CSI SBDC Makes Great Strides in Last Fiscal Year

The Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at CSI experienced record-breaking outcomes in the most recent fiscal year, ending September 30.

The SBDC provides small business owners and entrepreneurs in New York with the highest quality, confidential business counseling, training, and business research at no cost. These services were proven vital during the COVID-19 pandemic, as businesses needed help now more than ever to survive.

During Fiscal Year 2020, the Staten Island SBDC generated $90,000,000 in economic impact ($23,766,312 cash investment and $65,940,000 salaries of jobs created and saved), helped create 131 new jobs, saved 1,185 jobs, and assisted in the creation of 80 new businesses. CSI’s SBDC served more than 2,000 NYS small businesses with one-on-one counseling and trained more than 1,202 small business owners in 48 online and in-person events. These results were the highest the organization has ever seen in its 27-year history on Staten Island.

Director Dean Balsamini commented that “this was accomplished during the most trying time for our entire organization. It happened while pivoting in order to work remotely and embracing new technologies to provide video advisement, all while juggling our personal lives.”

The area serviced by CSI’s SBDC parallels the 11th Congressional District. This encompasses all of Staten Island and the Bensonhurst, Bay Ridge, and Dyker Heights sections of Brooklyn.

Balsamini and his staff are extremely proud of these accomplishments, and to be part of one of the best SBDC’s in the country.

If you are a small business owner in need of assistance, contact the Small Business Development Center by emailing SBDC@csi.cuny.edu or visiting www.sisbdc.org. To find your local SBDC, please visit www.nysbdc.org.


Chuo University Will Join CSI Online English Classes

CSI English Language Institute serves students from around the world. Above: The 2019 Class on the first day of their studies.

The English Language Institute (ELI) at the College of Staten Island/The City University of New York (CUNY) is pleased to welcome 35 students from Chuo University, located in Tokyo, Japan, into our virtual classroom for three weeks during the ELI Spring 2021 semester.

In keeping with recommended guidelines, ELI switched to an online mode where English sessions have been offered virtually. The English as a Second Language (ESL) classes in reading, writing, conversation, grammar, and TOEFL prep sessions have been a regular feature of its offerings. ELI’s partner, Chuo University, will attend the Spring 2021 semester with English classes and additional lectures on business, management, and economics. Chuo University students will share classes with other international students at ELI from Asia, Latin America, and Europe. This unique program with Chuo will be exciting and interesting for all involved. ELI faculty will deliver these sessions in New York City while the students attend at their remote locations in Staten Island, elsewhere in the U.S., or in their home countries.

ELI Director, Mr. Gonzalo Villena, noted that, “This will be a great opportunity to take advantage of technology, show willingness to learn, and share your culture by learning a language.” ELI is an integral component of CSI’s commitment to global engagement through the Center for Global Engagement (CGE), which develops and delivers international experiences for students, faculty, and the community. CGE Executive Director, Dr. Stephen Ferst, commented “This newest partnership, developed through the English Language Institute offers a pathway to develop a deeper relationship with Chou University in Tokyo. We are exploring student and faculty exchanges, joint course programming, and joint research opportunities.”

“Universities, institutions, and individual students are invited to join next semester’s English language programming, during mornings or evenings, from the comfort of their own homes, and with the same educational quality delivered on campus. Our ESL faculty members are TESOL-certified and have taught English both in person and online for many years. ELI teachers use modern technology and pedagogy to ensure the online instruction is relevant and enriching in the same way as in an on-campus classroom,” Villena added. The Spring 2021 semester term will begin January 19 and continue through May 14, and Chuo University students will attend between February 22 and March 12, 2021.

Chuo University is one of the top Japanese institutions, with renowned international initiatives,  and more than 198 agreements in more than 36 countries and regions. Professor Shun-itsu Nakasako, Vice Dean and Global Studies Short-term Study Abroad Coordinator of the Faculty of Global Management at Chuo University, commented “We are all excited that our students will be taking online classes offered by the College of Staten Island (CSI) in New York. Once the situation of COVID-19 settles down, we will send our students to CSI. We all wish at Chuo University that our relationship with CSI, will become a lot closer. We always highly appreciate the hard and dedicated work by CSI for our students.”

