Meet the President: Nicole Rapkin (CAS ’16)

Meet the House President for the upcoming 2015-2016 school year in the interview below!

Nicole Rapkin (CAS ’16)

House President

Where are you originally from? How did you end up deciding to attend BU?


I was born in Brooklyn, New York, and grew up in East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania. After spending most of my life in a very small town, I knew I wanted to move to a big city. At the time, I intended to major in advertising, but I was interested in lots of other things as well. After looking at COM’s advertising program and seeing that if I chose to change my major (which I did), BU would have a strong program for whatever I decided to do. That’s when I knew BU was the perfect choice.


What are you hoping to do when you graduate next spring?


I am an International Relations major with a minor in Public Health, and I’m passionate about women’s health and women’s rights. I would like to combine these interests with my love for travel and spend a year or two doing field work abroad before pursuing a Master’s degree in either Global Health or Maternal and Child Health.


What has been one of your favorite memories of living in the HER House?


One of my favorite memories in the House was my first Senior Supper. We spent weeks preparing the decorations, personalized gifts, and an under-the-sea themed menu, but when the night of the dinner finally came, we could hardly get through the meal because the girls kept getting up to dance to Beyonce. I’m pretty sure most meals in the HER House go that way, and they’re all included in my favorite memories.


What has living in the HER House meant to you?


Living in the HER House has been so much more than a place to live. In addition to allowing me to pursue my degree, the support and love I receive from all the girls in the House has really allowed me to grow into myself, and I’ve loved being able to play a role in maintaining the House’s traditions for current and future HERlies.


What’s the greatest piece of advice you ever received?


Let people know when they’re appreciated. It’s always easy to let someone know when they’re doing something wrong, but taking time to acknowledge when someone says or does something nice can make a big impact.

Alumnae Spotlight – Luwam Ghidei


Luwam Ghidei

Year of Graduation: 2011
School: College of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences: Sargent College

Luwam Ghidei (SAR 2011), soon to be Dr. Ghidei, is incredibly accomplished, yet quite unassuming. We checked in with Luwam, a fourth year medical student at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School, to learn about where she’s headed next.


Who are you? 

I’m a 25-year-old feminist living in my hometown of Dallas, Texas. I love mentoring students who come from similar backgrounds to mine. I spend my time outside of school running, chatting up old friends, traveling, and getting active in the community.


The year after you graduated, almost all of the new HER House residents found out about the House through you. How do you describe the HER House to others?

Wow, that is so exciting to hear. I remember I wasn’t even on our official “Public Relations” committee, but I was so in love with the concept of the HER House that I obviously couldn’t stop talking about it. I used to tell any women who would listen that I live in the coolest house on campus. It’s a wonderful way to meet passionate women and build a family within campus. Not to mention, the house happens to be a gorgeous, meticulously designed mansion in which you pay what seems like pennies to live in!


Why did you decide to become a Doctor?

I grew up with some pretty horrific experiences at the doctor’s office. I watched my mom’s chronic pain be discounted without even a single question at times. I also watched healthcare workers rely on stereotypes of African American women to misdiagnose my oldest sister as she devastatingly suffered from a serious illness. Growing up in a poor neighborhood, I never thought a career in medicine was within reach – I didn’t know anyone who had successfully navigated the system. Once I got to college and realized I had a unique passion for physiology and health, I loved the idea of using my education to serve and heal others. I did my best to join pre-medical organizations, attend medical conferences, and find mentors in the medical community who could encourage me while filling in the informational gaps.


What advice do you have for anyone who wants to go to medical school?

The entire process is a marathon, not a sprint. There will be many, many nights devoted to studying while it seems like everyone else is out having fun. But if you are truly passionate about becoming a doctor, it is definitely worth it! If I had to do medical school all over again, I would in a heart beat! It’s amazing how much trust patients have in you, and that trust will drive you to aspire to become the best physician you can possible be. If you want a faster track in the health care field -consider becoming a highly esteemed Physician Assistant, Nurse Practitioner, CRNA, Pharmacist, etc. These professions make great money and go through substantially less schooling.


If you could change one thing about the medical school admission process, what would it be?

One thing I would change is the concept of secondary applications. I believe secondary essays were first established to help narrow the amount of candidates each institution wanted to interview. However, as time passed, medical schools started sending out secondary applications without even screening first. Keep in mind, each secondary costs about $60-$80 in addition to the primary application costs. It’s hard to argue that schools are not only sending these out to generate more revenue.


What are you most looking forward to as you start your residency?

I am currently a fourth (and final) year medical student, and I am excited to report I successfully “matched” into a residency position! Match Day is an annual, nation-wide event during the 3rd week of March when every medical student finds out where they will do their residency. I will train to become an Obstetrician and Gynecologist at Brown Women and Infant’s Hospital in Rhode Island! The first year of residency is referred to as an internship. I am looking forward to a sharp learning curve, a new experience, and gaining more confidence as I become more and more independent in my practice.

