+ Expand all text to enable full keyword searching

Guide to the The New You Peer Health Advocates oral history project

Collection Overview

Repository

New School Institutional Collections

Collection Identifier

NS.07.01.05

Creator - Interviewee

Francis, Gabrielle

Creator - Interviewee

Gonzalez, Quizayra

Creator - Interviewee

Jean-Louis, Christina

Creator - Interviewee

Knopf, Rachel Shey

Creator - Interviewee

Neber, Aaron

Creator

New School (New York, N.Y.).

Creator - Interviewee

Norman, Dominique

Creator - Interviewee

Oyola-Santiago, Tamara

Creator - Interviewer

Robinson-Sweet, Anna

Creator - Interviewee

Walton, Laura

Title

The New You Peer Health Advocates oral history project

Extent

5.46 Gigabytes: 5 digital audio files; 5:47:36 duration; 5 PDF transcripts

Summary

The New You Peer Health Advocates oral history project consists of five interviews with the founders and alumni of The New You, The New School's peer health advocacy program. The New You was founded in 2010 by Rachel Knopf Shey and Tamara Oyola-Santiago, co-directors of Wellness and Health Promotion at The New School. In 2019, Wellness and Health Promotion was eliminated and Knopf Shey and Oyola-Santiago transitioned into new roles at the university. This oral history project was undertaken on the occasion of this change in leadership in order to document the efforts and impact of peer health advocates at The New School.

Preferred Citation note

Audio interview with [interviewee name] by Anna Robinson-Sweet, 2019, The New You Peer Health Advocates oral history project, NS.07.01.05, New School Archives and Special Collections, The New School, New York, New York.

Return to Top »


