Finley Peay, FCLC ’20, was, to say the least, an involved member of the Fordham College at Lincoln Center community during her time as an undergraduate. In addition to her studies as a political science and American studies double major (and theology minor), Peay was a member of several extracurricular clubs and committees and worked in the Office for Student Involvement. It was this student work experience that led Peay to the realization that she wanted to pursue further studies—and a career—in higher education.

This fall, she began a master’s degree program in higher education and student affairs at the New York University’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development. Along with her coursework, she was matched with a graduate assistantship at Columbia University’s Office of Student Life. “Everybody in the Office for Student Involvement [at Fordham]helped me cultivate my own understanding of what student affairs means and find my passion,” Peay says.

What are some of the reasons why you decided to attend Fordham?
One of the things that really resonated with me were the Jesuit tenets of education and what it meant to be part of a Jesuit community. I had the opportunity to come with both of my parents. My mom and I are sitting next to each other listening to [former Fordham College at Lincoln Center dean]Father Grimes speak about what it meant to have a Jesuit education and what it meant to be involved at Fordham and what it meant to just generally be a student of New York City. He is a wonderful speaker and just really blew us both away. So it was kind of a combination, I guess, of Jesuit education, being in the city, knowing that [Fordham offers] a lot of different majors, knowing that I could be part of a small community, and really just some of the things that Father Grimes said about the power of the Fordham community at Lincoln Center, specifically.

What do you think you got at Fordham that you maybe would not have gotten elsewhere?
I think the biggest thing that I got out of Fordham that I couldn’t have gotten anywhere else was just the breadth of mentorship network. I got the best of both worlds knowing and participating in academics and student involvement at both Lincoln Center and Rose Hill, and a lot of people were really invested in me as a student and invested in my academic career. I am still in touch with a lot of the administrators I worked with in the Office for Student Involvement. We chat about grad school and classes and all of these things. That’s one of the things that I think I cherish the most out of my Fordham experience: the number of people I met who genuinely care about students.

Who is the Fordham professor or person you admire the most, and why?
I would probably say Zein Murib in political science. I had four classes with them [Murib]—American Social Movements, Interest Group Politics, Judicial Politics, and Politics of Sex and Sexuality in the United States—and they were all very, very interesting classes. I think I learned the most in those classes because of the ways the topics were so far-reaching and applicable to so many different things. They really gave me a deeper appreciation of living in New York.

Was there one particular moment when you realized you had a certain talent for student affairs work, and how did that feel?
It took me sitting back and thinking about the things that really did bring me joy and what I was really interested in and excited about at Fordham. Under the guidance of some of the people from the Office for Student Involvement, I started exploring the idea of getting a master’s in student affairs in higher education, because I realized that the things that I was most passionate about were giving back to the community and helping students find their place at Fordham and build their own community. It was something that I had struggled with freshman year, so I wanted to be a vehicle and vessel of knowledge for them at Fordham rather than just kind of move on.

What are you optimistic about?
I would say the thing that I’m most optimistic about is kind of personal; it’s more the possibilities of community building in the time of COVID, because we’re in a time where so many people are remote and so many people are digital, and not everybody is in the place that they feel most comfortable or the place that they call home. I’ve really found that, especially with my friends who are still juniors or seniors at Fordham or who have just graduated, we all are really looking for community and time to spend with each other. I think coming out of this time, we will all be a lot closer.

I would say I’m also optimistic about the state of New York City as a whole. I love being able to go outside and see people dressed up in their COVID getups, and they’re really taking it seriously, just remembering that we are part of a community as a city that is handling this all together and working together to make it better. I feel so much better and happier about being in New York than I did when I was in California, because you can feel that energy and feel the community support that is here.