Ms. Wheelchair NY: ‘Life, liberty and the pursuit of access’

At the Pridefest at Snug Harbor Cultural Center & Botanic Garden, are Andrea Dalzell, Ms. Wheelchair New York. and standing from left, Jamie Lynn Macchia, Miss New York and Katelynn Smith, Miss Central New York. Photo Courtesy of the Staten Island Advance.

STATEN ISLAND ADVANCE — Maya Angelou put it best: “Courage is the most important of all the virtues, because without courage you can’t practice any other virtue consistently. You can practice any virtue erratically, but nothing consistently without courage.”

Meet Andrea Dalzell, who lives by those words each and every day of her life.

The 27-year-old College of Staten Island student holds the title of Ms. Wheelchair New York 2015 and will be among 27 women from across the nation to vie for the Ms. America Wheelchair title slated for later this month in Des Moines, Iowa. The winner will represent more than 50 million Americans with disabilities.

The new winner will be crowned by Samantha Schroth of Wisconsin, Ms. Wheelchair America 2015.

So, as Staten Islanders root for Eltingville’s Jamie Lynn Macchia, who holds the title of Miss New York and is on the road that leads to to Miss America, we retrace the journey of another inspiring young women.

Andrea garnered her state title last September at a pageant held in the Albany Marriott Hotel.

Unlike most competitions, Ms. Wheelchair doesn’t judge or base its winners on outward appearance. And while the women still dress up for the formal interviews and speeches, the pageant is an advocacy program in which the winner is chosen on who can be the best advocate for those with any type of disability challenge.

The only requirement to enter: Contestants must be dependent on the use of a wheel chair every day of her life — but that doesn’t mean Andrea didn’t include the “art of sky diving” as part of her resume.

At the age of 6, Andrea was diagnosed with Transverse Myelitis (TM) and used a wheelchair since the age 12.

Born under the zodiac sign of a Taurus, this strong woman was determined not to let a disability curtail her life. She drives four times a week from her home in the Midwood neighborhood of Brooklyn to the College of Staten Island.

“Andrea is a dynamic member of the CSI community; she is always pushing fellow students, faculty and staff to do their best,” said Jeremiah Jurkiewicz of Stapleton, coordinator, LGBTQ Resources Center, Office of Student Life on the Willowbrook campus. “You always see her racing around the campus in her chair. She is constantly speaking up on behalf of students needs and refuses to let herself be ignored.”

Andrea’s advocacy includes meeting with Assemblyman Matt Titone (D-North Shore) to promote the universal and affordable housing law for the disabled and all.

Also, she attended the PrideFest celebration at Snug Harbor Cultural Center & Botanical Garden on July 11 and the next day she participated at the First annual Disability Pride Parade & Festival at Union Square Park, Manhattan.

What’s more, she continues to travel the city promoting her pageant platform: “Life, liberty and the pursuit of access.”

Andrea leaves Sunday, July 26, and will be in Iowa till August 2 for Ms. America Wheelchair.

Angela Wrigglesworth, the Texas State coordinator sums up the pageant: “Real beauty is not measured by the number of heads you turn but by the number of hearts you touch.”

Jim Smith, executive director of the Miss Staten Island Pageant, adds, “Andrea has touched many hearts of Staten Islanders with her courage and determination. She will do Staten Island proud.”

This article by Carol Ann Benanti first appeared in the Staten Island Advance and on July 20, 2015. It is reprinted here with permission.

Jenna Jankowski, Dramatic English Literature and Corporate Communications Major

Jenna Jankowski has accomplished a great deal during her Macaulay career, but developing and leading the college’s first athletic organization is one of her most influential achievements. The Macaulay Marauders quidditch team includes 40 students from all 5 boroughs who have traveled extensively together to compete, and has twice advanced to the World Cup.

Jenna’s studies focus on Dramatic English Literature and Corporate Communications and have taken her abroad several times. In London she studied contemporary British drama and in Amsterdam she gained a comparative understanding of how liberal policies effect everyday life.

