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

Earlier this year I was really fortunate to be the recipient of an ACE Scholarship at the CUNY School of Professional Studies (CUNY SPS). The scholarship was set up to help students finish their degree as they get closer to graduation. Receiving this award was a real honor, and I feel very grateful to have been considered, let alone chosen.

As part of the award, ACE scholars are required to mentor two students who are just entering the school. I have never mentored other students before, and I was really intrigued as to how it would go. The idea behind the mentoring is to give some guidance to those who are returning to school or are transferring from other institutions, and to help them transition into the way things are done in the online learning environment. As mentors, we don’t take the place of advisors; we just impart some of our accumulated wisdom and provide encouragement. After all, there aren’t that many advisors or counselors who have direct experience of working in online teams or groups to complete class projects, or have direct experience of how taxing taking one too many classes can be for a student juggling a full-time job, along with family obligations that just cannot be ignored. Don’t get me wrong, advisors at CUNY SPS are extremely important, it’s just that we as mentors can reach new students as very few others can: as fellow students who have been in the exact same position that they now find themselves in.

The first step in this process was to have mentors and mentees meet face to face during a gathering organized at the school just for that purpose. The meeting was attended by the dean and the assistant deans at the school. Refreshments were provided, brief talks by the school’s representatives were listened to, and most importantly mentors and mentees got to know each other a little bit. My experience meeting my two mentees that evening was both interesting and fun. The three of us came from different backgrounds and occupations, but we all shared some very important things, like a desire to better ourselves through education, an intimate understanding of what hard work is, and some years having experienced what you might call “the real world.” That evening was spent getting to know each other better, what our experience was, where we’d left off in our education, and figuring out how we would keep connected throughout the semester. By the end of the evening we decided upon using email and then Google Hangouts for video teleconferencing. This second method would be good to keep us talking face to face every once in a while.

I’m glad to say that the Hangouts feature in Google works really well. It’s pretty much just like Skype, except that it’s a little easier, I think, and free. We’ve met a few times now on Hangouts, and we usually do that all three of us at the same time. I’ve left my mentees the option of meeting with me individually at any time, if they choose, but so far they’ve been content to be altogether. This has created a mini-community working through similar goals of successfully completing the semester. Another way this has helped is that online learning can often feel a little isolating, especially for new students. I always try to go to the CUNY SPS gatherings and meetings in midtown Manhattan for the sense of community and fellowship. However, many of the students who live in upstate New York or out in Long Island can’t make the time to come all the way in for the gatherings. Teleconferencing on Hangouts has turned out to be an easy and convenient solution.

During the first half of the semester much time was taken talking about CUNY SPS’s orientation. This is the process or training all new students undergo to prepare themselves to utilize the tools and methods of online learning. It’s pretty comprehensive at CUNY SPS, and assignments and projects are given to the newbies before their actual classes start. By the time you’ve gone through orientation, you and your PC are ready to do the work in the classes. I’d had orientation a couple of years ago, and so I wasn’t very much help to my mentees on that subject. What’s funny is that they helped each other more than I helped them by being able to discuss their experiences during our teleconferences.

After orientation, and at the very beginning of the classes, I started to fill out the shoes of a mentor by giving them tips on how to organize their time and work. Online learning requires a lot of initiative; you’ve really got to motivate yourself to check in to the class website (on Blackboard) and to participate at the right times. Unlike traditional classroom learning where you take notes during a lecture, and are given assignments, classes online require you to choose the time and the place wherein you will learn and satisfy class requirements. It can be daunting at times, and it is really easy to fall behind. With some practice and good habits, however, you can work up to a very good rhythm and get a lot done.

What follows is some of the most important advice I’ve given my mentees. Don’t overtax yourself with too many classes. At the end of the semester you want to have actually learned and retained something of the classes you took. Getting a passing grade is only part of the value of this whole enterprise: learning skills and techniques that you’ll be able to use in the workplace should not be sacrificed to this.

