[gallery] The Verrazano School Celebrates Its Second Annual Senior Convocation


The Verrazano School recently recognized student achevement at its second annual Senior Commencement.

The Verrazano School at CSI celebrated its second annual Verrazano Senior Convocation in the Center for the Arts.

The 41 very talented and diverse students who graduated from the honors program this year are members of The Verrazano School’s third graduating class, and members of the Class of 2012 were accepted into the program as incoming freshmen or as transfer students. 

View the CSI Today Photo Gallery.

The Verrazano School serves all majors, and Verrazano students benefit from smaller class sizes and priority registration, additional support from faculty, scholarship opportunities for study abroad and research, and personalized advisement and career and graduate school preparation.

The Verrazano School also offers its exceptional, highly motivated students added assistance and guidance in pursuit of internships, research, and community service opportunities. However, none of that would matter if the students themselves were not motivated to make their experience on campus a memorable one.

“We’re privileged to work with so many wonderful students, and this year’s graduating class is no exception,” said Katie Geschwendt, Coordinator of The Verrazano School. “As members of The Verrazano School, students have the opportunity to take advantage of the best that CSI has to offer while being supported throughout the undergraduate experience. Students in the Class of 2012 certainly utilized their opportunities well and made the most of their time here.”

Many of this year’s graduates studied abroad during their undergraduate careers, and some of them even studied internationally more than once. Destinations included China, England, France, Ireland, Italy, Japan, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Graduates also remained active locally by participating in internships at organizations including the Northfield Community Local Development Corporation, the CSI Women’s Center, African Burial Ground, and the Snug Harbor Cultural Center, to name a few. 

“Being a part of The Verrazano School has really been the highlight of my time at CSI,” said Deryn Cro, a Verrazano student who graduated cum laude with majors in History and English Literature. “People familiar with the program know Verrazano students can be counted on to work hard.”

Verrazano students strive for success, and Cro joins a significant number of Verrazano graduates who will pursue master’s degrees at CSI as well as at other universities nationwide.  This year’s CSI Valedictorian, Irvin Ibarguen, a Verrazano student and History major, will be attending Harvard University to earn a PhD in History. 

Other Verrazano graduates are pursuing career opportunities at Merrill Lynch Wealth Management, New Vanderbilt Rehabilitation and Care Center, and the New York City Council among others.

“The myriad Verrazano events and workshops helped to broaden my horizon and prepare me for post-college life,” said Joseph Marcellino, a summa cum laude graduate with a degree in Music. “The Verrazano School at CSI has given me the confidence and tools to succeed not only in my career, but in life overall.”      

“Our students have sought to make the most of their time at CSI through internships, community service, and study-abroad,” said Dr. Patricia Brooks, Interim Director of The Verrazano School, during her opening remarks. “They have played a key role in shaping The Verrazano School by sharing their ideas and vision for the program.”

As Dr. Brooks extended her gratitude toward the Verrazano students who went above and beyond during their years at CSI, there were many attendees who wanted to thank Dr. Brooks for her efforts in serving as the Director for the 2012 class. “We are grateful to Dr. Brooks for her leadership as Interim Director of the Verrazano School for the 2011-2012 academic year,” said Geschwendt. “Her dedication to the students and to the success of the program truly helped make this past year a productive and enjoyable one.”

The dessert reception, catered by Jodi Merendino and her staff, kept with the Verrazano tradition of including an assortment of sumptuous, homemade miniature pies with the Verrazano “V” on top. The reception offered an opportunity for students to celebrate with their families and friends, professors, and CSI administrators and alumni. Dr. Charles Liu, the Verrazano Director, even returned from his sabbatical to reprise his role as musician for the evening. 

“This year’s Convocation was a celebration of the achievements of the Verrazano students and a testimony to the quality of education that The Verrazano School provides,” said Dr. Deborah Vess, Associate Provost for Undergraduate Studies and Academic Programs. “Verrazano students emerge from their programs ready to be leaders of tomorrow in research, service, and other areas.”

As the reception came to a close, professors and students alike seemed unwilling to say goodbye, many of them lingering even as the event was breaking up. “It is always hard to see our students leave CSI,” said Dr. Vess, “but we are excited about what their futures hold.”  If the efforts of the Verrazano students during their careers at CSI are any indication, the future of this graduating class should be very bright.

[video, gallery] Accomplishments Spotlighted at 36th Annual Commencement

The 36th Commencement at the College of Staten Island celebrated the achievements of students and the College community.

After days of rain and then extreme heat, a beautiful blue sky and cooler temperatures greeted the 2,527 graduates and their family members, as well as faculty and staff, at the 36th Annual Commencement at the College of Staten Island.