 We wish you all the best in your residency, Luwam! 

Remember When…You Studied Abroad?

This semester, there a few current House members studying abroad everywhere from within the US to Europe! From Venice, Italy to Paris, France, Shannon Chapman, Sophia Michael, and Romina Berberi reflect on their times abroad below:


Shannon Chapman:
I studied in Venice, Italy for spring 2014. I learned Italian and took an
amazing art history course that was held on-site. As a painting major, Italy was an incredible
place to study. I went to Florence and Rome as well. Aside from art and school, I enjoyed getting
to know my neighbor, Margherita. She is a wonderful lady that even taught me how to make a
pastry! Overall, I couldn’t be more thankful to have spent four months in Europe.


Sophia Michael:
As an art student, there are few places that would be a better fit to study in than Venice, Italy.
Venice is a truly magical place to live for an extended period of time. You have to dig down
deep to get to the cultural heart of the touristic city, and being given the time and opportunity to
do just that was priceless. Within a few weeks I had Italian friends, could communicate in a
foreign language (with gestures), and had seen more world-renown art than I could have ever
imagined. I met an amazing range of artists and individuals from around the world and wandered
the ever-winding streets. Being an international city, Venice allowed me I learn so much about
international identity and a variety of cultures, but leaving the country helped me gain even
wider perspectives.


One of my most memorable trips was during my spring break in France. I traveled with two
friends on a bit of a whirlwind adventure. We tasted the cheese, saw the real life scenes of
Cezanne’s paintings, walked through the gardens of Versailles and spent a full 12-hour day at the
Louvre. I could not have asked for more.

But as the final days of our program approached I realized I was not prepared to leave. I decided
to extend my stay an additional 10 weeks after the program ended. With this time I moved into
an apartment with a collective of artists and helped organize gallery events and performances in
our living space. I was also granted the opportunity to study glassblowing at a production furnace
in Murano (an island famous for their glassworks). There I saw, and sometimes worked on, a
number of projects for international artists, learned from glass masters who had been practicing
for fifty years, and picked up a little Muranese (a language apart from standard Italian). The rest
of my time was spent working with the Scuola Internazionale di Grafica di Venezia as an
assistant in their printmaking studio. At the Scuola I was able to work even more closely with
artists and create my own prints.

My experiences abroad ultimately ended, but my connections never will. Living with Italians in
the summer I learned the meaning of “sagra”and that dinner is never before nine, that we don’t
actually need dryers and that life is meant to be enjoyed by the minute, not by the day. I found
that I still practice some of these aspects of an Italian lifestyle, and sometimes a foreign word or
two will slip out before the English, and I hope that it continues. I think that it always will.

 Romina Berberi:

I recently read an article about the “Paris Syndrome,” which describes a profound sensation of disappointment and depression that results from the dirty, bitter, unwelcoming and far-from-romantic ambiance Paris-loving tourists encounter when they finally visit this immensely coveted city. In truth, it’s not nearly as sweet and warm-in-your-insides inducing as the media has indicated.

Despite the effortless splendor of this city’s structure, architecture, gastronomy and inhabitants, the ambiance is overwhelmingly one of coldness and unbelonging. I’ve gone through the entire spectrum at what marks nearly three months spent studying abroad in Paris. I go to school with Parisian students and live with a Parisian family and am charmed by the raw, flawed, and multi-faceted elements of these forever mysterious people. I’ve stopped smiling as much to strangers in public (what they deem the number one indicator of an American) and scowl on the Metro. I sip my red wine with a multi-course dinner and traverse the bridges over the Seine multiple times a day – all the while trying to conceal my giddiness at the beauty of it all from the stone-faced locals.

I’m expanding my knowledge and appreciation for art with Orsay and the Louvre just at my front stoop, perfecting my French vocabulary, accent, and expression, and refining my palate with incredible flaky pastries and duck dishes. Aside from taking courses in Paris’ highly esteemed business and economics university, Dauphine, I’m also working part time as an intern at an all-French nonprofit organization called Prométhée Humanitaire where I assist in event and marketing endeavors. It’s a privilege to be as fully immersed in this culture as I am. I’m having an amazing time integrating myself to the Parisian life and am growing in major ways. This HERlie is conquering Paris.

Alumnae Spotlight – Noreen Grice

Noreen Grice

Year of Graduation: 1985
School: CLA
Major: Astronomy
Current Occupation: Founder and owner of You Can Do Astronomy and works as the Planetarium Educator/Manager at the Children’s Museum in Hartford, CT

For our 85th Anniversary Celebration in April 2014, we held an Alumnae Speaker event, “Oh, the Places You’ll Go: Adventures of our Alumnae.” Noreen Grice (CLA 1985) was one of our incredible participants. Noreen is the founder and owner of You Can Do Astronomy and also currently works as the Planetarium Educator/Manager at the Children’s Museum in West Hartford, CT.  For those who were unable to attend our speaker panel, we wanted to make sure you would still have an opportunity to hear about Noreen’s work making astronomy and space science universally accessible.


