Macaulay Honors Student Receives Honorable Mention for Barry Goldwater Scholarship

Naomi Gaggi presenting neuroscience research to CUNY administrators and government officials at the New York Legislative Office Building, Albany, NY.

Some students are student athletes; some are researchers or scholars.  Some study abroad, help in the community, and plan to devote their career to helping individuals on the Autism Spectrum.

Naomi Gaggi ’17 chose all of the above.

The Brooklyn native student at the Macaulay Honors College (MHC) recently received an Honorable Mention for the prestigious Barry Goldwater Scholarship.

However, her scholarship and achievements do not simply end there.

Gaggi is also a New York Trust Fund Scholarship Recipient, a Meyer Scholar, a National Collegiate Scholar, a Dean’s Undergraduate Research Fellowship Award winner, and a Dean’s List student.

The College of Staten Island (CSI) Psychology major with a concentration in Neuroscience and Autism Spectrum Disorders is naturally not content with simply wading through college with multiple scholarships and awards.  Gaggi is also an active member of CSI’s Women’s Swimming and Diving Team, securing her place as a CUNY Athletics Conference All-Star and Swimmer of the Week, both in 2016, and receiving the CSI Women’s Swimming & Diving Team Coach’s Award (2014 – 2015) and Rookie of the Year Award (2013 – 2014).

Naomi Gaggi at the 2015 CUNYAC Championships

A St. Joseph Hill Academy graduate, Gaggi does have some method to her college madness. “I am highly adamant in the importance of time management and being proactive in all aspects of being a student, not only in the classroom. I strive to exemplify a well-rounded student by maintaining a high GPA and being socially committed to my college and my community,” said Gaggi, adding that CSI Head Coach Michael Ackalitis has pushed her to grow as both a student and an athlete by stressing the importance of balancing athletic and academic life.

Her commitment to her community is apparent in her work with autistic children and adults that she has enjoyed since high school. She is also an active research assistant in two labs on campus, working with Dr. Patricia J. Brooks, Dr. Daniel McCloskey, Dr. Kristen Gillespie-Lynch, and Dr. Bertram O. Ploog and has conducted research at the Yale University School of Medicine, conducting neural imaging research with Dr. Joy Hirsch. She is also a member of Psi Chi, the CSI Student Athlete Advisory Committee, and the American Sign Language Club.

While Gaggi thanks many of her CSI professors and mentors, she praised in particular Dr. Daniel McCloskey, one of her research advisors, who has been “extremely welcoming.” McCloskey, a recent recipient of the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, encouraged the young researcher to work on projects in his lab where she discovered her keen interest in neuroscience.

In her spare time, the 21 year old has taken advantage of CSI’s Study Abroad program, traveling to Copenhagen, Denmark in the summer of 2015. This summer, she plans to volunteer abroad in Kandy, Sri Lanka to aid in the care of children with Autism Spectrum Disorders. Both abroad experiences are funded by the Macaulay Honors College Opportunities Fund and the New York Trust Grant Scholarship.

Gaggi also lauded Dr. Charles Liu and the MHC staff as well as Fellowship and Scholarship Advisor at CSI’s Career and Scholarship Center Michele Galati for the constant support and guidance she has received throughout her journey at CSI. “Ms. Galati puts in as much effort into my applications as I do. She is extremely helpful and always finds the opportunities that match me perfectly,” said Gaggi.

After graduation, Gaggi plans to obtain a PhD in Neuropsychology/Cognitive and Behavioral Neuroscience to research and understand the etiology of neurological disorders. “My goals are to find the neuromarkers of autism and learn more about the ‘social’ brain of autism,” Gaggi said, adding that she plans to apply this knowledge to treating patients in a clinical setting as well as teaching at the university level.



MHC Student Austin Krauza ‘16 presents Research at MIT and Albany, on Fuzzy Clustering Algorithms for Data Analysis

Krauza presenting at the IEEE Undergraduate Research Conference at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge.

At 21 years old, Austin Krauza is already an accomplished researcher. The College of Staten Island (CSI) Computer Science major, with an interest in business and data analytics, recently authored a paper under the mentorship of Dr. Natacha Gueorguieva, which he presented at the 2015 IEEE Research Conference at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, MA this past November. Krauza’s was one of only 20 papers accepted, and he also presented similar research to lawmakers in Albany in February. The student also co-wrote a paper that was presented at the 14th IEEE International Conference on Machine Learning and Applications in Miami, FL in December and he has several journal articles to be published in the coming months.

The Monsignor Farrell High School graduate works with CSI professors in a wide variety of disciplines, assisting with various research projects, and he is enthusiastic about his academic career at the College.

Austin Krauza in front of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, Australia.

“Attending the College of Staten Island has been a fantastic experience. From the time I stepped foot onto the campus, the professors were there opening doors into the world, introducing me and my peers into an uncharted world,” said Krauza.

