Young Talent on Display at Fourth Annual CSI Performance Competition for Strings

Left to Right, Dr. Dan Auerbach, Alexandra Cuevas, Alejandro Cuevas, Ricky Chui, Jake Kitchen, Lila Bruschi, Prof. Edward Brown. Photo credit: Rolland Smith

Young orchestra musicians from around Staten Island traveled to the College of Staten Island (CSI) for the fourth annual CSI Performance Competition for Strings. The only competition of its kind on Staten Island, the event featured the maturing musical talents of five high school students. This performance opportunity is the concept of Dr. Dan Auerbach, “These young people in the CSI competition show just what can happen if we can keep a young person’s dream alive. My goal is to focus much-deserved attention on the wonderful musical talent in Staten Island and also on the hard work of area music teachers.”

The competition celebrates the dedicated efforts of the students and their teachers, and supports middle school and high school strings students who are Staten Island residents.

The adjudicators for this year’s competition were Dr. Dan Auerbach and Professor Edward Brown, both of the CSI Music Program of the Department of Performing and Creative Arts.

The talented student-performers included Lila Bruschi, student of Jesse Mills; Alexandra and Alejandro Cuevas, students of Yvette Wheatley; Jake Kitchen, student of Page Silverman; and Ricky Chui, student of Sanchie Bobrow.

Winners in the high school division are as follows:

Ricky Chui, first-place winner (sharing with Jake Kitchen), performed Bruch’s romance for viola and orchestra; Jake Kitchen, first-place winner (sharing with Ricky Chui), performed Rebecca Clarke’s viola sonata; and third-place winner, Lila Bruschi, performed Adagio and Presto from Bach’s Sonata No. 1 for solo violin. Honorable mentions were given to Alexandra and Alejandro Cuevas.

This year’s competition sponsors were:

Rustic Music Center, the Music Program of the CSI Department of Performing and Creative Arts, the CSI Administration, and an anonymous donor.

The upcoming May 17 orchestra concert at 3:00pm at the CSI Center for the Arts Springer Concert Hall will feature the middle school winner of the previous year’s competition, Noshi Norris, performing Bach’s A Minor Violin Concerto. In addition, the concert will feature various classical favorites. The orchestra will be joined by professional musicians from the New York area, who have both coached the kids during the semester and will perform with them side-by-side.

Left to Right: [Competition Winners with Judges] [ photo credit: Rolland Smith]

Dr. Dan Auerbach, Alexandra Cuevas, Alejandro Cuevas, Ricky Chui, Jake Kitchen, Lila Bruschi, Prof. Edward Brown

“1619 Project” Event Spotlights CUNY Professor and NYT Journalist Linda Villarosa

Linda Villarosa (right) with event organizer Sharifa Hampton

As part of Black History Month at CSI, award-winning journalist and CUNY professor Linda Villarosa spoke to the campus about creating “The 1619 Project” for The New York Times.

Drawing on her embedded investigative reporting, Villarosa revealed specific ways that Black maternal and infant mortality in the U.S. today is part of the enduring legacy of slavery. She also provided the CSI community with a new understanding of the ways that racist myths about Black bodies linger in today’s healthcare system and how Black women are resisting, organizing, educating, and taking control of their health and the health of their families.

By Matt Brim

CSI Receives Funding from New York City’s $20M CUNY 2x Tech Initiative

Pictured left to right are Jasmine Cardona, Susan Imberman, Ken Iwama, Michael Cavagnero, and  Zhanyang Zhang.

The College of Staten Island was chosen this winter to be a major recipient of funding from New York City’s $20 million CUNY 2x Tech Initiative, which seeks to double the number of career-qualified tech graduates by 2022. Designed and delivered in partnership with industry and academia, the initiative focuses on building the capacity of computer science departments to offer rapidly evolving industry-aligned skills, awareness, and experience to enable students to connect to jobs in the NYC tech ecosystem following graduation. Funding will support new, industry experienced, full- and part-time faculty, advisors, and job coaches.  

CSI’s successful application was a result of a collaboration among the Computer Science Department,  Academic Affairs, and the Division of Economic Development, Continuing Studies, and Government Relations. Department Chair Shuqun Zhang welcomed the opportunities that CUNY 2x will bring to the students and the department. “We are excited by the opportunity for CUNY 2x to build upon the excellent reputation of CSI’s Computer Science Department, which is already recognized for excellence nationally pursuant to its accreditation by the Computing Accreditation Commission of the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. I would like to commend the special efforts of Sarah Zelikovitz, Deborah Sturm, Ken Iwama, and Jasmine Cardona in supporting our successful application.” 

