Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Awareness Day: Creating Success through Independence

The dictionary defines a disability as “an inability to perform some or all of the tasks of daily life.” And it is those very tasks, which many people may take for granted on daily basis, which can be challenged at the College of Staten Island’s Disability Awareness Day this Thursday, April 3, 2003.

The day is filled with hands-on and interactive disability sensitivity workshops in the college’s Center for the Arts that allow everyone to learn that overcoming a dictionary-defined disability actually requires great ability, and a mastery of a challenging new skill set, such as reading Braille, conversing in sign language, or maneuvering a wheelchair. Exhibitors with have informative booths set up in the building’s Atrium.

The workshops will be presented from 10:15 – 2 p.m. in room 202 and will raise your awareness regarding deafness, disability parking, and the learning-disabled, as well as blindness and wheelchair sensitivity.

In addition to the exhibits and workshops, Alvin Law will present “Never Say I Can’t,” from 2 – 3:30 p.m. in the Recital Hall. Law, who was born without arms, is a noted motivational speaker who will discuss the power of a positive attitude. His talk is sponsored by the college’s Program Development Committee.

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Awareness Day at CSI:Creating Success through Independence

Thursday, April 3, 2003; 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.

College of Staten Island, Center for the Arts (1P)
2800 Victory Boulevard, Staten Island NY 10314

Exhibitors include: the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities; VESID (Vocational and Educational Services for Individuals with Disabilities); C-Tech (technology for the visually impaired); Concepts of Independence; Multiple Sclerosis Society; Seymour Joseph Institute; New York Commission on Human Rights; and Freedom Box.

The day’s events are free and open to the public. Refreshments will be served. The event is sponsored by the College of Staten Island Office of Disability Services. For more information regarding the event contact Irene Mucciariello at 718-982-2176.

If you plan to attend or send a representative, contact Ken Bach at 718-982-2328.

Presidential Lecture for Excellence in Teaching

Professor of History David Traboulay, the recipient of this year’s Presidential Award for Excellence in Teaching, spoke to a crowd of 100 faculty, staff, and students who gathered in the Center for the Arts’ Williamson Theater today.

President Marlene Springer and David TraboulayCSI President Marlene Springer opened the event with comments on Dr. Traboulay’s achievements as a scholar, and upon being awarded an engraved plaque and check for $1,500 to commemorate the day, Traboulay began his lecture by saying “I am grateful and happy to receive this first Presidential Award for Excellence in Teaching, and feel humble about this splendid recognition.”

Traboulay’s lecture, entitled “Universitas: The Academic Community as Inspiration,” opened with a quotation from John of Salisbury, “Happy is the Exile that brings such a Home.”

Traboulay, a native of Trinidad on faculty at CSI since 1971, discussed his feelings about teaching. “I must confess the paradox that I have been aware of from 1957, when I was first hired as a teacher, of acknowledging the great joy and inspiration that teaching brought to my life on the one hand, and in similar measure the profound doubts I have had about the effectiveness of my teaching.”

After a recounting of his academic travels, Traboulay closed his lecture by expressing “my gratitude to all those who have made my life and work a ‘happy exile.’ Although I still find effective teaching elusive and, when you think that you have found it, it is impermanent, I have always considered myself fortunate to have been able to work at what I loved, and feel that it was the spirit of the college communities that inspired my teaching.”

Based on the response of the audience, the feeling was mutual.

Arab Americans in the Current Political Landscape

The College of Staten Island hosts a lecture by Kareem W. Shora who will speak on issues related to the U.S. Department of Justice’s post-9/11 initiatives including Immigration and Naturalization Services (INS) programs during an informative, interactive lecture series at the CSI Library.

Kareem W. Shora, JD (Doctor of Jurisprudence) LL.M.(Master of Laws), Legal Advisor for the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee

Shora will speak on issues related to the U.S. Department of Justice’s post-9/11 initiatives including Immigration and Naturalization Services (INS) programs during an informative, interactive lecture series at the CSI Library. Other topics may include ethnic profiling, hate crimes, and unlawful discrimination issues, and the more general situation of Arab Americans and Muslim Americans in the aftermath of 9/11.
Post-9/11 legislation issues may also be addressed, such as the USA Patriot Act and the proposed Domestic Security Enhancement Act of 2003, aka the USA Patriot Act II. The lectures will be followed by a question and answer session.

Thursday, March 27, 2003
1:30 – 2:30 pm and
3:00 – 4:00 pm

College of Staten Island, Library Theater (1L-103)
2800 Victory Boulevard, Staten Island NY 10314

Both sessions are free and open to the public. The event is sponsored by the Office of the President, the Pluralism and Diversity Program, and the Center for International Service. For more information regarding the event contact Winnie Brophy at 718-982-2100.

