History graduate student wins a Fulbright to Italy, born of ‘life-altering’ study abroad experiences

Peter Scasny, a College of Staten Island graduate student in history, was awarded a Fulbright grant to Italy in August, one of the most coveted of academic prizes.

A graduate student of History at the College of Staten Island (CSI), Peter Scasny, has received a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant (ETA) award to Italy for the 2018–2019 academic year, a highly competitive and coveted academic prize.

“Peter’s award is terrifically exciting for everyone at the College and we warmly congratulate him,” said College President William J. Fritz. “It not only reflects his talents and hard work but also the College’s commitment to student success. We’re sure his success will inspire many others.”

Since 1946, the Fulbright U.S. Student Program has facilitated the international exchange of young scholars and professionals in order to promote mutual cooperation and understanding. The State Department program provides grants for individually designed study/research projects, as well as English Teaching Assistant positions. During their grant period, Fulbrighters work, live, and share daily experiences with the host country’s people, as well as learn from them.

“When I read the e-mail notifying me that I had won the award, I almost had a heart attack,” Scasny said. “It was such a wonderful surprise. I feel like the Fulbright grant is recognition of my hard work and perseverance.”

“A Fulbright to Italy is incredibly competitive,” said Michele Callahan, who oversees CSI’s Office of Scholarship and Fellowship Opportunities. “It’s very gratifying to see a student win an award, which demonstrates their leadership and commitment to their career fields.”

Scasny plans to volunteer to serve the Italian community of persons with disabilities during his grant period in addition to providing assistance to local English teachers.

Scasny’s Fulbright award is also testament to his extensive work in Italian language and literature.

“Even in his beginning Italian classes, Peter stood out as an exceptional student,” said Gerry Milligan, Associate Professor of Italian and Director of the College’s Honors Programs. “He demonstrated not only persistence but a true intellectual curiosity, and it’s very satisfying to see that be recognized with this award. He deserves it.”

For Scasny, the award will continue a long interest and fascination with Italy born not only of family heritage – his mother’s roots tie him to the country – but also of life-altering study abroad experiences in Florence.

During his freshman year at Curtis High School, an accident left Scasny physically disabled. However, thanks to the New York City Board of Education’s Home Instruction Schools program—which sends professional teachers to the homes or other locations of students with disabilities—he was able to continue his studies.

He then returned to Curtis for his senior year, and graduated on time. But his life was not back to normal.

“After I graduated, I was not sure what I was going to do and I was, frankly, depressed,” he recalled. “But I knew I couldn’t just sit at home.”

He decided to enroll at CSI, yet his initial experience of the College was not positive. He was registered for 12 credits, yet his ability to function was limited, and physical therapy required most of his energy.

“I knew it was too much and I wasn’t ready for a full load,” he said. He was not aware that studying part-time was an option, and so he dropped all of his classes.

But he then learned of the College’s Office of Student Accessibility, and Teddi Beekman—an academic adviser advisor in that office—provided him with the support he needed, and re-enrolled him, part-time, the following semester. This is just one example of the many ways in which the College promotes student achievement.

“The College really is geared towards student success,” said Scasny. He advises students to seek out that support: “Don’t let difficulties or hardships limit you – think big and seek help if you need it.”
Once he was in classes, his academic career took off, and he eventually majored in History.

“I was always interested in history, but I didn’t really develop a passion for it until I got here,” he said. He credited the History Department faculty with awakening this passion. “The faculty of the History Department is fantastic,” he said. “The faculty members know their stuff and they’re interesting. They’re extremely productive academically. They really involve the students.”

During his second semester of Italian classes, Prof. Milligan told Scasny that he should study abroad in Italy.

“I was limited by my own self-image as a disabled person,” Scasny recalled, and “I told him, ‘I can’t do that, I’m handicapped and don’t have the money.’”

Milligan replied that students with more severe disabilities had studied abroad, and that full scholarships were available through CSI. Scasny applied for a scholarship to study in Florence, just to see if he would receive one, and he was indeed awarded one.

“Once I got the scholarship, I was like, ‘OK, I guess I gotta go,’” he recalled.

His experience in Florence was life-changing.

“I loved it. I learned how to live on my own and be independent… I learned how to socialize as an adult… It was so liberating. I think it was the best experience of my life.”

The semester did present difficulties, Scasny noted.

“It was really challenging – physically and mentally,” he said. But he said that his prior experiences had prepared him to meet the challenges.

