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

I first began pursuing my Bachelor’s Degree many years ago, back in Kenya, where I am originally from. Due to personal circumstances, I have had to start, stop, continue and discontinue several times. The thing that kept me going was that it was my late mother’s deepest wish that I continue with my education and obtain an advanced degree. It has been an arduous trip getting here.

Sometimes financial conditions have limited my participation and at other times the pressure of working full-time reduced the time needed to attend school. I constantly hoped and prayed for something to give so that I could complete my degree. Either I could obtain a full scholarship or I could work at a job that would allow for class attendance at very odd hours. The online classes given at the CUNY School of Professional Studies were an answer to half my prayers. It was a financial struggle attending the classes but through thick and thin I worked at it, sometimes taking one course, other times two.

Finally, I was awarded the ACE Scholarship just in time. I have been told that the last few semesters are usually the most difficult and are referred to as the breaking point. That is across the board for the Bachelor, Graduate and even the Post-Graduate degrees. Having struggled to get to the finish line, it was the ACE Scholarship that pushed me through. Not only was it financially essential, it gave me added momentum to get to the finish line and not to lose hope.

Even more pleasantly, it motivated me to obtain better grades than ever. The motivation to work at having really good grades was a surprising upshot of being an ACE Scholar. To keep the scholarship, my GPA had to be above 3.0. I work full-time at a job that, though rewarding, can be really stressful. Having the scholarship ensured that I worked harder not just to complete the assignments on time, but also to submit the kind of quality work expected from an ACE Scholar.

Another requirement of being an ACE Scholar is to be a mentor to new students. In my first semester as an ACE Scholar, I mentored a new student with whom I shared a class. He is one of those students who submit their work way ahead of time. Additionally, his work is always thoughtful and well-written. Many times I wished that he was my mentor instead. On the other hand, having him in my class was very beneficial to me as it motivated me even more to always submit my assignments in a timely manner (though rarely way ahead of time). Mentoring my mentee was a joyful experience and I can only hope that my future mentees will have the same disposition that he does.

Through the mentorship program, I have learned a lot, not only in how to be a mentor, but also how to be a good student.

Esther Kimani 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 Communications and Media degree program on May 31, 2017.

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One day I decided to go down a blackout water slide backwards on a tube, thinking it was going to be awesome. The staff gave me a little push and off I went—I’m having a blast! It’s dark and I can’t see anything and my adrenaline is running high. Then out of nowhere a sharp turn comes that lifts me off the tube and smacks the side of my head. Now I’m sliding down tubeless, still backward, not having blast… thinking this was a bad idea. And that’s exactly how life is, filled with unexpected turns called obstacles.

Obstacles, you can’t avoid them. They are just creeping by, waiting for the moment you least expect it. Just when you thought things couldn’t get any better, out of nowhere life says hold up, not so fast and smacks you across the face. Sometimes we create our own obstacles, and other times things just happen out of our control. For instance, you bombed that interview that you spent days practicing for, the train decided to get rerouted today out of all days, you wrote ABC instead of NBC on your cover letter, you called somebody important by the wrong name, you are looking to gain experience in your field but everywhere you go they require experience, someone doesn’t like you simply because you are attractive, and the list goes on. From the most bizarre obstacles to our everyday headaches.

How do we deal with obstacles? We learn from them, we move on, and we don’t let obstacles define us. We plan ahead of time, we double-check things, we ask for help, and most importantly we try again. When we give up is when we truly fail in life, minor set backs are just lessons.

“Fall seven times, stand up eight”—Japanese Proverb

Yerelyn is a native New Yorker, with Dominican roots in her blood. She loves to read, write, and is pursuing acting. She loves lending a helping hand or words of encouragement to those in need of it. She is majoring in Communication and Media here at CUNY SPS.

 

Check Your Inbox

When an invitation from Virtual Campus Coordinator Anthony Sweeney hits your CUNY email inbox, please do yourself a favor:

  1. Clear your calendar
  2. GO!

You will not be disappointed, I promise.  Recently a fellow blogger, Yerelyn Nunez, suggested that we take advantage of the opportunities available to us as students: https://cunysps.wordpress.com/2017/03/09/take-advantage-of-being-a-student/.

I couldn’t agree more with Yerelyn.  Here are a couple of examples illustrating the exciting ways we can celebrate our diverse CUNY SPS community.

Bloomberg International Women’s Day Summit

Thanks to one of those fab Anthony invites, I was honored to attend the Bloomberg International Women’s Day Summit.  The event started early Sunday morning, March 12 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art with an energetic welcome given by our own CUNY Vice Chancellor Andrea Shapiro-Davis.  She was followed by inspiring speakers who are committed to empowering women throughout the world.  The participants were exclusively students, some as young as middle school age.  The attendees were invited to partner up with Bloomberg mentors.  The support and encouragement we were given helped us all envision a brighter future for women.

