I hope this message finds you well and safe. In a normal year, we would be celebrating your graduation with a Commencement ceremony, and would have celebrated those achieving Honors in a ceremony earlier in the week. The COVID-19 pandemic has altered life for all of us, and I am sorry that we are not having the opportunity to celebrate your achievements in person this week. However, as President Fritz indicated in his video message, we look forward to celebrating your achievements when we are able to schedule the Commencement festivities. In the meantime, know that all of us in Academic Affairs are very proud of your achievements, and wish you the best as you prepare for your next adventures.
Wednesday, May 6 was National Nurse’s Day and Tuesday, May 12 is International Nurse’s Day. During this week when we recognize the dedication, sacrifice, and skills of nurses worldwide, I wanted to take a moment to offer profound thanks to those from the nursing community, including the faculty, staff, and students in our Department of Nursing, for all they do in service to others, particularly during this global pandemic. These dedicated servant-leaders are putting their own lives at risk in service to others, often at the expense of their own health. We are fortunate to have a strong Nursing program at CSI that has trained so many of the nursing professionals on the Island, and continues to train the nurses of the future.
The changes in the academic calendar created by the Recalibration period and the shortened spring break had implications for religious observations for a number of you. I would like to remind those of you whose religious observation extends into the week of Apr. 13 that, as always, you have the right to request a religious exemption from academic and work responsibilities. CUNY’s guidance for religious exemptions can be found online.
The College of Staten Island (CSI) returns to its origins on the North Shore as Stuyvesant Place once again becomes home to the College.
The CSI St. George Ribbon Cutting Ceremony officially announced CSI St. George, the College’s new location, which will begin offering courses to matriculated students in the upcoming Fall 2017 term.
Local politicians, CSI officials, City University of New York (CUNY) representatives, and community members gathered at the historical event as the College seats itself in its original St. George home at 120 Stuyvesant Place. As the College expands its presence on the North Shore with an already well established CSI Tech Incubator, there is confidence that the strategic location will attract prospective students to the new location.
In a monumental and historical step in going back to its beginnings, CSI St. George solidifies the College’s strong presence in the resurgence of Staten Island’s North Shore.
“This day represents a significant milestone in the history of the College of Staten Island. I can’t believe this day has finally come – the day when the College of Staten Island returns to St. George and not only returns, but returns to the exact same space that was once part of Richmond College,” commented CSI President William J. Fritz.
Memorably, CSI’s predecessor institutions, Richmond College and Staten Island Community College (SICC), resided in adjacent addresses on Stuyvesant Place. The CSI Tech Incubator is, in fact, housed in the former space of the SICC Library.
“A few years ago I started to realize that no matter how great our Willowbrook campus is we really lost something when CUNY and CSI left St. George — and that something is access,” Dr. Fritz stated, noting that students who utilize public transportation may find CSI St. George more convenient than the Willowbrook campus. “Providing access to these North Shore residents and giving them the means (a College degree) to achieve the American Dream was and is my vision for this project.”
The President also outlined plans to offer master’s and certificate level graduate courses at CSI St. George to provide access to commuters working in Manhattan. CSI’s newly planned doctorate, an Ed.D. in Community Leadership, will be housed at CSI St. George as well.
Within walking distance from the North Shore’s Transportation hub, CSI St. George’s completely renovated 16,000 square foot facility will offer 10 large Smart classrooms; a state of the art computer lab; a spacious student lounge with open computers; a dedicated on-site Student Services Center; diverse course offerings & scheduling opportunities that satisfy degree requirements for new and first year undergraduate students and, for select programs in Education, graduate students; day, evening, and weekend schedules; and flexibility to also enroll in courses on the main Willowbrook campus, which is easily accessible via the CSI Ferry Shuttle, and to take advantage of all the sports, clubs, and academic and personal support services that the College has to offer.
“This is an exciting day for the College. It’s the culmination of many years of planning, advocacy and finally construction. And now we have this unique opportunity to further serve Staten Islanders… We’re thrilled to have the inaugural class this fall. These students will receive the same world class education as our Willowbrook students,” said Jennifer Borrero, Vice President for Student and Enrollment Services.
CSI St. George aims to attract individuals from this area, given the College’s new proximity to neighboring North Shore areas. Lending greater opportunity in a vibrant and growing neighborhood, CSI St George provides students with the option of a two- to four-day schedule at convenient times with quick access to college resources and dedicated staff.
“Housed in our on-site Student Services Center, the staff hired for these newly-created positions will offer one-on-one support in all areas of Enrollment Management and Information Technology, including Admissions, Financial Aid, Advisement, Registration, Bursar, IT Help Desk, and more, as well as administrative and technical support for faculty teaching at CSI St. George. These individuals will work closely with their counterparts on the main Willowbrook campus to coordinate and ensure effective and efficient delivery of services to all members of the College community,” noted CSI St. George Director Mario D’Alessandro.
