“Do you know how many times I slipped and fell last year? I was black and blue.” Justin Ruiz was taking a break from a meeting of the CSI Student Veterans of America (SVA) club to discuss an award that is aimed at changing all that: On Nov. 8, he will be presented with a car by Progressive Insurance.

It’s a fitting award for the Computer Science junior. His military service, which began with the Air Force as a laboratory technician, and ended with the Army as a combat medic, after a 15-month tour in Iraq, has made a mess of his knees.

“When I was in Iraq, all the equipment I was carrying messed up my knees,” Ruiz said. “Sometimes people don’t know that in addition to all of the body armor and weapons, a medic carries 55 pounds of medical gear. We’re soldiers first and medics when someone needs treatment.”

Ruiz is not a complainer – he probably would have soldiered on to graduation despite the pain of standing, not to mention an hour’s commute to campus each way. But Veterans Support Services Director Laura Scazzafavo is not an idler.

“I saw this award and I knew it would be perfect if he got it,” Scazzafavo said. “It seemed like the perfect fit.”

Scazzafavo put together an application. Ruiz went in for an interview for the Progressive Keys to Progress Award. The ceremony is taking place Nov. 8 at the Fort Hamilton Army Base in Brooklyn.

“The guy asked me, ‘What would you do with a car?’” Ruiz recalled. “And I said, ‘My girlfriend comes from New Jersey to pick me up and take me places. I’d like to take her to Coney Island – I want to take her places.’”

On Nov. 8, Ruiz will get the 2015 Honda CRV .

“I was in some shock when I heard I won it.”

Scazzafavo’s initiative at least partly explains why the College of Staten Island is routinely ranked as one of the nation’s top Military Friendly Schools; last year it was Number 1, according to the publisher of G.I. Jobs, STEM Jobs, and Military Spouse. And that makes a difference to student-veterans, students like Ruiz whose stories could fill volumes.

“I didn’t know what to expect going in” to Iraq, he recalled. “As a medic, 80 percent of the time was the most boring thing – you’re just missing everybody and home comforts. Another ten percent is the administrative stuff you have to do. And ten percent is hellish.”

Ruiz’s knees were not the only casualties. He also suffered post-traumatic disorder syndrome – he’d shut down emotionally, get distant.

“I feared every second during those hellish times – if I’d see my family again, were they going to be taken care of. Those were the times of the actual war – the shootings, the bombings, the explosions – when it went to 400 on a scale of one to ten.

“I couldn’t deal with emotions when I got back. I had to learn to deal with all that again when I came back.”

At CSI, Scazzafavo, a Navy veteran, has helped student-veterans find their way in college. Student-veterans – there are about 300 currently enrolled – do get first dibs on registration for classes, but beyond that, there are not many perks.

“When I enrolled at CSI, they immediately brought me to Laura,” Ruiz recalled. “Laura has been my only real veterans support – from practical to financial to paperwork.”

At a recent meeting of the SVA club, about a dozen students crammed into a room in the Campus Center. They were planning a haunted hallway activity for Halloween: “You just need to scare people,” Naomi Gordon, who is in the Army, told the group as she asked for volunteers. Gordon is the club’s events coordinator.

Brendan Pirando, an Accounting junior and the club’s treasurer, reminded members that they still had to figure out who could go to a national conference on employment opportunities for veterans. Pirando, a member of the U.S. Navy Reserves, said the club gave him a sense of belonging, particularly after he arrived at CSI from basic training.

“I think it’s helpful because you have that environment where people have had military experience,” Pirando said. “It makes you feel more welcome and at home. This was the one place where I felt like I really belonged. Everyone was very welcoming.”
CSI’s accommodations for student-veterans make a difference, Pirando said.

“Everybody’s very respectful” of student-veterans, Pirando said. “Professors will excuse you or give you extensions when you have drills. Students are very understanding. And other veterans on campus, they know where you’re coming from if you have personal issues.”
The club is not only social – members have also worked to address glaring inequities for student-veterans at CSI. For example, students who have completed four years of active duty are entitled to a housing allowance; on Staten Island, it’s about $2,700 a month, but in other boroughs it’s much higher.
“That is an issue,” Pirando said. “We’re in contact with Congressman Donovan. SVA is headquartered in DC and they have lawyers and politicians they work with, to make the process a little bit better.”

Initiative is sparking young minds’ interest in science

Noyce Masters Teaching Fellows working on a chemistry project during a graduate course at the College of Staten Island.
Noyce Masters Teaching Fellows, left to right, Natasha Marrapodi (P.S. 20), Rebecca Lugo (P.S. 78), Lisa Thompson (P.S. 78), and Raffaella Passanisi (P.S. 20) working on a chemistry project during a graduate course at the College of Staten Island.

One day recently, Natasha Marrapodi overheard an exchange between one of her elementary school students and his mother during pick-up at P.S. 20 in Staten Island’s Port Richmond neighborhood.

“I’ll pick you up early,” the mother said.

“You can’t pick me up early on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday because I do STEM with Ms. Marrapodi!” her son replied.