Another is about working in groups, which I mentioned earlier. The advice is this: if you find yourself involved in a group project where your co-participants have low motivation, do not hesitate to take the lead. Don’t let others drag you down, set the pace for your (and their) success.

Yet another is to communicate your personal challenges with the professors. Very often there are obligations we won’t be able to forgo, unexpected things will happen. In those instances, talk to or email your professors. Most will be understanding, and make some accommodations. For those who don’t, you’ll then be clear on their expectation. In my experience I’ve found that if you’re genuine and you work hard, the professors will work with you as much as they reasonably can.

At this point I should tell you that I lost one of my mentees. Due to important personal circumstances this person could not continue with the semester, and had to leave. It was disappointing, and at the same time understandable. In parting with my mentee, I made the point that when things improve, the School is still here and that as before it’s never too late to take it up again. With that said the semester progresses and I still have my other mentee who is doing quite nicely. Over the weekend, we’ll have one of our Hangout sessions where she will tell me how she is doing, and have the opportunity to ask questions or just share observations. I look forward to her completing her first semester at CUNY SPS, and encouraging her all the way to the finish line.

Jerome Basma 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 Business program at the end of this semester.

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

When I began this program several years ago, I thought of it as an avenue to complete my degree after having a stressful commitment to an in-class environment. For years I had been commuting from work to school, driving from work in Brooklyn to City College, and then driving home to Rockland County. The most challenging part of it all was getting to class on time, navigating rush hour traffic and then trying to find parking and reaching class at a respectable hour. By the time I walked into the classroom, I was spent mentally and physically.

The switch to online classes allowed me to work during my discretionary time. That was an extreme blessing for me. The classes have been engaging and the toll that the stressful commute was taking on my health has diminished. I have become a master of time management, and I owe it all to the support that I received from the advisors, instructors, and fellow students at CUNY SPS. Furthermore, becoming an ACE Scholar was the pinnacle of my success at CUNY SPS. I could not have succeeded without all of you. I am forever in your debt.

I am looking forward to finishing my final classes in December. I’ve decided to pursue a Master’s degree in Higher Education after I take a year off and spend some time with my family. Once again, I’d like to thank you all for your support.

Anthony Thompson 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 Communication and Media program at the end of this semester.

What would happen if Americans only worked the hours that they got paid for?

If you either work or study at one of the CUNY colleges, you are aware that workers are campaigning to get a new contract.  The fact that faculty and staff have waited so long (5 years and counting) for a new contract, and that contract negotiations don’t seem to be on any local politician’s priority list concerns me.  It appears that a calculation has been made that CUNY can be safely ignored.  Ruminating on the issue made me wonder what would happen if CUNY staff and faculty only worked the hours they got paid for.  Then, I generalized the idea to all workers.

America is the hardest working nation in the western world.  We work hard.  We work extra hours without being compensated in either money or time.  We also leave vacation days on the table at the end of the fiscal year.  Yet, we complete timesheets that only reflect working 35 hours per week, facilitating the fiction that all of this work can actually get done in 35 hours.

It also allows employers to dismiss appeals to hire more staff to manage the workload.  Instead, we’re told to work harder and manage our time better.  Or even worse, we’re told to stop complaining, stop acting like a victim, and hand over our cell numbers so that we can be on-call.  The final insult is to have someone question our professionalism or caring, because if we “cared,” we’d be willing to work longer shifts, plus weekends.

If workers only worked the hours they got paid for, the wheels of production would come to a halt.  Work Your Hours is not a union campaign, it’s a worker campaign.  Work Your Hours is not an illegal campaign, it’s working our contracted hours.  Work Your Hours is not class warfare, it’s a protective campaign.

Work Your Hours is not a dream, it’s a goal.  What do you think needs to happen to realize that goal?

Rhonda Harrison is currently studying 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.

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

I am the proverbial square peg, trying to fit into the round hole of the legal profession. That was my grand realization after nearly seven years of practicing law. Everyone has heard about lawyer jokes, the “blood thirsty shark” persona, the “they-must-be-lying-because-their-lips-are-moving” lawyers, and miserable court personnel who put your papers to the bottom of the pile never to be seen again. Well, to quote Han Solo in the new Star Wars, “It’s true. All of it.”