Who are you? (Not your job or education, but who are you?)

I’m a person who likes to learn about new things, keep connections with people (and things that were familiar to me growing up), share experiences and help others to succeed. My husband, mother and I enjoy watching documentaries, especially about people and travel. I like staying in touch with people including teachers (yes from BU!) and friends through the years. My husband and I like going to tag sales, and I like rediscovering things from the 1970s and 1980s. And I like helping people have greater access to the night sky – by talking to them and by creating new resources for non-visual learners.

What was your favorite HER House tradition?
I enjoyed eating meals together, having meetings and having fun at special events. I’m an only child so it was amazing suddenly having a big “family” to share experiences.

What inspired you to pursue a career in making astronomy accessible for everyone?

My work in making astronomy accessible happened because I was in the right place at the right time. On a casual Saturday afternoon in the summer of 1984, I was working in the planetarium (at the Museum of Science in Boston) when a group of blind students came in line for the next show. I didn’t know anyone who was blind and what to do. My manager said to “help those people to their seats – that’s all you have to do.” I did that and after the show, as the audience was leaving, I asked that group how they liked the show. It turned out that they didn’t like the show and I felt terrible. That moment in time started me on a path to understand why the planetarium was not a good experience for people who were blind or visually impaired and what I could do to fix it. It was a journey that began in 1984 and still continues!

How did you turn an idea into a company?
The Museum of Science published my first accessible astronomy book, Touch the Stars, in 1990. The book had raised (tactile) astronomy images that could be used independently or to supplement a planetarium show. Touch the Stars was successful (mostly by word of mouth), and I revised it through 4 editions.

In 1999, I was contacted by a professor at DePaul University. He had seen Touch the Stars in a gift shop in Chicago and wondered if there was a way to make images from the Hubble Space Telescope accessible to readers who are blind. The Museum suggested that I work on this project on my own so I had to create a personal affiliation and chose You Can Do Astronomy. The book with tactile pictures from the Hubble Space Telescope was titled, Touch the Universe: A NASA Braille Book of Astronomy (2002) and was the first in a series of NASA books that I wrote.

In 2004, I officially registered You Can Do Astronomy LLC as a company in the state of Connecticut (where I live). I also serve on the Board of the Central Connecticut chapter of the National Federation of the Blind.

What advice do you have for those who are told they can’t do something, particularly something they are passionate about doing?
Being told “you can’t” is something I’m familiar with. I was raised by my mother and grandmother at a time when single parents were uncommon. I grew up in the public housing projects in Malden and saw neighbors being hauled to jail. I knew that education would be my way out of the projects. When I applied to BU, some people said that I wouldn’t be accepted or couldn’t afford it. I got accepted and finances were very difficult, but I managed to piece together financial aid and student loans to just cover tuition. My uncle helped a little with rent so I could live at the HER House.

The day after the blind students came to the planetarium, I took the bus to Watertown to visit the Perkins School for the Blind. I wanted to understand what went wrong in the planetarium. As I flipped through some Braille books in their library, I asked if many books had raised pictures. The librarian told me that not many books had raised pictures “because they were expensive and labor intensive.” As I heard the librarian’s words, I remembered something about growing up in the housing projects. Some of my classmates would tell me that their mothers said I could not come over after school because I was a “project kid.” I remember that I didn’t understand why someone who didn’t know me would assume I was a bad person and how it made me feel sad. And then I thought about the planetarium experience and how the Museum had made an assumption that visitors who were blind probably would not come to the planetarium. I couldn’t change what happened to me as a child but maybe I could make changes for these people and remove barriers to the night sky. And that’s how I took “no” and turned it into “I will do it!”

People who say you can’t do something should get out of the way, because you can do it. You can make positive changes for others and the world around you. You can make the word a better place. We can all do it, together.

January Miss Cooperative: Shannon Chapman



January’s Miss Cooperative has been a long-time favorite in the house, winning the coveted title not once, but three times during this school year. Known in the house for her delicious baked goods, beautiful artwork, and encouraging post-it notes, CFA senior Shannon Chapman is perhaps best known for her altruistic, caring spirit. Also the Vice President of the HER House, Shannon has been living in the HER House for four semesters and will be extremely missed when she graduates at the end of this semester!

Describe yourself in three words?

… honest, easy going, and dependable.

What’s a fun fact about you most people don’t know?

I’m a fraternal twin! her

What’s your favorite thing about living in the HER House?

The kitchen becomes a place of conversation- I love learning about everyone’s lives. We are a family!

What does cooperative mean to you? 

Cooperative- generally speaking, it includes a willingness to help others and respect the house and its mission. A cooperative environment is also a supportive one.

What are your future goals? 

I plan to volunteer and work next year. I will also apply to grad schools for art education! It would be amazing to work at a school that incorporates gardening. It is becoming more popular in city schools.

How would you describe the HERlies living in the house? 

The HER ladies are.. incredible. They are all so inspiring, hardworking, and talented.