Greetings from the ePortfolio team at CUNY SPS! We hope your semester is going well and that you’ve had a chance to log into your Digication account to work on one or more of your ePortfolios. Speaking of which, many students have reached out to the team about maintaining multiple ePortfolios, so we’ve decided to throw a pizza mixer (aka “workshop”) in April, just before spring break brings a brief lull (and hopefully sunny warm weather!). During this hands-on workshop, students will learn how to use ePortfolio to identify and demonstrate their transferable skills and will also work with the ePortfolio team to create a central (hub) ePortfolio by using Digication’s Organize feature. We also welcome this opportunity as chance to get feedback from students on ways we can improve the overall ePorfolio program. That, plus some delicious NYC pizza and you can’t go wrong for a Wednesday evening in April! Seats are limited so register soon. For those who can’t attend, we will post all of our resources and a video overview shortly after the event (sadly, sans pizza).


Sarah Morgano & Jennifer Holland
CUNY SPS ePortfolio Team

Workshop: Transform your ePortfolio

When: Wednesday, April 9, 2014, 6:00pm – 8:00pm

Location: CUNY SPS, 119 W. 31st Street., Room 303, New York, NY 10001

Want to make your ePortfolio showcase and career ready? Join Sarah Morgano and Jennifer Holland from the ePortfolio team, Shannon Gallo from Career Services, and Anthony Sweeney from Student Services for some pizza and for an opportunity to learn how to transform your ePortfolio in time to participate in our annual ePortfolio showcase, where featured student ePortfolios will receive an Amazon gift card.

Visit the event page to learn more and register for this workshop:

CDC Find & Apply Workshop

CUNY Big Apple Job and Internship Fair Save the Date

We live in a diet-obsessed society and despite the vast selection of diet products in stores we are a country with an obesity problem. It’s no wonder that The Biggest Loser is such a hit or that trainer Dolvett Quince has struck a chord with people watching from home.

The Biggest Loser - Season 15

I had the pleasure of speaking with Dolvett and listening to him talk about developing an emotional attachment to his team. He is invested in their success. He feels their pain. Winning isn’t just about losing the weight but learning to shed the past, the things that have brought them to this point. It starts with standing on national television in a sports bra and shorts letting it all hang out. It is about being in a vulnerable state. “They can strip off everything and say this is who I am.”

Dolvett did more than listen as they told their stories. He shared his own stories. He recognizes the emotional aspect, “Health isn’t just about a pushup. There’s an emotional component.” He looks at the entire picture presented and, “listened to the source of the pain to try to problem solve it together.” He will tell you that it is his job. “I’m required to listen and to sort through. Working through the emotional component, that’s a jumping jack.”

This season’s winner Rachel Frederickson has been criticized for her results and some of the criticism seems to be less about health concerns than just the opportunity to make fun of a young girl who turned her life around.

Dolvett spoke about Rachel and the fact that she was once a competitive athlete playing a part in her journey. “She’s young. She’s 24 years old so her body responded to what she was doing.” According to him it is about finding a balance and helping her find that. “She is a competitor. You gave her a platform to compete and she had a goal and she won. Now in life she has to find a balance.”

I asked Dolvett about the naysayers who say that losing weight is easy with access to round the clock training and cooking while on the show. He points to the people who get sent home early on as proof that it can be done. “That first contestant has to go home the first week of the show. They are left on their own and come back losing 100 pounds, 115 pounds. So it is attainable.”

Finding balance to having a healthy lifestyle, “that’s the key. Anyone can do a quick fix.” Dolvett has always addressed health and balance as a trainer. In his book The 3-1-2-1 Diet, he makes losing weight and maintaining weight loss something that people can fit into their busy lifestyles. He recognizes that people are stressed. Life is stressful and that for many, time is a factor.

“No one has the time. You have to make the time. We make time for the things we care about.” He talks about finding ways to incorporate activity into your lifestyle whether it is grocery shopping as a family or cooking together. Make it a family thing. Always find ways to incorporate movement. “Make it an agenda to put movement in your life.”

