c/o Sylvie Stein

If you’re at all involved in government-related activities on campus—the major, the WSA, just talking about politics—chances are you’ve met Sylvie Stein ’12. If you’re not, chances are you’ve probably still met Sylvie Stein. She sat down with The Argus to discuss idealism, feminism, and her obsession with Avicii.


The Argus: Was it your plan when you came to Wesleyan to get as involved in the community as you did?

Sylvie Stein: I think that in my little freshman mind I was convinced that I was going to take the Wesleyan community by storm, so I guess…yes.


A: What motivated you to join the WSA?

SS: I had a really nerdy passion for student government in high school. I think it’s a great way to get to know people and get involved with the community. I also just really enjoy community events—they fill me with joy.


A: What was your experience on the WSA like?

SS: I’ve had mixed experiences on the WSA. Every individual has been fantastic. I’ve run into snags and the General Assemblies this year have gotten a little long and tedious, but overall it’s been a fantastic experience. Everyone I’ve met has become a pretty good friend.


A: What is your current WSA position?

SS: I’m a member of the Finance and Facilities Commission. I’m also on the Financial Aid Committee and the Undergraduate Residential Life Committee. And I regularly make pastries for my committee members.


A: How has being on student government shaped your time at Wes?

SS: It’s kept me oriented on the bigger picture of Wesleyan. When we have spirited events, it keeps me focused on how Wesleyan is functioning as a community. Addressing the endowment allows me to think economically. It’s gotten me involved in so many aspects of the community that I wouldn’t otherwise have gotten involved in—its allowed me to think critically.


A: How has the WSA allowed you to get involved and create the community you wanted to?

SS: It has constituted a helpful platform to realizing there’s such an amazingly rich plethora of student activity on this campus. It’s encouraged me to take on kickboxing, theater with the Vagina Monologues, and the Roosevelt Institute.


A: Speaking of kickboxing, how did you end up taking over Wexercise?

SS: With Maggie Cohen ’12! When I was a lowly sophomore instructing cardio kickboxing above WesWings with my boombox and my homemade mix tapes, I got really involved in the four-instructor team that was the non-credit WesWell classes. Because I was the only sophomore, I took a leadership role as it developed. When I went abroad, Maggie Cohen took over and now we are managing the classes together.

A: What is it you love so much about kickboxing?

SS: First of all, it’s an awesome opportunity to explore new songs and share my love of fast paced, high tempo music that I found on Hype Machine. I’m obsessed right now with Levels by Avicii. I played it today during class and we did push ups and planks to it. That’s a hidden passion of mine—I’m obsessed with that kind of music and sharing it. Wait, what was the question again? Right—kickboxing is an opportunity to basically dumb down self defense slash glorify dancing in a camaraderie-building way. The classes tend to be all women. I think it engenders a type of female camaraderie that is really special and I love the high energy of it. To me, it’s a release. For an hour each week I get to jump around and yell my brain out with other women. And men. Shout out to Jason Shatz [’14].


A: How did you develop your passion for feminism and female empowerment?

SS: In high school, I wrote an article on Title IX which got me into political issues surrounding women’s rights, and ever since then I’ve just been really interested in it. When I write blog posts for Roosevelt, I tend to write about women’s issues, and kickboxing has been an awesome pro-girl power thing that I’ve enjoyed doing. In addition to that, I just tried out for the Vagina Monologues. I’m doing that and I think that’s awesome. Men are cool too—I love my bros. But having a group of women who think critically about what it means to be a woman and their conception of feminism is empowering. In addition to that, I took a class called Latin@ Countercultures, which revolved around feminist theory, and it inspired me to strive towards change. Also being a Government major and studying political science has inevitably led me to consider women’s issues, because women are so marginalized in that field.


A: How has considering the intersection of feminism and government in your academics affected your involvement in student government?

SS: I think it motivated me to take action. Wesleyan, I’ve always thought, serves as a fascinating microcosm for the greater world. I think we constitute a population of extremely engaged, intellectual human beings. To look at our community and extrapolate what that means for the larger world is a really great exercise. So when I’m thinking about the world and engaging in that intellectually and seeing something like that on the Wes campus, my first reaction is throw a shit fit and think, “Where else can I start but here?”


A: How did you end up as a Government major?

SS: In my sophomore year, I took Intro to American Government and Politics with [Associate Professor of Government] Elvin Lim. Besides being totally intrigued by Lim’s idiosyncratic linguistic mannerisms, I was just fascinated by the material. I remember thinking that one can’t study government without delving into the depths of logic—I learned in that class to distill the logic in things.


A: Did that lead you to the Roosevelt Institute?

SS: I started going to the Roosevelt Institute during the second semester of junior year, and going abroad to Buenos Aires piqued that interest in international issues and how international actors interact. Roosevelt Institute seemed like a really amazing mechanism for investigating public policy and actually writing and implementing domestic policy, both of which I was already interested in. I also just love to sit around and shoot the shit and talk about politics, which probably comes from growing up in D.C. and having a politically engaged family. We [Roosevelt] started the blog over the summer. I was inspired to create the blog after interning at Foreign Policy Magazine, and every day getting to pick a random event to explore, write about, and publish. I wanted to give other people the opportunity to do that and hopefully create a readership for that. That’s been my favorite thing of the semester. The website is www.wesroosevelt.wordpress.com.


A: Do you see the Roosevelt Institute as a culmination of your interests throughout your time at Wes?

SS: I think the Roosevelt Institute is kind of the pinnacle of my time at Wesleyan. It synthesizes politics with more niche interests such as women’s rights and my fascination with Latin America. I regard the projects that we do as a service to the community—both Wesleyan and Middletown. It creates community: the small community of people we get every Tuesday night to discuss current events, the blog, the policy projects—researching, writing, implementing policy—and the fireside chats.


A: So you’ve actually been implementing policy this semester?

SS: We have found through surveys that food insecurity—lack of access to and consumption of nutritious food—has more than doubled in Middletown families with children in public school since 2005. We set out to research and analyze why this has happened. Yesterday we presented those findings to the Middlesex Coalition for Children and at the end of that presentation we hosted a discussion with the members of that coalition addressing what policy can be written and implemented to reduce food insecurity and alleviate hunger. At the Roosevelt Institute, we’re going to work on that.


A: Do you feel like you’ve accomplished what you want to and taken away from Wesleyan what you want to?

SS: I regret not having more direction in my academics earlier on, which I think a lot of my fellow seniors agree with. But at the same time, there have been so many moments that I can recall sitting in class and having something that I can only pretentiously define as an intellectual epiphany—that is an amazing feeling. And that coupled with some awesome extracurriculars and kick-ass friends has resulted in the best I could hope for in a college experience. Of course, you can always do more; but I think I was really, really lucky to have had the years I’ve had so far.


A: So, what are you hoping to do next year?

SS: Really? Really? Yeah—you can just have me saying, “Really.”

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