The Verrazano School Hosts Orientation for Its Newest Class

The Verrazano School recently welcomed over 70 members of the Class of 2014 to campus for New Student Orientation. Students are accepted to The Verrazano School based on their strong academic records and extracurricular involvement in high school, and Verrazano freshmen are enrolled in learning communities (LCs), or groups of linked courses, together for Fall 2010 depending on their areas of interest.

Frank Saulle, an incoming Verrazano School student who graduated from New Dorp High School and will be studying Education and Foreign Language, said that he “was honored [to be accepted into the School] because not many people get this opportunity.”

Lauren Hornek, who also comes to CSI from Tottenville High School and who plans to major in Communications, echoed those sentiments, but underscored some of the benefits of Verrazano. “I feel privileged because out of 2,000 [new freshmen] coming in, it’s [under] 100 [new Verrazano School students]. I feel special and grateful that I was picked for this community. It’s great–one-on-one [mentoring and counseling], small class sizes, learning communities–it feels like a family already.”

Jia Hua, a Nursing student from Edward R. Murrow High School, focused on another aspect of the program. “I feel special because [The Verrazano School] has better [programs] like study abroad [opportunities], which I’m looking forward to.”

Entering Verrazano freshmen represent 33 high schools from Staten Island, Brooklyn, and the Bronx, and many were inducted into the National Honor Society. There are captains of varsity teams, two Eagle Scouts, a valedictorian and salutatorian, and a senior class president in the Class of 2014. Students in the Class of 2014 have also been involved in the community, with a majority of the students volunteering their time at local non-profit organizations over the last several years.

The New Student Orientation was kicked off with an introduction by Brian DeLong, Director of New Student Orientation/CLUE, and followed by a welcome by Dr. Charles Liu, Director of The Verrazano School. CSI President Dr. Tomás Morales was present to offer his greetings and advice for the incoming Verrazano students as they begin their college experience.

One of the unique components of the Verrazano New Student Orientation is the partnership with Project U.S.E.– an experiential education organization that has been providing learning experiences for 40 years–and this is the third year that Project U.S.E. has come to campus to work with incoming Verrazano students. Staff from Project U.S.E. facilitated teambuilding exercises, group games, and low-challenge course activities with the groups, and students traveled throughout the day with their learning communities. The challenge activities facilitated by Project U.S.E. helped students build a sense of community and connection to one another while working collaboratively to achieve the goals set before them. Over the course of the day, students learned how to apply concepts from the activities to their future college experiences at CSI while having fun.

After spending a good part of the day with the new students, Verrazano School director Dr. Charles Liu offered his assessment. “I am so impressed with this Verrazano class. These are students from all walks of life with tremendous backgrounds and skills. These are some of the best students who have ever come to CSI, and I’m looking forward to great things from them.”

Katie Geschwendt, Coordinator of The Verrazano School and the FIRST Program at CSI, also offered a glowing review of the incoming class. “The academic caliber of the Verrazano Class of 2014 is evident, and we anticipate that the members of this class will have an excellent college experience and make exciting contributions to the College of Staten Island.”

In addition, Geschwendt recognized some of the people who worked to make this Orientation possible. “Our thanks go out to Brian DeLong and his staff in the New Student Orientation/CLUE Office, Dining Services, the Center for the Arts, the CSI Foundation, and everyone who helped make this day a great success.”

Macaulay Honors College at CSI Welcomes the Class of 2014

The Macaulay Honors College at CSI hosted an orientation recently for its incoming class. The 38 new students enjoyed an opportunity to see their new campus and meet each other and members of the College community.

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One of the new students, New Dorp High School grad Tom Rodberg, when asked about how he feels about being a part of Macaulay, said, “I’m extremely excited.” Rodberg, who was CEO of the New Dorp team that won the 2010 U.S. Network of Virtual Enterprise National Business Plan Competition, said “I can’t wait to get into all the opportunities that CSI has to offer at Macaulay, including study abroad, internships, and research. I’ve already spoken to plenty of professors who all have research opportunities in physics and engineering.”

