YOUNG LEADERS WHO WILL SHAPE HISTORY
Major: I chose Comparative Literature & Society because I wanted to read in several languages: Polish, English, Spanish and Russian.
Challenges: The greatest challenge I face is understanding what will engage, provoke, inspire people, and what will intimidate and terrify them. There is a fine line between a satisfying story that raises questions and conjures up memories, and a story that makes an audience clam up. This is an ongoing, thrilling experiment.
Accomplishments: Cycling to work from Queens to Columbia in the summer of 2005 (25 miles round-trip). Also, for the past three or four years, I’ve been a judge for City College’s NYC High School Poetry Contest, which I won as a senior at Stuyvesant. It’s incredibly rewarding to discover and recognize the newest poets.
Turning point: Spending my junior year abroad in Moscow, Russia. I realized what my parents experienced when they arrived in America in 1990. It was the greatest test of independence, spirit and creativity. I proved myself to myself and bloomed several times in the course of the Russian winter. It’s wonderful to surprise yourself.
Mentors: My parents. My high school sweetheart, now husband, Il’ya. Frank Bohan, my boss at the Harriman Institute at Columbia, where I worked for three years as his Aide-de-Camp. He is a master storyteller.
Favorite college professor: Edward Tayler (Shakespeare). Because he taught us to look for the squiggle-tail that distinguishes a cat from a pig. He always signs his emails, “Yrs in the ranks.” Alla Smyslova (1st year Russian). Because a language teacher is like a mother, imparting the gift of the Word.
Advice: If you are surrounded by lukewarm people, don’t let that hold you back, be passionate. Don’t be afraid to challenge authority every day. Ask questions, even if they seem naive.
Most enjoyable course: Grigorii Kruzhkov’s poetry seminar in Moscow. We were five: four Russians and I. We read American and English poems and tried to understand them as we translated them into Russian. I learned Russian, of course, but I also began to hear and love English differently. When I read Bleak House after a year with Kruzhkov, every sentence thrilled me.
Current Job: By day, I am a paralegal in the Manhattan DA’s Rackets Bureau. By night, I run The Mayor’s Hotel, my prose blog (http://themayorshotel.blogspot.com ).
Awards: The most meaningful has been Columbia’s Philolexian Prize for my novella, Quixota (May 2007).
5 years from now: I hope to have published my first book, a collection of essays and stories about my adventures to date. I expect I’ll be raising a child or two and arranging further verses, perhaps telling stories on the radio a la Garrison Keillor.#