So the next question of course was—now what? It was not a matter of just changing firms or fields of law; it was much deeper than that. Knowing that this was not a profession I could see myself suffering through I sought out a means of escape. There was no question that I would need to go back to school to change careers but I also needed the ability to do so without tipping off my firm that their “future plans” would eventually not include me. Enter the CUNY School of Professional Studies and the degree program that has been nothing short of life-changing.

Apparently I am not the typical CUNY SPS student, as most come to CUNY SPS to finish long-awaiting degrees after a “life break” in their education. My attraction was a completely online psychology degree that wouldn’t break the bank. Admittedly I was skeptical at first. Can I handle online courses? Would the experience be comparable to a brick and mortar school like my original bachelor’s degree? The online format quickly became second nature. The experience, well now that is something else. I am a firm believer that the quality of your education is two-fold: 50% what you put into it and 50% what the institution brings to the table. My part was accounted for as I was more than willing to put in the hard work for a new degree, a/k/a my “escape plan.”

However, CUNY SPS has not just met its 50%, but has by far exceeded every expectation I could have had. The courses are well planned and executed in the online format, the professors accessible and genuinely helpful, and the staff on every level, all the way up to the Dean himself, has been nothing short of amazing. I can vividly remember the time I first saw the deans of my first undergrad and law school, because it was only at graduation that the wizards stepped out from behind the curtain and proved that they really existed. CUNY SPS has been the complete opposite, with a support system I have not encountered anywhere else.

I am truly grateful for the opportunity to make this life-changing quantum leap, confident in the belief that CUNY SPS will not let me fall. Now I stand on the verge of graduating from an institution I am proud to be associated with. It has been said that sometimes the smallest step in the right direction ends up being the biggest step of your life. I know that choosing SPS as my “smallest step” was undoubtedly the right decision.

Christine Hansen is a recipient of the CUNY SPS ACE Scholarship, a scholarship program designed to support high-achieving undergraduate students Achieve College Education (ACE). She will graduate from the Psychology program at the end of this semester.

This post was written by Jonathan Rodriguez, a recipient of the CUNY School of Professional Studies ACE Scholarship

When I think back on my first two semesters here at the CUNY SPS, I remember how difficult and frustrating they were. I remember wanting to quit because I felt overwhelmed, as if I was swimming against the current. However, I knew I could not quit because I made a promise to my infant son when he was born that I would finish what I started, so I began to search for something to help me organize and prioritize my time. I want to share one of the things I found helpful to manage my days and relieve some of my stress.

I was reading a book by one of my favorite authors, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen Covey. One of the people he highlighted created a calendar of his days to help him organize his time and maximize his efforts. I went to Staples and purchased a two-month dry erase calendar and began to write out the things that needed my attention for each day, in life, at school, and for myself.

This helped me to find the time I needed to dedicate to class work and set deadlines for work that was visible daily. The calendar also allowed me to make time for myself, meaning I was able to dedicate time to refresh myself with a walk around the block, watch my favorite television show, play some Candy Crush, or spend time at the gym. Like many people, I am a visual person, so when I find myself always forgetting assignments or stressed because I do not know where time is going, I visualize it with a calendar, something that I must look at daily.

I am now coming to the last semester at CUNY SPS and it has been challenging and fun throughout my time. I hope my little life hack helps you during your time at CUNY SPS. This was never easy, but it was worth it. You don’t have to give up or give into the stress; you can complete what you started just like me.

Organize your days and remember to take care of yourself. The worst thing you can do is burn out. Make time for yourself; do whatever it is that refreshes you because it will benefit your work and your longevity. God Speed as you go through this semester and every one that follows.

Jonathan Rodriguez 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 Business program at the end of this semester. 