Maintaining a 3.8 GPA, Krauza is pursuing the Advanced Certificate in Business Analytics of Large-Scale Data offered by the School of Business, which he expects to complete in 2016. In his sophomore year, he began working with Dr. Gueorguieva in the Department of Computer Science to conduct research in the field of Fuzzy Clustering Algorithms for Data Analysis. This research has several applications in the medical, law enforcement, and fraud-detection fields. The applications can be used to find patterns and cluster them within a large data set.

Krauza also works with Dr. Jonathan Peters, Dr. Michael Kress, and Nora Santiago at the CUNY High-Performance Computing Center (HPCC) and Social Policy Simulation Center at the College. In addition, the Great Kills resident worked on a mini-research project for his class in the field of New York State (NYS) Statewide Exam Scores and presented to professors from several senior CUNY colleges.

His areas of research focus on large-scale data sets (such as transportation and tolling) where the record count can exceed 210 million records. Such data sets require special processing using the various super-computing clusters located on site at the College. Some additional research projects include semantic and text analysis of unstructured data sources (such as social media networks, primarily Twitter) and the use of various Geographical Information Systems (GIS) and visualization packages to present often complex data sets in a more understandable format.

Krauza is the recipient of two undergraduate mini-technology research grants and an undergraduate research grant. He was also named a Revson Scholar by the Macaulay Honors College.

The student credits Dr. Charles Liu, Lisa French, and Anita Romano at the Macaulay Honors College for much of his success. “Both Anita and Lisa work tirelessly with each and every student, providing them with guidance and advisement, helping students discover the various opportunities that exist inside and outside of campus. Without this fantastic team, the Macaulay Honors College would not be what it is and would not be able to produce such amazing college graduates,” said Krauza, pointing out that Dr. Liu and Romano introduced him to Dr. Peters, whom he assists with various research projects.

Krauza at Featherdale Wildlife Park, Sydney, Australia

Adding to the breadth of his college experiences, Krauza traveled to Australia in December 2015 to study cross-cultural business management. The study abroad trip, sponsored by Queens College, allowed him to study at the International College of Management, Sydney (ICMS). Krauza also enjoys running and plans to run a half marathon in the coming months.

Austin has even already accepted an offer from Verizon Wireless to work as a Data Scientist for their Call Center Operations team in Warren, NJ upon graduation in June 2016. His focus will be working with various teams and departments, and data sources to improve company performance in their United States and worldwide centers. He would like to pursue his Master’s of Science in either Data Analysis or Statistics and possibly a PhD. He also hopes to be able to take the refined skills and abilities that he gains in private industry and assist local social policy groups, such as the Community Education Council (CEC). Eventually, Krauza hopes to be able to come back and share his experiences in the field of data by becoming a professor at CSI.

Krauza (right) at the top of the Sydney Tower, Australia.

“Teaching and mentoring others has always been a passion for me,” noted Krauza, who also tutors Macaulay Honors students. “Moving back into the world of academia would allow me to work hands on in the field that I love and pass my knowledge on to others.”






Ana Hayes’17 to Serve in the U.S. Consulate General in Milan, Italy

Ana Hayes, Macaulay Honors College Class of 2017

Ana Hayes is no stranger to world travel. The Queens, NY-born CSI student traveled to Europe as early as nine years old. Now, this summer, the 20-year-old junior at the Macaulay Honors College at the College of Staten Island will travel to Milan, Italy to serve in the U.S. Consulate General in Milan’s Political/Economic Sector.

Hayes, who will graduate in 2017 with a Bachelor’s degree in Russian Language and Culture, and Political Geography, has been inspired by many individuals in her life:  Dr. Peter Kabachnik, Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science and Global Affairs; Dr. Gerry Milligan, Associate Professor in the Department of World Languages and Literatures; and, of course, her mother.

Ana Hayes (left) and her mother in Siracusa, Sicily.

“My mother and I have traveled together since I was young. Travel has always been a major part of my life, and I want to continue that,” said Hayes, noting that her mother, as a Professor of History at Montclair State University, would receive research stipends and take Ana with her on trips.

After graduating from the International Baccalaureate Program at Curtis High School in 2013, Hayes began at CSI with many of her courses focused on Russia. Her dual Italian-American citizenship also encouraged an active interest in Italian culture and language. Sicily is of especial interest to her, due to her Sicilian heritage.

“One of the most surprising things was that even as I learned more about the world outside the United States, I learned more about my own country. It is fascinating and invaluable for every American,” stressed Hayes.

