New School Alumnae

New School Alumni
6 min readMar 8, 2023
Photo by Amber Davis Toularentes

Alysia Abbott, Schools of Public Engagement ‘03

Fairyland, a Memoir by Alysia Abbott, MFA Creative Nonfiction ’03, Adapted for the Big Screen

Abbot’s memoir, in which she shares her memories of growing up in 1970s San Francisco with a gay single father, at a time when that was rare, came to life in the Schools of Public Engagement’s Creative Writing Program. Produced by Sofia Coppola and directed by Andrew Durham, the movie version of Fairyland is arriving at a key moment, sharing a vital story at a time when LGBTQ+ rights are being undermined in the United States.

Learn more about Abbot’s book and its film adaptation.

Candice Anderson, Schools of Public Engagement ‘00

Executive Director of Cool Culture

Anderson has been the Executive Director of Cool Culture since 2007, bringing over 25 years of past experience in arts, family engagement and early childhood education policy. Cool Culture is an NYC-based nonprofit whose mission is to “amplify the voices of families and to strengthen the power of historically marginalized communities through art and culture, both within cultural institutions and beyond.” Having devoted her career to advancing racial justice and cultural equity for BIPOC communities, Anderson continues to reflect on the needs of the families Cool Culture works with and how they can partner within the arts and culture community to address these needs.

Watch this interview with Candice Anderson from one of Cool Culture’s “Culture Chats.”

Myisha Battle, New School for Social Research ‘15

The Hazards of Searching for ‘Marriage Material’

Myisha Battle is a certified clinical sexologist and sex and dating coach, educator, and speaker. She is the author of “This is Supposed to Be Fun: How to Find Joy in Hooking Up, Settling Down, and Everything in Between.” She wrote this article for TIME Magazine released the day before Valentine’s Day on a common pitfall in pursuing romance. From her article: “…dating should be a practice in finding what qualities someone has that are valuable to you and that allow you to fall madly in love with them…But this is where things get tricky — while we know that value is a relative term, most of us also know what has the greatest value under capitalism: money, status, and power.”

Read Battle’s article for TIME.

Lakecia Benjamin, College of Performing Arts ‘05

Saxophonist and Bandleader

As a touring musician, Lakecia Benjamin has performed with many chart-topping artists including Missy Elliot, Alicia Keys, Macy Gray, Stevie Wonder, and The Roots. In 2009 she performed for President Barack Obama’s Inauguration. In 2020, Benjamin released a lauded album exploring the music of John and Alice Coltrane called “Pursuance: The Coltranes.” In 2021 Benjamin was in a car crash that caused a concussion and neurological damage, as well as three broken ribs, a fractured scapula, a perforated eardrum, and a broken jaw. Rather than cancel her plans to tour in Europe that year, she returned to the road 3 weeks later, and turned the harrowing experience into a new LP, “Phoenix.” This year, Benjamin will Guest Curate the Burlington Jazz Festival.

Read this profile on Benjamin at The New York Times.

Zeba Blay, Eugene Lang College of Liberal Arts ‘14


Zeba Blay is a culture and film critic born in Ghana and based in NYC. Formerly Senior Culture Writer at HuffPost, her words have also appeared in Allure, Film Comment, ESSENCE, The New York Times, Shadow and Act, The Village Voice, Indiewire, and the Webby Award-winning MTV digital series “Decoded.” In 2013, she was the first person to coin the hashtag #carefreeblackgirl on Twitter. In 2021 she published her debut book of pop culture essays, Carefree Black Girls.

Learn more in this profile, “Zeba Blay Wants Black Women To Thrive.”

Sea Briganti, Parsons School of Design ‘10

Co-founder of Loliware

Sea Briganti co-founded Loliware, which uses seaweed material for sustainable packaging to replace plastics. Their early products appeared on Season 7 of Shark Tank, and Briganti’s company has since raised a total of $15.4 million as of February 2023, making it the market’s best-funded seaweed materials tech company. By creating their seaweed plastic, Loliware seeks to both introduce more sustainable products to the market and find new manufacturing uses for seaweed in the hope of increasing demand for the material, spur investment in a sustainable “Blue Economy” driven by responsible ocean farming and other practices.

Read about Loliware’s recent wins in funding.

Sarah Elizabeth Charles, College of Performing Arts ’12 + Eugene Lang College of Liberal Arts ‘12

Setting Maya Angelou’s Poetry to Music

Sarah Elizabeth Charles is a vocalist, composer, and educator who has released three critically acclaimed albums with her band, SCOPE, and has performed at The White House, Carnegie Hall, The Kennedy Center, and the Rose Theatre with Jazz at Lincoln Center, among other venues. This February, Charles shared a project she’s been crafting since 2016 with the latest installment of The Public Theater’s IN TRANSIT, setting Maya Angelou’s poetry to music. This concert series travels throughout New York City’s 5 boroughs to bring unique and accessible artistry to communities across the city. Charles used the performance as an opportunity to reflect on societal structures and her personal identity as a woman of color, and to imagine new ways forward.

Read about IN TRANSIT and Charles’s performance on Broadway World.

Chelsea Mozen, New School for Social Research ‘09

Senior Director of Impact & Sustainability at Etsy

Chelsea Mozen was helping to build a community-owned wind power utility in Oaxaca, Mexico when she discovered an opportunity to develop solar energy sources for Etsy. Mozen is now Etsy’s Senior Director of Impact and Sustainability, and has received widespread recognition for her work in making Etsy the first ecommerce company to completely offset all shipping-related carbon emissions.

Read this article about Mozen’s work with Etsy.

Marny Smith, Eugene Lang College of Liberal Arts ‘05

Co-Founder of PUSH for Empowered Pregnancy

In NYS paid family leave is revoked when a child is stillborn, even though the birth parent still has to heal physically, and couples are often diagnosed with PTSD following the loss of the child. To fight for these rights and promote empowered pregnancy, Marny Smith joined others to found PUSH, a diverse coalition of bereaved parents from around the country working closely with trailblazing medical researchers, courageous doctors, and other hardworking allies to drive down the incidence of stillbirth in the United States over the next decade, and to fight for the rights of parents of stillborn children. In March 2022 The Mount Sinai Health System announced a collaboration with PUSH for Empowered Pregnancy to establish the nation’s first multidisciplinary specialty clinic for women who have experienced stillbirth.

Read more about their collaboration here.

Elise Som, Parsons School of Design ‘13

Co-founder of Mijenta Tequila and Pioneer in Sustainable Tequila

Som founded Mijenta Tequila seeking to have a positive effect across the stages of the product’s life cycle, working to be as environmentally responsible as possible and delivering benefits to local communities. Mijenta is the first B-Corp certified tequila, which means they meet or exceed assessment criteria measuring their social impact across categories including corporate governance, the environment, community, employees and customers. In addition to their own initiatives, Mijenta partners with other organizations to amplify their impact, including Women’s Earth Alliance, and the Ocean Foundation or Whales of Guerrero.

Listen to this interview with Elise Som for environmentalist.



New School Alumni

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