By Abby Weingarten
Steven Keshishian, a third-year economics student and the New College Student Alliance (NCSA) president, is holding down the campus fort during the pandemic.
He is one of 16 students who have not evacuated the premises due to the coronavirus outbreak. A dual citizen, Keshishian was unable to return home to Lebanon because the country’s airports are closed. So, he is living in Goldstein Residence Hall, transitioning to remote learning, and continuing to be a strong voice for the College’s student body.
“On a typical day, I wake up, make breakfast, jog, come back, read, do some schoolwork, do academic conference calls, and talk to friends on Facetime and Google hangouts,” said Keshishian, who has been the NCSA president for two years. “I’ve been building the NCSA budget, meeting monthly with President O’Shea, attending biweekly 4C meetings, having weekly meetings with Dean Harrell to communicate the concerns of students, coordinating with Dawn Shongood on the financial pivots the NCSA must take for next year, and working on developing a community leader roundtable to discuss the climate on campus.”
Keshishian is used to keeping student matters running smoothly year-round (he typically stays on campus during holiday breaks). He first came to the United States for a few months in 2006 to flee the Lebanon war, and moved to Sarasota permanently in 2017. He is concerned about his relatives in Lebanon, where the pandemic is straining the country’s already struggling economy. But having lived overseas also gives Keshishian a global perspective on Americans’ reactions to the pandemic.
“People are on edge here. They’re running through the grocery stores, thinking that, the faster they run, the less they’re likely to catch the virus,” Keshishian said with a laugh. “I come from more of a communal society where family looks out for family; there’s a ‘don’t take more than you need’ thing. I do think we have that here on campus, though, which is nice.”
New College’s communal response has given Keshishian hope. For example, the Metz Culinary Management staff came together last Friday to prepare “community lunches” for the students who are still on campus. The students picked up the meals and took them back to their respective dorm rooms to eat.
“The school is looking out for us. It was a way of saying, ‘don’t worry,’” Keshishian said. “I have no problem staying on campus. This is home for me. Where I’m most comfortable in the U.S. is at New College.”
Keshishian is keeping himself comfortable by sticking to his fitness and academic regimen. He has a car, goes grocery shopping (knows how to stick to a budget, considering he no longer has a job at the now-closed campus gym), and cooks all of his own food (a devoted weightlifter, he is on a healthful high-protein diet). He is reading Halo novels; revisiting the documentary, World War II in Colour; and watching movies like Generation Iron. Keshishian stays politically and socially informed, and maintains a calm outlook despite the chaotic circumstances.
“We’re part of history right now, and we can either do a really good job or a really bad job, so let’s not be stupid about it,” he said. “This is not a zombie apocalypse; this is a virus. This will pass.”
Abby Weingarten is the editor/writer in the Office of Communications & Marketing.