ELI is proud of this new partnership and looks forward to strengthening the ties with future projects. The College of Staten Island extends its warmest welcome to Chuo University and its students and wishes a great online experience learning English and more about the business world in these challenging times.

Learn more about CSI’s English Language Institute on their Website.

By the English Language Institute and the Center for Global Engagement

Macaulay Honors College Receives a Grant to Support Its Bridge Scholars Program

Macaulay Honors College has received a generous $200,000 grant from GS Humane Corp., a private charitable foundation, allowing the college to expand its Bridge program, which creates a pathway to honors education for transferring CUNY community college students.

“I’m very excited about this grant,” said Macaulay Dean Mary C. Pearl, “because it allows us to provide the Macaulay honors experience to students who would not otherwise have the opportunity.”

This grant will have an impact at the College of Staten Island, which participates in the Macaulay Honors College. Gerry Milligan, Director of the Macaulay Honors College at CSI, said, “The Macaulay Bridge program recognizes that students realize their academic potential on differing timelines. Some students flourish only after high school. Upon arriving at CSI, a student may possibly meet a professor who supports them for the first time, or discover a discipline of ideas that they never knew existed, or experience that their abilities far exceed what others or they themselves believed possible. The Macaulay Bridge program identifies these rising stars in their first year and welcomes them into one of the top-ranked honors programs in the nation. Their inclusion in the Macaulay Honors College at the College of Staten Island enriches the entire campus by helping to build a broad inclusive community of scholars.”

The transfer program targets students who have already demonstrated strong potential for success in their community college courses. They begin an intensive honors education while still completing their associate’s degree and then join their Macaulay cohort as sophomores to continue and complete an honors bachelor’s degree. All transfer students receive the same benefits as all Macaulay students: a tuition scholarship, a laptop computer, intensive mentoring and advisement, priority course registration, and access to an exclusive fund to pursue global learning, research, and field work. A pilot of the program, begun in 2017, clearly demonstrated that CUNY’s community colleges have outstanding students ready for the challengeof a Macaulay Honors education.

Macaulay will enroll a new cohort of 20 students, who will be based at the College of Staten Island. The grant will provide faculty and staffing, laptops and technology assistance, core seminar and student-focused enrichments, and recruitment preparations and programming.

“We are thrilled that Macaulay will be able to welcome these high-achieving community college students, through the Bridge Scholars Program, to our honors community” said Joseph Ugoretz, Macaulay’s Chief Academic Officer. “The Bridge Scholars deserve the chance to stretch and challenge themselves educationally, and they will enrich all our classrooms and their fellow Macaulay students with their diverse experiences and perspectives. I look forward to welcoming them to our community!”

GS HUMANE CORP is a private charitable foundation established by and to honor the legacy of the late Gene Shapiro. GS Humane believes that enabling organizations that educate communities on the humane treatment of all living beings and assist with the achievement of this outcome will produce a society that will be more tolerant of differences and lead to greater opportunity for all.

CSI Tech Incubator Remains a Tactical Business Resource for Entrepreneurs during COVID-19

Top (l-r) – Dossey Richards, Esmeralda Herrera, Kurt Vandebroek, Bottom (l-r) – Christopher Hollinger, Chris Pisarksi, Sheena Allen

The College of Staten Island Tech Incubator successfully pivoted to a virtual environment, continuing to bring immense value and remain a tactical business resource to the entrepreneurial and small business community during COVID-19. The challenges faced during this time have been detrimental to the global economy and the business environment. Support from the leadership team at the Incubator proved crucial during this critical time by embracing and leveraging the “new normal,” utilizing virtual platforms to extend its resources to local, national, and international small businesses. Through the generous support of NYC Council and National Grid’s CleanTech grant, the Incubator was able to provide essential services to its startups and entrepreneurial community.

The COVID-19 pandemic has thrust businesses into a digital ecommerce space. For founders and management teams who are not tech savvy, this has proven to be a challenging task. The Incubator formed a unique partnership with the Startup Advisory Group (SAG) to provide free consulting, workshops, events, and programming to small businesses, which focused around digital strategy, generating online sales, and managing teams remotely. Via this collaboration, with direct support from SAG CEO, Jeffrey Derose, both organizations were able to consult with more than 20 local businesses and organizations on how they could successfully pivot during this time.

