For three members of the La Poll family of Los Altos, California, attending the NYU SPS Division of Applied Undergraduate Studies (DAUS) has become a family tradition. Within the last decade, each has pursued her academic journey at DAUS, but, in what is a reversal from the usual custom, daughters Katarina and Kelly enrolled at NYU SPS first, with their mother, Myla, following in their footsteps.
“When my daughters graduated from DAUS, they came out as empowered and thoughtful women who had found their own voices,” said Myla, who had put her own education on hold to raise six children with husband Francis, an attorney and former mayor of their town. “I couldn’t keep up with them, and was inspired and encouraged by them to complete my own degree.”
Katarina was the first to attend DAUS. She was studying at the University of California at Santa Cruz as a theater major when the New York arts scene beckoned. She transferred to NYU SPS to pursue creative writing and graduated magna cum laude with a BA in Humanities in 2014. Citing the remarkable professors at DAUS—including April Krassner—she described her experience as “life changing,” as it introduced her to contemporary poetry.
“Poetry helped me to express myself and learn language in a new way,” said Katarina. Interested in exploring how different expressions of art—specifically, theater, film, and dance—might intersect with poetry, she added, “The whole program was a turning point for me.”
Katarina went on to receive an MFA in Poetry from Columbia University, and is working on getting her first book of poetry published. She recently won a literature hybrid contest for her poem, “Echo,” which she turned into a visual monologue.
When Kelly came to visit her sister in New York, she too fell in love with the DAUS curriculum and culture. “Katarina always raved about her professors and about how much they cared for their students,” said Kelly, who had attended a community college in the Bay Area. “If my sister loved it, it was good enough for me, and Katarina wasn’t wrong.”
Kelly majored in history at DAUS, graduating with a BA in Social Science in 2016. Among her favorite courses were “America and the Vietnam War,” “The Atlantic World – 1400-1800,” and “Renaissance to Revolution.” She bloomed intellectually in the seminar-style courses that let students guide the conversation. “My professors were very understanding of non-traditional students and willing to help in any way,” said Kelly. “They also were very knowledgeable in their fields.”
Kelly took the confidence she acquired at DAUS and attended the University of Virginia to obtain a degree in teaching history. She graduated this year, and is planning to teach history to high school students.
Myla, who had come to the US from the Philippines as a child, has played an active role in her California community, helping to co-found the top-rated Bullis Charter School more than 15 years ago. Nevertheless, she was nervous about pursuing her degree as an older student, but thanks to the fulfilling experiences of both her daughters at DAUS, she took the plunge and came to New York City. She recalled being so anxious on her first day at school that Katarina had to walk her to her class.
A Dean’s List student and active as a student senator-at-large, Myla expects to graduate in 2021 with a BA in Social Sciences with a concentration in organizational change and behavior. She has loved her time at DAUS as it has allowed her to explore her many interests. While here, she went on a field trip to Cuba with Professor Mechthild Schmidt Feist. Myla’s photographs from the trip were exhibited at the NYU SPS main building lobby. Her current favorite class is “The Science of Happiness,” which has her thinking about pursuing a degree in psychology at graduate school.
“I think what DAUS has allowed all three of us to do is to discover the things we didn’t know we could do, noted Myla. For Katarina it was her love for and ability to write poetry, for Kelly it was her deep interest in history and her decision to teach it, for me it was my passion for photography. “DAUS programs offer so many resources that students are bound to discover their interests and passions and be empowered to pursue them,” she concluded.