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



Keegan Fernandes ’15, ’16, ‘17



Anton Mararenko ’15



Christina Vicidomini ’13



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.


CSI Alumna Debra Santulli-Barone ’06: Entertaining in Order to Educate

Debra Santulli-Barone receiving relaxation therapy with Dr. Charley Ferrer (top right).

In 2014, Debra Santulli-Barone ’06 was diagnosed with breast cancer. The brave woman did not see her diagnosis as a deterrent, however, and she quickly joined forces with another patient, not to complain, but to entertain!

While attending the Staten Island University Hospital (SIUH) Northwell breast cancer support group, Santulli-Barone met Dr. Charley Ferrer, another individual with breast cancer, who also shared her dream of creating cable television shows on the subject of cancer.

“We became friends quickly since she and I had some things in common. Charley had a dream of doing CTV shows on cancer. The funny thing is I thought of that in 2014, but didn’t have the energy to do it alone. Soon, we were planning a show,” recalls Santulli-Barone.

The Community Television (CTV) Cancer Tamer talk show debuted in June 2016. With Dr. Ferrer as executive director and producer, and Santulli-Barone as segment producer of  “Did You Know…,” an informative portion of the Cancer Tamer talk show featuring relevant professionals and roundtable discussions.

The show airs every Thursday at 9:00pm on Channel 34 (CTV), as well as in Manhattan on channels 34 and 54 on Tuesdays at 10:30am, and is set to air in the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Queens. The team is also planning a comedy fundraiser at Gotham Comedy Club slated for June 28, 2017.

“Who knew that a few courses at CSI years ago on film and video, would lead me to this?” exclaimed Santulli-Barone, a Huguenot resident, who graduated with a Bachelor’s degree, majoring in Corporate Communications and minoring in Journalism and Business. She is also a member of the Eta Lambda Chapter of Phi Beta Delta (Society for International Scholars) at CSI.

Created by Dr. Ferrer, Cancer Tamer is a not-for-profit organization providing education and inspiration to people diagnosed with breast cancer and other cancers. They provide such things as lymphedema pillows to help reduce pain after surgery and body love workshops to help women reclaim their sense of self.

Debra Santulli-Barone

“Dr. Charley Ferrer reached out to the community and obtained free shampoos for women who recently had surgery and since they cannot lift their arms to wash their own hair, free oil changes for Cancer Tamer members, free memberships to Thrive online grocery stores, and much more,” notes Santulli-Barone.

In 2015, Santulli-Barone was diagnosed with Chronic Myeloid Leukemia and has recently started the remission process.

“It was totally a shock, but I am here to celebrate that I have been breast cancer free for two years. Due to my illnesses, I do a lot of research, read books, and educate cancer survivors and people that have not been diagnosed. There are things we should all know but didn’t until cancer knocked on my door—things our doctors didn’t tell us either. Advocating for myself has helped me and saved my life,” said Santulli-Barone, who also delivers public service announcements with Dr. Ferrer on CSI’s WSIA radio station (88.9 FM).

“I would love to have others at our College, as well as alumni, know that we are out there trying to help others—mainly, to just relate our stories and what we learned, what we should have known, and what you can do on your own to live a healthier life,” urged Santulli-Barone, adding that things like stress and poor diet can have a huge effect on one’s health.

“There is so much more we want to share with our community and want to continue sharing to create awareness and more positive support networks,” noted Santulli-Barone, who has two sons, Stefan and Jordan, founders of the record label, “Red Planet Records LLC.” She also is co-founder with her son Stefan, of his anti-bully support group, “Play It Forward NY.”

She also founded and coordinates the Holiday Hospitality Dining Registry, a program through the Center for Global Engagement. Santulli-Barone helps to sign up international students for Thanksgiving dinners she or other faculty members host in their homes.

For more information about Santulli-Barone and Dr. Ferrer’s work, and to view past shows and find ticket information for the comedy show and future events, visit the Cancer Tamer Website.



Saada Amadu ’16 Forges Ahead to Study Sustainability

Saada Amadu visiting Château de Chambord in France.

As a sustainable environmental continues to be a global concern for many, one College of Staten Island (CSI) graduate is taking action.

Saada Amadu ’16 has received a full scholarship to attend graduate school at Central European University in Budapest, Hungary to study Environmental Sciences and Policy.

“I hope to work at the intersection of environmental science and policy because I believe for us to be able to find methods to sustain ourselves without endangering the environment and livelihood and well-being of future generations to come, international policy must find a way to bridge the gap with the scientific community,” said Amadu, who was an International Studies major with minors in Geography and French.

