I am one of those lucky people who was blessed with an awesome public education. I attended the Edward R. Murrow High School in Brooklyn and subsequently graduated from Baruch College, all the while being a part of the New York City work force and gaining valuable real life experience.

My mother was a single parent. She knew that in order to support my sibling and I she needed higher education, so when I was in 3rd grade, she enrolled for courses at Pace University. She attained her bachelor’s degree in Economics the same year that I graduated from high school. She made it clear that she expected me to attain at least as much education as she had, ideally more.

You see when my mother was raising me, you could still get a good office job with a good pension with just a high school diploma. However, as I was graduating from high school that was no longer the case. In order to gain an entry level business position a bachelor’s degree was required.

As I now stand in my mother’s shoes, with children of my own, it is apparent to me that for my children to be successful they will probably need to attain master’s degrees in their field of choice. And so wanting to honor my mother by attaining more education than she has, and also wanting to be a good example to my own children, I find myself back in school to attain a master’s degree of my own. When my children enter college, I can say to them, “I expect you to attain at least as much education as I have, preferably more!”

Shakima Williams-Jones owns and operates Love Movement, LLC, an accounting and business management firm with clients in the entertainment, education and non-profit world. Ms. Williams-Jones currently sits on the board of Uncommon Schools NYC, a charter management organization that operates 22 charter schools in NYC from grades K – 12. She holds a B.A. in Accounting from Baruch College, is basketball coach to 20 high school aged children and is the proud parent of a 5. She is currently enrolled in the M.S. in Business Management and Leadership program.

Every election term, I learn more about how this country really works.

I grew up believing that voting made me an engaged citizen. Remember Bush v. Gore? I didn’t know, until then, that elections were decided before all the votes from came in from Americans living abroad, including Americans in the military. If the election results that year weren’t so close, I wouldn’t have heard about that detail.

In 2008, President Obama got less votes than Hillary Clinton, but he won more delegates. I didn’t quite get the impact at the time. (Now I understand why Clinton supporters were so enraged.) As Hillary battled Bernie, and as the Stop Trump! movement tried to derail his candidacy, the importance of delegates sunk in.

I learned that delegates are a Party (Democrat or Republican) invention. A news reporter went to a Republican caucus and interviewed a party member. He asked whether or not it was fair for Republican delegates to deny Mr. Trump the nomination. I would summarize and paraphrase her response as, “It is fair because everyone has the same chance to come to party meetings and be a part of the decision-making process. If people are not involved, they get what they get.”

Whoa.

Voting comes at the end of a long decision–making and action–taking process. Engaged citizenship means being a part of the process from beginning to end. Voting is literally the least we can do.

The next NYS election will be on September 13. The registration deadline is August 19.

Rhonda Harrison completed her studies at CUNY SPS to earn her post-graduate certificate in Adult Learning & Program Design. She is a social worker with a background in workforce development and currently works as an Advisor at a community college.

It is pouring the coldest rain my cheeks have ever felt from heaven as my unprepared Caribbean spring clothes are soaking wet in the middle of a busy street in Manhattan, at the beginning of an unforgettable May. As I accept I am doomed I cannot stop thinking that the never-ending tallness of the buildings don’t do much to protect insignificant pedestrians like me from the unmerciful siege of rain.

Finally, once again as a signal from heaven, an unexpected opportunity to find relief suddenly appears before me. It does not come from the skies though, but from the undergrounds. A miraculous stair cracks in the middle of the sidewalk before my eyes and leads me to an unexpected subway station.

As I descend, stepping on the tiny New Yorker muddy ponds created on the uneven surface of these ancient steps, I hear hundreds of sudden splashes made by running people coming out. The sounds is contrasted with the soft and timid noise of my body enjoying and rejoicing the transition from the hectically cold, wet, and noisy surface to a drier and calmer buried hidden world.

My initial pleasure turned to disappointment as I realized that no human beings sell tickets or assist anyone to find out where to go. It was just an electronic ticket vending machine and me who had to figure out how to jump in. Lucky me I am an experienced international immigration lawyer, and certified translator of many languages; no vending machine represented a small challenge for my objectives for the day.

First, I was asked by a digital screen to choose the language. I selected “English” of course! “It is the least I can do to honor the language spoken by Washington, Lincoln and all the founding fathers,” I thought. But it was interesting to see the extensive menu of languages someone can choose from in order to buy a simple ticket.