There are probably a thousand exchanges like this between parents and children at any school’s pick-up on any given day. But this stood out to Marrapodi.

“For a kid to actually want to stay,” she mused recently. “He’s in school all day, 8 to 4, and he wants to stay for STEM.”

STEM refers to Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.

Marrapodi credits her participation in the College of Staten Island’s Noyce Master Teaching Fellowship program for her students’ increased enthusiasm. The National Science Foundation-funded $1.3 million initiative, “Developing Science Leaders in High-Need Elementary Schools: Noyce Master Teaching Fellows Academy,” is aimed at improving the quality of science education.

The Noyce Master Teaching Fellowship program is one of several College of Staten Island initiatives that are addressing the quality of teaching in schools generally across the borough and beyond. Since 2006, the CSI Teacher Education Honors Academy (TEHA) directed by Dr. Jane Coffee has supported entering freshmen and sophomores who wanted to major in mathematics and science and to teach in a NYC high need middle or high schools. Since 2009, CSI has supported TEHA sophomores in their junior and senior years thanks to NSF funding.

In July, two Noyce Master Teacher Fellows joined CSI faculty at the Noyce Summit in Washington, DC

Rebecca Lugo, a science cluster teacher at P.S. 78, said she has started to notice the difference the program has made in her teaching approach, too.

“We are early in the program (one year out of five so far),” she wrote in an email. “But I have already begun to shift my teaching style, looking for opportunities to harness students’ curiosity and for ways to make my classes more inquiry-based.”

Lugo and Marrapodi are among 15 teachers in nine Staten Island Title I elementary schools and one in Brooklyn who are part of the program. It is led by the Discovery Institute at School of Education.

There is a great need in New York City schools for teachers who are knowledgeable in the disciplines of mathematics and science and who are prepared to effectively engage students in exploring this knowledge, especially in high-need elementary schools. An NSF study that surveyed teachers across the country showed that of all subjects science is the one they feel least well-prepared to teach.

Joy Hines and Nancy Rogina, both at P.S. 18, designing projects for their students at Staten Island MakerSpace. As part of the program, each Master Teaching Fellow will be able to bring their students to the MakerSpace for STEM experience.
Joy Hines and Nancy Rogina, both at P.S. 18, designing projects for their students at Staten Island MakerSpace. As part of the program, each Master Teaching Fellow will be able to bring their students to the MakerSpace for STEM experience.

That lack of preparedness is reflected in students’ academic performance. According to the most recent results from 2015 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) report, , the U.S. ranked 24th out of 71 countries in science; among the 35 members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the U.S. ranked 19th in science .

That preparation is critical to ensure Americans can fill the STEM jobs that have only increased over the past two decades. Many young Americans seem to be concluding they cannot “do” science: not enough are trying to earn degrees in STEM areas and not enough are trying to get STEM jobs.

“The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that, during the period 2010–2020, employment in S&E occupations will grow by 18.7%, compared to 14.3% for all occupations.” – National Science Foundation

Improving the quality of science education is important more broadly: It is critical to understanding many of the issues facing the world today, from global climate change to the technology people use daily and from biomedical ethics to environmental conservation.

The number of science and engineering jobs in the U.S. is expected to continue to expand significantly. U.S. students need better STEM education to fill the positions.
The number of science and engineering jobs in the U.S. is expected to continue to expand significantly. U.S. students need better STEM education to fill the positions. Source: National Science Foundation.

The answer is to improve the quality of science education. The NSF grant for the Noyce Master Teaching Fellows Academy provides the teachers with supplemental salary and supports them to take specialized graduate courses at CSI, to participate in professional development workshops in STEM education and leadership, and to participate in conferences.

While it helps the teachers deepen their science knowledge and improve their teaching skills, it is mainly focused on developing their leadership skills to become teacher leaders who can role-model effective practices in their schools and across Staten Island’s District 31.

“The main goal of this project is to provide science teachers in underperforming, high-poverty elementary schools with critical disciplinary and pedagogical understandings, so they may more effectively engage students in science learning and achievement,” said Dr. Irina Lyublinskaya, Professor of STEM education and Director of the Discovery Institute, who is the principal investigator on the project. “Further, the project aims to build the teachers’ leadership skills, so they can sustain a professional learning community in their schools and across the district.”

Students at a Staten Island elementary school participate in a science lesson. The CSI Noyce Masters Teaching Fellows Academy is improving science teachers' knowledge and skills - and increasing student interest in science as a result.
Sharon Cameron of P.S. 45 facilitates a science lesson with her students at the Staten Island Title I elementary school. The CSI Noyce Masters Teaching Fellows Academy is improving science teachers' knowledge and skills - and increasing student interest in science as a result.

“By focusing on teachers’ development in three overlapping waves – teacher as science learner, teacher as science teacher, and teacher as facilitator of professional community – the project pursues the development of educators’ capacity in ways that will affect not only their individual classrooms and schools, but will also cultivate a networked leadership that can influence district-wide science instruction.”

The program was welcomed by Executive Superintendent for Staten Island Schools Anthony Lodico.