In addition to providing free services to local businesses and entrepreneurs, the Incubator landed an exciting new partnership with HubSpot for Startups to provide software, educational resources, and programming so they can rapidly grow and scale. With the goal of bringing resources to underserved communities to create a more equitable tech ecosystem, HubSpot’s full automation suite will be available to early-stage entrepreneurs at a 95% discount for the first year. As the Incubator solidifies its commitment to build a tech corridor on Staten Island, by extension, the rapidly growing list of benefits will also be made available to students, faculty, and the community.

Top (l-r) – Zahra Raja, Bohdan Diachuk, Max Montrey, Bottom (l-r) – Anders Nelson, Jeffrey Derose, Suan Kim

The Incubator also curated and successfully launched a virtual cohort (five teams) for the summer of 2020. The Incubator developed a five-week pilot program designed for early-stage founders, with an emphasis on digital strategy, business development, and early stage fundraising.

Summer 2020 Virtual Cohort member and CSI alum, Zahra Raja, CEO of CHIRAL (an emergency room crowding solution), has received immense value from the Incubator program thus far. “The CSI Tech Incubator’s summer cohort helped me and my startup on a microscopic level by helping us build a strong stable team from the ground-up, preparing us for consumer feedback, both expected as well unexpected,” Raja commented.

Max Montrey, CEO of SportsTrace (automated athlete analysis), commented on his participation in the program, “As the co-founder of SportsTrace, we’ve been helped immeasurably from the CSI Tech Incubator. The resources and guidance provided, from the perks and mentors, was top notch. And Jeffrey Derose has been such an incredible leader throughout the process – insightful, accessible, and so helpful every step of the way. I feel that the entire program is so well rounded, it’s helped to transform SportsTrace and fast forward our growth and progress both as a business and with our approach to the market. I can’t thank them enough!”

As many incubators and accelerators are pivoting to support entrepreneurs, the Incubator expanded its programming and successfully executed the ”Tech Talks” speaker series at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. As the Incubator continues to solidify itself as the tech hub on Staten Island and create a more inclusive tech ecosystem, the Incubator recruited a myriad of speakers from underrepresented groups who are successful tech founders, technologists, and subject matter experts to educate early-stage founders on an assortment of entrepreneurial topics. The Tech Talks focused on the issues relevant to small businesses and entrepreneurs during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Chris Pisarski, Founder and CEO of Chet (a professional development social network), has played a unique role in collaboration with the CSI Tech Incubator during this time, serving as both a ”Tech Talks” speaker and cohort mentor. Pisarksi noted that he is “excited about the work the Incubator is doing. The program has been well organized and the organizers and leaders are enthusiastic about making Staten Island a tech hub. Being a mentor affords me the opportunity to engage with and learn from creative, motivated entrepreneurs.”

The Incubator will launch the fall/winter 2020 virtual cohort, targeting the needs of entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs who are interested in joining the next cohort are encouraged to visit www.csitechincubator.com/incubator.

Regardless of the many adversities being faced during this COVID-19 pandemic, the Incubator has proven to be a tactical business resource for the entrepreneurial community, leveraging an online platform to bring continued value outside of co-working spaces.

By Jeffrey Derose

After Original Volunteer Avenues Close during the Pandemic, CSI Junior Finds a Way to Make a Difference

Ashley Roberts

Ashley Roberts, a junior in The Verrazano School Honors Program at CSI, and an English Linguistics major, is used to volunteering. She has participated in mission trips to Guatemala and Ireland to help communities in need, assisted with community projects in New York City, and also collected food for local pantries. Eventually, her focus shifted to improving the environment. As a Verrazano student and a former member of the year-long Emerging Leaders program, she dedicated time, helping to clean up the CSI campus, as well as local parks and beaches. Then, the COVID-19 pandemic came along and most of her original options to volunteer ceased to exist. Giving it some thought, Roberts came up with an idea.

“Since most volunteering was canceled,” she said, “I asked my leaders in Verrazano for permission to do volunteering outside of the organizations we would normally be expected to work with and do my own thing. Thankfully, they trusted me, and once I got permission, I was able to go out a few times when my boyfriend [Andrew Cheng] who was available to help me with cleaning up a few different parks and beaches on the Island.” The first few efforts netted approximately 16 bags of trash from places such as Willowbrook Park and Mount Loretto Park Beach.

