Happy November! It is time for the latest installment of our Student Spotlight Series. This month we interviewed Derek Tassone, a senior in the College from Clearwater, Florida. Tassone majors in both Government and History. Scroll below to read his advice to current Georgetown students and his reflection on his academic and extracurricular experiences.
Q: Thank you for participating in our spotlight, Derek! Can you briefly tell us about yourself?
A: Hi! My name is Derek Tassone. As a senior in the College from Clearwater, I am definitely missing the Florida heat and beaches. In my free time I enjoy listening to classic rock, collecting records, going to bookstores, and buying books that I can’t find the time to read.
Q: How were you introduced to the CJC? How has it impacted your time at Georgetown?
A: I was first introduced to the Center for Jewish Civilization when I took Professor Jonathan Ray’s “History of Antisemitism” class in Fall 2019. The following spring, I added the minor. It has had a major impact on my time at Georgetown; I have taken at least two CJC classes every semester ever since I added the minor. The classes have helped me meet the requirements for my two majors. That has been the incredible thing about the Center’s classes – the interdisciplinary nature of Jewish Studies allows for the CJC to shape my entire academic experience.
Q: What has been your favorite CJC class thus far?
A: My favorite CJC class has been Professor Ray’s “History of Antisemitism.” As depressing as the topic was, it was incredibly informative and had a major impact on my academic trajectory.
Q: What are some of your academic interests? Has being in the Center allowed you to further explore them?
A: Building off Professor Ray’s class, as well as Professor Ira Forman’s “How to Fight for Human Rights,” I’m extremely interested in studying the phenomena of antisemitism: how it has manifested historically, what is fueling its current increase, and how it can best be addressed. I am also interested in the unique role that the United States has played in Jewish history, so I also highly recommend Professor Ray’s class, “Judaism in America,” as well as Professor Ed Husain’s class, “Islam, Judaism, and Western Civilization.”
Q: Great recommendations, Derek! How have you furthered your learning experience outside of the CJC and College?
A: The Center provided me with the intellectual background and connections that have allowed me to harness anti-hate opportunities. This past summer, I interned for the Florida division of the Anti-Defamation League. Currently, I am interning with the ADL’s Center on Extremism, where I am researching extremist activity.
Q: What have been some major highlights during your time as a student thus far?
A: In addition to the CJC, I cannot recommend GU Politics enough. The events that they host and the guests they bring to campus are incredible. I will never forget the Climate Forum and being able to meet Andrew Yang and U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg.
Q: You are writing quite an interesting thesis while enrolled in our colloquium this year. Could you tell us about your research question and methods? Who is your advisor?
A: My research question is an ambitious one: I’m arguing that Anglo-American Liberalism is uniquely situated as an ideology advantageous for Jews, and that the current increase in antisemitism in both the United States and United Kingdom is driven by illiberalism. My advisor is Professor Husain, who has been incredibly supportive and helpful.
Q: What are you most looking forward to as your time on the Hilltop draws to a close? Do you have any advice to students on how they can make the most of their time at Georgetown?
A: As I approach the end of my time here at Georgetown, I can say that I am most looking forward to the continued normalization of things here on campus – I enjoy the virtual CJC events, but I am looking forward to more in-person events! The advice I would give to students is to feel comfortable reaching out to professors and building connections with them. Attend office hours, learn from their personal experiences, and they can help guide you through your journey as you figure out what you want to do after graduation.