“I am delighted at the prospect of District 31 schools participating in an NSF Noyce Scholarship for Master Teaching Fellows in elementary school science,” Lodico wrote in a letter of support. “Many schools in District 31 have worked with the College of Staten Island (CSI) in different capacities and I can attest to a long history of highly successful collaborations and partnerships between schools and teachers in District 31 and the College of Staten Island’s Division of Science and Technology, School of Education, and Discovery Institute.”

“The NSF grant for the Noyce Master Teaching Fellows Academy provides equity and excellence in the teaching and learning of Science education, which I am confident will increase academic achievement for our students,” said Richard Tudda, the science instructional lead of District 31.

“Learning science is a cumulative process, which requires a foundation built in childhood,” Lyublinskaya said. “If students don’t learn the basics, if we don’t prepare them early enough, it’s too late. We need to do it during the critical elementary school period. And for that we need good elementary school teachers. That’s what makes a difference.”

It’s not hard, perhaps, to see why students lack enthusiasm for science: science education does not get as much attention or resources as other subjects, particularly reading and writing and math.

“When I think of low-quality science teaching, I picture students with a science textbook, sitting at their desks, reading a chapter, and answering questions,” Lugo said. “Maybe the teacher might do a demonstration in front of the class, or perhaps the students will follow a step-by-step set of instructions to do an “experiment.”

“The students are being given information and expected to retain it.”

Dr. Abdeslem El Idrissi (right), CSI biology professor and co-principal investigator on the Noyce grant, guides Noyce Masters Teaching Fellows on an activity in their graduate course.
From left to right, Deirdre Reilly (P.S. 22) and Nicole Altilio (P.S. 21) work with Dr. Abdeslem El Idrissi, CSI biology professor and co-principal investigator on the Noyce grant, on an activity in their graduate course.

Consider, in contrast, how Deirdre Reilly, who teaches science at P.S. 22 in the Staten Island’s Graniteville neighborhood, taught her students about animal adaptation, using bird beaks as an example.

“It was open-ended questioning and more research-driven,” said Reilly who has taught for almost 20 years. “You give them a broad theme and they’d have to do their own research, rather than me just teaching them a lesson on animal adaptation.”

The difference in her students’ energy for the topic was marked, she said.

“They get more excited,” Reilly said. “It’s a lot of work on (the teacher’s) end. It’s more conversation driven. A lot of your time is based on what the students are learning and catering to that, and giving them feedback on what they’re learning. It’s more feedback based.

“It gives them a lot more freedom and their interests come out. You give them time to explore questions and allow them to come up with their own idea.”

Raffaella Passanisi, also of P.S. 20, agreed. Passanisi and Marrapodi completely reoriented their teaching toward this “inquiry model,” which is also aligned with the Department of Education’s new science curriculum, known as “Amplify.”

Noyce Master Teacher Fellow Jaclyn Durkin of P.S. 11 investigating the health benefits of organic vs. non-organic foods in a a biology research lab
Noyce Master Teacher Fellow Jaclyn Durkin of P.S. 11 investigating the health benefits of organic vs. non-organic foods in a a biology research lab at CSI.

“Natasha and I made everything problem-based or hands-on experience so students could learn through inquiry,” Passanisi said. “Student engagement was sky high. All of the students were participating, they were really excited.

“They definitely showed more of an interest in science. We were able to change their perspectives on how they felt about science – at least for a good number of our students.”

Once a month, after school, the teachers participate in professional development workshops on the College’s campus and they take courses during the semester. They also participate in Saturday program that includes six full-days and focuses on STEM research experiences led by CSI faculty.
These activities deepen their science content knowledge, improve their science pedagogical content knowledge, and develop their leadership skills.10 ideas of science graphic

This year (year two), the Noyce Masters Teaching Fellows are learning the 10 “big ideas” of science.

In its second year in the graduate course co-taught by Lyublinskaya and Dr. Abdeslem El Idrissi, CSI biology professor and co-principal investigator on the grant, teachers are exploring the “10 big ideas” of science, Lyublinskaya said.

“These are the ideas that underpin much of our modern science today and our understanding of the natural world,” she said. “They are the major ideas which everything is based on: evolution, atomic model, Big Bang, and plate tectonics, for example.

Understanding those ideas more deeply helps teachers help students learn and appreciate science.

“I didn’t teach science at the beginning of my career,” Marrapodi said. “Even if it’s a little above my head, I feel like it’s helping me have a better understanding of science.”

The CUNY Discovery Institute is proud to present 2017-2022 Noyce Master Teaching Fellowship Award recipients: Sharon Cameron (P.S. 45), Nicole Caruso (P.S. 160), Jarra Dandrea (P.S. 861), Jaclyn Durkin (P.S. 11), Lisa Esposito-Planzo (P.S. 45), Joy Hines (P.S. 18), Kimberly Kosnac (P.S. 19), Rebecca Lugo (P.S. 78), Natasha Marrapodi (P.S. 20), Raffaella Passanisi (P.S. 20), Nicole Altilio (P.S. 21), Deirdre Reilly (P.S. 22), Nancy Rogina (P.S. 18), Nicole Tartaglione (P.S. 16), and Lisa Thompson (P.S. 78).