Another incoming Macaulay freshman, Elaina Lei, from Staten Island Technical High School, also commented on the research potential at CSI, “I feel that [Macaulay] is going to give me a lot of opportunity to study outside of my field [of biology].” Lei, a multi-talented young woman, has many interests. She has excelled in science competitions, swim meets, and as a violinist.

Patrick Granata, an exceptional scholar-athlete from North Shore High School in Nassau County, who plans to play on CSI’s basketball team, added that “It’s an honor and I was happy that I was able to get into such a prestigious program. I feel that it’s going to help me to reach my full potential.”

The students’ day began in the Macaulay Honors College lounge with an ice-breaking game called “Get to Know You Bingo.” The freshmen then toured the campus, stopping at the Library, the Center for the Arts, and the many student service offices.

A brunch followed, where CSI President Dr. Tomás D. Morales greeted the students, encouraging them to take advantage of the many facets of the Macaulay experience, such as developing close research ties with faculty, studying abroad, and providing service to the community.

At the brunch, the students also heard from Macaulay Honors College Director Dr. Deborah Popper, who called on them to learn as much as they can and develop creative and critical thinking skills so they can affect positive change on the world, once they leave CSI.

Lisa French, a Macaulay advisor, and MHC coordinator Anita Romano filled the freshmen in on what they need to know to succeed in the program, and Mary Beth Reilly, Vice President for Student Enrollment; Dr. Alfred Levine, Acting Dean of Science and Technology; Dr. Susan Holak, Associate Provost for Institutional Effectiveness; Mike Daniels, Associate Dean for Student Affairs; and Donna Fauci of the CSI Office of Recruitment and Admissions also introduced themselves.

Regarding the incoming class, Dr. Popper stated, “We’re happy to have so many good students joining the program. These students have a range of interests and experience that we really appreciate…it’s great to think about the talents that they’re going to bring and what they’re going to develop here.”

Students in the Macaulay Honors College receive full tuition scholarship at CSI and have access to a $7,500 Opportunities Fund that provides money for study abroad and funds unpaid internships or independent research projects. The students also receive a free laptop computer, have exclusive access to the Honors College Lounge and Computer Room, and receive personalized advising throughout their four-year tenure at Macaulay.

CSI/National Grid Help Knowledge Take Flight

[flowplayer src=’’ width=320 height=180 splash=’’]Students from Port Richmond, Curtis, Susan E. Wagner, and New Dorp high schools recently had a unique opportunity to come to the campus of the College of Staten Island and learn various aspects of engineering, thanks to National Grid’s “Engineering Our Future” initiative. This unique workshop was sponsored by National Grid in partnership with the College’s Liberty Partnership Program (LPP).

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Loretta Smith, National Grid director of corporate citizenship, said: “National Grid is taking action through ‘Engineering Our Future’ to inspire youth and attract and develop engineers to make sure there are enough engineers in the future workforce. We are happy to partner with organizations like CSI and the Liberty Partnerships program to encourage students of all ages and backgrounds to study math, science, technology, and engineering in order to create a corps of smart, dedicated, and highly trained engineers to build the next-generation energy delivery system, including smart grids and other emerging high-tech systems.”

During the workshops students studied diverse engineering concepts such as airplane design and flying (aeronautical engineering) that included building and flying their own model planes; digital circuit design in which they performed several hands-on exercises in the laboratory that taught them about modern circuits and applications (electronics engineering); and fabrication in which they built their own chassis for technology applications using engineering techniques in the fabrications lab (mechanical design and engineering).

As part of the aeronautical engineering exposure, the students learned how to fly planes using a realistic simulator kit on a computer before they actually went out and constructed and flew a model airplane. As a result the students gained an appreciation for the concept of simulation in engineering.