CUNY SPS students with Vice Chancellor Andrea Shapiro-Davis

The photo above is Vice Chancellor Andrea Shapiro-Davis (she’s so cool!) with summit attendees from CUNY SPS: Kangela Moore, Yvette Humphries, and yours truly.  (Because I’m an older “non-conventional” student, the younger students kept asking me if I was a mentor!)

Creating a Safe Place

CUNY SPS is a diverse school dedicated to inclusion.  Have you been worried about how the presidential election could affect some of our students and their families?  At a school meeting earlier this semester, there was a conversation about the election and its ramifications.  After this student/faculty dialogue, the students were given the green light to form a discussion group addressing the implications of the current political climate for our student body.  In just a few short months, the logistics were worked out and the exchange is about to start.

CUNY SPS Intergroup Dialogue

Please join the conversation!  All CUNY SPS students are welcomed to the first discussion group meeting to be held on April 5.  Participants will identify a topic to have courageous and supportive conversations that will be co-facilitated by Melissa McIntyre (Disability Studies, MA).

The group will work collectively and collaboratively to empower all of our students and their families in the times ahead.  Dinner is even provided folks!  Clear your calendar and GO!

Let’s all give all give a BIG SHOUT OUT to Associate Dean Brian Peterson, Dr. Zeita Lobley, Anthony Sweeney and Melissa McIntyre who made this happen!

Addressing our Legacy

A final little footnote: at CUNY SPS, we are a newish/smallish school within a large and established university system.  This gives us the unique ability to profoundly impact our school environment.  We have a wonderful group of administrators who are not only open to our ideas about creating student opportunities, but will help facilitate whenever possible.  Few colleges have these possibilities, with this kind of support, so we should all consider how we can help make CUNY SPS an even better learning environment for future students.

Designer, single mom, and ongoing student, Lisa Sheridan is busy juggling life, work, and academics as an undergraduate in the Communication and Media department.

Hello, spring is near…oh no wait, spring is here!

It’s the time where the sun shines a little longer, a time for regrowth and rejuvenation. Where the temperature starts to rise a little higher and things start to bloom around you. It reminds us that in life we must have balance. Ah yes balance…how easily we forget.

Balance in our lives is crucial, it can’t all just be work, work, work, work, work, like Rihanna’s hit song. We need to remember to make time for our loved ones, our social life, and our personal time. With balance, you’ll be much more productive. You won’t feel burnt out, you’ll have a refreshed mind with new ideas lingering by. I know sometimes it feels impossible to enjoy life with the many commitments one may have, but remember where there’s a will there’s a way. There’s simply no excuses, so start today in developing a healthier daily routine.

“Some days you eat salads and go to the gym, some days you eat cupcakes and refuse to put on pants, it’s called balance”—Unknown  

Yerelyn is a native New Yorker, with Dominican roots in her blood. She loves to read, write, and is pursuing acting. She loves lending a helping hand or words of encouragement to those in need of it. She is majoring in Communication and Media here at CUNY SPS.

A Big Scary Button

This orange tab on the CUNY SPS scholarship page had me losing sleep for weeks.  It loomed over me like a dour headmistress, daring me to take my chances.   But after a few yoga classes, and some deep breathing, I calmed myself down enough to realize that the application wasn’t the all-or-nothing gamble I’d internally created.  After all, there are loads of scholarships.  Research showed me that a diligent search could unearth a scholarship for almost anyone.

There’s even a scholarship for Dr. Pepper lovers.

(Graphics from: http://carrington.edu/blog/student-tips/finance/scholarships/)

Crafting my Life

All “non-conventional students” have a story.  Since I have lived a full life, the personal essay for my application could easily become longwinded.  The challenge was to convey personality, recount my past, and create an impression in a pithy 500 words.

Writing my mini-memoir reminded me of that famous Oscar Wilde quote, “I’m sorry this letter is so long, but I didn’t have time for a short one.”  Wait- was it Ben Franklin?  Maybe Mark Twain?  Turns out, this quote has quite an illustrious history.  Apparently, I’m not the only person who thinks writing short is hard!  Here’s the link to read its journey, if you’re so inclined. (Spoiler alert: it was Blaise Pascal, but Ben Franklin recycled it.) http://quoteinvestigator.com/2012/04/28/shorter-letter/

Making the Impersonal Personal

The scholarship application needed two reference letters.  My first choice seemed obvious.  I’d enlist my cousin, who has watched over me like a big brother.  Not only does he have excellent academic cred (PhD in literacy), he’s also my book coach.  But I was later told that it’s more relevant having my CUNY SPS professors commend me.  Suddenly asking for endorsements felt awkward.

