April 2021 Alumni and Faculty Notes

Catch up on news from the SYA alumni and faculty community

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Former Faculty:

Keith Hilles-Pilant FR’95F ES’02F JP’11F IT’12-13F ES’16F has been appointed to the board of Friends of IHES, a non-profit organization that supports the prestigious Institut des Hautes Etudes Scientifiques (IHES), an international research institute in mathematics and theoretical physics located in Bures-sur-Yvette, just outside Paris. IHES is the French counterpart organization to the Institute of Advanced Studies in Princeton. Read more.


Jason Blum FR’86, producer, and Tigers Are Not Afraid Mexican director Issa López decided to pull a fast one on genre fans on April Fool’s Day by dropping a trailer for her new found-footage movie El Chupacabras. Read more.

Robin Hauser FR’82’s documentary film $avvy made its world premiere at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival this past weekend. The film investigates historical, cultural, and societal norms around women and money, and explores with humor and honesty, why women often take a back seat to manage their money. Watch this interview.

John Lesher ES’84, producer of award-winning Birdman, has teamed with actor Christian Bale on The Pale Blue Eye, a Gothic horror-thriller that was acquired by Netflix for a whopping $55M, beating many other competitors who were seeking to buy the film at the European Film Market. Read more.

Tia Napolitano FR'01 is the showrunner and executive producer of Freeform's "Cruel Summer" that debuts on April 20. The storyline chronicles the journey of twists and turns of the lives of two teenage girls. Read more and watch this interview.

Jason Wu FR’01 explains why it’s so important to stand up against anti-Asian racism, and the steps fashion designers need to take to create a truly inclusive fashion industry. Read more.


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A key priority of The Campaign for SYA was curricular innovation. One component of SYA’s curriculum that has been developed and implemented in recent years — fieldwork — helps SYA take advantage of our unique locations to create a quality intercultural, place-based, and experiential educational environment abroad. 

School trips

These are the moments that make the SYA experience so magical. When the lessons students have learned in the classroom are brought to life before their eyes. When the student becomes the teacher, introducing people, places and concepts using the knowledge they have gained. When students debate a relevant issue, learning how to engage in perspective taking and critical thinking.

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Giving to the SYA Fund supports SYA’s operational budget each and every year and helps to provide immediate use funds to deliver the SYA experience we know and love. Through The Campaign for SYA, over $7 million dollars were raised for the SYA Fund. We are grateful to these donors for creating a strong foundation of support for our students and educators.