IAIR Conference Brings New Breadth of Understanding

The IAIR Conference took place in the Center for the Arts.

The Tenth Biennial Conference of the International Academy for Intercultural Research (IAIR) filled the College of Staten Island’s campus with researchers looking to exchange their work and engage in further conversations addressing the conference theme, “Applying Research to Improve Intercultural Relations.”

IAIR is comprised of about 250 scholars from various disciplines including education, anthropology, management, communications, psychology, sociology, and policy science. The Academy’s main purpose is to provide understanding—disseminating to the public information regarding intercultural relations. This, in turn, encourages interchanges between people with an interest in intercultural relations.

This year’s five-day conference, which began on starting on June 25, highlighted presentations and abstracts surrounding immigration, intercultural identity, stereotypes, microaggressions, and more.

An opening ceremony featuring IAIR President and CSI Dean of Humanities and Social Sciences, Dr. Nan M. Sussman, and speaker Bitta Mostafi (Deputy Commissioner of Immigration, NYC) set the tone for the conference’s interactive environment.

“Globally, there are few issues that are more important to understand than intercultural relations. Never in human history have so many people regularly interacted with those from another country or religion or ethnic group.   Tensions have been heightened in some cases but so has generosity and compassion. The work of the scholars of IAIR can better inform policy makers, elected officials, and educators,” remarked Dr. Sussman.

Keynote speakers Dr. Simon Adams (Executive Director of the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect) and Dr. David Webber (Assistant Professor of Homeland Security in the Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs at Virginia Commonwealth University) offered their insight on the conference’s relevance to today’s society.

Dr. Adams presents at the IAIR Conference.

Dr. Adams, who has worked extensively with government and civil society organizations in South Africa, Rwanda, Timor, and more (1994-2002), understands how beneficial it is to get individuals engaged in these worldly topics, as it can often be a unifying experience.

“I grew up as an immigrant in four countries and three continents…the biggest question you always fear is ‘where do you come from?’ because I don’t know where I come from, you don’t ever really belong anywhere when you have a hyphenated identity, or alternatively, you belong everywhere,” Dr. Adams stated, also noting that he understands how relevant IAIR’s message is to the CSI community.

“I think we’re living through a global crisis with 65.4 million people displaced at the moment…more than 21 million refugees, and I think we live in a world where many people are responding to that by turning away from the world…and I think it’s exactly these times where we have to focus on what makes us human,” he said.

Participants, such as doctoral student Ursula Mofitt, who is studying in Germany, took note of the thought-provoking dialogues carried on throughout the day. Whether they were speaking at a panel or attending one of the various social gatherings, like a Staten Island Yankees baseball game, participants were open to try something new, which further reaches at the importance of stepping outside of one’s comfort zone to understand things beyond their realm.

Stressing the understanding of other cultures and individuals without fear, Dr. Adams eloquently reminds us that, “we all live with multiple identities; it doesn’t mean you need to have an identity crisis.”



Race and intolerance on Staten Island: ‘Silent problem’ gets an airing at CSI forum

From left to right: Staten Island Advance Editor Brian J. Laline, Army Major Danny Sjursen, and CSI President William J. Fritz at the CSI forum. (Photo Courtesy of SI Advance/ Jan Somma-Hammel

STATEN ISLAND ADVANCE — Hot-button issues of race and intolerance on Staten Island — often referred to as the borough’s “silent problem” — got an airing Thursday at a forum hosted by the Staten Island Advance and the College of Staten Island at CSI’s Willowbrook campus.

The forum was spurred by a recent Advance/SILive article penned by Army Maj. Danny Sjursen, who grew up in Midland Beach, in which he shared his research and reflections on the issue. The article drew an unprecedented number of comments from readers.

Sjursen, the featured speaker at the forum, reviewed his research and sought comments from the audience of about 40 invited guests, who included two former borough presidents, Ralph Lamberti and James Molinaro, a retired family court judge and Advance columnist Daniel Leddy. CSI President Dr. William Fritz welcomed guests. The forum was moderated by Advance Editor Brian J. Laline.

Sjursen, who titled his research paper “Apartheid in New York,” said the “gravity and persistence” of racism and intolerance on Staten Island warrants the title. “It’s a larger issue than we think,” he said.

Intolerance and racism took off with the opening of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge in 1964, he said.

“Most Staten Islanders did not want intergration when the bridge opened,” Sjursen said. “We demonized newcomers as a dangerous ‘other’ and placed the onus for all of Staten Island’s problems on these newcomers.”  Many in the room nodded in agreement.