Because distance-learner.

This is my avatar.

She lives in the ether of my Blackboard profile.  On most screens, she’s smaller than a postage stamp.  Except for the weekly discussion board, she has no voice.  My professors never heard her laugh.  They never saw the delight in her face when they helped her learn new skills, or embrace new concepts. Yet, for my CUNY SPS mentors, she is me.

Thankfully, Professors Driver and Gardener both readily agreed to write the endorsement.  I am forever grateful and there needs to be special corners in heaven dedicated to them.

Lessons Learned

All non-conventional students have a story to tell: here’s mine.  When I initially applied to CUNY SPS, my application was rejected.  In earlier student life, I unofficially withdrew from several classes when transferring schools.  This left some glaring zeroes on my transcript, bringing my GPA below the requisite 2.5 by .03%.  Not easily daunted, I challenged the decision.  After spreadsheets, recommendation letters, and a new personal essay, I was admitted—on academic probation.

I have worked hard.  My GPA is up.

While writing my essay for the scholarship, it occurred to me that in one year my son and I will both be 1st generation college students at the same time.

Study Group 2018

Never too late. Never give up.


500 words: Boom!

Designer, single mom, and ongoing student, Lisa Sheridan is busy juggling life, work, and academics as an undergraduate in the Communication and Media department.

 

 

Life as a student is short, so why not get ahead in the short time your here? What have you been doing to be more prepared after life as a student is over with? If you answered nothing to that question, then you seriously need to get on your A game.

This is the time to learn and grow: as an individual and professionally. CUNY SPS hosts a lot of webinars that help us improve on those soft skills vital for being successful in life.

Join a club: research a club that will help jump start your career. If your majoring in media/communications/journalism a good club to join is the National Association of Hispanic Journalist. They offer fellowships and internships. They also send out great networking events and career workshops. I recently just went to one of their networking events, where I got to mingle with people that work for the New York Times, CNN, ESPN, and BuzzFeed, just to name a few.

Internships: don’t wait until the last semester to intern! Start right away if you can. Internships are a great way to gain exposure in different areas of your major firsthand. The more exposure you get to different professional environments, the more confident you will be when you graduate about what area in your field you want to go in.

Develop your mind: all of these things are great ways to get ahead but they’ll just be a waste of time if you’re not mentally prepared. If you’re the type of person who’s always second guessing themselves or don’t think they are good enough or smart enough, stop, you are enough. You don’t need to be the smartest, or the fastest, you simply need to be the best you can be. If you need a little extra push listen to motivational speeches, read books, and/or have little pep talks with yourself.

“You don’t have to be great to get started, but you have to get started to be great.”—Les Brown

Yerelyn Nunez is a native New Yorker with Dominican roots in her blood. She loves to read, write, and is pursuing acting. She loves lending a helping hand or words of encouragement to those in need of it. She is majoring in Communication & Media at CUNY SPS.

THE OCTOBER SURPRISE
Since turning 40, each advancing birthday seems progressively less a reason to celebrate. But my birthday this year gave me a most unique and unexpected gift: I was invited to the CUNY Women’s Leadership Conference to be held at Hunter College on October 28th. This program turned out to be a great cause for celebration.

EXCITED, BUT A LITTLE APPREHENSIVE
This CUNY-wide event was to include students from all 24 campuses, so I knew many of the attendees would be college aged and much younger than me. I wondered: “As a continuing ed student shifting professional gears mid-life, how relevant could this conference be? After all, it will surely be geared to young women embarking on their careers, not women looking to redraft a life story.” I had no idea what to expect.

To my surprise and delight, the numerous speakers and panels had messages that were not only inspirational, but also absolutely applicable to my current circumstances. There were so many wonderful segments, here is a mere sampling:

  • The keynote speakers Rossana Rosado, NYS Secretary of State, and Letitia James, Public Advocate for the City of New York, both delivered emotional speeches about the empowering experience of community involvement. Their lives of public service are proof positive that we all have the power to affect change.
WiTNY panel

WiTNY panel

  • From the Women in Technology (WiTNY) panel, we heard about the need for women in the digital world. The statistics are staggering: only 18% of computer science graduates are women and woman comprise just 26% of the tech workforce. WiTNY would like to see that change.
Dr. Lobley, Director of Student Services, and some the SPS student attendees

Dr. Lobley, Director of Student Services, and some the SPS student attendees

  • Perhaps my favorite aspect of this symposium was meeting some of SPS’ faculty and my fellow SPS students. Our SPS students represented our school with eloquence and passion: asking questions, raising issues, and talking about passionate causes.

