Schwerner Writers Series Host SI Poet Laureate

The Schwerner Writers Series hosted Marguerite Maria Rivas, Staten Island’s first Poet Laureate, on October 29.. (Photo by Willie Chu)

The English Department’s Schwerner Writers Series hosted Staten Island Poet Laureate Dr. Marguerite Maria Rivas on October 29 in the Center for the Arts Screening Room.

Dean Sarolta Takács opened the event by talking briefly about serving on the committee that recommended Dr. Rivas’s appointment as Poet Laureate. Then, Lee Papa, Chair of the English Department, introduced Dr. Rivas.

Dr. Rivas read from her anthology Tell No One: Poems of Witness and also a number of new poems. Some of the topics that she covered were 9/11, her hobby of welding, and her Peruvian roots, which was inspired by a report of scientists discovering the mummified remains of a young girl in Peru. Dr. Rivas related how she was appalled by the idea that the remains would become the subject of study, as she felt the body should just be left to rest in peace.

In the Q&A session that followed Dr. Rivas’s presentation, a member of the audience asked her how welding and poetry were connected. She mentioned that the activities were vastly different in nature, but were both acts of creation.

Dr. Rivas is a native Staten Islander who graduated from Tottenville High School. She holds associate’s, bachelor’s, and master’s degrees from the College of Staten Island. After receiving an MA in English, she enrolled in a doctoral program at Drew University. She taught at the College of Staten Island as an adjunct professor while pursuing her doctoral studies at Drew. She is currently an Associate Professor of English at Borough of Manhattan Community College where she teaches writing and literature.

Her title as Poet Laureate is a four-year, unpaid appointment, based on the recommendation of a selection committee comprised of Borough literary and arts specialists. In her position, Rivas performs community outreach and advocates for poetry and literacy in the Borough.

Founded in 2003, the Schwerner Writers Series invites accomplished and emerging poets, fictionists, and essayists to visit the College of Staten Island and read from their work. The readings are free and open to the public. The series is a crucial part of the cultural lives of members of the CSI community, providing students, faculty, staff, and Staten Island residents with an opportunity to interact with visiting writers and have conversations about literary craft and the writing life.

By Lara Saguisag and Terry Mares

Friends of CSI Literary Brunch Explores Loss in the Digital Age

Rev. Dr. Kathleen (Katie) Cumiskey during her presentation at the 2019 Friends of CSI Literary Brunch

On Sunday, October 27, the Friends of CSI’s annual Literary Brunch featured Rev. Dr. Kathleen (Katie) Cumiskey, Chairperson and Professor in the Department of Psychology at CSI. The event’s lead sponsor was Victory State Bank, with generous event support from Carol and Rocco Berardi, and Lynne Persing.

Before the formal program got underway, guests mixed and mingled, enjoyed a seasonal brunch, and perused the festive raffles table in hopes of going home with a prize. 

Carol Berardi, President of The Friends of CSI, opened the program with a warm welcome, and noted the importance of The Friends, as well as the Literary Brunch, “I’ve been a member of The Friends of CSI since 1989 and I am honored again to serve as its President. Over the years, The Friends have raised funds through various activities, such as Dinner Shows at The Center for the Arts, International Programs, and the Starlight Ball. Our Literary Brunch is a great tradition for a worthy cause—raising scholarship funds for deserving students over many years.” 

CSI Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. J. Michael Parrish brought greetings from the College and acknowledged the integral role that the Friends of CSI have played in supporting the College and student scholarships for more than 43 years, noting, “The Literary Brunch has become a signature event associated with the Friends through the years and I can’t think of a more fitting way to celebrate an event that is uniquely identified with them, than by featuring the timely and extraordinary work of a member of the CSI faculty.”       

Cumiskey opened her presentation by asking everyone to take out their phones and look at their last photos taken, Web searches, and social media postings; then to consider that this is what we are leaving behind for future generations to see about our everyday lives. She further added that our digital legacy will be far more than previous pre-digital generations have left behind, and it is now something to consider just as importantly as a will.        