Shawn Landry of the Liberty Partnership Program, commented “The students participated in the workshops in small teams and in addition to experiments, they learned problem solving and project management skills to complete their tasks. The ability to learn and achieve a tangible goal in each session influences the student’s confidence as well as competence. Several students involved want to become pilots and one an obstetrician. This program gives students the ability to come out of their comfort zones, explore different career paths, and meet other students from different schools and communities. Each opportunity to have an experiential learning experience is another step toward defining their dreams and turning them into goals. This was the third and final workshop series funded by National Grid and the impact on self-esteem and career exposure to our students has been phenomenal.”

Landry also underscored a deeper meaning for the workshops for these students. “At this time of severe recession, CSI LPP and National Grid have continued their commitment to working with students and providing them with the academic and life skills they require to overcome societal boundaries of poverty and racial disparities and inequities through a series of Workshops exploring Engineering as a career path. The opportunity to be exposed to Science, Technology Engineering, and Applied Math (STEAM) career paths is priceless; these workshops give the students an experiential learning experience where they are introduced to aeronautics, physics, and engineering in a practical environment.”

For its part, National Grid is taking action to address the challenge of the impending critical shortage of utility engineers over the next five years. According to a 2009 report by the U.S. Power And Engineering Workforce Collaborative, over the next five years, approximately 45 percent of engineers in electric utilities will be eligible for retirement or could leave engineering for other reasons. The company’s innovative and comprehensive “Engineering Our Future” initiative is designed to inspire youth and attract and develop engineers. National Grid already has invested more than $3 million in this program to target students of all ages and backgrounds to encourage them to study science, technology, engineering, and math, collectively known as “STEM.”

College Recognizes Student Achievement at 34th Commencement

Although the skies were cloudy last Thursday, the mood at the College of Staten Island’s 34th Commencement was warm and sunny, as President Dr. Tomás Morales told 2,272 students that, thanks to their own achievements and the world-class quality of the College’s faculty, they “have a degree that is second to none.”

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The student speaker was Michael Young, who graduated magna cum laude from the Macaulay Honors College at CSI with a Baccalaureate degree in American Studies with minors in Studio Art and Spanish. He is also a past recipient of the Jeannette K. Watson Fellowship, a program in which he completed internships over three consecutive summers. During his time at CSI, he also brought smiles to the faces of members of the College coummunity as the founder and editor-in-chief of Operation Three-Legged Dolphin magazine.

In his humor-laden speech, Young looked to the future. “Today we are leaving the College of Staten Island, where we have had positive reinforcement, set class schedules, and tight-knit groups of peers. From here on we won’t be running into the same faces every day. But that might be a good thing. We can be self-starters and build new structures to keep us going. We are empowered to take control of our own learning. And the friendships we will hold onto are the ones we will work to keep.”

President Morales, in his comments, championed the vast achievements of the members of the graduating class, noting that many of them are going on to graduate programs at prestigious schools, such as Cornell, UCLA, SUNY Downstate Medical School, and Tufts. The President also stressed that these student “accomplishments are…a testament to CSI’s exceptional faculty,” recognizing the 43 new faculty members who came to CSI last fall and highlighting the strengths of the entire faculty. In addition, Dr. Morales underscored the fact that the College continues to move forward with a Macaulay Honors COllege program that doubled in size last year, our thriving Verrazano School, the awarding of full-tuition scholarships to seven valedictorians and salutatorians last year, and an ever-expanding list of programs with sister institutions around the world.

In addition to the presentation of the degrees to CSI students, Dr. Morales and Dr. William Fritz, Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs, bestowed the honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters on CSI alumna and President of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, Dr. Muriel Howard, who received her Bachelor’s degree in Sociology with a minor in Elementary Education from Richmond College.

The day’s festivities concluded in the afternoon in the CSI Library with the annual Dolphin Awards ceremony that honored outstanding contributions to the College by faculty, staff, and students. This year’s honorees included:

-Outstanding Scholarly Achievement by a Member of the Full-Time Faculty: Marianne Jeffreys.

-Outstanding Teaching by a Member of the Full-Time Faculty: David Falk.

-Outstanding Teaching by a Member of the Adjunct Faculty: Thomas Mormino.

-Outstanding Service and Contribution by a Member of the Full-Time Faculty: Stephen Stearns.

