Senior Stories: Amanda Russman

Amanda Russman can typically be found walking across campus, a smile across her face, laughing with her friends.  A communications major with an art minor, Amanda is a pretty busy girl.  When she isn’t busy taking some of her wonderful photography, she’s busy planning and leading the Active Minds chapter on campus, that she is president of.

Manhattanville wasn’t Amanda’s first choice though.  “I actually transferred to Manhattanville, midway through freshman year. I looked at it my senior year of high school, and it was always one of my top choices. But then I ended up going to Pratt Institute, an art school in Brooklyn, NY. I loved the students there, but it wasn’t a good fit for me, for various reasons. I also wanted to broaden my course work, study more than just art (I was majoring in photography there). So I decided to transfer to Mville. I like that the school is liberal arts, but it has an “artsy” feel! It’s the perfect balance for me. I also like the size; I never wanted to go to some huge state school where the Friday night activity is a football game. That’s just not me.”

Manhattanville ended up being a good fit, and Amanda decided to finish off her four years of college here.  While here, she got involved in the creation of the Active Minds Chapter.  Active Minds is a club focused on, and dedicated to, raising awareness and educating the public about mental health and how to help someone in crisis.  Often confused as a counseling group, Active Minds remains primarily about ending the stigma around mental health.  “Even though we’re not a therapy group, I hope that Active Minds can be a club that people can join to know that they’re a part of something important. I’ve actually had people say to me that they’ve been looking for their niche since they came to college, and they found that in Active Minds. That makes me so incredibly happy.”  Amanda helped co-found Active Minds during her Junior year with her close friend, and recent graduate, Molly Fishback.  “Last January, Molly Fishback, who’s one of my really close friends, came to me and said she and Dr. Boston were discussing starting Active Minds, which is a national chapter organization. I didn’t need to think twice about it; I loved the idea. It started off with just 5 of us, including myself. But we stuck with it and I’m so glad we did, because it’s really taking off this year!”  Active Minds meets Mondays at 4:00PM in the Wellness Center’s group room, which is directly across from the Wellness Center. They also hold events throughout the center, such as a Wellness Day on the quad where they had coloring pages, painted inspirational messages on rocks, and had a photobooth!  “mental illness is something that has been present throughout my life. I truly hope Active Minds helps bring awareness and shed light on the fact that mental illness is very prevalent on college campuses. People often think ‘college, best 4 years of your life!’ and for many people, it is! But for many people, it’s a very difficult time, and I think that often gets overlooked, or you’re looked at as ‘weird’ for struggling with depression during college. I want Active Minds to change that stigma.”

Besides Active Minds, Amanda loves photography. “When I was in 6th grade, my family and I went on vacation to Paris. I have this really vivid memory from there. Everyone was taking pictures of the Eiffel Tower, from the front of it of course. And I remember I went right underneath it, literally sat on the ground, and started taking pictures from below the tower! I realized then that I kind of saw the world a little differently.”  Amanda’s website, amandarussman.zenfolio.com, demonstrates her true talent.  She has worked on different weddings, engagements, and individual photoshoots.  If you haven’t checked out her website, or her work, you can also check out her Instagram, amandarussmanphotography.  It’s definitely worth a look!

Amanda’s interests don’t end with photography and mental health rights, she’s also interested in education.  “After my sophomore year, I randomly began substitute teaching in elementary schools. At first, it was just for money, during winter break and when we’re home in the summer. But, I ended up loving it! I love kids. So, I plan to go to grad school for elementary education after I graduate. Maybe I’ll do something in communications one day…but as of right now, I really want to pursue teaching!”  Amanda hopes to be doing a lot in the future.  She’s a very ambitious, bright, and kind hearted person, who’s probably going to change the world, even if she isn’t sure where she may be in the next few years.  “I’m not exactly sure what I see myself doing in 10 years, hopefully teaching?! I hope to also be pursuing my passion for photography on the side of whatever I do. Basically, I know this sounds so cliché and cheesy, but I hope I continue to be happy and healthy. I hope I am passionate about whatever I end up doing, whether that is teaching or something else!

While the future is bright, leaving Manhattanville is going to be bittersweet for Amanda.  “I’m going to miss being in classes here, I know that sounds weird, because most people don’t love going to class. But I really look forward to taking new classes every semester, with a new set of professors. I’ve never had a terrible professor here. They’ve all been great and I’ve really become a better student since I started school here!”  And which professor with the fun new classes will she miss the most? Professor Brower’s of course!  “She was my first year seminar professor. She really helped me improve my writing, and she’s just such a cool person. She loves horror movies, and so do I!”

And of course, here are some random fun facts about Amanda, conversation starters if you run into her on campus!

Favorite Animal : It was a tough one, but she chose cats!

Favorite Movie : A tough tie between Step Brothers and Mean Girls.

Favorite TV Show : No questions asked, The Office. “I just love dry humor!”

Favorite Ice Cream Flavor : Chocolate with gummy bears on top!

If you run into Amanda feel free to wave hello! She’ll always smile back and spread her joy to the others on campus! Her Campus Manhattanville wishes you all the best during your senior year and beyond!