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Gateway is the community newsletter of Pratt Institute. It is published monthly by the Office of Communications, in the Division of Institutional Advancement. For a list of contributors, click here.

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Tuesday
Jan292013

FACE OFF! 125 FACES OF PRATT

The Office of Student Affairs, in conjunction with the Prattler, has created 125 Faces of Pratt, a photo essay featuring randomly selected students and faculty on campus. The goal of the campaign was to highlight the vast diversity of talents, backgrounds and points of views on our campus, as well as to honor the 125th anniversary year.

Last fall the organizers set up on campus armed with pizza to lure passersby. They snapped these pictures while conducting mini-interviews.



Producers: Maria Asare-Boadi; Dr. Helen Matusow-Ayers

Photos: Andreana Bitsis

Monday
Jan282013

Kathryn C. Chenault Elected To Pratt Board of Trustees

Pratt Institute Board Member Kathryn C. ChenaultPratt Institute’s Board of Trustees has named Kathryn Cassell Chenault as its newest member. Chenault’s appointment was effective December 13, 2012. She received an honorary degree from Pratt in 2012, served as a host at the 2008 Black Alumni of Pratt (BAP) Creative Spirit Awards, and was also an honoree at the 2006 BAP “Celebration of the Creative Spirit” benefit dinner.

A dedicated supporter of educational institutions, the arts, and expanding opportunities for young people, Chenault is a former practicing attorney. She was an associate attorney at law firms in New York and Boston before serving as vice president of corporations and foundations for the United Negro College Fund.

Chenault has served on multiple boards including those of the NYU School of Law, Tufts University, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Hospital for Special Surgery, Municipal Arts Society, and the Studio Museum of Harlem, where she has also served as gala co-chair. She has also been active with the Harlem Children’s Zone, the Abyssinian Development Corporation, and the International Council of The Museum of Modern Art.

Chenault received a B.A. from Tufts University and a J.D. from the NYU School of Law. She is married to Ken Chenault, who has served as CEO of American Express Company since 2001. 

Text: Charlotte Savidge
Photo: Courtesy of Claus Eggers

Sunday
Jan272013

40 Under 40: Recent Alumni Explore How Failure Breeds Success

L to R: Justin Taylor, Richard Sarrach, Cesar Kuriyama, Paul Mayakovsky, President Thomas F. Schutte, Todd Bracher, Amanda Clelland, and Jennifer Chun.&In conjunction with the recent publication of the Prattfolio issue, 40 Under 40: Pratt’s Rising Stars, young alumni from greater New York met at Pratt Manhattan for a panel discussion and networking event on January 14. A group of six young alumni and faculty compared war stories, accounts of failure that, in turn, made them the successful professionals they are today. The panel discussion was moderated by Paul Mayakovsky, editorial director of Metropolis magazine. Mayakovsky found some resounding themes among the panelists.

Perseverance Breeds Success

Product designer Todd Bracher (B.I.D. ’96) believes that you have to give it your all despite the fact that your efforts may very well come to nil. “When I spot a manufacturer I really want to work with, I spend a lot of time researching these companies. We do a ton of back-end research before we put together any kind of proposal or any kind of pitch. We spend a lot of time developing our idea into a really clear business plan,” said Bracher. “And a lot of times we miss it. I guess 60% of the time, which I think is still pretty good odds.”

Amanda Clelland  (B.F.A. ’07, Communications Design), creative director at advertising agency Droga5, is also familiar with the pattern of researching, pitching, and then failing. “You work around the clock, you work super hard, you dive into a project and whether it's your boss or a client, they tell you we don't like it, we hate it, you lose. It's a game,” said Clelland. “So failing totally breeds success in advertising because you totally have to get back up and put on your happy face and do it again and again and again.”

Unintended Benefits

A number of panelists found that the dearth of work during the recent recession forced them to think creatively about how to get their name out there. Richard Sarrach (B. Arch. ’01), principal of architecture practice form-ula and director of the Digital Futures program within Pratt’s School of Architecture, launched his practice in 2008 just as the recession began. With commissions scant, Sarrach and his partners took the tack of underemployed architects throughout history and entered ideas competitions.

“One of the competitions that we did was Metropolis Magazine’s Next Generation Competition. We did not end up winning it, but the winning scheme was somewhat close so it was extremely reassuring to see that we were on the right track,” Sarrach recalled. “And after that we were awarded a prize by The Architecture League, asked to do a TEDx talk, and got coverage in the Huffington Post,” said Sarrach. “When you participate with your work on such an intimate level, it will find venues to land within. I really believe that's applicable, no matter what the creative field is. It also forces you to think and act much clearer.” 

Staying On Track

While the panel spoke of all-nighters and working hard, the importance of work/life balance resonated as well. Animator and self-avowed “creative human being” Cesar Kuriyama (B.F.A. ’04, Computer Graphics) recalled after turning 30 he was burned out from 100-hour weeks and decided he needed an escape plan. He travelled for a year, visiting family and working on his own personal project. “After a year I decided I wasn’t going back to work for someone else and I started my own firm,” Kuriyama said. “And I gave a TED talk,” he added, recalling that the invitation to speak for this prestigious series confirmed that he had made the right decision.

