Meet Jenna Jankowski: 2014 Graduate

"Part of our chant is ‘Ohana means family. Family means Macaulay!’ I started something that brought together students from all different schools and majors—together we are a family." -Jenna Jankowski

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, gallery] Sixty-fifth Commencement Celebrates Legacy and Student Achievement

The heat that accompanied recent Commencements at the College of Staten Island took a welcome hiatus, this year, as a partly cloudy day with temperatures in the high 50s greeted the 2,375 members of the Class of 2014, and their families and supporters at CSI’s 65th Commencement on the morning of May 29.

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View and download the event program>

In his opening remarks, Interim Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. Fred Naider explained that although this year’s ceremony marked the 38th Commencement since the establishment of CSI in 1976, it is actually the 65th when all of the commencements of the College’s predecessor institutions (Staten Island Community College and Richmond College) are taken into account. This readjustment of the clock represents the efforts of College President Dr. William J. Fritz and his administration to embrace the proud heritage and legacy of the only public institution of higher education on the Island.

In keeping with this new approach, legacy was the dominant theme in President Fritz’s Commencement address. He pointed to the proud legacy at CSI that the graduates had help to build, noting the recent national recognition of the College’s excellence, including Time magazine’s college ranking that placed CSI at number 48 out of 2,500, ahead of Stanford, MIT, and University of California-Berkeley; Business Insider, the prominent business and technology Website, recently choosing CSI to represent the State of New York on its list of top schools in the country; and U.S. News and World Report selecting the College as one of the Best College’s in the Northeast.

Part of that legacy, President Fritz stated, were the many recent achievements on the CSI campus and beyond, such as the opening of the Dolphin Cove residence halls; the College’s new doctoral-granting status with programs in Nursing and Physical Therapy; its new schools of Business, Education, and Health Sciences; and accolades that include three National Science Foundation awardees and a Guggenheim Fellow. President Fritz also underscored the critical and selfless support that CSI students provided to our community in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy.

“No wonder,” President Fritz said, “Governor [Andrew] Cuomo during a visit last year called our campus ‘a jewel of the CUNY system.’ You were here. This is your great legacy.”

President Fritz concluded his remarks by paying tribute to the achievements of alumni from CSI, SICC, and Richmond College, which began with the first class of 200 from SICC in 1956, noting that people must embrace and honor the past in order to forge an effective and meaningful path to the future.

[youtube][/youtube] This year’s valedictorian was Blaze Fraser, who was graduating with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Biology with a minor in Chemistry. After spotlighting the immense contribution of “secretaries, tech support, professors, and administration” to the achievements of the Class of 2014, Fraser devoted a portion of his speech to the importance of motivation to achieving success. “Without that drive inside of you,” he told the graduates, “your journey to this point is a long unsure road. Your understanding of yourself as a person and perception of what your reasons are for everything you do gives you that direction and fuels you to succeed. Many of us here today understand ourselves and our incentives more than we did before this journey began.”

Also on hand to honor the College’s newest alumni and extend their support 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 Rita DiMartino.

In the afternoon, the tradition of honoring exceptional CSI faculty, staff, and students continued with the Annual Dolphin Awards ceremony.

Read the 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: Soon Chun

-Outstanding Teaching by a Member of the Full-Time Faculty: Richard Flanagan

– Outstanding Service and Contribution to the College by a Member of the Full-Time Faculty: Jonathan Peters

-Outstanding Teaching by a Member of the Adjunct Faculty: Jennifer Durando

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

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

-Outstanding Service and Contribution to the College by a Member of the Non-Instructional Staff: Mary Ann Durante

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

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

-Outstanding Service and Contribution to the College by a Currently Enrolled Student: Jesse Rodriguez

President Fritz opened the ceremony by discussing the importance of the past in shaping the future. Noting that “it is important to understand that while our Strategic Plan is necessarily forward looking—our Mission, Vision, and Values set forth in the Plan are also reflective of our traditions and legacy dating back to the establishment of the Staten Island Community College in 1956, Richmond College in 1965, the merging of institutions in 1976 creating the College of Staten Island, and our relocation to our current campus in 1993. As part of this ‘continuum’, we must simultaneously ‘reach back’ in order to ‘reach ahead’. Dr. Fritz then announced that “for the upcoming 2014-2015 academic year, we plan to be very intentional in celebrating our rich legacy.”

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

[gallery] Seventh Annual Honors Convocation

The College of Staten Island honored its top students at the Seventh Annual Honors Convocation at the Center of the Arts Springer Concert Hall.

