Find your NYC roommate through a matchmaking service: Perfect Strangers of NYC

Finding a place to live in New York city after graduating is hard enough. But finding a roommate? That might be even harder. Sarah Beth Hill is the founder and CEO of Perfect Strangers of NYC.

After graduating from UMass Amherst in 2010, Hill was offered a real estate job. She was required to move to New York City within a weekend.

“I literally had to find a place to stay in a weekend and I used Craigslist as the only resource I knew available,” Hill recalls. “And in the process of having to go on Craigslist and meeting this individuals at their apartments for the first time — I realized how sketchy that was. And being entrepreneurial myself, I realized that I could probably make a difference and create a service to help people move [to New York City].”

Hill started off by blogging and that eventually transformed into a “full blown service” in 2012. The service, Perfect Strangers of NYC, asks clients to fill out a questionnaire to help match them with the perfect roommate.

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Sarah Beth Hill (center) with Jaclyn (left) and Bianca (right) at the UMass Women of Isenberg Conference March 3, 2017. Photography by Mayank Mishra.

Most of the clients want to have their own personal lives, but to be friendly with their roommates, says Hill.

Perfect Strangers of NYC is “tech enabled human verified,” which means that Hill and her colleagues meet the clients in person before pairing them up with their roommate.

“Even though we have them fill out this very detailed questionnaire, we essentially verify it by an in-person meeting. And once we’re able to verify the perfect apartment for them, we’re then able to match them with the best roommates,” says Hill.

There’s also a Perfect Strangers of NYC internship right here on the UMass campus. The brand ambassadors’ main task is to bring Hill back to UMass and educate students about moving to New York.

“Many people think that New York City is just Manhattan. And that’s definitely not the case. There are many boroughs outside of Manhattan,” says Hill. “I teach students to look at other neighborhoods besides the main ones they can think about like East Village, SoHo or Tribeca.”

For more information on Perfect Strangers NYC, check out their website: http://www.psofnyc.com/

Interview by Lucy Martirosyan

Production by Lucy Martirosyan

Photo credit: Mayank Mishra

2017 SGA Debate live stream

WMUA News brings you a live stream of the SGA candidates for President, Vice President, and Student Trustee for the 2017-2018 school year. The event was hosted Sunday evening at the Commonwealth Honors College from 6-8pm.

Current President Anthony Vitale and Vice President Lily Wallace are running for reelection. Lily Wallace recently took over the Vice Presidential position when Vitale’s former VP resigned.

Two Senators from the class of 2020 are running against the incumbents.  Presidential candidate Nathalie Amazan and her running mate Timmy Sullivan serve as undersecretaries of sustainability. Amazan sits on the social justice and empowerment committee of SGA.

Lincoln Quang Duong is also running for the position of President, who currently serves as a member of the finance committee. He is a solo candidate, but has told WMUA News that his first executive priority is to appoint a Vice President.

Candidates answered questions from moderator Dan Mahoney and from the audience on the topics of diversity, sustainability, accessibility, and transparency.

The SGA elections will take place March 6, 7, and 8 through Campus Pulse. Listen to our exclusive interviews with the candidates on this site.

Photo Courtesy of Lucy Martirosyan

Engineering by Lucy Martirosyan, Katie Donegan, and Josh McCawley

Hosting by Lisa Robinson and Katie Donegan

Music by Tycho

Lincoln Quang Duong talks about building a new campus app and engaging in community service

Lincoln Quang Duong is running for president in the upcoming Student Government Association elections. But he’s a solo candidate.

Duong clarifies, “On the ballot, I’m going to be a single candidate. But I have a VP in mind, but because of the conflicting information we were provided, I will remain as a solo candidate until the campaign ends. But my first executive priority is to have the office of VP filled.

He believes the vice president’s goals are to connect SGA with different residential areas on campus. Another priority of the VP is to connect the campus with other 5 colleges around the area, Duong says.

Overall, Duong says that he doesn’t believe that the SGA has been doing enough outreach to represent the whole student body. He points to low voter turnout as an indicator of this.

“Take, for example, the student voting turn out every year is only at 15 percent. So how does it represent the whole student body if only 15 percent vote and care about SGA?” says Duong.

Not many students even know what SGA is, Duong notes.

“The first thing we’ll do is make SGA transparent to give students information about what SGA does, what project senators are doing and provide students with budget allocations on all of the clubs on campus. The other thing is to increase student engagement on campus.”

The main way Duong wants to increase student engagement is by developing a phone application. The app would alert students about events that are happening around campus, like Living at UMass, the Bus Track and UMass Dining applications.

“I think that Living at UMass is a comprehensive application, but there’s too much information on there that confuses students. I want an application that’s only for RSOs and the events that freshmen and other students can attend to,” says Duong who plans to work with student experts to develop the application.

