Schwerner Writers Series Host SI Poet Laureate

The Schwerner Writers Series hosted Marguerite Maria Rivas, Staten Island’s first Poet Laureate, on October 29.. (Photo by Willie Chu)

The English Department’s Schwerner Writers Series hosted Staten Island Poet Laureate Dr. Marguerite Maria Rivas on October 29 in the Center for the Arts Screening Room.

Dean Sarolta Takács opened the event by talking briefly about serving on the committee that recommended Dr. Rivas’s appointment as Poet Laureate. Then, Lee Papa, Chair of the English Department, introduced Dr. Rivas.

Dr. Rivas read from her anthology Tell No One: Poems of Witness and also a number of new poems. Some of the topics that she covered were 9/11, her hobby of welding, and her Peruvian roots, which was inspired by a report of scientists discovering the mummified remains of a young girl in Peru. Dr. Rivas related how she was appalled by the idea that the remains would become the subject of study, as she felt the body should just be left to rest in peace.

In the Q&A session that followed Dr. Rivas’s presentation, a member of the audience asked her how welding and poetry were connected. She mentioned that the activities were vastly different in nature, but were both acts of creation.

Dr. Rivas is a native Staten Islander who graduated from Tottenville High School. She holds associate’s, bachelor’s, and master’s degrees from the College of Staten Island. After receiving an MA in English, she enrolled in a doctoral program at Drew University. She taught at the College of Staten Island as an adjunct professor while pursuing her doctoral studies at Drew. She is currently an Associate Professor of English at Borough of Manhattan Community College where she teaches writing and literature.

Her title as Poet Laureate is a four-year, unpaid appointment, based on the recommendation of a selection committee comprised of Borough literary and arts specialists. In her position, Rivas performs community outreach and advocates for poetry and literacy in the Borough.

Founded in 2003, the Schwerner Writers Series invites accomplished and emerging poets, fictionists, and essayists to visit the College of Staten Island and read from their work. The readings are free and open to the public. The series is a crucial part of the cultural lives of members of the CSI community, providing students, faculty, staff, and Staten Island residents with an opportunity to interact with visiting writers and have conversations about literary craft and the writing life.

By Lara Saguisag and Terry Mares

Friends of CSI Literary Brunch Explores Loss in the Digital Age

Rev. Dr. Kathleen (Katie) Cumiskey during her presentation at the 2019 Friends of CSI Literary Brunch

On Sunday, October 27, the Friends of CSI’s annual Literary Brunch featured Rev. Dr. Kathleen (Katie) Cumiskey, Chairperson and Professor in the Department of Psychology at CSI. The event’s lead sponsor was Victory State Bank, with generous event support from Carol and Rocco Berardi, and Lynne Persing.

Before the formal program got underway, guests mixed and mingled, enjoyed a seasonal brunch, and perused the festive raffles table in hopes of going home with a prize. 

Carol Berardi, President of The Friends of CSI, opened the program with a warm welcome, and noted the importance of The Friends, as well as the Literary Brunch, “I’ve been a member of The Friends of CSI since 1989 and I am honored again to serve as its President. Over the years, The Friends have raised funds through various activities, such as Dinner Shows at The Center for the Arts, International Programs, and the Starlight Ball. Our Literary Brunch is a great tradition for a worthy cause—raising scholarship funds for deserving students over many years.” 

CSI Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. J. Michael Parrish brought greetings from the College and acknowledged the integral role that the Friends of CSI have played in supporting the College and student scholarships for more than 43 years, noting, “The Literary Brunch has become a signature event associated with the Friends through the years and I can’t think of a more fitting way to celebrate an event that is uniquely identified with them, than by featuring the timely and extraordinary work of a member of the CSI faculty.”       

Cumiskey opened her presentation by asking everyone to take out their phones and look at their last photos taken, Web searches, and social media postings; then to consider that this is what we are leaving behind for future generations to see about our everyday lives. She further added that our digital legacy will be far more than previous pre-digital generations have left behind, and it is now something to consider just as importantly as a will.        

In Haunting Hands, Cumiskey described her research with undergraduate students, and the ways in which their being digital natives translates to their representing and sharing of loss, such as a perceived sense of ongoing connection to the deceased, via Instagram and Facebook posts, continued texting to the deceased, and re-viewing of videos as if the deceased were still present. Cumiskey was clear to point out that her research is not being viewed through a lens of right or wrong and makes no moral judgments.

The presentation continued with a look at earlier memorial practices such as posed photos of the dead in the late 19th Century, spirit photography, and intricate braiding of the deceased’s hair into memorial jewelry and artwork—all as ways to keep a connection to a departed loved one. She notes that each era has incorporated methods available at the time to represent and share loss. Digital media has now ushered in a new realm and Artificial Intelligence is on the horizon with technologies to digitally keep the dead alive. A clip from an episode of Black Mirror (Netflix) chillingly depicted this possibility.

A lively Question and Answer session addressed the many thought-provoking points Cumiskey raised. A round of applause was accentuated with the presentation of a bouquet to Cumiskey from Berardi, on behalf of The Friends of CSI, for a fascinating presentation.            

“The brunch is a very popular signature event for the Friends of CSI,” said their College liaison, Jennifer Lynch, Associate Director of Annual Giving. “The event is unique in that our guests are fed, literally and figuratively, with a delicious brunch and intellectual food for thought. Rev. Dr. Cumiskey’s compelling look at the role that digital media is playing in the expression of grief and loss left attendees with much to think about, including their own digital legacies. The funds raised from this distinctive event go to scholarship support that makes a difference for our students.”

Haunting Hands: Mobile Media Practices and Loss is published by Oxford University Press, 2017.

By Jennifer Lynch

CSI School of Business officially named for Lucille and Jay Chazanoff; couple lauded for $7.5 M cash gift

chazanoff SI LIVE
From left to right, Dean Susan L. Holak, Jay and Lucille Chazanoff, President William J, Fritz, Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs J. Michael Parrish, and Executive Director, Institutional Advancement and External Affairs and CSI Foundation, Inc. Cheryl Adolph, (Courtesy/AMESSE PHOTOGRAPHY)

SI Live – The School of Business at the College of Staten Island was renamed for philanthropists Lucille and Jay Chazanoff during a heartfelt dedication and reception Saturday attended by some 250 guests on the campus of the Willowbrook institution of higher learning. Read more at SI Live.

By Carol Ann Benanti

Note-Taker Assistive Technology Workshop

Please join the Center for Student Accessibility (CSA) on Tuesday, Oct. 29 or Thursday, Nov. 7 in the Center for the Arts (Building 1P), Room 109 from 2:30pm to 4:30pm for our free Assistive Technology workshop.

Students will learn about various technological supports and services provided by CSA, that can be utilized both inside and outside of the classroom to assist with note-taking. CSA staff will demonstrate the process of utilizing different technology and software programs, as well as how to effectively use them in the classroom and while studying. During the workshop, students will also learn how to utilize their personal devices as a form of assistive technology. 

Please RSVP for the Oct. 29 session by Oct. 25,  and for Nov. 7 session by Nov. 4 by calling 718.982.2510or emailing csa@csi.cuny.edu.

By the Center for Student Accessibility