Biographical Note

Participant Biographies

Gabrielle Francis
Gabrielle Francis is a student at Eugene Lang College (class of 2021), an undergraduate division of The New School, where she majors in visual studies with a minor in global studies. Francis is a first generation Caribbean-American. She grew up in Queens, New York and attended high school at the Academy for Careers in Television and Film. At The New School, Francis works as a resident advisor in one of the dormitories and is a lead peer advisor at the Higher Education Opportunity Program summer intensive, a New York state program that partners with colleges to provide support to disadvantaged college students. She was a peer health advocate (PHA) from 2018-2019. As a PHA, she helped successfully organize for a dedicated space for students of color to gather on campus. Francis has also worked as a young producer at the Apollo Theater and completed internships at Malaika Apparel and GUM Studios.
Quizayra Gonzalez
Quizayra Gonzalez is a Dominican-American researcher, artist, and curator based in New York City. As of 2020, she is Assistant Director for Advising and Career Development at Parsons School of Design. Gonzalez received an MA in design studies from Parsons in 2016 and a BFA in design, art and technology from the University of the Arts. While a student at Parsons, Gonzalez worked as a peer health advocate, organizing events and workshops on sexual health, consent, and sex positivity. Gonzalez also has a curatorial and design research practice. In 2016, she co-founded the curatorial collective Matters Unsettled, that aims to use exhibition spaces as sites of exploration, education, and dissent. The collective’s first exhibition, Crafted Strangers, opened at The Center for Craft, Creativity, and Design in September 2017. Gonzalez is also engaged in various research projects on design and its role in building community. Her latest research project considers the bodega as a designed object and explores how corner stores become cultural institutions.
Christina Jean-Louis
Christina Jean-Louis grew up in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, where she continues to live. She received her MA from The New School’s Graduate Program of International Affairs (as of 2020, the Julien J. Studley Programs in International Affairs). Her BA is from Pennsylvania State University, where she majored in business administration and public relations. During her time at The New School, Jean-Louis was a peer health advocate (PHA) coordinator, handling communications for the program and organizing workshops. After graduating, she worked as a community organizer for the Flatbush Development Corporation in Brooklyn, New York, and as partnership director for the Sadie Nash Project, an organization that serves marginalized youth in New York and New Jersey. In 2019, Jean-Louis returned to Haiti, where she co-founded Eucalyptus Guest House in Port-au-Prince. Jean-Louis also does freelance monitoring and evaluation work for non-government organizations in Haiti.
Rachel Knopf Shey
Rachel Knopf Shey is a public health practitioner, clinician, and registered dietitian nutritionist. She was born and grew up on Long Island. Knopf Shey received a BS in community nutrition and a masters in public health from the University of Michigan, completed her registered dietitian internship through City University of New York-Hunter College, and did a postgraduate fellowship with the Women’s Therapy Centre Institute. From 2003-2009, Knopf Shey worked as a nutritionist at Urban Health Plan, a community-based health clinic. In 2009, Knopf Shey joined The New School as health educator and later became Assistant Director, then Director of Wellness within Wellness and Health Promotion, a branch of Student Health Services. In this role, Knopf Shey, along with Tamara Oyola-Santiago, founded The New You, a peer health advocacy program at The New School that trained hundreds of students to be peer health advocates, facilitators, and activists. Knopf Shey promoted wellness at The New School through the introduction of workshops on anti-oppression, consent and mindfulness. In 2015, she helped establish the food pantry at The New School, which offers free food and other pantry items to students in need. Knopf Shey also offered mentorship to students interested in promoting wellness, equity, and social justice on campus. In the spring of 2019, Knopf Shey transitioned into a new role at the university as Faculty Development Coordinator in the Office of the Provost.
Aaron Neber
Aaron Neber is a PhD student in philosophy at The New School for Social Research. In 2018, he received an MA in philosophy and a graduate certificate in gender and sexuality studies from The New School. Neber graduated from the State University of New York (SUNY) at Purchase in 2010 with a BA in literature. From 2015 to 2017, Neber was a peer health advocate (PHA) at The New School, and was active in the Sex-E Collective and the university’s Title IX taskforce.
Dominique Norman
