[video] CSI Grad Student and Anderson Cooper Deliver Thanksgiving Meals to Staten Island

Members of the CSI community continue to provide much-needed assistance to the victims of Superstorm Sandy.


When Superstorm Sandy ravaged the eastern shore of Staten Island, CSI alumna and graduate student Mary Beth Melendez and her classmates were onsite almost immediately providing hot food, warm conversation, and open hearts to those families in the most devastated areas.

Watch her segment on Anderson Cooper 360 or view the episode’s Bonus Footage.

This past Saturday, staffers from Anderson Live joined Mary Beth and her guide dog Trixie, along with more than 20 volunteers from the College of Staten Island, at the recently opened All Hands volunteer coordination center at the Robert DeFalco Realty building at 1676 Hylan Boulevard, to deliver turkey meals to neighbors in need.

The food, donated by Harry and David to Anderson Cooper, was gifted to Mary Beth for distribution. After many discussions with Katie Cumiskey, Associate Professor in the Psychology Department and the Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies program at CSI, and Ken Bach, the College’s Communications Director, Mary Beth and the Anderson Live producing team determined that the Stapleton UAME Church, El Centro del Inmigrante, and VFW Guyon Rescue would each receive a visit.

The day-long caravan of deliveries was made possible by Carol Brower, CSI Director of Student Life, who organized 16 student volunteers, including Student Government President Michael Allamby. The students were joined by College President Dr. William J. Fritz and his wife Bonnie, Vice President for Student Affairs Dr. A. Ramona Brown, her Assistant Vice President Salvador Mena, Director of the Master’s in Mental Health Program Dr. Frances Meléndez, Carol Brower, and Ken Bach.

The segment will air on the nationally syndicated Thanksgiving  Special of Anderson Live on Wednesday, November 21 on Fox 5 (WNYW-TV) at noon in New York City.

Volunteer Coordination Center Opens on Hylan Boulevard

The College of Staten Island, in collaboration with Councilmember Debi Rose and the Staten Island Board of Realtors, facilitated the opening of the Staten Island Volunteer Coordination Center at 1676 Hylan Boulevard at Cromwell Avenue on the first floor of the Robert DeFalco Realty building.

CSI alumna Mary Beth Melendez and Trixie, Robert DeFalco (1979), and CUNY Staffers Dean Chris Rose, Charmaine Worthy, and Stephen join together with 70 student volunteers from CSI and CUNY at the Volunteer Coordination Center.

The coordination center operations, powered by All Hands Volunteers, will provide a centralized location to allow homeowners to learn about the home preparation services available, including free assessment and punchlist review to ensure their homes are “contractor-ready,” and to sign up to receive free volunteer assistance. It also acts as a walk-in center for volunteers to gather, train, and register for team-led volunteer fieldwork. These services are complimentary to and conveniently located near the permanent disaster recovery at 1976 Hylan Boulevard.

Over the coming weeks, All Hands will be sending volunteers into the community, helping families to begin the long clean-up process of their homes. Volunteers will clear out water-logged possessions before removing any damaged drywall, insulation, siding, carpets, and so on. Each group of volunteers will be paired with an experienced team leader who will ensure a safe and productive day. Volunteers do not need any special skills or previous experience; training and leadership will be provided by All Hands.

“This is difficult and dirty work but the rewards are amazing,” noted Jeremy Horan, operations director with All Hands, “there’s nothing like the satisfaction of working side-by-side with other volunteers and local community members and seeing the positive impact you’ve had on a family’s recovery.”

All Hands is a registered 501-C3 disaster response organization that leverages the motivation of volunteers to assist communities in need. Over the last six years, more than 7,000 volunteers have been deployed around the world, providing help to over 30,000 families. Learn more and view video testimonials, including one by a CSI graduate student, at hands.org or vimeo.com/allhands.

Homeowners seeking free volunteer assistance should call the Homeowners Hotline at 347.983.9413, or visit the Staten Island Volunteer Coordination Center at 1676 Hylan Boulevard.