Car is a ‘perfect fit’ for a student veteran, as club provides support to service members

Justin Ruiz, right, confers with an Army colleague during his tour in Iraq.
Justin Ruiz, right, confers with an Army colleague during his tour in Iraq.
Justin Ruiz, right, confers with an Army colleague during his tour in Iraq.

“Do you know how many times I slipped and fell last year? I was black and blue.” Justin Ruiz was taking a break from a meeting of the CSI Student Veterans of America (SVA) club to discuss an award that is aimed at changing all that: On Nov. 8, he will be presented with a car by Progressive Insurance.

It’s a fitting award for the Computer Science junior. His military service, which began with the Air Force as a laboratory technician, and ended with the Army as a combat medic, after a 15-month tour in Iraq, has made a mess of his knees.

“When I was in Iraq, all the equipment I was carrying messed up my knees,” Ruiz said. “Sometimes people don’t know that in addition to all of the body armor and weapons, a medic carries 55 pounds of medical gear. We’re soldiers first and medics when someone needs treatment.”

Ruiz treating an injured soldier at a facility in Iraq.
Ruiz treating an injured soldier at a facility in Iraq.

Ruiz is not a complainer – he probably would have soldiered on to graduation despite the pain of standing, not to mention an hour’s commute to campus each way. But Veterans Support Services Director Laura Scazzafavo is not an idler.

“I saw this award and I knew it would be perfect if he got it,” Scazzafavo said. “It seemed like the perfect fit.”
Scazzafavo put together an application. Ruiz went in for an interview for the Progressive Keys to Progress Award. The ceremony is taking place Nov. 8 at the Fort Hamilton Army Base in Brooklyn.

“The guy asked me, ‘What would you do with a car?’” Ruiz recalled. “And I said, ‘My girlfriend comes from New Jersey to pick me up and take me places. I’d like to take her to Coney Island – I want to take her places.’”

On Nov. 8, Ruiz will get the 2015 Honda CRV .

“I was in some shock when I heard I won it.”

Scazzafavo’s initiative at least partly explains why the College of Staten Island is routinely ranked as one of the nation’s top Military Friendly Schools; last year it was Number 1, according to the publisher of G.I. Jobs, STEM Jobs, and Military Spouse. And that makes a difference to student-veterans, students like Ruiz whose stories could fill volumes.

Ruiz's family welcome him home from his tour in Iraq.
Ruiz's family welcome him home from his tour in Iraq.

“I didn’t know what to expect going in” to Iraq, he recalled. “As a medic, 80 percent of the time was the most boring thing – you’re just missing everybody and home comforts. Another ten percent is the administrative stuff you have to do. And ten percent is hellish.”

Ruiz’s knees were not the only casualties. He also suffered post-traumatic disorder syndrome – he’d shut down emotionally, get distant.

“I feared every second during those hellish times – if I’d see my family again, were they going to be taken care of. Those were the times of the actual war – the shootings, the bombings, the explosions – when it went to 400 on a scale of one to ten.

“I couldn’t deal with emotions when I got back. I had to learn to deal with all that again when I came back.”

At CSI, Scazzafavo, a Navy veteran, has helped student-veterans find their way in college. Student veterans – there are about 300 currently enrolled – do get first dibs on registration for classes, but beyond that, there are not many perks.

“When I enrolled at CSI, they immediately brought me to Laura,” Ruiz recalled. “Laura has been my only real veterans support – from practical to financial to paperwork.”

At a recent meeting of the SVA club, about a dozen students crammed into a room in the Campus Center. They were planning a haunted hallway activity for Halloween: “You just need to scare people,” Naomi Gordon, who is in the Army, told the group as she asked for volunteers. Gordon is the club’s events coordinator.

Brendan Pirando, an Accounting junior and the club’s treasurer, reminded members that they still had to figure out who could go to a national conference on employment opportunities for veterans. Pirando, a member of the U.S. Navy Reserves, said the club gave him a sense of belonging, particularly after he arrived at CSI from basic training.

“I think it’s helpful because you have that environment where people have had military experience,” Pirando said. “It makes you feel more welcome and at home. This was the one place where I felt like I really belonged. Everyone was very welcoming.”

CSI’s accommodations for student-veterans make a difference, Pirando said.

“Everybody’s very respectful” of student-veterans, Pirando said. “Professors will excuse you or give you extensions when you have drills. Students are very understanding. And other veterans on campus – they know where you’re coming from if you have personal issues.”

The club is not only social – members have also worked to address glaring inequities for student veterans at CSI. For example, students who have completed four years of active duty are entitled to a housing allowance; on Staten Island, it’s about $2,700 a month, but in other boroughs it’s much higher.

“That is an issue,” Pirando said. “We’re in contact with Congressman Donovan. SVA is headquartered in DC and they have lawyers and politicians they work with, to make the process a little bit better.”

CSI Today reported about Rep. Donovan’s visit to discuss the housing allowance disparity in April.

