Sample Autobiography

This piece was written by Jon Iuzzini for a graduate course at Texas A&M University. Please do not cite or reproduce this work without written permission from the author. Students at Maryville College should note that the Autobiography assignment for their classes should be shorter than this piece; at most, the Autobiography they submit to Jon Iuzzini should be two typed pages, double spaced.

When I sit back and consider the significant events in my past, the important aspects of my current life, and my future goals, the underlying theme is one of appreciating diversity, especially across ethnic and socioeconomic class lines. I was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, the product of a Catholic father with roots in Italy and a Jewish mother of Russian and Austrian ancestry. In my early years of education, the frustration with teachers mispronouncing my last name seemed as though it might never end. I remember how my father would approach the administrators of my elementary school before Honor Roll ceremonies to be sure they would pronounce it correctly as I walked across the stage for my moment of glory. The terror did not end until the seventh grade when I had my first course in Spanish, at which point my teacher had some experience with "exotic" names and got "youzee-nee" correct on the first try. I began to question whether it was acceptable to have a unique heritage which did not coincide with the majority in my neighborhood. During my middle-school years, I sat back and listened to one anti-Semitic comment after another, half-enjoying the fact that my last name afforded me an escape from any direct harassment. The irony of this time was that I was also enrolled in Hebrew lessons in the evenings to prepare for a Bar Mitzvah. It was during these dreaded twice weekly sessions that I escaped the anti-Semitic banter of my schoolmates only to suffer regular onslaughts from my Jewish instructor, whose single goal in life seemed to be ridding the world of intermarriages, specifically those between lecherous Catholic men who sought to take advantage of inculpable, innocent Jewish women. Needless to say, she was not invited to the Bar Mitzvah, probably the first ever at the East Midwood Jewish Center to be attended by as many Catholic Italians from Staten Island as Jews from Brooklyn and Westchester. Sadly, my personal experience over the past several years is that I have generally not been accepted by the families of Jewish girls I have dated, because they perceived my own ancestral lineage as somehow tainted. But all of these have been important lessons, and I believe that I have learned as much through these experiences as I have through my nineteen years (and counting) of public education. I believe that I grew more, emotionally, socially, and intellectually, during my four years of high school than during any other period of time thus far. Midwood High School at Brooklyn College attracted students from every part of New York City, and

" This was a school constantly suffering from budget cuts and intra-office squabbles at every level of the university. but it is in fact central to the theme of this autobiographical statement. Caucasian students amounted to approximately one-third of the school's student body. I began work with the Department of Residential Life at the end of my first year. and by the time I left for SUNY Albany in the summer of 1992. my experiences at Midwood were overwhelmingly positive. from the President's office. I was given a budget and told to create programs . I also became involved with Amnesty International. but at Midwood I was truly in the minority: there was a significant population of African American. Most of the 16. Until then I was able to hide behind my last name. This would be a way to help pay for my education. The current status of the school I graduated from in 1992 may not seem terribly relevant here. I was charged with enhancing the state of race relations in the residence halls.000 students had come from segregated neighborhoods and had only known people of the same ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds. The rich diversity I remembered from Midwood was shattered by ongoing racial tensions. while you can. this was the antithesis of the school I loved so much in Brooklyn. to the Student Government. It was at Midwood that I found my academic strengths and was given the tools to pursue them to the fullest extent possible. it has consistently placed among the top 50 in national rankings of high schools. and in 1998 there were more semi-finalists in the prestigious Westinghouse Science competition (now sponsored by Intel) from Midwood than from any other high school. Indeed. Latino. While many people remember their first interracial experiences as very negative. It was also at Midwood that I first experienced what it meant to be an ethnic minority. and I took on a newly created job as a Multicultural Student Assistant. My mind was suddenly opened to the experiences of people I never would have thought existed. Searching for the calm in this storm of uncertainty. During my junior year I began volunteering at Gay Men's Health Crisis. I managed to learn some important lessons about dealing with "the system. Because I was placed in a situation with few of the resources many students had in other better-funded schools. I worked in a variety of capacities. through the academic departments." Midwood continues to prepare its students well. which works to free political prisoners in countries across the globe. and Asian American students. and with one college advisor for each graduating class of nearly 700 students. In total. it provided a rigorous academic environment. What I found at SUNY was a somewhat oppressive educational environment which mostly everyone characterized as "get what you can. Instead of the typical dorm employee responsibilities of looking after fifty or so drunken a sense was a way for me to escape what my middle-school guidance counselor perceived as an academic dead-end for me in my neighborhood. I believed that I was ready to take on the world. I learned how to make the best of the situation. an organization which raises money to help people with AIDS. In most ways.