Writer Justin Taylor, who teaches writing in Pratt’s Department of Humanities and Media Studies, sees down time as essential to his craft. Writing for a speculative audience is by definition a solitary act, he explained, “One of the things I think that you have to be able to do is put up with yourself and sometimes that means self-discipline and sometimes that means self-indulgence and I really mean it. In Moby Dick Ishmael asks for time, strength, cash, and patience. There's a couple of those things you can give yourself, the rest have to come from somewhere else,” said Taylor. “I don't know, some people may wake up and write for 12 hours every day. I don't do that. To me, I think the four hours I blow playing video games puts me in a decent enough mood to actually sit down and work later. To me, those are billable hours as far as the writing process goes. There's no one to bill, that’s the thing.”

Asking For Help

Others echoed the need to avoid isolation: collaborations, the ability to enhance their work by bringing partners in or by simply following others’ advice are critical to success. Seeking out a mentor, or even several, and regularly consulting with them also enhances one’s confidence.

Jennifer Chun (B.F.A. Fashion Design, '02) recalled her hesitance to take advice. “I was such a behind-the-scenes designer. I had to learn that, especially with clothing, you have to put yourself out there. I knew public relations were super important, but my shyness was hard to overcome. My mentor said I needed to be photographed wearing something of mine. I thought: ‘That is so vain!’ But I got over that.”

In the end, the panel concluded that if you are not able to wear multiple hats, it is essential to be able to find others who will wear some for you.

Text: Bay Brown
Photo: Peter Tannenbaum

Saturday
Jan262013

Pratt Hosts Congressman Jeffries' Inauguration

L to R: Pratt Trustee Mike Pratt, U. S. Congressman Hakeem Jeffries, Board of Trustees Chair Bruce Gitlin, and President Thomas F. SchutteOver 800 people came to Memorial Hall Auditorium and the Student Union on Pratt's Brooklyn Campus on Sunday, January 27 to witness the inauguration of Hakeem Jeffries to the United States House of Representatives. A rising star in the Democratic party and a representative of New York's Eighth Congressional District, Jeffries was joined by his family and by many prominent figures in local, state, and national politics.

In attendance were Senator Chuck Schumer, Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke, Assemblyman Karim Camara (who also served as the event's Master of Ceremonies), Assemblyman Walter Mosley, former Congressman Edolphus Towns, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr., and the Reverend Al Sharpton.

President Thomas F. Schutte gave a hearty set of welcoming remarks, citing Jeffries's longstanding ties to Pratt and Brooklyn; Jeffries was a former student in Pratt's Saturday Art School program. President Schutte encouraged the Congressman to come back and talk to Pratt students about his experience in Washington.

Senator Schumer, who was head of the congressional organizing committee for and Master of Ceremonies at the inauguration of President Barack Obama, delivered a rousing set of remarks on the new Congressman. He said that Jeffries's inauguration "here, at Pratt" was "every bit as significant" as the inauguration of President Obama in Washington which took place nearly one week prior.

Jeffries closed the ceremony with a stirring inaugural address that assured his constituents and supporters that he would "make it clear to the whole country that Brooklyn's in the house" and stand up for their interests in Washington. A reception was held immediately following in the ARC Building.

Jeffries was recently appointed to the Judiciary and Budget committees. In the 113th Congress, he looks forward to working on economic growth, reforming the criminal justice system, preventing gun violence and assisting neighborhoods in the district that were devastated by Super Storm Sandy. Prior to winning a seat in the House of Representatives, Jeffries served for six years on the New York State Assembly.

Text: Amy Aronoff
Photo: Armando Tavarez

Friday
Jan252013

Lessons From the Perry Como Sundae Bar

Robert Weinstein visiting with his grandmother, Rose Plotnik.Robert Weinstein (M.L.S. ’14) is studying library science by day at Pratt, but he is perhaps better known for his nocturnal theatrics. Weinstein’s paean to his grandmother Rose Plotnik recently aired on The Moth Radio Hour.

The story begins with Weinstein saddened because his grandmother wasn’t recognizing him anymore. He was sitting with her in her wheelchair in the community room of her nursing home on the occasion of a social where Perry Como was playing and ice cream was being served. Weinstein was melancholy. He didn’t like Perry Como. And he didn’t like ice cream. But he did like Rose. What ensued would lighten everyone’s hearts.

Weinstein majored in theater as an undergraduate at the University of Kansas, studied drama in Europe after graduating, and worked in Off- Off- Broadway and television as an actor, writer, and producer for years before returning to school at Pratt. He developed his Moth story while doing a workshop on “Storytelling” at the Magnet Improv in Manhattan. Over six weeks his classmates helped him hone the story about his grandmother and when, six months later, The Moth announced they were going to hold a story slam on the theme of “ego” he saw his opening. Alas, the night Weinstein told his story, he was trumped for first place by someone who told a story about how he decided to become his high school’s premiere pole vaulter as a means to achieving popularity.

When Weinstein finishes his degree at Pratt he hopes to do community outreach at a public library. “Libraries have to reflect community need. This is what I am learning at Pratt,” said Weinstein. “Things like e-books and streaming media are now available at home and on mobile devices, so libraries need to keep changing and reflect the needs of the community. Access to technology and computers is still a huge need, but many potential users are quite fearful of the unknown. We need to reach out to these people and see how we can best help them, be it with creating a resume, finding a job, doing their taxes, or providing afterschool help to kids.”

Text: Bay Brown
Photo: Eleanor Weinstein