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View and download the event program>

Elizabeth Krawczun, the CSI Class of 2014 Salutatorian and graduate from the Verrazano School Honors Program, was the student speaker at the event which also featured remarks by Vice President for Student Affairs Dr. A. Ramona Brown, Interim Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs, Dr. Fred Naider and CSI President Dr. William J. Fritz.

Before the 2014 CSI Salutatorian spoke to those in attendance, President Fritz offered his remarks.

President Fritz first asked the honorees to take a moment to recognize all of the individuals who “have so positively touched and influenced your lives.” He then discussed the reasons for which the students were being honored—that the College was proudly celebrating “your intellect, your drive to succeed, and your dedication to service.”

Continuing a trend that he began at last year’s Honors Convocation, President Fritz quoted last year’s class of 2013 Salutatorian, Christina Terracino, because “after all, I realized there is no greater source of inspiration than the words coming from our own students.” President Fritz chose a quote that he felt best expressed a deep appreciation of interdisciplinary education.

“The way in which literature can capture the human condition and lead us to understand multiple perspectives is truly remarkable. Literature allows us to relate to things previously unimaginable. Perhaps I can now better imagine the feeling of a Nursing student nervously lifting a syringe for the first time, the joy of a Biology major experiencing the results of an experiment that has just come to fruition, or a student of music who has just found the perfect song lyric. Music, like literature, tells a story. I learned the power of words, and heard the many interpretations expressed by fellow students during class discussions. I learned that everyone has a story to tell.”

Dr. Fritz ended his remarks by telling the honorees that “we celebrate your stories tonight,” and that “we stand in awe of all the things you have already achieved and all that you have contributed to the continuing success and evolution of this great institution.”

College of Staten Island Class of 2014 Salutatorian Elizabeth Krawczun

Krawczun, who graduated with a CUNY Baccalaureate for Unique and Interdisciplinary Studies in Epidemiology, then discussed a recent Facebook post she read about a professor using a jar filled with golf balls, pebbles, and sand as a way to provide his students with a metaphor for life. “Now,” she said, quoting the professor, “I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. The golf balls are the most important things—your family, your children, your health, your friends, and your favorite passions—and if everything else was lost, your life would still be full.”

“The message of this story is a simple one but one that we need to reminded of every once in a while.” Krawczun concluded, remarking on the message of the post.

She then quoted writer Neil Gaiman when, during a commencement speech in 2012 told the attendees to “make good art.”

“As we go forward,” she explained, “we must take our scholarship, ambition, character, heart, and spirit to make good art. Programming software, pumping gas, preparing a good meal, telling a funny joke. Make good art. Graduating is art, and hopefully there are other, better, pieces to come. You are art. Life is art.”

Krawczun also referenced her study abroad trip to India and how it “truly changed me and changed how I viewed myself and the world.”

She also talked about how, if on May 30th, the day after graduation, “your gown is hanging in your closet or rolled into a ball in the trunk of your car, if you are working early or sleeping late, you should be proud. Remember to be proud.”

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, like Krawczun urged her fellow honorees, to remember to be proud.

[gallery] Verrazano School honors 34 grads, including CSI’s Valedictorian and Salutatorian

The Verrazano School Honors Program at the College of Staten Island held its fourth annual Verrazano Senior with 34 graduates in the Class of 2014 representing 18 different majors.

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Verrazano graduates include Blaze Fraser, the 2014 CSI Valedictorian, and Elizabeth Krawczun, the 2014 CSI Salutatorian.   Six students are graduating summa cum laude, the highest Latin honor awarded to students based on cumulative GPA, and twenty-three students overall are graduating with Latin honors, indicating a cumulative GPA of 3.5 or higher.

As has become a Verrazano tradition, Professor Charles Liu, the multitalented Director of The Verrazano School, provided a live piano prelude before welcoming the graduates and guests at the start of the ceremony.  Dr. Fred Naider, Interim Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs, brought greetings on behalf of President William J. Fritz and congratulated the graduates on their many accomplishments while wishing them continued success in their future endeavors.

Salutatorian Elizabeth Krawczun, the graduate selected as this year’s Class Speaker through an application process, reflected on the role of The Verrazano School in the lives of its students and encouraged her fellow graduates as they move into the next phase of their lives.