View the Commencement Photo Gallery and the Dolphin Awards Photo Gallery.

In his remarks, President Tomás D. Morales, after noting that this will be his last CSI Commencement, as he has accepted the President’s position at California State University, San Bernadino, highlighted the many recent accomplishments at the College.

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Crediting the entire College community for these achievements, he noted that enrollment is growing and the College is attracting quality students, CSI’s exemplary academic programs are constantly improving, and the campus is undergoing a transformation with the addition of new residence halls and a new Interdisciplinary High-Performance Computing Center.

He also mentioned that the strides that the College has made have received strong positive validation during the recent Middle States Commission on Higher Education review.

After assuring the audience that the College will continue on its successful path to success and growth under the new Strategic Plan, he offered the graduates some advice, urging them to give back, but also to make time for themselves and their families. Dr. Morales closed “by reiterating a core belief that I expressed upon my arrival and which has guided my leadership these past five years. The College of Staten Island– it’s about the students, it’s about you. Celebrate your achievements. The entire College community is very proud of you!”

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uZjUQ4Gd5Ew[/youtube]This year’s valedictorian was Irvin Ibarguen, who graduated summa cum laude from The Verrazano School at CSI with a Bachelor of Arts degree in History. He has been accepted into the prestigious Harvard University Doctoral program in History.

He is a recipient of numerous scholarships and fellowships, including the Jeannette K. Watson Fellowship, an Institute of Mexicans Abroad (IME) Research Fellowship, a CSI Auxiliary Service Corporation Award for Academic Excellence in History, a Phi Beta Kappa Associates Award, and he was the first recipient of the Aramis Gonzalo Rios Memorial Scholarship. He is a Dean’s List student and he was featured in Who’s Who Among Students in American Universities and Colleges.

Drawing from his own experience as the son of Mexican immigrants in his address, Ibarguen discussed the difficulties and privations experienced by many newcomers to the United States, noting that many ethnic groups for centuries have experienced these hardships as they attempted to make a better life for themselves in the U.S. He also paid tribute to his family and the faculty and staff members at CSI who helped him to attain his current level of success. In closing, he urged the other graduates to value their alma mater. “…I beg that today, you stop to value everything CSI gave you and everything you gave CSI; that you realize how proud you should feel; and that you never let anyone, not even yourself, make you feel less about your achievements, because we, my fellow graduates, were truly privileged to study at the College of Staten Island.”

Also on hand for the festivities were U.S. Senator Charles Schumer, CUNY Senior Vice Chancellor for University Relations and Secretary of the Board of Trustees Jay Hershenson, and CUNY Trustee Kay Pesile, who offered the graduates words of encouragement.

In addition to the presentation of the degrees to CSI students, Dr. Morales recognized the recent recipients of the President’s Medal, Dr. Denis Hughes, President of the New York State AFL-CIO and an honorary alumnus of the College of Staten Island; Mrs. Rose Volpe, widow of former CSI President Dr. Edmund Volpe and a founding member of the Friends of CSI, and Dr. Mary O’Donnell, Chairperson of the CSI Department of Nursing.

Later in the afternoon, the annual Dolphin Awards ceremony, which honors outstanding contributions to the College by faculty, staff, and students, was held in the CSI Library. View the CSI Today Dolphin Awards Photo Gallery.

This year’s honorees included:

-Outstanding Scholarly Achievement by a Member of the Full-Time Faculty: Neo Antoniades.

-Outstanding Teaching by a Member of the Full-Time Faculty: Michael Paris.

-Outstanding Teaching by a Member of the Adjunct Faculty: William Smith.

-Outstanding Service and Contribution by a Member of the Full-Time Faculty: Syed Rizvi.

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

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

-Outstanding Service and Contribution by a Member of the Non-Instructional Staff in Clerical Function: Cathleen McGuckin and Loretta Campbell.

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

-Outstanding Service and Contribution to the College by a Member of the Part-Time, Non-Teaching Staff: Anita Romano.

-Outstanding Service and Contribution by a Currently Enrolled Student: Meagan Derbyshire.

After emcee Terry Mares, College Writer/Editor, introduced the honorees, President Morales recognized the hard work of everyone who helped to make the 36th Annual Commencement a success. In addition, he thanked everyone at the College who is involved in governance, from the University Council and Faculty Senate to Student Government to the members of his administration. The President concluded by emphasizing that he has valued the opportunity to work with all of his colleagues in the College community over the last five years.

[gallery] Graduating Vets Honored

CSI hosts reception for Veteran graduates of the Class of 2012.