The two-hour discussion touched on examples of bias and discrimination in policing, and in housing and education, with most in the room agreeing that discussing and acknowledging the problems was a start.

Ed Josey, president of the Staten Island NAACP, who grew up in Tottenville, said he never had a black teacher in school at PS 1, Totten Intermediate School or  Tottenville High School, and little has changed. “But, if we do not admit there is segregation and racism on Staten Island, we will never straighten it out,” he said.

“There is an underlying attitude on Staten Island, that still exists, that makes a lot of people on Staten Island uncomfortable,” said CSI staffer Alana Gaymon.

“It comes down to us as humans, and how we want to see ourselves in 20 years,” said CSI student Akeem James. “The conversation needs to start with us as individuals.”

Molinaro, who called racism and intolerance “a national problem,” said Staten Island families, “have to step up and train their children” to be more tolerant.

Dr. Ruth Silverberg, associate professor of education at CSI, commended the Advance for publishing Sjursen’s article and organizing the forum. “The Advance demonstrated courage, and I really appreciate it.”If we want to go one-on-one with each other, if we want to have a conversation, this is how it begins,” she said.

Both Laline and Fritz said they would continue the dialogue on racism and intolerance.

“It is my hope we can continue meeting and talking,” Fritz said. “Meeting and talking is the first step to change.”


This article by Diane Lore was first published July 20, 2017 on www.silive.com.  It is reprinted here with permission.




CSI’s First Star Academy Starts Summer Program

A "Wall of Support" was created for First Star students.

The College of Staten Island (CSI) welcomed First Star Academy students, family, and faculty members on June 9 to kick off the summer portion of the program.

First Star is a non-profit that aims to improve the lives of children who have  experienced abuse or neglect. Since 2011, First Star has focused on making sure that the foster students in their programs are involved in higher education. One of the most jarring statistics is that less three percent of foster youth receive a bachelor’s degree. First Star focuses on instilling the importance of education in order improve their lives.

At the event, CSI President William J. Fritz discussed the program, noting that “… success in College is particularly important for students from families who do not have college degrees themselves. They face many obstacles.”

First Star collaborates with colleges and universities and creates programs and curricula for foster children in order to familiarize them with the college environment and increase their life and academic skills. First Star has collaborated with prestigious universities all over the country, including the University of California, Los Angeles; The George Washington University; and the University of Central Florida.

Since last February, children in the program from all over the city have visited CSI on one Saturday. This was considered the first phase of the program. Next, program participants live on the CSI campus for one month in Dolphin Cove, the College’s apartment-style luxury residence halls.

This second part of the program seeks to intensify their learning of social, academic, and life skills.

After the attendees enjoyed some popcorn, healthy snacks, and activities, CSI Vice President for Student and Enrollment Services Jennifer Borrero made some opening remarks.

“As Charlemagne the God says, ‘Opportunity comes to those who make it.’ And you’ve created an opportunity for yourself by actively participating in this program. Take advantage of all it has to offer.”

President Fritz talked about how CSI was honored to host a First Star Academy and that the CSI campus offered the best of “both worlds” by being so close to the city and offering a traditional college campus experience, and stated, “I think you’ve come to the right place.”

The First Deputy Commissioner of the Administration for Children’s Services, Eric Brettschneider, also spoke and gave some the students some comical and practical advice. He told the story of his brother, who worked hard toward the end of his high school career in order to enter the University of Miami. After getting upset when he was declined, Brettschneider’s brother demanded to speak with the President of the University. After his father got on the phone and asked the university to review his application, he was approved. Brettschneider’s point was that even when people are confronted with results that is displeasing, they should still try to reach their goals, no matter what.

National Director of First Star Academies Paige Chan then spoke to the students about what they should expect, helped them to understand just how important the program is, and told the students that they are collectively a “family.” She also mentioned how First Star students “have an advantage over others” because of their college readiness.

“No one does it like New York does,” she said. She also told the students that she trusted them to get what they want and achieve their goals. A “Wall of Support” board was also created by CSI staff with messages posted by faculty and staff from various departments welcoming the First Star Academy students.

Next up was Yanik Bruno, who is a foster child who is enrolled in the First Star CSI Academy. She told her story to the audience, discussing how she was unsure about enrolling in the academy or whether she should just get a summer job. She went on to explain how proud she was of herself and her fellow students for enrolling and attending, and for making the right choice.

