CSI Student Abigail Brown ’20 Wins Motorola Competition

Abigail Brown was on the winning team at the Motorola competition.

College of Staten Island (CSI) student Abigail Brown ’20 may have been “intimidated” when she first arrived at the Motorola headquarters in Chicago. However, that sentiment changed when it was announced that Brown’s team was one of only two grand prize winners in the Motorola Moto Z – Moto Mods Pitch competition.

Her team, MACAY Labs©,  one of 13 teams competing, founded MACAY Labs​© TrueSound HiFi©. They will receive up to $1 million in investment funding from Lenovo Capital and were offered enrollment in the first class of Motorola’s new Moto Mods Accelerator Program. MACAY Labs​© is comprised of five founders: three Staten Island Technical High School (SITHS) students; Brown, a SITHS alumna; and one Stevens Institute of Technology student.

“When we found out we won the investment, we were almost in tears. At first, I was too shocked to react, then people were coming up to us and shaking our hands. We were dumbfounded. Full-grown professionals were thanking us, teenagers, for sharing our time with them. They were congratulating us. It was a surreal experience,” exclaimed Brown, who notes that she was one of the youngest competitors and the only woman. The student first worked with CSI staff through the 30,000 Degrees initiative, when SITHS reached out to the Staten Island Small Business Development Center at CSI as well as the CSI Tech Incubator to assist Brown.

“30,000 Degrees brings together educators from P-12 and college settings to support student aspirations and success. In Brown’s case, the CSI team of business experts who helped her and her teammates prepare for the Chicago competition were palpably excited by Macay Labs. Given the impression she and her teammates made on the group, I am not at all surprised by the outcome of the Motorola competition,” declared Kenneth M. Gold, PhD, Founding Dean of the School of Education

Currently taking non-degree classes in order to focus on the Motorola project, Brown will be a full-time student at CSI in the fall, majoring in Electrical and Computer Engineering.

The Bay Terrace resident has worked as an instructor at the Staten Island Hebrew Academy’s Intro to Lego Robotics course, an Engineering counselor at SITHS’s Summer STEM Camp, and an IT/Media Consultant at Lifestyles for the Disabled. She is also trying to start an independent Intro to Engineering course for kids.

Brown plans to pursue an undergraduate and then graduate degree in her field, with future plans to have her own consumer electronics company, and eventually teach engineering to high school students “to impact their lives like my teachers impacted mine.”

Read more about the competitors and their products on the Motorola Blog.​

View the video on NY1.



CSI Students “Rocking Science” in the Islands

(From left to right): Dr. Lindo-Artichati, Jessica Scicchigno, and Tatiana Vasyleva pose by their research vessel.

While many students choose to lounge on the sunny sands of exotic islands during the lazy days of Spring Break, three College of Staten Island (CSI) undergraduates are enjoying the tropics in a different way.

Lillian Morales ’17, Jessica Scicchigno ’17, and Tatiana Vasyleva ’17 are participating in a land and sea research project based in Puerto Rico.

Organized by Professor David Lindo-Atichati, PhD, Assistant Professor in the Department of Engineering and Physics at CSI, the marine research expedition will span from Puerto Rico to Saint Croix.

Vasyleva, a Physics major, and Scicchigno, double majoring in Psychology and English, will conduct hands-on research aboard the federal Research Vessel Nancy Foster from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Meanwhile, Morales will remain ashore to conduct outreach, including writing a blog in English and Spanish entitled “Ocean Expedition to the Virgin Islands: Undergraduate women rocking science!

According to Dr. Lindo-Atichati, “The on board team will deploy ocean instruments and sensors into the ocean to better understand the cross shelf transport of water masses and the implication of these ocean motions for the recruitment of baby fish. That work is important to understand the non-linear motions of seawater and nutrients near the shelf break, and critical to manage marine protected areas in the US Caribbean.”

As Morales loyally reports from the shores of San Juan, she describes a trip filled with hard work and also time for some recreation.

Lillian Morales is writing a blog about the team's adventure.

