Macaulay Alumna Kanika Khanna to Pursue Public Policy Master’s Degree at Brown University


Macaulay Honors College graduate Khanika Khanna is heading to Brown University.

Kanika Khanna ’13, a graduate of the College of Staten Island and the Macaulay Honors College, has always had a passion for public service. Now she’s ready to take the next step as a graduate student at Brown University, pursuing a Master’s degree in Public Policy.

She credits her positive undergraduate experience at CSI for laying the groundwork for her success. “As a Political Science major at CSI, I was fortunate to have such wonderful professors, who only want the best for their students. There were so many opportunities to get involved on campus, be it academically like undergraduate research, or in an extracurricular club or publication.”

Kanika is working this summer for the CUNY Interdisciplinary High-Performance Computing Center (HPCC), conducting Hurricane Sandy research with the support of Vice President for Information Technology and Economic Development, and Executive Director of the HPCC Dr. Michael Kress. This follows several years as a political science research assistant focusing on public opinion as it relates to the New York City mayoralty. In both cases, she has been mentored by Professor Richard Flanagan of CSI’s Department of Political Science.

She was the founder and editor-in-chief of The Macaulay Messenger online newspaper, a publication that represented the eight Macaulay schools within CUNY, and won recognition as a National Collegiate Honors Council Newsletter Contest Winner. Kanika also served in a number of functions for Macaulay, including Junior Mentor, Volunteer English and Seminar Tutor, and Student Ambassador. She also received the Laura Schwartz Memorial Award for Excellence in Political Science and the Macaulay Eportfolio Expo Judge’s Choice Award, and was a Lisa Goldberg/Revson Scholar and a member of the Pi Sigma Alpha political science honors society.

Kanika’s foray into public service began when she landed a grant-writing internship with A. Larovere Consulting, a firm that builds supportive housing for the homeless in New York. “I was able to learn about urban issues as they affect our city’s most vulnerable populations and recommend services that would keep them off the streets. There is no better feeling than giving a disabled veteran an accommodating home, or connecting a mentally ill person with the medical care they need.”

Her experience in public service led to a summer opportunity with the Harvard Kennedy Center, Latino Leadership Initiative where she received intensive training in community organizing, leadership, negotiating, and public speaking. Kanika returned to New York City and joined with her fellow cohort at CUNY to establish the John Jay Sophomore Leadership Program, which aims to improve college success rates for first-generation college students. Kanika is currently on the Board of Directors and serves as the Media Outreach Manager for this program.

Kanika’s future plans include working on alleviating problems that plague metropolitan cities, like poverty, homelessness, and access to education.

“As a CSI and Macaulay student, I’ve had countless opportunities and supportive mentors to help me reach my goals. Public service is about improving the lives of others, who may not be able to do so themselves. The challenge of public service is daunting, but the prospect of serving my community and country is worth it.”

[gallery] CSI Honors Students Take Center Stage

The College of Staten Island honored 485 of its top students at the Sixth Annual Honors Convocation, and featured Christina Terracino, BA, English, as the 2013 CSI Salutatorian.

View the CSI Today Photo Gallery>

After Vice President for Student Affairs A. Ramona Brown welcomed the honored students and their friends and families, and Honoree Samantha Frank sang the National Anthem, Interim President Dr. William J. Fritz offered the day’s greetings.

View the 2013 Honor Convocation Program [PDF].

In his remarks, Dr. Fritz asked the honors graduates to recognize “your family, friends, and other loved ones here today” for providing the students with “invaluable support in coping with the many personal demands and challenges you faced. And our outstanding faculty and staff have taught, mentored, assisted, and inspired you to reach the heights of excellence that we honor here tonight.”

Dr. Fritz also quoted last year’s Salutatorian, Daniel Feldman, who referred to a term coined by Pauline and Suzanne Imes in 1978 called the Imposter Syndrome, a phenomenon in which people are unable to believe that they deserve the success they achieve. “Dan went on to explain that many successful people suffer from this syndrome, many of them most likely in attendance at the Honors Convocation, but” President Fritz concluded, “they should all be viewing the awards ceremony as ‘proof that you are not an imposter…your attendance here is a testament to your success.”