In Haunting Hands, Cumiskey described her research with undergraduate students, and the ways in which their being digital natives translates to their representing and sharing of loss, such as a perceived sense of ongoing connection to the deceased, via Instagram and Facebook posts, continued texting to the deceased, and re-viewing of videos as if the deceased were still present. Cumiskey was clear to point out that her research is not being viewed through a lens of right or wrong and makes no moral judgments.

The presentation continued with a look at earlier memorial practices such as posed photos of the dead in the late 19th Century, spirit photography, and intricate braiding of the deceased’s hair into memorial jewelry and artwork—all as ways to keep a connection to a departed loved one. She notes that each era has incorporated methods available at the time to represent and share loss. Digital media has now ushered in a new realm and Artificial Intelligence is on the horizon with technologies to digitally keep the dead alive. A clip from an episode of Black Mirror (Netflix) chillingly depicted this possibility.

A lively Question and Answer session addressed the many thought-provoking points Cumiskey raised. A round of applause was accentuated with the presentation of a bouquet to Cumiskey from Berardi, on behalf of The Friends of CSI, for a fascinating presentation.            

“The brunch is a very popular signature event for the Friends of CSI,” said their College liaison, Jennifer Lynch, Associate Director of Annual Giving. “The event is unique in that our guests are fed, literally and figuratively, with a delicious brunch and intellectual food for thought. Rev. Dr. Cumiskey’s compelling look at the role that digital media is playing in the expression of grief and loss left attendees with much to think about, including their own digital legacies. The funds raised from this distinctive event go to scholarship support that makes a difference for our students.”

Haunting Hands: Mobile Media Practices and Loss is published by Oxford University Press, 2017.

By Jennifer Lynch

CSI School of Business officially named for Lucille and Jay Chazanoff; couple lauded for $7.5 M cash gift

chazanoff SI LIVE
From left to right, Dean Susan L. Holak, Jay and Lucille Chazanoff, President William J, Fritz, Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs J. Michael Parrish, and Executive Director, Institutional Advancement and External Affairs and CSI Foundation, Inc. Cheryl Adolph, (Courtesy/AMESSE PHOTOGRAPHY)

SI Live – The School of Business at the College of Staten Island was renamed for philanthropists Lucille and Jay Chazanoff during a heartfelt dedication and reception Saturday attended by some 250 guests on the campus of the Willowbrook institution of higher learning. Read more at SI Live.

By Carol Ann Benanti

Yolanda Rudich Receives Legal Studies Institute’s Inaugural Lifetime Achievement Award

Yolanda Rudich is the recipient of the CSI Legal Studies Institute’s Inaugural Lifetime Achievement Award.

Former colleagues, members of the Staten Island Women’s Bar Association, CSI faculty and students, and friends gathered in the Center for the Arts Recital Hall on October 24 to honor Yolanda Rudich, CSI alumna and former Director of the Richmond County District Attorney’s Special Victims Bureau, as she received the CSI Legal Studies Institute’s Inaugural Lifetime Achievement Award.

Among those who provided laudatory remarks at the event were Richmond County DA Michael E. McMahon; Richmond County Assistant DA, CSI Adjunct Lecturer, and CSI alumnus Adam Silberlight, whom Rudich mentored as a student; and Chairperson and Associate Professor of Political Science and Global Affairs, Pre-Law Advisor, and Director of the Legal Studies Institute Michael Paris.

After an introduction and presentation of the Lifetime Achievement Award, Ms. Rudich came to the lectern to present her remarks.

During her presentation, she discussed her humble, working-class beginnings. She moved with her family from Brooklyn to Staten Island as a teenager when her family finally saved up enough to buy a house. Noting that she grew up in a different time, she explained that whatever money her parents had saved for their kids to go to college would go to her brother, because he would have a family to support. Rudich saw this as a challenge. “It made me realize that women had more of a struggle in our society in a time when girls aspired to careers as nurses and teachers. When people asked me what I wanted to be, I told them, ‘President of the United States.’”

She continued, stating that her formative years were marked by the Civil Rights Movement, a time of upheaval in the U.S. “It just seemed to me that being a lawyer was the right path for me to fight for justice for our society.”