On Day 3 of her blog, she writes, “Despite their hard work at the labs, the researchers are able to enjoy themselves and the beautiful view that comes from working on this vessel. They have described their time out in the ocean to be peaceful and also amazed of how beautiful the ocean looks and sunsets. They have also enjoyed some time at the gym and despite the rocking of the vessel, Tatiana mentions that yoga there is very fun to do. Not only do they collect sample and data, they were also able to enjoy in a game of Easter egg hunt! Not only was that pretty cool today but Giovanni states that were able to deploy CTD’s to a depth of 2,110 meters. And now after a few stations they were finally had the first XBT deployment, expandable bathythermographs. They are not meant to be collected they just fall to the bottom of the ocean. What an exciting day!”

Morales is majoring in Education with a minor in Geology.

Impressed with the bilingual blog, Dr. Lindo-Atichati comments, “Outreach efforts like these show people (not only scientists) what we do, why we do it, and what society gains from it. In short, the goal of this effort is to deliver our science beyond the margins of a scientific paper, and beyond the walls of the classroom.”



Nursing Student Success Coaching Program Event Draws Crowd

Dr. Vonfrolio (center in red) with CSI Nursing faculty, Success Coaches, and students.

More than 130 students, faculty, alumni, and nurses attended the “Making a Million in Nursing Seminar” that took place on April 4 in the Williamson Theater at the College of Staten Island (CSI). Keynote speaker Laura Gasparis Vonfrolio RN, PhD, presented various entrepreneurial opportunities in the nursing field such as invention development, starting a CPR business, developing seminars, DVD and app development, as well as publishing, marketing, and advertising strategies.

A nurse for more than 40 years, Dr. Vonfrolio is the President of Education Enterprises, a national nursing seminar company offering seminars, vacations, and educational products for nurses.

Karen Arca-Contreras, DNP, Department of Nursing Lecturer and Success Coach Coordinator in the Nursing Student Success Coaching and Retention Program, was pleased that, “The ‘Making a Million in Nursing Seminar’ gave participants detailed and expert insight on potential future opportunities available in the profession of nursing. I’m grateful to Dr. Vonfrolio for truly enlightening our students and opening their minds to areas of nursing that they may have never considered.”

Through the Nursing Student Success Coaching program, faculty success coaches assist students in developing, implementing, and evaluating a strategic plan to achieve short and long term educational goals.

“The literature indicates that all students can benefit from proactive and ongoing nursing support strategies, especially prior to and during the first semester,” Dr. Contreras stated.

Dr. Vonfrolio has appeared on Nightline with Ted Koppell and Good Morning America. She was on the cover of Income Opportunities and was featured in The Wall Street Journal three times. The author of 11 books and numerous articles, Dr. Vonfrolio has held positions of staff nurse, staff development instructor, and tenured Assistant Professor of Nursing at CSI.



Scholar-Athlete Tim Sweeney ’17 Accepted to Columbia University

Tim Sweeney '17 has been accepted to a Master's Program at Columbia University.

College of Staten Island (CSI) student Tim Sweeney ’17 continues to swim in success as the captain of the CSI Men’s Swimming and Diving Team has been accepted to the Master of Science in Actuarial Science Program at Columbia University.

A Macaulay Honors College (MHC) student majoring in Mathematics, Sweeney led his team to three CUNYAC Championships in a row.

He is also a member of the Student Athletics Advisory Committee (SAAC) and a research assistant under Professor Jonathan Peters of the Finance Department at CSI. He showcased his project, “Geospatial Analysis of New For-Hire Vehicle Services in New York City,” at the 2016 CSI Undergraduate Research Conference.

Read more about Sweeney on CSI Today.com.



CSI Business Students Rise to the eBay Challenge

The team worked for months to perfect every aspect of their presentation.

In only their second year of involvement in the American Marketing Association (AMA) Collegiate Case Competition, students from the College of Staten Island (CSI) returned from the finals in New Orleans with a third place ranking. More than 100 teams from across North America submitted a Letter of Intent to participate in the annual competition, with the CSI group placing among the nine finalist teams that were invited to present their submission to a panel of eBay judges.

