Tyler Benjamin can wear just about any hat you want him to. There’s the committed Tyler who acts as treasurer for both the Black Students Union and Gentlemen of Quality. There’s the motivated Tyler who makes a name for himself by creating spaces for students to collaborate. And there’s the friendly Tyler who loves to cook, dance and dole out life advice.
His resourcefulness is astounding. He turned an unfortunate stretch of homelessness as a kid into a private high school degree by teaching himself how to repair iPhones and working part-time at a snow cone shop. Now Benjamin, a senior and Gallatin Student Council President, sleeps five hours a night, working around the clock to improve the NYU experience for black men like himself. If that doesn’t convince you of his resourcefulness, consider the fact that he does all this without the crutch of coffee or tea.
“Literally every conversation I have with my friends is about how to make minorities feel better at NYU, how to recruit minorities, how to impact the minority community,” he said, emphasizing the importance not only of community building but also of financial empowerment for students of color.
Benjamin traces his motivation — and his affinity for seafood — back to his roots in Breaux Bridge, Louisiana, where he grew up with seven sisters and three brothers. His path at NYU was forged before he got here — he made it a goal to combat the possibility of anybody experiencing economic hardship similar to what he faced growing up.
Benjamin’s history predisposed him for an interest in the business and finance world — his Gallatin concentration is “Wealth and the Cause and Effects of the Financial Markets.” To aid in the redistribution of wealth, his career goals are to provide students with free information on stocks and to start his own consulting firm.
Benjamin first ventured into the consulting world by trying it out within the NYU community. When he began to wonder why black businesses weren’t thriving, he got together an executive board and established Consult Your Community, an NYU chapter of a national program that helps students provide consulting services to low-income businesses.
“A lot of the work I’ve been doing at NYU has been building from the ground up and establishing something I know will be there when I’m gone,” he said. “Something sustainable.”
In addition to starting ventures from scratch, Benjamin also applies his financial knowledge to existing NYU organizations through his roles at GQ and BSU.
“Being a black man at NYU, I found it very hard to find my place,” Benjamin said. “At GQ, I didn’t feel judged.”
He took on the role of treasurer because he enjoys managing funds. His ability to make money, it seems, is innate.
Above all, Benjamin knows how to make things. He has ideas and sets the wheels in motion. When he decided on a whim to spread his love of music by starting his own record label, he gathered an executive board and got to work within a week.
“The best way for me to get calm and de-stress is live performances,” Benjamin said. “I noticed that there was no space for people in Gallatin to get out and jam.”
So he set to work establishing New Major Records, which allocates studio space for Gallatin musicians, hosts open mic nights and helps students release mixtapes. The project arose from his passion not only for music but for helping people collaborate.
Despite the tenacity with which he tackles these endeavors, Benjamin has the wherewithal to step down from his leadership roles when the time comes. His personal motto is “make space, take space,” meaning that he’s always conscious of the voices he may be silencing by making himself heard.
This humility, above all, is what makes Tyler stand out from the crowd, his friend CAS senior Eric Dornevil said.
“Something I admire is that the things he does, he doesn’t do for recognition,” Dornevil said. “He just does what he thinks is right.”
Read the rest of Influential 2016 here.
Email Abigail Weinberg at [email protected]