In the diet and training world it isn’t often that you see a trainer willing to share knowledge or even share credit. Dolvett started out training in Atlanta and had enough success that he expanded. He believed in sharing the wealth whether it was his knowledge or even his clients. He didn’t subscribe to the, “I am an island,” mentality common in the world of training. “Trainers are very possessive. I was the complete opposite. It’s gonna be about the consumer. It’s not gonna be about anything other than that.”

Dolvett has built his success from that philosophy and he has an incredible resume of results whether looking at his celebrity client list, seeing his success as a trainer on The Biggest Loser or following his plan in The 3-1-2-1- Diet. He wants people to know that it’s possible, “it’s about having a goal. It is about saying, ‘I’m fed up. I’m going to get healthy.”

Kristen is a single mom of 3 kids and studying at the CUNY School of Professional Studies. She is blogging while she still figures out what she wants to be when she grows up.

My name is Yolanda Ransom and I am a junior majoring in Sociology at CUNY’s School of Professional Studies. Last year I was nominated to become a member of the Ernesto Malave Leadership Academy. The Leadership Academy consists of two groups that develop leadership in different areas. One group called Student Investment Advocates focuses on political networking and relationship development, and the other is called CUNY Corps which focuses on community volunteering and service. I am part of the CUNY Corps Program which meets twice a month on Fridays. Sometimes we meet more often depending on the projects we are working on or if there are leadership conferences (which occur frequently). As soon as I became a member I had the wonderful opportunity to attend the CUNY Women’s Leadership Conference in October 2013. It was an empowering and hopeful event.

If one has a flexible job/school situation Malave membership is very workable. In December 2013, I had the amazing opportunity of going on a retreat with CUNY Corps. The beautiful resort was Honor’s Haven Spa & Resort with features like body massages, hot tub, pool, movie room and exercise classes. The purpose of the trip was for the group to bond to help us work better together going forward. Six female students and six male students, along with the Ernesto Malave coordinators Kisha Fuentes and Denis Nolasco all rode up to Catskills, NY to spend an activity packed and enjoyable weekend right before finals week. We shared three delicious meals each day from the buffet, had group meetings where we got to know more about each individual’s personality type and communication style, and organized our Martin Luther King Jr. Service Day event. We used communication building tools to help us understand how to find the best way possible to relate and interact with one another as well as others outside of our group.

Malave Leadership Academy Retreat

It wasn’t all ‘work’ however. We had a few free hours each night for personal time, so we could hang out in each other’s rooms, watch TV/movies, have coffee at the café, swim, soak in the Jacuzzi, get a massage or just catch a nap. Kisha organized a treasure hunt and we searched all over the hotel to find the items. Team spirit was very strong as some members shared the location of what they found with others even though only one person could actually win. We also had pizza night and watched a comedy on Netflix that we all voted for in the movie room on our last night there. It was fun. I LOVE watching movies and we had our own little movie theatre.

Malave Leadership Academy Retreat

I was hesitant at first about attending the retreat because I didn’t know how well I would connect with others in the group. It takes me a bit of time to feel comfortable around those I have just met. But by the end of the retreat I felt like I had grown to know everyone much better and felt at ease. Everyone had a positive and willing attitude which helped foster trust and mutual respect. This pic is of our group on our last day before leaving—minus the CUNY Corps directors Kisha and Denis (I’m all the way to the left standing up).

Malave Leadership Academy Retreat

Through the Ernesto Malave Leadership Academy CUNY Corps Program I have been inspired to be more actively involved in helping society. We are doing an eyeglass drive on behalf of New Eyes for the Needy. At various campuses we are collecting all types of glasses until May 2nd, 2014. Please drop off your old prescription, reading and sunglasses and frames so that they can be used for those who need glasses. I will be collecting them at the CUNY School of Professional Studies. Contact Anthony Sweeney in Student Services if you want to donate your old eyeglasses. Best wishes to you for a successful semester and 2014!

April Coughlin was one of the CUNY SPS alumni featured in the New York Times article, Disability Studies – A New Normal, on November 1, 2013. We recently caught up with April and asked her why disability studies is an important field for everyone to explore. Here’s what she told us:

As we all know, Disability Studies is an important and emerging field in higher education, and it’s great to see that the New York Times is recognizing this as well. I have had a disability for 28 years and up until three years ago I didn’t even know Disability Studies existed. At the time, I was teaching high school in NYC and thinking about going back for another Masters degree. I perused through the CUNY website and came across Disability Studies at the School of Professional Studies. It sounded really interesting and I saw that the deadline hadn’t passed for the application period, so I immediately filled it out and sent it in. I had no idea that this program would not only inform ways of thinking about my own experiences with disability, but also disability in the classroom and would eventually lead me to pursue a PhD.