Dr. Fritz also thanked elected officials, CUNY representatives, and members of the CSI community. “This was an example of incredible teamsmanship. Thank you everyone. Thank you for your teamwork, thank you for your support of CUNY, Staten Island, and CSI St. George,” he said.
More than 100 attendees gathered at the College of Staten Island (CSI) to honor scholarship donors and recipients at the Annual Scholarship Donor Student Reception in the Campus Center’s Green Dolphin Lounge.
The reception served as an informal opportunity for donors to meet CSI scholarship recipients.
“Tonight’s event gives scholarship donors a chance to meet the extraordinary students who are being greatly assisted by your generosity, and the scholarship recipients will have the opportunity to meet and extend their gratitude to those who are helping to fulfill their dreams,” noted CSI President William J. Fritz, PhD, who also highlighted some of CSI’s impressive assets such as Pulitzer prize-winning poet Tyemba Jess, four Guggenheim Scholars, and 15 Fulbright Scholars.
Francine D’Amato Hatipoglu, donor of the Joanne D’Amato, RN and Frank D’Amato Memorial Scholarship, commented that, “This event is an opportunity to celebrate a mutual appreciation… My family and I appreciate the opportunity to think about the wonderful programs CSI has to offer. Mostly, I appreciate the chance to share my parent’s legacy and my wonderful memories of them with the CSI community.”
Also in attendance were donors Judy Afferton (Sgt. Franklin Afferton III Scholarship and Marie M. Afferton, RN Scholarship), Ann Merlino (Dr. Mario J. Merlino Scholarship/John and Filomena Merlino Scholarship), Irving K. Robbins, PhD (Irving K. Robbins Scholarship), and Sally Williams (Clara and Arleigh B. Williamson Scholarship), as well as Samir Farag, President of the CSI Foundation Board of Directors, Board members, and members of the Friend of CSI.
Several students in attendance had the opportunity to describe the impact of these awards on their lives.
For example, Alima Toure was born and raised in Burkina Faso and immigrated to the United States in 2010 to continue her education. One of four children and in an extended family of more than 30 children, she is the first woman ever in her entire family to graduate from college and pursue a master’s degree. Toure is pursuing a Master of Science in Business Management as a supplemental foundation to her career plan to become a Certified Public Accountant.
Maisa Moumen and her husband immigrated to the United States from Syria in 2008. Not long after arriving here, Moumen’s husband was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Moumen attended two weeks of nursing training at New York University Hospital to learn medical and patient care skills to be able to care for her husband, who passed away after battling the condition for three years. Motivated to pursue higher education in order to build her skills to support her two young children, Moumen enrolled at CSI and is working toward a Bachelor of Science in Accounting.
“The stories of our students are truly inspiring; they demonstrate such great resilience in the face of difficult challenges to pursue their education and achieve success through their career paths. They feel an enormous sense of gratitude, accomplishment, and recognition from the opportunities provided by our generous donors,” noted Michele Callahan, Fellow and Scholarship Advisor.
The fruits of the excellent academic connections between College of Staten Island (CSI) students and their faculty mentors were on display, last May, at the Annual Undergraduate Conference on Research, Scholarship, and Performance, which took place in the Center for the Arts.
This year’s Conference was the largest ever with 335 research poster presenters (200 actual posters), 12 oral presentations, and nine panel participants, as well as performances from 80 Music and Dance students, and works by 30 students of the Visual Arts.
CSI Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Gary Reichard, PhD, commented on the significance of the event. “The annual Undergraduate Conference on Research, Scholarship, and Performance provides important opportunities for CSI students to showcase their research and performance skills for fellow students, CSI faculty, and members of the campus and Staten Island communities. In its 16th year in 2017, it has become a jewel for CSI. The annual Conference underscores the exceptional one-on-one mentoring relationships between CSI’s world-class faculty and students.”
Beyond the research posters, panel discussions, and paper presentations, other highlights included a recital from the CSI Chamber Music Ensemble, a program featuring the CSI Dance Program, and the Undergraduate Research Conference Art Exhibition.
The Conference is sponsored by the Division of Academic Affairs with funding from CSI Student Government, the Office of Alumni relations, and the CSI Foundation.
Gray skies and cool temperatures could not quell the enthusiasm among the graduating Class of 2017, and their mentors, families, and friends as they all gathered on the Great Lawn of the College of Staten Island for the institution’s 68th Commencement. This year marked the largest graduating class in the school’s 60-year history with 2,994 January and June grads, and 297 August 2017 candidates.
