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

When I was first notified that I would be a recipient of the ACE Scholarship for the fall 2016, I was beyond excited. I went back to school in January 2015 to finish up my Bachelor’s degree in hopes to move along to get a Master’s degree. Going back was scary and new. I had never taken an online class before. I do work remote and am very accustomed to working independently, but the first day of school is something entirely new! I was not sure of the systems, Blackboard and teacher expectations. I have picked up some tips along the way that have helped me succeed along the way and I’d like to share them. It’s what works for me and I encourage everyone to find what works for them.

Take the time to read through the Syllabus! Every teacher has different expectations and requirements. Some Professors require a DB post to be by a certain day of the week to receive maximum credit. This is such an easy way to earn the most points. Try to make that your deadline to receive the highest scores. Make note of how many reply posts are required for each class. This is another way you can achieve maximum points. If a Professor requires at least two replies to classmates, aim to complete those with substance. I can tell most Professors are looking for an interactive discussion and would rather two substantial posts rather than five replies with a couple of sentences.

I have taken anywhere from two to four classes a semester. Organization is key! At the start of each week, I make a running list in my notebook. I write down what is due each week for every class. I make note of how many replies are needed for each DB post. I also write down if I should be starting to spend time on group projects or reports. Even if a project is not due for a month; I make sure to spend some time on it each week. Sometimes that may just be 15 minutes, but I can tell you even just writing a rough outline helps. Anytime you can spend on homework is helpful. This list for each week helps me remember what needs to be completed. And I get satisfaction every time I get to cross something off for the week!

Don’t wait until the last minute! I know we have all been there. Myself included. Sometimes life is just busy and it happens. I work full time and have three children under the age of seven. I am fortunate to have a husband who will take the kids out on a Saturday morning so I can have time for homework. If I have a test to take over a weekend, he’ll take them out so I can have some quiet. Find what works for you! I work best when I have am not interrupted and can really focus on school work. If you have other responsibilities in life, which I am sure you all do, make the time for school work. Plan a night or some part of the weekend that is dedicated to school. If I know I have a busy weekend ahead, I try and get as much done as possible earlier in the week. Plan ahead!

I also encourage you to come to any CUNY SPS events that you can. I had never been to the actual school until I attended ACE Scholarship events. It was so nice to meet other students and share best practices. These are the only people who truly understand what you are going through and sometimes you just need to sit and talk about it. I can say how nice it has been to meet classmates and faculty in person. It’s been enlightening to share stories and experiences. Although this is an online learning environment, there are so many resources available to you to help you succeed. Don’t be afraid to seek them out!

Tina Nugent 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 Business degree program on May 31, 2017.

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

Being a working mom is something I am really proud of. I have worked tremendously hard to maintain my career, while raising my family and being a student here at CUNY SPS. I speak to a lot of working moms who struggle to find work/life balance. I have been really fortunate to work for a company that supports this initiative. But even if I didn’t have that support from my brand there are things that I do that help me stay on track and organized.

My story goes…


I have four children. Four daughters to be exact and each one has a very different schedule and plan when they wake up. My 2 year old is up before everyone, but give her some Cheerios and she is busy for a while. This is when I check my email, make notes of important to do’s and prepare for the day.

By 6:00 am the house is in full swing. My 13 year old is off, and the rest of the crew is waking up as well. At 7:00 am, my 9 year old is up and getting ready for the day. She is quite assertive, and I appreciate it when I am trying to calendar the remaining of my day. From 7:00-8:00 am, I am printing resumes, reviewing applicants, scrolling LinkedIn and catching up on social media. As a recruiter social media is a large part of how I engage with candidates.

By 8:00 am, it is show time. Whether it’s summer or school time, the house is in motion. I may have to help with some clothes decisions, and they are pretty good with getting the rest together. This is when my mother arrives. She helps with breakfast and bus stop runs. She also keeps my youngest on days she doesn’t have nursery school.