Disability Studies has undoubtedly transformed my teaching practices, both as a high school teacher and college instructor.

During the summer I work with the New York City Teaching Fellows who are teaching special education in NYC public schools. I teach a “Perspectives on Disabilities” course that requires my students to question, challenge, examine and shape their understandings of disability in our schools and society. To see the process that my students go through in how they think about and frame disability from the first day of class to the last is really quite impressive. I truly believe that all educators (special and general educators), administrators and staff, heck, the WHOLE WORLD should have exposure to this type of course!

As a high school teacher, disability entered the curriculum and conversations in my classroom on a daily basis, mostly because of the stories and personal experiences that I shared with my students. Even through this, I could see evidence that my students began to look at the world a little differently. Whether it was through the language they used, the access issues in the school building they pointed out, or the broken subway elevators on our field trips that they experienced with me, they were learning about disability – sometimes without even realizing it.

Disability is everywhere. In fact, as technology advances and people live longer, acquiring a disability becomes even more likely. I am grateful for the program at CUNY SPS because it provided me with the opportunity to explore a field of study that is not only extremely relevant to my everyday lived experience, but also enriches my teaching practices and the knowledge that I share with my students.

Finally, I would like to give a quick shout out to all of my former CUNY SPS Disability Studies classmates and professors. Meeting all of you and sharing classes each night that year made the program not only interesting and exciting, but also incredibly memorable.

April Coughlin received her Master’s Degree in Disability Studies from the CUNY School of Professional Studies. 

Why did you stay?

He wouldn’t do those things if he didn’t really love you.

I’m sure you’re exaggerating.

What did you do to make him do that?

Those are just some of the things that were said to me after I left my husband. Some believed his stalking was proof of his love for me. Some believed that it was a matter of two sides to the story and they were only hearing mine. Some believed that something I did caused him to push me against a wall, hold his arm against my throat until I could not longer breath and hiss that he would kill me.

People that love an abuser, and I don’t mean the victim, I mean the friends and family of the abuser, they don’t see the other side of him. They see the fun guy, the charismatic guy. They see the guy that always helps hang sheetrock or give a ride to the airport. They see the guy that offers help with that fence that fell down. They see the good side of him. Everyone has a good side. Even abusers.

In fact, there are abusers who have a side so good, so fun, that most people would never believe he is an abuser. That was my ex. He was the life of the party, the guy who was always there when you needed him. He was also the guy terrorizing his wife if you made her laugh too loud or look at you too long.

That is another one of the parts of abuse that make it so difficult for victims. It’s hard for most people to reconcile the perceptions of an abuser with the person who is always willing to lend a hand. It’s hard for any mother to look at her son and think of him as a man who would threaten his wife with bodily harm. What sister could look at her brother and think he would batter his wife?

There are different relationships built on love and on denial. Maybe they see things. Maybe the jealousy rears its ugly head from time to time. Maybe the control shows a bit as it worsens. But usually it’s laughed off. That’s when you hear, “He must really love you to be jealous like that.”

When I left my husband, he threatened to kill me. More than once. He tapped my phones sure that he was going to find the proof he needed. Needed for what? He never could understand that there was no other person involved in my decision to leave him. There was nothing for him to find and why did it never occur to him that if he did find something that it should be proof of how broken the relationship was and not some bargaining chip to force me back?

That’s the part that most don’t understand. Leaving an abuser isn’t easy and it isn’t always safe. How do you reason with a person who believes if they could only catch you they could keep you?

So why does she stay? For a lot of reasons that may not make sense to you. And no. The fact that he followed me everywhere was not proof of his love for me. It was some scary stuff and nobody should have to live like that. We should be free to leave a relationship for any reason. And we don’t owe those reasons or explanations to anyone.