After explaining that her goal to receive a college education was sidetracked, temporarily, when she became a mother of two at a young age, Rudich discussed the role that public education played in helping her to realize that dream. Calling herself “the proud recipient of public education,” she mentioned that CSI allowed her to reignite her education, part-time, when her kids were in pre-school and added, “From Erasmus Hall, the inner-city high school from which I graduated, to the College of Staten Island to Rutgers University School of Law in Newark, New Jersey, at each stage of my public education, my intellect and my quest for knowledge was nurtured and challenged by the wonderful teachers, professors, and mentors I had. I got a first-rate education at each of those institutions.”

Rudich then underscored her philosophy as Director of the Special Victims Bureau. “I wanted to make sure that every person who came through the door was treated with dignity, compassion, and professionalism. I have never forgotten the struggles I faced or the troubles I’d seen and I knew that there were many others who faced similar situations. And although I retired from that job in the District Attorney’s Office, I never retired from the issues I’ve cared about all my life: the opportunities that we always need to have for public education so people can live that American dream. We need and we have to commit ourselves to celebrating the diversity in our communities. We are rich by our differences; we should not be divided by them.”

Speaking to the students in the audience, Rudich also emphasized the importance of networking. She mentioned the impact of her participation in the Staten Island Women’s Bar Association as one example, and said that presently, “I’m glad that through my connections, I was able to facilitate what’s now going to be a partnership of mentoring College of Staten Island students and members of the Staten Island Women’s Bar Association.”

The event concluded with a reception where attendees were able to ask Rudich questions about her distinguished and impactful career.

CSI Announces New Genomics Research Facility

CSI President William J. Fritz discusses the College’s new Genomic Research Facility.

Representatives from the Staten Island community including elected representatives, members of the scientific community, local high school administrators, and students, faculty, and administrators from the College of Staten Island gathered at the College on September 16 for an event that formally launched the plan to develop the CSI Genomic Research Facility. The facility, the first of its kind in the Borough, will allow faculty and students to conduct genome sequencing and analysis to search for genetic variations in DNA that may cause the development or progression of diseases or conditions such as cancer and autism, which are taking an enormous toll on the Borough.

The CSI Genomics Research Facility is made possible through the generous allocation of $1.25 million in funding by Borough President James Oddo, Council Member and Minority Leader Steven Matteo, and Council Member Joseph Borelli.

After greetings and an introduction by Vice President of Economic Development, Continuing Studies, and Government Relations Ken Iwama, CSI President William J. Fritz underscored the significance of this new facility in terms of the College’s Strategic Plan, Opportunity to Ascend, and the Strategic Priority of Borough Stewardship, stating that “CSI is increasingly viewed as Staten Island’s anchor institution, meaning that we are a central entity the integrates economic, human, intellectual, and institutional resources with the community.” He also explained that the facility addressed another Strategic Priority, Destination Campus, making CSI an institution that will be attractive to high-caliber faculty and students.

Chang-Hui Shen, Professor and Chair of the CSI Biology Department, followed Dr. Fritz with a comprehensive overview of the genomic research process and the state-of-the-art equipment that will be utilized in the facility. During the presentation, Dr. Shen noted that the genomic research facility will “transform research and medicine on Staten Island where cancer and intellectual disabilities are significant issues.” He added that the facility will leverage its community-based partnerships through collaboration with local hospitals, the CUNY High-Performance Computing Center, and the Institute for Basic Research in Developmental Disabilities.

Councilmembers Borelli and Matteo, as well as Deputy Borough President Ed Burke, also made brief remarks at the event highlighting the critical role of the College of Staten Island in advancing community based research to address some of the most pressing issues within the borough.

Besides generating critical research, the facility will also serve as a center for genomic education, providing an academic foundation for high school and college students interested in pursuing careers in research or other professional opportunities in this burgeoning field, which is predicted to have an economic impact of $41.2 billion by 2025.   

The CSI Genomic Research Facility, which will be housed in the Biology Department, with an anticipated opening in 2021, is the latest center for technological and scientific innovation at CSI. This facility will join the College’s highly successful CSI Tech Incubator, the CUNY High-Performance Computing Center, and the new CSI Makerspace in the Department of Engineering and Environmental Science, which is currently under construction.  

By Terry Mares and Ken Iwama

College of Staten Island School of Business Students Learn about Commerce on Tour to Italy

CSI Business students visit the headquarters of Menarini Group pharmaceutical company Florence, Italy.

