Message Regarding George Floyd

I write to you today in sadness to address an occurrence that has been played out far too many times across the years – a reprehensible act of police brutality that led to the death of an African American man – George Floyd. On behalf of the CSI community, I extend our heartfelt sympathies to Mr. Floyd’s family, friends, and loved ones. 

A despicable act like this destroys confidence in the justice system. I hope the arrest of the officer begins a process of systemic change and comprehensive reforms so all people may have confidence in those who are charged to protect and serve.

The College of Staten Island has always welcomed students and scholars and all members of our community from every race, religion, sexual orientation, or national origin to pursue their educational interests. We believe an educational institution should be a place where one can engage in difficult conversations through respectful discourse with the understanding that we are creating leaders who will make the world a fairer and better place for all.

I know that many members of our community are heartbroken over this event and the continued racism and discrimination that plagues our society. It is also challenging during the COVID-19 pandemic to get the in-person support from friends and family that can be a powerful source of comfort. I encourage anyone who needs additional support during this time to utilize our confidential counseling services. 

·      Students may contact the CSI Counseling Center 24/7 via www.csi.cuny.edu/students/counseling-center.

·      Employees may contact the Deer Oaks Employee Assistance Program to speak with a licensed mental health counselor: 855.492.3633 (24-hours/day) or email: eap@deeroaks.com. For more information visit: www.deeroakseap.com (member username and password is CSI).

I join Chancellor’s Matos Rodriguez’s call for us to “redouble our commitment to finding ways forward” and I look ahead to the fall when we will work collectively to be that engine of change.

By William J. Fritz

NYSBDC Leads the COVID-19 Economic Recovery

Left to right, Ken Iwama, NYSBDC Director of International Business Development Jinshui Zhang, CSI President William J. Fritz, NYSBDC State Director Brian Goldstein, and CSI SBDC Director Dean Balsamini

Ken Iwama, Vice President for Economic Development, Continuing Studies, and Government Relations at The City University of New York, College of Staten Island, was appointed to serve on the Advisory Board of the New York Small Business Development Center (NYSBDC) in February.

The NYSBDC Advisory Board is a collective of leaders in the industrial, government, and educational sectors who provide their unique perspectives on the issues facing small business owners across the state. State Director Brian Goldstein commented, “We are very pleased that Ken Iwama has joined the Advisory Board as he is a staunch advocate of our mission as the premiere business assistance organization in New York State. Additionally, The City University of New York is a valuable and longstanding partner of the NYSBDC, and through this continued collaboration Ken will provide needed representation and input on behalf of all of New York City.”

Amid the pandemic, the NYSBDC has taken a place at the front and center of the COVID-19 economic recovery. The organization has been leading Webinars across the state to help guide small businesses through these tough times. Additionally, Nora Santiago from the Division’s Office of Sustainable Community Planning developed a COVID-19 resource dashboard that provides critical data for New York City and Staten Island, including the number of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths.

The dashboard utilized the Environmental Systems Research Institute’s ArcGIS, the world’s leading mapping and location analytics platform, to visually display the virus’s impact over time. Data is extracted daily from the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, and they provide additional pertinent data as it becomes available. Since its release, the dashboard has been incorporated on the response Website of the national higher education organization, CUMU, and has even been shared by the Governor’s office.

The NYSBDC provides expert management and technical assistance to start-up and existing businesses across the state. It is administered by The State University of New York and funded by the U.S. Small Business Administration, the State of New York, and host campuses. Through 22 campus-based regional centers, and dozens of outreach offices, the NYSBDC applies the resources of university, private sector, and government to solve business problems and foster entrepreneurship, and emphasizes counseling and training services to women, veterans, people with special needs, and minority clients. The NYSBDC also focuses on projects that advance the job development, investment, and economic growth priorities of New York State, with an emphasis on manufacturers, exporters, and technology-oriented firms.

By Jasmine Cardona

Support in the Midst of Crisis: How the CSI Counseling Center Has Continued Serving Students Online

The CSI Counseling Center continues to serve students online.