Jenna’s excellent performance in the CUNY New York State Model Senate Session Project led to her being selected to speak on the floor of the State Senate. Jenna credits her internships with teaching critical professional skills. She wrote grant proposals, speeches and press releases at Staten Island Borough Hall; helped the reelection campaign of Congressman Michael E. McMahon and currently serves the Empire State Development’s New York City Regional Office.

A Dean’s List scholar for all four years at Macaulay, Jenna is also the recipient of the Macaulay Legacy Award. The Staten Island native has been selected to take part in the Edward T. Rogowsky CUNY Washington D.C. internship program and will be interning for Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney.

[video] Jane Saunders strikes a chord with graduation

[youtube][/youtube]Jane Saunders graduates from the College of Staten Island Magna Cum Laude with Honors, earning a Bachelor of Science in Music with a Concentration in Music Technology.

A veteran heavy metal performer, flutist, aspiring composer/arranger, and resident of Staten Island, her senior project, “Symbiotic Explorations” for amplified flute, voices, percussion, and dance, with live computer interaction (attach link of excerpt) was recently premiered as a part of the Plenary Session at the 14th Annual CSI Undergraduate Conference on Research, Scholarship, and Performance.

Speaking of the the “amazing” Music Technology program, Jane notes “when I first started college at the University of Nevada, universities didn’t offer this type of program. After being in the music business for years and deciding to return to school,  I couldn’t be happier with CSI. This is a very special college with many wonderful programs, and the Music Technology Program is outstanding! Thank you Dr. Keberle for your years of guidance, expertise, and support.”

Dr. Keberle notes that Jane was “voted the #1 graduate this year in our Performing and Creative Arts Department, and will will receive the PCA Department’s “2015 CSI Auxiliary Services Corp Award for Academic Excellence in Performing and Creative Arts.”

Jane will be attending SUNY Purchase this Fall, pursuing a Master’s in Music: Studio Composition degree.

In 2005, her indie project, “The Greatest Fear,” exploded on the Los Angeles metal scene with their debut CD,  “The Coronation of the Locust Queen,” selling over 10,000 copies worldwide.  The CD won “Hard Rock/Heavy Metal Album Of The Year” from The Independent Music Awards and Rock City’s “Gothic Band of The Year” title.


CSI Grad Student presents in D.C.

Fiorenza in the telescope operator’s seat

Stephanie Fiorenza presented at the 223rd American Astronomical Society (AAS) meeting in Washington D.C. earlier this year.

Ms. Fiorenza, an Astrophysics graduate student at the College of Staten Island, presented her dissertation The Starburst-AGN Connection in Luminous and Ultra-luminous Infrared Galaxies which focused on the evolutionary connection between nuclear starbursts and Active Galactic Nuclei (AGN) in luminous infrared galaxies and ultra-luminous infrared galaxies.

Fiorenza stands next to the 4M telescope to put its immense size into perspective.

Her dissertation, which will be defended this spring, is the result of years of hard work collecting data as well as collaboration with distinguished mentors in the field of astronomy, most notably CSI’s own Dr. Charles Liu and Dr. Tsutomu Takeuchi from Nagoya University in Japan.

The meeting, held in a different city every six months, is an opportunity for the country’s astronomers to meet and discuss new findings in their respective fields of study. It is also a place where students such as Stephanie can have an opportunity to rub elbows with Nobel Prize winning scientists. It is a “one stop shop,” according to CSI Assistant Professor of Engineering and Physics Dr. Emily Rice, who also presented her research, titled “Photometric and Spectral Analysis of Blue and Red L Dwarfs”,

Upon being awarded the National Science Foundation (NSF) East Asia and Pacific Summer Institute Fellowship this past summer, Ms. Fiorenza was able to accomplish much of her research at Nagoya University in Japan under her research mentor, Dr. Tsutomu Takeuchi.

“I find this work to be particularly interesting because these galaxies are more complex than normal galaxies. Not only are they typically mergers between two or more galaxies, they are very dusty, making what’s going on in their nuclear regions more mysterious,” said Ms. Fiorenza about studying the evolution of infrared-bright galaxies.