The final speaker was the Director of the First Star CSI Academy, Senemeht Olatunji, MSW. Olatunji oversees the overall program on behalf of CSI and she has a long history of involvement in social causes and education. She spoke directly to the students, providing them with words of wisdom and encouragement. “We have spent the last four months commuting on and off campus, getting to know each other, celebrating individual successes, and supporting one another during difficult moments. You are all the most brilliant and dynamic group of young people.”

Vice President Borrero wrapped up the event’s remarks by thanking everyone in attendance and invited both the parents and children to enjoy the bouncy castle and other activities available. Borrero said that “CSI can create the best experience possible for these youth.”

Summing up the event, Senemeht said, “What is important today is that those who are standing here recognize this moment. This is not just a kickoff, but a rite of passage—a ceremonial celebration that marks one phase of life to another.”


Ribbon Cutting Ceremony at CSI St. George: The College Returns to Its Origins

The Ribbon Cutting at CSI St. George.

The College of Staten Island (CSI) returns to its origins on the North Shore as Stuyvesant Place once again becomes home to the College.

The CSI St. George Ribbon Cutting Ceremony officially announced CSI St. George, the College’s new location, which will begin offering courses to matriculated students in the upcoming Fall 2017 term.

Local politicians, CSI officials, City University of New York (CUNY) representatives, and community members gathered at the historical event as the College seats itself in its original St. George home at 120 Stuyvesant Place. As the College expands its presence on the  North Shore with an already well established CSI Tech Incubator, there is confidence that the strategic location will attract prospective students to the new location.

In a monumental and historical step in going back to its beginnings, CSI St. George solidifies the College’s strong presence in the resurgence of Staten Island’s North Shore.

“This day represents a significant milestone in the history of the College of Staten Island. I can’t believe this day has finally come – the day when the College of Staten Island returns to St. George and not only returns, but returns to the exact same space that was once part of Richmond College,” commented CSI President William J. Fritz.

Memorably, CSI’s predecessor institutions, Richmond College and Staten Island Community College (SICC), resided in adjacent addresses on Stuyvesant Place. The CSI Tech Incubator is, in fact, housed in the former space of the SICC Library.

“A few years ago I started to realize that no matter how great our Willowbrook campus is we really lost something when CUNY and CSI left St. George — and that something is access,” Dr. Fritz stated, noting that students who utilize public transportation may find CSI St. George more convenient than the Willowbrook campus. “Providing access to these North Shore residents and giving them the means (a College degree) to achieve the American Dream was and is my vision for this project.”

The President also outlined plans to offer master’s and certificate level graduate courses at CSI St. George to provide access to commuters working in Manhattan. CSI’s newly planned doctorate, an Ed.D. in Community Leadership, will be housed at CSI St. George as well.

Within walking distance from the North Shore’s Transportation hub, CSI St. George’s completely renovated 16,000 square foot facility will offer 10 large Smart classrooms; a state of the art computer lab; a spacious student lounge with open computers; a dedicated on-site Student Services Center; diverse course offerings & scheduling opportunities that satisfy degree requirements for new and first year undergraduate students and, for select programs in Education, graduate students; day, evening, and weekend schedules; and flexibility to also enroll in courses on the main Willowbrook campus, which is easily accessible via the CSI Ferry Shuttle, and to take advantage of all the sports, clubs, and academic and personal support services that the College has to offer.

“This is an exciting day for the College.  It’s the culmination of many years of planning, advocacy and finally construction.  And now we have this unique opportunity to further serve Staten Islanders… We’re thrilled to have the inaugural class this fall. These students will receive the same world class education as our Willowbrook students,” said Jennifer Borrero, Vice President for Student and Enrollment Services.

CSI St. George aims to attract individuals from this area, given the College’s new proximity to neighboring North Shore areas. Lending greater opportunity in a vibrant and growing neighborhood, CSI St George provides students with the option of a two- to four-day schedule at convenient times with quick access to college resources and dedicated staff.

“Housed in our on-site Student Services Center, the staff hired for these newly-created positions will offer one-on-one support in all areas of Enrollment Management and Information Technology, including Admissions, Financial Aid, Advisement, Registration, Bursar, IT Help Desk, and more, as well as administrative and technical support for faculty teaching at CSI St. George. These individuals will work closely with their counterparts on the main Willowbrook campus to coordinate and ensure effective and efficient delivery of services to all members of the College community,” noted CSI St. George Director Mario D’Alessandro.

Dr. Fritz also thanked elected officials, CUNY representatives, and members of the CSI community. “This was an example of incredible teamsmanship. Thank you everyone. Thank you for your teamwork, thank you for your support of CUNY, Staten Island, and CSI St. George,” he said.