“Our students have done exceptionally well, particularly as new entrants. Other veteran institutions could not believe that the College of Staten Island was able to place among the finalists without a lengthy track record of attempts. It is my understanding that all of the other finalists had extensive experience entering this prestigious competition,” noted Susan Holak, PhD, Dean of the School of Business.

According to the AMA Website, the Collegiate Case Competition began in 1986 and is a yearlong event that brings together top marketing students to work on a marketing challenge submitted by a sponsoring organization. The case sponsor provides a detailed marketing problem for which it is looking to gain the perspective of North America’s best students, who compete by developing a marketing strategy as part of this nationally recognized competition. The sponsor, this year, was eBay, who was seeking ideas for expanding its market share among the Millennial and Generation Z populations.

CSI team members Jacqueline Barbarino, Joseph Curcio, Toufic Eid, Caitlin Fontana, Kimberly Hayes, Sydney Mojica, Margot Noyola, Tian Richards, and Nisma Zakria are enrolled in a new Advanced Marketing Strategy course with Dan Zhang, PhD serving as their faculty instructor and team mentor.

The team left New York early to avoid a snowstorm and arrived in New Orleans with plenty of time to prepare.

“I want to commend the efforts of Professor Dan Zhang, who worked tirelessly to prepare our students. This transformational learning experience will be a wonderful addition to our repository of information documenting how the School of Business meets AACSB standards related to student-student and student-faculty interaction as well as career and professional development,” Dr. Holak commented. AACSB, the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, is an international accreditor of business schools.

Professor Zhang spent countless hours working with the students on all aspects of their marketing plan, including the presentation of the plan to the eBay judges. Everything about the plan and the presentation was developed as a coordinated team effort, including handouts, media materials, and the team members’ posture, diction, and attire.

Professor Thomas Tellefsen, Chair of the Department of Marketing, says that this is one of the premier competitions in the country for marketing students, and that the team’s accomplishment was remarkable. “Their success is the equivalent of winning the bronze medal in the Olympics. The CSI team faced very stiff competition and outperformed teams from some of the top business schools in the country.”

“Reflecting back on my journey as a member of the eBay Case Competition, it’s hard to focus on just one aspect of it all,” said team member Fontana.  “From the process of compiling information for the case to the trip to New Orleans and eventual presentation in front of the eBay judges, it would be an understatement to say I have merely learned how to market.  This case has opened my eyes to the potential within myself and other CSI students like my colleagues. It has shown me that when you least expect it, great things can happen where hard work is put in.”

This year’s team built upon the experiences of a group that began exploring the competition in 2016, alongside Professor Zhang’s development of the Advanced Marketing Strategy course. Those students opened the door to full participation by registering the School’s Marketing Association as an AMA student organization.

As the School of Business continues to develop its emphasis on experiential learning, outstanding students looking for intensive, immersive learning experiences in the School of Business will be able to seek further success in the coming years. eBay team member Sydney Mojica summed up some of the value of experiential learning, saying that the case competition “was something that you could never get in a traditional classroom and it’s something I think I will cherish for the rest of my life. Learning about the marketing world hands on and networking with other schools and marketing professionals really has made an impact in my career as a future marketer.”


National Grid Fuels the Future of CSI Engineering Students with Three-year Scholarship Investment

Kandace Rodriguez, Dr. Antoniades, and Bahira Akramy at a luncheon at CSI.

National Grid empowers tomorrow’s workforce through sustained commitment to the College of Staten Island (CSI) and STEM students

National Grid has a long- standing partnership with CSI providing scholarships to support students interested in advancing in engineering, and in general math- and science-related careers, and supporting workshops to engage high school students in the STEM curriculum.