-Outstanding Service and Contribution by a Member of the Non-Teaching Instructional Staff in HEO Title: Manuel Gonzalez.

-Outstanding Service and Contribution by a Member of the Non-Teaching Instructional Staff in CLT and OIT Specialist Titles: Valeria Belmonti.

-Outstanding Service and Contribution by a Member of the Non-Instructional Staff in Clerical Function: Florinda Mattia.

-Outstanding Service and Contribution by a Member of the Non-Instructional Staff in Maintenance, Operations, Security, Service, and Support Function: Vincent Bono.

-Outstanding Service and Contribution by a Currently Enrolled Student: Dennis Gaffigan.

After emcee Michael Daniels, Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs, recognized the honorees, as well as the presence of Professor Emeritus Stamos Zades, President Morales thanked the faculty and staff of the College for their hard work and dedication to CSI. The President also called Professor Sandi Cooper up to the lectern to thank her for her commitment to the College and to introduce her as the new President of the University Faculty Senate.

[video] The Verrazano School Celebrates Its First Graduating Class

Today’s Commencement will include 20 graduates of The Verrazano School, the first students to graduate from the prestigious program.

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According to Katie Geschwendt, Coordinator of The Verrazano School and the FIRST Program at CSI, “nearly every member of the first graduating class from The Verrazano School entered in the spring of 2007 at the inception of the program.”

Charles Liu, the Director of The Verrazano School, praised the graduating class. “I am so proud to be the Director of such a fine program here at CSI. It is a tremendous privilege to be associated with these superb students whose accomplishments and excellence have brought the college such distinction.”

At a recent gathering of Verrazano graduates, many of the students expressed their satisfaction with their experience over the last four years.

Christina Rossi, a History major, underscored the individual attention that Verrazano students receive, stating that the Verrazano experience “was a really great feeling to me. I loved every minute of it. [The staff] was very helpful in accomodating me and getting me on the right track here at CSI.”

Vlad Klym, a Computer Science major, said, “The Verrazano School gave me a lot of opportunities to meet faculty for research. It was absolutely terrific for early registration; you never had to worry about classes. At the same time, it gave me a one-on-one [relationship] with the professors, so they’re not just faculty members, they’re more like mentors.”

Science, Letters, and Society major Nora Rahman seemed to agree. “Being in The Verrazano School was a great opportunity. I had priority registration, small class sizes, and I always had a mentor to help me, and I also had the opportunity to improve my leadership skills because I was a mentor for The Verrazano School for one semester.”

On the subject of leadership, Geschwendt noted that CSI “Student Government Class President, Nick Imbornone, is a Verrazano graduate and other graduates were also involved in Student Government during their time at CSI. Also, several of the graduates served as peer mentors for The Verrazano School.”

What does the future hold for some of the grads after The Verrazano School? Geschwendt said that “several of these elite graduates of CSI are going on to law school and graduate programs within CUNY and elsewhere. There is also a student attending a school of naturopathic medicine and one graduate is already working full-time in wealth management at a major financial firm in Manhattan.”

The Verrazano School is a selective, four-year baccalaureate honors program that offers students a unique undergraduate education at CSI. According to its mission statement, the School “seeks to provide motivated and talented students with the highest quality undergraduate experience possible at the College of Staten Island, through an integrated program of courses and learning communities; constructive contact with full-time faculty; forward-thinking academic advisement and career preparation; and academic, social,
and cultural learning opportunities inside and outside the classroom.”

For more information on The Verrazano School, call 718.982.4219 or visit the School’s Website.

[video] CSI Geologist Analyzes Staten Island’s “Rocky” Past and Future on NatGeo TV’s Prestigious “Known Universe” Series

[flowplayer src=’’ width=320 height=180 splash=’’]Staten Island’s literally “rocky” past–and future–were analyzed this May by veteran CSI geologist Dr. Alan I. Benimoff on the “Cosmic Fury” episode of the prestigious Known Universe TV series on the National Geographic Network.

