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  4. Rachel Sadoff ‘15

Where are you from, and what brought you to Rome?

I'm an American citizen from D.C., but I grew up in three other countries before coming to Rome: Switzerland, Nepal, and Thailand. We moved to Rome from Bangkok because my dad became General Counsel at the International Development of Law Organization near the Vatican, a job that he really enjoyed.

Can you describe your experience at St. Stephen's? What are some of your fondest memories of that time?

My experience changed every year with new people, starting the IB program, taking on the Extended Essay. Still, there were specific episodes I loved; some of those were the trips in the spring and fall. I loved Val d'Orcia with Mrs. Young--it was a wonderful opportunity to engage with different aspects of Italian culture--and the Transylvania trip in my junior year. Transylvania was my first exposure to Eastern European culture, and now that I plan to pursue Tuberculosis policy, that experience was significant because Eastern Europe is a hotspot for both TB and drug-resistant TB. It was also a wonderful opportunity to get to know fellow students in a more relaxed environment while facing unusual, travel-related challenges together. I enjoyed concerts, football tournaments, watching my friends thrive in dance and theater, and getting to know the faculty--I learned as much from them as people as I did from the content, and that has stuck with me more than the formulas and technical details I learned. Those were some of my favorite parts of being at St. Stephen's.

After Rome, what came next?

I moved directly to the U.S. to start my studies at Harvard. There were funny moments of culture shock. St. Stephen's has a very high sense of fashion that I did not find here, so that was strange, and I had to drop some slang that I had picked up; you know, "dai" sounds a lot like "die," and that took a lot of explaining! I stayed here for two years and then took two years off, and in that time came back to Rome in May of 2018. I remember attending a fundraiser concert for Dr. Pope's work in Rwanda. It was really sweet to see how that structure and tradition remained accessible so many years later because it was always so wonderful for me as a student.

You mentioned that you took a two-year break from your studies at Harvard; why did you decide to do this, and what did you learn during your time away from university?

I decided I needed time off for professional and personal reasons. Academically, my interests were everywhere as a freshman and sophomore: I studied war movies, environmental policy, propaganda from WWII, medical ethics--it was so much fun, and it really was one of the best parts about being at a liberal arts college. But after two years, I didn't have any stronger of a sense of what I would be doing after college. I decided that I would need to work in the fields that I was intellectually interested in to get a sense of what I wanted career-wise. For example, I was interested in criminal justice, so I thought, "I should work in that," and it turned out to be a really informative experience because the work was so heartbreaking. Now I understand that criminal justice is very interesting in the classroom, but I am too sensitive to work in that field.

On a personal level, Harvard is a very intense academic environment, and given how scattered I was in my academic approach to the school, I was missing out on a lot of opportunities that I wish I had capitalized on. There were all kinds of fellowships and grant programs; I would watch these deadlines for trips and conferences fly by, and because I didn't know what I wanted from among them all, I knew I wasn’t taking full advantage of those opportunities.

I assumed I would just take one semester off, but it swelled into four because every semester, I learned more about myself and what kinds of jobs I did and didn't want. I wanted a plan when I got back to college and, sure enough, by the end, I settled enthusiastically on global health. I learned more about myself with each passing semester because at this age, you learn so much about yourself every year, and to have the freedom to explore different kinds of careers and cities helped me mature much more quickly than I think I would have in a college environment.

You are graduating in just over a month! While at Harvard, you studied History & Literature, Global Health & Health Policy, and Italian. In September, you will be starting a Master's in Public Health at Columbia. Given your curiosity and diverse interests, it must have been challenging to decide where to focus; why are you passionate about public health policy?

As a funny anecdote, I will say it started in 2018 when I woke up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat with the vivid realization that there are not enough doctors! I don't know what the nightmare was about, but it got me thinking. I realized that public health is a thread through all of my scattered interests: it's where the climate crisis intersects with human rights and the economy, why I was so enthusiastic about zombies--really though! There's a lot of literature on this; I was surprised to learn that zombies allow us to consider victims of disease as dangerous disease vectors rather than objects of pity, and they have been called a politically correct way of channeling fears of refugee waves. I also found that I kept writing papers about the Black Plague in different classes. Systemic health issues were also a key driving factor in all the inequities that I saw growing up in different places. So, after that terrifying night, I realized public health was at the root of all the discrete things that I loved.