When the COVID-19 pandemic necessitated CUNY’s transition to distance-learning, the more than 12,000 students enrolled at the College of Staten Island continued their courses online for the remainder of the Spring semester. This meant that the more 150 students who visit the CSI Counseling Center each week would not be on campus for nearly three months, and potentially for far longer than that. For Counseling Center Director Ann Booth and the rest of the counselors, it also marked the beginning of their efforts to bring the Center’s services online.

Soon after the announcement of the transition to distance-learning, the Counseling Center had moved to an online platform and was offering virtual sessions to students, but just one week later, those working in the Counseling Center, along with the majority of CUNY employees, were told not to report to work and to begin the process of working from home. Booth credits being able to begin moving online ahead of the campus closure with easing the shift from conducting sessions in-person to doing so remotely. “Virtual counseling began before our staff left campus,” Booth said. “This gave us the weeks ahead to begin planning.”

Although the counselors have all become much more acclimated with conducting sessions online, the inability to meet with students face-to-face has not come without its challenges. “Philosophically, the art of therapy is a human connection,” Booth said. “Nothing can replace a face-to-face meeting.” However, Booth and the rest of the counselors have worked hard to replicate the in-person meetings that have formed the foundation of their relationships with students as they offer both telephone and video counseling to those seeking support. Most students have opted for the video.

In addition to the challenges presented by being unable to interact with students face-to-face, the issue of students finding the privacy required to conduct sessions has also become an obstacle. It hasn’t been unusual for welcome guests such as pets to join students during their sessions with counselors, but in other cases, siblings and family members have made it very difficult for students to receive therapy in private. Booth describes this issue as “the biggest challenge we are seeing right now,” and says that “there have been a lot of distractions and prohibiting factors for students reaching out for help.”  

For the approximately 125 students who have been able to participate in virtual counseling sessions each week, the pandemic has almost always been a part of the discussion. According to Booth, “the stress that students are experiencing right now stems from the upheaval in their daily routines and their lives, being disconnected from social supports, and financial struggles.” On top of that, she says that more than half of the students she has spoken to have been directly impacted by the virus. “Some have loved ones who have died. Others have loved ones who are sick. There is also the fear of contracting the virus as well. We’re working with students to identify the areas of their lives over which they have control.”

The Counseling Center hasn’t yet seen an influx of new clients as a result of the pandemic, but they have maintained nearly all of their relationships with existing clients.  

Challenges stemming from the pandemic have not only impacted students who seek the services of the Counseling Center. The counselors who have been working to support them have experienced a great departure from their typical routine as well. Sharing the feelings of many students who are missing life on campus, Booth says, “we miss the campus too, and we miss each other.”

Like many who have made the transition to working from home during the pandemic, Booth and the rest of her staff have also found themselves working more hours than ever before. This workload isn’t an issue for the Center’s Assistant Director, Mary Murphy, who is happy to provide students with the services that weren’t available to her during her time in school. “I absolutely think this is a wonderful service that we have,” she said.  “As counselors, we are privileged to be doing this work and to be able to help students at this point in their careers and in their lives.”  

To help students cope with this pressure, Booth emphasizes the importance of sharing information. In an effort to provide students with additional informational resources, the Counseling Center has started an Instagram page, csicounseling, and launched a series of presentations, “Tuesday Talks” and “Wednesday Wise,” both available at their Website, www.csi.cuny.edu/students/counseling-center.

The Counseling Center also continues to offer nearly all of their previously existing services online including individual counseling, couples counseling, medication services, a monitored email account that provides appointments for same-day virtual counseling, and a 24-hour telephone counseling service for those in need of immediate support. These services, confidential and free for all students, can be accessed by contacting the Counseling Center at counseling@csi.cuny.edu, and emergency support is immediately available by phone at 718.982.2391. 

The counselors look forward to the return of walk-in services that will come with the re-opening of campus, but Murphy encourages those in need of support to reach out now.  Booth’s message to those who feel they may require support at this time is a simple one: “You do not have to suffer alone. We are here for you.”

By Joseph Foreman

Lift Up the Class of 2020

This week marks what would have been our Commencement for the Class of 2020. While we can’t come together for a ceremony right now, we can show our support for students who are struggling with hardships brought on by the pandemic and graduating in an uncertain time.