“We came to CSI to master a body of knowledge, “ Krawczun remarked, “whether to learn the physiology of the human limbic system, interpret the poems of Tennyson, or study electromagnetic principles of a Faraday device, we entered college because we wanted to glimpse the possibilities of what we could achieve, and to imagine a life of successes and contentment. The Verrazano School helped us to do just that. Studying abroad allowed us to grow and experience new places and cultures, volunteering strengthened our sense of community and service and purpose, Verrazano Extracurricular Learning Activities (VELA) events taught us how to highlight our accomplishments and seek out new and exciting opportunities through interview and internship sessions, personal statement writing, and resume building workshops . . .

“Moving forward, we accept the responsibility to keep our minds open, to reflect on the possibilities of how we might live and understand ourselves, others, and the world. In translation, the Greek author Plutarch wrote, “What we achieve inwardly will change outer reality.” This expresses our inescapable connection with the outside world, and the fact that we touch other people’s lives simply by existing. Graduates, your intelligence, your capacity for hard work and the education you have earned and received, give you unique status, and great possibilities.  Recognize the great potential you hold in this competitive world. Success is never an accident.”

The Verrazano School Honors Program strives to create a culture in which students not only achieve academic excellence in their courses of study but are well-prepared for graduate studies and professional success, and are connected to their local and global community through service and leadership.  The Verrazano Class of 2014 embodies these goals, and indeed their success is not accidental.  Over the past four years, more than two-thirds of the graduates participated in undergraduate research and scholarship.  Verrazano graduates have presented their research at venues including the CSI Undergraduate Conference on Research, Scholarship, and Performance, the CSTEP conference at Lake George, the CUNY Summer Undergraduate Research Conference (CSURP) in Manhattan, and the International Student Computer Cluster Competition in Salt Lake City, Utah.  Due to their academic excellence, Verrazano graduates have been inducted into the Phi Beta Delta International Honors Society, the National Society of Collegiate Scholars, Sigma Theta Tau International Nursing Honor Society, Phi Alpha Theta National History Honor Society, and Sigma Beta Delta International Honor Society for Business, Management, and Administration.   Students also participated in internships at organizations and companies including SiriusXM Satellite Radio, Staten Island Mental Health Society, YMCA, Staten Island University Hospital, Integrated Financial Services, and Clear Channel Media & Entertainment.

The connection to the local and global community through service and leadership was exemplified in the Verrazano Class of 2014.  Verrazano graduates explored the world through study abroad programs, conferences, and volunteerism in countries including China, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, England, India, Italy, and Morocco.  The national average of college students studying abroad is approximately 2%, but nearly 30% of the Verrazano graduates had an international educational experience.  In addition, two students presented research at the International Taurine Conference in Marrakesh, Morocco in Spring 2012 and one student spent several weeks every year volunteering at an orphanage and school in the Dominican Republic.

Collectively, the Verrazano graduates completed more than 3300 hours of community service at organizations including public schools, Staten Island University Hospital, Eden II, Families Helping Families, Richmond University Hospital, Lenox Hill Hospital, the Staten Island Zoo, and numerous Verrazano and other campus activities.  Seven of the graduates were honored for their exemplary service to the community, and Angela Dauge, a Science, Letters and Society major, was specially recognized for completing over 650 hours of service at Project Homefront.

Many graduates were also involved in campus activities and served in leadership roles including Student-Athlete Advisory Committee President, officer board of the National Society of Collegiate Scholars, members of the Emerging Leaders Program, Men’s and Women’s Soccer teams, Swim and Diving Team, WSIA radio station, President of the Pre-Dental Association, Psychology Club, Accounting Club, and the Senior Class Gift Committee.

The broad reach of Verrazano students in the world was evident in an anecdote that Professor Liu shared during the ceremony.   Just a day before the Convocation, he was driving on a desolate Arizona highway on his way to a scientific conference.  While listening to the radio, he heard a familiar voice come over the airwaves.  Lauren Hornek, a Media Studies major in the Class of 2014, was live on the air on the “60s on 6” channel on SiriusXM Satellite Radio.  Lauren’s tenacity and hard work landed her several internships at SiriusXM which ultimately led to her being offered a full-time position this spring.  Professor Liu shared that this is just one example of the impact that Verrazano students have outside the borders of the campus.

Many Verrazano graduates will continue their education next year, both locally and internationally.  Blaze Fraser, the 2014 CSI Valedictorian, will be attending Rutgers School of Dental Medicine, and Elizabeth Krawczun, the 2014 CSI Salutatorian, will be attending the University of Edinburgh to pursue a MSc in Medical Anthropology.   In addition, Verrazano graduates have been accepted to Doctoral programs in Physical Therapy at the College of Staten Island and Nazareth College; graduate programs in Accounting, Computer Science, Special Education, and TESOL at the College of Staten Island; and a Master’s program in School Counseling at St. John’s University.  Other graduates are taking the year off to study for the MCAT and LSAT before applying to medical school and law school for the fall of 2015.

