Queens College alumna Andrea Shapiro Davis, on a return visit to her alma mater, displays the student newspaper that announced her election as the first-ever female president of the student body
You wouldn’t expect Andrea Shapiro Davis, the first-ever female president of the QC student body, a lawyer who now serves in Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s administration, to tell the following story.
“I was a shy, quiet, insecure, overweight little girl and no one wanted to be my friend. I was in fourth grade and this girl Judy had a birthday party and she invited the whole class except for me. I couldn’t believe it. So I asked her why, and Judy said, ‘I don’t have enough chairs for the whole class’.”
In that moment of rejection, Davis vowed that she would never leave anybody out in whatever path she chose. It is fair to say that not only has she kept her promise to herself, but has also surpassed her own expectations.
And she credits Queens College for making her the person she is today. “Queens College changed my life,” says Davis. Although she admits that in high school she started to come out of her shell, it was at Queens that she found the confidence to be the person she was meant to be. As president, she was awarded the Chaney Goodman Schwerner Civil Rights Award.
“At Queens College I learned how to ask questions—that there is no such thing as a stupid question. It was here that I become involved in student government, and where I was taught by some of the finest professors around.”
Davis names quite a few mentors, including Dave Fields ’72, Special Counsel to the CUNY Chancellor, Nathan Leventhal ’63, a member of the QC Foundation Board of Directors and Chairman of the Mayor’s Committee on Appointments, and Political Science Department Chair Patricia Rachal. “She pushed me and challenged me. I didn’t think that I could work that hard. And what I remember, too, was that my professors weren’t just the people in front of the class—they gave of themselves and were genuinely interested in seeing us succeed.”
As the head of the city’s in-house Executive Search Firm, she identifies qualified candidates for commissioner and deputy positions, as well as board members for the city’s over 200 boards and commissions. “When I interviewed for this job, I mentioned that I had seven filled rolodexes.”
And you can bet that Davis makes it her business to keep in touch with the people in all of them, which brings us to her advice to students who wish to pursue a career in public service: “Start networking now. See how you can give back to your community in new ways. Talk to your professors—take advantage of their knowledge and get summer internships. Put yourself out there and you’ll achieve things that you didn’t think were possible.”
Favorite Book: Pride and Prejudice and everything else written by Jane Austen. She thinks everyone should read Robert’s Rules of Order by Henry M. Robert and all the works of Maya Angelou, including I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.
Favorite Music: Show tunes and musicals, including A Chorus Line, Pippin, Funny Girl, and all the rest.
Surprising Fact: Her mother started at Queens College in 1952, before Andrea was born. She stopped to raise and support her family, but continued her education at Queens College many years later and graduated in 1986, five years after her daughter.