Peggy is a mom and student at The CUNY School of Professional Studies. Peggy hopes to change the perceptions about what a victim looks like as well as raise awareness about domestic violence. Peggy believes it is possible to break the cycle.

After stuffing myself with turkey, Spanish rice and pasteles on Thanksgiving, I had a very strange dream. I was riding around on a bicycle at full speed, circling around cars and running red lights, and people were running out of the way of the crazed lady on the bike. The neighborhood was where I live now but I had moved to a different building and was searching for it because I could not remember where it was; all the buildings looked the same and when I tried to get in the front door, it was locked. The reason I was in a hurry was because I was looking for Pull-ups for my son and he needed to have them before getting on the school bus otherwise he could not get on the bus. It was pretty wild. My alarm clock went off and when I woke up my heart was racing. I should let you know that Nick has not used Pull-ups since he was four and the school bus experience has been pretty good. It was a pretty weird dream but it sure wasn’t the oddest.

Usually I do not remember my dreams, and I don’t remember if I dream every night. But when they are about Nicholas for some reason as soon as I wake up I can remember all of it.

I vividly remember the first time I had a dream about my son. I was mid-way through my pregnancy and I was just beginning to feel him move and I was already pretty big. One of my friends could not stop patting my tummy, she was obsessed, and loved to feel the waves from my belly. One night I dreamt that Nicholas’ arm was protruding from my belly button and he was holding hands with her while we walked down the street. She was having a conversation with my baby about how she could not wait to meet him.

Another time I dreamt that I ran out of Pediasure vanilla drinks. You see, until last year Nicholas would not eat anything. He only drank Pediasure, four or five a day, and the only thing he would eat were Nabisco Cheese Nips. And I confess, I hoard the drinks and chips, and when they go on sale, I’m the one who wipes out the supermarket counter. These dreams are my nightmares!

But they are not always so gloomy. My favorite dreams are when he speaks. Nick was non-verbal until about a year ago. Before then he had two words – mommy and no – and sometimes he would say something that sounded like a word but I wasn’t sure because he would never repeat it. It has been four years since he was diagnosed with autism and I have had so many dreams where he speaks to me. In my dreams he tells me stories about his day. His voice sounds deep and clear for such a young boy and he is very descriptive and animated when he talks – very much like his mama. He uses his hands a lot and he talks very loud. Occasionally, he’s an infant and by the end of the dream he is the size and age he is now. Those are definitely my favorite dreams.

It was Cinderella who sang, “A dream is a wish your heart makes.”

Yeah, that’s the truth.

Marisol Vendrell is a life-long New York City resident and works as a legal assistant for a midsize Manhattan firm. She is the single mom to a seven-year-old boy named Nicholas who is diagnosed with Autism. She is the co-founder of the Bronx Parents Autism Support Circle, a parent support group for Bronx parents, and is a CUNY SPS student working towards a Bachelor’s Degree in Disability Studies

The last few years have been pretty tough on the family – we lost so many in so little time and unexpectedly. It almost seemed like we were cursed with all the tears and so many hearts to heal. This year was a bit different and we are all still here, and although there are those who continue to cope with different ailments, we are pretty much okay.

This year was a big one for my Nick. This year he finally “got” the whole birthday thing and he enjoyed Halloween and was the cutest Superman I have ever seen. The words started flowing and he is communicating so much better. Just the other day he said “good morning” to a neighbor who was in the elevator with us. I had to prompt him, but he looked at her and said it. I don’t think she realized what a big moment that was. He uses “I want” when he needs something and he is doing great in school. My Facebook cover page says “Words Will Come,” but I think I have to change that now.

I have met and become closer to new friends who are on the same journey as Nick and I. These women who understand what it means to raise a child with Autism. We laugh together over a meal and drinks or just talk about our children – sometimes we shed tears of sadness but mostly of joy. As an adult I can’t remember the last time I met someone who I can genuinely call a friend. I have never been the type to give anyone the title of “best friend” and I still don’t because my real friends are more like family. These new friends – and you know who you are – are a blessing to me and they are now and will always be my family.

On Thanksgiving night when we sit around the table with my family and share the amazing meal prepared by my dear mother, I cannot help but feel blessed to still have her and my father here on earth and hope that we have many more years together.

Health, Words, Family.

And for that I am grateful.

