[gallery] Second Annual Induction Ceremony for International Scholars

A total of 56 scholars were recently inducted into the Eta Lambda chapter of the Phi Beta Delta Honor Society for International Scholars.

The College of Staten Island (CSI) recently held its second annual induction ceremony of students, faculty, staff, and alumni into the Phi Beta Delta Honor Society for International Scholars.

View the CSI Today Photo Gallery.

The Eta Lambda chapter at CSI—the first ever for a CUNY campus–inducted 56 scholars from all walks of life, but the tie that binds them together is their commitment to spreading their knowledge and experience across the globe, eliminating cultural and geographic borders.

“The emphasis of the honor society is to bring a unique, international quality to CSI,” commented Ann Helm, Executive Director of the Center for International Service and the coordinator of the Eta Lambda chapter. “We are dedicated to extending the boundaries of the campus.”

The reciprocal nature of CSI’s multiple international exchange and ambassador programs ensures that the CSI campus community will grow well beyond Victory Boulevard and reach out to nations across the globe.

The honor society’s goals break down into four categories: (1) to recognize the scholarly achievement of students and scholars who come from other countries to study at CSI or domestic students who study abroad while enrolled here; (2) serve as a vehicle for the development of academic-based international programming; (3) provide a network on campus involved in international endeavors; and (4) extend this network in chapters across the world.

“It is important to recognize people who help students earn an international education as well as the students themselves,” said CSI Professor of International Business Alan Zimmerman, regarding the value of having a chapter on campus. The newly elected president of the Eta Lambda Chapter also spoke about why international education is more important now than ever before. “Many corporations are looking for international experience in students,” said Zimmerman. “In order to be a fully rounded student you must be exposed to other countries.”

Each student, faculty, staff, visiting scholar, or alumni member was nominated by an Eta Lambda Chapter member, based on his or her work in supporting an international community. Students who were inducted all had international experience either as international students attending CSI or as domestic CSI students studying abroad. The faculty and staff all must show some evidence of performing international research, teaching internationally, or providing a comparable service to the international community. No matter the requisites, all inductees must show a dedication to spreading their wealth of knowledge internationally. “The honor society stands for excellence and requires excellence,” said Helm.

The success of CSI’s international programs was validated during the induction ceremony as 34 students were inducted this year, all from different cultural as well as academic backgrounds.  The students were joined by 20 members of the CSI faculty and staff, as well as two alumni, all of whom added valuable international experience to this culturally rich and vibrant campus.

Having a CSI chapter of the Phi Beta Delta honor society “shows CSI is making its ‘world class, right here’ slogan a reality,” said Meagan Derbyshire, Political Science and Philosophy major and Student Governing Board member. The Class of 2013 Macaulay Honors College student was inducted for her study abroad work in the Galapagos Islands and London as well as for her coursework as a Political Science major with a heavy international focus. As a student hoping to pursue a career in global medicine, Meagan believes that having the Phi Beta Delta honors society on campus “further emphasizes the importance of global education.”

The induction ceremony was sponsored by the CSI Alumni Association, the Student Government, and the CSI International Business Society.

Phi Beta Delta is an organization dedicated in recognizing scholarly achievement and is comprised of 168 chartered chapters worldwide. It is the first honor society dedicated to recognizing scholarly achievement in international education.

[video] The Underground Railroad’s Trail to Freedom

Debbie-Ann Paige recently appeared on Secrets of New York, which aired on NYC Life, as a Sandy Ground Historian.

In cooperation with the Sandy Ground Historical Society, College of Staten Island graduate student Debbie-Ann Paige has worked tirelessly over the past several years to document the presence of Underground Railroad way-stations on Staten Island.

Specifically, she has examined the participation of Louis Napoleon, a “conductor” on the Underground Railroad and an important link in the long chain of abolitionists who assisted self-liberated slaves as they passed through Staten Island and New York on their way to Canada. Her research has resulted in Louis Napoleons’s house being named a national landmark.

“Staten Island does not get enough attention as a stop on the Underground Railroad,” according to Paige, who joined the College to earn a BA in History after retiring from the military. Until Paige, very little has been said about how the free Black community of Staten Island played a role in the liberation of freed slaves.

“So much here needs to be uncovered,” said Paige when discussing Staten Island’s role in African American history.