Duong is a member of Theta Ki and believes that students should be as engaged with community service as fraternities are.

“I don’t think students on this campus are focused on community service that much. As a member of Greek Life, we do compulsory community service every week. As a Theta Ki member, we go to Amherst Survival Center every week,” he says. “As an SGA member I haven’t seen a lot of community service projects that SGA has been developing and leading as an example for other students.”

 

Nathalie Amazan and Timmy Sullivan want to bring sustainability and diversity to UMass

Nathalie Amazan and Timmy Sullivan are running for president and vice president in the upcoming UMass Student Government Association elections. They may be freshmen, but they’re experienced, Sullivan says.

“We don’t think that age is a requisite for leadership, especially when that leadership isn’t adequately representing the students that we know we can represent.”

The fact that Amazan and Sullivan feel that the Student Government Association isn’t a representative body of students on campus probed them to decide to run for office.

The two current undersecretaries of sustainability plan to have a zero waste campus by 2050. To start, they want to install compost bins all over residential areas and internally monitor how much energy the campus is using as a whole.

Another big part of Amazan and Sullivan’s platform is increase diversity on campus for students of color and queer students.

“Currently there are 896 undergraduate African Americans on campus, and that’s a statistic I am horrified to see,” Amazan says. She wants to work with Student Bridges on campus, whose main goal is to recruit and maintain students of color.

“Representation and leadership is also huge,” Sullivan adds.

“Like when you see someone who looks like you, you get inspired. You now believe that you can do that too. Seeing a Black queer woman in this position, a Black out queer woman in this position, I hope to inspire people on campus to know that they can achieve this position. And that they can trust SGA,” Amazan says.

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Timmy Sullivan (SGA vice presidential candidate) and Nathalie Amazan (SGA presidential candidate). Photo courtesy by Urgyen Joshi

Another part of their platform is accessibility. Amazan and Sullivan want to increase wheel cheer accessibility at the Fine Arts Center. They also want to reform the Center for Counseling and Psychological Help (CCPH) through increasing their staff and changing their consultations. They also talked about reforming the women’s clinic by the UMass Students for Reproductive Justice (USRJ).

Amazan has a background in grassroots organizing. She has canvassed for Planned Parenthood and the Southern Poverty Law Center. She has a social justice fellowship with Young People for Change, where her blueprint is with mass incarceration.

Sullivan has a background in education policy and reform. He’s worked for the department of education for TedEd and Rosetta Stone.

SGA elections are taking place Monday March 6 through Wednesday March 8. Be sure to vote on umass.edu/campuspulse

Interview by Katie Donegan
Sound engineering  by Lucy Martirosyan
Photo courtesy by Urgyen Joshi

Vitale and Wallace: SGA re-election campaign, platforms and campus renewal projects

Experience matters. That’s according to current SGA President Anthony Vitale and current Vice President Lily Wallace, who are seeking re-election for next year. The two candidates sat down with the WMUA News team to talk about their campaign before the election next week.

One of the largest goals of Vitale and Wallace is to re-open the Hatch, the former eatery in the basement of the Student Union that has been unused since the renovations of Blue Wall began in 2014.

“We see such need for student space on campus. We have students coming to us everyday asking us how they can get more space, how they can be meeting and doing all these things, and we’re just like, well, we have this large space, why are we wasting it?” says Wallace.

Opening the Hatch will double the amount of space for Registered Student Organizations, Vitale explains.

But for the Hatch to open, it has to be a retail dining service first, like Peet’s Coffee at the Integrative Learning Center.

“Something that we have agreed with Dining that eventually the Hatch will have Peet’s taken out of it and it’s going to be offered up to student businesses because for us, we think student businesses are phenomenal. We love them. We’re working really hard to give People’s dining dollars as they’ve been fighting that fight for years. We’re really excited for the Hatch to be a great space to house student businesses,” says Wallace.

Anthony Vitale was elected to the Presidential position last March. Vitale’s former Vice President Nick Rampone resigned last semester due to study abroad plans. Current Vice President Lily Wallace was elected to fill in Rampone’s role last month. She and Vitale have been working together ever since.

Vitale described his working relationship with Wallace, “We’ve been great partners within SGA, really working hard to get the job done.”

Formerly, Wallace has served as the Undersecretary of University Policy for the past two years. “We’re both coming from a lot of institutional knowledge within the SGA, as well as outside activities.”

Anthony Vitale has experience in SGA via a “financial track.” He worked with the Ways and Means Committee, which is responsible for designating budgets to all Registered Student Organizations (RSOs). The SGA is given a budget of $3.1 million each year. Vitale, who later became Secretary of Finance of the SGA, along with the Ways and Means Committee, worked with RSO executive board members to fund those organizations based on perceived need and budget requests.

