On April 22, 2019, BUA hosted two dozen grandparents and grand-friends as part of its first-ever Grandparents Day. Guests sat in on classes, heard from administrators about BUA's unique academics and institutional priorities, and enjoyed a buffet lunch with their grandchildren. It was a delight to foster intergenerational engagement for our students and their families. We look forward to making this an annual BUA tradition!
On April 11, 2019, Boston University Provost and Chief Academic Officer Jean Morrison announced the formation of a new BUA Head of School Search Advisory Committee. Read the full announcement here.
Aaron Gorenstein ’07 graduated from the University of Rochester in 2011 with a BS/MS in Computer Science. In 2013, he earned a master’s in Computer Science from the University of Wisconsin, where he studied under Prof. Jin-Yi Cai, contributing to one paper in addition to serving as a teaching assistant and research assistant. Since graduate school, Aaron has worked as a software developer at Microsoft. He joined Microsoft’s C++ Compiler Team in the spring of 2014, and moved to Seattle, WA, where he met his now-wife Lenore, also an expat East-coaster. In 2017, Aaron and Lenore returned to the East coast, moving to Queens, NY. Aaron continues to work for the same team at Microsoft. In his free time, Aaron volunteers to help underrepresented minorities break into the tech industry by helping them with interview practice. He also enjoys reading books on history and ethics, as well as exploring creative hobbies like calligraphy.
Can you tell us about what drew you to Microsoft and what some of your primary responsibilities are?
Certainly the applications of computers captured a lot of my interest in school, but as time went on I found myself drawn to the more fundamental questions in computer science. That suggested I should stay in academia, and indeed by the time I got to grad school I was essentially studying mathematics (computational complexity theory). When I burned out of my PhD program at Wisconsin – applying my new Masters as a salve – I knew I wanted to transition to industry but hoped I could find a way to keep some toehold in the theoretical world. Among the big tech companies (lacking creativity, I applied only to those companies I had already heard of), Microsoft’s offer that had such a toehold: it was for a position on one of their compiler teams. Compilers are a wonderful branch of computer science that sit at the intersection of theory and practice, and I knew that was the job I wanted to take. For the past five years, I've been a member of the Microsoft Visual C++ compiler team.
The sub-team I'm on has a few goals. My focus is on the implementation of optimization algorithms, which draw on some deep technical analysis and present interesting theoretical questions. I find them quite satisfying. Among other optimizations, I've implemented a limited variation of partial-dead-code elimination, and a control-flow-graph optimization. Of course the day-to-day is not always as engaging: there are plenty of times where we fix bugs, or extend our testing infrastructure, and so on, but helping keep the business running is quite satisfying in its own right. I've also developed the reputation of being one of the more outgoing members of the broader C++ team – that’s rather horrifying – so for the past couple of years I've also had the responsibility of driving our customer-outreach efforts. This includes things like making sure teammates are writing blog posts advertising our current advancements to the product.
You took as many computer science courses as you could as an undergrad – how did this interest develop over your time at Boston University Academy? Were there certain courses or experiences that helped shape your interest in computer science?
I was always the sort of math-y, computer-y nerd even as a little kid, and had intermittent encounters with programming growing up. I don't recall what started it, but sophomore year I really committed to learning to program and I found it appealed to me. I think I wanted to make a video game. That never happened. What did happen was that summer I spent a few weeks at a sketchy learn-to-code sleepaway camp in Connecticut. Really after that it was off to the races: I was obsessed and wanted to learn as much about computers as possible.
That summer set me up to get a lot out of BUA and BU: I was able to take many computer science and related courses. Within BUA, the encouragement and excitement from so many people – Nick Dent, Gary Garber, Danielle Passno, Jim Davis, Dan Heller, Rich Horn, and many more – helped keep me motivated. I also found encouragement and friendship in the science and robotics teams. It's weird and intimidating, in some ways, to be a high school student in a college course, but this enormous support network made it easy. Lastly, I'd be remiss not to mention Hongwei Xi, my ludicrously patient senior thesis advisor and CS112 instructor. His lecture on quicksort is burned into my mind as the moment when I first realized that algorithms were the most fascinating thing in the world.
The availability of college courses allowed me to pursue my burgeoning interest in computer science, but it's fair to say the BUA community and connections enabled me to actually do it. By the time I got to Rochester, I had the experience and confidence to be able to hit the ground running and keep up the momentum from all the people pushing me earlier.