In June 2019, a group of 13 international business students from the College of Staten Island/CUNY (CSI) experienced firsthand the challenges and rewards of doing business in Florence, Italy.

The group, all students in the Lucille and Jay Chazanoff School of Business at CSI, spent nine days in the Tuscan city, visiting a host of businesses from the pharmaceutical sector to fashion design, from high-end automotive cross-marketing to wine production. These were complemented with a variety of lectures ranging from the development of accounting in Italy to online marketing, managing across cultures, and how to ensure employees embrace a corporate culture.

The itinerary also included tours of some of Florence’s signature visitor attractions such as the Uffizi and Accademia art galleries. And there was even a little “down time” at a hands-on cooking class that was as fun as it was instructional.

The program was coordinated in conjunction with Florence’s Lorenzo de Medici Institute, which offers a vast array of courses for students of all ages, ranging from international business to language and culinary arts. The participating CSI students prepared for the trip during the spring semester with classwork, readings, and other exercises, and they will receive academic credit toward their degrees.

“This was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for the students to experience some of Italy’s leading manufacturers and brand leaders such as Ferragamo and Ruffino,” said Professor Alan Zimmerman, who has organized and led eight similar tours to Italy and Ireland for CSI business students. “Not only did they meet with senior management, but they were able to learn how Italy has established a reputation for innovation and style and, in some cases, they were invited to observe production.” To this point, the students toured Menarini Group, a pharmaceutical company headquartered in Florence.

Professor Zimmerman noted that the chance to experience another culture was a major incentive for the students to join the tour. CSI Adjunct Professor of International Business Bill Serrao also accompanied the group.

The trip was a milestone for CSI, since the participants included a student from the AHRC NYC Melissa Riggio Higher Education Program. AHRC NYC is a non-profit entity dedicated to supporting children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities throughout New York City. “Our student and his companion have returned from a trip that will last with them forever,” said Ife Okoh, AHRC NYC Program Director. “This trip marks a space in the history of the program and is a true testimonial for our partnership with CSI.”

“This was a wonderful opportunity for all of us,” said student Emily Colon (junior; Management major) on the final evening of the tour. “We were able to experience a wide range of businesses and learn as one. I will remember it all of my life!” Other members of the group commented that the tour was not only an excellent opportunity to observe how one small country can compete on a worldwide basis in many business sectors, but also that the experience of the Study Abroad week will certainly enhance their résumés and work search.

Research is already underway to plan the next overseas trip for the College’s business students, likely to take place during the summer of 2021.

By Warrick Bell

Closing the Gender Gap in Tech

Women in Tech panel

The CSI Tech Incubator is working diligently to close the gender-gap in tech. The Tech Incubator officially launched a 15-week Girls Who Code program. [View the Gallery.]Girls Who Code is a national non-profit organization working to close the gender gap in technology and change the image of what a programmer looks like and does.

The Girls Who Code Club at the CSI Tech Incubator allows high school students to join a sisterhood of supportive peers and role models. Through this program, high school students use computer science to design and build a project, solving real-world problems through code. Girls Who Code, with partners like the CSI Tech Incubator, is leading the movement to inspire, educate, and equip young women with the computing skills to pursue 21st-Century opportunities.

When asked of the significance of a program like Girls Who Code, Computer Science Professor Sarah Zelikovitz stated, “Girls Who Code helps young women enter the tech world by giving them a comfortable environment where they can explore technology, ask questions, find mentors, and join a network. The energy at these meetings, the lessons learned, and the lifelong friendships and contacts that are formed give these young women strength to succeed.  At CSI, we strive to ensure that women, although a minority in most classes, thrive, feel included, and have a support network to carry them over difficult times, classes, and decisions.”

Throughout the Spring 2019 semester, GWC members were able to learn coding, build community, and learn from inspiring role models. Following a team deliberation, program participants elected to focus their group project on developing a tutoring platform called Teens Who Tutor.

