New York, NY - Katz's Delicatessen is pictured on Oct 22, 2011. (Dizzledan / Wikimedia Commons)

Tufts alumni featured in Forbes 30 Under 30 list

Two Tufts alumni, Jake Dell (LA ’09) and Alex Schmider (LA ’13), were featured as part of Forbes Magazine’s annual 30 Under 30 list in the categories of Food & Drink and Media.

Schmider, who graduated from Tufts with a degree in psychology and a minor in communications and media studies (CMS), is a senior strategist at GLAAD, a national LGBTQ advocacy organization.

A large part of Schmider’s mission at GLAAD revolves around transgender media and making sure that stories about transgender people are fairly, accurately and inclusively represented in the media, Schmider said.

According to Schmider, his Tufts experience lent a heavy contribution to his career in transgender media. Through his CMS minor, Schmider said he developed a strong interest in media, specifically focusing on the representation of marginalized identities.

“I took a Children and Mass Media course that educated me about how powerful and influential media can be,” Schmider said. “I developed a passion and a deep core connection to helping people see themselves in media.”

Schmider explained that he first found out he is transgender when he took a psychology course at Tufts. During his time at the university, Schmider said that he was able to move onto a path of acceptance. This allowed him to focus his energy and enthusiasm on effecting change externally.

“Once you accept yourself, you are able to succeed in all these different ways because a confidence develops,” Schmider said.

Schmider attributes much of his success and confidence to the support he found in the Tufts community among mentors, professors and friends who helped him feel accepted and empowered.

“It’s incredible to be a part of a community in which you’re not all trying to be the same, but are celebrating the differences that make you who you are,” he said. “[The Tufts community] created an enormous difference in allowing and enabling people to reach their full potential and succeed.”

Schmider said that the classroom environment was also instrumental in inspiring his career. He said that Tufts was one of the first places where he was able to have powerful conversations about the importance of media and why people need media as an education and communication tool. Schmider said he is still in regular contact with some of his former professors.

Schmider has worked with various media companies advocating for LGBTQ representation. He worked with Tinder, a dating app, to implement more gender-inclusive language in the app. Schmider explained that he aims to spread the message that transgender people exist and belong.

“You have to keep in mind that it’s not about one platform or story,” Schmider said. “It’s about what the platform or story means in a larger context and culture.”

Going forward, Schmider said he hopes to continue working toward his goal of advancing acceptance of transgender people in the media. He said he is interested in exploring the ways in which media can change the social landscape.

“I feel that when we stop learning, we stop growing,” Schmider said.

Nick Adams, the director of GLAAD’s Transgender Media Program, noted that Schmider’s work in media portrayals is particularly important, considering that many Americans do not know somebody who is transgender personally.

“[Schmider] has already made a significant contribution to improving the media conversation about trans people,” Adams told the Daily in an email. “As America learns what it means to be transgender and the issues we face, it becomes more possible to create a world where trans people will be treated equally.”

Meanwhile, Jake Dell is the fifth-generation owner of Katz’s Delicatessen, a 130-year-old deli in New York City. The restaurant is known for its corned beef and pastrami sandwiches, and it had a cameo appearance in the film “When Harry Met Sally” (1989).

Dell graduated from Tufts as an economics major. He told the Daily that he had taken the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) and planned on taking a gap year between graduation and medical school, working at Katz’s in the meantime. However, as Dell was undergoing his second round of medical school interviews, he decided to make a major switch in his future plans.

“The interviews were happening and I started to think, ‘Hey, I don’t think I want to do this, I think I love this place,’” he said, referring to the deli. “I love the history and the heritage and the people — you name it. The food and the smell … everything is perfect.”

He decided that he wanted to make Katz’s Delicatessen his future, calling the experience “lucky and humbling.”

The young owner of Katz’s Delicatessen has many goals for the future of the restaurant. He hopes to preserve the tradition of the deli while making it more accessible to others.

Dell is opening another shop in Brooklyn to bring Katz’s closer to customers who do not live on the Lower East Side. He told the Daily that the shop should be open in about six weeks.

“Whether it’s catering or bringing it to an office … I think that may be the future,” Dell said.

Dell attributes much of his success as a business owner to his education and experience at Tufts. According to Dell, Tufts was instrumental in crafting his business acumen and teaching him the value of holistic thinking.

He added that he found his social experience at Tufts valuable to his career development.

“The people I interacted with [at Tufts] were all incredibly intelligent, and even when we were joking around, being stupid, there was a somewhat intellectual component to our stupidity, somewhat of a nerdy-geeky side that I could embrace,” he said.

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