García-Colón Publishes “Colonial Migrants at the Heart of Empire: Puerto Rican Workers on U.S. Farms”

CSI Associate Professor of Anthropology Ismael García-Colón has recently published Colonial Migrants at the Heart of Empire: Puerto Rican Workers on U.S. Farms (University of California Press, February 2020).

A labor history and an ethnography, Colonial Migrants evokes the violence, fieldwork, food, lodging, surveillance, and coercion that these workers experienced on farms and conveys their hopes and struggles to overcome poverty. Island farmworkers encountered a unique form of prejudice and racism arising from their dual status as both U.S. citizens and as “foreign others,” and their experiences were further shaped by evolving immigration policies. Despite these challenges, many Puerto Rican farmworkers ultimately chose to settle in rural U.S. communities, contributing to the production of food and the Latinization of the U.S. farm labor force.

“Colonial Migrants at the Heart of Empire brilliantly examines the experience of Puerto Rican migrant farmworkers in the United States within an immigration regimen that categorizes them as racially inferior citizens and inefficient, expensive workers. Relying on a thick historical ethnography, it bridges the study of labor, colonialism, immigration, and race. This is scholarship at its best!”—Eduardo Bonilla-Silva, author of Racism without Racists: Color-Blind Racism and the Persistence of Racial Inequality in America.

By Editor

MSW Student Chandra Keller ’17: Big Plans for Positive Change

Chandra Keller '17 (left) and her "bestie" on a cruise in 2016.

Chandra Keller ’17 has ambitious plans and a very workable strategy: The College of Staten Island (CSI) student wants to change the world, one life at a time. Keller will graduate this spring with a Master’s of Social Work as an advanced-standing student. 

“This degree that specializes in Disability Studies is the only one of its kind in the country, and I know that it will open so many doors for those of us who are fortunate enough to possess it. It will allow us to change the face of social work as we know it,” said Keller, who plans to explore the possibility of a PhD program as well as opening a clinic for people with disabilities that will be located near underserved communities.

“I desire to empower people to know that they can do and be better. I want to be that person that they can come to with their problems and together we can find solutions,” commented the Bronx native, who is a vice president with Local 420 for DC 37, a Local 420 Delegate, and a Behavioral Health Aide at Bellevue Hospital. She is also interning at New York Foundling, a foster care agency, while she finishes her degree. 

An active member in her church, The Love Fellowship Tabernacle, The Kingdom Church, located in Brooklyn under the leadership of Senior Pastor Bishop Hezekiah Walker, Keller sings in two choirs and is a member of the Steward committee, visiting sick and bereaved individuals in the community. Keller is also a member of the Women of Excellence and a street ministry team, The Crusaders for Christ. 

Keller (middle) at a picnic in 2016.

As vice president, Keller assists the 1,400 members of the union to resolve issues, and as a DC 37 Delegate for Local 420, she travels the country advocating for hospital workers. She received a Bachelor’s degree in Social Work from Lehman College in 2013.   

The dedicated student attributes much of her academic success to the faculty and staff at CSI. 

“I believe that we learn something from everyone who comes into our lives, and there are many people at CSI who have helped and encouraged me along the way. Some of them never knew it,” commented Keller, who, in particular, was greatly motivated by Vandana Chaudhry, PhD, who showed her “the true meaning of perseverance.” 

“Chandra is a determined and hard working person that never gives up. I am happy and proud for her accomplishments, and wish her all the best in her endeavors. She will make a fine contribution to disability and social justice causes,” said Dr. Chaudhry.

She is also grateful for the tutelage of Professor Constance Stafford for “having patience with our class and really making us think and put to use the things that you were being taught” and to her peer Ilyssa Silfen for “returning every phone call, always being there for me, and for going out of her way to always find any information that I requested.” 