Friday October 30, 2015 marked the 11th annual CUNY women’s leadership conference. The conference was comprised of various women leaders within our communities. There were two sessions held in the afternoon. One was for the New York City Government Panel which consisted of the following speakers: Public Advocate Letitia James, Council Member Inez Barron, and Council Member Margaret Chin.

The other was the New York State Government Panel where Senator Toby Stavisky and Assembly Member Deborah Glick, Assembly Member Diana Richardson, and Assembly Member Rebecca Seawright spoke.

In the morning we heard from Donna E. Shalala. Her words resonated with me because she didn’t come from an affluent family. Since she was a child she was demonstrating leadership capabilities. She gave the example of herself as a child directing traffic during a tornado that was approaching her neighborhood in Cleveland, her family is running to the basement and there she was on the corner of a street directing traffic. The most impacting words however, were how she told us that she still today hit walls. You never stop hitting them, you just have to find a way around it. She was both funny but more importantly honest. Sometimes I think it’s important for all of us to remember that our leaders face challenges just like we do. Even as leaders it doesn’t stop.

Donna E. Shalala

Following her words, Author Joanna Barsh spoke. Joanna Barsh is the author of “How Remarkable Women Lead” and “Centered Leadership.” Joanna actually gave us a hands on approach on applying some of the concepts from her book. It was interesting and more importantly engaging. She started out by having us move closer to those around us. I wound up meeting Jennifer who is both a journalist and a teacher. The first exercise was great because it made you break out of your comfort zone. The next exercises involved talking about emotions. We had to discuss how you felt about being there. I was incredibly excited but also nervous because of the large setting of people. By the time we were done, I felt much more relaxed.

Joanna also told us about a time that she froze during a meeting with a client. She explained it with high energy and made it incredibly relatable. What I learned from her example was how sometimes we spiral out of control with fear and it doesn’t let us make a move. In her example the meeting with the prospective client, she was asked why the prospective client would want to make a specific decision. Joanna explained that we all have a voice (or two) and sometimes that can drive us into a downward spiral. We begin to question ourselves, and everything. She wanted us to understand that this is also in a way related to our instinct to “fight or flight” responses.

We proceeded to the lunch portion of the seminar where Carolyn Maloney spoke. Representative Maloney is not only is strong advocate for the 9/11 Zadroga Act. That is the bill for first responders to receive compensation and treatment through the world trade monitoring center, but she is also fighting towards the continued funding of planned parenthood one of the largest women’s medical provider.

Studying American History now under the specific labels of race, class and gender, I understand one message clearly. We take for granted a lot of the rights that have been bestowed upon us because a lot of us can’t remember what it was like before the laws allowed certain things like voting, abortions, etc.. Women were dying in illegal operations in seedy hotels because they had no options. We don’t remember what it was like not to vote because our generation lives at a time where we have a choice.

By the end of lunch time, they had empowered me enough to actually sign up to vote. I was always one of those skeptics, “it doesn’t matter to vote, it’s all corrupt, my vote doesn’t count anyway.” By the end of lunch I had signed up to vote, and actually do as these empowering women suggested. Vote, especially because women today are not fighting for the new laws, we’re essentially fighting to hold on to the rights that we have already gained.

The last portion of the conference was equally as phenomenal as the other sections. Dianna C. Richardson was the one assembly person that stood out among everyone. Everyone was extraordinary because they all stood for one cause which is for the people. They are leaders not only because they lead but because of their advocacy of causes that concern the people. Dianna C. Richardson was both bold and honest. She gave literal meaning to walking the walk and talking the talk. The one unanimous component among a lot of the speakers was that no one necessarily planned to be in the position that they held. It just happened.

I asked at the end of the final session, what advice they would give to someone trying to transition from the private to public sector or vice versa. If not all, the majority of the panelists and keynote speakers were the first of their kind. First in a role, first in a field etc. So I wanted to understand how they handled that resistance and yet transitioned to other things. The response that closely answered that inquiry was the following. If you are trying to change your field, gear yourself, your resume towards what you’re trying to achieve. Making a decision such as public service is a choice that you make because it’s in you.

