New School (New York, N.Y.). New School Archives and Special Collections
(publisher)Rachel Knopf Shey
November 7 2019
Rachel Knopf Shey and Tamara Oyola-Santiago were interviewed by Anna Robinson-Sweet on November 7, 2019 at The New School. Oyola-Santiago and Knopf Shey are the former co-directors of The New You, The New School’s peer health advocate (PHA) program. At the beginning of the interview, Oyola-Santiago and Knopf Shey discuss their background before joining The New School and their initial work establishing public health programming within Student Health Services. They explain that they started The New You as a way of initiating peer-to-peer public health education with the limited resources at their disposal. Oyola-Santiago and Knopf Shey describe the way President David Van Zandt restructured the university’s administration, which resulted in the creation of Student Success. This new model impacted the work of Student Health Services, and the ability of Oyola-Santiago and Knopf Shey to do public health programming on campus. They describe how ultimately this resulted in the dismantling of Wellness and Health Promotion in 2019. Oyola-Santiago then talks about starting the Opioid Overdose Prevention Program at The New School and Knopf Shey discusses how they began the food pantry at the university in response to food insecurity in the student body. In the second half of the interview, they focus on the work of the peer health advocates, which included running workshops on anti-oppression, microaggressions, sex education, and body positivity, all initiated by the student PHAs. Oyola-Santiago and Knopf Shey explain the structure of The New You, how they recruited and hired PHAs, and they describe the weekend retreat that PHAs organized at the beginning of each school year. At the end of the interview, Oyola Santiago and Knopf Shey talk about how they saw their own roles in relation to the work of the PHAs, the struggles they faced in making a case for the importance of public health at The New School, and how their department, Wellness and Health Promotion, was ultimately dismantled by the administration. The interview concludes with Oyola-Santiago and Knopf Shey speculating on the future of the PHA program and public health programming at the university.
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