How has BUA’s integrated humanities curriculum influenced your academic studies and/or career even though you’ve pursued a STEM track?
On the surface, my STEM education and career seem largely divorced from the humanities. Scratching the surface, I can say that my ability to communicate – very much honed by BUA and my teachers there – has set me apart from almost all of my academic and professional peers. My career has advanced because of it.
Going a bit deeper, the experiences of grappling with fundamental questions at BUA likely oriented my college interests away from the more immediate aspects of computer science and towards the root questions raised by automated reasoning. Computational complexity is, from one viewpoint, the study of the limits of what we can compute, which does not sound altogether different from the limits of what we can understand. I've found the questions and hints that arose from this course of study fascinating, and something that enriched my understanding of and participation in the world. I can't pretend that I spend my free time in deep meditation or something, but I am immensely glad to be able to articulate my professional and academic interests in human terms instead of as some interesting, but disconnected, riddles.
That said, it is in my life outside of the classroom and office that I feel most grateful for the humanities. When I make the mistake of looking up from my computer screen I see a world with a lot of hard questions. The tools, vocabulary, and perspectives to even begin to understand the world and its challenges are not
So much more than books, it was the teachers that made it all possible. Few people, I’ve found, have the patience to really engage on these meaningful problems with others – and our teachers do so with high school students.
If you could turn back the clock and give your high school self one piece of advice, what would it be?
At BUA, I participated in a lot of “lively” debates among classmates. I think that I would have benefited more from those had I focused more understanding the other person’s perspective and less on trying to convince them of my own. The more I’ve been able to listen to others, the more valuable my experience has been.
Over the 2018-2019 winter intercession, BUA completed Phase One of the Classroom Renovation Initiative to upgrade classrooms and student spaces. During the break, two classrooms (Rooms 209 and 210) were completely overhauled, and new smartboards, bookshelves, tables, and chairs were been installed. This short video shows the renovations and illustrates the impact of this initiative on our teaching and learning:
Thank you to everyone who made a gift to the Classroom Renovation Initiative! We look forward to the next phase of the renovations this summer.
Vibhav Kumar ’20 and Nicket Mauskar ’20 provide a recap of the Boys’ Varsity basketball team’s championship season:
As fall ended, winter began, along with a new basketball season. The Boys’ Varsity basketball captain and many of our star players graduated back in May, so this was widely seen as a rebuilding year for the team. Our players, mostly sophomores and juniors, challenged ourselves to not be daunted by the obstacles we would face during the season.
Despite our initial doubts, everyone believed that we were capable of achieving something great. We started the season with a win against a tough team. Over the course of the fall and winter, however, we lost many tough games in dramatic fashion. The team grew closer as the season progressed and at the end of the regular season we were ready to make a deep playoff push.
Heading into the playoffs as the number #3 seed, we embraced the opportunity to face off once again with a team we had lost to twice (both times by a difference of just two points). The dynamic from the very start of the playoffs carried through all the games, and this helped us play at a quicker tempo and higher energy level than ever before. Not only did we want to rebound from our previous losses, but we also wanted have one more opportunity to play in a championship game – the first one for the BUA Boys’ Varsity basketball team in three years.
As tip-off for the championship game approached, the excitement and intensity emanating from the fans of both teams in Sargent Gym rose to levels never seen before. It was a tough battle from the start, as the lead changed multiple times before the first half ended. Down by five at halftime, we knew the game was far from over: both teams were playing their hearts out. In the second half, as the clocked ticked ever closer to zero, we found ourselves down five points with just ten seconds left.
A miracle sequence then unfolded: a clutch three followed by a buzzer-beater layup tied the game as the clock hit zero. In overtime, BUA’s roaring fans pushed us toward a strong finish despite our overwhelming fatigue. When the game ended, BUA Boys’ basketball had won its first championship in more than a decade, 73-68: we couldn’t believe it. The atmosphere in the gym that night is something we will remember for the rest of our lives.
Our team would like to give a special shout-out to Aaron Revoir ’19 for four years of hard work and for bringing the BUA basketball program to a different level. We are so happy his high school career ended on a high note.
We are excited to announce that Boston University Academy has been awarded a competitive matching grant from The Edward E. Ford Foundation to support diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives at BUA.
Making progress on creating a more diverse community and a more welcoming and supportive environment for underrepresented minority students is critical to BUA’s success as a school and as a unit of Boston University. This prestigious grant from the E. E. Ford Foundation will enable Boston University Academy to take important and meaningful strides towards realizing our objectives in this area.
