CSI Alumna Featured on DOE’s #Celebrate 18 Website

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Kandace Rodriguez, Photo courtesy of DOE/p.s. alumni

CSI Alumna Kandace Rodriguez, who graduated from the College of Staten Island last January with a BS in Electrical Engineering, is featured on the Department of Education/p.s. alumni Website #Celebrate 18, which spotlights 18 New York City public school graduates who are overcoming their challenges and making a difference. More information is available online.

CSI Alumnus Dan O’Leary ‘01: From CSI to NHL

Dan O'Leary (far right) with (l-r) his wife Melissa '01, his daughter Jenna, and his son Jake

Dan O’Leary has come a long way from his days as a forward on the 1999 Men’s Basketball team that won the CUNY Conference Tournament Championship and played in the NCAA Division III Tournament. He earned a BS in Communications/Journalism and a minor in Media Studies from CSI, which helped to propel him from the basketball court to the newsroom, giving him the opportunity to be a sports writer for the Staten Island Advance for seven years, the Daily News for six years, and now, the National Hockey League (NHL). Currently, he writes for a new section of NHL.com called “Short Shifts,” which focuses on potentially viral stories from around the league.

Looking back on it all, O’Leary seems quite content, “I’m lucky enough to feel like I have reached my major career goal, which was to get paid to write about sports. I had incredible experiences at the Staten Island Advance and New York Daily News and now, working for the National Hockey League is more than I could have ever imagined for myself. I owe many thanks to many people for how my career has played out so far.”

O’Leary also is enthusiastic about his CSI experience as he shares his philosophy on education and how it relates to life. “I have a singular belief about education. And that is, no matter what school you choose, you get out of it what you put into it. I’ve been out in the professional world for 15 years now and I have worked with people who went to Syracuse, NYU, Columbia, and plenty of others—schools that are pretty much the gold standard for journalism degrees. And here I was working right alongside them with my degree from the College of Staten Island. And I wasn’t the only CSI grad, or CUNY product, for that matter, in these offices. If you take your education seriously and allow yourself to be taught and learn from people more experienced than you are, you can get a top-notch education at a place that will not put you in student loan debt until you are a grandparent. But it’s on you, the student, to take it seriously, find what speaks to you and figure out what you really want to do with your life – because adulthood is coming whether you like it or not – and then find people who have done that with theirs and try to learn from their experience.”

As for the future, O’Leary says that he might write a book someday, but he explains that he and his wife Melissa are currently raising “two incredible kids (Jenna, a three-year old girl and Jake, a one-year old boy) that don’t leave us much down time as you can imagine. My main immediate goal right now is just to be a good dad.”

He also proudly retains his ties to CSI Athletics, stating that he still participates “in the Matty White Memorial Basketball Alumni Game every year and it’s always great to see my old teammates, who are now lifelong friends. CSI is part of who I am. I’m proud to say that I was a Dolphin and that I always will be.”

CSI Alumna Jennifer Sammartino-Mallen ’99: Making her Favorite Borough Even Better

Sammartino-Mallen with her family in Provincetown, Cape Cod.

College of Staten Island (CSI) alumna Jennifer Sammartino-Mallen ’99 has been working to improve Staten Island ever since she graduated.

Appointed as the first Director of Tourism and Cultural Affairs for Staten Island in the Office of the Borough President, Sammartino-Mallen recently commented on her devotion to her hometown as well as her own journey as a professional.

“I love Staten Island. I honestly do. It’s my birthplace and my home, and I know it has so much to offer. My entire career, I have tried to do things that benefit my community and make it a better place. I have been so fortunate to have worked with professionals at stellar institutions on the Island and to be able to give back in small ways. I believe the journey I am on will allow me to continue to do that. I look forward to perhaps one day running my own organization and have even thought about getting an MBA,” said Sammartino-Mallen, who resides in New Brighton with her husband, daughter, and their cat, Steve Buscemi.

After receiving a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature, the native Staten Islander went on to be a journalist at the Staten Island Advance before she began serving for Borough President James Oddo as Director of Communications and External Affairs for more than three years.