I masterfully managed to follow all the instructions, such as choosing from a 7-day pass or a 30-day pass or whether I wanted a single ride or a double ride, etc..

My real problems started when payment was requested. I needed to pay $2.75 for one ride. As I was ready to pay a warning appeared on the screen: “This machine does not temporarily accept bills. Coins and credit card payment only.” With my wallet full for months of one-dollar bill savings, and a little nervous to use my humble Yucatecan credit card, I decided to scratch the bottom of my pockets to figure out if my leftover tokens could complete such a surmounting amount.

One by one my quarters and dimes took me closer to my journey. As I deposited the coins a red figure appearing on the screen and decreased as if it were a rocket launching countdown, but it suddenly stopped as the last 25 cents were still missing when my money ran out. I still had many one-cent coins but then I realized that no vending machine would accept such small value coins, too late perhaps for me that I had already happily accepted many, and suddenly, just like the U.S. Congress, my pockets were full of valueless Lincoln promises.

By then a long line of New Yorkers in a hurry were giving me dirty looks. I was about to abort my mission and let the long waiting line to go ahead of me, when a furious gentleman rudely put a quarter in my account so I could receive my ticket and move on with my life and stop my selfish monopolizing battle with the machine. With my ticket in hand, the rude man whose act of kindness made me forgive his harshness, masterfully recharged his probably 30-day pass, jumped my obstructively massive wet body and rapidly ran into the gates in order to catch his train so suddenly that I couldn’t even thank him.

As I turned my view to the still long waiting line I couldn’t help noticing some judgmental glances by master users of the machine who rightfully accused me of sucking in ticket buying skills. Then my next challenge. I needed to figure out where this red dot line 3 would take me in the spider web of intricate escapes to the Manhattan surface.

With useful signals marking uptown and downtown at least I kind of knew where not to go. A tense calm omnipresently filled the environment as a soft far away metal sound of rails was becoming stronger and stronger and the waiting was going to become almost unbearable until the wagons finally arrived in a glorious underground denouement. Still not certain where I was going I decided to look for a subway map on my poor underground wifi reception. So the best thing to do was to let the first train go by without boarding.

Happy to see how even dogs can commute with more dignity than humans in this city, I soon realized that my cellphone wasn’t working. With an electronic announcement over my head promising that the next train was coming in two long minutes, I could dedicate my spare precious time to look at the details of the station, perhaps I would be lucky and find a casual map hanging around, I thought. As my eyes started to get caught by the graffiti’s on the walls and the litter among the railroad ties an amazing sound started to come out from the tunnel across my side.

Hypnotized by the spell of a metal sound, my eyes tried to look for its sources among the forest of a hundred casted iron columns that little by little unveiled the author of such a beautiful melody. A heavy man wearing heavier clothes was timidly sitting on a bench cornered on such a tiny spot that it could barely touch an inch of the main hall as if he didn’t want to disturb the sounds of the rails. But his music was not a disturbance at all, the perfect acoustic of the tunnels that morning made his sounds more beautiful than those of a requiem in a cathedral.

I do not know if he was blind, but he never opened his eyes, perhaps he was also in a trance enjoying his melancholic melody that was embracing all of us in that subway station as he masterfully played his golden sax. With slow and subtle blows you could see how his bare fingers were making the miracle as they were trying to come out from a pair of rotten dirty gloves. My train finally arrived, but I couldn’t take it, the heavy sound of the rails mingled in a perfect symphony with that of the sax creating the most powerful underground musical experience in my life. In that moment I knew that the sax was absolutely right, despite standing many feet under, it was heaven, I was in heaven, and my heart beat so that I could hardly speak.

Rodrigo Rodriguez is a human rights and immigration lawyer living in the Yucatan among the Mayans. He is a lover of good music and food, and is always looking to be amazed by nature. Rodrigo is a student here at CUNY SPS working on his Advanced Certificate in Immigration Law.