CSI has already referred nearly 200 participants to All Hands to join their real-world practical response solution to disaster response, all of whom have reported an amazing experience. Members of the CSI community who are interested in volunteering for Superstorm Sandy relief are encouraged to contact Carol Brower at 718.982.3088 to become part of Team CSI.

Individual volunteers seeking to participate with the All Hands coordinated and strategic response plan should call 617.901.2545.

The participation of All Hands on Staten Island is a testament to community groups working closely together, and puts the local disaster into an international perspective.

The Reverend Dr. Katie Cumiskey, owner of Bent Pages, faculty member at the College of Staten Island, and interfaith minister, first learned of All Hands from another minister who volunteered with the organization in Peru after the 2007 earthquake there. After Hurricane Sandy, the Director of Field Operations and the U.S. Project Director from All Hands were soon sleeping on her living room floor in anticipation of bringing much-needed assistance to the community.

CSI Interim President Dr. William J. Fritz called a leadership team strategy session to assess the needs of the organization and to provide the strategic networking needed to make the mission of All Hands a reality.

Councilmember Debi Rose’s office was contacted by Ken Iwama, Deputy to the President at CSI. She located a church the same day for All Hands team members to have a place to sleep and prepare their meals.

Sandy Krueger with the Staten Island Board of Realtors was contacted the next morning by Ken Bach, Communications Director at CSI, and by the same evening, an unused storefront was generously provided by Robert DeFalco Realty.

“Many members of our Island and College community have experienced tremendous personal loss due to Hurricane Sandy, and to them I offer my deepest condolences,” commented Dr. Fritz, adding “the realization of this project is a testament to the power of partnerships and the tight-knit family of organizations on Staten Island. I thank the members of the College faculty and staff who helped make this happen and our many community leaders for their leadership and generous support during these difficult times.”

“We all have a responsibility as business owners to give back to our home community. Volunteering can be hard work but the rewards are great,” commented Robert DeFalco, a 1979 CSI graduate with a BS in Economics. “Seeing the happiness on the faces of those we have helped is very satisfying. My agents and staff are always willing to donate their time and money to any Staten Islander in need.”

“The needs that must be addressed in the wake of the destruction of Superstorm Sandy on Staten Island are great. I am appreciative and thankful for the coordination that the All Hands team can provide to our volunteers,” said Councilwoman Debi Rose. “Through the generosity of SIBOR and Robert DeFalco Realty, the All Hands team is now able to provide volunteers and resources to the most devastated areas of Staten Island.”

“Preliminary and very conservative estimates show that nearly 1,500, or eight percent, of the College’s faculty, staff, and students lived directly in the Hurricane Evacuation Zones on Staten Island.” noted Bach. “In addition to providing a much-needed centralized location for homeowners and volunteer resources, the location is also being used as a jumping off point for coordinated CSI outreach and support in the recovery area.”

“As we come together and recover from these devastating events,” added Dr. Fritz, “let us all continue to bring out the best in each other and reach out to help those who may still be in need.”

Additional resources provided by the College of Staten Island include:





College Community Marks 11th Anniversary of September 11

Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs Salvador Mena delivers his remarks at this year's 9/11 Remembrance Ceremony.

Students, faculty, and staff at the College of Staten Island gathered at the 9/11 Memorial on campus last week to remember those who lost their lives in the tragic attacks on our country that took place 11 years ago. 

The event opened with welcoming remarks from CSI Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs, Salvador Mena, as well as from the College’s Interim President Dr. William J. Fritz. 

Dr. Fritz reminded those in attendance that “Our community was singularly impacted. Staten Island lost more residents than any other borough and the College of Staten Island lost more of its family than any other institution in higher education.” 

Later in his comments, Dr. Fritz stated, “I am reminded of a poet who so eloquently observed that when we look into our sorrowful hearts, in truth we are weeping for which has been our delight. Today, as we have done in past ceremonies, the names of all 27 alumni will be read aloud. As each name is called, I ask you to take a moment to quietly reflect upon all that has been our delight—the goodness, character, spirit, and compassion of each individual who graced our institution and our lives.” 

