Alum Steven Appel, an international politics and cultural anthropology major, now helps QC students—who hail from over 130 countries—map pathways to peace as the assistant director of the college’s Center for Ethnic, Racial, and Religious Understanding.
As the featured speaker at Queens College’s May 2009 commencement ceremony, Steven Appel urged his fellow graduates to “pursue the paths that are unconventional.” That summer, he helped his brothers, James (’09) and Byron (’10), set up an airport baggage delivery service. That August, following his love of traveling and photography, he ventured into remote Vietnamese villages.
That fall Appel followed another piece of his graduation advice: to “always strive to serve others.” He co-founded and became assistant director of QC’s Center for Ethnic, Racial, and Religious Understanding. “Queens—the college and the borough—is absolutely the perfect setting for doing work like this,” he believes. “It’s a microcosm of much of the world.”
As an undergraduate, Appel led tours and classes at the Museum of Jewish Heritage, taught and researched Middle East issues, gave lessons in schools on conflict resolution, appeared on Fox News TV to discuss Obama and the youth vote, and founded both QC’s anti-genocide STAND chapter and the online forum Constructive Dialogue. In summer 2008 he volunteered in one of Cairo, Egypt’s poorest areas; helped abused women at the House of Ruth in Washington, D.C.; and interned for U.S. Senator Charles Schumer (D.-NY).
Appel blazed more paths as a student journalist. Elected editor-in-chief of QC’s Knight News as a freshman, and twice re-elected, he founded a religious dialogue section—highly unusual in a college paper—and guided the biweekly into a much larger, hard-hitting, award-winning enterprise. Under his leadership, the newspaper won 17 state and national awards, some for the first time in CUNY history.
Despite all those deadlines, Appel excelled at academics with a double major in political science and cultural anthropology. At graduation, he was awarded QC’s highest academic honor: the Paul Klapper Scholarship.
“I know so many people who’ve come out of undergraduate schools with huge debts, and the jobs aren’t there,” Appel says. It was mainly affordability, plus diversity, that made QC his only choice. “I was absolutely amazed that I received such a top-notch education at Queens College for that price,” says Appel, who hopes to earn a J.D and have a career in public office.
Musical interests: “Anything and everything I can connect with—from the Trans-Siberian Orchestra and Snow Patrol to Michael Jackson and Elvis.”
Book everyone should read: Nonzero: The Logic of Human Destiny, Robert Wright
Surprising fact: In high school, he wrestled competitively.