Dominique Norman is a designer, educator, writer and activist. As of 2020, she serves as a part-time faculty member at Parsons School of Design in the School of Art and Design History and Theory as well as an academic and career advisor in the School of Fashion. She also teaches at Marymount Manhattan College. Norman received a BA in apparel merchandising, design, and textiles from Washington State University where she created the first plus-size collection, as well as one of the only collections to feature all models of color. Following her undergraduate career she entered the graduate program in Fashion Studies at Parsons, obtaining her MA in fashion studies with a certificate in gender and sexuality studies in May of 2018. During her time at Parsons, Norman worked as a peer health advocate (PHA). As a PHA, Norman was a member of the Body Positivity Collective, and organized film screenings, exhibitions, and other events promoting body positivity on campus, and particularly in the fashion program at Parsons. Norman’s writing on fashion, beauty, race, and body positivity has been published in numerous online publications, magazines, books, and journals.
Tamara Oyola-Santiago
Tamara Oyola-Santiago is a public health educator and activist who specializes in harm reduction. Oyola-Santiago was born in Santurce, Puerto Rico and, as with many of the Puerto Rican diaspora, was raised both in both Puerto Rico and the United States mainland (Los Angeles, CA). She earned her bachelor’s degree from Loyola Marymount University (LMU) and a master’s in public health and another in Latin American studies at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). After graduating from UCLA, Oyola-Santiago joined the National Institutes of Health (NIH) as a Presidential Management Fellow and, eventually, moved to New York City where she joined CitiWide Harm Reduction (now BOOM!Health) and later Housing Works. Both are New York-based non-profits that center harm reduction as a public health practice, fight HIV/AIDS, seek to eradicate homelessness, and generally promote community health and empowerment. In 2009, Oyola-Santiago joined The New School as health educator and in 2018 became Director of Community Health within Wellness and Health Promotion (WHP), a branch of Student Health Services. In 2010, Oyola-Santiago, along with Rachel Knopf Shey, founded The New You, a peer health advocacy program at The New School that trained hundreds of students to be peer health educators, facilitators, and activists. Building upon her knowledge and experience as a harm reduction specialist, Oyola-Santiago initiated the Opioid Overdose Prevention program at The New School, which provided training to students, faculty, and staff on the opioid crisis and how to respond to an overdose. This program, the first one at a university to be registered by the New York State Department of Health, became a national model for colleges and universities. Oyola-Santiago has promoted equity, social justice, and inclusion at The New School as a mentor to countless students, as a leader on the Staff Senate, and as co-chair of the university-wide Social Justice Committee. In the summer of 2019, Oyola-Santiago transitioned to a new role at the university as Senior Director & Mentor at the Institute for Transformative Mentoring (ITM), a program of The New School’s Center for New York City Affairs in the Schools of Public Engagement. Oyola-Santiago continues to be active in the community, focusing on harm reduction services grounded in social justice in Puerto Rico and New York City, HIV/AIDS de-criminalization, self-determination, anti-colonial practices, Queer liberation, and LGTBQIAGNC health. She is co-founder of Bronx Móvil, a fully bilingual (Spanish-English) street-based harm reduction and syringe services program that strives for drug user health and mobilization. Oyola-Santiago is also part of the What Would an HIV Doula Do collective, a community of people brought together in response to the ongoing AIDS Crisis.
Laura Walton
Laura Walton is a dual-degree BA/BFA student at Parsons School of Design and Eugene Lang College, both divisions of The New School. Her BFA major is integrated design and for her BA she is majoring in global studies with a minor in Hispanic studies. She is originally from Dallas, Texas. Walton was a peer health advocate (PHA) from the beginning of her freshman year (2016) to 2019. In her time as a PHA, Walton worked with Free The New School, a group dedicated to raising awareness about mass incarceration and prison abolition on campus, and was active in successfully organizing for a dedicated space for students of color to gather on campus. In 2017, Walton cofounded the Black Student Union at The New School. She has also worked as a resident advisor in the dormitories and as an admissions advisor. Walton has done internships at Religions for Peace, International Peace Institute, and the Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Art (MoCADA).
Anna Robinson-Sweet
Anna Robinson-Sweet (b. 1988) is an archivist at The New School Archives and Special Collections. Prior to joining The New School Archives in 2018, Robinson-Sweet worked at the Weeksville Heritage Center in Brooklyn and the Whitney Museum of American Art. Robinson-Sweet has also worked as a community and union organizer, and continues to be an activist in the prison and police abolition movement. She holds an MLIS from Simmons University and a BA in art from Yale University.