“This is an extremely exciting time for our borough, and I am honored to be able to contribute to a positive image of Staten Island to potential visitors in our city, state, country, and the world,” commented Sammartino-Mallen, who, as an undergraduate, received scholarships from several organizations, including the Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company and The Lions Club.

Sammartino-Mallen’s impressive résumé also includes posts as the Director of Communications and Development at Richmond University Medical Center and the Public Information Officer at the Department of Veterans Affairs, which serves Staten Island Veterans. She has also volunteered for the March of Dimes, the Staten Island Heart Society, and the Carl V. Bini Foundation, and is an active parent at Children’s Harbor Montessori School, where she served on the Parent Association’s executive board.

Sammartino-Mallen (second from left) with staff of the Borough President’s Office at the Halloween Hoopla event, a free event for children.

The successful professional, mother, wife, and conscientious citizen reminds other grads to “network. Take the time to go to events and meet people. Never turn down an invitation. You never know who you might meet.”

She further advises CSI students to, “Try everything. Explore. You never know what might grab you and lead you down the right path. I had two or three majors by the time I settled into English Literature. I majored in something I loved because I knew I could stick with it. I wasn’t concerned about how it would relate to my job search after school. I just wanted to be passionate about something and talk about books and plays, and CSI allowed me to do that.”

The proud alumna remembers some notable professors she enjoyed at CSI, including the late Jim Tolan and Michael Shugrue, and Catherine Lavender.

“I recall a grad-level class where Jim Tolan had us take poetry we had written and physically cut it apart, line by line. I was devastated. I’m no poet and I had worked really hard on the assignment. Once we had the work in pieces, he asked us to reassemble it in a different way. What I had before me was so much more profound and interesting when I stopped thinking about where the thoughts ‘belonged.’ I think the same can be said for so many areas of our lives. It was an eye-opening lesson,” she stated.

Finally, Sammartino-Mallen humbly notes, “Life is a balancing act, and I fail all the time. As a mother to a young child, it is next to impossible to give 110% all day, every day to everyone and everything in your life that deserves attention. Do what you can, don’t stress the stuff that you can’t change, and be grateful. And dye your hair.”

 

 

Alumni Souad Outarid Has Formula for Success

Souad Outarid is a teacher at Lavelle Prep.

Teacher, multi-scholarship recipient, Dean’s List member, community volunteer, immigrant, mother. These titles belong to one woman who has seemingly transcended any limitations an international student may impose. Teachers Education Honors Academy (TEHA) alumna Souad Outarid is passionate about all of the hats she wears in life. The Moroccan-born Mathematics major currently teaches at John W. Lavelle Preparatory Charter School, in addition to volunteering locally at the Staten Island Mental Health Department (where she assists elementary students with reading and math). Outarid also lends her time to the Distance Learning program at the College of Staten Island’s (CSI) Continuing Education Program where she tutors GED students and teaches Arabic to non-native Arabic students at the Al-Noor Islamic Society Sunday School.

As an undergraduate student, Outarid earned Dean’s List placement for consecutive years from 2007 to 2012, and was the recipient of the National Science Foundation Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program, The Alfred Harcourt Foundation Scholarship, and the TEHA Scholarship. While all hold a high level of prestige, the Noyce Scholarship was particularly transformative for Outarid as it allowed her to participate in an international teaching internship in Vladimir, Russia. The scholarship program seeks to encourage talented science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) majors and professionals to become K-12 mathematics and science (including engineering and computer science) teachers. During the 2017 Spring Break, Outarid joined a group of Noyce alumni, led by Dr. Irina Lyublinskaya, to visit Vladimir State University (VlSU). The opportunity supports developing collaboration between the Pedagogical Institute of the Russian university and the Noyce Teacher Honors Academy at CSI. During this time, Outarid co-taught calculus lessons with another Noyce alum to tenth grade students and co-presented a master class to VlSU graduate students.