The Verrazano Senior Convocation ceremony concluded with the awarding of Verrazano certificates and honor cords to each graduate.  Verrazano graduates wear the blue and gold honor cords at Honors Convocation and Commencement to signify that they have successfully fulfilled the requirements of The Verrazano School Honors Program.

After the ceremony,  graduates and their guests made their way over to the Green Dolphin Lounge for a dessert reception to cap off the evening.  The reception, catered by Jodi Merendino and her staff, kept with the Verrazano tradition of including an assortment of 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.

[video] Meet Blaze Fraser: 2014 Valedictorian and Commencement Speaker

Blaze presented his research findings at the 18th International Taurine Conference in Marrakech, Morocco, April 2012.

Blaze Fraser is graduating Summa Cum Laude with a 3.9 GPA from College of Staten Island’s Verrazano School Honors Program. While studying at CSI, he conducted undergraduate research under the supervision of Dr. William L’Amoreaux, director of the Imaging Facility.

Blaze’s research is focused on taurine, an effective osmolyte in the body, and its physiological effects on different tissues. This upcoming fall semester, he will begin attending the Rutgers School of Dental Medicine in pursuit of his long-term goal of becoming a dentist.

Blaze is the middle of five children, all born and raised in Staten Island. After Commencement, he will be the fourth College of Staten Island graduate of his family with the others including his mother Bernadette, brother Jerry, and sister Lauren.

He takes great joy in his family and faith and their influence on his personality, work ethic, and outlook on life. He is thankful to the College of Staten Island for allowing him to achieve through all of the exceptional opportunities presented to him.

[youtube][/youtube]More about Blaze:

• Member and Treasurer, CSI Pre-Dental Association (2011-2013)
• Department of Biology/Imaging Facility – researched the effects of Taurine on RPE tissues under the supervision of Dr. William L’Amoreaux (Spring 2012, Spring 2014); created experimental set-ups; grew cell cultures and treated and examined them; trained to use various lab equipment
• Presented preliminary research findings at the 18th International Taurine Conference in Marrakech, Morocco (April 2012)
• Recipient, STEAM Scholarship (2011-2013)
• Recipient, Student Government Academic and Curricular Affairs Departmental Scholarship, 2012
• Part-time manager at Body Tan (2011-2013)
• Post-graduation Plans: Has been accepted to Rutgers School of Dental Medicine and will attend starting in Fall 2014.

Meet Elizabeth Krawczun; 2014 Salutatorian and Honors Convocation Speaker

College of Staten Island Class of 2014 Salutatorian Elizabeth Krawczun

Elizabeth Krawczun  is a Verrazano School student who will receive a Bachelor’s degree in Epidemiology. She has served as a volunteer at the South Beach Psychiatric Center and performed independent research, working on data collection within the infection control department.  In January 2013, she studied abroad through Brooklyn College in a global health program in rural India, and last January, she traveled through the Macaulay Honors College to the Dominican Republic to study health and water sustainability. In Summer 2013, she participated in the CUNY Summer Undergraduate Research Program working under Prof. Heidi Jones, Hunter School of Public Health, studying clinical abortion methods and treatment of female patients across the U.S. and Canada. She has served as President of the CSI Chapter of the National Society of Collegiate Scholars and was a member of the Emerging Leaders program.

Elizabeth has been accepted into two graduate programs in the UK this fall, and will make her final decision to study Epidemiology at Imperial College London or Medical Anthropology at the University of Edinburgh.

More about Elizabeth:

• CUNY Baccalaureate for Unique and Interdisciplinary Studies: Epidemiology
• B.A. anticipated June 2014
• CUNY Baccalaureate Thomas W. Smith Academic Fellowship (Fall 2012–)
• CSI-2014 Verrazano Senior Convocation Class Speaker (May 2014)
• CSI- Eta Lambda Chapter of Phi Beta Delta (May 2014)
• CUNY-Japan Kakehashi Program (May 2013)
• President, National Society of Collegiate Scholars,CSI Chapter (May 2013–)
• CSI-Verrazano Honors Program (Fall 2011–)
• CSI-Verrazano Study Abroad Scholarship (January 2013)
• CSI-Emerging Leaders Program (Fall 2012–Spring 2013)
• CSI-STEAM Scholarship (Fall 2011)
• Dean’s List (2011-2013)

“A student every teacher wishes to have” graduates after 10 year journey

Elsa Garcia takes a break at the Nancy Munson Memorial Fountain on Alumni Walk.