which would bring students together. When I realized that I was losing faith in the public education system. I began to search for a way to address my own concerns about the racial tensions that I felt brewing around me. was conducting research with children at risk for negative life outcomes. I suppose I was following the popular SUNY philosophy of taking what little I could get out of a public education. But I also knew that this was likely to be the only way that I could continue to work and interact with students from other backgrounds. I knew that my parents. and thus placed a higher value on each of their accomplishments. As the year progressed. Evidently. I began working in her lab and continued for the next two years until I graduated. I was told. I continued to work within Residential Life. and those who worked for much of what they achieved. Within a few years I would find myself at Texas A&M University. including drunk driving and inconsistent use of contraceptives in adolescent populations. bringing another drastic change in my lifestyle and the culture I would have to adapt to. the administration feared that we would be creating an image of having a "race problem" if we addressed such issues in public forums. During this time. this was my choice. I watched helplessly as the administrators postponed and then cancelled one program after another. In a sense. I knew that this was another experience that prepared me well for the years that would follow. I was integrating my field of choice with the pieces of all that I had become interested in during my high school years. The past few years have been a very enjoyable experience. through dialogue or some other social venue. were a part of the second group. I stopped myself and took stock of the situation. She had dedicated her life to giving to communities which could gain so much from her altruistic professional style. the scene was grim looking in from the outside. especially racial and ethnic relations. satisfying all of my intellectual and social needs. in some of the least adequately-funded schools in the city. Considering my time at SUNY from this perspective. I have focused the next few years on developing a solid research program dealing with social psychological approaches to social issues. and myself to a lesser extent. the professor for my Personality Psychology course. I thought about my mother. After the year was over. Monica Rodriguez. partly out of financial necessity. Student officers and popular faculty who had previously agreed to be resources for this new initiative would later try every means possible of avoiding any connection with the program. a topic of research which was directly related to the issues I was confronting in my personal affairs. I have also put forth as much effort as possible in attempting to diversify the future of our . with one luxury after another. She was exploring this area through the lens of ethnic identification processes. I decided then that there were two kinds of people: those who had experienced life as it was handed to them. I also worked with Professor James Jaccard on research dealing with risk behaviors. After the semester was over. who had worked for more than 25 years in the New York City public school system. In this way. Indeed.

I have devoted some of my time to working with the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues (APA Division 9). when I learned as much from the different people I interacted with as I did in my formal classes. I was asked to serve as a flagbearer at the commencement ceremony. as the Chair of the Student Committee (1998-1999). As something of a consolation prize for all the crises I faced over those years. better informed research. Additionally. it did allow me to stand out somewhat among a class of 3000. my father did not speak to him beforehand. I have recruited and advised over sixty undergraduate researchers. . Since my arrival at Texas A&M. one third of whom have been students of color. I believe that having a diverse group of students on my research team enables me to conduct stronger. I felt a great deal of pride in this distinction. I suppose that the icing on the cake is that the arena announcer managed to pronounce my last name correctly as I brought the flag up to the stage. Finally.profession. To the best of my knowledge. I graduated from the University at Albany with a major in Psychology and a minor in Sociology. though it was a minor achievement. A few years ago. and as an Editorial Board member of the Society's Journal of Social Issues. I am helping to enable these students to have experiences similar to the ones I fondly remember.