CSI Alumna Featured on DOE’s #Celebrate 18 Website

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 Alumna to Teach in China

CSI alumna Marisa Toth will be teaching English in China this summer.

CSI alumna Marisa Toth is about to embark on an adventure that is perfectly suited to her longstanding interest in East Asia—she will be a student teacher of English in China, this summer.

Toth, who graduated last December with a Bachelor of Arts degree in International Studies, with a focus on foreign language, and a minor in East Asia Studies, explained that her interest in the region began in elementary school as a result of her father’s job with a Japanese financial holding company. “He would come home and teach me some of the Japanese he picked up from his coworker,” she explained. “By the time high school rolled around, I began to teach myself Japanese so that one day I could travel to Japan and view its beauty in person. When I enrolled in college, CSI did not offer Japanese language courses, but I wanted to continue studying an Asian language. The next, logical step was to pick up Mandarin. Honestly, I was extremely intimidated by Chinese, and was not at all interested in it, at first. Soon enough, I grew to appreciate its uniqueness, and decided by early sophomore year that I wanted to build a translation/interpreting career around it.”

After two years of study at CSI, which presented the opportunity for her to interact with students from China, allowing her to hone her language skills and learn about Chinese culture, Toth spent two summers studying advanced/formal Chinese at Middlebury College in Middlebury, VT for two summers. She recalls that it was a rigorous program. “The eight-week-long immersion program at the college’s Language Schools requires each student to sign a “language pledge” that states that for duration of the program you will speak no language other than the one you chose to study, else face expulsion. Classes and extracurricular activities are all conducted in that language, as well. The staff even advises against lengthy conversations with friends and family members in English.”

Now that Toth is equipped with advanced language skills, she will embark on the next leg of her studies. “For one year, beginning this July,” Toth explains, “I will be working for English First (EF), an international educational institution, in the Chinese city of Shijiazhuang, which is about 180 miles southwest of Beijing. It is an English immersion program (much like the one at Middlebury College, although consequences for speaking Chinese are not nearly as harsh) that emphasizes efficient speaking, reading, and writing in English for children and adults of any age. Teachers are selected by their commitment to learning and education, willingness to try things outside of their comfort zone, and their ability to adapt to working with students who have mixed language abilities and varying socio-economic backgrounds.”

How does she feel about this opportunity? “I feel very grateful to not only be the first in my family to graduate from college, but to also be the first in my family to work/study overseas at 23 years old,” she said.

Looking to the future, Toth remarked that “After one year, if I decide that I genuinely enjoy teaching and wish to continue, I will consider working for EF for another year in a different country. This year, I will travel to China, but next year, I could possibly fulfill my dream of visiting Japan for a year, and maybe Korea for another year, so on and so forth.”

As her future looks bright, Toth recalled the academic foundation that was laid at CSI. “CSI offers many classes that are taught by some of the most dedicated professors. In my own personal experience, along with the language classes came political science and sociology classes that really delve into the diverse atmospheres not only of countries that all of us have heard of before, but also of countries that rarely enter most Westerners’ minds. For example, in my capstone International Studies class with Professor Jane Marcus-Delgado, I learned a lot about the nation of Bhutan in a short, class exercise. I once took a MUS 105 class that introduced me to Indonesian, Javanese, Pakistani, and Tanzanian culture. I think that part of the reason why jumping from country to country appeals to me so much is because of CSI’s numerous courses that opened my eyes to places that I would not have given a thought to otherwise. I will always be thankful that CSI gave me and countless other students that knowledge. Today, international awareness is increasingly important, and I’m happy that CSI does what it can to enforce this fact.”

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.