I’ll leave you with one of the quotes that stuck with me that day and today, and I hope that it stays with you. George Eliot is a pen name for Mary Ann Evans who used a male name to escape stereotypes about women authors and to be taken seriously. She says: “It is never too late to be what you might have been.”

Jessica is a full time mother, employee, and student. She works as an Immigration Paralegal and is working towards a Bachelor’s degree in Business. Jessica loves to volunteer with organizations that are targeted towards children. She recognizes that children are our future and sometimes they need someone who believes in them.

Jessica’s motto: Balancing everything is difficult but achievable.

One of Jessica’s greatest passions is writing. She says, “You have the ability to connect with reader’s in a way that speaking sometimes you simply can’t explain. I have been through a lot in my personal life and am very open about my struggles, but I live to be an example to not only my own daughter but to others.”

I grew up in Metro Manila, a Philippine urban jungle that’s pretty much Westernized, for better or for worse. At the end of October, malls would be decked out in Halloween decor. Private schools would have Halloween parades. Gated communities would have Halloween parties and children with their parents and nannies would go around their subdivision trick-or-treating. Horror movies, both local and international, would play on cable television. Halloween wasn’t for everyone, but everyone was familiar with it.


Ultraman versus a Kaijuu

I spent my first Halloween in America in Brooklyn—Clinton Hill, to be exact. The community organized family-friendly, outdoor, Halloween-themed shows to accompany the traditional dressing up and candy-giving occasion. The first show I watched was an amalgamation of monsters and horror movie references. While I never did catch the plot, the appearance of Ultraman made up for it. The second show I got to watch twice. It was a mixture of Alice in Wonderland, Wizard of Oz, and a science lesson on the circulatory system. Its offbeat delivery kept me highly amused. But more than the shows, it was the community that delighted me. Total strangers would laugh and chat with each other. Families would roam the streets together. That sense of togetherness, even if it were just for a few hours, was memorable.

If I were asked to make a comparison between Halloween in the Philippines and Halloween here—we both use this event as an opportunity to comment on the current state of affairs of our respective countries.


Amazing Halloween decor.


Scarier than The Addams Family.

Talk about frightening. Happy Halloween, everyone!

Laura is a teaching artist from the Philippines. She is a graduate student in the MA in Applied Theatre Program and is also an Apprentice in the CUNY Creative Arts Team. She enjoys theatre, music, literature, and silliness. This is her first time in the United States. While she finds New York City full of delightful surprises, she has to admit Netflix has made quite an impression on her.

“Is education important to your own sense of freedom?”

That was the question I was asked when I visited the Brooklyn Historical Society to check out the exhibit, Brooklyn Abolitionists/In Pursuit of Freedom, which is on display through Winter 2018.  It’s a small, but good, exhibit.  Check it out.


One theme of the abolition movement of old is former slaves doing whatever they could to get an education for themselves.  The need for education is just as strong now.  Today, people all over the world are at-risk of being trafficked due to illiteracy, poor education and poverty, and they become victims through force, fraud and coercion.  People who work in education and workforce development are on the protection side of the anti-trafficking/abolition movement.

( I’m proud to be an educator.

Education is a pathway to the higher rungs of the job market, where people have an opportunity to find stable employment at living wage.  Yet, education is not just about getting a job.  Education is important because it helps us solve problems, it is fun, and it helps us to be fully participating citizens.

Education helps us solve problems.  Back in my social service days, my ability to read “official” letters was just an important as my social work skills.  For example, clients would bring in letters from the Human Resources Administration indicating that their benefits were about to be cut off, and not be able to understand the fine print explaining the appeals process.

Education is fun!  Education helps us understand some types of humor, like satire.  It also helps us enjoy activities like the crossword puzzle, Scrabble and Jeopardy.  (Remember Gloria (Rosie Perez) from the movie White Men Can’t Jump?  She studied furiously while waiting for her chance to get on the show.  Hilarious!)