After introductory remarks from CSI Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Gary Reichard, PhD, CSI President William J. Fritz, PhD, spoke about the College’s legacy of mission. Using comments from the first Commencement at Staten Island Community College in 1958 from then SICC President Walter Willig; Staten Island Borough President Albert V. Maniscalco; and College founder Arleigh B. Williamson, Dr. Fritz underscored the continuity of mission that has been an integral part of CSI from the beginning, “the opportunity to raise oneself through academic excellence; the opportunity to lift community; and the opportunity to advance society; in sum, the opportunity to ascend. From an initial student body of 111 to 14,000 today—our mission remains the same.”
Following remarks from CUNY Trustees Rita DiMartino and Jill O’Donnell-Tormey, as well as CUNY Vice Chancellor and University CIO Brian Cohen, Associate Professor of Philosophy Barbara Montero, PhD, offered words of encouragement to the graduates on behalf of the faculty. Dr. Montero used her comments to discuss the importance of neural plasticity, the brain’s natural ability to form new neural connections, thus strengthening and regenerating, as a way of encouraging the grads to continue in their intellectual pursuits to improve their brains throughout their lives. “Increasing your brain power doesn’t have to stop at graduation. It’s more than simply living up to your potential; you can, in a very good sense of the word, increase your potential. But it takes work,” she said.
This year’s valedictorian, Palwasha Syar, a Macaulay Honors College student, who received a Bachelor of Science degree in Biochemistry, spoke on behalf of the Class of 2017. After discussing the move from her native Pakistan to the U.S. when she was 12 and the often difficult transition that she had to make to life in the U.S., Syar offered stories of others who overcame adversity and challenges to get a CSI degree. She stated, “Our campus is full of diverse and tough students who went through many obstacles to sit here today and graduate. These challenges, on top of the stress from taking finals and pulling all-nighters to complete that 15-page paper, show that you are strong and that you are committed. It means that all of you today have perseverance and the tenacity to follow through with your goals.” Syar also offered some advice to her fellow grads to not be afraid of obstacles and failures, and to celebrate the people around them.
Also during the ceremony, the College bestowed four honorary degrees: Deirdre DeAngelis, Principal of New Dorp High School, as well as publishers and College benefactors Peter and Robin Jovanovich, received the degree of Doctoral of Humane Letters; Margaret Ricciardi, ’86, who is still attending art classes at CSI at age 103, received a Doctor of Arts degree; and a Doctor of Science degree went to Dr. Andy Shih, the Senior Vice President for Public Health and Inclusion at Autism Speaks.
Departmental Commencement exercises followed the main ceremony at various locations across campus.
During her speech at the College of Staten Island’s (CSI) 68th Commencement, Palwasaha Syar ’17, CSI’s valedictorian of the graduating Class of 2017, quoted Nelson Mandela: “I never lose. I either win, or I learn.” Her meaningful words were in reference to the life lessons she learned during her time as a student at CSI.
Syar graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry with plans to attend medical school.
“CSI was the place where I was accepted for who I was. … leaving it is like leaving my home… CSI has also shaped me into the strong woman that I am today,” she said, while also conveying her sentiments of challenge and triumph at CSI.
Syar shared the spotlight with several of her fellow graduates, relaying stories about their varying struggles to arrive at graduation. One student, Erin Richards, a single mother of four, while attending classes also had to manage the care of her children. Another, Andrea Dalzell, was diagnosed with Transverse Myelitis and is currently graduating from the Nursing program.
Syar further asked those in attendance to “celebrate the people around you… Learning about people’s lives and the struggles they go through will give you new perspective on your problems… Learning about others allows us to connect with them. Listening to others’ stories gives us courage and remind us that we are not alone in our struggles.”
Syar has an impressive track record of being active outside of the classroom. Along with a long list of internships, she volunteered with the CSI Emerging Leaders and also joined the CUNY Service Corps, volunteering at the Staten Island Youth Court.
“I think it is very important to get experiences outside of the classroom… since I have been blessed with so much, it is very important for me to give back. I would like to continue my service in the future, and take my medical degree to work in impoverished areas,” noted Syar, who emigrated from Pakistan to the U.S. when she was 12 years old.
Facing both social and financial challenges when she arrived, and moving several times within New York State, she found it hard to make friends. Coupling this with her challenge to master the English language, the young Syar felt “lonely and isolated.”
During her initial visits to New York City, she was in awe of her new surroundings. She noted, “the skyscrapers in the city were so high that my hat used to fall of my head when I used to look up at them.”
After her plans to attend medical school, Syar plans to continue to give back to the community. She intends to open her own medical practice in the U.S. and also volunteer in poor and underserved areas in Pakistan.
“I would like to take the skills and values I have learned here and apply them to my service in developing countries,” she commented.
Syar concluded her speech by thanking her parents, sisters, and aunt, who came from Pakistan to attend the Commencement. She also thanked the faculty and staff who supported her and her friends who made her experience at CSI so memorable.
Syar proudly exclaimed, “It has been an absolute honor standing here in front of you all giving this speech. I would like to thank you all and Congratulations, Class of 2017!”