The company has provided a grant, which has been allotted to the College over a three-year period to support STEM scholarships and National Grid’s Engineering Workshop Series with local high schools. Scholarship recipients are selected by the College of Staten Island’s Scholarship Selection Committee of the Career and Scholarship Center. Any number of scholarship awards in any amount may be made each year, up to the fund balance available for spending. Qualified students must submit the appropriate College-approved financial aid form each year to be eligible for an award.  This year, there were 11 scholarship recipients.

There was a time when Kandace Rodriguez ‘17 worked two jobs while attending school full time, and the 27-year old College of Staten Island (CSI) Electrical Engineering student is well aware of how stressful this schedule can be. As a recipient of the National Grid Scholarship, Rodriguez can focus less on funds and more on her studies.

“This scholarship will allow me to continue to pursue my degree. Tuition can become quite a burden and while studying engineering, it is very difficult to have a job and a great GPA,” commented Rodriguez, who plans to pursue a Master’s in Bioelectronics or Electrical Engineering. “Sustainable power systems intrigue me, and in the future, I would love to be a part of the innovation in more green and sustainable power systems,” she said.

Rodriguez, a member of the Collegiate Science and Technology Entry Program and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), is grateful for the Scholarship as well as the support she receives at CSI.

“The CSI Engineering program is outstanding. I previously attended a large university and remember feeling very disconnected when I could not speak with a professor or advisor concerning difficulties,” noted Rodriguez.

Another elated and grateful Scholarship recipient, Bahira Akramy ‘19, plans to use skills she obtained at CSI to become a Professional Engineer (PE).

“I was so happy because I felt that my hard work had been recognized and this made me feel motivated to work even harder,” commented 19-year old Akramy, a Verrazano Honors student who is also a member of the IEEE and the Roosevelt Clubs.

The scholarship recipients were recognized at a meet-and-greet event at CSI where representatives from National Grid Inc. congratulated students on their success, learned about the value of the opportunity provided to them, and commended them for their hard work.

“National Grid – and the energy industry as a whole – needs to get young people on board with sustainability and inspire a new generation of STEM professionals,” said Frank Lombardo, Director, Construction and Maintain, National Grid.  “The company is committed to focusing our community investment on building a qualified and skilled workforce for the future and our partnership with CSI helps support students who are interested in developing productive math- and science-related careers.”

“National Grid has been extremely generous and supportive of our high school student outreach as well as the college student scholarship programs for the last seven years. Their passion for STEM starts from their top management and trickles down to their technical staff as is evident by recent visits to CSI by their executives as well as their amazing engineers and management teams. Their support of our programs has resulted in spectacular increases in student enrollment in STEM at CSI and in particular in Engineering where we have experienced a student enrollment growth of over 150% over the last three years and the emergence of several new programs,” said Prof. Neo Antoniades, PhD, Chairman of the Department of Engineering Science and Physics and National Grid Inc. Workshop principal investigator.

“National Grid is committed to enhancing STEM education in our communities and developing the next generation of engineers and scientists,” said Mauri Myers Solages, Manager Corporate Citizenship.  “Our partnership with CSI supports National Grid’s ‘Engineering Our Future’ initiative to build a qualified and skilled workforce.”


CSI and LaGuardia Physical Therapy Students Gather for Annual Event

Students from CSI and LCC take time out to pose for a group shot.

For the past five years, the faculty from the Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) program at the College of Staten Island (CSI) and the Physical Therapist Assistant (PTA) program at LaGuardia Community College (LCC) have collaborated to provide students with an inter-professional experience. The Level 1 DPT students from CSI and the Level 1 and 2 PTA students from LCC met for this wonderful educational event.

Background information was provided to the students, regarding similarities and differences between the Physical Therapy (PT) and PTA professions, DPT and PTA curricula, as well as how to work together in a clinical setting.  The students also engaged in an exercise requiring collaboration between the students to come up with a treatment plan for a hypothetical patient scenario. Students also took part in a role-playing exercise that depicted how a real-life scenario might enfold between a PT and a PTA in a clinical setting. The event took place at CSI in Building 5N. The location alternates each year between CSI and LCC.