A view of the Kitt Peak National Observatory

Another big step in her ability to research these galaxies was when she was awarded time on the 4-meter Mayall telescope at the Kitt Peak National Observatory in the Arizona-Sonoran desert. The telescope, one of the largest in the world, is well-known among astronomers for being very difficult to access due to its popularity. However, Ms. Fiorenza was awarded time on the telescope in May of 2013 based on the strength of her written proposal. Stephanie was then able to use the data to look at the rate of star formation in these galaxies, among other properties.

Ms. Fiorenza that she was very excited to share her results from the data she collected by speaking at the AAS meeting. She is planning on working as a post doc in the fall and hopes to extend her promising research.

Like any good researcher, Ms. Fiorenza is obviously very passionate about their research and chosen fields of study. Ms. Fiorenza put it succinctly when she said, “in order to truly understand things within the universe, you need to understand the universe itself.”

[update] Students Finish 4th in Global Competition

A group of students from the College of Staten Island’s School of Business advanced to the final round of the MikesBikes business simulation World Championship. The team, Luxury Bertels, is comprised of Mohammad Chugtai, Javad Ali, Usman Ahmed, and Catherine Jeanbart who, over the course of last semester, have competed not only against classmates but against thousands of other student teams across the globe.

UPDATE: CSI slipped past Loyola College in Ontario during the last few minutes of competition to edge Loyola out for fourth place in global competition.  “Our team completed in the finals agains institutions from Australia, India, Canada, and the US,” noted Dr. Susan Holak, Founding Dean of the School of Business, adding “This is a fantastic finish for the School of Business team and a real credit to Professor Bertels!  Through creative pedagogy, she has sparked excitement and learning by doing in this class.”

The students, part of Professor Heidi Bertels’ Management 416 call “Decision Making in Business” is a capstone management course which tasks senior business students with analyzing the problems that face all business managers. The students run a simulated bicycle manufacturing company and deal with everything from sales forecasting to marketing, production planning, personnel, pricing, and finance.

Smartsims, the company that runs MikesBikes, keeps track of all the data from all of the teams worldwide. They invite those teams that were top performers while playing against their classmates to compete for a spot in the world championship. 85 of the best teams from universities and colleges around the world competed in the qualifying round. The top eight teams of the qualifying round, including a team composed of CSI students, and then advanced to the actual world championship. Cash prizes are awarded to the first and second place winners and the championship players will also be featured on the Smartsims’ website and awarded a Championship Certificate.

The reason Professor Bertels uses MikesBikes for her class business simulation is fairly straight forward. The manufacturing industry is, according to Professor Bertels, “fairly typical and as general as possible.” So business management students of all stripes can learn from working with the simulation. She is also a big believer in getting students’ “noses out of the books” and actually having them apply the business concepts they have learned throughout their careers as CSI business students.

“The competencies required to perform well in MikesBikes are an understanding of all areas of business on the one hand and persistence and dedication on the other,” said Professor Bertels of the challenges her MGT 416 students face. “The simulation is involved as the students need to make decisions based on financial statements and reports that take into consideration manufacturing efficiency, market sensitivities to advertising and delivery performance, competitor performance and shareholder value. Every time the simulation advances a year, the students need to study the updated reports and make informed decisions based on the changing market and competitive situation. Students that do not work diligently on doing this every week will not perform well in the simulation.”

Dr. Susan Holak, Founding Dean of the School of Business (Interim) and Professor of Marketing at CSI, is very proud of Professor Bertels’ students. “This is a tremendous accomplishment for our students under Professor Bertels’ terrific leadership and guidance.”

“MikesBikes! A name that normally scares students in MGT 416,” exclaimed Javad Ali, one of Luxury Bertels’ team members. “Through hours and hours of trial and error, online, offline this game just doesn’t stop.”

Another member of Luxury Bertels had this to say about the MikesBikes simulation, “This simulation game is perhaps the greatest and most effective tools in learning how to run and manage a full scale business.”

“My Story” Panel Reflects on College Life

Brigette Jara was a panelist at last semester's My Story event.