Return to Top »


Historical Note

The New You, The New School’s peer health advocacy program, trains students to be leaders on campus in health and well-being. The program was founded in 2010 by Rachel Knopf Shey and Tamara Oyola-Santiago, who directed Wellness and Health Promotion (WHP) at The New School’s Student Health Services (SHS) from 2009-2019.

Students in the program are known as peer health advocates (PHAs) and are hired to develop public health projects that serve their peers and the campus community overall. From 2010-2019 there were between forty to sixty PHAs per year, including returning students. Many of these students received federal work-study funds to work six to ten hours per week, while others received stipends for their PHA work. Under the mentorship of Oyola-Santiago and Knopf Shey, PHAs were encouraged to develop projects that fit their needs and interests, using the social determinants of health, socioecological modeling, and other public health frameworks that link personal well-being to community health.

The New You projects included facilitating public health workshops on campus; the formation of Sex-E Collective, which promotes sexual violence prevention, comprehensive sexual education, and sex positivity; organizing and leading anti-oppression workshops, including those that focus on microaggression; promoting body positivity on campus; and leading support groups and events/programs for LGBTQIAGNC+ students and students of color. Each year, current PHAs would plan and lead a retreat for incoming PHAs, which usually took place at the beginning of the academic year in upstate New York.

PHAs have also led campaigns for equity on campus. Leaders in the program sought and won the establishment of a dedicated space in the University Center building for students of color (Baldwin Rivera Boggs Social Justice Hub); students in the Sex-E collective were deeply involved in updating the university’s Title IX policy; and PHAs petitioned for plus-size dressforms at Parsons School of Design. WHP leaders also established The Opioid Overdose Prevention Program, which distributed the overdose-reversal drug naloxone on campus (the first such program to be registered with the New York State Department of Health at a college/university), and successfully advocated for all-gender bathrooms at the university and sharps containers in bathrooms.

WHP bridged academic divisions at The New School and often served as a public health advisory collaborator to faculty, staff, and students. For example, WHP staff co-taught a course in Eugene Lang College on the Theatre of the Oppressed (with Cecilia Rubino), and, with Lang’s Interdisciplinary Science program, co-led the series “Public Health Challenges for the 21st Century” (with Katayoun Chamany). Throughout the ten years of its existence, PHAs and WHP staff facilitated workshops across schools and in classrooms on brave spaces, community agreements, gender inclusive language, privilege and allyship, HIV/AIDS decriminalization, radical consent, nutrition and food justice, how to be an empowered bystander, and harm reduction. Lastly, within the academic realm, WHP became an internship placement site for both New School and other colleges and universities across the region. Interns included registered dietitian students who later joined SHS’ medical services department, social work students; and psychology students, who built biofeedback, meditation, and mindfulness programs that have become core SHS programs and services. In 2019, organizational changes at SHS resulted in the elimination of Wellness and Health Promotion. That same year, Knopf Shey and Oyola-Santiago transitioned into new roles at the university. As of 2020, the peer health advocacy program is housed within Student Support and Crisis Management, another branch of Student Success. As of the spring of 2020, it remains uncertain whether the program will continue under this new leadership, and if so, in what form.

More...

Return to Top »


Scope and Content of Collection

In the fall of 2019, Rachel Knopf Shey and Tamara Oyola-Santiago contacted The New School Archives to discuss methods for documenting and archiving nearly ten years of work by The New You, the peer health advocacy program that they had founded and led until the spring of 2019. At that time, Wellness and Health Promotion, the unit of Student Health Services that had housed The New You, was eliminated, making the future of the peer health advocacy program uncertain.

In consultation with Knopf Shey and Oyola-Santiago, The New School Archives decided to undertake an oral history project as one means of documenting the work of The New You, and particularly the experiences of the students whose work was the core of this program. Interview narrators were recruited through email, with Knopf Shey and Oyola-Santiago doing the initial outreach. Anna Robinson-Sweet, associate archivist at The New School Archives and Special Collections, scheduled and conducted all the interviews.

More...

Return to Top »


Organization and Arrangement

Interviews are arranged alphabetically by name of interviewee.

Return to Top »


Administrative Information

Anna Robinson-Sweet

Publication Information

New School Institutional Collections - May 13, 2020

66 Fifth Avenue
lobby
New York, NY, 10011
212.229.5942
archivist@newschool.edu

Preferred Citation note

Audio interview with [interviewee name] by Anna Robinson-Sweet, 2019, The New You Peer Health Advocates oral history project, NS.07.01.05, New School Archives and Special Collections, The New School, New York, New York.

Access Restrictions

Collection is open for research use. Digital transcripts (PDF file format) for each interview are also available for research use. Please contact archivist@newschool.edu for appointment.

Use Restrictions

To publish or post in any public form all or part of a recording or transcription from this collection, permission must be obtained in writing from the New School Archives and Special Collections. Please contact: archivist@newschool.edu.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

All interviews were conducted at The New School by Anna Robinson-Sweet, associate archivist at the New School Archives and Special Collections using equipment provided by the Archives, and files were accessioned immediately upon download.

Return to Top »


Related Materials

The New School Archives also holds The New School periodicals collection (NS.05.06.01), which includes periodicals created by related student organizations. The Activism at The New School oral history program (NS.07.01.04) contains interviews with student activists from the 1960s-2010s.