“As a first-year student in the College of Staten Island’s DPT program, I have been continuously taught the importance of communication between physical therapists and other healthcare professionals while working in the field. However, it is often difficult to demonstrate this discipline in a classroom setting that only consists of other PT students. The interdisciplinary seminar with the PTA students of LCC was an amazing opportunity to practice working together as a team and to begin incorporating necessary communication skills with each other. This collaborative workshop allowed us to develop a stronger awareness of the other’s profession, learn from one another, and simulate hypothetical scenarios that we will all likely experience in the future.  I left the seminar with a sharpened perspective of the PTA profession and ultimately feel more comfortable with my communication skills going forward in my physical therapy journey,” noted Sean Dwyer, Level 1 CSI DPT student.

“I used to think that a PTA was simply a liaison between doctor and patient, but it wasn’t until this experience that I realized we are more than that; PTAs are hard-working critical thinkers and DPTs value our opinions, skills, experiences, and judgement just as much as they value their education. I left that afternoon feeling even more proud of my professors, who not only love what they do, but taught it with such passion… This was a most privileged encounter that I will never forget and can only hope to one day pay it forward to the next generation of healthcare providers,” commented LCC Level II PTA student Amy Almeida.



Rachel Furhang ’17 Takes on Research and Much More

Rachel Furhang working in Dr. Alonso's Lab.

Not only does Rachel Furhang ’17 have a white belt in jiu jitsu, she has certainly reached “black belt” status in the academic arena. The College of Staten Island (CSI) Macaulay Honors College (MHC) student is a recipient of the impressive Rosemary O’Halloran Scholarship. The Biochemistry major, who is minoring in Mathematics, is also working on an honors thesis in Biochemistry with Alejandra del Carmen Alonso, PhD, focusing on understanding the tau protein’s pathogenic state.

A graduate of Ma’ayanot Yeshivah High School in Teaneck NJ, the 21-year-old has always had a “clear vision” of what she wants to accomplish.

“When you are working toward a goal, all your choices become easier to make. That said, a goal is just the road map. Hard work will take you the rest of the way,” said Furhang, a Bulls Head resident, who was born in Manhattan.

She is grateful to Dr. Alonso who “has been helping me understand the components necessary to drive forward a research project and has very generously spent time guiding me through my honors thesis.”

“I was lucky that Rachel chose my lab to work in. From the beginning I noticed that Rachel is a special student. While we were discussing the research project, she not only was able to follow the research objectives, but she was jumping ahead and asking questions on how to answer unsolved problems. She designed her research actively. Not too many students have that capacity that requires another level of abstraction. Rachel is making excellent progress, and I am sure she will leave us with more pieces to build our proposed mechanism of neuronal disruption in Alzheimer disease,” noted Dr. Alonso.

In addition to her busy academic life, Furhang is also a note-taker for the Center for Student Accessibility, has served as Vice President of the Pre-Medical Pre-PA club, and was a part of the CUNY Service Corps, placed at the Institute for Basic Research.

Rachel Furhang in Zion National Park, Utah.

Furhang studied in Hong Kong in fall 2015, tutoring students in English and Biology, learning Mandarin Chinese, and taking in the local culture. She calls the experience “one of the most memorable parts” of her time as an undergraduate.

“Studying abroad was fun, but it also taught me many skills about learning across different cultures,” said the student, who also spent a summer at the Jackson Laboratory for Genomic Medicine studying the PTEN protein, which is implicated in cancer and autism.

As a student in Charles Liu, PhD’s, Science and Technology seminar, Furhang continued to impress with her broad interests and pursuits.

“Did you know that Rachel’s also a talented painter and digital artist?” asks Dr. Liu, Director of the Verrazano School and Macaulay Honors College. “Whether it’s science, art, culture, or anything else, Rachel is unafraid to push limits and bend boundaries – and we in the CSI community are all enriched by her uplifting audacity.”

Furhang plans to pursue an MD and PhD dual degree and become a medical scientist, focusing on the fields of neurodegenerative diseases, bacterial evolution, and the genetics behind both. Naturally, her plans include obtaining that black belt in jiu jitsu.