Commenting on the initiative, Vice President for Economic Development, Continuing Studies, and Government Relations Ken Iwama also applauded the cooperative effort. “We are honored to have been able to collaborate with the Computer Science Department and Academic Affairs to successfully attain CUNY 2x funding. A core mission of the Division of Economic Development, Continuing Studies, and Government Relations is to connect academic departments to external opportunities to bring added resources and collaborations for our students. We are all ecstatic about this outcome.”

English Language Institute Begins Spring 2020 Classes with Students from 16 Countries

Spring 2020 ELI students with Gonzalo Villena (far right)

The English Language Institute (ELI) at the College of Staten Island (CSI)/The City University of New York (CUNY) started its Spring semester term on January 21, 2020. The international office of CSI, the Center for Global Engagement, welcomed students from all over the world with an orientation session and an English placement test. These students will learn English until mid-May and many of them will return to their home countries, apply to CSI, or apply for a better job.

The ELI director, Gonzalo Villena, held a welcome and orientation session where he explained all the academic features of the program and the benefits they could get while learning English at the largest CUNY campus. “Our students will have the best experience of their lives, learning English with a university environment and living in New York City”, ELI director highlighted.

This spring, ELI received students from 16 different countries, which makes classes more fun since students will force themselves to speak in English and learn from everybody’s culture. Students are from Brazil, Chile, China, Colombia, Germany, Guatemala, Israel, Japan, Jordan, Nicaragua, Pakistan, Peru, Russia, South Korea, Sri Lanka, and Ukraine. They will have an intensive English program with 18 hours of class per week, with different courses such as reading, writing, grammar, conversation, and a TOEFL test preparation. At the end of the semester, they will take the TOEFL ITP test, and if they pass, they are eligible to apply to any CUNY school degree program.

ELI congratulates all these students for coming from far away to have the best time in New York City and extends the best wishes during this semester at the College of Staten Island.

By Gonzalo Villena

CSI Reaches High School Students with Math Start™ Program

The Math Start cohort from New Dorp High School on a visit to CSI’s Willowbrook campus.

The College of Staten Island/CUNY (CSI) has created new opportunities for area students to ascend academically as it partners with Staten Island high schools through The City University of New York’s (CUNY) Math Start™ program. Math Start™ is a math proficiency and college readiness model that fosters students’ full math potential, study habits, and self-advocacy skills in order to be successful in college.

This unique collaboration was part of the 30,000 Degrees initiative, which strives to address the national crises of college access and completion. Created by the College of Staten Island/CUNY, St. John’s University/Staten Island Campus, Wagner College, and four local public high schools, 30,000 Degrees adopts an anchor mission to increase the number of college graduates with a bachelor’s degree or higher from Staten Island by 30,000 by the year 2025.

The first Math Start™ collaboration under this framework was launched in 2017 between CSI and New Dorp High School (NDHS). The implementation of the program at NDHS marks the first time this nationally recognized model was used in a high school, versus a college setting.

Dr. Deirdre DeAngelis, Principal of New Dorp High School, sees this partnership as an opportunity to bridge a systemic divide between college and high school, so that students don’t fall into what she calls “The Moat.” “This proactive approach allows students to be better prepared and more qualified to take on the challenges of college-level work. Students who enter college in a remedial status are less likely to remain in an atmosphere where they are experiencing defeat from the beginning. In order to strengthen the transition, or walk over the draw bridge, we have utilized the strength of the CSI Math Start™ program, especially the curriculum, training and support staff, to provide our students a more successful experience and start to college life.”

Dr. DeAngelis is the longest-serving female principal in the City of New York, winner of the Sloan Public Service Award, and was honored by Education Update at its 2019 ceremony at the Harvard Club in Manhattan, along with CUNY’s new Chancellor, Dr. Felix Matos Rodriguez, and Interim Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Dr. Vita Rabinowitz.

Student participants in Math Start™ each receive dedicated support through college matriculation, financial aid, and a first-year course selection process, which includes an opportunity to enroll in CUNY’s Accelerated Study in Associate’s Program (ASAP). ASAP provides financial incentives and dedicated support for full-time associate’s-degree students. CSI’s ASAP offers a bachelor’s degree track: the only one of its kind in CUNY. Rather than waiting for students to waste financial aid and invest time in remedial courses at the point of college enrollment, this historic collaboration starts with at-risk, college-bound high school seniors; saving students’ time, money, and grief.

In the collaboration’s pilot year, one hundred percent of students passed the seminar class, earning college-credit. Eighty-nine percent (25 out of 28) of participants enrolled in college, both within and outside of the CUNY system. Eighty-two percent (23 out of 28) of participants addressed their college math remedial needs, before graduating high school. Due to the success of this first-year pilot, an additional CUNY Math Start™ cohort ran in New Dorp High School last academic year. In Year 2, 89 percent (24 out of 27) students passed the seminar class once more, earning a college credit. Approximately 85 percent (23 out of 27) of participants had self-identified as intending to enroll in CUNY and non-CUNY colleges in fall 2019. Another 70 percent (19 out of 27) of participants addressed their college math remedial needs, before graduating high school.