The program continued with a guitar performance of “El Canto Lladre” by CSI student Stephen Flannery and a reading of the poem “To the Woman, Not Trying to Fly, Who Fell with Her Legs Closed, Arms Pressed against the Front of Her Body, While Primly Clutching Her Purse” by Assistant Professor of English Patricia Smith. 

Next, CSI Psychology major and veteran of the United States Marine Corps. Ralph Herrera honored the many volunteers and military personnel who answered the call to provide assistance and response to the attacks. 

In recognition of the students and alumni who died on 9/11, Francisco Collado ’09, member of the CSI Alumni Board of Directors, read their names, and Amy Posner, Executive Director of Hillel at CSI, provided a closing prayer. 

To conclude the event, attendees placed flowers near the 9/11 Memorial in memory of the victims.

Counselors are available to speak with members of the College community in the Counseling Center in Building 1A, Room 109. The Center is open from 9:00am to 5:00pm, Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and from 9:00am to 7:30pm on Wednesdays and Thursdays.

Daniel Feldman

College of Staten Island Salutatorian Daniel Feldman plans to begin studying astronomy at Boston University as a PhD student in the fall. He received a BS in Physics as part of the Macaulay Honors College (MHC).

During his undergraduate studies, Feldman has taken part in numerous research projects covering a number of areas, such as asteroid tracking, studying youth indicators in M dwarf stars, examining objects in the Kuiper Belt, using high-resolution near-infrared spectroscopy techniques to help determine the physical properties of brown dwarfs, and even building a radio antenna to track solar flares.

He was selected to participate in the CUNY Summer Undergraduate Research Program (C-SURP) and the NSF Research Experience for Undergraduate (REU) Program at Northern Arizona University

Commenting on the opportunities that his CSI education afforded him, he says, “CSI played an integral role in introducing me to the field of astronomy as an undergraduate. As soon as my freshman year, I began talking to and working with CSI Professor Charles Liu at the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH)—this initial experience introduced me to the field I would come to love, and put me in a spot to secure future research projects. Through CSI Professor Irving Robbins’s mentorship, I gained research and teaching skills (and a job as an adjunct lab tech for CSI), which will be important in graduate school and beyond. My work with CSI Professor Emily Rice, Hunter Professor Kelle Cruz, and the entire [Brown Dwarf] research group at the AMNH taught me about collaborative science and has placed me in a solid position for future success in astronomy.”

After he completes his degree at Boston University, Feldman has aspirations of becoming a professor at a research institution.

CSI Sophomore Receives Women’s Opportunity Award

L-R: Zanada Mann, last years' winner; Destiny Santiago, the winner; and Catherine Putkowski-O'Brien

One of CSI’s own, Destiny Santiago, received the Soroptimist International Women’s Opportunity Award this spring. She received the honor during a ceremony honoring women returning to college who display strong academic motivation, and have both an academic and career plan, excellent academic references, and  financial need and dependents.

The Women’s Opportunity Award offers stipends to its recipients and has so far awarded $30 million since its inception in 1972. The Women’s Opportunity Awards program involves three levels of cash awards. The program begins at the local Soroptimist club-level, where award amounts vary. Local-level award recipients become eligible for region-level awards of either $3,000 or $5,000. Region-level award recipients then become eligible to receive one of three international-level awards of $10,000.

Santiago, a CSI sophomore with aspirations of attaining a Social Work degree, plans to counsel at-risk teens and young mothers, as well as stress the importance of a solid education.

“Destiny is only 22, but because the committee felt so strongly about her ability to turn her life around in spite of so many obstacles, we felt compelled to present her with this award to reinforce her commitment to succeed,” said Catherine O’Brien, Director of Health Education for the Staten Island Breast Cancer Research Initiative with the Center for Environmental Science at CSI, during her speech at the awards ceremony. “She sees herself as an example of hope, perseverance, and diligence.”

The word Soroptimist was coined from two words, “soro” and “optima,” which loosely translates as “best for women.”  The organization seeks out women of all ages and backgrounds who they consider leaders who also serve as role models for younger women at the beginning of their careers. Santiago, through her work at CSI and elsewhere, is one of Soroptimist International’s youngest winners, but she is not the only from CSI.