Participation in the internationally broadcast program along with prominent scientists from Caltech, the University of Arizona, the United States Geological Survey, astronomers and others, symbolized recognition of CSI as “world class” according to Benimoff.

A distinguished scientist in his own right, Dr. Benimoff discovered a new classification of mineral from a talc mine in St. Lawrence County New York in 2004. Specimens are part of the collections of the New York State Museum and the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, DC.

For Known Universe, Dr. Benimoff had taken the TV crew members to two sites–one in Sunnyside, the other in Graniteville–and he emphasized that, by analyzing the rocks found there, it was possible to determine what type of plate boundaries existed there in the past.

Because “the surface of the Earth is a mosaic of rigid shifting plates, known as plate tectonics,” he said, “the rocks are telling us that the Earth we see now may differ in the future and the continental configuration seen now will not be the one of the future.”

The Sunnyside site, near route I-278, has Serpentinite rocks “that signify an ancient convergent plate boundary where an island arc volcanic system crashed into the ancient North American continent some 440 million years ago.”

CSI’s Alan Benimoff sitting on an outcrop of Serpentinite rock near the Staten Island Expressway.
CSI’s Alan Benimoff sitting on an outcrop of Serpentinite rock near the Staten Island Expressway.

The Graniteville quarry, on Forest Avenue between Van Name and Simonson Avenues, has rocks of an ancient divergent plate boundary. “They formed when the supercontinent of Pangaea broke up some 200 million years ago.

“Until about 22,000 years ago there was no Staten Island, and this area was all over the globe. The ancient North American continent (named Laurentia) was at the equator some 500 million years ago, then drifted north. The drainage of our area was changed about 22,000 years ago when the vast ice sheet covering this area retreated. Its farthest southern advance was where Tottenville is now.”

Aired three times this month (May) the one-hour program was “great” for CSI, he said, because it contributes to the College’s national and international recognition.

No newcomer to TV, Dr. Benimoff has been co-producing and co-hosting about 65 episodes of Geology Forum, a live monthly program on Staten Island Community Television for the last six years. It is broadcast the first Friday of each month at 8:00pm on Time-Warner Channel 35 and Verizon FIOS Channel 35, and repeated two weeks later on Time Warner Channel 57 and FIOS Channel 37 at 10:00pm.

On June 15, Dr. Benimoff will mark his 43rd year on CSI’s full-time instructional staff. He has done extensive research on Staten Island rocks, written numerous scientific papers on the Island’s geology and, in 2004, discovered a new mineral.

A member of CSI’s Department of Engineering Science and Physics he teaches the Environmental Sciences Master’s Program courses: ESC 752 Soils and Geohydrology and ESC 703 Earth Science, as well as Physical geology in the Verrazano School Program and GEO 105 Environmental Geology and GEO 102/103 Historical Geology.

Dr. Benimoff earned a PhD in Geology from Lehigh University, his MA and BS in Geology from Brooklyn College, and his AS in Engineering Science from CSI.

After finishing his AS degree in spring 1967, he was hired as a full-time technical assistant (now called CLT), working in CSI’s Physics Lab. That summer session, he went on a geology field trip and “got hooked on geology.” Instead of continuing his Engineering BS degree, he decided to major in Geology and continued his geological education at night at Brooklyn College.

College Community Celebrates Calculus at Conference

Something amazing happened in Williamson Theatre at the College of Staten Island on May 5. An audience of students and faculty from CSI and local high schools cheered for the first derivative, L’Hopital’s rule, and critical points. These and other math topics were covered in Calculus the Musical and attendees said that they would never think of calculus the same way again.

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This professional musical performed by the Know Theatre of Cincinnati was part of the Fourth Annual Teacher Education Honors Academy conference that featured presentations of lessons done by Teacher Education Honors Academy students as part of their work in host schools. The host schools included Curtis, New Dorp, Port Richmond, College of Staten Island High School for International Studies, IS 61, and IS 49.

In his welcoming remarks, President Dr. Tomás Morales emphasized the College’s commitment to this selective honors program and the important role that it plays in the College and the community of Staten Island.