“In my experience the motivation of black friends and colleagues isn’t to make white people feel guilty, to beat us up over our racial history, or to just complain about it.  What I hear is deep concern for their children and for their future, and the reasonable expectation that white people not defend themselves from the past but rather join efforts to build a better multiracial future.”  (p. 36)

That’s what Jim Wallis wrote in his book, America’s Original Sin: Racism, White Privilege and the Bridge to a New America.  It’s a great read because of his compassionate, insightful, nonjudgmental, moral, theological analysis of where we are as a country.  Even though Wallis, a white man, talks about white privilege, it’s not an attack on white people, but more of an examination of a social construct of whiteness and its influence on America.  And he does not just pay lip service to multiracial America.  He goes further than the Black/White dynamic that dominates many race-related dialogues and discusses the history of Native and Asian Americans.  Wallis also provides a framework to think through issues of mass incarceration and immigration as well.

His conclusion is that when we genuinely begin to hear one another’s stories, we begin to understand one another, and then we’re able to do the work necessary to cross that “bridge” to a new America.  Every time an ugly incident happens, people start declaring that we need a conversation, a dialogue, a discussion.  The value of America’s Original Sin is that it brings some profound insights about why it’s been so hard for us to have that conversation and touches upon issues of segregation, isolation, and fragility.  Once we get over those issues we can move across that bridge.

“. . . the next bridge to cross is America’s transition from a majority white nation to a majority of racial minorities”. (p. 194)

It’s well worth the read.

Rhonda Harrison completed her studies at CUNY SPS to earn her post-graduate certificate in Adult Learning & Program Design. She is a social worker with a background in workforce development and currently works as an Advisor at a community college.

By now probably everybody has heard of the plan to replace Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill with Harriet Tubman. This was getting thrown around for a few months prior to this announcement, with many happy to finally see the President who engineered a genocide of native Americans get taken off of our currency.  A poll was put in place to determine who would be the best replacement (with a strong preference for a women or an African American).  While there’s always detractors to any argument, there was general consensus that not many people would miss Ole’ Hickory, and our money could strongly use some diversity to better represent the rich and diverse history of our nation.

So Harriet Tubman seems like a perfect fit.  A woman, an African American and a gigantic historic figure in our nation’s history.  However in the weeks and months leading up to the eventual decision there was actually a move away from Jackson and the 20 Dollar bill and an eye on the 10 dollar bill and the less known (and less controversial) Alexander Hamilton.  I assume this was meant to avoid any controversy that might be caused by ousting Jackson.

Now personally I didn’t quite know much about Hamilton, as I’m sure many people don’t know much.  I know he wasn’t president (“The Wire” reminded me of that), and if pressed I might be able to come up with the fact that he was the first Treasury Secretary, but other than that, I was lost.  So was this founding father about to get ousted from his spot on our currency simply because people weren’t abreast of his story?  Could a smash hit Broadway musical change that, and perhaps change history?  Is this real life?  It just might be…

Could a Broadway Musical Change History?

For those that have been under a rock for the past few months, “Hamilton: An American Musical” has become a transcendent success on Broadway, selling out every show and driving secondary market ticket prices to unprecedented levels.  It’s surpassed “Wicked the Musical” tickets’ prices (the next most popular show on Broadway) by a factor a 200-1000% percent!

Hamilton the Musical Official Broadway Poster

The musical has been credited with engaging the younger generation and informing them of their nation’s history in a way that is much more diverse (all the main characters are played by Black and Brown actors).  The show received praise directly from President Obama at this year’s Tony Awards.  Its soundtrack is a best seller and it will likely spawn a national tour whose shows sell out in minutes.  Its already made history on Broadway.

But its impact hasn’t stopped in the Theater District, it may have gone all the way to D.C. and our national currency.  Apparently the red hot popularity of the show has influenced a decision on how the $10 bill will be redesigned.  According to this article:

Hamilton creator and star Lin-Manuel Miranda said on Wednesday (Mar. 16) that he had received “multiple assurances” from Lew that admirers of Hamilton would “not be disappointed” by the new design.  Miranda met with Lew on Monday, before his visit to the White House(.)

“Lew” in this instance is Jack Lew, the current Treasury Secretary of the United States! Our Treasury Secretary basically ran it by a Lin-Manuel Miranda, assuring that fans of a broadway musical wouldn’t be disappointed with the new design of our legal tender.  I can’t be the only one amazed at that?