“No matter what happened, it never seemed that bad compared to what I have gone through in the past,” he explained. Scasny enjoyed this semester so much that he applied and received a scholarship for another semester in Florence the following year.

He returned home, graduated in June 2016, and enrolled in CSI’s MA program in History. He also works as a tutor in the College’s Office for Academic Support, and as a teaching assistant in the Department of History. He has also presented at academic conferences at CSI, NYU, and the NYPL. He plans to pursue a PhD in history and teach at the college level.

The Fulbright Program awards approximately 8,000 grants annually, and currently operates in over more than 160 countries. CUNY students have won 151 Fulbright Awards over the past 10 ten years, including two students of CSI’s Verrazano Honors program in 2017. The next national deadline for Fulbright applications is Oct. 9.

CSI Ranks Second on Fulbright Scholars Top-Producing List for Master’s Institutions

CSI has ranked 2nd on Fulbright Scholars Top-Producing List for Master's Institutions

The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs recently announced the U.S. colleges and universities that produced the most 2016-2017 Fulbright U.S. Scholars. The College of Staten Island (CSI) is a top-producing Fulbright Scholar institution, receiving the second most Fulbright awards in a ranking of Master’s Institutions.

With fifteen Fulbright awards since 2000, CSI received three awards just this past academic year. Ava Chin, PhD, and Ying Zhu, PhD, received 2016-2017 Fulbright Awards, and CSI administrator Monika Wojciechowski was also selected for the 2016 Fulbright International Education Administrator (IEA) Program in Japan.

Dr. Chin is currently lecturing on U.S. journalism, focusing on food and popular culture in China, and Dr. Zhu, who has been awarded a Fulbright Senior Research Fellowship, is conducting research in China, primarily based in the Shanghai Film Academy.

The Fulbright Program is the U.S. government’s flagship international educational exchange program. Top-producing institutions are highlighted annually in The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Since its inception in 1946, the Fulbright Program has provided more than 370,000 participants—chosen for their academic merit and leadership potential — with the opportunity to exchange ideas and contribute to finding solutions to shared international concerns. More than 1,100 U.S. college and university faculty and administrators, professionals, artists, journalists, scientists, lawyers, and independent scholars are awarded Fulbright grants to teach and/or conduct research annually. The Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program operates in more than 125 countries throughout the world. Lists of Fulbright Scholar recipients are available on their Web site.


History of Fulbright Scholars


Ava Chin, PhD

Monika Wojciechowski

Ying Zhu, PhD



Irina Sekerina, PhD



Sarah Berger, PhD

Prosper Bernard



Barbara Clark



Jane Marcus-Delgado, PhD



Susan Smith-Peter, PhD

Cindy Wong, PhD



Alan Zimmerman, DPS



Nan Sussman, PhD



Daniel Fuchs

Peter Simpson, PhD



Stefano Harney




Hakima Bahri Receives Fulbright Scholarship: Visiting Professor to Conduct Research at CSI

Hakima Bahri will conduct research at CSI in summer 2017.

This summer, Hakima Bahri, PhD, will take leave from her research post at L’Ecole Nationale d’Agriculture de Meknès in Morocco to conduct her research at the College of Staten Island (CSI). A well-respected professor and researcher in the field of botany and a recipient of the prestigious Fulbright Scholarship, Dr. Bahri will spend summer 2017 working with Abdeslem El Idrissi, PhD, in his laboratory.

Dr. El Idrissi, Professor of Biology at CSI, met Bahri in Morocco while traveling with his students in the LSAMP/ CSTEP-Morocco summer research initiative.

“Clearly this project is going to add value to both research efforts here at CSI in my lab and will also provide more international visibility for the College. This will strengthen future collaboration with research institutes in Morocco and also add interest to this research program,” noted Dr. El Idrissi.

CSI students visiting L’Ecole Nationale d'Agriculture de Meknès in Morocco.

Dr. Bahri’s objectives are to “conduct a thorough chemical profiling of the two selected species using adapted extraction methods and advanced analytical techniques… perform bioassays to test for the effect of the extracted phyto-chemicals on some of the health ailments… [and] develop a linkage with the laboratory of Neurobiology of the CSI of The City University of New York to build institutional collaboration…,” according to her Fulbright application.

“I am glad that this effort has come to fruition. I thank Khatmeh Osseiran-Hanna, the CSI Foundation, Dr. Claude Brathwaite and Vivian Incera for their continuous support,” commented Dr. El Idrissi.