When it comes to my career, I am a recruiter for a large retailer. Therefore, I schedule all my interviews in advance, and make time to write my notes in between. I work from home a couple days a week, so it is very helpful when I have some downtime for school. I typically print out my assignments off Blackboard and use the mobile app to stay up to date on deadlines.

I tackle the larger school projects in the evening, when I am not working. But will do smaller discussion board posts between appointments or on lunch.

Balancing family—work—life and school is just that a balancing act.

What is my typical schedule?  

I start at 6:00 am and end at 8:00 pm. I will answer email up until the last set of eyes closes. Supporting other time zones it is important to be accessible after 5:00 pm EST. So I will always try to keep myself available. However, there are times when I have to stop and be a mom as the day goes on. But planning and knowing what coming helps you be prepared.

How do I stay organized?

I do a monthly calendar in Word with everything that is happening. I am always marking down appointments for the girls, me, my husband and my mom. I need to know where we need to be and what time. It’s color coded, and I have it available for all to see. I hand write changes, and while it’s manual it is still my go too for what is happening. I also use Gmail to calendar everything, and invite my work email and school email to the event. This allows me to have all my events on all my calendars—as to not double book. It is not fun when you overbook or double book do to personal/work conflicts. Know where you and your family are at all times, and you can stay organized.

Organization is a family affair. My 13 year old has a white board in her room. I put her calendar on there for her so she knows what is happening.

My 9 year old the same white board, to keep track of her Girl Scout activities and sports. Showing my older girls responsibility for being organized is very important. I am over organized, and I want my girls to be as well.

Finally, I carry a notebook with me and a pen. I write notes as things happen throughout the day, and sometimes it can happen when I am not in front of my computer to document it.

As a recruiter, my operations binder is my lifeline. I have all my important documents, passwords and job files. I put all resumes of candidates in process in my binder, and carry it with me everywhere. You never know when you will need to access their information quickly. I also print all notes that I send to business partners, and a copy of interview schedules as well.

As a student I have the same binder. I have my assignments, calendar of events, and updated course information at the tips of my fingers. I also update all my deadlines and due dates on the calendars as well. Sometimes various courses have different deadlines.

Staying organized is the key to it all. If you don’t organize yourself and your family for what is coming, it’s hard to be prepared. Good Luck!

Lynne Alba 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 Business degree program on May 31, 2017.

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

I’m finally here: my last semester in a four-year journey at CUNY SPS. In fact, it’s my last week of my last semester, in my last class at the school. The capstone class (in this case, Strategic Management) is almost done: my team members and I have recently input the last of the data required for the closing quarter of the business simulation, Marketplace; and we’ve handed in our final case study about Delta Airlines’ response to the threat posed by low-cost carriers in the aftermath of 9/11. Next week, I and the class will take the final, and then goodbye. Great stuff, and now it’s practically over. I will definitely miss it.

I wonder what I will do with myself now that there are no classes to take, no readings, no team projects, no case studies, no exams, no discussion board assignments. If it sounds like I’m already experiencing some withdrawal symptoms, it’s because I am. As I said, I will miss all of this, and the great community that CUNY SPS has been for me the last few years. For sure, there are new challenges to be faced: updating my LinkedIn profile with that infuriatingly blank “education” field (I’m in my fifties, so it’s particularly galling), parlaying my enhanced skills learned from professors and classmates into a better position at my current employment, looking and perhaps finding that job that not only pays the bills but fills that little bit of hollowness in the soul. That last one is the one, isn’t it? It’s the one we all have to go for, even if we don’t achieve it, even if we only just get close and almost make it. Don’t give up, be sensible by all means, but don’t surrender.

