I live in New York City, which not only booms with art, music, culture and diversity, but attracts many who come to learn in ever-evolving educational spaces.
A plethora of universities, colleges, and technical training programs exist in New York, and each provides students with a unique experience. My friend Felicia, one of those students who came to New York to immerse herself in an educational experience, has had to figure out how to bring her values with her into the learning experience:
Q: What are you studying?
A: I’m studying Film and TV production at the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University (NYU).
Q: Can you tell us a little bit about the culture of your school or program?
A: The film program at NYU is hands-on and emphasizes collaboration. I have experienced it as inclusive and striving for excellence and innovation. New York City’s culture of diversity and individuality seeps into NYU’s culture as well, bringing interesting and challenging dimensions to the collaborative spirit inherently necessary for film production. One of the things that attracted me to the school is the concentration on creativity and developing of craft skills to assist in any story one wants to tell.
Q: Has being a Baha’i given you a unique perspective in your program/major? If so, how?
A: Definitely! I think being a Baha’i has helped me understand the significance of the arts and how the medium can help advance the thinking of a community. Also, film school has inspired me to reflect on the conventions of storytelling and the messages today’s media sends. I knew that coming into this program my Baha’i identity would influence the films I want to make. I hope to make films with characters that portray nobility, that deal with social issues from the Baha’i teachings and that help raise the level of consciousness of a community/audience—so I’m experimenting with non-traditional storylines.
Q: Do you fuse your education with the Baha’i focus of community-building? If so, how?
A: I try my best. I think the Baha’i learning mode of consultation, action and reflection in our community-building activities is something that I have started applying in my studies. Especially because film is such a collaborative field, I constantly and consciously try to implement these concepts of consultation and reflection with my film crew/team, and have seen a marked positive effect. Despite the demanding tasks and long hours, the unity of our crew has increasingly strengthened. I feel the tools from the Baha’i approach certainly contributed. Likewise, any opportunity I get to film or bring the arts to the Baha’i community, I will do so.
Q: What do you contribute to your school’s community? Do you feel your Baha’i identity affects how you contribute to the community? If so, in what ways?
A: One of the major ways I’m able to contribute to my school’s community is through the NYU Baha’i Club. We hold study groups biweekly on campus for all NYU students and any university student in New York City. It’s become a great space for discourse and meaningful conversations that I think many college students are yearning for.
My year of service and participating in the Baha’i Institute for Global Studies and Prosperity seminars definitely helped me understand the importance of living a coherent, service-centered life. I immediately knew when moving to New York that I wanted be involved in some form of service and contribute in some way to my school’s community. After having many elevated conversations with new friends at NYU, I remembered the passage in the Baha’i youth conference materials where it says “youth have an innate desire to serve.” I wanted to tap into that capacity and create a space for NYU students to learn more about their higher nature, spiritual solutions to world problems and ways of service.
Q: Do you have a favorite Baha’i quote or teaching?
A: There are so many wonderful quotes and teachings. This quote has really impacted me:
Make me ready, in all circumstances, O my Lord, to serve Thee and to set myself towards the adored sanctuary of Thy Revelation and of Thy Beauty. If it be Thy pleasure, make me to grow as a tender herb in the meadows of Thy grace, that the gentle winds of Thy will may stir me up and bend me into conformity with Thy pleasure, in such wise that my movement and my stillness may be wholly directed by Thee. – Baha’u’llah, Prayers and Meditations, p. 240.
Moreover, the Baha’i teaching of independently investigating the truth definitely resonates particularly strongly with me at this point in my life. As a Baha’i I am constantly working on my spiritual identity by reading and reflecting on the Baha’i writings, and as a university student I am striving to take ownership of my education and investigate the truth, in whatever field it may be, for myself.
Q: Why is this so important for you?
A: The Baha’i quote I referred to is an extract from a longer prayer by Baha’u’llah on service. During my year of service at the Baha’i World Centre, I would recite this prayer daily and it would remind me that I am one of God’s channels. So as long as I am detached, flexible and steadfast I have the ability to serve in any capacity. With divine assistance both my “movement and my stillness” is directed by God.
Q: How does it affect the way you operate as a young person and a student?
A: It’s just a beautiful concept that helps me “zoom out” (film kid expression!) and remember the bigger picture of this life. Especially as a student, and actually for anyone living in a big city like New York, we have many exciting, positive forces and much creative energy to draw on—but also negative forces such as materialism, competition, and backbiting surround us in our everyday lives. Having the inspiration of the Baha’i teachings and service at the foreground of my mind just helps bring purpose and direction to my life.