Conclusion(s)

What can we make of this?  I don’t want to overstate the importance or impact of a broadway musical, but I think there can be concensus over the fact that such an influence is not only remarkable but probably unprecedented.  Our national currency (while not as important as laws or policy) is an important reflection of what we respect as a country, it’s our face to the world.

This is why it has always been a terrible affront to Native Americans that we’ve had Andrew Jackson on the $20.  However our own general ignorance of Hamilton almost led us down the path of ditching him as well.  It’s arguably the case that one man, Lin-Manuel Miranda, inspired by a biography of Alexander Hamilton, created a sensation that may have altered that path.

As a final aside, I think this speaks to a basic fact of life, that pursuing your dreams can lead to unexpected and seemingly impossible outcomes.  I encourage every student here at SPS and throughout CUNY to keep their head down and pursue whatever area fulfills them and makes their lives happy and enriched.  You’ll never know where that path will take you, but it will invariably lead you to success.  It might even get you to the White House.

Michael is currently pursuing his Bachelors of Science in Information Systems and plans on pursuing a Master Degree in Data Analytics from CUNY SPS after graduation. He’s worked in the Internet Marketing sector for nearly 7 years and specialize in Search Engine Optimization. 

ePortfolio

The winners for the fifth annual CUNY School of Professional Studies ePortfolio Showcase have been selected and are published on the showcase site. We’re thrilled to be able to share their work within and beyond the SPS community and send a special thank you to all of them for the time and energy they put into their ePortfolios—they really are superb!

Congratulations to the winners!

  • Marggorie Brown, BA in Communication and Media
  • Angelina Davidson, MA in Disability Studies
  • Natty Duque, MA in Disability Studies
  • Paul Fuller, BA in Communication and Media
  • Kathleen Heck, BS in Nursing
  • Karolina Humby, BA in Communication and Media
  • Naji Muniz, BS in Business
  • Kerwin Pilgrim, MS in Business Management and Leadership
  • Dionna Smalls, MA in Disability Studies
  • Emily Towner, BA in Communication and Media

The winners received a $100 Barnes and Nobles gift card, a digital badge and are featured on the ePortfolio Student Showcase site.

The selections were made based on the following: design layout, organization of materials, best use of multimedia, demonstration of reflective learning, and an overall representation of academic skills, coursework and extracurricular activities.

Take a moment to view these exemplary showcase ePortfolios and see what our students are learning and accomplishing in their respective programs. Also, don’t forget to leave them positive feedback in the comments section.

To visit their ePortfolio, click on a student’s ePortfolio image.

Marggorie BrownMargorie

Angelina DavidsonAngelina

Natty DuqueNatty

Paul FullerPaul

Kathleen HeckKathleen

Karolina HumbyKarolina

Naji MunizNaji

Kerwin PilgrimKerwin

Dionna SmallsDionna

Emily TownerEmily Towner

Dear CUNY SPS Community:

It is with great sadness that I continue to read the unfolding story of this past weekend’s mass shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, and our most sincere condolences go out to the families and friends of the victims and to the wounded.  Such violence shakes our faith, our confidence, and our trust, and mortally offends our sense of decency.  As President Obama reminds us, “regardless of race, religion, faith, or sexual orientation… we need to [look] after each other …in the face of this kind of terrible act.”  As New York City prepares for LGBTQA Pride Week (June 19-26), a week made all the more significant by this attack, CUNY SPS remains dedicated to our diverse community, and stands with Orlando.

I invite you to use the comments section below to share your thoughts and reactions on the tragedy in Orlando.  I hope we can use this moment to learn from one another, give strength to those in need, and to engage in a thoughtful conversation about an event that impacts all of our lives.

Sincerely,

John Mogulescu
Dean, CUNY School of Professional Studies

Ultimate Frisbee is a game that brings people together. As someone who played Ultimate Frisbee for four years I know how enjoyable the game is. The game of Ultimate Frisbee was founded by college students. Since then the game has continued to evolve and played on various college campuses. In Ultimate the goal is to get the disk to the opposing team’s end zone without dropping the disk. Ultimate Frisbee has seven members on the field at one time. Ultimate Frisbee continues to gain exposure around the world in various countries. Ultimate Frisbee is not in the Olympics but is in the World Games.