“Chandra Keller encapsulates the essence of social work professionalism.  Ms. Keller’s professional identity ensued from her commitment to social justice and her educational undertaking to facilitate changes in the lives of children, families, birthmothers and foster parents through her internship at the Bronx Foundling agency.  After 12 years of employment as a Behavioral Health Aid at Bellevue Hospital forensic psychiatric unit, and now equipped with the core set of values underpinning social work, I welcome with confidence  Ms. Keller to the profession of social work,”  said Professor Stafford, Manager of Professional Student Services and Assistant Director of Field Education in the Department of Social Work.

Keller’s advice to college students is to, “stay focused, never give up, keep a positive attitude, ignore the distractions that keep us from moving forward, don’t be afraid to ask for help, keep pressing forward, live fearlessly, and shoot for the Moon. Even if you miss, you will land among the stars.”

CSI Offers Nationally Accredited MSW and BSSW Programs

MSW graduates preparing for their hooding ceremony.

The Master’s of Social Work (MSW) program at the College of Staten Island (CSI) has recently been fully accredited by the Council on Social Work Accreditation (CSWE), the national accreditor for undergraduate and graduate social work programs. The College now has two nationally accredited social work programs, a clinical MSW and a generalist BSSW.

“We are pleased that the rigor and excellence of our MSW program has just been recognized by the national accreditor of social work programs. MSW students can be confident that the College of Staten Island program meets all New York State and national expectations, and will prepare them well for an exciting and very meaningful career in a rapidly growing profession,” noted Christine Flynn Saulnier, MSW, PhD, Chair and Professor in the Department of Social Work.

The MSW program was introduced at the College in 2014 and initial accreditation by the CSWE is a three-year process. Nearly 1,000 pages are submitted annually with site visits each fall by CSWE representatives. The process at CSI culminated with the final visit in fall 2016, followed by a meeting of the CSWE Commission on Accreditation in February 2017.

The MSW has a single concentration in Disability Studies, which, according to the CSWE, is unique in the nation.

Students in a policy course discuss their case analyses.

“As we define disability broadly to include physical, developmental, sensory, and psychiatric impairments, as well as disabilities related to aging, chronic health issues, alcohol and drug problems, and military service, the clinical MSW prepares students for direct practice with individuals, families, groups, and communities. Graduates are eligible for the Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW) exam immediately upon graduation and the LCSW upon completion of NY State-required post-MSW practice,” said Dr. Saulnier, adding that the program plans to offer a macro track as well, beginning in fall 2017.

The macro track will prepare students for the LMSW exam immediately upon graduation and will provide graduates with the knowledge and skills to manage agencies, work in community development, and engage in policy making and other indirect practice. MSW graduates of either track are prepared to work with any population, but will have special expertise in a broad range of disabilities.

Students immediately begin to apply the theories and methods that they are studying in their carefully constructed and closely monitored internship placements. MSW students are placed in internships all over New York City and in New Jersey. Approximately one-third of interns are offered employment at one of the two places where they intern over the course of the academic year.

Mini-Conference on Disability Studies Aims to Create Dialogue in the Community

In an effort to continue conversations between disability service providers and the academic community as well as look at the difficulties that individuals with disabilities face, the College of Staten Island is hosting a mini-conference on current research on disabilities. The conference, Highlighting Current Research Being Done in the Field of Disability Studies, is funded by The Geraldo Rivera Fund for Social Work and Disability Studies takes place Monday, May 2, 2016 from 5:30pm to 7:30pm in the Recital Hall in the CSI Center for the Arts (Building 1P).

Presenters will include Dr. Sophie Mitra, Associate Professor, Economics, Fordham University discussing “Are Disabilities Relevant in Low-Income Countries”;  Dr. Vandana Chaudhry, Assistant Professor, Social Work, College of Staten Island, discussing “Pedagogy of Disabilities Studies;” and Dr. Esther Son, Assistant Professor, Social Work, College of Staten Island, discussing “Racial Disparities in Quality of Care among Children with Disabilities.”

Moderator Paul Costello notes that the conference is “a way of inviting everyone to look at current research and how it can impact policy change within the context of disabilities. Researchers will be giving their unique perspective on what they’re working on.”