The great news is that our campus community and alumni have given generously to help us exceed our initial goal and go even further to help. If you haven’t had a chance to give yet, please consider a donation to Student Emergency Relief in honor of the Class of 2020 and the classes to follow.

Challenge, determination, and grit have always defined our students. These qualities will serve them well in this time and through all that is to come. Together, we can lift them up when they need it most.

 By Jennifer Lynch                                                                                                                

Virtually Overnight: CSI Student Life’s Digital Footprint Is Growing to Serve Students

Natalie Taub

Natalie Taub had a feeling it was going to be a good year. Fresh off of graduation, the student leader had applied for and received a CUNY Counseling Assistantship Program (CUNYCAP) position in the Office of Student Life, an area with which she was very familiar as an undergraduate at CSI. Things were going great until the COVID pandemic hit, closures started, and the Student Life office was thrust in a completely new direction. At first just a general assistant, Taub is now working side-by-side with staffers like Director of Student Life Carol Brower and Associate Director Debi Kee to revamp Student Life offerings in this whole new, virtual world. 

“Before the closure, I was helping Student Life primarily with CLUE programming, entering names into databases, managing the monitors in the Campus Center, and although I was doing some social media, it’s definitely not as much as I am doing now,” said Taub. “At Student Life, we had a lot of communication with students every day in person, and when we lost that, we had to refocus getting that back through our social media pages and I got to work a lot more with it.”   

Student Life has long had an online presence, but the loss of in-person classes and campus closures put a heavy weight on the unit to transition their operation to the virtual world…and fast, and there’s where Taub felt she could fill a void.

Brower understands first hand just how important being virtual is now in the digital age. She attests that although the in-person student involvement never fully wanes, more and more students aren’t just amenable to online programming, they depend on it, and the COVID pandemic brought that more into light. “We’re learning that there is less and less tolerance for students to sit in a confined space for long stretches of time, so we are looking at connecting with students digitally in short waves, learning from them what works and what doesn’t. We dove head-first into the measure and Natalie has really helped us catch up on the social media front.”   

A student herself, Taub was a Sociology major with a minor in Disability Services during her time at CSI, and she recognizes the importance Student Life was to her. In today’s world, being at home and attending classes at the same time may be new and exciting for some, but can also become monotonous and mundane if left alone. She contends that Student Life is offering opportunities for students to lend themselves to something other than what the typical classroom dynamic has to offer.

“I think just in terms of being more consistent with what we are doing and putting stuff out there more regularly has been the key,” said Taub.  “We’re gaining more followers and more awareness, and our social media went from being something we weren’t using a lot, to one of our main ways of contacting and messaging, and I’m proud of that.”  

One of Taub’s first orders of business was to create an interactive routine, and a daily theme was created to stay on task. Examples include “Tips of Success Mondays,” which discusses tips on how students can succeed during distance learning and how to stay on track, and “CSI Flair Wednesdays,” a big hit, when faculty and students can show off their talent in front of the screen. 

Students have appreciated the changes, too.  Taub says she has seen a nice boost of activity on Student Life’s social media pages across the board.

Student Clubs have also gotten involved.  Recently, the Pre-medical Society held a COVID-19 Trivia Tournament, the Japanese Visual Cultural Club continued their popular anime film series, and the Black Women’s Initiative hosted a virtual talent competition.

Turning things around digitally has come with its share of challenges of course, and a few have popped up for the Office of Student Life.  Having to log on and account for presence at events, digital hosting, technical support and hiccups, and the marketing of some events come with added duties to which the office has had to adapt.  Still, the program has done a great job, not one lost on College of Staten Island Vice President for Student Affairs Jennifer Borrero, who oversees Student Life as part of her vast division. 

“I’ve been most impressed by how quickly the team at Student Life came together to support our students during this time,” said Borrero.  “They familiarized themselves with the technology much faster than I expected and they transitioned all of our events rather seamlessly.”  

With courses remaining online through the summer, Taub knows that her appointment as a CUNYCAP will continue in this same way for some time. She is completing her first year of the Graduate Program at Hunter College studying Special Education and plans to stay with Student Life next year if they will have her back. She contends that even though Student Life feels good about what it is doing in light of the pandemic and closure, there is plenty still to do, and the office is constantly brainstorming and developing new ideas.