The Port Richmond High School graduate credits much of her motivation and inspiration for graduate studies to her experiences with research, under the advisement of Associate Professor Roshen Hendrickson, and study abroad opportunities at CSI.

“Saada is a very bright and ambitious woman who has gained access to stimulating opportunities, such as study abroad and graduate school in Europe, through sheer hard work. She has been a great pleasure to work with because she’s intellectually curious and motivated to contribute to her global community,” commented Professor Hendrickson.

Saada Amadu visiting temples in Hong Kong.

For her honors thesis, Amadu wrote about, “policies that led to Senegal importing over 70% of its food and also organizations and individuals working to revive the sector. The interesting part of the research was discovering that structural adjustment programs imposed by the IMF and World Bank were part of the reason for the decline in the Senegal agricultural sector.”

Currently crafting her Master’s thesis, Amadu is studying “the nexus of food, energy, and water security issues. The need for new energy sources and climate change have led some countries to seek alternative sources of energy through biofuels, which are basically energy derived from biomass. First generation biofuels can be derived from crops such as soy or corn while second generation biofuels are derived from by-products such as wood or crops such as jatropha [a flowering plant]. My research is focusing on the fact that biofuels affect both energy and water security of certain communities, in particular rural Ghanaian communities.”

For a truly rich college experience, Amadu strongly urges college students to take advantage of study abroad opportunities as well as the financial support available for those courses.

“Programs can be expensive but with the help of scholarships and grants, the costs might not be too much. I went on two semester-long programs and was still able to graduate in three and a half years. The Center for International Service is particularly helpful when it comes to applying for programs and scholarships,” said Amadu, who traveled to Paris, France in Spring 2015 and Hong Kong in Spring 2016.

The 21-year-old native of Tamale, Ghana was also the recipient of the Gilman Scholarship, Benjamin Franklin Travel Grant, CUNY SIROCS, and CSI Study Abroad Scholarship.

“Saada is an outstanding, dedicated student with a plan to utilize sustainability initiatives to make a difference for underserved communities around the world,” praised Michele Callahan, Fellowship & Scholarship Advisor.

To succeed in college, Amadu urges students to, “Take advantage of opportunities if and when you are presented with them. Also, try to have a faculty mentor because they can be of help when you least expect.”



CSI Alumnus Dr. Victor Dolan ’13 Receives “Chiropractor of the Year” Award

STATEN ISLAND ADVANCE — The New Jersey Chiropractic Council on Sports Injury and Rehabilitation presented its “Chiropractor of the Year” award to Dr. Victor Dolan, the Curtis High School Football Team Chiropractor, NYPD Finest Football Team Chiropractor and S.I. Sports Hall of Fame Unsung Hero.

The NJCCSIR presentation was made at the Conference Center, Days Inn Hotel, East Brunswick, N.J., on Dec. 1. The award recognizes the recipients dedication and service to the athletic community.

Dr. Dolan has been an active healthcare participant in the  New York and New Jersey area sports event arena.

From local events such as PSAL High School football (Warrior Football Chiropractor), bringing Ambulance coverage to all S.I.H.S. Varsity games (Friends of Staten Island High School Football), to international events from Mexico to Italy to Ireland, from working with the USA Olympic Team to staffing the Pan American Games, Caribbean American Games, the World Sport Games, or local Tae Kwon Do, wrestling, fencing or PBA bowling; Dr. Dolan has helped athletes prevent injury and improve performance for three decades.

A Staten Island native and a Monsignor Farrell High School, College of Staten Island, and Wagner College grad, Dr. Dolan completed his Chiropractic Doctorate at Palmer Chiropractic University, Davenport Iowa. [Dr. Dolan received an Associate’s Degree in Nursing from CSI].

He currently resides and practices in the Grasmere community of Staten Island.

This article by Carol Ann Benanti was first published Dec. 7, 2016 on www.silive.com.  It is reprinted here with permission.

CSI Alumna Nechama Averick ’15: Commencement Speaker at Hebrew University, Jerusalem

CSI Alumna Nechama Averick at the 2016 Braun School of Public Health of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem graduation ceremony.

“To my fellow graduates—Congratulations, Mazal Tov, and Mabrook!” So began the speech of Nechama Averick ’15 at the 2016 Braun School of Public Health of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem graduation ceremony. Averick, who will be starting a career in public health in Israel, is a College of Staten Island (CSI) Macaulay Honors College (MHC) alumna.