From bowling to hockey games, School of Business alumni are intent on building a network

Bowling is an ideal activity to facilitate networking, students and alumni learned during a recent outing.
Bowling is an ideal activity to facilitate networking, students and alumni learned during a recent outing.

If the old adage, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know,” is true, then the efforts of the School of Business at the College of Staten Island are an essential and integral part of the opportunities that the School provides to its students.

“We know how important networking and alumni interaction are to our students,” said Dean Susan Holak in a recent interview. “If we can bring students together with alumni, many good things will follow.”

Just five years old, the School of Business is at an important point in its development, said Holak, who is the School’s Founding Dean. Growing and strengthening an alumni network is helping to achieve a variety of objectives – from helping current students launch careers to engaging key stakeholders.

Mustafa Shehadeh, a 2017 graduate with a BS in Marketing, is a strong advocate for the School’s efforts and a natural collaborator. Shehadeh is currently working in Manhattan for Merkle, a marketing agency.

Networking “is definitely in the top three or top five important things a student should be doing,” Shehadeh said. “It’s your classes, internships, and then networking.”

“Something that helped me a lot in landing my job was being in touch with students in previous graduating classes,” Shehadeh added. “I want (current students) to know how important it is to keep those connections and network.”

Rich Pallorino, left, during the recent alumni networking event at a Staten Island bowling alley.
Rich Pallarino, left, during the recent alumni networking event at a Staten Island bowling alley.

Rich Pallarino, a 2016 graduate in Accounting and now a staff auditor with the New York City Comptroller’s office, is also an enthusiastic supporter of the School’s efforts, and a key participant in the School’s efforts to build its alumni base.

“Some [CSI] students do think, ‘I just want to do my four years and get out,’ and that’s a mistake,” Pallarino said. “They don’t take advantage of the resources at the College.”

Giving students an opportunity to meet is one way to facilitate the engagement and networking processes. At a bowling alley on Hylan Boulevard recently, about 25 alumni and current students met up to bowl – and network. Predictably, the bowling was little more than an alibi.

“When we were done with the game, we all stood talking for an extra 30 to 40 minutes about their (current students) plans and our (alumni) plans,” Shehadeh said. “I shared some of my experiences and I let them know what they are in for after graduation, and some steps they can take now.”

Bowling is perhaps an ideal networking opportunity: only one person can roll a ball at a time so talking to your fellow bowling team members comes easily between frames.

“It was very casual,” said Pallarino of the bowling event. “We had someone from Wells Fargo there along with other alumni. We let them pick our brains, with one alumnus among each group that was bowling.”

Pallarino is taking the effort to another level: he has used his background in sports marketing to organize an experiential learning opportunity in the form of a trip to a NY Islanders hockey game on November 5 for students taking a course in Sports Management this semester. The event features 32 prime seats and everyone attending will receive a jersey. For him, he said, it’s personal.

“When I interned at Sony Music, there was something called intern row,” Pallarino explained. “When the company would send out an email blast to all the interns – including students from Harvard, Brown, Princeton, and Rutgers – I was the only CUNY student.

“I want to go out there and in ten years and I want to hear, ‘CSI, I’ve heard of it, we hired someone from there.’”

Grants to expand CSI engineering activities and facilities

An artist's rendition of the CSI Maker Space & Innovation Suite, which will occupy the first floor of the Engineering Sciences building (4N).
An artist's rendition of the CSI Maker Space & Innovation Suite, which will occupy the first floor of the Engineering Sciences building (4N).

A state-of-the-art MakerSpace & Innovation Suite will expand College of Staten Island students’ educational and experiential learning opportunities across several disciplines, thanks to $1.35 million in funding from the Staten Island Borough President’s Office and the New York City Council.

“I’m pleased to be able to allocate these taxpayer funds to create an experiential learning space for our students at the College of Staten Island,” said Staten Island Borough President James Oddo. “Bringing in new technology is an extremely beneficial tool for the success of our educational programs and students. I am grateful to see this Makerspace Lab being built so CSI can continue to give exceptional opportunities to its students.”

“After I visited the provisional lab these impressive students have been using to build their inventions, I felt strongly they deserved a space worthy of their ingenuity. These funds will help CSI build a state-of-the-art, innovation incubator, where their ideas can really come to life and help fuel the economy – right here on Staten Island,” said New York City Council Minority Leader Steven Matteo. “I am proud to have worked with Borough President Oddo and Speaker Johnson to provide the resources to make the “Dolphin Makerspace” a reality.”

An artist's rendition of the entryway to the new CSI Maker Space & Innovation Suite.
An artist's rendition of the entryway to the new CSI Maker Space & Innovation Suite.

“Ensuring that science and engineering students are getting a 21st century education means ensuring they have access to 21st century facilities. You can’t cut corners, especially when it comes to education and this new facility will give our students, the engineers and innovators of the future, a state-of-the-art place to explore and learn. The Council is proud to fund the state-of-the-art ‘MakerSpace’ at the College of Staten Island, and I would like to thank Minority Leader Matteo and Borough President Oddo for their partnership and support of this project,” said Speaker Corey Johnson.

