“Community,” “fresh perspective,” “understanding complexities,” “embracing my strengths.” College of Arts & Science juniors and transfer students identified these concepts as a few they were eager to explore during the Beautiful Brain Conference, held over two days in September. Kicking off a year of events and activities centered around the "beautiful brain," the conference brought third year students together to meet classmates across majors, hear words of wisdom, and grow both as individuals and as a community. CAS Dean Wendy Suzuki opened the event by welcoming students to celebrate their own beautiful brains: "the brain in your head is the most complex structure known to humankind. It's the organ that got you into NYU!"
A core focus of Suzuki's deanship is integrating her research around brain health and wellbeing into programming at CAS. Last spring Suzuki, who is a professor of neuroscience and psychology, addressed this focus with the first-year seminar "How to Build a Big, Fat, Fluffy Brain."
The Beautiful Brain Conference is part of this year's initiative to address the stress and anxiety commonly felt by college students. Suzuki reflected, "as dean, my vision is to make your brains the biggest, fattest, and fluffiest they can be through positive brain plasticity. This event is centered around activities that can help your brain grow and change with two themes: belonging through connection, and engagement."
The first day of the symposium featured a fireside chat with NYU President Emeritus John Sexton and the youngest member of the NYU Board of Trustees, Terri Burns. Suzuki encouraged Sexton and Burns to reflect on moments where they experienced uncertainty, what made them into the people they are today, and how to build bridges of understanding. The panelists also shared their insight and advice with students, with Burns encouraging students to not be afraid to take risks, and Sexton reminding students that even in a modern age that is often permeated with anxiety and fear, we all have a "duty to hope."
Day two of the event built on the core elements of belonging through connection and engagement, led by three student presentations. Student speakers Leah Sarwani, Dominic Florian, and Amina Anekwe brought attendees together through stories of their walks-of-life at the College. They reflected on achieving the goal of attending their dream school, making the most of their time at NYU, and their experience as first-generation students.
Throughout the two-day event, students had opportunities to connect over Mexican food and lively group discussions. This inspirational initiative will continue with additional Beautiful Brain events throughout the 2023-2024 academic year, and many future opportunities for communication and connection among CAS students.