Outarid exhibited an eagerness to learn about Russian STEM education, which stood out to Dr. Lyublinskaya. However, her own personal story also resonated with the group leader. Dr. Lyublinskaya states, “While traveling together, I learned about her difficult childhood. She shared how much she values education and she is now giving the same opportunities to children she works with. Souad selected to work in a school where over 30% of students are students with special needs. This is a challenging environment for any teacher, especially new teachers. She has a passion to help all children to learn math…Souad is a teacher who puts her students’ needs first. She would spend hours trying to find a way to engage her students in learning mathematics and to build their confidence. She is a life-long learner who searches for new ways of teaching math.”

Souad Outarid sailing with her two sons in Marsa Matrouh, Egypt.

The Richmond native’s various mentors have also noted her dedication to academia as CSI Professor of Mathematics and TEHA Director Dr. Jane Coffee states, “Souad Outarid exemplifies the very best characteristics of a graduate of the Teacher Education Honors Academy. She was well-prepared in her undergraduate Mathematics major and graduated cum laude. Her grades in her education courses are evidence that she adapted well to the U. S. mathematics adolescence education program—something that was new to her.”

Professor Dr. Nelly Tournaki, Coordinator of the CSI Department of Educational Studies, as well as Urban Education at The Graduate Center, CUNY, also noted Outarid’s exemplary teaching as she adds, “As a CSI faculty and a Board member of the Lavelle school, I often visit classes at the school. Souad’s is a model class. I can attest to her excellent pedagogical skills, depth of content knowledge, and most of all, her professional disposition—she has a strong presence, is sincere, warm, compassionate, respectful, and therefore respected.”

While Outarid’s academic life has certainly been filled with major accomplishments, her story goes far beyond the classroom. After losing her mother at an early age, Outarid was raised by her grandfather and sister who instilled in her the importance of education, especially for a woman in the Middle East. This inspired the Mathematics major to pursue higher education, graduating in 2012 with her Bachelor’s degree and subsequently earning her Master’s degree in Adolescence Education, 7- 12 (Mathematics) in 2014. With this dedication to academia, it may not come as a surprise that Outarid was awarded “Outstanding Teacher of the Year” in 2017. With her eyes set on a Doctoral degree, one might wonder what the aspiring professor views as her biggest responsibility. Perhaps the answer sits directly in the classroom, as she remarks, “As an educator, I take my job very seriously, I love what I do, and I take pride in my work. My students and I have a mutual respect.”

This respect and dedication is what makes teachers like Souad Outarid life changers.

 

 

CSI Alumnus Vincent Wong ’15 Attending Upstate Medical University

Vincent Wong at an Americorps Your Park! Your Health! event.

Saving the world may very well be on Vincent Wong’s future agenda. The 23-year-old Macaulay Honors College (MHC) alumnus achieved a tremendous amount in his four years at the College of Staten Island, which speaks both to his work ethic and thrill for adventure. The recipient of several scholarships and awards, including The Jack Nash Scholarship (2014) and Psychology Departmental Award (2015), Wong is currently a medical student at Upstate Medical University at Syracuse, where he’ll be starting his clinical rotations this summer, with an interest in family medicine.

During his time on campus, the Psychology major and former club vice president was heavily involved with Project Reach, a peer-mentoring program for college students with learning disabilities. As a student researcher, he worked closely with Kristen Gillespie-Lynch, PhD, developing a thesis on the impact of mentoring on the mentors and their success rates. Reflecting on his time with Dr. Gillespie-Lynch, Wong states,

“She is one of the nicest people I know. She allowed me to conduct research with her for two and a half years and guided me every step of the way. She encouraged me to enter various conferences to present my research, which was one of the best-presented undergraduate research at the conferences.”

The admiration is mutual as Dr. Gillespie notes, “Vincent was a huge asset to the mentorship program. He was an exceptional mentor for several students, including a student with a disability whom he inspired to become a mentor himself. His sense of humor and natural exuberance created joy in the students he worked with.”

In addition to his work on campus, the Brooklyn Technical High School graduate, also participated in several extracurricular activities.

Wong was a member of the CUNY Service Corps program, which allowed him to work at the Prospect Park Zoo. Some of his responsibilities included managing the zoo database and helping the staff coordinate special events.

