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The New You Peer Health Advocates oral history project

Identifier: NS-07-01-05


The New You Peer Health Advocates oral history project consists of five interviews with the founders and alumni of The New You, The New School's peer health advocacy program. The New You was founded in 2010 by Rachel Knopf Shey and Tamara Oyola-Santiago, co-directors of Wellness and Health Promotion at The New School. In 2019, Wellness and Health Promotion was eliminated and Knopf Shey and Oyola-Santiago transitioned into new roles at the university.

This oral history project was undertaken on the occasion of this change in leadership in order to document the efforts and impact of peer health advocates at The New School.


  • 2019



5.46 Gigabytes (5 digital audio files; 5:47:36 duration; 5 PDF transcripts)

Language of Materials


Scope and Content of Collection

In the fall of 2019, Rachel Knopf Shey and Tamara Oyola-Santiago contacted The New School Archives to discuss methods for documenting and archiving nearly ten years of work by The New You, the peer health advocacy program that they had founded and led until the spring of 2019. At that time, Wellness and Health Promotion, the unit of Student Health Services that had housed The New You, was eliminated, making the future of the peer health advocacy program uncertain.

In consultation with Knopf Shey and Oyola-Santiago, The New School Archives decided to undertake an oral history project as one means of documenting the work of The New You, and particularly the experiences of the students whose work was the core of this program. Interview narrators were recruited through email, with Knopf Shey and Oyola-Santiago doing the initial outreach. Anna Robinson-Sweet, associate archivist at The New School Archives and Special Collections, scheduled and conducted all the interviews.

Access Restrictions

Collection is open for research use. Digital transcripts (PDF file format) for each interview are also available for research use. Please contact for appointment.

Use Restrictions

To publish or post in any public form all or part of a recording or transcription from this collection, permission must be obtained in writing from the New School Archives and Special Collections. Please contact:

Biographical Note

Interviewer Biography

Anna Robinson-Sweet
Anna Robinson-Sweet (b. 1988) is an archivist at The New School Archives and Special Collections. Prior to joining The New School Archives in 2018, Robinson-Sweet worked at the Weeksville Heritage Center in Brooklyn and the Whitney Museum of American Art. Robinson-Sweet has also worked as a community and union organizer, and continues to be an activist in the prison and police abolition movement. She holds an MLIS from Simmons University and a BA in art from Yale University.

Historical Note

The New You, The New School’s peer health advocacy program, trains students to be leaders on campus in health and well-being. The program was founded in 2010 by Rachel Knopf Shey and Tamara Oyola-Santiago, who directed Wellness and Health Promotion (WHP) at The New School’s Student Health Services (SHS) from 2009-2019.

Students in the program are known as peer health advocates (PHAs) and are hired to develop public health projects that serve their peers and the campus community overall. From 2010-2019 there were between forty to sixty PHAs per year, including returning students. Many of these students received federal work-study funds to work six to ten hours per week, while others received stipends for their PHA work. Under the mentorship of Oyola-Santiago and Knopf Shey, PHAs were encouraged to develop projects that fit their needs and interests, using the social determinants of health, socioecological modeling, and other public health frameworks that link personal well-being to community health.

The New You projects included facilitating public health workshops on campus; the formation of Sex-E Collective, which promotes sexual violence prevention, comprehensive sexual education, and sex positivity; organizing and leading anti-oppression workshops, including those that focus on microaggression; promoting body positivity on campus; and leading support groups and events/programs for LGBTQIAGNC+ students and students of color. Each year, current PHAs would plan and lead a retreat for incoming PHAs, which usually took place at the beginning of the academic year in upstate New York.

PHAs have also led campaigns for equity on campus. Leaders in the program sought and won the establishment of a dedicated space in the University Center building for students of color (Baldwin Rivera Boggs Social Justice Hub); students in the Sex-E collective were deeply involved in updating the university’s Title IX policy; and PHAs petitioned for plus-size dressforms at Parsons School of Design. WHP leaders also established The Opioid Overdose Prevention Program, which distributed the overdose-reversal drug naloxone on campus (the first such program to be registered with the New York State Department of Health at a college/university), and successfully advocated for all-gender bathrooms at the university and sharps containers in bathrooms.

WHP bridged academic divisions at The New School and often served as a public health advisory collaborator to faculty, staff, and students. For example, WHP staff co-taught a course in Eugene Lang College on the Theatre of the Oppressed (with Cecilia Rubino), and, with Lang’s Interdisciplinary Science program, co-led the series “Public Health Challenges for the 21st Century” (with Katayoun Chamany). Throughout the ten years of its existence, PHAs and WHP staff facilitated workshops across schools and in classrooms on brave spaces, community agreements, gender inclusive language, privilege and allyship, HIV/AIDS decriminalization, radical consent, nutrition and food justice, how to be an empowered bystander, and harm reduction. Lastly, within the academic realm, WHP became an internship placement site for both New School and other colleges and universities across the region. Interns included registered dietitian students who later joined SHS’ medical services department, social work students; and psychology students, who built biofeedback, meditation, and mindfulness programs that have become core SHS programs and services. In 2019, organizational changes at SHS resulted in the elimination of Wellness and Health Promotion. That same year, Knopf Shey and Oyola-Santiago transitioned into new roles at the university. As of 2020, the peer health advocacy program is housed within Student Support and Crisis Management, another branch of Student Success. As of the spring of 2020, it remains uncertain whether the program will continue under this new leadership, and if so, in what form.

Organization and Arrangement

Interviews are arranged alphabetically by name of interviewee.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

All interviews were conducted at The New School by Anna Robinson-Sweet, associate archivist at the New School Archives and Special Collections using equipment provided by the Archives, and files were accessioned immediately upon download.

Existence and Location of Copies

Original Wave recordings have been converted to MP3 files for patron access. The New School Archives and Special Collections also commissioned transcripts and offers access to them as PDF files.

Related Materials

The New School Archives also holds The New School periodicals collection (NS.05.06.01), which includes periodicals created by related student organizations. The Activism at The New School oral history program (NS.07.01.04) contains interviews with student activists from the 1960s-2010s.

Guide to the The New You Peer Health Advocates oral history project
Anna Robinson-Sweet
May 13, 2020
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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