As a high school within an urban research university, BUA is uniquely positioned to serve underrepresented and low-income students. Increasing racial and socioeconomic diversity in our student body and promoting cultural competency amongst our faculty and staff will benefit all students, help advance Boston University’s diversity strategic priority, and increase BUA’s quality and impact. We aim to more fully live our core value of Inclusion, which states: “A vibrant community comprises learners of diverse backgrounds and interests. We strive for equitable access to resources and opportunities within that community.”
The E. E. Ford Foundation grant will enable BUA to develop and sustain a more diverse, equitable, inclusive school community by:
- Increasing access to Boston University Academy for underrepresented minority students from the Greater Boston area through expanded financial support for high-need families including providing lunch grants and grants for incidental expenses; funding tutoring and summer courses; and offering increased financial aid award packages;
- Enhancing support of underrepresented minority students through an inclusive school culture by providing anti-bias and cultural competency training to students, faculty, and staff;
- Leveraging strategic partnerships in the Greater Boston area and our relationship with BU to provide underrepresented and low-income students greater access to selective institutions of higher learning, including guaranteed admission to Boston University for students in good standing;
- Building financial sustainability and capacity for these initiatives to continue beyond the grant’s implementation period.
Under the auspices of this grant, BUA has already completed several trainings that helped faculty and staff recognize, unpack, and address their own unconscious biases, and provided skills to address issues of identity in the classroom. In September and November, we hosted Erica Pernell, dean of diversity at the Noble and Greenough School, who led sessions on implicit bias, strategies to reduce bias, and best practices for culturally competent advising and admissions. During our Faculty In-Service Day on January 17, Liza Talusan, an independent consultant, facilitated a workshop on developing strategies for talking about race, gender, sexual orientation, class, and socioeconomic status in the classroom. Drawing on funds from the grant, we have also supported 24 current BUA families with a total of $48,000 in funding for lunch grants; 56 families with $26,000 for incidentals costs including tickets to Prom and other extracurricular activities; and five families with $9,110 to help defray the cost of the spring international trip
The E. E. Ford grant model is a two-to-one match for a total of $300,000. BUA must raise $200,000 from a combination of philanthropic support from individuals, corporations, and foundations. The E. E. Ford Foundation will then provide a grant of $100,000. Fundraising for the matching grant must be completed by July 31, 2019.
Boston University has demonstrated its commitment to BUA’s diversity strategic priority by pledging a lead gift of $100,000 toward our $200,000 fundraising goal. BUA has already raised just over half of the remaining $100,000 – we are grateful to those who have made a gift in direct support of this match.
This year, all increased gifts to the Annual Fund may be counted toward the E. E. Ford Foundation match. To make a gift to the 2018-2019 Annual Fund, or to increase your gift if you’ve already given this year, please click here. If you are interested in contributing directly to the diversity and inclusion fund, please contact Assistant Director of Institutional Advancement Margo Cox.
Boston University Provost Jean Morrison issued a memo on January 6, 2019 regarding the status of the BUA Head of School search. Read the complete memo here.
Boston University Academy sophomore Rohan Prabhu '21 was named this year's Division II Soccer League Most Valuable Player for the Massachusetts Bay Independent League (MBIL). BUA athletes also earned MBIL honors in Cross Country and Soccer. Congratulations to the following athletes for honors well-deserved:
- Cross Country All-Star: Benny Magid '19, Nicholas Holt-Doucette '22
- Division II Soccer League MVP: Rohan Prabhu '21
- Division II Soccer All-League Team: Kourosh Ghaffari '19, Nikola Dobrev '20, Ewan Henderson '20, Will Reason '20, Rohan Prabhu '21
- Division II Soccer Honorable Mention: Duarte Albuquerque '21, Phevos Paschalidis '21
You can find a complete list of 2018-2019 All-Scholastic athletes in the Boston Globe's special section published on Sunday, December 16.
Jessica Conklin ‘04 is a white collar criminal defense attorney who also protects clients in business litigation and students facing disciplinary proceedings and Title IX investigations. She is an associate at Laredo & Smith, a boutique Boston law firm with deep expertise in business litigation, white collar criminal defense, government investigations, business and employment law, as well as estate planning.
As a co-founder of the Boston Associates Networking Group (BANG), Jessica provided an avenue designed to bring together associates from small- and medium-sized law firms, as well as in-house legal departments. Group members support one-another, explore opportunities for both professional and personal development, and discuss pressing issues that often arise in an associate’s practice.