Christina Terracino, the 2013 CSI Salutatorian and graduate of The Verrazano School Honors Program, then discussed the growth that she has experienced at CSI, referencing the novel Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë’s “journey of maturation, self-discovery, and increasing confidence.” During her address, she spoke about how “English literature has always been my passion and I discovered that, early on in my college career it helped me understand multiple perspectives, a skill that is truly remarkable.” She also encouraged her fellow honors recipients to “follow your own path” and “I am confidant you will all reach the aims you are reaching for.”

Vice President Brown then presented the Student Dolphin Award to Elizabeth Che, who also received the Student Government Service Award and whose first-place award at the National Collegiate Honors Council Conference was highlighted in a previous CSI Today article.

Following the ceremony, the honored students, their families and friends, faculty, and staff attended a dessert reception in the Center for the Arts Atrium where they were able to celebrate their accomplishments at CSI but also continued to look forward to the bright futures that lay ahead.

The College’s Sixth Annual Honors Convocation was held at the Center for the Arts Springer Concert Hall on May 28, 2013.

[videos, galleries] Graduates Honored at 37th Commencement

The College of Staten Island celebrated its newest graduates at the 37th Annual Commencement, last Thursday.

A very warm and sunny day greeted the College of Staten Island’s 2,345 graduates and their families, friends, and supporters from the College community and beyond last Thursday at CSI’s 37th Annual Commencement.

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

After acknowledging the dedicated efforts of the CSI community in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, Interim President Dr. William J. Fritz listed some of the characteristics that make CSI unique, like its 204-acre campus and the fact that it is the only public institution of higher learning in the Borough. He also mentioned some of the College’s recent achievements, such as the construction of the new student residence halls, the creation of new professional schools in business and education, and the forthcoming Interdisciplinary High-Performance Computing Center.

In closing, he shared his philosophy regarding the connection between alumni and their alma maters, “There are those who view colleges and universities metaphorically as living entities with the alumni forming the soul of the institution. I subscribe to this notion as well. As alumni, your achievements become our achievements. Your prominence builds upon our prominence and prestige. Your philanthropy and humanity become our contribution in kind to a better, more compassionate, and caring world.”

Download the Commencement Program [PDF].

This year, the College was honored to have two valedictorians, Christopher Bitetto and Evelyn Okeke, both graduates of The Verrazano School Honors Program.

[youtube][/youtube]In his speech, Bitetto reflected on his time at CSI “What I am most proud of as I get set to graduate is that I was a member of the CSI family. Even under the worst circumstances, like Hurricane Sandy, members of the Staten Island community came together to volunteer their time and donate their food and clothes because we all come from the same place. That’s what makes the College of Staten Island student body so special. We have arrived at a point where we see the value in giving back to others. We all have overcome obstacles, and as a group, we demonstrate that nothing shall keep us from succeeding as long as we work for it.”

[youtube][/youtube]Okeke, who is originally from the former East Germany, emphasized the role of The Verrazano School in her academic and personal path. “Being a part of the Verrazano School also fostered my college career by providing me with a family of students and caring mentors who assisted me throughout every step of my college years. When I was a scared freshman, they welcomed me to my new country and helped me adjust to the many cultural differences. Through The Verrazano School, I volunteered my time and engaged in making my community a better place to live.”

Also in attendance at the ceremony and offering their support to the graduates were U.S. Senator Charles Schumer; CUNY Vice for Facilities Planning, Construction, and Management Iris Weinshall; and CUNY Trustee Rita DiMartino.

The Commencement ceremony also bestowed honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degrees upon Elizabeth A. Dubovsky, Executive Director at The Staten Island Foundation, and Distinguished Professor Toyin Falola. In addition, Dr. Fritz recognized the latest recipients of the President’s Medal, Robert S. Cutrona, Sr., President of Project-One Services, Inc. and a founding Director of Victory State Bank; Norma D’Arrigo, a community leader on Staten Island; and Dr. Alfred Levine, Professor of Engineering Science and Physics and the Director of the Center for Environmental Science at the College of Staten Island.

Later in the day, the CSI Library hosted the annual Dolphin Awards ceremony, which honors outstanding contributions to the College by faculty, staff, and students.

Read the honorees bios and view the CSI Today Dolphin Awards Photo Gallery.

