The students arrived at the designated meeting spot in pairs, which is only fitting for twins enrolled at St. John’s University when responding to an invitation to pose for a hastily arranged group photo. What unfolded over the next hour demonstrates the unique family ties that bind twins together at St. John’s and beyond.
“I did not know what to expect,” stated Brian Browne, Executive Director for University Relations and Assistant Vice President for Government Relations, whose office arranged the photoshoot. “I recently heard an anecdote from colleagues in the Division of Student Affairs that during the COVID-19 testing that has been held on campus throughout the year, twins frequently show up at the testing site together.”
“When we ran the enrollment numbers, we learned that there are presently 90 students—or 45 sets of twins—where both siblings are simultaneously enrolled at St. John’s.”
As the subset of campus twins mingled during a recent Common Hour, the students—all meeting each other for the first time—immediately began to connect. They shared stories and life experiences echoing a recurring theme expressed by first-year student Andrea Makrinos, who described her twin sister, Irene, as “my built-in best friend.”
Twins make up approximately two percent of the world’s population, and according to the data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Vital Statistics System, “following years of relative stability, twin births began to climb in the United States in the early 1980s, rising 79% from 1980 to 2014. In 1980, one in every 53 births was a twin, compared with one in every 34 births in 2016.”
“It’s a twin thing,” beamed Anna Pinos, who, along with her twin sister, Catherine, from Floral Park, NY, are first-year students in The Peter J. Tobin College of Business. “We’ve always been together, so we thought that it would be nice to attend college together,” remarked Catherine. “Unlike high school, where we were always known as ‘the twins,’ all of the teachers here are really good about learning your name and getting to know who you are.”
The twin birth rate varies among states, with NY, NJ, and CT among the top 10. Despite the near-record high rate, twin births remain relatively rare—which is not the case for the family of Britney Broomfield, a Biomedical Sciences major, and her twin sister, Briana, a Legal Studies major. The first-year students from the Bronx, NY, explained that twins run in their family as they have older siblings who are also twins.
“Yes, to most it seems special, but for us it’s simply who we are,” said Britney. “It’s all we have ever known.”
International students Aarshi and Aashna Narsinghani are twins who hail from India by way of Nigeria. They not only chose to attend St. John’s together—they have also been roommates throughout their four years on campus.
“Throughout the last two years, with all of its ups and downs due to COVID-19, it has been great to always have someone by my side,” observed Aarshi, a Health and Human Services major.
“It is fun being a twin, especially when you are far away from home,” added Aashna, a Hospitality Management major in The Lesley H. and William L. Collins College of Professional Studies. “We always have each other’s back. At times we have our differences, but it’s all fun and love in the end.”
Daniel and Jamie Brown, first-year students from Great Neck, NY, agreed that being a twin is an overall positive experience. “You always have someone there for you,” stated Jamie, an Adolescent Education major in The School of Education, describing her brother, Daniel, a Business major in The Peter J. Tobin College of Business and a big St. John’s sports fan.
Daniel recalled first visiting campus as a high school student to attend basketball games with older siblings who had attended the University. “It has been an unconventional first year for us, but a good one. I really look forward to attending basketball games next season and to experience campus life beyond the pandemic with my sister and other close friends.”
On the basketball court is yet another campus spot to find St. John’s twins, as both the Men’s and Women’s Basketball teams have players on the rosters who are twins. The women’s team has third-year players Emma and Sophia Nolan; the men’s team has second-year player, Julian Champagnie, who has a twin brother, Justin, who plays at the University of Pittsburgh.
Rev. Brian J. Shanley, O.P., President of St. John’s, is also a twin. The youngest of five children that included his fraternal twin brother, Paul, who died in 2019, Fr. Shanley reflected, “There is always a special bond that exists among siblings, but the bond among twins is most special.”
As the small collection of campus twins gradually dispersed, the students posed for their own selfies, exchanged phone numbers, and pledged to reconnect. Clearly, the ties binding students together is not limited to genetics, but to the common thread that weaves through the larger, tight-knit family of St. John’s.