Jessica is a magna cum laude graduate of Hamilton College and a graduate of Boston College Law School. During her time at Hamilton, she majored in Philosophy and minored in Women’s Studies, and won the Earl H. Wright Prize for Excellence in Public Discourse and Advocacy. While at BC Law, Jessica served as a research assistant to two professors, served as president of Law Students for Reproductive Justice, and was a member of the Asian Pacific American Law Students Association.
When not defending clients, Jessica loves to read and travel, and is an avid photographer.
You have been interested in debate, advocacy, and law for a long time. How did your interests develop and were there certain experiences that helped you to narrow your academic focus?
I have always been “loquacious” and argumentative, at least that’s what my pediatrician told my mother. From an early age, my mother was convinced that these qualities would make me a good lawyer. Around the age of five, it was decided for me that I would go to law school. I have a drawing of a judge from kindergarten that says, “I hope to be a supreme court justice someday.” Clearly, my parents had big dreams for me!
When I was in middle school, I drafted a contract that said if I followed certain rules, my parents would get me a cat. I made both of my parents sign this contract. Unfortunately, that was my first introduction to the rule of law that contracts with minors are not enforceable - I did everything that I was supposed to do, presented my parents with the signed contract, but still did not get the cat!
Despite this early encouragement from my parents, I also made sure to confirm my actual interest in the practice of law through various classes, activities, and internships. At BUA, my interest was reinforced through vibrant class discussions and my conversations with Dr. Davis. I loved BUA’s small class sizes and the lively conversation and debate facilitated by the roundtable discussions. When I went to Hamilton, I majored in philosophy and received a grant to intern at the Community Action Agency of Somerville. During the internship I was able to meet with clients and assist with eviction prevention. I also worked for a summer in the Attorney General’s Office fielding calls for the Elder Hotline. The AG’s internship exposed me to a variety of legal areas such as elder abuse, debt collection practices, mental health concerns, and fraud. By the time I began studying for the LSAT and applying to law schools, I was confident that a career in law was right for me.
Does a specific personal approach or philosophy guide your defense and representation practice?
At Hamilton, I took a communications class that taught “active listening,” and that is a concept that I have incorporated into my practice of law. In my practice, it is important to always listen to what clients are saying, not to make judgments or assumptions, and to build trust and rapport. When I go to court, I am often greeted with, “good morning, counselor,” which seems fitting because I really do try to focus on the counseling aspect of being an attorney.
Has there been a moment in your education or career that was particularly surprising, challenging, or defining – or something that sticks with you to this day?
Actually, yes! The transition from Somerville public school to BUA was particularly hard for me. I excelled in Somerville public school, and when I went to BUA I initially struggled. I was even moved down from Calculus to Algebra II. It was very humbling, though in hindsight, that experience was very helpful. I learned that just because something does not come easily, does not mean you should give up or cannot excel in the future.
When I went to Hamilton for college, I felt relieved because BUA had prepared me so well. After graduating from Hamilton, I went straight to law school. BC Law had a different structure than Hamilton, your grade each class was based on just one test taken at the end of the semester. Although the move from college to law school was difficult, I felt prepared and more confident because I had already experienced that kind of transition at BUA.
You participated in BUA alumni panels this past spring (thank you!). What motivates you to connect with current students and alumni?
Many people have helped me get to where I am today, and I feel so fortunate and thankful for that. BUA provided a great environment for personal growth and learning - several teachers really supported and nurtured me. They made time to talk with me after school and provide extra help. I am happy that I have been able to keep in touch with many of my BUA teachers over the years. My BUA art teacher even took my engagement photos!
Finally, BUA taught me to be a leader. At the Academy, your opportunities are only limited by your imagination. My friends and I were able to petition the school to start a satirical newspaper. The school let us run it independently and gave us the freedom to express ourselves. That experience was invaluable. Now, if I see something missing, I am not afraid to create it myself. When I graduated from law school, I noticed that a group for associates from small- and mid-size firms did not exist, so I started one with a friend! The group has now grown to include over 65 attorney members. Without my experience at BUA, I am not sure that starting a networking group from scratch would have even crossed my mind.
Professor Jack Beermann, chair of the BUA Head of School Search Advisory Committee, issued an update to the BUA community on the finalist phase of the search process for Boston University Academy's next head of school. You can read Professor Beermann's complete update letter here or below.