The LSAMP/ CSTEP-Morocco summer research initiative has been running for three years and allows ten CSI students to conduct ethnobotany and biomedical research in Morocco for eight weeks in the summer.

“I am very pleased with the international links Dr. El Idrissi’s group has developed and the opportunities these collaborations bring for CSI students. We are honored to host Fulbright scholar Dr. Hakima Bahri in our college,” noted Dean of Science and Technology Vivian Incera, Ph.D.






CSI Administrator Selected For Fulbright IEA Program

Monika Wojciechowski with the Waseda University mascot.

College of Staten Island (CSI) administrator Monika Wojciechowski was recently selected for the 2016 Fulbright International Education Administrator (IEA) Program in Japan. IEA seminars help U.S. international education professionals and senior higher education officials create empowering connections with the societal, cultural, and higher education systems of other countries. Grantees have the opportunity to learn about the host country’s education system as well as establish networks of U.S. and international colleagues over the course of an intensive two-week grant duration.

Wojciechowski is the Assistant Director for International Admissionsat CSI. On the trip, which took place in late June, Wojciechowski, along with nine international educators, visited institutions in Tokyo, Hiroshima, and Kyoto: the University of Tokyo, Waseda University, Kyoritsu Women’s University System, Hiroshima Shudo University, Ritsumeiken University, Tokyo Metropolitan Kokubunji Senior High School, and Rikkyo University.

Monika Wojciechowski taking a campus tour of the University of Tokyo.

“The visits gave us a great opportunity to learn about the internationalization and global initiatives, the programs, services, and the reforms. They allowed us to have very informative discussions with administrators, faculty, and staff, to exchange ideas and to open a dialogue for future collaborations. We also had a chance to interact with students and Fulbright alumni and to discover very personal fascinating stories,” commented Wojciechowski who has been at CSI for four years.

“This program gave me an exceptional insight into higher education in Japan, its culture, and its people. It was truly an unforgettable experience and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” she said upon return.

“This is a great professional development opportunity for Monika and contributes to our goal of positioning the College to achieve greater international recognition,” noted Emmanuel Esperance, Jr., Director of Recruitment and Admissions at CSI.





Two CSI Professors Receive Fulbright Awards

In recognition of their distinguished work in higher education and beyond, Dr. Ava Chin and Dr. Ying Zhu have both received 2016-2017 Fulbright Awards.

Dr. Ava Chin featured in a CUNY advertisement

Dr. Chin, Associate Professor in the Department of English at the College of Staten Island (CSI), will travel to China to lecture on American journalism, focusing on food and popular culture. “I plan to base my advanced magazine writing and food journalism courses on those that I have perfected at CSI,” said Chin, adding that the other purpose of the trip will be to work on her next book project, a memoir about her family roots in China. The experienced mentor also looks forward to working with young writers in China.

Chin won the Provost Research Award, which supported her while she was conducting research as well as applying for fellowships like the Fulbright.

“Under a Fulbright to China, I look forward to bringing my many years of experience in commercial print and digital journalism to a Chinese university, where I could be useful in helping with curriculum development, as well as offering a variety of journalism courses that have been successful to American and East Asian students in New York and Los Angeles. I’m also eager to share my insights on how technology has positively and negatively affected commercial media outlets in the U.S., for better or worse,” Chin commented, adding that she will be traveling to China with her husband and her four-year-old daughter.

Dr. Chin, a Queens native, is the author of the award-winning Eating Wildly: Foraging for Life, Love, and the Perfect Meal and the former Urban Forager columnist for The New York Times (2009-2013). She has written for the Los Angeles Times Sunday Magazine, Saveur, Marie Claire, The Village Voice, and SPIN. A New York Institute for Humanities fellow at New York University, she is an Associate Professor of creative nonfiction and journalism. The Huffington Post named her one of “9 Contemporary Authors You Should Be Reading.”

Chin also represents CUNY mentors in several CUNY advertisements appearing in CUNY Matters and on New York City subways.

Dr. Zhu, who has been awarded a Fulbright Senior Research Fellowship, will be conducting research in China, primarily based in the Shanghai Film Academy, which is affiliated with the Shanghai University, a long-term partner of CSI. Dr. Zhu’s award project is a book called China, Soft Power, and The Great Narrator: A History of China’s Engagement with Hollywood. The work, to be published by The New Press, examines two periods during which Hollywood dominated the Chinese market: one during China’s Republican era and one since 1994 when Hollywood reentered the Chinese market after decades of absence. Dr. Zhu will trace Hollywood’s historical engagement with Chinese audiences, the film industry, and state regulatory agencies while simultaneously sketching out the evolution of Chinese cinema from its infancy under the shadow of imports to its current global economic and cultural ambition.

