CSI Student Selected for Jeannette K. Watson Fellowship

For the third consecutive year, a CSI student has been accepted into the Jeannette K. Watson Fellowship.

Irvin Ibarguen is a sophomore member of The Verrazano School, majoring in Business Marketing. Although only a sophomore, Irvin has already participated in three internships—with the publisher Simon & Schuster’s marketing department, the marketing department for the SINY non-profit organization, and the executive director’s office of Northfield Bank. He is a former member of the LAWbound program, which is designed to prepare Latino students for careers in law. He has also been extensively involved with the CSI community, particularly through his efforts to help develop The Verrazano School program, which is now in its third year. To date, Irvin has served on The Verrazano School Student Initiative and written a marketing plan for the future recruitment of potential students. In addition to these accomplishments, he has managed to maintain a 4.0 GPA. Upon graduation, he plans to attend law school and pursue a career in immigration law and advocacy for immigrant rights.

The Watson Fellowship is a three-year career-building and mentoring program that places students in paid internships for the final three summers of their college careers. Watson Fellows also have the opportunity to attend various cultural events and professional development events around the city. Recent CSI recipients of the Fellowship have included Brian Kateman and Michael Maslankowski (2009), Michael Young (2008), Alexander Perkins (2006), and Sara Butler and Hal Harris (2005).

For this summer’s internship, Irvin is considering The Scholar Rescue Fund with the International Institute of Education (IIE), Echoing Green, and DonorsChoose.org.

In order to apply for the Fellowship, students must be freshmen or sophomores, not older than 25 years old at the time of application, and U.S. citizens or green card holders. Ideal candidates will be able to demonstrate a history of academic success and community/college involvement. If you would like to learn more about this exciting opportunity, please visit the Career and Scholarship Center in Building 1A, Room 105 or call 718.982.2300.

By Geoff Hempill, PhD

CSI sophomore and Verrazano School student Irvin Ibarguen has been selected as a Watson Fellow.

President Morales Hosts Legislative Breakfast

Area legislators and their representatives were updated on the state of the College of Staten Island, its future plans, and the CUNY budget last week at a breakfast hosted by CSI President Dr. Tomás Morales.

Underscoring the fact that CSI “is one of the very few institutions in American higher education that enjoys an extraordinary level of support from both sides of the aisle from our city, state, and federal legislators,” Morales began the meeting, which included a PowerPoint presentation that not only provided news of the College’s latest achievements, such as a steady increase in enrollment, a 48% increase in the number of entering baccalaureate students over the past three years, and a doubled enrollment in the prestigious Macaulay Honors College, but a look ahead at CSI’s Master Plan. Outlining the plan, Morales focused on the anticipated growth of the campus, including new residence halls, a dedicated building for the new state-of-the-art High-Performance Computing Facility, expansion of the Campus Center and Library, renovation of Building 2M, a new Welcome Center/Transportation Center, and plans to make the campus more bicycle-friendly by adding bike paths.

City University of New York Senior Vice Chancellor for University Relations and Secretary of the Board of Trustees Jay Hershenson discussed the University’s budgetary situation. On the positive side, he noted that CUNY’s mandatory costs would be covered for the coming year, but added, on the negative side, that the University also faces an $84.4 million state aid reduction. Hershenson also mentioned that CUNY enrollment is up in the current hard economic climate, most likely as a result of people attempting to acquire the skills that they need to compete in the today’s tight job market. Another increase, Hershenson reported, is a 120% boost in transfer applications to the University.

After the two presentations, Dr. Morales opened the floor to the guests for questions and comments. Meaghan Devereaux, Chief of Staff for Staten Island Borough President James Molinaro, and a CSI alumna, shared her feelings about the wonderful education that she received at CSI, and she credited Dr. Morales for making CSI the quality institution that it is today, commenting that he is very engaged with the Borough.

The meeting concluded with remarks from CUNY Trustee and CSI alumna Kay Pesile, who noted that she has taught Finance classes as an adjunct at the College since 1978 and mentioned that initially, it was difficult for CSI grads to find job placements in Wall Street firms, but today she is writing letters of recommendation to these firms on behalf of students “who are on an equal footing with [students] at NYU, Pace, St. John’s.” Trustee Pesile then called on the legislators to work to expand CSI students’ opportunities.

Other attendees at the breakfast were: NYS Assemblyman Michael Cusick, Meaghan Devereaux (representing SI Borough President James Molinaro), NYS Assemblywoman Janele Hyer-Spencer, Joe Borelli (representing NYC Councilman Vincent Ignizio), Kim Marsell (representing NYS Senator Andrew Lanza), Patrick Hyland (representing U.S. Representative Michael McMahon), NYC Councilwoman Deborah Rose, Anthony Basile (representing NYC Councilman James Oddo), NYS Senator Diane Savino, NYS Assemblyman Matthew Titone, Michael Capottelli (representing NYS Assemblyman Lou Tobacco), CSI VP for Institutional Advancement and External Relations Barbara Eshoo, CSI Provost and Senior VP for Academic Affairs Dr. William Fritz, CSI VP for Finance and Administration Milton Santiago, CSI VP for Student Affairs Dr. Jerald Jones-Woolfolk, CSI VP for Technology Systems Dr. Michael Kress, President Morales’s Chief of Staff Dr. Ann Lubrano, CSI Student Government President Nick Iambrone, CSI Foundation Board President Robert Cutrona, CSI Finance Professor Dr. Jonathan Peters, and CSI Political Science Professor Dr. Richard Flanagan.