Return to Top »


Keywords for Searching Related Subjects

Corporate Name(s)

  • The New You.

Genre(s)

  • Oral histories (document genres).

Subject(s)

  • College students -- Health and hygiene.
  • Harm reduction.
  • Peer counseling of students.
  • Public health.
  • Self-help groups.
  • Sex instruction.
  • Student life and customs.
  • Student movements

Return to Top »


Other Finding Aids note

For selected interviews from The New You Peer Health Advocates oral history project, see the New School Archives Digital Collections at http://digitalarchives.library.newschool.edu/index.php/Detail/collections/NS070105.

Return to Top »


Collection Inventory

Audio interview with Gabrielle Francis and Laura Walton 2019 Nov 11   1 digital recordings ; 01:05:35 duration; includes PDF transcript

Gabrielle Francis and Laura Walton were interviewed by Anna Robinson-Sweet on November 11, 2019. At the time of the interview, both were students in the joint BA/BFA program at Parsons School of Design and Eugene Lang College. The interview begins with both Francis and Walton speaking about their backgrounds. They discuss what attracted them to the peer health advocate (PHA) program, what the application process was like, and the PHA retreat that kicked off each academic year. Francis and Walton speak about activities they participated in as part of the PHA program, and other activities that they were a part of at The New School that intersected with their work as PHAs: Walton was one of the founders of the Black Student Union and was involved in organizing for a dedicated space in The New School’s University Center for students of color; both Francis and Walton are residence advisors (RAs) at a university dormitory and are in the Gural Scholars program. Throughout the interview, Francis and Walton speak about the struggles of being students of color at The New School and about the emotional impact of their organizing and advocacy. They speak at length about the organizing effort surrounding the students of color space, and about how this campaign intersected with the occupation of the student cafeteria in protest of potential cafeteria worker layoffs in the spring of 2018. At the end of the interview, Francis and Walton reflect on the mentorship they received through the PHA program and how it equipped them to succeed as students of color at The New School.

Audio interview with Quizayra Gonzalez and Aaron Neber 2019 Nov 15   1 digital recordings ; 01:09:29 duration; includes PDF transcript
Audio interview with Quizayra Gonzalez and Aaron Neber  

Aaron Neber and Quizayra Gonzalez were interviewed by Anna Robinson-Sweet on November 15, 2019. At the time of the interview, Neber was a PhD student at The New School for Social Research and Gonzalez is Assistant Director for Advising and Career Development at Parsons School of Design. Only Neber is present at the beginning of the interview; Gonzalez joins about half-way through. At the start of the interview, Neber explains his background and how he came to be a peer health advocate (PHA). As a PHA, Neber was active in the Sex-E Collective and the group Free The New School. He describes working with Sex-E Collective to organize workshops and events that promoted sexual health and positivity, and his role as a member of the university’s Title IX taskforce. Neber details the recommendations made by this taskforce to improve sexual assault reporting on campus. When Gonzalez joins the conversation, she also talks about the Sex-E Collective and goes into greater detail about the workshops they offered, in particular the consent trainings they led for first-year students at Eugene Lang College. Both Neber and Gonzalez speak about what the PHA program offered them that they did not get otherwise as students. Neber reflects on how the program has been impacted by the restructuring of Student Health Services, and discusses how this restructuring has negatively affected student health insurance. Neber leaves the interview about an hour in, and in the last part of the discussion Gonzalez offers more information on her background before coming to The New School and adds her own thoughts about what is lost by moving the PHA program under the purview of Student Support and Crisis Management.