Harvard doesn't offer a public health major, so I had to scramble to find other ways to engage with health once I got back here. Fortunately, there are a lot of student organizations, incredible faculty, and a minor in Global Health & Health Policy, so I signed up for that immediately. The other beautiful thing about liberal arts is that my major in History & Literature has allowed me to take a lot of global health courses because it meets the department’s criteria: a lot of it's in the past, and there are plenty of documents!

Going back to why I am passionate about public health and global health: it's such a large-scale human rights issue that we have the expertise and money to mitigate, and by addressing global health inequities and structural violence, the chain reactions can create an incredible upward spiral in the economy, education, women's rights, and the environment. I love thinking of it as a field that you can approach in a hundred different ways: as a science communicator, a hard scientist, a medical doctor. Public health can have such a disproportionate impact on international development, and it's not only fascinating and moving, but there are so many different ways to contribute to the field. I, for one, am a humanities major who is scared of numbers but, because I can do a fair bit of communication and coding, I can contribute to the Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics at the Harvard School of Public Health. They work on disease modeling and put out unsettling but incredibly important predictions--and I can help! I am not totally sure how I am going to tangibly get into the field, but that's so much of the beauty for me.

The last thing that really cemented my passion for global health was when I got dengue hemorrhagic fever in the winter of 2019. I had terrible eye pain because dengue makes your eyes swell, internal hemorrhaging for about eight weeks, and I felt like my health was out of my control. I appreciated how privileged I was compared to the demographics that usually get dengue fever and I couldn't help but think how unfair it all was, especially because the treatment for dengue is basically hydration and rest. So reflecting on where I was privileged enough to be in the hierarchy of disease response was just as distressing as the symptoms, and that confirmed my decision.

At Harvard, you are the Head of Communications for the "Effective Altruism"  organization-- what does "effective altruism" mean, and why is it important in 2021?

This is one of my favorite topics. Effective Altruism is a global socio-political-philosophical movement that has the motto "doing good, better." It's about taking a very utilitarian and arguably overly-quantitative approach to the world's most pressing issues, including factory farming, artificial intelligence (and its existential risks), and global health and development, which is what brought me in, and I love it. I think it is important because it gives a lens through which we can consider how we respond to different kinds of crises and risks at an international and local level. In the context of global health and development, it's made me more comfortable addressing questions like, "are we measuring variables that actually indicate successful interventions? How far do chain reactions go? And are we respecting cultural taboos or imposing our values onto others because we think it will improve public health?" It's important to question the base assumptions of different kinds of humanitarian interventions, and I find it a supportive, challenging, engaging, and flexible model and organization through which to do so.

What do you consider your greatest achievement so far?

My senior thesis, which I turned in in March. It's about a controversy that influenced the diplomatic landscape of chemical weapons disarmament negotiations during the Cold War; it's a little bit about health, but it's a lot about international relations, damaging political rhetoric, and ethnocentricity. It was 18,000 words with 15,000 words of footnotes--this is a thing in my family: we are cursed with too many footnotes. It's always tough to find your place in the existing scholarship, and then a way to contribute, especially as an undergraduate. Figuring that out, and then making a long, complex, compelling, and sensitive argument was tough, so I would say that was my greatest achievement.

What are some of your other non-academic passions?

They have changed during quarantine. Before COVID--I've heard this expressed as "BC"-- so, BC, I did a lot of improv theater at the college; I found it to be a good stress outlet and a good way to keep my mind engaged, think about how humor is structured, and connect with people casually. I loved improv. I am still very passionate about film and music, just as I was at St. Stephen's. When I was in high school, I started a student organization for video production called "Cineasti," which isn't a word, but I thought it was at the time. When I was trying to think of a name, I Google-translated "filmmakers," and "cineasti" was somehow the first result. People who spoke Italian in my social circle said, "that was so creative," and I said, "haha, doesn't it just mean filmmakers? ...Doesn't it?" I'm not making movies or music very much anymore, but I am still passionately appreciating it.

I've also been doing a lot more mentorship; I'm a student mentor with the Harvard Global Health Institute and I do one-on-ones with Effective Altruism fellows from different countries. One of my other passions is teaching, like English and SAT prep.

Would you say those activities have increased during COVID?

Yes, because I have found that these activities are relatively easy to do virtually and they're a really good way to feel fulfilled over Zoom.

Has it been a straight path for you, or do you feel you have been tested along the way to achieving the goals you've set for yourself? Can you talk about what some of those challenges have been and how you've surmounted them?