As a brand Ultimate Frisbee continues to gain in popularity among people of all ages. There are many different types of ways to throw the frisbee. The first is the backhand, that is the basic throw. The other throws are the flick, hammer and scooper. For the flick you use your wrist to throw the frisbee. When playing Ultimate Frisbee the goal is to catch the disk using both hands. In some cases you can catch the disk with a one handed grab. When it comes to the actual game, the game is played on a soccer field. There are seven members on at one time. Ultimate Frisbee is a team orientated sport. There are many different positions on the field. In winning a match the key is to have clear communication with your team members. In terms of how the game is officiated the players on the field are the referees. In order to win, your team must get to 15 points.

The main reason the sport is popular is because frisbee brings people together. The goal is to have a team atmosphere. Ultimate Frisbee also helps people with their eventual career. From 2011-2015 I was part of the Ultimate Frisbee team at my old school. This experience helped me get out of my comfort zone and meet new people. The Farm was the name of the team I was on. We would bond when going on trips to tournaments. We would all go to the cafeteria after practice and talk about sports or movies. As a team we made sure to be welcoming to new members regardless of skill level. The new semester was a time to meet the new team members and talk about the summer. As a member of the team, we would train the new members of the Ultimate Frisbee team. The upperclassmen would teach them how to throw, the rules and the different positions. By the end of the semester we would all be getting along. Ultimate Frisbee promotes sportsmanship, diversity and getting along with others.

Ed Maher is a person who loves learning. Ed is a first year student at CUNY SPS in the Public Administration and Public Policy advanced certificate program. He is an avid lifelong reader, and has interests in movies, pop culture, and comedy.

Matthew Conlin graduated from the Master’s in Disability Studies Program last night and was selected as the class of 2016’s Student Speaker. Below is his speech:

Thank you for granting me the honor to speak today. Writing this speech, I have looked to some of the most successful people in the world and their advice—their quotable wisdom. The internet has made this sort of research quite easy, you know, but rather than focusing, you end up watching Chewbacca Mom on YouTube. I thought maybe I would begin with a quote by a beloved icon: Audrey Hepburn, David Bowie, even J.K. Rowling. And then I realized that as loved as they are, I can safely say we’ve all heard those motivational quotes before. And, clearly, I am not an icon, I am a graduate. Just like you. So, instead I decided to speak today about us, and what we are going to accomplish from this point forward. Whether you’re receiving your Undergraduate or Graduate degree, you have a hopeful future. You have a chance to use your skills and your talents to make our world a better place. And who knows, maybe we will one day be as famous as the people we try to quote. But that is only if we listen to our hearts, and follow our goals all the way to the finish line. This is our time, our adventure, our journey.

Believing in oneself is the key to a better life, and to a better world. We all start somewhere. For that reason, I would like to share with you a bit of my background. When I completed my Undergraduate degree, the unemployment rate was up to about 9.4%. That was 2009. I eventually found work in the field of content marketing, and like most graduates in that year, I took whatever job I could find. As a millennial, I was lucky even to be employed. Fast forward a few years. While I still loved media, I was growing restless and knew I needed a change. I wanted my life to mean more than working to fill experience hours.

That’s where CUNY School of Professional Studies fit in. I sat in my first class, nervous because I hadn’t been a full-time student for a while. But everyone here was warm and welcoming. I was home. I found a field where I could give back to the community, and one that encouraged my dream of social justice. Here I found another family, as I would honesty call them, who supported me through every step with guidance, patience, and harsh, but useful criticism. And, yes, Professors, I am talking about you. I am also talking about my fellow students. Together we strive to be more. CUNY provides us that opportunity. It is our springboard, and we are the ones who seek to make a better future for ourselves, our loved ones, and our community.

Whether you were in Disability Studies—like me—or another, we are alike. You came here to achieve more. As a student, you have polished your knowledge and have learned about your field. Because of these new friendships, new mentors, and hard work, you are here today at this ceremony and ready for your next adventures.

And what do I mean by adventure? Well, let’s think about it. This graduation does not indicate that we know everything. Graduation signifies that we have progressed to the next level. It is about understanding that there is still more to learn. CUNY SPS has given us a strong foundation to hone our talents. No matter our age, we will learn from the world and give back to the world. What we do with our degrees from here on out is essential. Our careers, our choices, and our actions matter. Our adventures are really beginning now that we have the insight and groundwork we needed for the road ahead.