These thoughts crowd my head as I step off the curb to cross to the other side. The way ahead will interesting, I will have to make it interesting: what does it mean to have prepared, spent, and sacrificed so much if it keeps you in the same place you started from? Is that even possible? I’m thinking ahead to the new preparations I will soon undertake, and as I strategize my next moves I also think back on the four years spent at CUNY SPS. What would I tell a new mentee just starting out at CUNY SPS? What would I tell my sons as they start out in higher education? What would I tell a friend? The thing that comes to mind is this: don’t just show up. To me showing up is doing the minimum to get the diploma and moving on. If you do that, you’ll end up with a marginally useful piece of paper, and not much else. What you can do instead is to use your classes, use your time in school to breathe some life into your dreams and get them a little closer to becoming a reality.

This can be done by using CUNY SPS and its network of faculty, students, and staff to the fullest extent. Don’t believe that getting the diploma, graduating, magically changes everything: one day you’re a student, and the next you’re a graduate, and then the world changes. Perhaps on some minor level this is true, but it doesn’t last. As you take each class, you should think about how you can apply what you are learning to your present situation: be it your current job, or the job you eventually want to get. You should access your professor and the other students in your class as resources of knowledge, and the possible start of network that you can draw upon for years to come. With that in mind, consider your classmates, who might help you through their experiences or professional background—think also about how you might benefit them in the same way in return. Also consider your professor, who might have a wealth of information about a particular subject you’re interested in. If you feel you need advice in how to proceed in your studies, or how to position yourself to get a certain type of job he or she is familiar with, ask to meet with them. They may or may not say yes. If they can’t meet in person, ask them for a phone call or teleconference. You’ll find that many of them are very helpful and willing to accommodate you in some form.

Also, don’t pass up on the opportunity to stay in touch with faculty and students who share your common interests. One easy and well accepted way to do this is through LinkedIn. Ask them to be in your network, so that at some point in the future you might easily reconnect and communicate with them—remind them you were in their class. Additionally, keep in mind that they may be able to introduce you to people they know on their networks.

Another way you can get more out of your education is to give some of your time back to the school. Show up at the gatherings. Given that many of the programs at CUNY SPS are online, this is very valuable. You’ll meet some of the staff, faculty, and students face to face, and they in turn will get to know you better. Volunteer to help out, or join the student council. Remember that the more of yourself you put into a situation, the more you’ll get back, sometimes in ways you can’t conceive of in the moment. So enough of my sermonizing, and I do apologize if I’ve gone a little long on this. It’s just that I can’t stress enough the importance of doing more than just showing up. Let’s get on with it. I wish you all the best.

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 B.S. in Business degree program on May 31, 2017.

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

I started my journey with CUNY in 2002 fresh out of high school and unmotivated. I completed a series of classes and then took an opportunity that allowed me to travel nationally and internationally. This opportunity lasted for three years and although it was life changing I found myself missing college, my business classes in particular. I found, through my traveling experience, that business is an essential major and has a place in every aspect of life. Upon this revelation, I vowed in my heart to finish school and to promote education to others. I had no idea how much determination I would need to make my dreams become a reality.

In 2007 I returned to New York with the motivation to continue my education while working for a non-profit organization. I was under the impression, when I accepted the position, that I would be able to takes classes as well as fulfill my responsibilities at work. After making a three-year commitment, I soon found out that this was not the case and my college education was pushed to the rear. I was, though, able to squeeze one class out of those three years. This road block helped me to prioritize my education as I looked to my next job opportunity.

In 2010, I accepted a job in Memphis, TN where I was able to mentor young adults as they searched for direction after high school. Naturally, I encouraged education and made myself a living example by continuing my own education. I was able to manage two classes a semester and often times I used my course work to give my students a glimpse into the college world. Many since have gone on to college or a form of higher education.

