Alumni Profile: Luke Waltzer and Paula Saha

Paula and I met when American Culture organized a meeting of majors in the fall semester of our junior year. We got to know each other in June Howard’s American Culture 350 class, and started dating our senior year. After graduating, I moved to New York City to work and play while applying to graduate schools, while Paula stayed in Ann Arbor, writing for The University Record. Our long-distance relationship became medium-distance when she accepted a Newhouse Fellowship to attend Syracuse University to study newspaper journalism.

While Paula was in Syracuse, I worked as a production assistant at Clio, Inc., Visualizing History, a boutique firm that consulted on new media projects in the humanities, then entered graduate school at The Graduate Center, City University of New York, to pursue a Ph.D. in American History and continue to develop my interest in teaching history with new technologies. I worked as the Durst Research Scholar with the American Social History Project through 2003 to build the foundation of the “Virtual New York City” web site.

In 1999, Paula accepted a reporting apprenticeship with the Newark Star-Ledger, and was assigned to a municipal beat in the suburban Essex County bureau. After completing the yearlong apprenticeship, Paula was hired by the Star-Ledger, where she remains a reporter today.

We were married in 2001. As we planned our wedding, it was important to us that both of our backgrounds were celebrated, and that the experience—for us, and for our guests—reflected our desire to create something shared out of our separate pasts. We prepared a Hindu-Jewish ceremony, co-officiated by a humanist Rabbi and a learned friend of the Saha family. We interwove elements of both ceremonies into a whole, mixing elements where we could, such as “The Seven Steps” from the Hindu ceremony and “The Seven Blessings” from the Jewish ceremony. The wedding exposed us and our friends and families to new experiences, and foreshadowed the life that we hope to live.

After the whirlwind wedding, we returned to our lives on the East Coast. Paula moved to the Morristown bureau of the Star-Ledger in 2001. In the last several years, she has written on topics as varied as local politics, education, the aftermath of 9/11, religious land use law, and sudden cardiac death in young athletes. She also authors a weekly community news column.

In 2002 I began teaching American History at Baruch College. In 2003 I accepted an Instructional Technology Fellowship with the CUNY Honors College. The fellowship is designed for advanced graduate students to support the final stages of graduate study, and the fellows provide the faculty and students support integrating technology into the core curriculum of the college.

In 2004, we began our most ambitious project when our daughter, Kaya Saha Waltzer, was born. Her name is another effort at cultural melding. It’s derived from the Hebrew for “life” and the Bengali for “silhouette”— as well as being the title of a slamming Bob Marley album. Kaya’s now a precocious two-year old, obsessed with video chats, the music from Rent, shoes of all kinds, and anything pink.

In 2006, I accepted a CUNY Writing Fellowship to work at the Bernard L. Schwartz Communication Institute at Baruch College, helping faculty learn to use weblogs and wikis in their courses, and also the E.P. Thompson Dissertation Fellowship from the History Department at The Graduate Center to support my dissertation, entitled “A Nervous Idealism: The Politics and Culture of American Adolescence, 1945–1963.” The dissertation examines how, in the years after World War II and leading to the War on Poverty, contests over adolescence influenced the development of youth policy at both the local and the national level. New York City is a case study in this history.

Outside of our work, we try to make the most of living in the New York area. We spend most of our spare time visiting with family and friends who live between Washington and Boston, enjoying picnics in Central Park, doing the New York Times crossword puzzle together, cooking big meals, browsing shops selling items we can’t afford, and watching movies. We’ve been fortunate to travel regularly together over the past ten years: between trips to visit family in Michigan and friends in other parts of the country, we’ve been to Israel and Jamaica, and went with our daughter to India this past January. — Luke Waltzer

*Luke and Paula are 1997 graduates of the University of Michigan. Luke received a B.A. in American Culture, Paula received a B.A. in American Culture and English.