“We think that us having the experience leading the institution is a great benefit to the student body as a whole, as we were able to develop amazing relationships with administration.”

Vitale has over seen the enactment of early voting on campus in the 2016 Presidential election, plans to develop student spaces in the Hatch of the Student Union, and also advocating for student business success.

The Student Government Association (SGA) is holding elections beginning this Monday March 6th at 12am, through Wednesday, March 8th at 11:59pm. The SGA is generally tasked with representing the student body, and works closely with administration in governing the campus community.

Reporting and Producing: Lucy Martirosyan and Dalante Castle

WMUA’s February Concert Review

WMUA hosted a show in the Student Union Ballroom on February 4, 2017. WMUA News’ Andrew Cunningham and Becky Wandel got to speak to all three performers, Cliff Jensen, Pink Navel and Ivy Sole.

The night opened with Cliff Jensen who specializes in producing flipped versions of popular music and television shows, like Spongebob Squarepants. Jensen was joined on stage by the next performing act, Pink Navel. It turns out that Jensen and Pink Navel are friends. They’re both performers in Massachusetts, too.

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A projection of Cliff Jensen looking into the webcam of his Macbook. That’s how he performed on Feb. 4, 2017. Courtesy of photographer Zach Becker.

Pink Navel’s act was more poetic and entrenched in references from Steven Universe, the TV show that inspired the performer, Devin Branting’s music and band name.

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Pink Navel performing at the WMUA show, Feb. 4, 2017. Photo courtesy by Zach Becker.

“Worrying about physical human bodies, and all the stress that comes with that would be erased if I was just a computer file. I’ve been so moved by that idea now that I’ve written poetic songs about it,” says Branting.

Headlining hip hop artist, Ivy Sole took to the stage and brought the audience closer to her, both physically and emotionally. The Philadelphia artist encouraged clapping, singing along and dancing. Sole released a single off her new EP East and performed it live at the show.

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Headlining act, Ivy Sole, energizing the crowds on Feb. 4, 2017. Photo courtesy Zach Becker.

“2017, I honestly just want to make the best music possible. I’m  not really concerned with a specific end goal. I think my optimal year would include, but not be limited to, lots of shows, maybe getting a nice opening spot for an artist I respect and an artist I can learn from.”

You can check out the artists here:

Cliff Jensen: https://cliffjensen.bandcamp.com/

Pink Navel: https://pinknavel.bandcamp.com/

Ivy Sole: https://ivysole.bandcamp.com/

Reporting and producing: Andrew Cunningham and Becky Wandel

Photography: Zach Becker. Check out his show, Hip-Hop Made Me Do It, Mondays 10 pm – 12 am on WMUA 91.1 FM.

Assuaging fear and stereotypes through children’s literature: an interview with Canadian author Alhan Rahimi

Over 40,000 Syrian refugees have settled into Canada since 2015. But there hasn’t been a single book written for children explaining the Syrian refugee crisis. So Alhan Rahimi decided to write one.

Yara, My Friend from Syria was published in December 2016. The children’s  book follows  Yara, a young Syrian refugee who moves to Canada with her family.

“It’s a topic that’s touching children. The newcomers that are coming, there are many children among them and they went through difficult times. Just the fact that they have to leave what they like behind, is a very difficult thing for a child. So I wanted our children [in Canada] to know that not every child has the opportunities that they have here,” says Rahimi about her book over the phone to Phillip Bishop and Katie Donegan.

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Book cover of “Yara, my friend from Syria. Courtesy of author and illustrator Anahit Aleksanyan.

The children’s book focuses on universal themes of love and compassion. Rahimi says that she didn’t want the book to include any violence because she didn’t want to shock children and parents, but rather teach them about open mindedness.

“I’m trying to show [children] that they can go and help newcomers. That’s why Oliver goes and gives his snack to Yara…There are things that are out of our hands, but that’s something they can do.”

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Angela and Oliver approach Yara at school. Courtesy of Alhan Rahimi and illustrator Anahit Aleksanyan

Rahimi says that the book has already provided a lot of insight for children who have read her book.

“Some of the children that read the  book told me, ‘Oh, we didn’t know that there were nice houses in Syria,’ when the illustration came out that Yara was sitting in the front yard with her family and they were having fun under the apple tree. That’s another point that I want our children to know about. Life was very nice in any country that is a war country now. Before that, they had a nice life and they were educated. I don’t want them to think of those kids as uneducated children or poor children…some of the stereotypes that might  be present in our children’s minds, I wanted to clear that up.”

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Canadian children Angela and Oliver. Courtesy of author and illustrator.

Reporting by Phillip Bishop, Katie Donegan and Rachel Swansburg

Engineering and production by Lucy Martirosyan and Katie Donegan