Gilman Scholarship Recipient Sosima Navarrete Shares Her Story about Her Study Abroad Experience in Brussels

Sosima Navarrete in Amsterdam

CSI senior Psychology major and Gilman Scholarship recipient Sosima Navarrete had the opportunity to study abroad in Belgium, this summer and she shared her experience with CSI Today:

“My time in Brussels, Belgium was by far the best experience of my life! Having some financial difficulties, I thought it would be impossible to go, but with help from the Gilman Scholarship, I made up my mind and decided to go abroad. When I first arrived in Brussels, I was scared, it was my first time in Europe plus I didn’t know the language. Although once I met my roommate and other study aboard students, I was more confident. The best part for me was getting to know the cultural difference between ours and theirs, they’re more open-minded and show more affection, even to strangers, something that isn’t seen regularly here. Since Belgium is in the middle of Europe, I got to travel with a friend to Paris, Berlin, and Amsterdam, as well to other towns in Belgium. It was amazing! I got to experience how life is in each country I stayed. Even though the traveling was outstanding, for me the most mesmerizing time was during my internship with Serve the City. This internship allowed me to work with refugees, the homeless, children,  abused women, and the elderly. Being able to make a child smile, be a listener for the women who wanted to talk, and to serve food and bring comfort to the elderly and homeless who have no one, was the best experience of my trip. If given the opportunity, I would definitely go study aboard again!”

According to its Website the “U.S. Department of State’s Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship is a grant program that enables students of limited financial means to study or intern abroad, thereby gaining skills critical to our national security and economic competitiveness. The Gilman Scholarship Program is open to U.S. citizen undergraduate students who are receiving Federal Pell Grant funding at a two-year or four-year college or university to participate in study and intern abroad programs worldwide.”

Brussels, Belgium
Palace of Versailles, Paris, France
Paris, France

Sustaining Success: CSI Students Compete in CUNY-Wide Contest

Genevieve Buccigrossi, Nora Santiago (team leader), and Tim Sweeney have received funding for their proposal on waste and recycling (Amanda Schettini, not shown, is also a team member).

The CUNY Sustainable College of Staten Island Student Competition Team knows what it takes to spread awareness in a digital-friendly age. Led by CSI Urban Policy Analyst/GIS Specialist Nora Santiago, the team, consisting of three student interns, Genevieve Buccigrossi, Tim Sweeney, and Amanda Schettini, was granted funding on behalf of Vice Chancellor Christopher Rosa and University Director Tria Case for their proposal on waste and recycling at CSI with the integration of social media. The sustainability competition seeks to encourage individuals and teams of students to advance the sustainability work of The City University of New York, in partnership with faculty mentors.

Applicants are sought from any academic disciplines with skills or interests in Geographic Information Systems, communications, public relations, marketing, community organizing, or related subject areas to propose enhancements to CUNY’s efforts to make both NY and CUNY more sustainable. The competition is open to students pursuing associate’s, bachelor’s, and master’s degrees. Selected proposals receive support during the Spring 2017 semester, $2,500 each for students and $1,000 reimbursable research funding for faculty members, while the idea is “incubated” and an implementation plan is developed. Based on demonstrable progress and potential for success, two projects will be deployed in Fall 2017, with ongoing active support from Student Affairs and Sustainable CUNY. Faculty mentors are to be selected by students (or vice versa) and both will be supported during the project’s incubation as well as during the deployment period.

This year’s team submitted nine proposals surrounding the competition’s 2016-2017 Sustainability focus areas. The proposals and projects are expected to enhance CUNY’s sustainability efforts in one of the focus areas including Geographic Information Systems, communications and social media, and waste and recycling—each of which held its own agenda. The team’s final approved proposal, came under the great leadership of Nora Santiago as Amanda Schettini states, “Nora was essential to our success. She was such a great advisor throughout the whole process. We work for her throughout the year and she is the one that told us about the CUNY Sustainability Competition. Without her, we probably never would have even entered. She encouraged us the whole way and helped us with any questions we may have had throughout the process. She helped us brainstorm ideas for the proposals as well as proofread our final work.”

Santiago also holds mutual appreciation for her team as she notes, “As an adjunct faculty it was a great pleasure working with the students and seeing their enthusiasm about the topic. They are looking forward to starting a Sustainability Club on campus and getting other students involved in future sustainability projects.”

While the team’s final proposal was approved, their work is far from over. They plan to continue with the project by implementing two composting competitions on campus, creating a CSI Sustainability committee/club, as well as a Website, and Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter pages for CSI Sustainability to further educate students on the importance of sustainability.

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.


Sharmin Pathan ’19 Engineering a Bright Future

Sharmin Pathan working on the Satellite Design Project.


Watch out! Sharmin Pathan ’19 is taking on the world of science full throttle. Studies show that about 20 percent of engineering graduates are women, in which only 11 percent are practicing (Huffington Post). Hoping to make up the latter, Pathan, the 2017 National Grid scholarship recipient is taking an active role on campus to ensure that these figures become a thing of the past.


