Danielle Gould and Bobbie Boettinger
When Bobbie Boettinger and Danielle Gould were inaugurated as Tisch Undergraduate Student Council (TUSC) president and vice president, respectively, in May, the Tisch community—and the world at large—was on the heels of swift and sweeping changes brought on by COVID-19. Boettinger’s and Gould’s new roles would demand a creative and nimble response to the transition to remote learning, and quarantine posed a unique question: When your work is predicated on bringing students together, how do you cultivate closeness through a computer screen?
In a typical year TUSC is not in session during the summer months, but with the country facing a pandemic and a renewed fight against systemic racism, the team worked to provide a sense of community along with virtual spaces for the student body to gather. We recently caught up with the president and vice president to reflect on this year’s unique challenges, the surprising opportunities they presented, and their roles in an organization that is decidedly “by the students, for the students.”
TUSC comprises an executive board of eleven officers, along with an auxiliary committee. Together the governing body is responsible for managing clubs, freshman orientation week, year-round student events, and plenty more.
For each of you, what was the personal impetus to become involved with TUSC?
Boettinger: I had internally transferred to Tisch last fall. Immediately I wanted to get involved with as many things as possible, because before coming to Tisch there was no club that interested me. I had no idea about Tisch clubs—this was a whole new world. I became alternate senator for my junior year, and at the end of that year I was going to apply for vice president, but our [president at that time] said, “I’m not going to be running.” I wanted to [run] because I loved the friendships that I formed at TUSC and being involved with the school and the student body. Tisch has been my dream since I was a little girl, so if I had the opportunity to be a part of this, I knew little me would be jumping up and down and so proud and excited.
Gould: I was really involved in student council in high school; I’ve always loved helping out behind the scenes. I applied last year to be a freshman rep, and they were looking to fill a treasurer position, [which I accepted]. The change we were able to make motivated me to pursue a higher position this year, and when I knew Bobbie was running for president, I thought we could make a really good team.
What do you feel is the most impactful work that TUSC has been committed to this year?
Boettinger: Jumping into our positions over the summer as soon as George Floyd was killed, and same with Breonna Taylor, and coming together as this new board for the first time when we usually don’t do work over the summer and saying, “We have to do something.” It was such a strong moment to really say TUSC stands behind the #BlackLivesMatter movement and we want to make change, we want to see things happen at the school. And while we were listing ways to educate yourself and bring attention to this, we were also making sure that we weren’t just standing by and posting things on Instagram. We wanted to actually make a difference.
Gould: First and foremost, that work was of utmost importance. It’s continued into the conversations we’ve had throughout the year of how we can fundraise to continue that work and not just have it end over the summer.
On a lighter note, it was so amazing last year to see Tisch48, the 48-hour film festival, and how we could put on an event that could be run by students for students. [This year], trying to find ways to host events that are inclusive in this remote world—quite honestly, we’re still figuring that out. But we are offering up spaces, whether it’s election anxiety related or a speed dating event that we’re hosting, and continuing to provide spaces for students to gather and feel a sense of community.
What are some encouraging breakthroughs you’ve made when it comes to adapting to your TUSC roles in this virtual setting?
Gould: In a normal year we meet in person in a building across from Tisch. Being remote, we were able to find more success in terms of attendance for our TUSC meetings and I think that contributes to the organization feeling more whole. WIth more people in the actual meetings there are more voices, ideas, and brainstorming. That’s been a happy outcome because of this.
Boettinger: That’s what came to my mind. Also, a huge positive out of this is… when have students been able to meet with faculty this easily? Normally it’s, “We’ll have to go to this office and set up this time.” Now we can just get on a Zoom when it’s convenient. As much as we want to be seeing everyone in person, this allows us not only to get to work with so many amazing people that we might not have been able to work with, but it also gave me better networking skills.
Another thing is that we’re forced to try harder to make connections amongst the board. When we’re in person it can kind of happen more organically, and clearly we’re not going to get that now, so you have to go an extra step.
What’s your advice to other NYU students who are balancing a variety of responsibilities on top of their normal studies?
Boettinger: I don’t allow myself to get to that point of being burnt out anymore. I did that all of college and it destroyed me. Right now I make sleep my priority. I’m an insomniac, so it’s difficult (laughs). I tell myself, “You have until 8 p.m. every day to get your work done. After 8, that’s when you start to relax.” Instead of the old way of staying at Bobst until it’s 11:30 p.m. I dedicate Sunday to homework and make sure that school is the priority—other than health. Right now I’m taking six classes, and then you throw TUSC on top of that. There was no way I could do it all without a routine and cutting out procrastination. It’s very hard, because I’ve always been a procrastinator. But being inside has forced me to have a schedule, have a routine, and learn how to take care of myself.
Gould: I’m always in awe of Bobbie and her discipline. Some of us are not as disciplined and still struggling with this, and I know it’s not perfect for you either, Bobbie. Google Calendar is my best friend. I schedule everything, even if it’s hanging out with friends or reading or watching a film not assigned to class.
Also, being OK with being tired… At the beginning, everyone’s excuse was that we had all this free time to pick up four new hobbies and go to fourteen extra Zooms. It’s OK to allow yourself to be OK with the fatigue and the exhaustion. This has really shown us that you have to be really passionate about what you’re involved in. TUSC is not easy work, and if everyone on TUSC wasn’t as passionate as they are about it, it wouldn’t be easy to go to an extra Zoom. Nothing is happening by accident anymore, and it’s really shown me where my priorities are.
Bobbie Boettinger is a senior at NYU Tisch majoring in Performance Studies, and Danielle Gould is a sophomore majoring in Film & TV. For more information on TUSC, visit their website and follow them on Instagram at @nyu_tusc.