If the future is anything like the present, then CSI students can take comfort knowing that Student Life will continue to meet and surpass their needs. ​​

By David Pizzuto

Video Salute to the Class of 2020

The faculty, staff, and administration congratulate you as you embark on your next journey. We know that your senior year did not progress as planned, and we are working on creative ways to honor the Class of 2020 once conditions improve.  

We look forward to being able to celebrate in person. For now, we want to express how proud we are of you with a video tribute to recognize your achievement and the strength and fortitude you have demonstrated during this challenging time. We know that even during difficult times, you will persevere and thrive.  

We salute you!

More Commencement information and the list of candidates is available online

By William J. Fritz

College of Staten Island Student Leadership Summit Awards 2020

Each year, the College of Staten Island honors our outstanding student leaders with the presentation of the Student Leadership Summit Awards. The Summit Awards celebrate the contributions of the best and the brightest of our College community. This year, we continue the tradition as we proudly present the recipients of the 2020 Student Leadership Summit Awards:

STUDENT GOVERNMENT

Student Government Summit Award- Fatu Amara

Student Government Public Servant Award- Roughuiyatou Ba

Student Government Commissioner of the Year- Mohamed Mahmoud

Student Government Vanguard Award- Maxwell Velikodny

Student Government Essence Award- Melissa Sipione

CAMPUS ACTIVITIES BOARD

Campus Activities Board Rising Star Award- Mohamed Beyruti

Campus Activities Board Outstanding Programmer Award- Alexa Solis, Take Me Away Coordinator

Campus Activities Board Outstanding Leadership Impact Award- Melissa Sipione, Campus Activities Board Chairperson

STUDENT MEDIA

Publication of the Year- The Banner

Student Publication Editor of the Year- Veronica Pistek, The Banner

WSIA Radio Up-And-Comer Award- Brian Moran

WSIA Radio Zealot Award- Michael Ivany

NEW STUDENT ORIENTATION

Elaine D. Flynn Outstanding Mentor Award- Niah Rivera

New Student Orientation Leader of the Year- Eva Kuperman

DOLPHIN COVE

Dolphin Cove Resident Assistant of the Year- Stevens Cheuka

PERCY ELLIS SUTTON SEEK PROGRAM

Percy Ellis Sutton SEEK Program Summit Award- Sarah Elayan

Percy Ellis Sutton SEEK Pioneer Award- Steven Gordillo

Percy Ellis Sutton SEEK Perseverance Award- Daniel Palmieri

NEW YORK PUBLIC INTEREST RESEARCH GROUP

NYPIRG Willowbrook Award- Bonnie Wang

NYPIRG Donald Ross Award for Building Student Power- Ricardo Herrera

STUDENT CLUBS

Nancy Somma Club Officer Award- Marta Jagodzinski

Club Advisor of the Year- Grozenda Yilmez, Pre-Medical/Pre-PA Society

Outstanding Club Officer- Kelly Liang, Pre-Medical/Pre-PA Society

Outstanding Club Officer- Ashley Martion, Linguistics and Speech Club

Outstanding Club Officer- Nestor Quizphi, Japanese Visual Culture Club

Club of the Year-  Pre-Medical/Pre-PA Society

Club President of the Year- Narmin Mekawy, Pre-Medical/Pre-PA Society

OFFICE OF STUDENT LIFE

Office of Student Life Civic Leadership Award- Ashley Roberts

Office of Student Life Civic Leadership Award- Jessica Tamayo

LGBTQ+ Resource Center Lavender Award- Dejon M. Virgo

OFFICE OF THE VICE PRESIDENT FOR STUDENT AFFAIRS

Division of Student Affairs Blue and Grey Award – Nicole Agu

A ceremony and presentation of trophies and plaques is planned for Fall 2020. 

We would like to congratulate our amazing student leaders for their strength of leadership and their incontrovertible contribution to the College of Staten Island community.

By Jennifer S. Borrero, Carol Brower, and Fatu Amara