“People seem nervous about communicating with me, but they really shouldn’t be,” urged College of Staten Island senior, Brigette Jara, a student who is deaf. The Cinema Studies major was one of 11 students with disabilities who spoke at the Center for Student Accessibility’s (CSA) third annual “My Story” event last semester.

Presenting their candid stories of challenge and triumph in college to an audience of more than 125 students, faculty, staff, friends, and family, the panelists were proud to share their feelings and experiences.  The April 10 presentation in the Recital Hall served as the kick-off event for CUNY Disability Awareness Month and is one of a dozen events that the CSA sponsored in honor of the month. Organized by CSA Director Chris Cruz Cullari, Assistant Director Joanne D’Onofrio, and Project Manager Sara Paul, “My Story” is one of the biggest and most significant events that the Center coordinates. The purpose of the annual event is to both educate individuals with and without disabilities and to diffuse some of the stereotypes surrounding college students with disabilities.

Jara says, for example, she encounters many CSI students who don’t attempt to communicate with her. “My peers can text or Facebook me, communicate with me through an American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter, or simply write things down,” stressed Jara, who plans to become a film professor.

Other CSI student panelists included Annemarie Cantasano, a student with a learning disability; Andrew Petrone, a student who is deaf; Chris Williams, a student with a physical disability; Stephanie Pietropaolo, a student who has cerebral palsy and a learning disability; Lauren Butler (Glennon), a student who has Marfan’s Syndrome; John Campione, a student who has cerebral palsy; Rob Holminski, a student who has social anxiety disorder and a learning disability; Marybeth Melendez, a graduate student who is blind; Ryan LaMarche, a student who has Asperger’s Syndrome; and Sean Thatcher, a student who is a quadriplegic.

The afternoon program began with remarks from Cruz Cullari, D’Onofrio, and Vice Presidentfor Student Affairs Dr. A Ramona Brown, an active supporter of CSA initiatives and efforts. A brief video montage created by Center staff highlighted CSA milestones and gave general information about students with disabilities on the national level. Cruz Cullari also articulated some interesting reflections on students with disabilities. His introductory comments also gave context to the event and to the issues surrounding students with disabilities and disability service provision in higher education today.

“It’s powerful to hear the candid stories of perseverance from our students,” noted Cruz Cullari.  “This event, in a very real way, captures the importance of our work.”

The two-hour program captivated audience members, many of whom left with very different ideas of what it means to be a college student with a disability. From Thatcher, who was injured in June 2009 when he lunged into a lake and fractured his C4, C5, and C6 vertebras leaving him a quadriplegic, to Williams, who bravely rushed to save his sister from harassment and was shot nine times by a gang member, the panelists did not leave out any of the sometimes painful and emotional details of their lives. The impact on the audience was evident.

“People don’t understand how strong and intelligent students with disabilities are. If these amazing individuals can achieve their goals, there is really no excuse for those individuals who do not have a disability,” commented Vincent DiCristo, a CSI freshman who plans to apply to the Nursing program.

“It’s people like Chris Williams who give the world hope as well as give strength to addressing this taboo topic openly,” commented Hadeel Ayesh, a CSI freshman.

Indeed, the “My Story” speakers agree that the event is a necessary staple in the CSI events calendar.

“I think it was and will continue to be a great learning experience for those who share their story and for all who come to listen,” commented Campione, a senior who was accepted into CSI’s Mental Health Counseling program.

“‘My Story’ allows for a parallel process of the teaching and learning experience to occur in a holistic way at a venue where it is relaxed, yet informative at the same.

“We, the panelists, have a responsibility to the campus community and to our peers to leave our footprints and to educate the new student body. We are taking this opportunity to be out of the classroom and to have a thinking moment, a human moment,” said Melendez, who is graduating in January 2014 with a Master’s Degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. “You are learning about real people with real challenges and how they were able to overcome. That is something that anyone can embrace and incorporate into their own lives whether they have a disability or not.”

The Center for Student Accessibility is a part of the Division of Student Affairs.