I think everyone is tested in different ways, and sometimes it's our fault, and sometimes it's circumstantial. I would say I've had a combination. One of the most difficult things that I've struggled with personally is balancing my ambition in specific areas with my appreciation for holistic balance. When I was at St. Stephen's, for example, I was part of an international program for long-distance runners, and I had to run before school and after school in Villa Borghese by myself. It was lonely, but I was getting really good. However, because of my commitment to and ambition in long-distance running, I was missing parties and other kinds of celebrations, I was losing points on quizzes, and eating terribly--ironically enough. I eventually burned out and with some reflection switched my sport to football; I became the St. Stephen's girl’s goalie and went to a couple of tournaments with them. I made a video about that running program which was cathartic, and I wrote my Harvard admissions essay about it. The struggle to balance holistic well-being with ambition was a big reason why I took time off. I realized I was wholeheartedly committing myself to classes and programs that I thought I was good at rather than ones that felt right or fulfilling. That extra space gave me a better sense of balance when considering what career I wanted.

I also moved around a lot as a kid. Both of my parents--I am so proud of them---have had incredible jobs all over the world, but that brought with it a lot of emotional challenges growing up, and to this day Italy is the last time that I've lived in the same place for three years. Since then, I've lived in any given city for between three months and two years at a time. Every time you move, you face new challenges and you're tested in different ways. To be fair, a lot of this has been voluntary on my part: I've learned that it would be easier if I tried not to connect with each city I lived in because saying goodbye would be less hard, but I do my best to immerse anyway because I learn more about people, relationships, and human nature when I do, and the goodbyes are terrible, but the memories are all the more sweet, so that's been another test of sorts.

Professionally, being a humanities major in a relatively scientific field is another little test I have forced myself into!

What are some of the most important lessons from your experience that you would like to share with the next generation of St. Stephen's graduates?

Be brave. Talk to people outside your circle, outside your echo chamber, outside your school. Join activities that you may think you are unqualified for but will teach you new things about yourself and the world. Don't shy away from challenging discussions. All of this comes down to courage, and people-- especially St. Stephen's students-- are more courageous than they may realize. There are things about Rome and the IB program that have tested their limits and may have scared or inspired them. St. Stephen's is made up of a really strong group of people, so I would say: take that courage you have fostered in that environment and use it to propel you into things you love, and you will discover surprising, confusing, and thrilling parts of the world around you.

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Chapter 1: The World Around Us | A Comment on Our Times, Cortile 2021 Highlights

Revenge of the Fringe

Is internet culture driving America to extremes?

In December of 2020, historians in The Washington Post weighed in on whether 2020 was the worst year ever. Materially, the answer is clear: even in a year of tumult, we live in an era of superabundance. Since the turn of the last century, Americans have added decades to our lifespans, easy-to-source food to our tables, and secured health outcomes that, even in a bad year, remain better than anything our ancestors enjoyed.

By Jen Hollis - Former Teacher of IB History, St. Stephen’s School
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Chapter 1: The World Around Us | Student Perspectives on Social Justice, Cortile 2021 Highlights

Understanding the Origins of BLM and the World’s Outrage Over George Floyd’s Death

"I continue to be surprised at how little Black lives matter... Our lives matter."

- Patrisse Cullors, Founding Member, BLM

By Tatiana Lima '15
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Chapter 1: The World Around Us | Student Perspectives on Social Justice

Opinion: George Floyd’s Killing and the Black Lives Matter Protests Against Police Brutality

On May 25th, 2020, George Floyd was arrested and killed by Minneapolis Police after being accused of stealing from a store. Outrage followed when footage of the arrest revealed one of the officers--Derek Chauvin--placing his knee on Floyd’s neck during the arrest for eight minutes and forty-six seconds and ignoring Floyd’s desperate pleas of “I can’t breathe… I can’t breathe…” 

By Sofia Ghilas '21
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Chapter 1: The World Around Us | Student Perspectives on Social Justice

Opinion: The Rise of Anti-Asian Sentiment

After the recent fatal shooting of six women of Asian descent in Atlanta, Georgia, last month, there is increasing alarm about the proliferation of anti-Asian racist memes, posts, and other online activities that may have set the stage for real-life violence.