View the NY1 segment on the CSI’s YouTube page.

The event was also featured on SI Live.com.



Student Stories Highlight Annual Scholarship Donor Student Reception

CSI President Dr. Fritz, Alima Toure, Maisa Moumen, Francine D’Amato Hatipoglu, and Mrs. Bonnie Fritz at the Scholarship Reception.

More than 100 attendees gathered at the College of Staten Island (CSI) to honor scholarship donors and recipients at the Annual Scholarship Donor Student Reception in the Campus Center’s Green Dolphin Lounge.

The reception served as an informal opportunity for donors to meet CSI scholarship recipients.

“Tonight’s event gives scholarship donors a chance to meet the extraordinary students who are being greatly assisted by your generosity, and the scholarship recipients will have the opportunity to meet and extend their gratitude to those who are helping to fulfill their dreams,” noted CSI President William J. Fritz, PhD, who also highlighted some of CSI’s impressive assets such as Pulitzer prize-winning poet Tyemba Jess, four Guggenheim Scholars, and 15 Fulbright Scholars.

Francine D’Amato Hatipoglu, donor of the Joanne D’Amato, RN and Frank D’Amato Memorial Scholarship, commented that, “This event is an opportunity to celebrate a mutual appreciation… My family and I appreciate the opportunity to think about the wonderful programs CSI has to offer. Mostly, I appreciate the chance to share my parent’s legacy and my wonderful memories of them with the CSI community.”

Also in attendance were donors Judy Afferton (Sgt. Franklin Afferton III Scholarship and Marie M. Afferton, RN Scholarship), Ann Merlino (Dr. Mario J. Merlino Scholarship/John and Filomena Merlino Scholarship), Irving K. Robbins, PhD (Irving K. Robbins Scholarship), and Sally Williams (Clara and Arleigh B. Williamson Scholarship), as well as Samir Farag, President of the CSI Foundation Board of Directors, Board members, and members of the Friend of CSI.

Several students in attendance had the opportunity to describe the impact of these awards on their lives.

For example, Alima Toure was born and raised in Burkina Faso and immigrated to the United States in 2010 to continue her education. One of four children and in an extended family of more than 30 children, she is the first woman ever in her entire family to graduate from college and pursue a master’s degree. Toure is pursuing a Master of Science in Business Management as a supplemental foundation to her career plan to become a Certified Public Accountant.

Maisa Moumen and her husband immigrated to the United States from Syria in 2008. Not long after arriving here, Moumen’s husband was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Moumen attended two weeks of nursing training at New York University Hospital to learn medical and patient care skills to be able to care for her husband, who passed away after battling the condition for three years. Motivated to pursue higher education in order to build her skills to support her two young children, Moumen enrolled at CSI and is working toward a Bachelor of Science in Accounting.

“The stories of our students are truly inspiring; they demonstrate such great resilience in the face of difficult challenges to pursue their education and achieve success through their career paths. They feel an enormous sense of gratitude, accomplishment, and recognition from the opportunities provided by our generous donors,” noted Michele Callahan, Fellow and Scholarship Advisor.


NY1 Holds Live Town Hall at CSI: Forum Addresses Build it Back Program

NY1 reporting live from CSI.

The College of Staten Island (CSI) was the location of a NY1 sponsored Live Town Hall broadcast, entitled “Build it Broke.” The segment examines the city’s Superstorm Sandy reconstruction program, Build it Back, which has been plagued by building delays, soaring costs and communication issues since its inception in 2014.

Approximately 100 community members gathered with elected officials in the Lab Theatre, Center for the Arts to voice their concerns about the Build it Back program. The evening included a screening of  NY1’s Amanda Farinacci’s 30-minute special on the subject, followed by remarks by CSI President William J. Fritz, PhD.

“I am pleased that at CSI we have been actively researching the impact of hurricanes and storm surges with the goal of protecting lives and property (houses and cars) with a special focus on protecting vulnerable populations… Since Hurricane Sandy, the College has been a place where we can have serious conversations about difficult topics like these. Tonight’s conversation is a serious one, and we need to hear from multiple perspectives,” Dr. Fritz said, noting that right after Hurricane Sandy, he offered a five-point plan to protect the city. This plan includes protecting wetlands, dunes, marshes, and bio-reefs; rebuilding and restoring dune fields, marshes, and oyster reefs; rezoning high-risk areas; finding appropriate uses of engineering such as seawalls, and other structures; and education.