Paige, who grew up in Staten Island, admits that she knew very little about Black history before she began researching the subject.  It was not until she moved back to Staten Island with her husband who had served in the military for 20 years that she decided to return to CSI and study history. “I always had this love for genealogy,” she said, addressing why she chose history as her area of concentration.  She then began studying slavery and started “narrowing the scope” to the abolitionists in Staten Island.

Paige is currently writing her Master’s thesis tentatively titled “Race and Anti-Slavery Politics on Staten Island,” but her work at CSI is only the tip of the iceberg.  Along with writing her thesis, working 50 hours a week, and her work collaborating with Sandy Ground, she also recently appeared on an episode of Secrets of New York, which aired on NYC Life, as a Sandy Ground Historian discussing the Underground Railroad.

“I feel like a scholar,” Paige said, while discussing her accomplishments.  “It’s an amazing feeling.”

The MA is not the final stop in Paige’s academic career.  The founding member and first Vice President of the Phi Alpha Theta History Honor Society at CSI plans on obtaining a PhD in Archival Studies and hopes to one day work for a historical society of her own, gathering collections for museums and academic libraries.  She credits her professors at CSI, namely Jonathan Sassi, Associate Professor of History and Chair of the History Department, for helping her focus by “constantly challenging me at every turn.”

“I have enjoyed working with Debbie-Ann Paige as her thesis advisor, because she combines her passion for history with a doggedness in the archives that has yielded original findings,” said Professor Sassi.

Paige’s work has even garnered national attention as the National Parks Service designated Louis Napoleon’s house a national landmark due to her research.

“While historians have long acknowledged the importance of Staten Island resident abolitionists like Sidney Howard Gay, secretary of the American Anti-Slavery Society, and the Shaw family of St. George, very little has been said about how the free Black community of Staten Island played a role in this story. I am proud that Ms. Paige’s efforts have resulted in the National Park Service officially recognizing and commemorating Napoleon’s participation,” noted Catherine Lavender, Director of the American Studies Program and Associate Professor with the College’s History Department.

The work was a labor of love. Paige said that she relishes the opportunity to prove her ideas to other academics. “I love the research.  I love the hunt,” she said.  “Not enough scholars give genealogy, the micro-economics of history, enough attention.”

[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.”

“Savor the Flavors” Provides Crucial Support for Students While Stimulating Palates

Judges John Sierp and Rob Burmeister, Event Chair James McBratney ’05, and winner of both Best Dish Second Place and Peoples Choice award, The Lake Club.

More than 200 attendees were treated to some of Staten Island’s best cuisine last month at the third annual “Savor the Flavors: Celebrate Our Island’s Diverse Cuisine” in the Center for the Arts. The event, presented by the CSI Alumni Association (CSIAA), with the support of Presenting Sponsor Liberty Mutual, provides much-needed funding for student scholarships. In its first two years, Savor the Flavors has helped to establish 14 new scholarships for CSI students. 

CSIAA President Dr. Arthur Merola commented on the importance of the event, “Savor the Flavors is one event of the CSIAA, which not only promotes  interaction between the community and the College, it directly helps raise awareness and funds needed to inspire and support students to continue academic studies.” 

The event was chaired by CSI Alumni Board Member and President of the Staten Island Restaurant and Tavern Association James McBratney ’05. Michele Karpeles ’08, ’10 served as Co-Chair. Alumni Board members and students volunteered to help with set up, assisting restaurant staff, and photography. 

Those in attendance not only enjoyed the signature dishes of local eateries, and learned how they are prepared, but also witnessed the annual competition among the restaurants that graciously donated food and beverages for the event, judged by Rob Burmeister from Food Network’s Chopped and John Sierp, winner of the Iron Skillet Cook-Off, 2005. Winners included: First Place, Best Dish: Joe Mozz Gourmet Shop; Second Place, Best Dish: The Lake Club; Third Place, Best Dish: Canlon’s Restaurant; First Place, Dessert: Cookie Jar; Second Place, Dessert: Canlon’s Restaurant; People’s Choice: The Lake Club; and Best Table Decor: Pepperjack Grill. 