In 2013, I completed my Associate’s degree at a community college in Memphis, TN. Financial aid covered my tuition during my Associate’s degree but I knew that I would need some financial assistance to complete my Bachelor’s degree. An entrepreneurial fire had been set in my heart and I knew I wanted to fan the flame. In 2015, after I returned to New York to be closer to family, I rejoined the CUNY system to continue my education. I knew that CUNY was a trusted source and it was where my venture had begun. CUNY School of Professional Studies has been a perfect fit for me. Being about two years away from a goal I had set for myself over ten years ago was exhilarating for me. My journey, up to this point, has been paved with determination and tenacity and I set my sights on making good grades in order to finish strong.

It was earlier this year that I received a phone call about my financial aid ending after the fall semester. Being so close to completion of not only my degree but a long term goal, this call was unnerving. I decided to apply for the ACE Scholarship. This scholarship was interesting to me because it would cover the rest of my tuition and also because it required me to mentor incoming students, something I loved to do. When I was awarded the ACE Scholarship it felt like a weight was lifted off of my shoulders. I felt as if it was a divine reward for my rugged persistence. Because of this scholarship my student loans are minimal and my future is secure. Having a mentee to provide assistance to is an additional reward for me, being able to come along side someone coming along the same path and help them along the way is fulfilling beyond words. I am forever grateful for this opportunity.

Cheryl Brewington 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 BS in Business program on May 31, 2017.

Question for the audience:

What are your suggestions, comments, and concerns?

Brooklyn born Amoni B is a socially responsible CUNY SPS business student and court employee. She founded Vive Entertainment EnterprisesBrooklyn Multi-Service Community Center, Corp., a tax exempt 501c3 nonprofit, and Brown-Pugh Daughters & Sons LLC, a real estate investment group, all to benefit her community in East New York. Amoni B is an alumna and former employee of City Tech, holding an Associate of Applied Science in Electromechanical Engineering Technology and a Certificate in Interactive Media Technology. She writes children books, and published technical writings, poetry and plays. She is a mentor, consultant, certified notary, commercial driver, and realtor. Her mission is to promote professional and personal development, and inspire others. More about Amoni B

 

Amoni B recalls several times when she had to manage time more efficiently and effectively, and shares her advice.

Brooklyn born Amoni B is a socially responsible CUNY SPS business student and court employee. She founded Vive Entertainment EnterprisesBrooklyn Multi-Service Community Center, Corp., a tax exempt 501c3 nonprofit, and Brown-Pugh Daughters & Sons LLC, a real estate investment group, all to benefit her community in East New York. Amoni B is an alumna and former employee of City Tech, holding an Associate of Applied Science in Electromechanical Engineering Technology and a Certificate in Interactive Media Technology. She writes children books, and published technical writings, poetry and plays. She is a mentor, consultant, certified notary, commercial driver, and realtor. Her mission is to promote professional and personal development, and inspire others. More about Amoni B

Amoni B defines what it means to patronize. She believes it is a given to patronize those you know, however many disagree. Amoni provides examples from her own life experiences, and questions the audience about how they feel supporting people they know. What do you think?

Brooklyn born Amoni B is a socially responsible CUNY SPS business student and court employee. She founded Vive Entertainment Enterprises, Brooklyn Multi-Service Community Center, Corp., a tax exempt 501c3 nonprofit, and Brown-Pugh Daughters & Sons LLC, a real estate investment group, all to benefit her community in East New York. Amoni B is an alumna and former employee of City Tech, holding an Associate of Applied Science in Electromechanical Engineering Technology and a Certificate in Interactive Media Technology. She writes children books, and published technical writings, poetry and plays. She is a mentor, consultant, certified notary, commercial driver, and realtor. Her mission is to promote professional and personal development, and inspire others. More about Amoni B

Each year CUNY SPS asks graduating students to apply to be the Student Speaker at Commencement. As part of their application they are asked to submit their anticipated speech. At the end of the process only one student is selected, however, numerous speeches embody the spirit of the graduating class. We are proud to share some of these speeches here.