The College of Staten Island (CSI) Student Veteran Center recently held its first-ever Veterans Commencement Luncheon in honor of all graduating CSI students who have served in the military.

View the CSI Today Photo Gallery.

Going from the military to student life can be a difficult transition for many returning veterans, but CSI’s Student Veteran Center aims to make the transition a little less jarring by offering expert guidance as soon as they enter the college community.

CSI’s dedication to service has repeatedly earned the college a place on the G.I. Jobs list of “Military Friendly Schools,” which honors the top 20 percent of military-friendly colleges, universities, and trade schools in the nation.

“Within one hour at CSI, Vito Zajda (Certifying Official, Registrar’s Office) took care of everything,” said Ann Little, a CSI student graduating with an MA in History and former soldier in the Army, this summer.  “It is this level of support for its veterans that sets CSI apart as a veteran friendly college and the addition of the Veterans Commencement Luncheon is one more step on the long road of helping our veterans re-enlist into civilian life.”

Salvador Mena, Assistant Vice President of Student Affairs welcomed those in attendance and shared, “please know that many others who could not be with us today are here in spirit honoring your service and celebrating your educational achievements.”  That sentiment was shared by all in attendance.  Military or civilian, those present at the luncheon exhibited a sort of fraternal pride in its graduating class.  It was obvious to all that this was a landmark event at CSI.

CSI President Dr. Tomás D. Morales nearly said as much during his opening remarks by congratulating the veterans for “this extraordinary milestone.”  He then acknowledged the veterans who worked at the Veterans Center for their “hard work and devotion to their brothers and sisters.”

“CSI offers a very unique level of service,” said Ann Little, who has worked as a college assistant helping her fellow veterans to fully integrate into student life.  In fact, the Student Veteran Center keeps up with its student vets throughout their college careers, aiding them every step of the way.  It is a level of service that has even changed the career paths of one of the center’s first assistants.  “After graduating I want to continue to help veterans in transitioning to civilian life,” said Little.

The veteran’s program at CSI began in 2007 when there were approximately 130 student vets enrolled at CSI—the number has since doubled.  The newly formed office dedicated itself to providing a one-stop service where student vets were offered advice on everything from registering to filling out the proper paperwork to simply, but importantly helping them adjust to student life.  “Having veterans work in the office was a huge boost to understanding how difficult a transition it is,” said Urszula Echols, Veterans Coordinator at CSI.

According to Echols, veteran students have more life experience than most other students– even than some of their instructors.  It is that life experience that can make or break a veteran student.  “The vets not only deal with school,” said Echols.  “Many of them have families and jobs they need to keep up with as well.”  It is this experience that makes veteran students “dependable, serious, and proud students.”

The best validation for any faculty or staff member is experiencing the success of their students and the pride in the room during the luncheon was palpable as the students who had achieved an especially high level of success received awards.  David Colon, a retired member of the Coast Guard, was invited as the guest student speaker and he spoke about the opportunities graduating from CSI will afford him.  “CSI has really helped understand my life-long goals,” said Colon during his speech.  The future MBA student also discussed what makes CSI so successful at accommodating its veteran students.  “It was essential that vets were helping other vets,” he explained.  He also credited President Morales with allowing veterans to receive credit for their service and experience.  “We have a voice here.”

From CSI to BU, Salutatorian Daniel Feldman Reaches for the Stars

College of Staten Island Salutatorian Daniel Feldman plans to begin studying Astronomy at Boston University as a PhD student in the Fall. He is a Physics major and part of the 2012 graduating class of the CUNY Macaulay Honors College at CSI.

Read Dan’s blog Science for Dessert, on the CSI Today Student Blogs page.

During his undergraduate studies, Feldman has taken part in numerous research projects. Starting the summer after his freshman year (2009), he conducted galaxy evolution research as part of a research team at the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH), under the advisement of CSI Professor Charles Liu. He presented this work at the 215th American Astronomical Society (AAS) Meeting in Washington, DC.

Over the course of 2010, Feldman participated in two research projects at CSI that were overseen by Professor Irving Robbins. The first was an asteroid-tracking project, determining the positions and trajectories of high-priority asteroids using data from Tenagra Observatory in Arizona. The second project involved helping to build a radio antenna to track solar flares; this work was done as part of the SID collaboration, which was run at Stanford University.

In the summer of 2010, Feldman was selected to participate in the CUNY Summer Undergraduate Research Program (C-SURP), where he worked with Professor Kelle Cruz at Hunter College and the AMNH, studying youth indicators in M dwarf stars. He continued this research through the following year, resulting in numerous research presentations, including the ASNY Conference at the University of Rochester and the AAS Meeting in Seattle, WA.