The 20-year-old Yonkers resident is currently the chapter president of the Society of Women in Engineering (SWE), and is in the process of starting her own SWE club. While some may find themselves overwhelmed with the responsibilities of leadership and time management, Pathan has extended herself beyond one activity to encourage other females to pursue their interests in fields that might otherwise shut them out. Pathan is currently a participant in SWE’s Satellite Design Project in which she lends her talents to 3D rendering of various satellite system components and research on the pico-satellite’s structures and mechanisms.


The Yonkers High School graduate is currently an intern for CSI’s Science and Technology Entry Program (STEP). STEP is a Saturday program that helps students from grades 7 through 12, who demonstrate an interest in fields of science, health, engineering, education (math and science), technology, and other licensed professions. As a participant, Pathan has assisted seventh and ninth graders in the Engineering field which she feels helps “encourage” and “inspire” them. She credits this opportunity and experience to STEP/Collegiate Science & Technology Entry Program (CSTEP), project director Debra Evans. Pathan feels as if the program has given her “the confidence to be more involved with students and encourage them to join STEM field majors.”

Pathan graduated from Yonkers High School.


Similarly, the Engineering Science major has been an asset to the program and community, as director Evans notes, “Bringing Sharmin Pathan into the lives of our youth was the best investment for the STEP program.  Sharmin has taken our seventh through ninth grade students on a Satellite journey, and our students are eager to attend the STEP program each Saturday morning. Thank you Sharmin for bringing academic excitement into the lives of our youth.”

Newly appointed CSTEP program coordinator Karl Francis has taken note of Pathan’s hard work and growth as a member of the College. Based on their previous experience, he recalls, “I’ve known Ms. Pathan in a number of different capacities, over the last couple of years as a member of the College of Staten Island SWE chapter, mechanical engineering research student on the Satellite design project, and within the last few months as a CSTEP Scholar; through all these experiences, Ms. Pathan consistently demonstrates, a commitment towards her academic, research, and career goals and a level of professionalism that not only gives rise to impressive results, but inspires others to do the same. This consequently, makes her a natural leader and excellent fit as the new CSI Chapter SWE President!”

Though she is incredibly active here on campus, the sophomore isn’t limiting her efforts to the CSI community. Born in Gujrat India, Pathan is still looking forward to studying abroad, preferably in Germany. While she continues to pursue her Bachelors, and subsequent Masters, Sharmin still finds time to reflect on her experience at CSI thus far which has sparked her own hopes to carry out philanthropic efforts. She states, “CSI has offered me so many outstanding opportunities to gain critical experience in my field. As I continue to get that support, one day, I hope to be in the position to give something back as well.”

In intensive fields where women often appear as hidden figures, Pathan and future counterparts to come, act as flashlights to a new path.

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.




Palwasha Syar ’17: CSI Valedictorian Never Loses

Palwasha Syar poses at Commencement.

During her speech at the College of Staten Island’s (CSI) 68th Commencement, Palwasaha Syar ’17, CSI’s valedictorian of the graduating Class of 2017, quoted Nelson Mandela: “I never lose. I either win, or I learn.” Her meaningful words were in reference to the life lessons she learned during her time as a student at CSI.

Syar graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry with plans to attend medical school.

“CSI was the place where I was accepted for who I was. … leaving it is like leaving my home… CSI has also shaped me into the strong woman that I am today,” she said, while also conveying her sentiments of challenge and triumph at CSI.

Syar shared the spotlight with several of her fellow graduates, relaying stories about their varying struggles to arrive at graduation. One student, Erin Richards, a single mother of four, while attending classes also had to manage the care of her children. Another, Andrea Dalzell, was diagnosed with Transverse Myelitis and is currently graduating from the Nursing program.

Syar further asked those in attendance to “celebrate the people around you… Learning about people’s lives and the struggles they go through will give you new perspective on your problems… Learning about others allows us to connect with them. Listening to others’ stories gives us courage and remind us that we are not alone in our struggles.”

Syar has an impressive track record of being active outside of the classroom. Along with a long list of internships, she volunteered with the CSI Emerging Leaders and also joined the CUNY Service Corps, volunteering at the Staten Island Youth Court.

Palwasha Syar delivering her Commencement speech.

“I think it is very important to get experiences outside of the classroom… since I have been blessed with so much, it is very important for me to give back. I would like to continue my service in the future, and take my medical degree to work in impoverished areas,” noted Syar, who emigrated from Pakistan to the U.S. when she was 12 years old.

Facing both social and financial challenges when she arrived, and moving several times within New York State, she found it hard to make friends. Coupling this with her challenge to master the English language, the young Syar felt “lonely and isolated.”

During her initial visits to New York City, she was in awe of her new surroundings. She noted, “the skyscrapers in the city were so high that my hat used to fall of my head when I used to look up at them.”

After her plans to attend medical school, Syar plans to continue to give back to the community. She intends to open her own medical practice in the U.S. and also volunteer in poor and underserved areas in Pakistan.

