From Business to Cell Biology, New Alumni Found Home—and Inspiration—at Yeshiva University
The Yeshiva University graduates of 2011 hail from diverse education backgrounds, but one thing they’re unequivocal about: the value of a YU education.
Their degrees are in English, business management and cellular biology. As students, they left their mark on their respective campuses, editing newspapers, organizing student research conferences, and collaborating with other universities to better educational experiences for students everywhere. Now these new Yeshiva University alumni are taking the next big step in their lives, from medical school to competitive teaching fellowships. But they take with them a deep sense of pride, accomplishment and connectedness to the community that shaped their undergraduate experience.
“You’re in a community of leaders and thinking individuals who challenge you to excel,” said Tirtza Spiegel, of Toronto. At Stern College for Women, Spiegel majored in biology with a cellular and molecular concentration. She will begin her studies at YU’s Albert Einstein College of Medicine next year.
Spiegel highlighted the rich offerings in Jewish studies, which allowed her to deepen her religious involvement as she pursued advanced courses in the sciences. “My Judaic classes helped mold my Jewish identity and allowed me to develop into the member of the Jewish community I wanted to be. Engaging in debate about ethical behavior with intelligent and learned instructors is always a pleasure.”
For Simeon Botwinick, who double-majored in English and history and minored in studio art, college was as much about self-growth and personal enrichment as preparation for a future career. “I wanted to be educated, eloquent and able to think critically,” he said. “I absolutely loved my studies here. I think they’ve contributed very much toward my general outlook and the way I think.” Next year, Botwinick, a native of Riverdale, NY, will be teaching English in Baltimore under the auspices of Teach for America, a prestigious two-year program that also grants a master’s degree in education. “I’ve always been very interested in education,” he said, “I told them I could teach English, art or art history.”
Shloimie Zeffren, a former Yeshiva Student Union president, still looks back on some of his undergraduate achievements with awe. During his tenure, Zeffren partnered with student government leaders at institutions including Fordham University, New York University and Columbia University to create an organization that would address universal student government issues. “To know that in the future this will affect countless students all over New York is a unique feeling,” he said.
Zeffren, originally from Los Angeles, CA, also played a leading role in organizing YU’s 2009 Chanukah Concert featuring Lipa Schmeltzer. “That feeling when the event comes to life and you look at it and think, ‘Wow, I did that along with my team,’ taught me a lot about leadership and teamwork,” he said. Zeffren, who majored in business management at the Sy Syms School of Business, will hone those skills next year as a Presidential Fellow in YU’s Office of Institutional Advancement. “When I read about the fellowship’s mentor relationship, the seminars, and working within your department and with others, I thought, ‘This is invaluable. I have to do it.’ ”
YU’s nurturing environment has also encouraged other graduates to develop their ambitions and imaginations. For Spiegel, a defining moment of her college career was when Stern College funded her attendance of the American Association of Cancer Research annual conference last year, where she presented her own research in front of top scientists in the field. “There are so many opportunities for students to shine and grow while pursuing their passions,” said Spiegel. “The professors believe in us, are supportive and help us blaze trails on our individual quests for knowledge, even when they are inter or multidisciplinary.”
Botwinick, who served as editor-in-chief of The Commentator, the undergraduate newspaper of Yeshiva College and Sy Syms, felt the unique atmosphere at YU allowed him to explore many academic and extracurricular fields. “Everything I’ve done, from double-majoring and getting a minor to running the college newspaper while taking shiur [lecture] in the morning, I could only have done here,” he said. Botwinick added, “For as long as I knew what YU was, there was no way I was going anywhere else.”