Roberts is continuing this project, stating, “Every piece of trash we clean up creates a cleaner, safer, and more beautiful world for our community, environment, and ourselves. Everyone wins! I also hope, as my boyfriend and I do these projects, that it will encourage others to get involved. Maybe it will make people want to do something good for the environment or community, or simply make someone think twice before they litter. I actually have seen people get involved and it was so amazing!”

As for her own motivation for lending a much-needed hand, Roberts notes, “I think it’s extremely important for people to get involved, especially during a time of crisis, to help their communities. There is always a need, but add to it the chaos that a global pandemic causes and the need intensifies exponentially!”

After CSI, Roberts plans to pursue her Master’s in Speech pathology, but she also hopes to continue her community service after she receives her undergraduate degree, saying, “Everyone has a talent or passion. Why not use these talents and passions to do something amazing for good?”

CSI’s Angelyne Acevedo Embodies the Spirit of Volunteerism during COVID-19

Angelyne Acevedo has been working to help others during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Angelyne Acevedo, an Accounting/Business Management major in the Lucille and Jay Chazanoff School of Business, and also a Verrazano School student, is no stranger to volunteering to help out those in need. Prior to the pandemic, she had been making a difference through her membership in the CSI chapter of the National Society of Collegiate Scholars (NSCS) as Vice President of Community Service, and CSI Student Government. Now that COVID-19 has introduced an almost unlimited number of challenges to people’s lives, Acevedo is still there to lend a hand.

One target audience is her fellow CSI students. As a member of CSI NSCS, Acevedo says that she is contributing to the local chapter’s efforts to foster “fun and interactive” virtual club meetings, and boosting its social media presence to keep everyone connected while they are away from campus. In addition, she reported that CSI NSCS is “connecting with other clubs at CSI in an effort to help those affected by COVID. We have been working with CHASI-NY, the Community Health Action of Staten Island-New York, through food drives and collections to deliver to the public and those in need of assistance.”

Through the CSI NSCS chapter, Acevedo has also been able to spread some joy to another group on the Island, local middle schoolers, in an effort to give these locked-down children something exciting to do. The event was a virtual movie night via Zoom. The kids responded to a poll and selected Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. Besides watching the movie with other children, participants were able to connect and share ideas. “Before the film, we asked the children to get their favorite snack to enjoy with the movie and the children had a hilariously heated debate on the deliciousness of movie theater popcorn versus kettle corn,” she said. Considering the success and positive impact of this movie night, Acevedo noted that CSI NSCS is working to create other events for elementary and middle school kids.

As for her work in CSI Student Government, Acevedo said that, like CSI NSCS, it is working to keep student clubs together and active, so that members have an opportunity to stay involved with campus life, albeit remotely. She also stated that Student Government is actively working with the administration to ensure the safety of the College community when the campus welcomes them back, and to assist with academic resource and funding issues to keep courses running smoothly.

Acevedo shared her thoughts on why she continues to volunteer. “It is important to help those in need because without each other, we would be nowhere as a society… Some moments in our lives we have no control over and it can overwhelm us. In order for a community to thrive and succeed, it needs to work together. Helping others helps build a happier society for everyone. It is not only about raising money; we can also give our time, ideas, and energy to each other.”

What does the future hold for Acevedo? After she graduates, she says that she hopes “to earn my Certified Public Accountant licensure. Using my CPA licensure, I plan to help people in underrepresented communities and low-income households increase their financial literacy while building their financial portfolios.”

CSI Alumna Faces a Changed Landscape in Providing Care to Disabled People during the Pandemic

Alexa Donnelly

It’s no secret that the COVID-19 pandemic has, in many ways, drastically altered how people work, live, and interact with one another. Alexa Donnelly, LCSW, ’14, who is the Deputy Executive Director of Staten Island-based Person Centered Care Services (PCCS), as well as a CSI alumna and member of the CSI Alumni Association Board, has met her own virus-related challenges when it comes to caring for members of the community with developmental disabilities.