You are invited to send a reporter, photographer or camera crew to this event. If you plan to attend or would like to schedule an interview, contact Ken Bach at 718-982-2328.

Heather Courtney Sweeps Two of the Most Prestigious Citywide Awards

Out of seventeen undergraduate institutions and more than 200,000 students in The City University of New York, Heather Courtney, a junior at the College of Staten Island, was selected for both the prestigious Belle Zeller and Melani Scholarships. Citywide, only 10 students were awarded the Belle Zeller and merely 5 garnered the Melani.

Heather Courtney, with a 3.817 grade point average and a love for her double major of Bioinformatics and English, finds it difficult to confine her interests to only these two subjects. Among her many talents are painting, the study of foreign languages, music and politics. During the summer of 2002, she put her Spanish skills to the test in a special study grant she won in Ecuador.

Although serious academic scholarship has been her priority, Ms. Courtney possesses the high octane energy to take on a leadership role both at CSI and in the community. She has spearheaded the organization of trips for our student body to cultural, educational and entertainment destinations, worked for CSI’s Emerging Leaders Program. She has lent her administrative skills as President of Unique Individuals, a club that assists disabled students in every aspect of college life, and has served as a long-time volunteer in the Ophthalmology Department of Bayley-Seaton Hospital, as well as in office and patient support roles.

Even before winning the Belle Zeller and Melani competitions, Ms. Courtney has been the recipient of scholarships from the Business and Professional Womens’ Association, the American Associations of University Women, the Art Lab Studio’s art program and is a member of CSI’s Dean’s List.

“I have no doubt that this energetic, charming, exceptionally intelligent CSI student will succeed in all she undertakes,” said Dr. Adrienne Siegel, the faculty advisor who helps CSI students prepare their applications, “she has and continues to give fully of herself to others.”

Ms. Courtney has achieved so much despite the terrible pain that has been her constant companion ever since a serious car accident in 1994 left her with permanent spinal injuries. But she looks on her physical disability as a gift instead of a curse. Rather than taking the comfortable route of staying in a routine job as a customer service representative for The Putnam Berkely Publishing Group, she decided that further education was the logical next step.

Ms. Courtney came to CSI nearly twice as old as many incoming freshman. She walked with a cane and was scared. She decided that what others might think of her was less important than the goals she wanted to achieve. CSI offered her the opportunity to explore many interests, and she discovered that she was “a student of life at heart.”

She decided to tackle Bioinformatics, the application of computer technology to biological questions, and is using this career path to someday allow her to delve into questions of how to prevent debilitating diseases.

Ms. Courtney came to CSI after life had dealt her some bad cards, but it did not stop her from playing her hand with exceptional bravery, generosity and intelligence. “Now that her efforts have won such amazing recognition from the City University of New York,” said Dr. Siegel, “we are sure that she will continue to be a credit to CSI, her profession and our community.”

Mulling the Mayoral Mindset Politicians, Insiders, and Scholars meet to discuss the Toughest Job in American Politics

As New York City struggles with another fiscal crisis and Mayor Bloomberg engineers monumental school reform, it is vitally important that New Yorkers understand the historical events that shaped our contemporary problems and inform potential solutions.

Much of the city’s current politics are rooted in decisions made from 1954 to 1965, while Robert F. Wagner was Mayor of New York City. To address how recent history has played a hand in today’s political climate, the New-York Historical Society and the College of Staten Island (CSI) are co-sponsoring their first biennial conference, “The Mayoralty of Robert F. Wagner, 1954-1965.”

“It was during Wagner’s administration that the first law against racial discrimination was enacted, the Landmark Preservation law was signed, public employees gained the right to collective bargaining, and The City University of New York was created,” notes Jeffrey Kroessler, author of New York Year by Year and historian with the Archives and Special Collections at CSI’s library.

This historic, first-of-its-kind conference marks the 50th anniversary of Wagner’s election and brings together political veterans, leading scholars, and Wagner-insiders for a two-day, two borough conference that discusses the politics and policies of NYC during Wagner’s administration, as well as comparing Wagner’s leadership with that of his successors: Lindsay, Beame, Koch, Dinkins, Giuliani, and Bloomberg.