Gov. Paterson Announces $839K Noyce Grant for Teacher Education

The exceptional efforts of the College of Staten Island to train tomorrow’s teachers recently received a significant boost by way of an $839K National Science Foundation (NSF) Robert Noyce grant.

The funding, announced Tuesday by New York State Governor David Paterson, builds upon the success of the College’s highly successful Teacher Academy program. Renamed the Teacher Education Honors Academy, the program maintains its mission to produce excellent teachers of math and science who will teach in high-need schools.

“The Robert Noyce grant acknowledges CSI’s history of success in producing first-quality teachers for our school system,” says Dr. Jane Coffee with CSI’s Mathematics Department. Coffee is co-author of the grant proposal with Dr. Susan Sullivan and Dr. Irina Lyublinskaya from the Education Department.

The Teacher Academy at CSI began in 2006 with support from the Petrie Foundation. The success of the program was cited by the NSF in awarding the Noyce grant. The major difference between the two programs is that a student enters the Teacher Education Honors Academy as a freshman or sophomore, and transitions into the Noyce program as a junior.

Coffee explains that Noyce funding is almost entirely for student scholarships, and that students in the program will receive $11K a year to pay for tuition, fees, work done in schools, laptop, books, and living expenses. She adds that students must also maintain a 3.0 grade point average in the program and for each year they receive support and they have to commit to teach two years in a high-need middle or high school in the United States.

Coffee also reports that the Academy is on track to double the number of majors in math and science who will graduate from CSI with initial teaching certification.

Marianne Orla, an academic adviser with the two-stage program, outlines how students progress through the Academy. “From the very first semester that they’re in the program they work one day a week in a Staten Island middle or high school. They start as observers in the classroom, but they progress through the continuum of professional development of math and science educators. Ultimately, they’re teaching lessons in the schools. That, I think, is what actually reinforces the idea that they want to be teachers. We’ve had some talks with some of the Academy students and said to them ‘are you sure that you want to be in this program?’ because they have to sign a commitment letter. What they say is ‘I really love teaching’.”

The students are certainly enthusiastic about the Academy and the unique opportunity that it gives them to teach in actual classrooms to pupils in borough high schools (at present, New Dorp, Curtis, CSI High School for International Studies, Port Richmond, William A. Morris IS 61, Dreyfus IS 49).

CSI Junior Maria Pellegrino says, “It’s amazing. When we’re in our education classes, students just sit there and observe the teachers. But, because we’re in the Academy, we can actually get up and teach, kids are asking us questions.”

Raechel Strobel, also a junior, adds, “It’s a lot of good, hands-on experience and we get a lot of feedback from the collaborating teachers.”

Finally, senior Alvin Hillary says that his students are “really excited” to see him, hoping that he’ll be teaching class when he arrives at their school.

In fact, last spring, Pellegrino, Strobel, and Hillary, as well as other students had the chance to show off their pedagogical skills at the third annual Teacher Academy Conference, where area educators and the students’ parents were treated to lessons that the students prepared and taught. According to Coffee and Orla, not only were the attendees amazed by the teaching prowess of these budding educators, they were also surprised that they skillfully employed technology, like interactive SMART boards, to teach their lessons.

The Academy is producing enthusiastic, quality teachers, who are attracting lots of attention, but Coffee notes, it also makes a significant contribution to the local community and economy. “This program is not just about undergraduate education; it’s about getting students employed in the schools.”

Whereas CSI students mostly come from Staten Island and Brooklyn, Coffee adds “they stay here because they want to be here and teach here.”

A CSI student gives a presentation at the Third Annual Teacher Academy Conference held last spring.

CSI Chemistry Major Weighs Options for Grad School

The story of CSI Chemistry major and senior Chin Ming (Benjamin) Hui is one of perseverance and commitment, and one of great success. He has recently reported that he has gained acceptance to Doctoral Chemistry programs at Carnegie Mellon University, Stony Brook University, Binghamton University, and Temple University, but he faced many obstacles on his road to success.

Benjamin came to the United States from Hong Kong at the age of 17, barely able to speak English and unfamiliar with U.S. culture, but with a hope to someday find a cure for smallpox. The death of his father from cancer eventually energized his goal of pursuing a career in science. Benjamin recalls that his father was skilled in engineering, particularly when it came to fixing electronics in his family’s home, but his father never received a college education because he had to work to support his family. After his father’s death, Benjamin eventually came to realize that his own “tirelessness, studiousness, and intelligence were inherited from my father. I believed he would want me to use my talent to help people, instead of grieving. Therefore, I promised to save people from illness, and help everyone stay healthy. That’s why I am interested in researching in chemistry and medical technology.”