Other eateries that participated included Afternoone’s, Alfonso’s Bakery, Angelina’s Ristorante, Beso, The Beer Garden,  Cake Chef, Celebrate at Snug Harbor, Da Noi, Dosa Garden, Jimmy Max (Westerleigh & Great Kills), Killmeyer’s Old Bavaria Inn, La Candela Espanola, Manor Restaurant, Mother Mousse, Nucci’s South, Paesano’s Pizzeria, Pasticeria Bruno, Port Richmond High School Culinary Arts Program, Oriental Plaza, Park Café, R. Ippolito Distributing, San Rasa Sri Lankan Cuisine, and Vino Divino. 

Raffles were also held, thanks to the generosity of NuWorld Beauty, Jimmy Max, and the CSI Alumni Association. 

Cola-Cola Bottlers of New York provided soda and water for the event, and music was supplied by Phil Fonesca of Jimmy Max, Great Kills.


Jerod Loeb ‘71 Receives Honorary Lifetime Achievement Award

CSI alumnus Jerod Loeb '71 recently received an Honorary Lifetime Achievement Award from The Joint Commission.

The National Quality Forum (NQF) and The Joint Commission today announced the 2011 recipients of the annual John M. Eisenberg Patient Safety and Quality Awards. The awards will be presented on April 5, 2012 during a luncheon at the 2012 NQF Annual Conference and Membership Meeting in Washington, DC.

In addition to the 2011 honorees selected for this year’s Eisenberg Awards, which can be found on the Joint Commission Website,  the jury panel chose to recognize the extraordinary and sustained contributions to health care quality and patient safety of Dr. Jerod M. Loeb, Executive Vice President, Division of Healthcare Quality Evaluation, The Joint Commission, in the form of an Honorary Lifetime Achievement Award.

Dr. Loeb is being recognized for his leadership in The Joint Commission’s performance measurement initiative. Since his arrival at The Joint Commission in 1994, he has played a leadership role in identifying, evaluating, and implementing performance measures across the wide variety of Joint Commission accreditation and certification programs. He is involved in a variety of national and international initiatives associated with performance measurement and patient safety, including those of the National Quality Forum, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the International Society for Quality in Health Care, and the World Health Organization. His work has resulted in thousands of hospitals and health care organizations realizing the importance of accurate, focused performance measurement in driving quality improvement, paving the way for federal performance measurement requirements that continue to be rolled out today. Dr. Loeb received his PhD in Cardiovascular Physiology in 1977 from The State University of New York –Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn, NY, and a Bachelor of Science in Biology (with honors) from the College of Staten Island, The City University of New York, in 1971.

Dr. Loeb’s other life passion is fire, police, and emergency medical services. In 1998, he began volunteering his time with the Buffalo Grove, IL Fire Department, and since 2005, has an official State of Illinois municipal appointment as Fire and Police Commissioner for his suburban community of 45,000 in the northwest suburbs of Chicago.

CSI Hosts Women’s History Month Kick-Off Event to Celebrate Women’s Leadership

CUNY Trustee Kathleen Pesile is joined in front of the Domestic Violence Clothesline in the Atrium of the Center for the Arts with student panelists Haby Ly, Marwa Janini, Jessica Pifalo, Amina Huseinbegovic, and Jess Rodriguez, and CSI Director of Diversity and Compliance Danielle Dimitrov. Not Pictured: Claudia Olender.

Women’s History Month kicked off at CSI with a keynote presentation by Kathleen Pesile, Trustee of the Board of The City University of New York, which included a panel discussion with several of CSI’s female student leaders.

The event began with a brief introduction on the history of International Women’s Day by Zakhar Berkovich, Office of the Dean of Humanities and Social Sciences, noting “Our society does not stop enough to share our thanks for women and their contribution to society,” he said during his welcoming remarks.

Mary Del Re, of the Bertha Harris Women’s Center, discussed the Domestic Violence Clothesline Project, which is displayed in the Atrium of the Center for the Arts for the month of March. The Project offers visitors the opportunity to paint their own t-shirts with anti-domestic violence slogans and hang them in a displayed of unified support.

Dr. A. Ramona Brown, CSI Vice President for Student Affairs, began her remarks about the importance of celebrating Women’s History Month with, “I am woman, hear me roar,” which roused a thundering applause from everyone in the audience, male and female. Dr. Brown introduced Ms. Pesile as “a true example of greatness,” describing how much she admired “her intellect, her wit, her style, but most of all, her ability to be humble.”