To bring this project to fruition, members utilized a wide variation of platforms and languages, such as:

  • Adventure/Platform Game in Scratch – block-based programming language
  • Info App in Thunkable – block-based programming language
  • Chatbot in Python (using platform) – text-based programming language
  • Quiz Game in Python (using platform) – text-based programming language
  • Interactive Magazine Website in JavaScript and HTML (using platform) – text-based programming language
  • APIs in JavaScript, JQuery, and HTML – text-based programming language

During the program, the CSI Tech Incubator facilitated a Women in Tech Panel where members had the opportunity to hear stories from successful women in different areas within the tech industry. Panelists included Kathryn Jonas, Software Engineer at TeachersPayTeachers; Clara Nice, Software Engineer at Squarespace; Dr. Sarah Zelikovitz, Computer Science Professor at CSI; and the moderator was Jasmine Cardona, Executive Director of Economic Development, Continuing Studies, and Government Relations.

The club was facilitated by CSI students Ellie Chen and Kaylyn Torres, who is the Treasurer of Emerging Ladies in Technology (ELiTe), and a member of CUNY Women in Technology NY. Kaylyn is a member of the New York Academy of Sciences and was recognized as a Next Scholars and Academy Ambassador. She participated in the Girls Who Code Summer Immersion Program at Twitter NYC and has held internships at GoReadyMade as a QA Engineer Intern, and TeacherPayTeachers as a Back-End Engineer Intern. This summer, she will be interning with Verizon Media, working on the Mobile Test Engineering team at Tumblr. As a special thank you, the CSI Tech Incubator granted a full scholarship for Kaylyn to attend the Grace Hopper Celebration—the world’s largest gathering of women technologists. Kaylyn was selected from a pool of applicants, from which she was recognized based on her work and impact within the community.

The successful inaugural cohort, consisting of girls in grades 9-12, attending Lavelle Prep, Wagner, Staten Island Tech, St. Joseph Hill Academy, Curtis, Petrides, and CSI high schools and residing in Staten Island, Brooklyn, and New Jersey, concluded with a graduation ceremony showcasing each student’s work throughout the semester. In recognition of their hard work and dedication, students received certificates of completion as well as a gift bag consisting of an Amazon HD tablet, an Adidas bag, and CSI Tech Incubator swag. For more information on Girls Who Code, please visit

For more details on the Girls Who Code Club at the CSI Tech Incubator, please visit the student-created Website,


Move-In Day 2019 Welcomes More than 300 Incoming Freshmen

CSI President William J. Fritz, CUNY Chancellor Félix V. Matos Rodríguez, and Danny the Dolphin

This past weekend, more than 300 new freshmen moved into the Dolphin Cove Residence Halls at the College of Staten Island (CSI). Nearly 200 campus community volunteers – including students, student-athletes, faculty, and staff – assisted the new students as they moved their belongings to their new dorms. Students from across the New York City boroughs and throughout the world now call Dolphin Cove their new home as they prepare to begin their college journeys. Students were also greeted by CUNY Chancellor Félix V. Matos Rodríguez and College of Staten Island President William J. Fritz, who presided over the annual and highly anticipated waffle brunch. Chancellor Matos Rodríguez, CUNY Trustee Michael Arvanites, and select CSI staff toured the campus including the newly announced, Lucille and Jay Chazanoff School of Business at the College of Staten Island.

Other activities on Move-in Day included town hall events, a DJ, and an evening barbecue. Returning students will move into the residence halls on Monday, September 2.

“I am pleased to welcome our incoming freshmen to Dolphin Cove, and to have the opportunity to provide them with a delicious breakfast as they move in. I also want to thank Chancellor Matos Rodríguez for visiting our campus to meet our students and graciously provide assistance. There is certainly excitement in the air as we embark on another academic year, giving our students the Opportunity to Ascend. Go Dolphins!” says College of Staten Island President, Dr. William Fritz.

“It was wonderful to visit the College of Staten Island with CUNY Trustee Michael Arvanites for move-in day, and to see President Fritz and his administration and staff come together to welcome the students and their families. While watching the students wheel their belongings into the Dolphin Cove, it struck me that I was the one who was being moved. Their educational journey begins here on this beautiful Willowbrook campus, and there is no telling where it will take them,” said Chancellor Matos Rodríguez. “As this school year unfolds, we will be working hard to make sure that they, and all of CUNY’s students, have the best possible environment to pursue their passions – during their time here with us and beyond. Ultimately, it is their progress that provides the most meaningful measure of success for this University.”