From Staten Island to Iowa: CSI grad awarded Truman Capote Fellowship

CSI graduate Julianne Neely is the recipient of the prestigious Truman Capote Fellowship to study creative writing at the University of Iowa. (Neely family photograph)

STATEN ISLAND ADVANCE – More than 1,000 miles separate Staten Island from Iowa City, home of the celebrated University of Iowa’s Writer’s Workshop,the holy grail of aspiring poets and novelists.

That’s where College of Staten Island graduate Julianne Neely is bound in just a few weeks.

Neely, 23, was awarded a prestigious Truman Capote Fellowship to study literature and write poetry and fiction at UI, leading to a master’s degree in fine arts.

“That’s been a dream of mine since high school,” said Neely, an alumna of St. John Villa Academy, Arrochar. “I have always loved reading, and writing as a way to express myself. I feel it’s something I can do well.”

Neely, a Richmond resident, credits her teachers at Villa — where she was in the scholars’ program and completed Advance Placement courses in literature — for instilling her love of literature and creative writing. She credits her professors at CSI — English Professor Cate Marvin in particular — for nurturing and encouraging her talent.

But her road to Iowa was not to be a straight path.

She enrolled for a year at the University of Delaware before she transferred to CSI, where she majored in cinema studies with a minor in English. After earning her bachelor’s degree from CSI in 2014, Neely landed a job with the Children’s Television Workshop, best known as the creators of “Sesame Street” — where she worked until last month.

Neely, however, kept in touch with her professors at CSI, who encouraged her to apply to graduate programs in creative writing. She applied to several colleges and universities, but was wait-listed, she explained.

“But I hadn’t applied to Iowa, and decided I would give it a shot,” she recalled.

She said that Cate Marvin, her adviser at CSI, told her about the Truman Capote Fellowship, “and encouraged me to apply.”

She had to win over her parents — dad Michael Neely is director of the Staten Island CYO —  who were skeptical at first.

“They were somewhat concerned I might just become another struggling writer, but ultimately they wanted me to do what I enjoy,” Neely explained. “Now they’re very proud and supportive of me.”

Neely said she hopes to one day see her work published as a novel, or collection of short stories or poems.For now, however, she plans “to keep reading and keep writing” while she’s at UI.

Among her favorite literary influences are  T.S. Eliot, Sylvia Plath, Joyce Carol Oates, Franz Kafka, and, of course, Truman Capote.

“When people tell you about working hard, if you’re a writer, the only way to get better is to keep at it. That’s what I want to do.”


This story by Diane C. Lore was published by on July 2, 2016 and is reprinted here with permission.



CSI Alumna Attending Cornell University

Jasmine Calle feeding green algae to a polychaete known as Hydroides elegans.

“Keep yourself busy, but remember to enjoy the ride.”

This is the advice from College of Staten Island alumna Jasmine Calle ’16 who redefines the term “busy.” The Macaulay Honors College (MHC) graduate, who spent her college years feverishly conducting research, participating in student activities, and volunteering in the community, has been accepted to Cornell University. Calle will begin at the University this fall to pursue a degree in veterinary medicine.

“Conducting research has been an adventure. As soon as I started working in the lab, I knew that research was something I wanted to incorporate into my career” proclaimed the St. John Villa Academy high school graduate, who is happy to be able to combine her love of research and her passion for animals into a career path. Calle will also partake in biomedical research for the Cornell-based Veterinary Investigator Program this summer.

At CSI, the 21-year-old Clifton resident majored in Biochemistry and Chemistry with a minor in Mathematics. With multiple scholarships under her belt, Calle noted how CSI lived up to its world-class reputation.

“Whenever I hear others extolling the benefits of the College, the term that most frequently comes up is ‘world-class’ faculty. That phrase is easy enough to overlook, but I began to fully realize the weight it held as I attended school here. Truly, the faculty is amazing, both as teachers and innovators in their own field,” said Calle, thanking, in particular, MHC staff Lisa French and Anita Romano.

A Dean’s List student, Calle was a member of the Emerging Leaders Program and the Collegiate Science and Technology Entry Program, the Class of 2016 CSI representative for the Macaulay Scholars Council, a Macaulay Scholars Council (MSC) member, and the Vice President of Academic Affairs on MSC’s first-ever Executive Board. She was a Resource Assisted Initiatives in Science Empowerment for Women Scholar and a The Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority participant.

In Fall 2013, she participated in the lab of Professor Shaibal Mitra, where she studied the changing spring arrival dates of certain migrant land birds in New York State. Calle also assisted in the Arenas-Mena Lab studying gene regulatory networks in sea urchins and polychaetes for the better part of her undergraduate career.

Calle educating youth on the Pine Snake

In addition, she participated in a ten-week NSF-funded Research Experience for Undergraduates at the New York State Department of Health where she assisted in basic and public health research in the labs of Dr. Samuel S. Bowser, Dr. Ellen Braun-Howland, and Melissa Prusinski.

“Truly, this was one of the most fun, eye-opening research experiences I had because I was given a taste of the impact research could have on those around me,” exclaimed Calle, who also attended the National Conference on Undergraduate Research and the Emerging Researchers National Conference.

Calle was a member of the Phi Beta Delta Honor Society for International Scholars, Collegiate Science and Technology Entry Program, The Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation, a Revson Scholar, a Young Latinas Leadership Institute Scholar, recipient of the Valedictorian/Salutatorian Scholarship (awarded to students who were Valedictorian/Salutatorian in a Staten Island high school), and a Dean’s List student.

Adding to her wild adventures as a young conservationist, Calle traveled to the Galapagos Islands to take a class on Evolution, Ecology, and Conservation in Ecuador and the Galapagos. Her volunteer efforts include working at the Staten Island Zoo, St. Francis Animal Hospital, and St. Joseph’s RC Church.

She leaves her under-classmates with these inspiring words: “You are the most important part of your academic career. Push yourself forward without knocking yourself down.”