By Lixuan Du ‘23
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Chapter 1: The World Around Us | The Pandemic

Bloom Where You Are Planted: How and Why We Persisted During Covid

“They won’t let you board the plane?” I responded on my mobile phone, rubbing sleepy sand out of my eyes. It was 6 AM on a Sunday in February 2020, and half of our school was at the airport – or soon to be -- for Spring Trips, heading out to destinations like Oman and Morocco (the other trips had gotten out the day before).  So began my intimate relationship with the virus. Though we had been tracking the virus for weeks prior, that moment is the moment it all really began for me.  (And, yes, those trip participants literally pulled their bags off the airline conveyor belts, redialed the rental van, and returned, despondent, to their homes in Rome.)

By Eric Mayer - Head of School
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Chapter 1: The World Around Us | The Pandemic

Reopening After a School Closure and Lessons Learned from the Pandemic

Dateline: 25 January, 2020

On January 18th, St. Stephen’s students and teachers returned to the classroom for the first time since late October. At 8 am on Monday, a line of excited students wound its way down Via Aventina, each student waiting their turn for morning temperature checks. All around them, teachers weaved in and out of the line, stopping to greet groups of students and remark on how surreal it felt to be back.

By Vittoria Giusti ‘22, Natalie Edwards '14 - City of Rome I, Core 9 Teacher and Alumni Relations Office
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Chapter 1: The World Around Us | The Pandemic

At War With an Invisible Enemy

The Covid-19 pandemic has been one of the most challenging issues the world has collectively faced in recent history. We are essentially waging war against a silent enemy--one who has no national borders, knows no social bounds, political systems, nor cultural norms or values. This silent enemy of ours has inflicted harm on whoever crosses its path, upending life as we have come to know it, surreptitiously taking lives, decimating industries, and destabilizing the world economy.

By Xara Al Said ‘23
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Chapter 1: The World Around Us | The Pandemic

The Disproportional Impact of Covid on Black Americans

 Last year, as we watched the United States attempt to tackle the Covid-19 virus with mixed messages from the former President, spotty stay-at-home orders, at will mask-wearing, and widespread Covid testing, we observed a great divide between those catching the virus and recovering and those catching the virus and dying.

By Tanesha Alexander - Assistant Librarian, EAP Teacher, and DEI representative
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Chapter 1: The World Around Us | Student Perspectives on Social Media and Bullying

Teens and Bullying

Bullying occurs a lot more than one would expect. Injuries, abuses, humiliations, threats, teachers offended while the class videotapes them, kids kicked, teenagers arrested for serious acts against peers.

By Emma Jansen ‘24
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Chapter 1: The World Around Us | Student Perspectives on Social Media and Bullying

A Social Media Guide for Teens

The use of social media has become an inevitability of modern-day life. Whether you’re following your school’s Facebook account, chatting with your family on Whatsapp, or sending your friends pictures on Instagram.

By Sofia Ghilas '21
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Chapter 1: The World Around Us | Service

In the Spirit of Service

“The best way to not feel hopeless is to get up and do something. Don’t wait for good things to happen to you. If you go out and make some good things happen, you will fill the world with hope; you will fill yourself with hope.”
― Barack Obama

By Dr. Helen Pope - Former Director of The Lyceum, Classics Department Chair and Teacher of Latin, St. Stephen’s School
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Chapter 2: Our Life Online | What Students Are Watching

Film review: Judas and the Black Messiah (2021)

IMDB Rating: 7.6

‘You can kill a revolutionary, but you can never kill the revolution.’ Words from the great activist for black rights, Fred Hampton was the chairman of the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party from 1966 to 1969.

By Luca Vanderson '22
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Chapter 2: Our Life Online | What Students Are Watching

Film Review: What We Started

What We Started on Netflix is a beautiful documentary about the history of electronic music that follows its origins from the early 1970s until today. The film explores the genre through interviews with DJs and music producers.

By Matteo Scarfini ‘24
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Chapter 2: Our Life Online | What Students Are Watching

Film Review: Seaspiracy

The newly released Netflix documentary, Seaspiracy, explores the damage the fishing industry is causing the blue planet.

By Gustav Franklin ‘21
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Chapter 2: Our Life Online | What Students Are Watching

Gone with the Wind: A Film Review for Our Times

I saw this film for the first time three years ago, and it is one of those movies that you cannot only watch; you have to think and read and write about it to understand it and its impact on you.

By Benedetta Bosco ‘22
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Chapter 2: Our Life Online | What Students Are Watching

Film Review: The Perks of Being a Wallflower

The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a coming-of-age drama film directed by Stephen Chbosky, starring globally known actors Logan Lerman, Emma Watson, and Ezra Miller, and was released in 2012.