The Staten Island non-profit provides support services for more than 600 people who identify as having a disability, including developmental disabilities, mental health issues, and substance abuse disorders. Ffor PCCS clients with disabilities. PCCS provides apartment living for approximately 60 people who live in their own apartments, and group home living for a total of six people, with three people per home. In addition, there are also home and community-based services, including family home visits, a weekday Day Habilitation program, and employment services, as well as financial support, such as fiscal intermediary and brokerage services, to help people attain more independence in this aspect of their lives.

As a main goal of the services provided is to help those being served integrate more fully into the community, Donnelly said “this has been a challenge with NYC on Pause – we have had to find new creative ways to engage and keep active. It has been particularly challenging in the group homes due to regulations of no visitation from families and an overall expectation of isolation, even as the rest of the city is re-opening.”

Another part of the learning curve for PCCS staff, has been the adjustment to working remotely. The challenge here was that many direct service staff had no experience with virtual platforms, and it was also difficult to set up these new systems. However, PCCS established an electronic health record, eVero, which was developed as an app to ease this transition. Donnelly stated, “this has now proved to be an efficient and creative way to provide support. We hope that this option is here to stay!”

In addition, PCCS has launched two innovations, telehealth and an approach called non-face-to-face, which involves doing tasks on a person’s behalf. Examples include shopping for clients, picking up medication, and in more severe cases where people can’t leave their homes, taking out their trash. She notes that “it gets planned out person by person to ensure their needs are being met, so it’s a bit of a wide range of things we support someone with.”

Of all the adjustments that Donnelly and her organization’s staff have had to make, she noted that the most difficult one is ensuring that the organization has enough medical-grade supplies to care for its clients. “Our services are not often considered medical,” Donnelly explained, “because we practice from a social model, so it was difficult to educate on the intricacies of the service and how crucial it is.” Fortunately, she said that enough supplies have been obtained through partnerships with a number of community-based organizations, as well as through assistance from local officials and State offices. PCCS has also joined a sharing network with other service providers to ensure that everyone has the supplies they need.

Besides the improvements to the electronic health record, Donnelly pointed to another silver lining. “Our field has not upgraded its way of providing services in quite some time. We have not been given the ability to provide services in a telehealth method as well as a non-face-to-face version, which is important for our field to be creative, innovative, and keep up with the needs of the people we support.”

She has also found a personal take-away from this experience. “I feel thankful and blessed to be able to provide support and assistance to so many people during this time. It has been a stressful and chaotic time, but also pivotal in supporting people.”

By Terry Mares

CSI Master’s Student and Urban Park Ranger Explains the Changing Landscape of His Job during the Pandemic

Joe Bushman

Joe Bushman, who is in his final year of the MS in Ecology program at CSI, a Verrazano School alumnus, and also an Urban Park Ranger (UPR) for NYC Parks on Staten Island, has witnessed some changes to his responsibilities in the wake of COVID-19. However, some of the new duties have provided him with the opportunity to help keep people safe.

Pre-pandemic, Bushman said that an average day as a UPR would entail preparing for and developing “Pop-Up” and “The Natural Classroom” programs, where rangers would educate park visitors on a number of topics such as history, stewardship, ecology, conservation, waste management, and more.

Now, additional duties include distributing PPE and ensuring that visitors follow social distancing requirements.

So far, Bushman reported that “There has been a mix of reviews. There are some people who are extremely grateful for the mask distribution and are seemingly more in need than other areas on Staten Island. In other areas, patrons have been very combative about us engaging and educating them on social distancing.”

On the positive side, Bushman stated that “Quite simply, it feels great to be able to distribute PPE in areas of need. It’s a minor, but positive interaction and helps people who may be struggling in these tough economic times. Being able to make someone smile makes it all worth it at the end of the day.”

As would be expected, there are also challenges, as he noted “The rules we have to follow changed almost daily, as this is a relatively novel situation for NYC.” He added that “Patrons, like all of us, experience some sort of ‘Lockdown Fatigue’ or cabin fever and use the parks as a refuge to “get out of the house” and attempt to regain some degree of sanity.”

As NYC begins a cautious reopening, Bushman explained that “we must now involve social distancing into the plan. This can be easily done for some programs like nature walks, but now we need to be more mindful of sanitizing binoculars after every single use. The natural classroom, Pop-Up, and weekend adventure programs will have to be reimagined to limit potential contact and ensure the safety of patrons.

By Terry Mares