Costello, who serves as Coordinator of the Geraldo Rivera Fund for Social Work and Disability Studies at the College, said that one of the goals of these efforts is to present policymakers with options to better assist individuals with disabilities. He noted that the purpose of the grant is to provide support for conferences, symposia, lectures, and publications with the intent to influence public policy and services for people with disabilities. That world includes individuals who are deaf or blind, those with developmental disabilities, those on the Autism Spectrum, veterans with combat-related disabilities, people with mobility impairments, and people with traumatic brain injuries, or any other physical or psychiatric disability,” he said.



Patti Gross appointed to Mayor’s Panel on Mental Health

Patti Gross, Director of Field Education for the College of Staten Island’s Master’s in Social Work degree, was chosen as an educator and clinician to represent Staten Island and participate in a round table discussion with 12 other leaders of the mental health community in NYC. The event was constructed to give provide feedback on the successes and problems of the delivery of mental health services in Staten Island, with much discussion regarding the needs of the diverse constituency of Staten Island.

CSI Launches Master’s of Social Work

Social Work majors Carolyn Jackman, Carl Jackman, Marcela Insuasty Toro, Dan Sterling and Brody Clemmer and Jenn, take a breather during Hurricane Sandy relief efforts.

Staten Island is a burgeoning community of nearly half a million people and is part of one of the most important and opportunity-filled cities in the world. Staten Islanders tend to seek the majority of needed services within the borough and rely heavily on local schools, hospitals, and social service settings in the community. The lack of a graduate-level social work program on Staten Island makes it very difficult for those living and working there to access effective social work there.

Staten Island has a large and diverse population of people with disabilities, and in order to prepare students to meet this growing demand, the College of Staten Island (CSI) will launch a new Master’s of Social Work (MSW) degree program for the fall 2014 semester.

The purpose of the MSW program is to educate students for advanced, urban social work practice in the community, region, and worldwide, with an emphasis on meeting the needs of people with disabilities.

Admission into this program is highly competitive, with only 18 full-time students being accepted for the first year of the two-year, 60-credit program. Applicants who have already earned a bachelor’s degree in social work from a program accredited by the Council on Social Work Education can apply as a one-year (30-credit) Advanced Standing student.

Applications are being accepted from December 1, 2013, until February 8, 2014, for the MSW program offered by the Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Social Work. Applicants will need a BA or BS degree with at least one course in statistics (which can be taken in the summer upon acceptance into the program), a minimum grade point average of 3.0, three letters of recommendation, and a personal statement.

The program will concentrate on working with people with disabilities, broadly defined to include developmental, intellectual, physical, sensory, and psychiatric disabilities. The curriculum consists of courses that, among many others, focus on social work values and ethics, diversity, social justice, and at-risk populations, and will include up to four internship courses.

Students who complete the program will be eligible to apply for their New York state license, which allows them to work under a licensed social worker as they prepare for their clinical license. Licensed master social workers (LMSWs) are needed in all environments, and as Dr. Lacey Sloan, Associate Professor of Social Work, insists, “There is a robust market for social workers—every field of practice needs social workers.

“Social work is a profession that strives to create a just and equitable world for the future of humanity. Guided by a code of ethics, social work is committed to ending oppression, embracing diversity, and ensuring that individuals, communities, and organizations function at an optimal level,” commented Dr. Sloan on the importance of social work in the community.

“CSI is located on the former campus of the Willowbrook State School, an institution for people with developmental disabilities that was closed due to inhumane conditions and inadequate management. Given the history of Willowbrook State School, it is part of the mission of the MSW program at the College of Staten Island to develop a rigorous academic program that educates professionals who respond to the needs of former Willowbrook residents and clients, the larger disabilities communities, and others who live on Staten Island and in the region.”

To learn more about the requirements or to apply, contact the Office of Admissions and Recruitment at 718.982. 2019 or at