Please tell us about one accomplishment that makes you especially proud. In 1977, along with five classmates from fiber art classes at the New School, I started an informal textile study group for the exchange of ideas and examination of our current work. Others asked to join and now 40 years later, we are an incorporated non-profit group with about 200 members. For the first 20 or more years, I served as president. We evolved from the first five who talked about our work to an organization which meets monthly from September through June with a scheduled speaker in the field of textiles; puts on juried exhibitions in museums and galleries, some of which have traveled to many states and recently internationally. We award a scholarship to a graduate student in the field of fiber arts. Speakers form an international roster of artists in all textile techniques as well as scholars in various areas of textile history. The Textile Study Group of New York consists mostly of members from New York and adjoining states. Membership includes artists from almost every textile discipline as well as historians, critics and enthusiasts. I am happy and proud to say that we are now recognized across the country. On a personal level, I would also say that raising a daughter to be an independent woman with a wonderful family and a distinguished career creating conferences in art and culture has made me very proud, and helping to raise a granddaughter who is a caring, creative and smart woman in her own right is also a point of pride.
Tell us one thing you learned at AFS that you have carried with you throughout your life.
Tolerance. The lessons learned and the examples set at AFS made me aware of the problems and foibles of others and the need to live with it, and help if I can.
Please tell us about one accomplishment that makes you especially proud.
Blavity hosts a yearly tech conference called Afrotech, which is now the largest Black tech conference in the country. I feel very proud to be a part of an event that brings together the best and brightest innovators in my community, while connecting students with employers and startup founders with venture capitalists. On Jay- Z’s latest album, 4:44, he referred to Afrotech on his closing track “Legacy,” with this, “We gon’ start a society within society / That’s major, just like the Negro League / There was a time America wouldn’t let us ball / Those times are now back, just now called Afrotech.” It was a super validating moment for my team and introduced our brand to a wider audience. Blavity, which was founded in July 2014, has quickly grown to become one of the fastest-growing digital media outlets on the web, reaching more than seven million millennials a month. My role at Blavity includes driving sales revenue and creating strong business relationships with top brands, including Comcast, Warner Bros., Universal Pictures, Amazon and Snapchat.
What would you tell current students about how you have continued to be a lifelong learner?
I’ve always believed that the world is something to be explored and excavated. Philadelphia will always be “home” in my mind, but I never intended to stay there my entire life. When I was a senior at AFS, I applied to 15 different schools across the country (Sorry for the application fees Mom and Dad) because I knew I needed to explore to learn. Once Blavity offered me a full-time position in Los Angeles, it took me all of two weeks to pack my belongings and travel across the country. Living among different communities and different cultures has been the greatest learning experience for me thus far and it’s something I plan to continue in future.
Tell us about one accomplishment that makes you especially proud.
AFS instilled in me a commitment to service, which is what I’ve built my career around. It has taken me deep into some of the poorest communities in the world and to the podiums of the White House; however, this year has been the most challenging year to date. I was deeply disturbed by the results of the 2016 Presidential Election, and after spending the past decade focused on social improvements, I was demoralized at the thought of having to roll up my sleeves even further to protect what I believe to be basic human rights.
Along with my stellar team at ORGANIZE, an organization I co-founded in an effort to solve the organ-donation crisis, we were able to quickly rebuild our policy strategy to continue to make progress in an Administration with which we had no relationships. HBO’s “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” featured our products as the call-to-action to end the waitlist for kidney transplants, and outlets like “The New York Times” and Oprah have lauded our work as some of the more significant efforts in social change in the past year.
Additionally, after the election I quickly joined the leadership team that organized the Women’s March on January 21 2017, which evolved into the largest protest in human history. I am humbled to have watched the efforts grow into a global movement.
Dr. Erik Talvitie, associate professor of computer science at Franklin & Marshall College, was the commencement speaker on June 9 at the graduation ceremony for the Class of 2017.
Erik, who graduated from AFS in 2000, received a bachelor’s degree in computer science and mathematics from Oberlin College. He went on to earn a master’s degree and a doctorate in computer science from the University of Michigan.