Education undergirds meaningful citizenship.  We might be able to hear a campaign speech from Hillary or Bernie or Donald, and we can watch them debate; but meaningful participation comes down to critical thinking skills, which are honed through education.

Let education (and freedom) ring!

Rhonda Harrison is currently studying 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 would be difficult to characterize 2015 as a banner year in film. Take a look at the top 10 box-office hits of the year and we find sequels, reboots, and superheroes. A box-office list doesn’t necessarily show us the good in film. Most often, it’s quite the opposite. These are major-studio-produced projects that have big budgets, and major dollars in advertising campaigns behind them, most of which are released in the summer months. We’re past that now. October brings in the season of more serious fare. Indie, art-house, supposedly award-worthy films.

Let’s break down some of the early hopefuls already in theaters. Perhaps this post helps some of you who aren’t sure what films are worth your time and money this season.

SICARIO – 3.5/4

My favorite of the early awards hopefuls, Sicario is a tense thriller that takes a look at the frightening drug wars on the border of the United States and Mexico. Director Denis Villeneuve (Enemy, Prisoners) has established himself as a man so adept at tension in even the simplest of scenes. Shot beautifully by Roger Deakins (DP – The Shawshank Redemption, Fargo, No Country For Old Men, Skyfall), and led by a quiet, but powerful Emily Blunt, and Benicio Del Toro in his most chilling performance in years, Sicario is an ambitious, and compelling thriller that at times will leave you breathless.


I couldn’t help but feel disappointed walking out of this one, feeling as marooned as Matt Damon’s character on Mars. While critical praise is almost universal, The Martian left me cold. Damon gives a fine performance, but the rest of the cast—that for whatever reason needed to be someone recognizable in each role—was distracting at best, and annoying at worst. At times, the science is fascinating, and the imagery wonderful, but it was too Hollywood-by-the-books. A neatly wrapped up film where the end is never in doubt.


Steven Spielberg is no stranger to war-time film-making with movies such as Schindler’s List, Saving Private Ryan, Munich, and Lincoln under his belt. While Bridge Of Spies may not be a major Spielberg work, and at times feels like it’s a film more settled than ambitious, it’s well done. With a tight, at times humorous script by the Coen Brothers (of course!), and one of America’s most beloved actors (Tom Hanks) leading the way, it’s a drama about morals. About doing what’s right instead of doing what’s asked or expected. Mark Rylance as Abel, the Russian spy, is scene-stealing.

STEVE JOBS – 2.5/4

It’s another slam-you-over-the-head with quick, witty dialogue Sorkin-fest. Think The Social Network, but not as good (and I didn’t love that, either). There isn’t a lot of revelatory information here. Jobs was a difficult person to work with and be around, but this is known, and there are better sources for that information. The film, and script are more concerned with showing you how bad a guy this was, rather than the visionary who inspired it. This gets the extra half a star for Michael Fassbender’s immersive title performance as Jobs. He’s so good, you forget they look nothing alike.

A bonus pick for those of you who enjoy documentaries:

JUNUN – 3/4

For my money, Paul Thomas Anderson is the greatest working filmmaker today, and of the last 18 or so years. Writing and directing the fabulous Boogie Nights at 26 years old, and creating what I consider to be the only masterpiece of the past decade (There Will Be Blood), PTA is known for his flair behind the camera, his close-ups, and getting the best damn performances of actors a director could dream of. He sets most of that aside here to film his friend, and regular collaborator Jonny Greenwood (lead guitarist of Radiohead) creating an album in India with a group of Indian musicians. There is almost no dialogue, and very few interview moments we’ve become accustomed to seeing in documentaries, but the connection of these musicians, and the feeling conveyed by each shot left an impression on me. It might not be for the average viewer, and maybe you need to be a fan of PTA to get it, but for the wonderful music alone, and that it’s less than an hour, it’s certainly worth the look.

Tweet me @BobbyJDaniels!

Robert is a current student here at CUNY SPS, pursuing a degree in Communication and Media. He is interested in platforms of media, especially those related to digital media; and a fan of serious film as well as this current golden age of television.


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