In Jerusalem, Averick addressed an audience of 200 graduates, government ministers, foreign ambassadors, family, and friends with farewell wishes and resonating messages. A Biology major with minors in Biochemistry and Political Science at CSI, Averick discussed public health as a career, its importance on a global level, and the questions that many still have about the evolving field.

“Public health is an inclusive field that includes all the current events happening around us. Yet, compared to other health professions in the health sciences, it seems to be least known among the general public,” said the 24-year-old native Staten Islander who now resides in Jerusalem. She explained that, “public health literally touches every field of human study—from demography, biostatistics, epidemiology, economics, genetics, and anthropology… In short, public health is the great equalizer that allows those born in poverty or marginalized populations to enjoy the benefits of modern medicine. It is the catalyst for a better, healthier future to be enjoyed by everyone.”

CSI Distinguished Professor Fred Naider, PhD noted that Averick’s contributions at CSI and the local community, and current global contributions are “a testament to the student’s hard work and dedication.”

Nechama Averick

While at CSI, Averick was affiliated with the Pre-Medical Society, where she served as president for three years.  Graduating with a 3.8 GPA, she was also a Horace W. Goldsmith Scholar and received an honors undergraduate research stipend from CSI to conduct laboratory research, which she conducted with Krishnaswami Raja, PhD, Associate Professor in the Department of Chemistry.

Averick currently holds a research position in Israel’s Ministry of Health, Tuberculosis, and AIDS Department.

Through the MHC, Averick spent one undergraduate summer conducting breast cancer research at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel and a winter semester studying tropical ecology in the Virgin Islands.

She is grateful for the “tremendous support from the wonderful administrators including Lisa French, Anita Romano, and Charles Liu” as well as guidance from Biology Professor Grozdena Yilmaz.

Averick remembers that, “Dr. Charles Liu was an incredible source of inspiration. He made every student feel wanted and welcome… we would always remark how Dr. Liu was the epitome of loving life and following your passions.”

Her advice to college students is to work hard because “there is just no way around it. The best way to ‘alleviate’ that pain is to develop your support system, without them, I would not be where I am today. Find what you love to do, and if you don’t know, push yourself to do things that make you uncomfortable. Perhaps the most difficult thing in your path towards success is to recognize and grow from your failures; they will make you wiser and humbler. Remember, you get to define success for yourself, no one else has that privilege.” Averick is also proud that that her brothers, Saadyah, Chaim, and Amram, graduated from CSI.

Dr. Naider noted that, “CSI continues to be a place where students learn, grow, and prepare for academically rigorous challenges, scholarly endeavors, and global contributions.”



Remembering Veterans, Serving Veterans

Matt Basile ’16, Borough Veteran Community Outreach Specialist stands at the College of Staten Island's Flags for the Fallen installation on Alumni Walk at the Willowbrook Campus.

U.S. flags flap bravely in the wind this Veteran’s Day reminding all in the community of the sacrifices made by our men and women in uniform.

At the College of Staten Island (CSI), the outreaching arms of commitment to veterans continues to expand with a new partnership between the College and the New York City Department of Veterans Services. Through the collaboration, a Department and Borough liaison will be provided an office at CSI Willowbrook to assist CSI student-veterans and veterans in the community who are not students.

CSI alumnus and veteran Matthew Basile ’16 was the solid choice for the liaison role.

As the Community Outreach Specialist, Basile brings knowledge, experience, and compassion to the post. The Tottenville resident served in the U.S. Navy for four years before earning his dual degree in Economics and Political Science. While at CSI, Basile worked at Veteran’s Affairs as well as the Registrar’s Office.

The liaison’s role is to provide accessible resources and assistance for veterans on Staten Island, and student veterans with the college’s Veteran Support Services office, saving them one or more tedious trips to agencies outside of the Borough.

“CSI is a good option, geographically speaking, as it’s very central and also accessible via public transportation. Parking is abundant, and it’s just a great fit overall,” said Basile, who, in his new role, will serve student-veterans with such things as advisement, veteran-alumni with career help, and veterans in the community with general resources such as VA claims or military record retrieval.

“Most veterans believe that there are not enough resources and services available to them, and, more importantly, many are unaware of this availability,” noted Jamal Othman, Assistant Commissioner for Education, Employment, and Entrepreneurship, adding that veterans can also have difficultly dealing with multiple and remote agencies.

“By establishing satellite offices, we can go to the community and create a venue for those who can’t make to it to New York City or places outside their communities,” Othman said.