Dr. Ying Zhu and her daughter Frances

“Treating Sino-Hollywood engagement as a case of political, cultural, and economic rivalry and cooptation, the project examines how economic interest intersects with political posturing and cultural propagation,” Dr. Zhu explained. He considers the Shanghai Film Academy, which is headed by the world-renowned Chinese filmmaker Chen Kaige (Farewell My Concubine, 1993) a perfect institution for her to work on this historical book project.

Dr. Zhu, a Cinema Studies Professor in the Department of Media Culture at the College of Staten Island-CUNY, has published eight books, including Two Billion Eyes: The Story of China Central Television and Chinese Cinema during the Era of Reform: The Ingenuity of the System. A leading scholar on Chinese cinema and media studies, her writings have appeared in major academic journals, books, and publications such as The Atlantic, Foreign Policy, the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal. Her works have been translated into Chinese, Dutch, French, Italian, and Spanish.

Zhu is a recipient of a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship (2006) and an American Council of Learned Societies Fellowship (2008). Her 2003 research monograph, Chinese Cinema during the Era of Reform: The Ingenuity of the System, is considered by critics as a groundbreaking book that initiated the study of Chinese cinema within the framework of political economy. Her 2008 research monograph, Television in Post-Reform China: Serial Drama, Confucian Leadership and the Global Television Market, together with two book volumes in which her work featured prominently—TV China (2009) and TV Drama in China (2008)—pioneered the subfield of Chinese TV drama studies.

Dr. Zhu’s daughter, Frances Hisgen, will also travel to China during the Fulbright tenure. Frances will join Maliya Obama to be part of the Harvard Class of 2021 upon return from China.

 The Fulbright Program aims to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries, and it is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government.

“We hope that your Fulbright experience will be highly rewarding professionally and personally, and that you will share the knowledge you gain with many others throughout your life,” commented Laura Skandera Trombley, Chair of the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board.

“As a Fulbright grantee, you will join the ranks of distinguished participants in the Program,” noted Trombley, adding that Fulbright alumni have become heads of state, judges, ambassadors, cabinet ministers, CEOs, and university presidents, as well as leading journalists, artists, scientists, and teachers. They include 54 Nobel Laureates, 82 Pulitzer Prize winners, 29 MacArthur Fellows, 16 Presidential Medal of Freedom recipients, and thousands of leaders across the private, public, and non-profit sectors. Since its beginnings in 1946, more than 360,000 “Fulbrighters” have participated in the program.


Sarah Schulman’s new novel hailed as “Modern Classic” by Kirkus Reviews

Sarah Schulman’s new novel The Cosmopolitans (The Feminist Press at CUNY, March 2016) is a modern retelling of Balzac’s classic Cousin Bette, and has been hailed as a “Jarring and beautiful… a modern classic” by Kirkus Reviews.

A CUNY Distinguished Professor of the Humanities at the College of Staten Island, her honors and awards include a Guggenheim in Playwriting and a Fulbright in Judaic Studies. The Cosmopolitans is her 9th novel and 16th book.

Read more at kirkusreviews.com>

[video] The Division of Humanities and Social Sciences Celebrates Women’s History Month


In celebration of Women’s History Month, the College of Staten Island’s Division of Humanities and Social Sciences is honoring women faculty whose accomplishments in their respective fields have recently earned them prestigious national recognition.



Zara Anishanslin

Dr. Zara Anishanslin earned an Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Fellowship to complete research for her upcoming book Producing Revolution: The Material and Visual Culture of Making and Remembering the American Revolution. The book will analyze images and objects from 1763 to 1791 to consider the lives of ordinary citizens and elites who participated in the Revolutionary War.

Patricia Brooks

Dr. Patricia Brooks was named a Distinguished Fellow, CUNY Advanced Research Collaborative. Her research explores the effective use of digital tools and computer-based instruction in undergraduate courses with the purpose of providing state-of-the art information for a Teaching of Psychology textbook. The textbook is designed to provide up-to-date instructional methods, practical advice, and research findings on the scholarship of teaching and learning to prepare graduate students to teach undergraduate courses for the first time.