With the help of Dr. Milligan, Ana conducted an independent study on the migrant crisis and its ramifications for Sicily. While U.S. news coverage has been focused on Northern European reactions to the influx, Sicily plays an important role. It has been the port of entry for many migrants, especially those from Sub-Saharan Africa. Ana studied how these new arrivals affect Sicilians’ self-perceptions. The island, frequently conquered throughout history, is liminal and so its inhabitants’ identities are insecure. Interestingly, many Sicilians feel as alienated from the larger European community as the migrants themselves.  This understanding of the immigration crisis helped Ana create a compelling application for the State Department internship.

Her advisor and mentor, Dr. Kabachnik, has also been a positive influence in her academic career. “He encouraged me to do research on Chechnya and that got me interested in doing some very serious research,” commented Hayes, not forgetting the support she has received at Macaulay Honors. “All the people at Macaulay are wonderful and so helpful. They encouraged me to apply for many opportunities.”

Now a Dean’s List student with a 3.9 GPA, Hayes is currently waiting on security clearance for her summer post in Milan. She is also preparing by “staying up to date with Italian news and the migrant crisis.”

Hayes (right) and her sister, Maddie, also a student at Macaulay Honors student, on the island of Pantelleria

When asked how she balances school, travel, and other responsibilities, the student noted how her family dynamics help her to stay focused. “I’m the second eldest of seven children. Learning how to best use my time, flexibility, etc. were all ingrained in me from an early age as a result,” commented Hayes, who also works with the Special Olympics on the weekends, as her brother is autistic.

When she arrives in Italy, her options will be to live with a host family, in a convent, or in her own apartment. Her goal is to be a Foreign Services officer, a diplomat who works at a consulate and coordinates between the local government and the United States.

Rising Stars: Naomi Gaggi ’17

Naomi Gaggi

Naomi Gaggi ’17: Major: Psychology with a concentration in Neuroscience and Autism Spectrum Disorders A Macaulay Honors College and Dean’s List student, who is currently working in three labs, a member of two honors societies, a peer tutor, and a record-setting and award-winning member of the CSI Swimming and Diving team. A Meyer and National Collegiate scholar, she is working on a study concerning social media and how people communicate/don’t communicate with others. A favorite aspect of CSI: “To me, CSI is a hidden gem on Staten Island. I have access to a high-quality education, helpful and knowledgeable professors, valuable internships and volunteer experiences, and lifelong friends.” Future plans: She is planning on obtaining her PhD in Clinical Neuropsychology and either become a professor or a clinical neuropsychologist, focusing on autism spectrum disorders. To read more about CSI Alumni, check out Eye on CSI.

CSI Alumnus Receives Macaulay Honors College Pioneer Alumni Award

Kaitlyn O’Hagan (’13 Hunter) with Thomas Brigandi (’12 CSI)

As a kick-off to its 15th anniversary celebration, Macaulay Honors College is proud to announce the first winner of its Pioneer Alumni award: Thomas Brigandi, a 2012 graduate of Macaulay Honors College at the College of Staten Island. Brigandi received the award during Macaulay’s Alumni Weekend as it welcomed back the Class of 2005—its first graduating class, and all other alumni. Brigandi received the award from among 13 nominated candidates.

A Staten Island resident, Brigandi works at the credit rating agency Moody’s Investors Service as an associate analyst covering power and transportation infrastructure credit ratings. A triple major in Finance, Accounting, and Economics, he met the criteria for the Macaulay Pioneer Award as an individual who has leveraged his Macaulay educational experience to achieve professional accomplishment.

“I couldn’t be more proud to see this inaugural honor go to someone as worthy as Thomas Brigandi,” said Ann Kirschner, Dean of Macaulay Honors College. “Despite all the demands and long hours of his work at Moody’s, Thomas also finds time to mentor and assist Macaulay students who might be interested in a career in business and finance. Not only has he founded a mentoring program for Macaulay students, he also has recruited 55 Macaulay alumni professionals to mentor over 75 students, while also serving as a mentor himself.”

Brigandi also is engaged in global volunteer public service as a director of volunteer affairs at the American Foundation for African Children’s Education, which has repaired eight schools in West Africa and has built partnerships between policy makers in Africa and North America since 2006. His work for the organization met the other criterion for the Pioneer Award: that the alumnus’ post-graduate work reflects Macaulay’s vision to inspire and prepare students to solve the challenges facing New York City, our nation, and the global community.

In addition, Brigandi is an active volunteer at the New York Society of Security Analysts (NYSSA), the largest CFA Institute Society in the Americas. He was recognized for his service to NYSSA in 2013 when the Society awarded him with the NYSSA Young Investment Professional Award and in 2015 with the NYSSA Volunteer of the Year Award. Over the past three years, Brigandi has organized 24 conferences that were attended by over 4,000 investment professionals.

“I am a firm believer in volunteer service and I am very thankful that the Macaulay Honors College has given me and my fellow mentoring program lead organizer, Irina Cruz of Soros Fund Management, the opportunity to create and grow our mentoring program over the last three years”, said Brigandi‎. “In my mind, there is no better feeling than getting a phone call from a mentee who is so excited to tell you about their job or internship offer, and I have been fortunate enough to experience that numerous times over the last few years.”