Ms. Pesile, founder of the Pesile Financial Group and an Adjunct Professor of Finance at CSI, is also a founding faculty member of CSI’s Weekend College. In her remarks, she addressed her love of and commitment to the College of Staten Island. “I practically live on the campus,” she said. “We are all enjoying the benefits of this magnificent property.”

She then chronicled the steps she took to reach her success in order to provide her own experiences as inspiration for the female students sitting in the audience and on the Student Leadership Panel.  Ms. Pesile discussed her involvement with developing a daycare center on the CSI campus in 1972 and expressed her pride in that endeavor’s ability to “help so many women graduate with a bachelor’s degree…You are the recipients of our black and blues,” she said to the women in the audience.

The event concluded with a Student Leadership Panel discussion, moderated by Ms. Pesile, where six female CSI students considered the importance of student leadership on the CSI campus from a female perspective.

The student leaders all hailed from different backgrounds and had different motivations for being on the panel but they were all connected by the bond of being women in positions of leadership. The discussion focused on topics such as their motivations behind becoming student leaders,what obstacles the young women had to face, and giving back to the CSI community and to society in general through mentoring.

“I have had to deal with a lot of people rejecting me,” said Haby Ly, who is currently leading a small group SEEK Ambassadors, students who are tasked with orienting SEEK students to CSI. Amina Huseinbegovic, a junior International Business student, who is a member of CSI’s Emerging Leaders Program and the CSI Women’s Track team, discussed the difficulties of a young woman moving to the U.S. without much support. “My mother was very concerned but my dream of getting my education drove me to be very successful,” she said.

Marwa Janini, a junior History major, encouraged the women in the audience to “be more involved with campus life…It is important now, more than ever, to be somebody.”

The event focused on many facets of what it means to be not only a student leader, but a female leader on campus and beyond. “Many women in the corporate world do not help each other,” said Ms. Pesile. “As women, we have to stick together.”  Jesse Rodriguez, the Student Government Association Vice President and a junior, who is double majoring in History and Political Science, agreed, adding that celebrations such as these are about moving ahead and “remembering,” noting that “as a History major, one of the things that sticks out the most is the idea of remembering.”   

Claudia Olender, a sophomore Psychology major and Macaulay Honors College student representing the CSI Bertha Harris Women’s Center, and Jessica Pifalo, a junior Journalism major and sports writer for The Banner representing the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, also discussed their successes and challenges as female student leaders on campus.

This Women’s History Month will be remembered for offering those in the audience a glimpse of the strength, perseverance, and pride of which female leaders are capable and, as Ms. Huseinbegovic put it, re-affirming the idea that “if you set your mind to something, you will get it.”




Where Are They Now? – Michael Young ’10

Michael Young '10 is embarking on a Fulbright assistantship in Madrid.

Michael Young, who was also known for his role as founder and editor of the humor magazine Operation Three-Legged Dolphin, is currently a Fulbright Scholar, working as an English Teaching Assistant in Spain until the end of June 2012. “My placement is Instituto Clara Campoamor in Móstoles,” Young explains, “which is part of the Madrid region of Spain. This is the first year that the school has become a part of the bilingual program, which means that some students at the ‘Primero’ level (11 and 12 years old) get English education in all of their classes except for Math and Spanish. As an ‘auxiliar,’ I am part of English, Art, Science, Physical Education, and Technology classrooms, where I serve as a resource to students and teachers as a native speaker of English. I do everything from designing lessons, teaching and correcting spelling and grammar, to leading conversation groups. It’s broadened my abilities as someone who relates to students and as a thinker as well. In my classes I am reminded of my own education and feel a great sense of gratitude for all of the teachers who have led me to being here. I often tell my students that I started studying Spanish when I was their age, and because I studied in middle school and continued to study through high school and college I was able to have the opportunity to come teach in Spain.”