“CSI’s most successful community partnerships involve organizations with great leaders who have vision in addressing the most pressing issues faced by our borough. Principal Deirdre DeAngelis, our 30,000 Degrees partner, is such a leader in helping us to create this completely novel implementation of Math Start™, one of CUNY’s signature programs. Together we will continue to develop innovative ways to ensure New Dorp students succeed in college and beyond,” said Ken Iwama, Vice President of Economic Development, Continuing Studies, and Government Relations at CSI.

Considering the impressive results of the program, University officials made this model more accessible to the community, specifically in St. George, at Curtis High School, and for adults with high school equivalency diplomas, who intended to enroll in college in fall 2019. CSI recruited candidates for an Adult Learner-Math Start™ cohort to experience the program at CSI’s St. George Campus. The launch provided the same academic and advisement support to returning adult learners who have not yet applied to CUNY, much like the partnership model which ran at New Dorp High School. CSI has also made significant improvements to the experiences that high school students can access when visiting campus and CSI’s Technology Incubator; particularly in the STEAM fields.

All of these activities under 30,000 Degrees reflect CSI’ strategic priority as borough steward, and its anchor mission to “intentionally apply an institution’s long-term, place-based economic power and human capital in partnership with community to mutually benefit the long-term well-being of both” (The Democracy Collaborative). Articulated by institutional leadership, and in alignment with New York City’s College Access for All initiative, the vision of 30,000 Degrees is to direct the public purpose of each institution toward confronting social inequities that inhibit educational aspirations and economic prosperity on Staten Island.

By Crystal Montalvo and Terry Mares

CSI MSWs Have Lowest Debt and Highest Earnings in NYC

CSI MSW students, l to r, Rosetta Harris, Nicole Mollinel, Shannon Foreshee, and Roberto Melendez

If you are looking to earn an MSW in New York City, your best bet is the College of Staten Island. Our MSW graduates have the lowest debt and the highest earnings of any MSW graduates in the City – including the graduates of programs that are very highly ranked nationally.

Dean Savage, a professor at Queens College, CUNY analyzed data on the newly released program-specific data from the College Scorecard at the U.S. Department of Education (DOE), examining data on 11 nationally accredited Master of Social Work (MSW) programs in the New York City metropolitan area, including two SUNY campuses, NYU, Long Island University, and Columbia University.

Savage found that of the 11 institutions in the NYC area that have accredited MSW programs, College of Staten Island students graduate with the lowest debt (in federal loans taken out during enrollment in the MSW program) and the highest earnings (one year after graduation, based on pooled earnings estimates for graduates of 2014-2015 and 2015-2016, from IRS Treasury files [W2 and 1040 forms]). This is among graduates of both public and private schools, including NYU and an Ivy League school (Columbia).

An analysis of Savage’s numbers finds that the highest average debt was for graduates of Columbia ($76,985), and LIU and NYU, (both at $75,960), compared to the average debt for CSI graduates at $29,305, the lowest of all 11 programs.

In the earnings column, the lowest earnings were for graduates of Yeshiva ($44,300), SUNY/Stony Brook ($45,800), and Touro ($46,200), while CSI graduates reported average earnings of $52,200, the highest of all 11, higher than Columbia ($50,700) and NYU ($48,200).

The College of Staten Island MSW program admitted its first class in 2014. It takes a minimum of three years after the first group of students is admitted to achieve initial national accreditation by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE), and CSI’s program has been accredited since 2017.

The MSW program has a single specialization in disability studies, which CSWE says is unique in the country. It focuses on people with physical, sensory, developmental, intellectual, and psychiatric disabilities, as well as those who have substance use disorders or impairments associated with military service, aging, and chronic health problems. Faculty members are nationally and internationally known and produce critical research in disability studies and other areas including returning citizens, stress in police officers, and the national social work curriculum.

The program is purposely small, allowing faculty and students to form close academic bonds and work together on research with national and global implications. Admission is competitive. Scholarships are often available. Go to and search for MSW Admissions.

For more information, contact Christine Flynn Saulnier, Professor and Chair, Department of Social Work at, 718.982.2020.

By Christine Flynn Saulnier, MSW, PhD and Terry Mares

Chazanoff School Students Take First Place in National Case Competition

From left to right – Mohamed Hussein, Richard Pallarino, and Kristina Manganaro

In their first year of participating in the annual Government Finance Case Challenge from the Association of Government Accountants (AGA), a team of students from the Lucille and Jay Chazanoff School of Business at the College of Staten Island (CSI) recently took first prize in the graduate level of this national competition.

