A panel discussion on Oct. 1 about what motivates people to teach and to help others had a dual purpose: It served as a farewell for a Fordham scholar and a fundraiser for a group supporting children with bipolar disorder.
“On Life, Love and the Academy,” held at the Lincoln Center campus, was organized by Arancha Garcia del Soto, Ph.D., the Helen Hamlyn Humanitarian Fellow in Fordham’s Institute of International Humanitarian Affairs (IIHA). Garcia del Soto, an expert on the effects of ethnopolitical violence on survivors, is returning to her native Spain after three years at Fordham.
She wanted her last event at the University to benefit Ariel’s Legacy, a nonprofit group that promotes research and psychosocial services to families of bipolar children and teens.
“They are doing amazing work and have helped me to understand topics that have been important to me since I was a student studying psychology,” Garcia del Soto said. “Many people experiencing mental health problems have a lot to teach us about life and about basic humanity.”
The standing-room-only event, which drew students, faculty and staff, took the form of an interactive panel discussion with Garcia del Soto and O. Hugo Benavides, Ph.D., associate professor of anthropology and director of the master’s program in humanities and sciences.
“We wanted this to be as non-academic as it could be within an academic setting,” Benavides said. “There are a couple of things that I know about myself. I am a teacher; I’m an anthropologist and a tennis player. I would love to be a writer.”
Sarah Eidelson, a Yale student dual-majoring in psychology and ethnicity, race and migration, also pondered the question, “Who are you and why do you do what you do?”
“I’m a student and an activist, and while those are very essential parts of my identity, I know that my experiences in those areas are very small,” Eidelson said. “For that reason, I’d like to become a person who maintains those identities, but who can expand those worlds as well.”
The panel discussion, which included much participation from the audience, was moderated by Luke Nephew (FCLC ’05), who teaches poetry in Brooklyn and works at El Museo del Barrio, a leading Latino cultural institution. While at Fordham, Nephew participated in the IIHA program and worked in countries such as Lebanon, Colombia and Ecuador.
“On Life, Love and the Academy” included the sale and auction of artifacts and mementos acquired by Garcia del Soto while she conducted humanitarian work in countries such as Sri Lanka and Peru.
Ariel’s Legacy was established in 2008 by Lynn and Martin Tesher in honor of her daughter, Ariel Tesher, who suffered from bipolar disorder for most of her young life.
“No one was diagnosing bipolar disorder in children years ago,” Lynn Tesher said. Ariel was diagnosed eventually and spent many years, on and off, at residential treatment centers. Shortly after turning 20, Ariel ended her own life.
“We want to help other families and find services that we could not find,” she said. “Aside from funding medical research, we are primarily vested in psychosocial services and in education.”
Tesher said a program for high school students is also in the works.
“I’m so grateful that Arancha held this event to support and raise awareness about Ariel’s Legacy,” Tesher said. “Arancha has been the only person I know who goes through life and makes everyone she knows more graceful, caring and humble.”