The entire Macaulay community took part in the nominating process for the Pioneer Alumni Award. Brigandi’s nominations for this award included current students, a Macaulay staff member, and the founding Dean of Macaulay Honors College Laura Schor, who called Brigandi “tenacious and big-hearted.”

About Macaulay Honors College

Macaulay Honors College at The City University of New York offers exceptional students a uniquely personalized education with access to the vast resources of the nation’s largest urban university and the largest city, New York City. Selected for their top high school records and leadership potential, Macaulay students receive a full tuition scholarship, a laptop and technology support, and an Opportunities Fund to pursue global learning, research and service opportunities. Macaulay students enroll in one of eight CUNY senior colleges: Baruch, Brooklyn, City, Hunter, John Jay, Lehman, and Queens Colleges and the College of Staten Island. For more information, see

MHC Alum Begins Peace Corps Service in Cambodia

Jenny Pisana '12, '15, who earned her Bachelor's degree as a Macaulay Honors College student at CSI, went on to earn her Master's at CSI, and is now entering the Peace Corps.

Jenny Pisani, 24, of Staten Island, N.Y., has been accepted into the Peace Corps and will depart for Cambodia July 23 to begin training as an education volunteer. Pisani will live and work in a community to teach English at the secondary level and participate in a secondary project to help meet community development needs.

“My main project will be teaching English as a second language to middle and high school students,” she noted. “However, I’ll also be involved with many other exciting projects, including the new ‘Let Girls Learn’ initiative in an effort to expand the educational opportunities to adolescent girls in Cambodia.”

First Lady Michelle Obama and the Peace Corps have “Let Girls Learn” as a powerful collaboration to expand access to education for adolescent girls around the world.

Pisani is the daughter of David and Michele Pisani and a graduate of Staten Island Technical High School in Staten Island, N.Y. She then attended Macaulay Honors College at the College of Staten Island in Staten Island, N.Y., where she earned a B.S. in psychology and a B.A. in creative writing in 2012. She also earned an M.S. in educational science with a concentration in secondary English [from CSI] in 2015.

“Ms. Pisani’s commitment to helping the global community represents the best of our Macaulay ideals,” commented Dr. Charles Liu, director of the Macaulay Honors College University Scholars program at CSI. “We are very proud of her acceptance into the Peace Corps  and of all of her outstanding achievements,” adding that she is the first graduate from the Macaulay Honors College at CSI to be accepted into the Peace Corps.

Pisani previously worked as a prevocational counselor for the N.Y.-based non-profit organization Community Resource Center for the Developmentally Disabled and a full-time English teacher for New York City Department of Education. She intends to pursue [a terminal] degree upon completing her service as part of the Peace Corps’ Paul D. Coverdell Fellows Program, which offers graduate studies for returned volunteers at more than 90 leading academic institutions nationwide.

“I love learning and want to continue my post-graduate education to eventually earn either a PhD or an MFA in creative writing and become a professor,” she said. “I haven’t decided exactly which program or university I will apply to yet, but I’m very interested in the MFA program at Georgia College.”

During the first three months of her service, Pisani will live with a host family in Cambodia to become fully immersed in the country’s language and culture. After acquiring the language and cultural skills necessary to assist her community, Pisani will be sworn into service and be assigned to a community in Cambodia, where she will live and work for two years with the local people.

“I hope most of all to connect with the people, show kindness and humility in a way that will hopefully provide them with a positive view of Americans,” she said. “Ultimately, my job is to teach English and I hope I succeed in that regard, but I also hope to leave an echo of love for our fellow man.”

Pisani joins the 412 New York residents currently serving in the Peace Corps and more than 13,303 New York residents who have served in the Peace Corps since 1961.

66th Commencement Spotlights Accomplishments and Progress

Valedictorian Kawsar Ibrahim

The cloudy skies over the 66th Commencement at the College of Staten Island on the morning of May 28 did not darken the joyous mood of the 2,631 graduates, their families and friends, and College faculty and staff as they gathered on the Great Lawn of CSI’s Willowbrook campus. After opening remarks by then Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. Fred Naider, President William J. Fritz came to the lectern. He began his remarks by emphasizing CSI’s great legacy, which was built upon the impressive achievements of the students, faculty, and staff at CSI’s predecessor institutions, Staten Island Community College (SICC) and Richmond College. Then, after an audio clip of Charlotte Eldred (née Montalbano, who passed away in 2013 at the age of 75), one of the first graduates from SICC, speaking at that institution’s first Commencement in 1958, he went on to outline Charlotte’s remarkable journey through life as a dedicated, accomplished, and award-winning teacher, as well as a published writer.

To view the full article, check out Eye on CSI.




2015 Graduates