This year’s honorees included:

-Outstanding Scholarly Achievement by a Member of the Full-Time Faculty: Christina Tortora

-Outstanding Teaching by a Member of the Full-Time Faculty: Probal Banerjee

-Outstanding Service and Contribution to the College by a Member of the Full-Time Faculty: Alan Zimmerman

-Outstanding Teaching by a Member of the Adjunct Faculty: Edward Hack

-Outstanding Service and Contribution to the College by a Member of the Non-Teaching Instructional Staff in HEO Title: Carol Brower

-Outstanding Service and Contribution to the College by a Member of the Non-Instructional Staff in CLT and OIT Specialists Title: Victor Magnani

-Outstanding Service and Contribution to the College by a Member of the Non-Instructional Staff: Debbie Britton

-Outstanding Service and Contribution to the College by a Member of the Non-Instructional Staff in Maintenance, Operations, Security: John Santorelli

-Outstanding Service and Contribution to the College by a Member of the Part-Time, Non-Teaching Staff: Debra Lane

-Outstanding Service and Contribution to the College by a Currently Enrolled Student: Elizabeth Che

Dr. Fritz opened the Dolphin Awards ceremony by noting that “At Commencement this morning, I stated unequivocally to our graduates that the College of Staten Island was, is, and always will be a place where you can pursue all of your ambitions and achieve all of your dreams—and that with a degree from CSI, you can accomplish anything. I truly believe this. But I also know that it is the hard work, dedication, and excellence of our faculty, staff, and students, as exemplified by the Dolphin Award winners we honor here today, that turns this belief into reality for our graduates.”

College Writer/Editor Terry Mares followed Dr. Fritz, reading short biographies of each of the honorees, underscoring their contributions to the College.


[video] Meet Evelyn Okeke – 2013 Co-Valedictorian

Evelyn Okeke has been conducting research as a Biology (BS) major with a double minor in Biochemistry and Chemistry at CSI in Dr. Abdeslem El Idrissi’s lab since the summer of 2010, where she worked on a project that led to two publications. She has maintained a 4.0 GPA since she started her undergraduate studies in The Verrazano School Honors Program in 2010.

She has recenlty presented her research at numerous conferences including the 18th International Taurine Meeting in Marrakesh, Morocco. During the summer of 2011, she worked as a research assistant in the Robinson lab at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and last summer, she completed an internship in the department of Protein Science at Merck & Co. Inc.,as well as study abroad on scholarship in Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands.

[youtube][/youtube]Evelyn was awarded the prestigious UNCF/Merck fellowship for the academic year 2012/2013 and she received an honorable mention from the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship in 2012.

In the fall 2013, she will be begin her doctoral studies at the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. This summer, she will go to the University of Maastricht in the Netherlands to complete a research internship in the Department of Pediatrics with a focus on neuroscience.

[video] Meet Christopher Bitetto – 2013 Co-Valedictorian

Christopher Bitetto is graduating from The Verrazano School Honors Program as a Communications major with a concentration in Media Studies. Upon matriculating to CSI after graduating fifth in his class at Susan Wagner High School, Christopher set out to accomplish two goals during his career at CSI: To maintain a 4.0 GPA and to become the Sports Director at WSIA so he could broadcast all of CSI’s basketball and baseball games, and host a weekly sports talk show.  He is proud to say that both goals have been met.

[youtube][/youtube]He realizes, however, that his goals at CSI have not only been met, they have exceeded even his high expectations.

During his tenure at CSI, Christopher interned at Sirius XM Radio; he presented his honors thesis production, “Moneyball: The New Formula to America’s Pastime,” at the Undergraduate Conference on Research, Scholarship, and Performance; and completed an independent research paper on baseball as a microcosm of society.  He thanks his family and the CSI faculty members, without whom he would not have been able to reach his full potential.

Christopher’s mindset in life is “if you are going to do something, why not be great at it?” and he has approached every challenge with which he has been faced as a student at CSI.  He is proud and thankful for receiving the Valedictorian honor.

Meet Christina Terracino – 2013 Salutatorian

On a basic level, Christina Terracino’s coming of age story can be related to that of Jane Eyre. Charlotte Brontë’s classic journey of maturation, self-discovery, and increasing confidence almost mirrors that of Ms. Terracino’s, who, being a young woman who has always resided in her hometown, feels great pride in the powerful and independent growth she has shown during her tenure with The Verrazano School Honors Program at CSI.