Thursday March 20th, 6:30 – 8:30 p.m. The New-York Historical Society, 2 West 77th Street at Central Park West, NYC

“Wagner and the Democratic Party” focuses on Wagner’s titanic battle and victory over Tammany leader Carmine DeSapio and the dramatic election of 1961. Participants include:

Edward Costikyan, former Democratic Party leader; headed a mayoral commission on school safety under Mayor Giuliani; an expert on school reform and party politics

Manfred Ohrenstein, former Minority Leader of the New York State Senate

Carol Greitzer, former City Councilmember

Hermann Badillo, former Congressman and Bronx Borough President

Friday March 21st, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. College of Staten Island, Center for the Arts (1P), 2800 Victory Blvd, Staten Island, NY

“Wagner and City Government,” “Intergroup Relations,” and “The Wagner Legacy: Assessing Urban Liberalism.” Participants include:

Ruth Messinger, former Manhattan Borough President

Milton Mollen, Court Judge; head of the Mollen Commission under Mayor Dinkins, assigned to investigate police corruption

Theordore Kheel, labor arbitrator

Julius C.C. Edelstein, CUNY Vice-Chancellor Emeritus; cosponsor of the CUNY open access policy; Wagner confidante

John Marchi, New York State Senator

Historians Fred Siegel, Vincent Cannato, and Clarence Taylor

A highlight of the day’s event includes a video presentation of Mayor Wagner’s farewell address of December 1965, as recorded by WNYC-TV.

“Wagner is perhaps the city’s forgotten mayor,” continued Kroessler, who is also moderator for “The Wagner Legacy: Assessing Urban Liberalism” portion of the conference, “but during his three terms in office, he presided over a city very much in change, and we continue to live with the legacy of his mayoralty today.”

During Bob Wagner’s three terms in office, he quietly revolutionized the office of mayor, modernized city government, and transformed New York City’s political landscape. He was a central player in the contest between the reform and regular factions of the Democratic Party. His notable accomplishments include:

Instituting collective bargaining with the city’s municipal unions.

Expanding the stock of public housing for the poor and the middle class.

Expanding the system of public hospitals.

Establishing The City University of New York.

Advancing civil rights in education, housing and employment policy.

Instituting the Community Board system for neighborhood representation.

Enacting landmarks preservation legislation.

You are invited to send a photographer, reporter, or audio/visual crew to any or all of the conference segments. Please call Ken Bach, director of public relations at CSI to make arrangements and to receive a complete schedule of the days’ events.

Verizon Communications presents CSI with $5,000 check

An innovative new series entitled the Visiting Executive Leadership Program is dedicated to empowering students for success and funding important new research initiatives, announced CSI’s vice president for college advancement, Richard I Truitt.

“This multidimensional program is focused on partnering CSI’s best students with corporate and community leaders,” he continued, “and provides an educational and informative opportunity benefiting students, corporate leaders, and the community.”

The day began with the campus visit of Paul Crotty, Group President of Verizon Communications, on March 11, 2003. Crotty enjoyed a lively discussion about business leadership and the value of public higher education with prominent college leaders and more than 25 juniors and seniors during an informal, catered power-breakfast.

CSI’s 204-acre campus and its facilities were showcased for the Verizon executive with a guided tour and a session of faculty research presentations. CSI’s professors shared their ongoing work regarding data compression of multimedia signals, network reliability and stability, as well as ultra-fast communication switches.

Pat McDermott, Lisa Reilly, Paul CrottyCrotty presented a $5,000 check to Lisa Reilly, director of the college’s Center for the Arts, to help fund a new community outreach and audience development initiative. The who’s who list of attendees included representatives from prominent government offices and key Staten Island businesses.

Patrick McDermott, president of McDermott & Thomas Associates, as well as president of the CSI Foundation, presented Crotty with an engraved medal that commemorated the importance of Verizon’s participation in CSI’s program.

The day concluded with a presentation entitled Leadership and Crisis Management in the Wake of Disaster: The Verizon Example after 9/11, which was an engaging behind the scenes look into the corporate struggle to reestablish a vital communications component after is was severely hobbled by international terrorism.

A Sunday Brunch serves up Food for the Mind

he College of Staten Island (CSI) may have a local sounding name, but nearly thirty years of graduates and hundreds of new faculty additions and the college has established itself as a regional, national, and even international presence.

On Sunday, March 9, CSI visits the Lincroft Inn’s Jefferson Room, when their alumni association establishes their New Jersey Regional Council.

“We have over 5,000 alumni in New Jersey,” said Richard Truitt, CSI’s vice president for college advancement, “and this event allows us to visit with friends and meet new ones, and is a great opportunity to network, socialize and learn a little bit more about their college that has changed so dramatically in the last 25 years.”

CSI’s New Jersey Alumni Committee has chosen professor George Stern, Jr. as guest speaker at the event. Stern, who is the best selling author of What Do You Think? ( A Survival Guide for the Everyday Challenges of Life) will share with guests “Some Ideas to Grow By.”

Having devoted his career to the fundamental study of human behavior and personal motivation, Stern notes “we live in incredibly challenging and complex times… as parents, we are competing for the well-being of our children; as business people, our capacity to communicate will make our business not simply prevail, but thrive.”

