Testimonies reveal impact of New School on alumni


Leading up to the reunion and 50th anniversary celebration on April 13, New School alumni were asked to share their stories “because of New School.” Here is a selection of testimonies from alumni of various decades.

“Because of New School I became the person I am today. It altered my thoughts and approaches to everything. Within an environment that evolved and shifted with every action and decision of students and facilitators, we learned to embrace change and discovered kindred spirits. We learned that supporting each other’s creativity and intelligence and championing successes and community involvement was fulfilling and engaging. Fifty years later, I am still grateful, as the school’s influences continue to guide my creative work and daily life. It was an immense privilege to participate in such an intimate and exciting experiment.”

  (Allyna Harris, 1975; facilitators: Greta Hofmann Nemiroff, Pat Powers)

“I engaged in every aspect of learning at the New School from physically getting the ‘old mansions’ ready for learning, to selecting our books and committing to the participatory model that was the core of this learning. This experience prepared me to leave the avenues of Verdun and to begin my journey as a educator in the Yukon. The New School gave me the personal foundation, education and confidence to go beyond what I thought possible as I was the only one in my family to go to college. Thank you to the New School and to Greta Nemiroff.

David Greig, 1974; facilitators: Greta Hofmann Nemiroff, Sonja ?, David Gelinas ? And others who I forgot their names

“New School helps me be creative amidst the arduous journey that is a health sciences in CEGEP. It provides me with a safe space where I can be unapologetically me: I’ve already made many close friends in the short time I’ve been at Dawson! It gives me something to look forward to every week, even when I’m not feeling my best. It has given me the flexibility I have so desperately craved all these past years. It’s hard for me to find the right words, so I’ll just end this by saying thank you to everyone who has made New School what it is.

Anne-Marie Andrei, 2025; facilitators: Cory Legassic, Andrew Katz, Mari, Jay Shea

“I was able to discover learning for fun. I would look forward to seeing the people in my class! We would hang out after and chat and it was so much more fun than traditional lecture classes.”

Daniel Shapiro-Callahan, 2022; facilitators: Cory Legassic & Sarah Burgoyne

“I learned great techniques of inclusion and making space for everyone. Still use this daily in my corporate life, currently in the video game industry.”

Don Russell, 1999; facilitators: Susan, Pat, Peter, Joanne

“I became passionate about higher education. I got a Ph.D. taught at several universities, and now I am a Vice Provost at a University in Utah. I owe the New School a lot and have fond memories of you, Ron, Sherleen, and even Guy! Mostly the New School helped me find my voice as a person and academic. It got me an ivy league graduate education, teaching positions at great universities, and since 2016 a senior administrative position. As a Vice Provost, I was awarded a $2.2 million federal grant to redesign first year experience of underprepared, mostly low income, ethnic minority, and first Gen students. What I designed looked a little like the New School with learning communities and courses designed for students to find their voices. I hesitated to call it a curriculum of affect! But, it also included community engagement, corequisite math and English classes, and other ways to validate the students as learners! I think that is what I learned at the New School! All my best, Eric.”

Eric Amsel, 1975; facilitator: Shirleen Schermerhorn

“I discovered my creative voice and finally felt I belonged somewhere.”

Evan Beloff, 1990; facilitators: Greta Nemiroff and Pat Powers

“I really appreciate the different angle on learning provided by New School. I have always felt that most school systems are very restricting in their teaching means and don’t provide students with enough liberty and time to develop an interest in what they are learning. I am grateful to New School for giving me an experience learning through connections with other individuals, and teaching me how to become interested in topics and teach myself and others.”

Flora Finch, 2025; facilitator: Cory Legassic

“I discovered bell hooks and decided to go into a wholly different career path. I gained confidence in my creative writing skills.”

Florencia Vallejo-Ortiz, 2018; facilitators: Liam Lachance; Andrew; Rushdia; Mari; Chloe; Rebecca (?)

“Because of New School, as a student, I found a community in education that I did not know could exist. Before New School, I did not have the kind of confidence my future would demand of me. The intimate and community-oriented learning environment was one of the first steps in learning to trust my own voice. When I decided to become a facilitator a decade later, I was granted a renewed love for learning while watching students make an otherwise abstract education concrete in their own lives and perspectives. I owe a lot of who I am to New School.”

Hannah Brais, 2009; facilitators: Greta Hofmann Nemiroff, Neil Briffett, Laura Mitchell, April Leptire

“I learned so much more than the material viewed in class. I learned about myself and others, empathy and the world. After almost 10 years of graduating now, I can say that some friends I met in New School are still friends to this day.”

Martina Marri-Boivin, 2015; facilitators: Laura Mitchell, Mark Ambrose Harris, George Turski

“I grew as a person! Expanded my knowledge of life and self!”

Sandra Molloy, 1992; facilitators: Lucie, Susan, Pat, Fred, Abe, and of course Greta

“Because of New School, I have had a more expanded notion of what education can mean. I have more agency and self-direction in my community-oriented work, and passion for studying what calls to me.”

Tristen Clarke Cousineau, 2019; facilitators: Rosemary Mcconnel, Cory Legassic

“Because of New School, I was able to feel included and accepted in New School. The kindness and the empathy that this community has shown me has helped me open up to others and discover a different way of learning: that in which all of our ideas and experiences matter.”

Ruqaia Mahmud, 2025; facilitators: Cory Legassic, Mari Heywood

“I continued my education at Concordia Film School and I had a career in documentary film editing.”

Dab Hedy, 1978; facilitators: Susan, Chris, Conchita (Mary)

“Because of New School, I discovered the importance and the benefits of thoughtful, non-judgmental, communication and community.”

Deborah Stone, 1985; facilitators: Greta, Jerry, Andres

“I bravely headed out to explore the world, and found my passions and my talents. Thanks for the great start on self-directing!”

Duffy Fainer, 1975; facilitators:  Margo Johannson, Hugh Shankland, Julia Hoerner

“I’m thrilled to see New School is alive and well. I was there in 80/81 and for me it was the single most important experience in my life to establish the person I became and I’m still to this day. With mentors like Julia, Pat, Simon, and most importantly for me Greta, how could I go wrong? It’s been about 26 years since I was last in touch, but it warms me that there are new generations being touched by its ideology.”

Dyana Forshner-Juby, 2008

“I learned how to communicate. It helped me to open to the creative self and to explore who I am. I learned how to be better at critical thinking and less about judgement. It awakened my awareness of diversity and complexity of the community. I was encouraged to try new things and was opened to more possibilities. I received the gift of Hope.”

Janice Canning

“I feel that I learned more in those two years (three semesters) than I did in four years of university.”

Daniel Gravel, 1992-‘93

“An early motto of New School publicity was “Learning humanly.” Because of New School, I learned what this meant.”

—Gail Edwards, 1975

Last Modified: May 23, 2024