Kathryn Walker is graduating from CUNY SPS on June 6 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Business and this is her speech:

Momentous is defined as “(of a decision, event, or change) of great importance or significance, especially in its bearing on the future.” Well, this certainly is a momentous occasion, and marks an accomplishment of a great milestone in our lives. Think about your life before you decided to embark upon this achievement. For me, I had been out of school for 23 years. I had an associate’s degree, and I was proud of it. I had been working for the same company for 16 years and was proud of what I had accomplished there. But I wanted more. I wanted to keep progressing. I had thought off and on about going back to school and finishing my bachelor’s degree, but there was always an excuse not to: where to find the time, not to mention the expense. In looking for more progressed, higher management positions, I found a constant requirement: a bachelor’s degree—which I did not have. It became apparent that going back to school was something that I needed to do. Think about what motivated you to decide to finish your degree.

In researching where to attain this needed degree, I found that CUNY School of Professional Studies was the best fit for me. Compared to other schools, the tuition was competitive and, being online, the schedule would allow me the flexibility to work while going to school. Although, I do have to say that the estimation of each class taking 9 to 12 hours per week is a bit of an understatement (chuckle).

Each class in each semester brought new challenges. Aside from the academic part of learning, there was BlackBoard, Wikis, e-Portfolios, and an array of learning software systems. I even tweeted in one class. But no matter how high the hurdle, we made it to graduation because we stuck to it, we met the challenges, and we overcame them.

Wherever you go from here—whether it’s a new job or continuing with your education—you can overcome new challenges with confidence, and not be intimidated by learning new things. By graduating from CUNY SPS, you have shown that you are capable. Look how far you have come.

In Economics class we learned the term “opportunity cost.” Defined, opportunity cost is “the loss of potential gain from other alternatives when one alternative is chosen.” Besides the financial cost of books and tuition, what were your opportunity costs while pursuing your degree? Perhaps spending less time with your family and loved ones, neglected housework, lack of sleep, weight gain…I’m sure we all have our own list. But we did not give up. We persevered.

However, we did not accomplish this alone. Who was there for you? In what ways did they support you? Maybe it was your advisor who took all the time you needed to guide you through unchartered territory and put your mind at ease. And I’m sure we can all think of at least one special professor that was so attentive and answered all our questions to ensure we had a clear understanding.

And what about our friends and family? Our loved ones did not sign up for school. But there was an opportunity cost for them as well. Think about the ways in which they supported us. Perhaps helping out by running errands, doing extra housework, being understanding about the time we spent with schoolwork rather than with them, or listening to us vent about a stress or frustration about a project, an assignment or an exam.

We are truly blessed and have much in which to be thankful for what we have accomplished and for those close to us that supported us along the way.

 

I’m currently reading Waiter Rant by Steve Dublianca and I can’t stress how excellent the book is. There is something so amazing when someone is just honest and forthcoming about their personal experiences. It’s like an invisible connection of emotions and thoughts that we can relate to. The writer explains his experience working in the restaurant industry.

For starters, I commend him. Working with the general public is difficult but the food industry is a beast all in its own. I tried my hand at working at a local Cuban restaurant when I was about 14 and made it through about a 1 day, 4 hour shift and I never went back. A few years later and one of the only times  I was able to not work and simply focus on school, I took a temp job at a Subway (at least it was temporary in my mind). That lasted just long enough to pay off my newly minted credit card. It wasn’t a hard job, but the clincher for me was when one day I was getting ready for school. I had taken a shower, gotten ready, and got to class. Of course, I always sat in the back and still do like the genuine handful that I am. The thing is that I caught a whiff of Subway. If you’ve ever eaten subway you know they have an incredibly distinguishable smell. It was only after a few minutes that I realized that smell of subway was me. I didn’t last, I cracked. I was still around 19 or 20 years old, super self-centered and self-conscious and couldn’t fathom going to school smelling like I’d been bathing in Subway. Needless to say I quit.

