna happen soon because then I think – whether it happens, you know, sooner rather than later – but as long as it happens this could be a fantastic, amazing institution. It’s a great institution now, but it can be an amazing institution if we actually allow ourselves to be what I think we have in ourselves. And that’s, you know, my passion for Rochester is that I want to see it be that, and if there’s anything that I can do with my skill set and my research and my passion to make that happen, then I will see that my time as an alumnus has been worthwhile.

MM: I think that’s a good place to stop, right?

ND: I guess so.

[recording ends]

[2]Earthquakes, Volcanoes, and Mountain Ranges, first offered Spring 1999. Quest courses were first offered in Fall 1996.

[3] PSC 117: Presidential Elections was taught by Harold Stanley, according to the Fall 1996 course schedule.

[4] Stepped down in October 2007 from position of Dean of Students at the College. Taught an undergraduate course on leadership before retiring for good in January 2008.

[5] Class of 1999.

[6] President Emeritus W. Allen Wallis died October 12, 1998. The decision to rename the Administration Building was announced by President Jackson at Wallis’s memorial service on October 30.

[7] The sit-in happened February 22, 1999.

[8] Walter O. Mauldin was Director of Security in 1999.

[9] It was about 200 students.

[11] O, let Harvard have her crimson
And old Eli's sons the blue
To the dandelion yellow we will e'er be true.