By Anita D’Alisera ‘21
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Chapter 2: Our Life Online | What Students Are Watching | Digital St. Stephen's

Our Favorite Online Events

This past year has challenged us to move our events online, from Zoom olive oil and wine tastings that transported us to the Tuscan countryside to gallery openings that brought us to the heart of the New York City and Roman art scene; we have made the best of this pandemic, seizing it as an opportunity to experiment with new mediums and new activities.

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Chapter 3: Creative Writing | Creative Writing

PAndemiNK

As the school's only student-run literary and artistic magazine, INK provides the grounding for your creativity to thrive.

By The INK Team
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Chapter 3: Creative Writing | Creative Writing

A Selection of Creative Writing

You’ve probably seen that meme: a child in a big armchair, cozily reading a book. All around her head are thought bubbles full of knights and dragons, maps and mountains, ships and seas. And below, the caption: “Reading Takes You Places.”

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Chapter 4: Departments | The Lyceum

New Initiatives at the Lyceum Take Off During the Pandemic

"All men by nature desire to know." (Aristotle, Metaphysics 1.980a22).

Nevermore than during the last seventeen months did these words from Aristotle ring true for me. We are so fortunate that through the Lyceum, we are able to create special opportunities for our students to learn about the ancient world, whether it’s through weekend trips and lectures or by inviting scholars, writers, and poets who through their workshops, lectures and readings enhance our classes and broaden our students' horizons.

By Inge Weustink - Director of the Lyceum, Classics Teacher
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Chapter 4: Departments | Exploring City of Rome II Class

Exploring the New City of Rome 2 Class

Between 1400 and 1700, Rome was reborn as a global city, capital of a growing world ‘empire,’ so to speak, for the first time since antiquity. The city today owes much of its historical appeal, its most eye-catching artworks, and monuments, to this, the Early Modern era (c.1400-1700 CE).

By Dr. Rebecca Raynor - Art History, Dr. Paul Treherne - History
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Chapter 5: The Arts

The Arts

This year our students have embraced the digital world, moving their drama and art shows online.

Image: Credit in here mentioning that the art work was selected for the cover

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Chapter 6. Alumni Spotlight | Alumni Spotlight Interview, Cortile 2021 Highlights

Nicola Formichetti ‘96

Fashion Designer / Stylist / Creative Director

By Natalie Edwards '14 - City of Rome I, Core 9 Teacher and Alumni Relations Office
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Chapter 6. Alumni Spotlight | Alumni Spotlight Interview

Margherita Stancati ‘03

The Wall Street Journal reporter

By Natalie Edwards '14 - City of Rome I, Core 9 Teacher and Alumni Relations Office
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Chapter 6. Alumni Spotlight | Alumni Spotlight Interview

Galen Druke ‘08

Host and Producer at FiveThirtyEight.

By Natalie Edwards '14 - City of Rome I, Core 9 Teacher and Alumni Relations Office
Diva Tommei.Photo credits Ilaria Magliocchetti
Chapter 6. Alumni Spotlight | Alumni Spotlight Interview

Diva Tommei ‘02

Investment Director Information Technology ICT at ENEA Teach

By Natalie Edwards '14 - City of Rome I, Core 9 Teacher and Alumni Relations Office
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Chapter 6. Alumni Spotlight | Alumni Spotlight Interview

Elizabeth Blackwell ‘86

Author

By Natalie Edwards '14 - City of Rome I, Core 9 Teacher and Alumni Relations Office
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Chapter 6. Alumni Spotlight | Alumni Spotlight Interview

Rachel Sadoff ‘15

MA Candidate in Public Health at Columbia University

By Natalie Edwards '14 - City of Rome I, Core 9 Teacher and Alumni Relations Office
Healthy Campus team
Chapter 6. Alumni Spotlight | Alumni Spotlight

Alumni serve as our Healthy Campus Team

With Italy’s many COVID restrictions, we’ve needed additional staff to greet and temperature check arriving students, walk the campus for compliance, assist classes if the teacher is working remotely but the students are here, and various other activities to keep us safe.  To our great fortune, four alumni came forward to help us for the year: Michael Alonzi (2013), Tatiana Lima (2015), David Rosales (2016), and Alessandro Cosmo (2017). We asked about the experience, and they had this to say…

By Eric Mayer - Head of School
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Chapter 6. Alumni Spotlight | Digital Alumni

Alumni Events Online

From alumni trivia and virtual reunions to happy hours and afternoon coffee breaks, our digital alumni events have enabled us to bring together alumni and current and former faculty members from around the world.