In the summer of 2011, Feldman was selected to participate in the NSF Research Experience for Undergraduate (REU) Program at Northern Arizona University, studying Kuiper Belt Objects. This research resulted in presentations at both Columbia University’s AstroFest and the AAS Meeting in Austin,TX.

In his last year at CSI, Feldman has been working on his senior thesis with Professor Emily Rice, as well as collaborators in the BDNYC research group at AMNH; he has been using high-resolution near-infrared spectroscopy techniques to help determine the physical properties of brown dwarfs.

In addition to research, Feldman has been active in developing his teaching skills. Since his freshman year, he has worked as a physics and calculus tutor for  the Macaulay Honors College. Beginning in his junior year, he has also been employed at the College as an adjunct college lab technician (CLT) for the astronomy labs. He has also done outreach at CSI’s astrophysical observatory, helping teach the public about astronomy.

A graduate of Port Richmond High School, Feldman has a passion for music and theater. As hobbies, he enjoys playing numerous musical instruments, as well as performing as a singer/actor in musical theater productions in various venues on Staten Island. It is his hope to continue to pursue these scientific and artistic passions after graduation, and become successful in these different aspects of life.

In the fall of 2012, Feldman will begin studying Astronomy at Boston University as a PhD student. In the future, he has aspirations of becoming a professor at a research institution.


[video] From CSI to Harvard, Valedictorian Irvin Ibarguen Exemplifies What Can Be Achieved


Irvin Ibarguen (center, bottom) credits the support of his family for making his academic dreams a reality. (Photo courtesy of the Ibarguen family.)

Irvin Ibarguen, College of Staten Island Valedictorian for 2012, is the first CSI undergraduate to be admitted into Harvard University’s prestigious PhD History program.

View his commencement address.

Irvin, a senior History major with The Verrazano School honors program, began his college career as a Marketing major. When asked why he made the switch from Marketing to History, Irvin answered, “People usually think of history as a set of names and dates, but, in reality, it’s a lively and, at times, acrimonious debate. I wanted to be a part of it.”

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uZjUQ4Gd5Ew[/youtube]Although Irvin is aware of his achievements, he regards his admittance to Harvard’s PhD program as one stop in a long, academic ride, which so far has earned him several scholarships including an IME Research Fellowship: a full-tuition scholarship awarded to Mexican Americans, and the prestigious Jeannette K. Watson Fellowship, which provides undergraduates with three consecutive summer internships.

As part of the Watson fellowship, Irvin has worked for the Institute of International Education; Crain’s New York Business, writing several articles for the seminal business newsletter; and will be traveling to Tunis, Tunisia to work for Amideast, a non-profit organization offering education activities in the Middle East, as a program assistant.  “Tunisia will be a radically different experience,” said Irvin. “I am looking forward to the challenge.”

Irvin maintained a 4.0 GPA and is quick to credit his CSI professors, namely, Drs. Calvin Holder and Richard Lufrano of the History department, for establishing “my love for reading and writing about History.”

On Irvin’s success at CSI, Dr. Lufrano noted: “In my 25 years of college teaching at different institutions, Irvin is among the top two undergraduates I have taught.”

Irvin especially credits his family with supporting him throughout his scholastic life.  His parents moved here in 1990 while his mother was still pregnant with him.

Growing up in a small apartment with ten inhabitants would seem like a drawback to many people but to Irvin it was more of a blessing. “I was never alone… They were the best support group,” he said of his parents who worked several jobs while raising him. “I was able to focus exclusively on my education.”

A graduate of Midwood High School in Brooklyn, Irvin also credits his background for motivating him to pursue a History PhD. “The scorn directed at illegal aliens often found its way down to me,” said Irvin, who admits to having distanced himself from his heritage while growing up. It was not until Irvin enrolled in an advanced seminar, in which he completed a paper about Mexican immigrants in New York City that he was able to “embrace the beauty of [his] Mexican background.”

At Harvard, Irvin hopes to continue to write about illegal immigration in a way that can contribute to ongoing debates.  In this regard, his background puts him in a unique position. “I am here because of the sacrifices of ‘illegal immigrants’ and I am deeply respectful of their plight, but I also grew up detached from them, so I can analyze their history with an interesting mix of passion and objectivity.”

Irvin eventually hopes to publish his dissertation, and establish himself in a tenure-track professor position where he can produce quality scholarship and influence students’ lives for the better.

For now though, he is “simply grateful to the CSI community for its constant support, especially Dr. Lufrano, Dr. Holder, [The Verrazano School’s] Katie Geschwendt, and [the Career and Scholarship Center‘s] Dr. Geoffrey Hempill.”