The funds will be used to renovate the first floor of Building 4N, creating a suite of rooms that are equipped with the latest technology equipment and laboratory experimental setups.

The new CSI Maker Space & Innovation Suite will feature state-of-the-art equipment, including 3D printers.
The new CSI Maker Space & Innovation Suite will feature state-of-the-art equipment, including 3D printers.

“This is not going to be your typical maker-space that everybody is building these days,” said Prof. Neo Antoniades, chairman of the CSI Engineering & Environmental Science (EES) Department. “This is a combination – instruction-experimentation-innovation-simulation-prototyping – and so it’s about everything working together.”

Prof. Antoniades was referring to an interdisciplinary as well as a holistic approach that will involve a number of departments using the new space.

“Our vision is to create a highly inter-disciplinary space that will foster innovation, creativity and state-of-the-art instruction along with experiential learning among the students of many departments across campus,” said Kenichi Iwama, Vice President for Economic Development, Continuing Studies, and Government Relations. Iwama is the Principal Investigator on the project.

“We’ll be combining the lecturing part of education with experiential learning,” Prof. Antoniades said. “Students will go and start building. You need to combine theory with actually building things.

“This is the way the world is moving. This is how we do it.”

The $1.35 million funding comes on the heels of two other grant awards – from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and The Boeing Company – to continue the EES department’s work on the use of Plastic Optical Fibers (POF) in the aviation environment.

The Boeing Corporation is using advanced components developed by College of Staten Island Engineering and Sciences professors.
The Boeing Company is using advanced components developed by College of Staten Island Engineering and Sciences professors.

A $450,000 NSF award will allow Profs. Dwight Richards, Xin (Jessica) Jiang, and Antoniades from CSI as well as Prof. Ioannis Roudas from Montana State University/Bozeman to continue their work on designing systems and networks for the airplane environment with the guidance of The Boeing Co. and an international collaboration with their longtime partners at the department of Electrical Engineering and Communications at the University of Zaragoza, Spain.

“GOALI: Collaborative Research: An Experimentally Validated Simulation Framework for Next-Generation Plastic Optical Fiber-based Systems on Airplanes” is a joint effort that will bring $350,000 to CSI while an additional $100,000 will go to the collaborating institution, the Montana State University at Bozeman.

At the same time, The Boeing Company is providing an additional $20,000 to continue a collaboration with the CSI engineering professors that dates back to 2008. During this time, CSI/CUNY is the only university that has worked with the commercial avionics division of the company to help with research in the use of POF on the airplane.

“We are so proud to find out that the Boeing 777-X which is considered the most advanced plane in the world and is being rolled out of the assembly line as we speak has an optical component that we helped design” Prof. Antoniades said.

While telecommunications companies use glass fiber optic cables to transfer tremendous information across land and oceans, those cables are not ideal for airplanes. Glass fibers are difficult to handle and install and their performance is susceptible to dust and vibrations.

As Kien Truong, a Boeing Company Technical fellow, recently discussed at the International Conference on Plastic Optical Fibers in Seattle in September, POF is a great solution because of its large core and ease of installation. In the past, commercial airplanes have used copper wires, but these also have significant drawbacks; copper is heavy and susceptible to interference in thunderstorms due to electromagnetic disruption.

“So, the plastic fiber optic cable is not only lighter, it’s safer,” Prof. Antoniades said.

At NSF Noyce National Summit, Master Teacher Fellows share, learn, and connect

Lisa Thompson, a first-grade teacher at P.S. 78 (speaking), Dr. Irina Lyublinskaya, director of the CSI Discovery Institute, and Sharon Cameron, a fourth-grade teacher at P.S. 45 at the Noyce Summit in July.
Lisa Thompson, a first-grade teacher at P.S. 78 (speaking), Dr. Irina Lyublinskaya, director of the CUNY Discovery Institute, and Sharon Cameron, a fourth-grade teacher at P.S. 45 at the Noyce Summit in July.

The College of Staten Island’s Noyce Master Teacher Fellows program is part of a broad national effort to improve STEM education. Bringing participants together is one way to help them build off each other’s successes, share lessons learned, and network.

In July, two CSI Master Teaching Fellows and two CSI Teacher Education Honors Academy (TEHA) alumni, joined four CSI faculty at the Noyce Summit.

The participants included Sharon Cameron, who teaches fourth grade at P.S. 45, and Lisa Thompson, who teaches first grade at P.S. 78; and, TEHA alumni Samantha Haimowitz, who teaches mathematics, and Stephanie Palumbo, who teaches biology, both at New Dorp High School. Both groups of teachers had poster presentations.

In addition, Cameron and Thompson co-presented workshop with CUNY Discovery Institute Director and Noyce Principal Investigator Dr. Irina Lyublinskaya. About 30 educators at the event listened to the teachers from Staten Island present a workshop for the teaching of science in elementary school based on the NSF-supported program at the College.

Teachers at Noyce Summit
From left to right, teachers Stephanie Palumbo, Samantha Haimowitz and Lisa Thompson at the Noyce Summit in Washington, DC.