Elsa Garcia, a senior accounting major with the School of Business has traveled a long road to reach her commencement this May. In 1998 she arrived in the US from Chihuahua, Mexico, soon married, gave birth to two children, and then learned to speak English while being a full-time mom to toddlers.

Her ten-year-journey to college graduation was made possible by the many opportunities available at The City College of New York (CUNY) as well as the College of Staten Island (CSI).

In 2004, Elsa heard about the English as a Second Language (ESL) program at the Adult Learning Center, part of CSI’s Continuing Education program. After spending three semesters studying English she craved another challenge and wanted to earn her GED.

While remembering her experience preparing for the GED, Elsa practically shuddered. “It was the most difficult test in my life,” she said of the GED. “I didn’t even know what an essay was but I knew I wanted to do more than just learn English.”

After passing her GED exam she was accepted into the College Transition Initiative (the forerunner to CUNY START) at LaGuardia College where she excelled, mostly, she explained, due to the support she received from the faculty and staff. “I feel like they took my hand and taught me how to be a college student,” said Elsa of her time with the Initiative. “I was taught how to apply for college, the advisors helped me with every step—I was even given the $75 I needed to submit my college application.”

The road was not a completely smooth one however, as she failed the CUNY Reading Exam by one point.

Disappointed but not defeated, Elsa enrolled in the CUNY Learning Immersion Program (CLIP) for the summer, retook the test and scored the highest score in her cohort. In her CLIP evaluation, her instructor, Azedah Leonard called Elsa, “a student every teacher wishes to have.”

Elsa was then accepted into the Accelerated Studies in Associates Program (ASAP) at CUNY’s Borough of Manhattan Community College (BMCC) which, she claimed, “helped me in every way—it was another door.” As a result of being in ASAP, she received all the support she needed from books, advisement to Metro cards. In five years, Elsa went from a Mexican immigrant who did not speak English to a mother of two with an Associate’s Degree taking her kids for swimming lessons at BMCC.

Donna Grant, Director of the Adult Learning Center and CUNY START at CSI, responded to the theme of doors, saying, “A lot of people think all of the doors are closing on them when in reality once a door closes, another opens…Elsa understood that.”

Along with all her work as a full-time student, Elsa never forgot that she was a full-time mom, as well.

At BMCC she made it a point to schedule classes early in the day so she could drop her kids off at school and pick them up when she was done. During Saturday classes she brought her kids with her and they took advantage of BMCC’s pool and movie theatre. “My kids enjoyed it immensely,” said Elsa of her kid’s experience on campus. “They befriended the staff and faculty—they were a big hit in the lunchroom.”

Elsa spent her time in ASAP at BMCC on the Dean’s list and graduated with her Associate’s Degree with honors. She applied to CSI and was able to transfer all of her credits and even received a scholarship through the ASAP Program, factors that Elsa calls, “Part of the Plan.”

“I noticed the difference between studying for my Associate’s and studying for a Bachelor’s right away,” Elsa admitted. “Studying is like a muscle, you have to work it out.”

At CSI, Ms. Grant, who had been tracing Elsa’s journey since the beginning offered some advice,” I told her to enjoy college,” she said. “Part of going to college is experiencing all aspects of the campus, not only the classes.” With that in mind, knowing that studying for an Accounting degree would be difficult, Elsa forged ahead but was sure to “smell the roses.” She took several art classes, studied Health Sciences, played tennis, studied music, and even became a loyal CSI basketball fan along with her children.

She was also a member of the Emerging Leaders Program for two semesters in which she volunteered her already precious time tutoring GED students in math through the Continuing Education Program.

Now, as Elsa is completing her ten-year-journey and embarks on a new one in the career of Accounting, she takes the time to appreciate her hard work and the support she received getting to this point.

“I didn’t speak any English—I started by reading children’s books,” she admitted while discussing her humble origins. “Now, I am reading books about business law and hate leaving the CSI library because I love learning so much—I would never have made it without all of the programs CUNY offers students like myself.”

Ms. Grant reiterated that’s statement, “these types of programs open doors to non-traditional students,” she said of programs such as ASAP and CUNY START. “Every year, people come into our programs with the desire to learn and we make it possible for them to achieve their dream.”

Elsa has some advice for students who like her, are not native English speakers or are full-time parents. “First off, you have to really want it because it isn’t easy,” she said of working toward a college degree. “Take it step by step, there is no rush—it took me almost ten years—but most importantly, you have to enjoy it.”