We were led here by our interest. Our pure intent and commitment paid off. We worked hard, and combatted exhaustion with tea and coffee, and an occasional nap or two. Professors and textbooks gave us the information we needed. Colleagues and friends gave us the encouragement we needed. All of these experiences were part of our academic adventures, including the frustration of setbacks and heart racing joy of accomplishments. It was our genuine devotion to our craft that got us this far and will keep us moving throughout our careers and lives.

Let’s use that motivation to enact change. Regardless of our professions and interests, we are all here to be the best versions of ourselves. Call me idealistic, but with our new degrees, we can use our talents to make an even brighter future for ourselves and our communities. So, let’s go shake things up! Congratulations, Class of 2016. Let our new adventures begin!

 

 

 

This post was written by Tenzin Lekshay, a recipient of the CUNY School of Professional Studies ACE Scholarship.

We all know too well how important education is. Education enlightens us, provides us with knowledge, and helps us to realize the careers that we dream of. However, education to me is more than that. To me, education is a privilege. There are millions of people, especially children, around the world who do not have the opportunity to go to school. I am a Tibetan refugee, born and raised in India, but I was fortunate enough to go to one of the best and largest Tibetan schools in India. Not every Tibetan refugee children had been as fortunate as me. Therefore, I do not take education for granted. I take the opportunity as a responsibility too. I am always grateful for any opportunity that allows me to be back in school. I make sure that I work hard and get good grades, not just for my GPA, but also to fulfill the responsibility that comes with the privilege of being in school and receiving education.

When I first came to the U.S. I wanted to go to back to school and get a degree in Nursing. I wanted to become a nurse because I believed that it is one of the very few professions that can provide not only joy and satisfaction, but also purpose and meaning to your life. Nursing, to me, is not just a job, it is also a medium through which I can fulfill my spiritual values and beliefs.

I found out that CUNY provides nursing programs in its community colleges, and I could avail financial aid to help with my tuition. I enrolled in LaGuardia Community College nursing program, and completed my Associate’s degree in Nursing in 2014, finishing with the highest GPA in my batch. After graduating from LaGuardia Community College, I got accepted into Hunter and CUNY School of Professional Studies BSN program. However, I chose SPS over Hunter college, without any hesitation, since SPS is an online school, allows for flexibility with time management, and SPS’s Nursing directors had earlier come to LaGuardia to talk about the BSN program. I thought SPS was the right school for me.

Once I started my BSN classes at SPS, I realized that I had made the right decision. The staff in the registrar’s office, the financial aid staff, my advisor, and most important of all, the nursing department professors and director were incredibly supportive and helpful. I’ve been to different colleges in India, and here in the U.S, but, the administration and staff, and professors here in SPS are way more supportive and helpful than any other college I’ve been to. The quality of education provided here is excellent.

To make my BSN program even better, I was accepted as an ACE Scholarship one year into my BSN program. The ACE Scholarship helped pay my entire tuition fee for the remaining semesters of my BSN program. Since I’ve started working, I knew that I wouldn’t be eligible for financial aid, and would have to pay the tuition fees out of my own pocket. However, the ACE Scholarship came along, and helped alleviate my financial concerns. The only thing that ACE Scholarship program asked in return was to mentor two new students (nursing) who had just joined SPS. I was a school teacher when I lived in India, and I mentored nursing students when I was in LaGuardia Community College. Furthermore, I have always been forthcoming, and volunteered to help others. Mentoring comes as second nature to me. So, it was not an uphill or a new task for me to be a mentor to new students. Mentoring also provided me with the opportunity to meet and interact with new students.

I will be graduating from CUNY SPS with BSN degree this month. I feel blessed, and very fortunate to get the opportunity to continue my education, to be a student of SPS, and to receive the ACE Scholarship when I needed help the most. I’ve had the most rewarding and fulfilling two years of my life being a student at CUNY School of Professional Studies. I am forever grateful to SPS including my professors, the staff at SPS, and Mr. Alan Fishman, who established and provided funds for the ACE Scholarship.

Tenzion Lekshay is a recipient of the CUNY SPS ACE Scholarship, a scholarship program designed to support high-achieving undergraduate students Achieve College Education (ACE). He will graduate from the Nursing degree program tonight.