“This is an astounding achievement on the part of our students and their mentor, Professor Patricia Galletta. Reaching this level of success, particularly as a first attempt, helps to highlight the strength of our students, our faculty, our academic programs, and the Chazanoff School of Business in general,” noted Susan Holak, PhD, Founding Dean of the School.

According to the AGA Website, the Government Finance Case Challenge began in 2015, although this was the first year that the Challenge was open to both graduate and undergraduate students.

Team members Mohamed Hussein, Kristina Manganaro, and Richard Pallarino are all students in ACC 760 (Government and Not-For-Profit Accounting) this semester. In all, the College fielded three teams – one undergraduate and two at the graduate level. All teams received a substantial packet of material and supporting data related to a city chosen by the AGA, from which the students had to prepare a summary document that followed Citizen-Centric Reporting (CCR) guidelines. The CCR aims to lay out in a clear, simple document exactly how governmental agencies are utilizing public resources. Pallarino spoke about the process of producing the CCR, saying that the challenge “was a great way to analyze not only a balance sheet, but performance data from a different perspective.”

Professor Galletta noted that the case challenge allowed students “to apply the basic knowledge they have received in their governmental accounting course to a real city.” The city chosen by the AGA to be the subject of this year’s Challenge was Oklahoma City, OK.

After being selected as finalists at the end of October, the team of Pallarino, Hussein, and Manganaro was faced with the last stage of the Challenge, requiring them to submit a 25-minute video presentation of their findings by mid-November. The video was staged as a public meeting in which the students played the role of city council members discussing the accomplishments and challenges that the city had faced over the previous year, and the anticipated plans for the future. The “council members” also took questions from a public audience.

Kristina Manganaro reflected on the overall experience, remarking that the team worked collectively “to create our idea of a City Council meeting, and used our accounting skills to be able to share our knowledge and help our constituents understand some complicated issues.”

As the Chazanoff School of Business continues to develop its emphasis on experiential learning, more instructors are utilizing national and international case competitions as ways of creating intensive, immersive learning experiences that place classroom knowledge in real-world scenarios.

With CCR guidelines being used in the field to make decisions in the public sphere, this Challenge competition placed CSI students in precisely the type of situation that they could face after graduation. Mohamed Hussein summed up the underlying purpose of the CCR concept, saying that the assignment “tested our moral reasoning and highlighted the importance of accountability.”

All three team members remarked that they would consider careers in public service as a result of participating in the competition. As Hussein noted, “although it is a huge responsibility … I would have the opportunity to suggest and implement ideas that will benefit our society.”

By Warrick Bell

Melissa Riggio Student Studies in Italy

James Devine

CSI’s Office of Community Educational Engagement partnered with the School of Business and the Center for Global Engagement to send one of our students, James Devine, in the Melissa Riggio Higher Education Program (MRHEP), to study abroad in Italy during the summer of 2019. This unique and historic collaboration draws from our legacy of place, as an access institution, housed on the former grounds of the Willowbrook State School.

The MRHEP is a fully inclusive five-year college and alumni experience, and non-degree program for young adults with developmental and intellectual disabilities, offering intensive and comprehensive support for academic, civic, and professional growth. Under the umbrella of AHRC New York City, and housed in four CUNY campuses, MRHEP’s mission is to support these individuals to build full lives. Students in the program participate in college courses, and engage in community service and co-curricular activities, and gain practical work experience through internships.

This past June, James Devine; Esteban Gonzalez, a MRHEP support mentor and CSI student; and 13 business students spent nine days in Florence, Italy learning about international corporate business practices, experiencing European culture, and visiting historic attractions. This trip was the first its kind for The City University of New York.  Former program Director Ife Okoh said that the long-term dream was for “our student and his companion (to) have returned from a trip that will last with them forever. This trip marks a space in the history of the program and is a true testimonial for our partnership with CSI.” The School of Business often organizes similar trips abroad, this one based with Florence’s Lorenzo de Medici Institute, so students can experience a broad range of courses and get the most out of this enriching occasion. 

While in Florence, James and the other students visited various businesses in the city to see how they are managed and function in the international market. Tours of manufacturers such as Ruffino and Ferragamo allowed the students to understand the complex works of global businesses in regard to production, management, and cultural practices. Among visits to restaurants and art galleries, there was a culinary class and an exploration of the area featuring the infamous Leaning Tower of Pisa.

James found the trip to be very influential, saying “I enjoyed the lifestyle of Italy and its great scenery. My experience in Florence was an interesting one. It was the most amazing place in the country of Italy and the culture of Christianity was very interesting.”

We are hoping this successful trip leads to more partnerships with this program in the future. To learn more about AHRC, and the Melissa Riggio Higher Education program, please visit, and follow @CSIEngagement on Twitter for more on this and other student highlights.

By Noel Businelli

Edited by Crystal Montalvo