Watch NY1’s coverage of the College’s YouTube page.





Largest-ever Undergraduate Research Conference Spotlights Student/Faculty Collaboration

The Conference took place in the Center for the Arts.

The fruits of the excellent academic connections between College of Staten Island (CSI) students and their faculty mentors were on display, last May, at the Annual Undergraduate Conference on Research, Scholarship, and Performance, which took place in the Center for the Arts.

This year’s Conference was the largest ever with 335 research poster presenters (200 actual posters), 12 oral presentations, and nine panel participants, as well as performances from 80 Music and Dance students, and works by 30 students of the Visual Arts.

CSI Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Gary Reichard, PhD, commented on the significance of the event. “The annual Undergraduate Conference on Research, Scholarship, and Performance provides important opportunities for CSI students to showcase their research and performance skills for fellow students, CSI faculty, and members of the campus and Staten Island communities. In its 16th year in 2017, it has become a jewel for CSI. The annual Conference underscores the exceptional one-on-one mentoring relationships between CSI’s world-class faculty and students.”

Poster presentations line the hallways for the Undergraduate Research Conference.

Beyond the research posters, panel discussions, and paper presentations, other highlights included a recital from the CSI Chamber Music Ensemble, a program featuring the CSI Dance Program, and the Undergraduate Research Conference Art Exhibition.

The Conference is sponsored by the Division of Academic Affairs with funding from CSI Student Government, the Office of Alumni relations, and the CSI Foundation.

68th Commencement Celebrates the Class of 2017

The 68th CSI Commencement took place on the Great Lawn.

Gray skies and cool temperatures could not quell the enthusiasm among the graduating Class of 2017, and their mentors, families, and friends as they all gathered on the Great Lawn of the College of Staten Island for the institution’s 68th Commencement. This year marked the largest graduating class in the school’s 60-year history with 2,994 January and June grads, and 297 August 2017 candidates.

After introductory remarks from CSI Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Gary Reichard, PhD, CSI President William J. Fritz, PhD, spoke about the College’s legacy of mission. Using comments from the first Commencement at Staten Island Community College in 1958 from then SICC President Walter Willig; Staten Island Borough President Albert V. Maniscalco; and College founder Arleigh B. Williamson, Dr. Fritz underscored the continuity of mission that has been an integral part of CSI from the beginning, “the opportunity to raise oneself through academic excellence; the opportunity to lift community; and the opportunity to advance society; in sum, the opportunity to ascend. From an initial student body of 111 to 14,000 today—our mission remains the same.”

Following remarks from CUNY Trustees Rita DiMartino and Jill O’Donnell-Tormey, as well as CUNY Vice Chancellor and University CIO Brian Cohen, Associate Professor of Philosophy Barbara Montero, PhD, offered words of encouragement to the graduates on behalf of the faculty. Dr. Montero used her comments to discuss the importance of neural plasticity, the brain’s natural ability to form new neural connections, thus strengthening and regenerating, as a way of encouraging the grads to continue in their intellectual pursuits to improve their brains throughout their lives. “Increasing your brain power doesn’t have to stop at graduation. It’s more than simply living up to your potential; you can, in a very good sense of the word, increase your potential. But it takes work,” she said.

This year’s valedictorian, Palwasha Syar, a Macaulay Honors College student, who received a Bachelor of Science degree in Biochemistry, spoke on behalf of the Class of 2017. After discussing the move from her native Pakistan to the U.S. when she was 12 and the often difficult transition that she had to make to life in the U.S., Syar offered stories of others who overcame adversity and challenges to get a CSI degree. She stated, “Our campus is full of diverse and tough students who went through many obstacles to sit here today and graduate. These challenges, on top of the stress from taking finals and pulling all-nighters to complete that 15-page paper, show that you are strong and that you are committed. It means that all of you today have perseverance and the tenacity to follow through with your goals.” Syar also offered some advice to her fellow grads to not be afraid of obstacles and failures, and to celebrate the people around them.

Also during the ceremony, the College bestowed four honorary degrees: Deirdre DeAngelis, Principal of New Dorp High School, as well as publishers and College benefactors Peter and Robin Jovanovich, received the degree of Doctoral of Humane Letters; Margaret Ricciardi, ’86, who is still attending art classes at CSI at age 103, received a Doctor of Arts degree; and a Doctor of Science degree went to Dr. Andy Shih, the Senior Vice President for Public Health and Inclusion at Autism Speaks.

Departmental Commencement exercises followed the main ceremony at various locations across campus.