Lana Karasik

Dr. Lana Karasik received a National Science Foundation grant for her work studying issues that are core to developmental psychology, including questions about cross-cultural consistency in children’s development and the effects of context on early experiences and emerging skills. The study, titled “Effects of Traditional Cradling Practices on Infant’s Physical, Motor, and Social Development,” capitalizes on a rare chance to study effects of restricted movement on infant development by examining the use of a “gahvora” cradle in Tajikistan where the restriction of infant movement is common.

Barbara Montero

Dr. Barbara Montero received a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship for her book that focuses on disproving the notion that when you are really good at something, your actions should happen automatically. Her work aims to show why the idea that thinking interferes with doing is a myth.

Irina Sekerina

Dr. Irina Sekerina received a Fulbright Fellowship as well as a National Science Foundation grant to conduct the Workshop on Bilingualism and Executive Function: Interdisciplinary Approach, which will take place on May 18 and 19, 2015, at The Graduate Center, CUNY. The two-day workshop will include researchers who will bring their interdisciplinary perspective to the question of how bilingualism is related to executive function.

Patricia Smith

Patricia Smith received a Guggenheim Fellowship, as well as the 2014 Library of Congress Rebekah Bobbitt Prize for her book, Shoulda Been Jimi Savannah, which explores the second wave of the Great Migration, detailing her parents’ move from the South to Chicago and being raised as an “up North” child swayed by Motown. Patricia Smith’s work has been featured in editions of Best American Poetry and Best American Essays.

Esther Son

Dr. Esther Son‘s research earned her a grant from the Maternal and Child Health Bureau, Health Resources and Services Administration, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Titled, “Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Children’s Early Diagnostic and Health Services,” the study investigates racial and ethnic disparities in pathways to diagnosis and early service utilization within the vulnerable population of children with autism and other developmental disabilities.

Christina Tortora

Dr. Christina Tortora received a National Science Foundation grant for her work on the “Audio-Aligned and Parsed Corpus of Appalachian English.” The product of this project will be a one-million-word corpus of Appalachian English. The corpus will be large, publicly available, and searchable online with standard, user-friendly software and will serve as a tool that will contribute to increased empirical rigor in linguistic research.

Appointment of Interim Dean of Humanities and Social Sciences

Dr. Nan M. Sussman is CSI's new Interim Dean of Humanities and Social Sciences.

I am delighted to report to the College community that I have recommended the appointment of Dr. Nan M. Sussman as the Interim Dean for Humanities and Social Sciences at the College of Staten Island, on August 6, 2012.

Dr. Sussman has many years of experience as a social scientist specializing in the psychology of intercultural relations. She was a Senior Fulbright Research Fellow in Hong Kong and in Japan and has written extensively on cross-cultural identities and on re-migration. Her book, entitled Return Migration and Identity: A Global Phenomenon, A Hong Kong Case, published by Hong Kong University Press, has resulted in many speaking and review invitations, and has been widely acclaimed. Dr. Sussman currently sits on the Hong Kong Research Grants Council; the editorial board of the Intercultural Research Series, Shanghai International Studies University, Shanghai Foreign Language Education Press; and is a consulting editor for the International Journal of Intercultural Relations. She was recently chosen as a Fellow of the American Psychological Association.

Dr. Sussman has spent nearly her entire academic career at our College, joining us as the Director of the Center for International Service in the early 1980s, when she was also an Assistant Professor in the PSA Department. She has risen through our ranks to be a Full Professor of Psychology and has been a member of the Doctoral Faculty of CUNY since 2004. She is an outstanding administrator, serving CSI as Dean for College Advancement, Executive Director of the CSI Foundation, Special Assistant to the President for Development, Vice President of the CSI Auxiliary Services Corporation, and Associate Dean of the Faculty. She is an articulate and powerful advocate for the faculty and our institution and was the Chair of the Psychology Department from 2007 to 2010.

Dr. Sussman received her PhD  and MA degree in Psychology from the University of Kansas, and a BA in Communications, Anthropology, and Sociology from the University of Pittsburgh. She has additional training at Harvard University and Dartmouth College. During the review process for the Interim Dean position, consultation took place with every Chair of the Humanities and Social Sciences Division and this appointment was strongly supported.

On behalf of myself, the faculty, administration, and staff, I would like to express our sincere appreciation to Dean Christine Flynn Saulnier who will be assuming the position of Special Assistant to the Provost.  She has worked hard to support many College initiatives. Thank you Christine.