Although he began his study of the Spanish language at an early age, Young says, “My CSI education has prepared me well for this role. My Spanish minor has helped me tremendously, as it gave me a level of Spanish proficiency on which to build during my time here. My American Studies major has been useful as I explain to students various aspects of American culture, such as our music, art, geography, and sports. Fulbright was started to promote cultural understanding and communication between people of different countries and what better way to share my culture than to draw upon what I have been taught in college? And my Studio Art minor comes in handy as I work in Art classrooms and incorporate visuals into a lot of my lessons. I have drawn upon all of my experiences at CSI as a toolbox for being an effective teacher who brings something into the classroom. Also, CSI faculty were key in helping me prepare my application for the Fulbright, so I owe a lot of credit to them.”

After his Fulbright appointment is over, Michael notes that he “can see myself continuing down the road of education in some capacity.”

CSI Alumna Marissa Pontecorvo could be next ‘American Idol’

Staten Island musician Marissa Pontecorvo
Staten Island musician Marissa Pontecorvo
"It was totally surreal, you try out 13 times to be on something and then you're finally there," said Marissa Pontecorvo, 24, of Huguenot. "It was surreal but it could be taken away at the snap of a finger." Photo and caption courtesy of the Staten Island Advance / SI Live.

STATEN ISLAND ADVANCE – Her voice is polished and honest and can go from smoky to sassy in just a few bars of song.
Huguenot native Marissa Pontecorvo has music in her blood — as a child she performed a Haydn Concerto on piano at Manhattan’s Merkin Hall and graced stages across the country in a touring production of “Annie.” As a teen, she honed her vocal chops in Nashville.

Now the blonde 24-year-old Islander could be the next American Idol.

She doubles the chances of the borough being home to the nation’s next big musical discovery, as Annadale teen Brielle Von Hugel vies alongside her for the title on the popular Fox TV show.

“It was totally surreal, you try out 13 times to be on something and then you’re finally there. It was surreal but it could be taken away at the snap of a finger,” said Miss Pontecorvo today, before heading out to her day job teaching choral music to students at Our Lady Star of the Sea R.C. Church — her life having resumed its familiar rhythms after she returned from filming in Hollywood. “It was always a feat of mine I wanted to accomplish. It was always on my list to get on that show.

Ms. Pontecorvo, a serious musician with years of training which sets her apart from the show’s roster of golden-throated parvenus, got the ticket to Hollywood after auditioning in Pittsburgh. She appeared in snippets Thursday night, wowing the celebrity judges with her rendition of “Somewhere” from West Side Story.

“They told me I was going to Hollywood; that’s all they’ve shown so far,” said Ms. Pontecorvo, describing the October audition, that took place several months after she performed the National Anthem at the commencement ceremony of her graduating class at the College of Staten Island. “Jennifer Lopez is a huge fan of mine. She told me she loves my artistry and how I make everything my own.”

Ms. Pontecorvo said she cannot disclose how her luck held up in Tinsel Town, when she was one of 300 finalists chosen out of tens of thousands of Idol aspirants.

End result aside, the making of the popular TV show was unforgettable, she said.

“They have cameras on you at all times, the only time they’re not there is when you’re in the bathroom,” she joked about the 11 days she spent filming in Hollywood from Dec. 11 to Dec. 22. “They have you working non stop, I would wake up at 6 a.m. and wouldn’t go to bed until 4 a.m. There were challenges, group rounds; it was an intense schedule. They do that to mentally break you down to see who is fit and who is not, in a sense. For me it’s great I’m doing music.”

The Tottenville High School graduate said she will likely gather friends and family to watch the show with her in February, when the episodes that were filmed in Hollywood air.

Appearing also on the show will be her friend, another South Shore vocal stand out, Brielle Von Hugel: The 17-year-old Tottenville High School senior from Annadale is making a rare second season appearance on the show, after, last season, getting to just short of the semi-finals.
The bubbly talent auditioned in Savannah, Ga., in an episode that ran Jan. 3, and also featured her father, Bill, a former doo-wop singer. Ms. Pontecorvo, also credits her musical father as an inspiration. For two decades, his band Nightmoves has performed across the tri-state region, and now she joins at gigs as lead singer.

“I’m really good friends with Brielle,” said Ms. Pontecorvo, marveling how much the two have in common, most notably their love of performance. “We met doing karaoke on Staten Island. She’s got a great voice. I wish her the best; she’s a young talent. We both have talent.”

This story was originally published in the Staten Island Advance and on SILive.com on Monday, January 23, 2012, and is reprinted here with permission.