Of his many activities, one program Wong found to be transformative was AmeriCorps. After hearing about the opportunity at the Macaulay job fair in Manhattan, Wong knew that AmeriCorps would be an enriching and life-changing experience for the aspiring doctor. AmeriCorps is a civil society program supported by the U.S. government, foundations, corporations, and other donors engaging adults in public service work with a goal of “helping others and meeting critical needs in the community.”

In addition to the special bond he shared with Sheridan, Wong experienced nature in a unique way. He states, “It opened an entirely new world that was unknown to me before. I always thought of nature being far away and having to transverse hundreds of miles to find a small quiet place to enjoy. However, Gateway National Park is only 45 minutes away on bike. Not only was it super close, it was also a hidden gem.”

Vincent Wong demonstrating proper technique at the Americorps event.

During this time, Vincent learned how to kayak and rescue other kayakers, and paddled to an uninhabited island off the coast of Brooklyn where a pack of horseshoe crabs greeted him and his peers.

Another memory the medical student holds fondly was traveling to Sandy Hook Beach to camp overnight. He recounts, “I remember sitting by the fire with the vivid night sky over my head. The next morning was a marine demonstration. Another counselor and I walked along the shore with a huge net. The captured animals were quickly returned to the ocean after we showed the public all the various species of small fishes that lived in these waters. Overall, this experience taught me to enjoy nature just a little bit more.”

Although it may seem as if he has conquered the world on his own, the current medical school student and Syracuse resident credits his success to a number of individuals including Charles Liu, Lisa French, and the entire Macaulay Honors community.

Wong has also been an asset to the MHC community, “We are very proud of Vincent Wong. He is a genuine, kind, and humble person whose wit and intelligence will help to make him a wonderful doctor one day,” said Lisa French, Associate Director of the Macaulay Honors College at CSI. “Jovial, joyful, and inspiring—a pleasure to have as a student—that’s what comes to mind when I think of Vincent!” adds Charles Liu, Macaulay at CSI’s faculty director.

Wong encourages fellow students to cultivate these kinds of relationships, which made him feel like “family,” as he states, “Students should take the time out to develop and nurture a relationship between a professor or staff member. This relationship will help them grow as a student and as an individual.”

 

CSI Alumnus Keegan Fernandes Receives Jonas Salk Scholarship

Keegan Fernandes is the recipient of a Jonas Salk Scholarship.

College of Staten Island (CSI) alumnus Keegan Fernandes ’15, ’16, ‘17 has won a Jonas Salk Scholarship.

Through the Scholarship, in fall 2017, Fernandes will attend the Jerry M. Wallace School of Osteopathic Medicine at Campbell University in North Carolina, where in addition to pursuing a Doctor of Osteopathy degree, he will also conduct research relating to epileptic seizures and type II diabetes.

“I am so humbled and want to express my deepest gratitude for being awarded the Jonas Salk Scholarship. This prestigious award will allow me to pursue my dreams and for that I cannot thank the Jonas Salk committee enough,” said Fernandes.

A veteran of the U.S. Army, Fernandes has received a Purple Heart Medal and Ribbons denoting Army Commendation, Army Service, NATO Service, and Global War on Terrorism.

“Having spent seven years in the military, retuning to civilian life was difficult. I was grateful to find a home with the Veteran Support office where Laura Scazzafavo helped me focus on reaching the dream of becoming a doctor,” remembers Fernandes, who graduated with both a Bachelor of Science in Biology and a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology in 2015 and went on to complete a Master of Science in Biotechnology at CSI in spring 2016. The graduate student is slated to receive a second Master of Science in Neuroscience and Developmental Disabilities in spring 2017.

While in the Army, Fernandes served as the lead medic for his platoon and found his inspiration to become a physician after saving the life of his friend (and fellow soldier) in Afghanistan, who was severely injured by an improvised explosive device.

At CSI, Fernandes instructed tenth grade high school students in neuroscience and mathematics through the CSTEP Program, received honors in his major and served as a Veteran Support Specialist and a member of the Armed Forces Club and the Pre-Medical Society at CSI.