The writer of Waiter Rant talks a lot about humanity, the socioeconomic disparity and more importantly, the ruthlessness in our own humanity. One of the examples he talks about is a women who suffered a stroke in the restaurant. The woman is waiting for an ambulance when a couple walks in and proceeds to argue about the table they want, all while this woman is on the floor having a stroke. If you shook your head while reading that, take a second and think, are you that person on the train that has watched someone pass out and sucked your teeth or sighed out loud at the delay? Because I’ve watched this happen before. Right, because the person laying on the filthy subway car totally planned on botching your morning commute. I’m ruthless and cutthroat in a lot of ways, but on the other hand I am empathetic and understanding. So if I’m stuck under ground or plain stuck because your having a medical emergency, I think, oh well at least I’m still alive to see another day, the person who’s on the floor might not be that fortunate.

The book talks about a homeless guy who sometimes gets food from a restaurant. It reminds me of the homeless problem in New York and nationally. A few years back I was out with one of my best friends. The weather was brutal, I could feel the cold through my 1 Madison fox fur, goose coat. (Okay PETA advocates, have a seat. I didn’t know at the time it was authentic until I read the tag). The thing was that there was a woman with a thin coat asking for a coffee. Yes, a coffee. What upset me was everyone ignored her. She wasn’t asking for change, she wasn’t asking for money, she just wanted something to warm up. Now I pose this question, how can you say no? I’ve often asked homeless people if their hungry. I may not be rolling in the dough but how can you justify denying someone a meal. This past week this has been bouncing around in my peanut head. If I can afford a $300 Coach bag, how can I justify denying someone even a $5 meal? Can you? I know I can’t. Let’s put it this way, if you own an iPhone you know they retail for about $600 or upwards unless you have contract etc.. If you own an iPad, your walking around with now $1,000 in goods at minimum. So just think about that.

I’m not saying it’s up to one person or anyone to dive in financially and help the homeless or to jump in and save the life of a passed out passenger. What I am saying is we need to be a bit more conscientious of our attitudes towards each other. The truth is—even me included in this—it’s easy to be consumed by the work and school grind, however, no matter the pursuit, you should never lose sight of your humanity.

Here is my fave quote from the book:

“My Godfather, a Catholic Priest, once told me: ‘You may be the strongest and survive-only to win a life not fit for living.'”

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.”

Have you ever seen that 1990’s movie about a dentist that goes whackadoodle over his wife who’s having an affair with the pool boy? Well I know they don’t really do that but I have an extreme aversion to dentists. In fact, I would sooner let a tooth fall out of my head rather than indulge in going. I never even had my wisdom teeth knocked out of my head. They’re in my mouth living a delightful life. However, years ago I had a bad tooth that eventually cracked but the pain eventually stopped. So when I had an issue a few years back and I was forced to go to a dentist, it turns out they had to extract what was left. This was my first experience that wasn’t a routine cleaning or planing.

To say I would rather eat off the floor of a subway car than to go to the dentist is a pretty bad analogy considering how filthy those carts are. But I can justify that one since people in other countries eat off the floor and they’re okay. What did we do before plates and bowls (cavemen times)? The moral of this story is that I went. They numbed my gums which was painful in itself and then he proceeded to crack my tooth like a nutcracker as my head moved around like I was bopping to a happy beat. I was horrified and traumatized all at the same time.

Needless to say, I avoided the dentist for a few years after that once in a lifetime joyous experience. Recently, actually a week before Christmas, I received the most priceless gift ever! A toothache. Of course it was so bad I had no choice but to seek human intervention. Now, I like this dentist but I can’t stress how long I put this off for. My root canal was just finished a few weeks back, so I literally put off a visit since December. I didn’t show up like twice and I rescheduled like 4 times. God bless them for putting up with me, but I guess the girls know I have a strong aversion to the dentist. Unless I’m dropping dead on your floor, catch me if you can…

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.”