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ConnectiveCollective: Meet the Moderators

Last Wednesday the community collaboration project ConnectiveCollective launched with a Virtual Town Hall for Purchase College students to talk about the issues that are on their minds right now. Four students with varied backgrounds facilitated the event. I caught up with two of the moderators to ask about their involvement with the project, their experiences, and what comes next.

Nick Astor, PSGA President, is a Junior majoring in History and Anthropology. Melissa Efrus, a Junior majoring in Photography, is a student in the Global Scholars Program. Along with Rem Ribeiro, a MA graduate student and Research Fellow at the Neuberger Museum, and James Skehan, For Freedoms intern and Purchase A+D student, the four guided conversations about issues ranging from flip phones to attending “Zoom University,” institutional racism to preventing campus sexual assault, and more topics around the themes of justice, healing, and the power of listening.

Here’s what Nick and Melissa had to say following the Virtual Town Hall:

Gabrielle:  What kind of role do you play in the political process and in increasing civic engagement on campus?

Nick: In terms of being the PSGA (Purchase Student Government Association) president, my job is strictly advocating for students in a political capacity. As president of the Democrats Chapter, I help with voter registration and did door to door campaigning in Mount Vernon and the Westchester area last year. It’s harder this year to promote civic engagement in a virtual platform but we really have to reinvent the wheel.

Melissa: Within the Global Scholars Program, there is a drive to be active in the Purchase community as well as globally work towards goals of civic engagement. A core value of the program is celebrating diversity and individuality, as well as promoting intercultural dialogue. There is a unification through us all wanting to think critically about our actions and how they affect the world at large and the communities around us.

Gabrielle: What does the Town Hall’s theme of “Healing, Justice, and the Power of Listening” mean to you in the context of Purchase College?

Melissa Efrus, a Junior majoring in Photography, is a student in the Global Scholars Program. Melissa: I think sometimes it can be a natural knee jerk reaction to want to jump to a conclusion or solution for a problem, before genuinely hearing out the people involved. It is so important to slow down and truly hear one another thoughtfully. l feel like all student participants in the Town Hall were mindful to do this for each other. The Power of Listening, to me, is a necessary foundational step towards Healing and Justice.

Nick: I think that Purchase needs to do a better job of listening to its students and informing the student population so that we could have real justice in areas like how we interact with UPD. People of color and other minorities don’t feel like we’re listened to. If you have the energy to bug the school enough to get something done, you can get it done … which I think is an unfortunate approach.

Gabrielle: Describe your experience moderating the Virtual Town Hall.

Nick Astor, PSGA President, is a Junior majoring in History and Anthropology. Nick: When we started it became clear that people were mostly there to listen. Then, we had people who suddenly became very passionate and that helped facilitate conversation. I think we have a barrier to cross with the Zoom medium. But once people were brave enough to speak their mind and be earnest about how they feel I think we really got a sense of community of where we as Purchase students want the world and the school to go. It would be fun to have one again and bring awareness to these kinds of forums that I think are good for conversation but also venting.

Melissa: All of the participants and moderators were able to have a very open dialogue and use the space to air out what was on our minds, as well as brainstorm potential solutions. I was really glad that so many students felt comfortable with speaking up. The Town Hall was intended to be a platform for students to talk freely. It felt like a great step towards having more open dialogue like this for students.

Gabrielle: Following the Town Hall, what are you looking forward to seeing in the next phase of ConnectiveCollective?

Melissa: I am excited to see the variety of approaches to the art installations that follow this collaboration with Purchase’s Community Design class. I hope to see works that encourage the Purchase community to think about matters in a new light, as well as affirm the student body’s concerns. I think it’s such a great way to keep the conversation going with making these art installations on campus. Hopefully through this initiative, more students will feel heard and empowered to use their voice.

Nick: I’m also excited to see what the artists come up with, because we talked about some pretty varied things. We spent a long time talking about flip phones. I think Purchase is at its best when we vent and then do something about it in quick succession. Which this time is art. Because it’ll be on campus, it’ll be a reminder of kind of what we all went through and hopefully it’ll strengthen our sense of community a little bit.


This fall look out for new campus art reflecting the issues, concerns, and ideas expressed by Purchase College’s diverse student body during the Virtual Town Hall.

Gabrielle Bohrman
Neuberger Museum of Art
Fall 2020 Communications Intern
NEU Student Voices Blogger

ConnectiveCollective is a year-long community collaboration between the Neuberger Museum of Art, ForFreedoms, and campus partners the Purchase College Center For Engagement, and the Global Scholars Program.

ConnectiveCollective:  A Neuberger Museum of Art and For Freedoms Community Collaboration