Speaking With First Lady Jean Strauss

Speaking With First Lady Jean Strauss


Photo by Sirin Samman

Photo by Sirin Samman

•What is your favorite thing about living on campus?

“Oh my gosh…There are so many things. I think my favorite is that it really allows me to really feel connected with the students, staff and faculty.” She stated how she enjoys that both her and President Strauss to see basketball games. That the campus is beautiful. It’s like living in a big park. She also says that they enjoy walking their corgi dogs, Bodhi and Bear.

•Can you speak to me a bit about your love for film?

“I have a love for life long learning,” she says. She states how she has been working with film for a decade. It is an incredible communication tool. She has also written a book on The Sound of Music. She is most interested in documentaries that focus on adoption. She is a legislative activist and wants to show people the issue of why certain adoptees cannot access their birth certificate.

She is currently working on a film of Joan Lind Van Blom who won the United States Gold Standard Medal for rowing alone. First Lady Strauss trained with her. Ms. Lind Van Blom unfortunately passed away in August from Brain Cancer.

•And on top of that, could you speak to me a bit about the work you’ve done at Manhattanville?

She starts off in an excited tone, explaining that she is the director of special projects and that the work she does is collaborative. “There is a team of people that brainstorm what we can be doing. Even small ideas of what can be changed such as how the college looks.” For example, when we walk into Brownson we now see picture of degrees that can be obtained. The goal is to enhance the environment. “It is hard to pick one favorite project.” First Lady Jean Strauss states that the Living the Dream project that is a mural in Berman Student Center displays student’s ideas. “I love love love working on projects and the people that I work with.”

First Lady Jean Strauss is also excited that the campus wall is now displayed. She hopes that each class can take a picture around the wall. The class of ’16 being the first. She enjoys the landscaping and tweaking the campus slightly to really enhance the beauty.

•What are your plans after leaving Manhattanville?

“I’m very sad at the thought of leaving,” she states how they have now been at Manhattanville for 5 years. “It has been a marvelous time in our lives where we’ve been able to contribute.” She states that she will still be working on movies. There is a film studio at their new home that they built a couple of weeks ago. She will work on a film on New Jersey adoption laws.

She states that President Strauss and herself will collaborate on films. She states that film is a seductive form of communication. One must understand how manipulative it can be. One must understand what they are seeing and understand bias.

When speaking of work, she jokes that President Strauss will not be able to sit still. He has retired 4 times, so there is a bet going that this will not be the last. They are moving to a farm in Massachusetts. There, there will be room for their dogs, Bodhi and Bear, to run around in. There she states that President Strauss will be able to work on many physical projects. First Lady Jean Strauss also states that they are close enough that they will still be able to swing down to Manhattanville for a visit for events such as Castle Conversations.

•If you had one bit of advice for students, what would it be?

She states that remember, when you are 20 you’ve been in school for a while. “Keep your mind open, learn your whole life. You should have a commitment to the life long value of learning. “Undergraduate learning is learning how to learn. Realize there’s no black and white. Think about what you think.” She states, think of what you really believe and why – “value your brain.” Know that you can make a difference. There is nothing more valuable than the culture of our education.