“It’s a great professional development opportunity,” Lyublinskaya said. “There are outstanding speakers – people working at the edge of science and mathematics – and great opportunities for networking.”

“Attending the conference, was a life-changing experience from a teacher’s point of view” – Lisa Thompson, a fourth-grade teacher at P.S. 78

“Attending the conference, was a life-changing experience from a teacher’s point of view,” Thompson wrote in a reflection. It was great “to meet a group of people who believe and have desire in changing the way we teach students science and math to ensure its relevancy and effectiveness in the classroom.

“When teaching STEM in your school, it has to be a collaborative effort,” Thompson continued. “Mentors are also essential to growing professionally. Without support, it increases the self-doubt and worry of whether or not you’re effectively teaching students. My desire is to have a small group of teachers that have a desire or interest in teaching STEM at my school to strengthen ourselves and then in the future, support others.”

Ultimately, that ripple effect – the Noyce teachers carrying their new knowledge and ideas into their district – is exactly what the Noyce grant envisions, Lyublinskaya said.

“If we have a critical mass – 15 teachers in 10 high-need elementary schools in the district,” she said. “We will create a network of science teacher-leaders who will be able to help other teachers to improve quality of science teaching. It will change the culture of teaching science in their own schools and, hopefully, the district and beyond.”

Candidates’ debate fills CSI’s Center for the Arts Williamson Theatre as midterms loom

Dan Donovan, left, and Max Rose met for a debate at the College of Staten Island Oct. 16.
Dan Donovan, left, and Max Rose met for a debate at the College of Staten Island Oct. 16.

More than 400 people filled the Center for the Arts Williamson Theatre to capacity Oct. 16 to watch candidates for New York’s 11th congressional district debate in the run-up to midterm elections on Nov. 6.

debate graphic“Tonight’s debate, which will potentially have significant impact upon the future of the 11th Congressional District and Staten Island, is taking place right where it belongs – at the borough’s only public institution of higher education – the College of Staten Island,” President William J. Fritz told the audience before the candidates took the stage. “We’re getting used to these types of debates and serious conversations – we’ve done several over the past few years.”

debate tweet

The College of Staten Island hosted the debate, which was co-sponsored and aired live by NY1. NY1 Political Anchor Errol Louis moderated and NY1 Political Reporter Courtney Gross and Senior Opinion Writer for the Staten Island Advance, Tom Wrobleski, served as panelists.

An energetic debate ensued and it was apparent that both Dan Donovan, the Republican incumbent, and his challenger, Max Rose, Democrat, had their supporters present. The audience

debate audience
Staten Island residents (and doubtless others from elsewhere) crowded into the Williamson Theatre for the New York State 11th congressional district candidates' debate.

also included elected representatives from both sides of the aisle, including State Assembly Member Nicole Malliotakis and New York City Council Member Debi Rose.

Beyond a few heated attack lines, however, the debate also reflected that each candidate respected the other. Asked to cite a quality he admired in his opponent, each responded sincerely.
Donovan thanked Rose for his military service, while Rose said he admired Donovan for being a dedicated father.

The full debate, broadcast live by Spectrum News NY1, can be seen online.

 

The numbers may be down, but studying the humanities is probably more important than ever, CSI profs say

Students viewing an art history exhibit recently at CSI.
Students viewing an art history exhibit recently at CSI.

The continued decline in the numbers of students majoring in humanities has some experts declaring the trend a crisis, but it could also reflect the success of the disciplines, a CSI professor said.

“I don’t see it as a crisis,” said Dr. Lee Papa, Professor of English. “I think that humanities is in the process of adapting to changes in technology and the advancement of the internet.”

Want to flex your linguistic muscles? Participate in upcoming All Writers Welcome workshops – Oct. 30 and Nov. 13 at 2:30pm in 2S-217

At CSI, the humanities comprises majors such as English, History, Media Culture, Performing and Creative Arts, Philosophy, and World Languages and Literatures. To some, these areas of study seem impractical – because they are not directly linked to jobs like, say, computer science or nursing.
undergrad humanities enrollments 2008-2017
Undergrad humanities enrollments 2008-2017 at the College of Staten Island, based on fall semester figures for each year. Source: College of Staten Island Enrollment Services.

“In my own group of friends, there’s not another person who’s a humanities major,” said Judy Portalatin, an English major. “I think it’s because there’s this idea you can get more money and more job security with a non-humanities major.”

CSI undergraduate humanities enrollment, 2008-2017 (fall semesters)
CSI undergraduate humanities enrollment, 2008-2017, based on fall semester enrollments for each year. Source: College of Staten Island Enrollment Services.

Portalatin said she became an English major because she loves to write, mainly non-fiction and poetry. She challenged the idea that her degree would limit her job opportunities.

“I don’t think people understand how many options we have, there’s so many things you can do,” Portalatin said. “I can go to law school, med school. I could become a teacher or an editor.”

“Honestly, I don’t care” if a humanities degree is not what the jobs market wants, said Peter Scasny, a History master’s student and recent recipient of a Fulbright award. “I don’t care what use it is, or rather what use people think it is, in the market because I love it. If you do what you love, opportunities will present themselves.”