Eventually, Benjamin, who gained experience in engineering in his teens at a computer company, where he had to work to help support his family, came to CSI. “My enrollment at CSI turned my life 180 degrees. While attending school here, I have enjoyed many opportunities to gain the experimental knowledge and theoretical techniques, which have satisfied my interest in the mathematics and science fields. I have also broadened my knowledge and improved my language skills by attending scientific conferences. In addition, hands-on experiences in the laboratory, field work, and lectures from graduate students and leading researchers have engaged my mind and captured my interest. I believe that studying science is the only way to save the world from global warming and defend human beings against diseases. That’s why I am always curious about every matter that is happening in science field, which could not be demystified by other fields.”

Benjamin also received a scholarship from STEAM, which is short for Science & Technology Expansion via Applied Mathematics, a comprehensive, National Science Foundation (NSF)-funded program that expands and supports undergraduate education in all areas of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

Benjamin recalls, “During the summer semester of 2006, I began a research project in chemistry, namely, the synthesis and characterization of large-pore silica under the direction of Dr. Michal Kruk who is an Assistant Professor at CSI. We proposed materials that were appropriated in drug delivery and catalysis in pharmaceutical science, as well as low-k insulating material, which is useful in the engineering industry. I want to thank you Dr. Kruk especially for babysitting me for more than three years. He has taught me a lot of knowledge in chemistry, and above all, in research. He does care about my study and future. He made me feel confident again as a foreign speaker, foreign student.”

As Benjamin pursued his studies at the College, he still didn’t have an easy time of it, having to work many jobs to support his family. In fact, he was often so tired from working that he was often drowsy in class. However, he carried on and gained the knowledge and expertise to make a number of graduate schools take notice.

As for the future, Benjamin looks forward to a career as a researcher and to contributing to academic society, after he receives his PhD.

Chin Ming (Benjamin) Hui and his mentor CSI Assistant Professor of Chemistry Dr. Michal Kruk.

Senior Accepted to Prestigious Summer Medical Program

As summer quickly approaches, many students are wondering what they will do over break. CSI Senior and Chemistry/Mathematics double-major Eric Rios-Doria doesn’t have that problem, as he has been accepted into the University of Iowa Summer Undergraduate Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP) and Research (SUMR) Program, an intensive eight-week summer program where he will be exposed to MD/PhD training that includes performing biomedical research as well as shadowing a physician-scientist.

Regarding his acceptance, Rios-Doria says, “I am very excited to participate in this program…The academic program at the CSI Chemistry Department is one I have very much enjoyed and am glad I have met such great professors… I would also like to thank Prof. [Krishnaswami] Raja for allowing me to perform research in his laboratory and work on an independent project.

Rios-Doria is also a recipient of a scholarship from CSI’s STEAM (Science & Technology Expansion via Applied Mathematics), a comprehensive, National Science Foundation (NSF)-funded program that expands and supports undergraduate education in all areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. “STEAM has provided both academic and monetary support,” he notes “and I am most appreciative.”

In addition, he is on the Dean’s List, and is an LSAMP research scholar and CSTEP student. LSAMP is short for Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation, an NSF-funded program with the goal of increasing the quality and quantity of students successfully completing Bachelor’s degrees and gaining access to graduate programs in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. The C-STEP program at CSI aims to increase enrollment and graduation, among historically underrepresented students, in undergraduate and graduate programs leading to professional licensure or to careers in the fields of science, technology, and education.

Admitting that he has been interested in medicine since he was young, due to bouts with severe asthma that led to frequent hospitalizations when he was a child, Rios-Doria transferred to CSI in 2007. He recalls that he has “found so many more opportunities here than at my previous institution. The programs available to the students are invaluable …The opportunities that have been provided through [the College] have allowed to me to become a better researcher and attain invaluable skills both inside the classroom and laboratory and outside the classroom and laboratory. As an example, CSI has given me the opportunity to present my research at local, regional, and national conferences.”

After his arrival at CSI Rios-Doria began research in chemistry with Prof. Raja. Saying that Dr. Raja “has guided me and taught me how to become a better researcher,” he is now working on an independent project that will eventually become his senior thesis. Explaining the research, Rios-Doria states that “I am currently working on synthesizing a liquid crystal that will have photovoltaic applications. An example of such an application would be the cost-effective use for solar cells. It is looking very promising and should provide exciting results.”

Hoping eventually to gain acceptance into an MD/PhD program with the hope of practicing medicine while conducting further research, Rios-Doria credits CSI and the programs available to him at the College for his current success. “The education I have received at CSI has been fantastic. All the professors I have had have shown genuine interest in the students and have allowed for my proper scientific thought process to be established. With the offer from the University of Iowa, I believe the education provided by the fantastic instructors at CSI has prepared me for the challenges ahead in the summer and has also placed me at an advanced level of understanding difficult concepts being learned in universities nationwide.”

Eric Rios-Doria has been accepted into a prestigious summer program at the University of Iowa.