In addition to the office at CSI, a nationally-ranked a “Top Military Friendly School” by GI Jobs magazine for the past seven years, Basile maintains an office at Borough Hall in St. George.

“Veterans Day is a great reminder of all that our veterans have done for us, but it’s also important to continue to care for our veterans year-round,” said Borough President James Oddo. “Having Matthew Basile on Staten Island will make it easier for local veterans to navigate the veteran benefits system and get help if they need it. We are happy to have Matt at Borough Hall and encourage all veterans to visit him here or at CSI. Thank you to the administration and everyone at the Department of Veterans Services for working with us to address the needs of Staten Island’s veterans.”

“CSI is proud to continue to improve and expand upon our services for veterans. As a nationally-ranked ‘Military Friendly School,’ we are always looking for innovative and collaborative ways to ensure that the veterans in our community are given the best possible resources and services,” commented William J. Fritz, PhD, President of the College of Staten Island.

“The information is there and veterans need access to it. If you don’t know the ins and outs, it could be a very trying situation,” noted Basile, explaining that, for example, the GI Bill stipend has an expiration date and if students do not plan accordingly, they could run out of benefits before receiving their degrees.

Commissioner Loree Sutton, MD, said she was “very pleased to be working closely with CSI and the Staten Island community to improve the delivery of resources and services to all veterans.”

“It’s a pleasure to collaborate with the College, and I look forward to moving our successful working relationship towards bigger and better things for the veteran community,” said Sutton, a retired Brigadier General, U.S. Army.

Matt Basile’s office is located at the College of Staten Island, 2800 Victory Boulevard, Staten Island NY, in Campus Center room 216. He has additional office hours at Borough Hall, 10 Richmond Terrace in St. George. He can be reached at mbasile@veterans.nyc.gov and 646.799.2743.

CSI Alumna Elisa Csorba Dares to Follow Her Dreams

Elisa Csorba '16 enjoying her new career at the Walt Disney Company.

As Elisa Csorba ’16 is a self-proclaimed “Disney fanatic,” it should come as no surprise that on the day after graduation, the Macaulay Honors College (MHC) graduate boarded a train to Florida to pursue a career at the Walt Disney Company.

Now living her dream, Csorba has secured a position as a Disney Professional Intern in the Customer Relationship Management Marketing department for Walt Disney Parks and Resorts in Orlando.

“I was able to accept this position confidently, thanks to my education and research experience at CSI,” said the Fontbonne Hall Academy, Bay Ridge, Brooklyn graduate, who worked with Dr. Jonathan Peters and Dr. Michael Kress at CSI, “learning more about the world of data than I ever could have imagined possible.”

At CSI, Csorba used her knowledge of data to spearhead Staten Island Economic Development Corporation initiatives, such as Superstorm Sandy Recovery and Staten Island Fair Share. In 2014, she helped to create an Emergency Preparedness Guide for the disabled community on Staten Island, as many members of this community were not appropriately accounted or cared for in aftermath of Superstorm Sandy.   She also participated in marketing research under the mentorship of Professor William Dubovsky, where she assisted in a semester-long study of the Staten Island Museum to determine how the institution could make itself more marketable and drive higher demand.

At MHC, Csorba was thankful to be “given the best of both worlds: a four-year scholarship with Macaulay and an opportunity to study with the best mentors and professors that CSI has to offer.”

“The School of Business at the College of Staten Island has presented me with such wonderful opportunities, and I am so grateful to have been given those experiences. Four years ago, the School of Business was merely a thought, an idea. This past June, I was part of the third graduating class of the School, and we comprise the largest discipline in the College of Staten Island–if that isn’t success, then I don’t know what is.”

Susan Holak, Founding Dean of the School of Business, commented, “We are tremendously proud of Elisa, her accomplishments thus far, and the role that the School of Business and the College of Staten Island played in helping her to fulfill her goals. We look forward to hearing more about the promising future that we know lies ahead of her.”

A member of the Young Alumni Committee of the School of Business, Csorba fully intends to remain in contact with the School and “all of the professors who have enriched my life in so many ways… I look forward to helping college students understand their dreams and pursue their goals. I’m well aware that the only reason I was able to pursue my dream so successfully was because of the support and encouragement I received from the team of professors and administrators who were behind me every step of the way, and I am so excited that I can now be a source of support and motivation for others.

“So dare to follow your dreams and do whatever will make you happiest in life; dare to do the unexpected and extraordinary; and dare to make a change in the world. Because all it takes is faith, trust, and a little bit of pixie dust.”