As a teenager attending Staten Island Technical High School, Christina would often try to imagine the woman she would become once she graduated from college. Anyone in her large Italian American family who attended college credited that time as the defining years of their lives and Christina has quickly come to the same conclusion.

Christina began her studies at CSI as a young woman whose father had recently passed away, whose confidence had been faltering, and whose love for reading was the only glimmer of a future career path. Her affinity for reading developed into a passion and appreciation for literature’s conveyance of human emotions, opinions, and nature. Such a connection to literature and research assured her that a career as an academic librarian and professor were a perfect fit.

Christina’s goals have always remained constant: to pursue higher education, to choose a career path that is both productive and enjoyable, and to learn from every possible experience.

During her time at CSI, Christina has become part of a cohort of brilliant and talented CUNY students through the CUNY Pipeline Program, met countless encouraging professors and other members of the College community, presented at two academic conferences, and accepted a fellowship offer from St. John’s University to pursue a Master’s degree in English Literature. She is proud of all of these accomplishments, is enthusiastic to move ahead, and will remain confidant, living by the words of Franklin D. Roosevelt: “Happiness lies in the joy of achievement and the thrill of creative effort.”

[gallery] The Verrazano School Celebrates Its Fourth and Largest Graduating Class

The Verrazano School held its fourth annual Senior Convocation last week.

The Verrazano School Honors Program at CSI, home to the College’s co-valedictorians and salutatorian this Commencement year, celebrated its largest graduating class to date at the Verrazano Senior Convocation in the Center for the Arts on Friday, May 17.

View the CSI Today Photo Gallery>

There are 56 graduates in the Verrazano Class of 2013, the program’s fourth graduating class, representing 20 different majors.  The evening featured remarks by Professor Charles Liu, Director of The Verrazano School, as well as Provost Fred Naider and Associate Provost Deborah Vess.

Professor Liu provided background piano music before the start of the Convocation, and he entertained the guests throughout the event.

Noorelhoda Mahmoud and Nicole Wallace were selected as this year’s class speakers through an application process.

The ceremony concluded with the awarding of Verrazano certificates and honor cords to each graduate, and then graduates and their guests made their way over to the Green Dolphin Lounge for a dessert reception to cap off the evening.  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, CSI administrators, and Verrazano alumni.

Verrazano students are very involved during their undergraduate years, and this class is no exception. Graduates participated in more than 2,000 hours of community service at organizations including public schools, the Salvation Army, the YMCA, Silver Lake Nursing Home, Project Hospitality, Eden II, Staten Island University Hospital, Sea View Rehabilitation Center, Million Trees NYC, the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, Meals on Wheels, Families Helping Families, Regional Food Bank, Hurricane Sandy Relief, and numerous Verrazano and other campus activities.

Over the past four years, Verrazano graduates participated in internships, locally and nationally, at organizations and companies including the Walt Disney Corporation, the Discovery Institute, Con Edison, Fraunces Tavern Museum, the New York County DA’s Office, the Garibaldi-Meucci Museum, Staten Island University Hospital, the Hilton Garden Inn, the Grace Foundation, the NYC Economic Development Corporation, Conde Nast Publications, and the NYS Assembly in Albany. Graduates also explored the world through study abroad programs and conferences in countries including Ecuador, France, Italy, Morocco, and Spain.

In addition to graduating with Verrazano honors, many graduates completed honors theses and projects in disciplines including business, communications, English, history, and psychology, and participated in undergraduate research in many fields. Six students are graduating summa cum laude, the highest Latin honor awarded to students based on cumulative GPA, and three students are graduating with a perfect 4.0.  This year, the College of Staten Island’s co-valedictorians, Christopher Bitetto and Evelyn Okeke, as well as the salutatorian, Christina Terracino, are all graduating from The Verrazano School.  

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.

Verrazano students strive for success, and a significant number of Verrazano graduates will pursue master’s degrees at the College of Staten Island as well as other CUNY schools, Adelphi University, New York  University, McGill University, St. Johns University, and SUNY Downstate. Evelyn Okeke, one of this year’s co-valedictorians, will be attending Robert Wood Johnson Medical School to pursue a PhD in Molecular Biosciences. In addition, Verrazano graduates have been accepted to doctoral programs in optometry and physical therapy. Other Verrazano graduates are pursuing career opportunities at Clove Lakes Rehabilitation Center, Staten Island University Hospital, and Viacom International.