CUNY Trustee Kathleen Pesile is joined in front of the Domestic Violence Clothesline in the Atrium of the Center for the Arts with student panelists Haby Ly, Marwa Janini, Jessica Pifalo, Amina Huseinbegovic, and Jess Rodriguez, and CSI Director of Diversity and Compliance Danielle Dimitrov. Not Pictured: Claudia Olender.

Women’s History Month kicked off at CSI with a keynote presentation by Kathleen Pesile, Trustee of the Board of The City University of New York, which included a panel discussion with several of CSI’s female student leaders.

The event began with a brief introduction on the history of International Women’s Day by Zakhar Berkovich, Office of the Dean of Humanities and Social Sciences, noting “Our society does not stop enough to share our thanks for women and their contribution to society,” he said during his welcoming remarks.

Mary Del Re, of the Bertha Harris Women’s Center, discussed the Domestic Violence Clothesline Project, which is displayed in the Atrium of the Center for the Arts for the month of March. The Project offers visitors the opportunity to paint their own t-shirts with anti-domestic violence slogans and hang them in a displayed of unified support.

Dr. A. Ramona Brown, CSI Vice President for Student Affairs, began her remarks about the importance of celebrating Women’s History Month with, “I am woman, hear me roar,” which roused a thundering applause from everyone in the audience, male and female. Dr. Brown introduced Ms. Pesile as “a true example of greatness,” describing how much she admired “her intellect, her wit, her style, but most of all, her ability to be humble.”

Ms. Pesile, founder of the Pesile Financial Group and an Adjunct Professor of Finance at CSI, is also a founding faculty member of CSI’s Weekend College. In her remarks, she addressed her love of and commitment to the College of Staten Island. “I practically live on the campus,” she said. “We are all enjoying the benefits of this magnificent property.”

She then chronicled the steps she took to reach her success in order to provide her own experiences as inspiration for the female students sitting in the audience and on the Student Leadership Panel.  Ms. Pesile discussed her involvement with developing a daycare center on the CSI campus in 1972 and expressed her pride in that endeavor’s ability to “help so many women graduate with a bachelor’s degree…You are the recipients of our black and blues,” she said to the women in the audience.

The event concluded with a Student Leadership Panel discussion, moderated by Ms. Pesile, where six female CSI students considered the importance of student leadership on the CSI campus from a female perspective.

The student leaders all hailed from different backgrounds and had different motivations for being on the panel but they were all connected by the bond of being women in positions of leadership. The discussion focused on topics such as their motivations behind becoming student leaders,what obstacles the young women had to face, and giving back to the CSI community and to society in general through mentoring.

“I have had to deal with a lot of people rejecting me,” said Haby Ly, who is currently leading a small group SEEK Ambassadors, students who are tasked with orienting SEEK students to CSI. Amina Huseinbegovic, a junior International Business student, who is a member of CSI’s Emerging Leaders Program and the CSI Women’s Track team, discussed the difficulties of a young woman moving to the U.S. without much support. “My mother was very concerned but my dream of getting my education drove me to be very successful,” she said.

Marwa Janini, a junior History major, encouraged the women in the audience to “be more involved with campus life…It is important now, more than ever, to be somebody.”

The event focused on many facets of what it means to be not only a student leader, but a female leader on campus and beyond. “Many women in the corporate world do not help each other,” said Ms. Pesile. “As women, we have to stick together.”  Jesse Rodriguez, the Student Government Association Vice President and a junior, who is double majoring in History and Political Science, agreed, adding that celebrations such as these are about moving ahead and “remembering,” noting that “as a History major, one of the things that sticks out the most is the idea of remembering.”   

Claudia Olender, a sophomore Psychology major and Macaulay Honors College student representing the CSI Bertha Harris Women’s Center, and Jessica Pifalo, a junior Journalism major and sports writer for The Banner representing the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, also discussed their successes and challenges as female student leaders on campus.

This Women’s History Month will be remembered for offering those in the audience a glimpse of the strength, perseverance, and pride of which female leaders are capable and, as Ms. Huseinbegovic put it, re-affirming the idea that “if you set your mind to something, you will get it.”