As an undergraduate, Fernandes worked in a laboratory with Dan McCloskey, PhD, examining the paradoxical lack of brain Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor in the African Naked Mole-Rat.  According to Dr. McCloskey, “He helped develop first neuronal cell culture studies on this species and his research revealed that this unusual mammal uses alternative strategies to grow new blood vessels in the brain, which allows them to handle low oxygen environments in their native habitat. This work informs us of new strategies for human vascular growth to counteract stroke and heart disease.”

“Academically, the professors that I have crossed paths with saw my truest potential even when I couldn’t see it in myself. Having the backing that was offered at CSI has played a huge role in receiving this award,” said the student, who in particular recalls the support of Bill L’Amoreaux, PhD; Abdeslem El Idrissi, PhD; and Dr. McCloskey.

“Without their belief in me I would not be finishing my degree. Their mentorship held me up when life was too much, and here is the proof that anything is possible,” he said.

Dr. McCloskey, who serves as the student’s research mentor and pre-med advisor, added that, “Keegan has propelled himself toward this award. I have been fortunate to work with truly great students here at CSI, including previous Salk Scholarship Awardees, but I have never met a student like Keegan. I have no doubt that he will go on and continue to do amazing things.”

“CSI is very proud of Keegan for his academic achievements as well as his brave service to our country. He is to be commended for his involvement in research throughout his academic program here. There is no doubt that the outstanding mentorship by Dr. McCloskey provided a major boost toward his securing this great recognition,” noted Gary Reichard, PhD, CSI Provost.

The hard-working student and soldier believes, “No matter how long or tough the road is, if you stay with it and you really want it, you will achieve it. This journey is not over. It is the stepping stone to the future I am now certain of, given every challenge I have conquered.”

 

History of Salk Scholarships recipients

 

2017

Keegan Fernandes ’15, ’16, ‘17

 

2015

Anton Mararenko ’15

 

2014

Christina Vicidomini ’13

 

2012

Eric Rios-Doria

 

 

CSI Alumna Soaring to New Heights: Lucinda Zawadzki ’15 Attending University of Oxford on Full Scholarship

Lucinda Zawadzki will attend the University of Oxford in the fall.

Macaulay Honors College (MHC) alumna, Lucinda Zawadzki ’15 has received a full scholarship to the University of Oxford to pursue a PhD in Zoology.

Through the Oxford-Christ Church-Natural Motion Graduate Scholarship, Zawadzki will study full time at the University from October 2017 to September 2020 with all tuition, college fees, and living costs covered.

“I am extremely excited to attend the University of Oxford for my graduate studies. After finding my passion studying birds, I knew that I wanted to continue my studies in graduate school, but I never imagined being able to do so at such an amazing institution. This opportunity is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and I cannot wait to begin my studies in the fall,” said Zawadzki, who graduated with a Bachelor of Science with honors in Biology, minoring in Biochemistry and Chemistry, and was the Class of 2015 Salutatorian and recipient of multiple scholarships while at CSI.

At the University of Oxford, Zawadzki plans to study vagrancy in birds as an indicator of climate change by conducting research with the Oxford Navigation Group.

Zawadzki plans to study Zoology.

“Through use of existing databases and fieldwork, I will be studying how vagrancy drives movement in bird populations, and whether vagrancy is due to misorientation or an adaptation. To date, no such analysis has been performed. This work is important in terms of climate change, as many organisms will need to adapt to changing conditions through dispersal,” Zawadzki said.

She was also selected as a finalist in the very prestigious British Marshall Scholarship, a first for CSI in this particular scholarship competition. She has also received an honorable mention from the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and two honorable mentions from the National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship Program.

Zawadzki reflects that, “I have learned that if you have a dream, never give up. I knew this already from college, when I faced the dilemma of switching majors and changing research directions after I discovered my love of biology… challenges do not end in school; they continue after you graduate. However, no matter what roadblock may stand in your way, if you have a goal, and you work really hard, you will achieve it. From senior year of college I knew that I wanted to study birds for a living, and now I have a real path to that dream. I worked hard to get here, and now, day by day, I am slowly making my dream a reality. And I could not be happier.”

Read more about Zawadzki on CSI Today.com.