L-R: Catherine Putkowski-O'Brien; Danielle Lopez, the runner up; and Zanada Mann, last years' winner

This year’s runner up, Danielle Lopez, is a recent CSI graduate, is aspiring to be a clinical psychologist, and has enrolled in the Clinical Psychology program at The Graduate Center, CUNY.

Last year’s winner is also a recent CSI graduate who is starting the MARC Foundation, an organization for enhancing the opportunities of at-risk youths via education and resources.

Soroptimist International is a worldwide organization for women in management and the professions, working through service projects to advance human rights and the status of women. The organization strives to be a voice for women through awareness, advocacy, and action, and is committed to servicing local, national, and international communities, and participating actively in decision making at all levels of society.

Irvin Ibarguen

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. He received a Bachelor’s in History with The Verrazano School honors program.

Ibarguen has earned several scholarships including an IME Research Fellowship, a full-tuition scholarship awarded to Mexican Americans; the prestigious Jeannette K. Watson Fellowship; and the Aramis Gonzalo Rios Memorial Scholarship.

Ibarguen 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.” He especially recognizes his family’s support throughout his scholastic life. His parents moved here in 1990 while his mother was still pregnant with him.

Ibarguen 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,” he said. It was not until he 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.”

In addition, Ibarguen underscores the value of his Verrazano experience. “If I could make an analogy, during my freshman year I felt like I had ‘friends’ in CSI’s faculty/staff, but when I joined The Verrazano School [as a sophomore] I felt I had…a ‘family’. More importantly, [it] is where I learned how to be an academic.”

At Harvard, Ibarguen hopes to continue to write about undocumented immigration and establish himself in a tenure-track professor of American History.

Mark Barahman

Mark Barahman, a Macaulay Honors College (MHC) graduate who received his BS in Biochemistry, has been accepted into the Albert Einstein College of Medicine MDPhD program. During his time at CSI and MHC, Barahman received a number of prestigious honors, including a Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship, a first in the history of CSI, and a Phi Beta Kappa Associates Award. He worked in two laboratories at the College—the neuroscience lab of Professor Abdeslem El Idrissi and the chemistry lab of Professor Alan Lyons, performing research related to super-hydrophobic surfaces. One of Barahman’s most notable accomplishments under Dr. Lyons was the construction and programming of a robotic printer that prints in three dimensions (3D) on a microscopic scale.

Barahman grew up in Israel, working as a teenager as a first responder for MDA (Magen David Adom, or Red Star of David), an emergency medical organization, which is a member of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. He immigrated to Brooklyn in August 2006. During the summer of 2010, Barahman participated in NYU/Bellevue Hospital’s prestigious Project HealthCare summer program, in which he was able to work in the emergency room and operating room, where he interacted closely with patients and the hospital staff, as well as assisted with clinical research projects and work on the annual Bellevue health fair.

Looking back on his experiences at CSI and MHC, he said, “My time with the Honors College has been the most self-constructive in my life. I have learned, experienced, traveled, presented my work to experts, won awards, and most importantly – enjoyed the company of a terrific group of individuals. Every facet of my experience with the Macaulay Honors College at CSI has helped me shape my career aspirations – especially my research at CSI and clinical experience at Bellevue Hospital. Both of these were facilitated by the Macaulay Honors College and CSI staff dedicated to orienting students in their careers. Other accomplishments, such as winning the Goldwater Scholarship and gaining acceptance to one of the most prestigious graduate programs in the country, came from the breadth of opportunities provided by the amazing experience Macaulay is responsible for and the guidance of dedicated staff and faculty.”

Although he said that he can’t predict his exact career path after Albert Einstein, Barahman noted that he is “interested in working in the field of biomedical engineering – especially tissue engineering and regenerative medicine. I am hoping to work both as a scientist, making discoveries and contributing significantly in these fields,
and also practicing medicine in a capacity that allows me to utilize my findings – effectively translating basic research into true clinical impact.

[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.