Marisol Vendrell is a life-long New York City resident and works as a legal assistant for a midsize Manhattan firm. She is the single mom to a seven-year-old boy named Nicholas who is diagnosed with Autism. She is the co-founder of the Bronx Parents Autism Support Circle, a parent support group for Bronx parents, and is a CUNY SPS student working towards a Bachelor’s Degree in Disability Studies

When it comes to women there are some misconceptions. For instance, there are those who think that women do not support one another. We are all competing with one another over a job, a friend, or a romantic interest. Women are all catty. Right? Wrong.

I had the privilege of attending the 2013 Women’s Leadership Conference hosted at Hunter College. Female students from all of the CUNY schools were invited to participate in a day that was all about girl power. Talk about your rah rah women or your girls rule and boys drool. Ok, well, maybe not the boys drool part but women certainly ruled at the WLC.

Marissa Job and Kelsey Richardson, representing CUNY School of Professional Studies, greeted me when I arrived to let me know what the day’s agenda would be. It was a nice way to begin the day. CUNY’s support system is amazing.

One thing that I couldn’t help but notice when I walked in was the diversity. I come from Long Island and Long Island is not known for diversity so it was wonderful to see African American, Muslim, Asian, and white women all there. And I will own up to one of those woman stereotypes. Those girls all knew how to dress. I resisted the urge to tell one woman to forget school and get on a runway.

There were so many remarkable speakers but let me give a glimpse of some of the highlights. Rosanna Rosado, publisher and CEO of El Diario/La Prensa brought tears to my eyes. Through her story of a five year old dancing on a table she made me go back to my five year old self on a table dancing for a room full of grown-ups who made me feel like a star. I was a star. So where did I lose that star power? What made me move from center stage to mixing in with the scenery?

We spend so much time trying not to appear vain or full of ourselves that we forget to acknowledge all that we are. What’s wrong with knowing we are strong, beautiful, smart, capable human beings who also love shoes? What’s wrong with putting on a tiara, even if it’s imaginary and knowing that we have a star power, that we are worth the glitter in our crowns? Listen to Rosanna and straighten your tiara and dance on a table, maybe not literally, but why not?

Joanna Barsh, Director of McKinsey & Company and creator of the “The McKinsey Centered Leadership Project,” gave the first presentation. She had our full-attention. She used exercises that enabled us to get to know the people sitting around us in a way that didn’t feel forced. By the end of the presentation I had learned some interesting things about the woman sitting next to me. I also felt invested in her and wanted to see her succeed.

More important was Joanna’s message to us about all of the self-talk that we do and the way that some of our negative thinking becomes obstacles, obstacles of our own making. No. She didn’t give some power of positive thinking talk that inspired us only to be forgotten later on. Through examples and demonstrations she showed us the small ways that we psyche ourselves out, small ways that can become paralyzing.

I especially loved her tip on thinking of a few good things that happened during the day and one bad thing. It was, according to Joanna, a way of retraining your brain to sort through the bad and recognize the good. It is a way of building confidence and through that building, you become your best self, a leader.

There were other inspiring women. Whether it was City Council Member Gale Brewer talking about the importance of community building and having a voice, or listening to Joyce Moy, Executive Director of the Asian/American Research Institute as she talked about overcoming shyness after witnessing her parents eviction being the catalyst that made her realize how important her voice was; there were women, strong women there throughout the day to provide guidance and support.

It was a day about women. It didn’t matter what ethnicity, religion, or age. We were all women there with one common goal–supporting one another and forming an unbreakable bond. We were colleagues, peers, mentors, and sisters.

I’ve never been a fan of the stereotype that women cannot be friends. My closest friends and supports are women. It is something my own daughter has grown up knowing. Women rock!

The 2013 Women’s Leadership Conference was a day that was all about us. I looked around the room and thought about the United States being so far behind other countries when it coms to women as CEOs, holding political office, being President. I looked around that room and felt such a sense of hope. Maybe somewhere sitting in that room was the future first female President. I just hope at her inauguration she will dance on a table or two and be sure to wear the most blinged out tiara.

Kristen is a single mom of 3 kids and studying at The CUNY School of Professional Studies. She is blogging while she still figures out what she wants to be when she grows up.


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