“I would like to take the skills and values I have learned here and apply them to my service in developing countries,” she commented.

Syar concluded her speech by thanking her parents, sisters, and aunt, who came from Pakistan to attend the Commencement. She also thanked the faculty and staff who supported her and her friends who made her experience at CSI so memorable.

Syar proudly exclaimed, “It has been an absolute honor standing here in front of you all giving this speech. I would like to thank you all and Congratulations, Class of 2017!”

Melissa Riggio Graduation Ceremony Celebrates Student Achievement

Ryan Mienert, Lisa Marie Loesch, and Christopher Siani at the Melissa Riggio Graduation Ceremony

Melissa Riggio once penned that, “Love is everything, Love is all around, Love is not hopeless, Love is a passion, Love is an ocean.” Riggio’s poem, “Love is a potion,” was aptly quoted by College of Staten Island (CSI) President William J. Fritz at the AHRC New York City and CSI Continuing Education Melissa Riggio Higher Education Program Graduation Ceremony on the CSI campus.

Certainly Riggio’s sentiments seemed to have carried on as three beaming students received certificates of completion at what became a standing-room-only event at CSI’s Lorraine and Gordon Di Paolo Boardroom.

Lisa Marie Loesch, Ryan Mienert, and Christopher Siani celebrated their accomplishments with family, friends, and CSI officials as part of the graduating class of 2017, the first group of students to complete the new four-year course of study, which includes a number of additional learning activities and more closely reflects the baccalaureate experience.

“We are here tonight to celebrate you Lisa, Ryan, and Chris. You worked hard,” said Executive Director of Continuing Education and Professional Development Chris Cruz Cullari, who detailed the unique qualities of each student.

“Lisa Marie has amazing presentation and communication skills. She truly owns the room, said Cruz Cullari, adding that he is confident that Loesch will find her niche in a leadership role.

“Ryan has a tremendous work ethic. Over the years, he has helped my office at a number of events here at the College and out in the community… and finally, Chris’ enthusiasm about what he is learning and about his career goals is a very relevant model for what engaged and forward looking college students should be in 2017,” noted Cruz Cullari.

“We have been talking a lot at the College about our legacy… We are also mindful that that our history includes our important role as the place where the rights, needs, and lives of people with disabilities were brought to the forefront of local, regional, and national discussion. This year, I am focusing on our legacy of mission and our 61-year history of providing access to the highest-quality education,” Dr. Fritz said.

Chris Cruz Cullari, Ife Okoh, Program graduates, Kenichi Iwama, and Dr. Fritz gather at the Ceremony.

The CSI President also noted that, “Many people view our place, our Willowbrook campus, as the beginning of the movement for the civil rights of people with developmental disabilities,” and outlined some of the “wonderful collaborations between the College and the Melissa Riggio Higher Education Program,” including a recent lecture presented by The Geraldo Rivera Fund for Social Work and Disability Studies, as well as The Willowbrook Memorial Lecture: “The Willowbrook Mile Experience.”

Vice President for Economic Development, Continuing Studies, and Government Relations Kenichi Iwama recalled the first Program’s graduation in 2013, a smaller event, which has grown over the four years since its inception. Iwama noted that this was the first graduation ceremony to take place in the Lorraine and Gordon Di Paolo Boardroom since its renaming this year, an occasion that “signifies the level of importance and value this Program brings to CSI.”

“The College celebrates its 60-year mission of changing lives, and the Melissa Riggio Program has certainly helped in that mission. The success of this Program and the students we celebrate this evening are incredibly meaningful and inspirational, and I am proud to be a small part of the Program’s success,” said Iwama, who thanked all faculty, staff, students, and family members for their efforts.

The Riggio Program also features a senior project wherein students are engaged in research about a local social challenge, work to positively affect the challenge through community service, and ultimately share their research and experience with the campus and the community, according to Cruz Cullari.

Program Director Ife Okoh acted as master of ceremonies and called the evening, “a monumental milestone in the lives of these graduates.”

Cruz Cullari also pointed out that the students in the Riggio Program are “not the only ones who are learning and growing.  The College is learning and growing,” as he detailed some of the ways in which the Melissa Riggio students, the Program, and Program staff are giving back to the campus. These include teaching all CSI students, as well as its faculty and staff, what a diverse and fully inclusive environment can look like, providing valuable jobs and internships to CSI students as mentors, and contributing to disability and Universal Design initiatives and other projects on campus.

“We are not only celebrating the graduates this evening. We are thanking the graduates and the Program more broadly for all that both have done,” Cruz Cullari pointed out.

The Melissa Riggio Higher Education Program at CSI is a fully inclusive college-based program designed to prepare people with intellectual disabilities for adult life through higher-education coursework, career exploration and preparation, self-awareness and personal improvement, community preparation, and socialization. Newly designed as a four-year certificate program, it provides individualized academic, vocational, community, and social experiences for young adults in a highly supportive, yet challenging, environment.