Curious what the job opportunities are for humanities majors? Visit CSI’s Center for Career and Professional Development to get answers.

World Languages and Literatures Professor Gerry Milligan agreed.

“In my experience, it is not that there is a ‘crisis’ but rather quite a bit of misinformation about what a humanities degree can offer students,” Milligan, who is also director of CSI honors programs, wrote in an email. “A degree in Spanish or Italian, for example, offers students skills in written and oral communication (in English and in a second language) as well as critical thinking skills. Our students have had success being placed in Medical School, Pharmacy School, Physicians Assistant programs as well as in industry such as HR, marketing and sales.”

Anes Ahmed, an English sophomore, posited that the drop might reflect a lack of confidence in the skills required to succeed in humanities majors.

“The reason I got into English was because growing up I was always a story teller,” Ahmed said. “I feel like the main reason is more personal. Students really get distracted easily, through technology or other entertainment and because of that they don’t know how to express themselves or be creative.

“So they see the other majors and they think I’ll do that because I’m not strong in storytelling.”

The decline in interest in humanities majors has deeper implications, both students said.
Ghost Ship
Ghost Ship by Judy Portalatin, an English major at the College of Staten Island.

“I’ve seen some students struggling with writing their papers because they didn’t have proper grammar or how to construct an argument,” Ahmed said. “You can be amazing but if you cannot articulate your ideas correctly that’s where it fails. I’ve seen master’s degree students, really intelligent people, who really struggle because they cannot write a paper.”
Beyond academic issues, the world at large may suffer, too, Portalatin said.

“People become very small-minded when they don’t want to educate themselves on the roots of our language or history in general,” Portalatin said. “These are vital to what has shaped us as a people. I think there’s a lack of understanding the importance of language and where we come from, and the importance of being able to properly articulate that.”

Media Culture Professor David Gerstner agreed.

“The failure to guide students through a well-rounded and critically engaged program of study leaves our students with very limited options,” Gerstner wrote in an email. “Recent research shows that a well-rounded and expansive liberal-arts college education remains in high demand by industry leaders.

“People who write well and think critically are more likely to offer innovative concepts,” Gerstner continued. “All industries look for these very talents when hiring.”

Street Uniform by Anes Ahmed. Ahmed is junior studying English.

Whatever the reason for the precipitous drop nationally, Papa said no one should dismiss the value of studying the humanities: doing so develops core analytical and critical skills that, while they may seem impractical, have important applications across disciplines.

For example, business majors need to have good writing skills and it will serve them well to understand history and philosophy when they, say, analyze markets and consumer behavior.

At the same time, the decline in humanities majors does not mean the humanities are going unstudied or unappreciated, Papa said.

“We’ve had the business school come to us and say we want you to teach business writing,” Papa said.

“Those who believe majoring in English is not “practical” are mistaken,” said English Prof. Cate Marvin. “In fact, the previous Chancellor of CUNY, James B. McMiliken, was an English major. The combination of reading and writing skills one acquires alongside the broad cultural knowledge that the examination of literature provides, prepares individuals for any field they wish to enter.”

Papa agreed, saying studying the humanities may be more important than ever.

“It’s not that you’re necessarily going to go out there and become a writer, a political scientist or a historian,” he said. “We’ll teach you how to handle information and that will carry through to any career you may go into.

“We teach students how to deal with information – figuring out what’s useful and what’s not – and also how to express that and express that in a way that is intelligent, that is convincing, or creative.”

Caryl Watkins, Director of CSI’s Center for Career and Professional Development, said humanities majors are of interest to major employers.

“Liberal Arts and Humanities majors fare very well because of their ability to articulate their thoughts, think creatively and analytically, tend to be proficient writers, and are resilient and good problem solvers,” Watkins wrote in an email. “Other than very technical positions, Humanities and Liberal Arts majors do very well in the competitive job market. The key is knowing how to present themselves professionally, and of course, having an internship or two prior to graduation only increases a LA and Humanities marketability.”

Marvin, who will serve as mentor at an All Writers Workshop on Oct. 30, said that organizing the workshop reflected the department’s commitment to celebrating and cultivating language skills.

“We are offering these writing workshop for students who are interested in seeing what having their creative work critiqued is like,” Marvin said. “We hope they’ll learn ways to strengthen their writing, become acquainted with our creative writing professors, and consider taking classes with us, including poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction and play writing.

“We have one of the strongest creative writing programs in the country,” Marvin continued. “All of our writing professors have received national awards for their work; they also share the distinction of being dedicated teachers.”

Portalatin said however it might affect her job prospects, majoring in English was entirely fulfilling.

“I think (all my friends) know I have the most fun out of all of them,” she said. “They’ll say, ‘I have a four-hour calculus exam I have to study for and I’ll say, ‘Hmmm too bad… I’m writing a book of poetry.’”

Humanities majors can take heart: A major study from the American Academy of Arts and Sciences says the majority of humanities majors are happy and gainfully employed.