Audio interview with Christina Jean-Louis 2019 Oct 24   1 digital recordings ; 01:07:43 duration; includes PDF transcript
Audio interview with Christina Jean-Louis  

Christina Jean-Louis was interviewed by Anna Robinson-Sweet on October 24, 2019. Jean-Louis graduated from The New School’s Graduate Program in International Affairs (GPIA) in 2016. The interview begins with Jean-Louis talking about her family background, growing up in Haiti, and moving to the United States to attend college at Pennsylvania State University. The 2010 earthquake in Haiti occurred during her final semester at Penn State, and Jean-Louis speaks about returning to Haiti after college to work with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and do freelance journalism. About a third of the way through the interview, Jean-Louis turns to speaking about her decision to enroll at GPIA. She talks about her involvement with the peer health advocate (PHA) program, and the community and mentorship she found within the program. Jean-Louis also discusses the other activities she was involved with at The New School, including The New Black School, which organized events on campus for Black students, and her coursework at GPIA. At the end of the interview, Jean-Louis talks about her work after graduating from The New School as an organizer for the Black Alliance for Just Immigration and the Sadie Nash Leadership Project, and discusses her decision to leave New York and return to Haiti. Jean-Louis concludes by reflecting on how she feels she will always be a part of the PHA community.

Audio interview with Rachel Knopf Shey and Tamara Oyola-Santiago 2019 Nov 7   1 digital recordings ; 01:34:43 duration; includes PDF transcript
Audio interview with Rachel Knopf Shey and Tamara Oyola-Santiago  

Tamara Oyola-Santiago and Rachel Knopf Shey were interviewed by Anna Robinson-Sweet on November 7, 2019 at The New School. Oyola-Santiago and Knopf Shey are the former co-directors of The New You, The New School’s peer health advocate (PHA) program. At the beginning of the interview, Oyola-Santiago and Knopf Shey discuss their background before joining The New School and their initial work establishing public health programming within Student Health Services (SHS). They explain that they started The New You as a way of initiating peer-to-peer public health education with the limited resources at their disposal. Oyola-Santiago and Knopf Shey describe the way that President David Van Zandt restructured the university’s administration, which resulted in the creation of the Student Success division, which SHS came to be housed under. This new structure curtailed public health programming on campus. They describe how ultimately this resulted in the dismantling of Wellness and Health Promotion in 2019. Oyola-Santiago then talks about starting the Opioid Overdose Prevention Program at The New School and Knopf Shey discusses how they began the food pantry at the university in response to food insecurity in the student body. In the second half of the interview, they focus on the work of the peer health advocates, which included running workshops on anti-oppression, microaggressions, sex education, and body positivity, all initiated by the student PHAs. Oyola-Santiago and Knopf Shey explain the structure of The New You, how they recruited and hired PHAs, and they describe the weekend retreat that PHAs organized at the beginning of each school year. At the end of the interview, Oyola Santiago and Knopf Shey talk about how they saw their own roles in relation to the work of the PHAs, the struggles they faced in making a case for the importance of public health at The New School, and how their department, Wellness and Health Promotion, was ultimately dismantled by the administration. The interview concludes with Oyola-Santiago and Knopf Shey speculating on the future of the PHA program and public health programming at the university.

Audio interview with Dominique Norman 2019 Nov 26   1 digital recordings ; 00:50:07 duration; includes PDF transcript

Dominique Norman was interviewed by Anna Robinson-Sweet on November 26, 2019 at The New School. Norman is a graduate of Parsons School of Design’s MA program in Fashion Studies and currently a part-time faculty member and academic and career advisor at Parsons. The interview begins with Norman recounting how she got involved in the peer health advisor (PHA) program, and the connections with her previous activism on body positivity in the fashion industry. Norman then speaks about the projects she was involved in as a PHA, which included organizing film screenings and an annual art exhibition focused on body positivity. She discusses what body positivity means to her, and how this tied into her work as a student at Parsons. Later in the interview, Norman discusses administrative changes at the university and how that has affected the PHA program. She also discusses her perspective on these issues as a student advisor. At the end of the interview, Norman reflects on current support among the students and administration at Parsons for greater inclusivity and body positivity in the fashion program.

Collection Guide Last Updated: 05/13/2020

Creative Commons License This collection guide is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.