And thriving seems to be a word that can also describe CSI. The New Jersey Regional Council joins other active alumni programs that CSI already holds in Manhattan and Florida.

“We believe that CSI will be among the most important colleges in the region,” continued Truitt, “and through their participation in events like this and volunteer efforts, alumni can make this vision real.”

CSI began as two small campuses on Staten Island, Richmond College, known for its progressive approach to classroom instruction and Staten Island Community College. Today, CSI has a 204 acre state-of-the-art campus right over the Goethals Bridge, and is home to a nationally renowned china program, an unsurpassed teacher education and nursing program, and is performing the basic analytical biochemistry research that may revolutionize the treatment for burn victims.

Recently, CSI faculty members have returned from the Antarctic where they were developing datasets to establish international protocols on the commercial harvesting of krill, and a new species of American snake was recently identified and catalogued by a faculty zoologist.

CSI’s Sunday Brunch with George Stern is March 9 at 11:30 a.m. in the Jefferson Room of the Lincroft Inn, at a cost of $10 per person. The Lincroft Inn is located at 700 Newman Springs Road in Lincroft, NJ. Space is limited but there are still a few seats left. For more information and reservations, call CSI’s Alumni Association at 718-982-2290.

New Serpents and Old Music: The Life of a Field Biologist in the Deep South

For zoologist Dr. Frank T. Burbrink, the dark legacy of September 11, 2001 was more than the global tragedy of the collapse of New York City’s World Trade Center.

It was also the day that his good friend and mentor, Dr. Joseph Slowinski, the curator at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, was bitten by a krait — a pencil-thin serpent as deadly as a cobra — on an expedition in Myanmar, formerly know as Burma. Slowinski died the next day.

The 38-year-old Slowinski, a renowned herpetologist, discovered at least 18 new species of reptiles and amphibians in his abbreviated career. Slowinski’s last days in the Himalayan Mountains will now be remembered as the namesake of Burbrink’s most recent discovery — America’s newest snake.

Slowinski’s Corn snakeBurbrink’s snake was recently documented by the journal Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, after review by fellow scientists. Burbrink named the newly classified species of snake “Slowinski’s Corn snake,” or “Elaphe slowinskii” in Latin, and the U.S., which had 140 known snake species, now has 141.

Slowinski’s Corn snakes are found in the pine forests of western Louisiana and eastern Texas, where Burbrink did part of his postdoctoral fieldwork at Louisiana State University with Dr. Slowinski. Together they handled thousands of snakes and were bitten countless times.

Burbrink’s species of corn snake was not hiding in those southern pines; it was simply thought to be the same as other corn snakes — until now. Burbrink recognized slight external differences in the corn snake specimens, and began examining them genetically for differences among the DNA sequences in all of the corn snakes. It was by using these DNA sequences that Burbrink determined that Slowinski’s Corn snake was actually a distinct species.

“The methodology and resources available to scientists today facilitate the classification of new species,” says Burbrink, “and we may be seeing many more species being classified in the United States.” Burbrink sums up his work and that of fellow scientists by noting that, “if humankind was satisfied with fire, we would never have the light bulb.”

But the life of a scientist isn’t all laboratories, classrooms, and the tracking of evolutionary lineages. Burbrink and the requisite equipment of a field researcher have faced more than their share of run-ins with small-town southern sheriffs, Canadian border patrols, and airport security personnel.

And examining the evolutionary relationships of vertebrates is just one passion for Burbrink; he is also an American music enthusiast with over 8,000 records in his collection. While in Louisiana and Mississippi, Burbrink not only befriended the locals, he identified a new species of snake and discovered many rare and one-of-a-kind 78 rpm records. The most contemporary album in his collection dates to 1965.

As a zoologist, Burbrink is bringing his unique perspective and life experiences to a book he is writing which is tentatively titled The Evolution of American Music, where he investigates the evolution of this uniquely American art form, tracking its growth through the years, and its influence throughout the world.

Burbrink, age 32, whose specialty is snakes and their evolution, is a biology professor at The City University of New York’s College of Staten Island. He earned a BS and an MS in Biology at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana and a PhD in Zoology at Louisiana State University.

Burbrink’s research involves molecular phylogenetics and the evolution of vertebrates. Burbrink will be introducing a Vertebrate Zoology course at CSI, which will examine the evolution and DNA sequence variation of several reptiles and amphibians on Staten Island, a borough of New York City.

Burbrink has been featured in The New York Times, Science magazine, the Staten Island Advance, plus many other newspaper articles and scientific journals. He has also appeared or been mentioned on the BBC and the National Geographic channel.

Contact Ken Bach at 718-982-2328, Director of Public Relations for The City University of New York’s College of Staten Island, for more information and to schedule an interview with Dr. Frank T. Burbrink. Color photography and field video available.