THE ONGOING PRESENT
This could have been a very tough birthday: I’m job hunting and certainly not getting any younger.

Thank you, CUNY and SPS for this encouraging lift—I could pop the bubbly after all!

For more information about the CUNY Women’s Leadership Conference, or to learn how you can attend a future conference, contact studentservices@sps.cuny.edu.

Designer, single mom, and ongoing student, Lisa Sheridan is busy juggling life, work, and academics as an undergraduate in the Communication and Media department.

Dear Honorable President Barack Hussein Obama II and Family,

I felt the need to write you this letter for two reasons, to say thank you and to say I am sorry.

THANK YOU.
I don’t know how many people have thanked you for being one of the greatest Presidents we have ever had in this country. Through judgement of your legitimacy and unsurmountable opposition, to every move you have tried to make for the betterment of this country, you have served this country with style and grace in a way that no President in my knowledge has ever done. You and your family have done so much, knowing that you will never get the credit you deserve.

I am an army veteran, and throughout your Presidency, regardless of the decisions you have had to make, I have never been more proud to serve this country. You and the First Lady, Michelle Obama will be the examples of who I want my children to desire to emulate. You have inspired me to be a better version of myself every day, and after you leave the Presidency I will continue down that path.

The fight that you have fought does not and will not end with you. You are an inspiration to people the world over.  You have held the world on your shoulders in a way that no one ever believed you could and you did it as a gentleman and a scholar.

To the First Lady, you are the standard of how women across the world should be held to.

To your daughters, be proud in the fact that your parents are heroes in every sense of what a hero is supposed to be. They should be proud of the fact that they have played part in the making of a symbol of greatness for people who have been too far under served by this nation for too long.

I AM SORRY.
I am sorry that too many of us have left you to do this alone. I am sorry that too few of us in this nation took up the mantle of hope that you started this journey with and spread it across this nation. I am sorry that that we abandoned you on the battle field in Washington D.C. as many of us sat back and watched while you were attached from every side imaginable, and then blamed you for not doing enough. You have never let us down; we have forsaken the faith that you had in us. I am sorry that somehow we allowed hate to beat out love.

There is so much more I want to say, but in this moment, my heart is heavy.

However, there is an upside to this dark day. Today is my birthday, and when I woke up this morning I cried, because this is the first time in my life I feel ashamed to have served this country. Then I looked at my son and I reinvigorated in my focus. I was reminded of why you inspire me. My gift to myself on this day is to work harder than ever in everything that I do. I will not let this wave of hatred weaken my stance against animosity in any of its forms. I pray that others will join me in fighting against all the division and distraction that has crawled out of the darkness, by way of the Republican representation and those of like-minded ideologies.

Your victories will stand forever in me and all those who are now can see our current reality.

Lauren Patterson is a single father, student in the Communication and Program program at CUNY SPS, entrepreneur, and a veteran. However, first and foremost Lauren is a student of life. Lauren is a self-proclaimed work in progress, and thrives on his motto: live to be the successful person you already are.

personality

Hello CUNY SPS Community,

I recently attended orientation for my fall internship at a major news organization.

The internship seems to be really well organized and structured, and one of the things I most enjoyed was the career development sessions. One thing we did was take the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. This is a personality test that is designed to indicate psychological preferences in how people perceive the world and make decisions. I was really fascinated by this process and the results, because I felt that they were surprisingly accurate!

I had never taken a personality test before, but was recently encouraged to because I have been doing a lot of soul searching and career development/goal setting in my own life. I think it is important that your passions align with your strengths, and so I was excited to find out what I may be more inclined to doing well and enjoying at the same time.

Read the rest of this entry »

Few things rock a sense of self more than getting laid off.

I should know, I’ve had 4 employers in the past 18 months.  You may immediately think, “What is she doing wrong?”  Sometimes I think that myself.

But I work in the garment industry.  Unfortunately, like publishing, the music industry, and analog media, my industry is shrinking.  And paradigms of these businesses are changing.  There is now a permanent freelance and intern class of workers.  In shrinking industries such as these, creative job searching is key.

Inevitably, after losing a job, there is a period of grieving.  I’ve found the best cure to the bruised ego is to get back into the saddle as soon as possible.  Here are my 6 tips for bouncing back, and landing a new position.

I know the word “branding” is overused, but this is the digital age, so we all must package ourselves like a Godiva ballotin. Here are some personal branding tips:

  1. Polish your resume: There are a ton of websites dedicated to helping you write a great resume. Explore and use them.  Here’s one on my faves:   http://resume-help.org/resume_writing_tips.htm
    • Don’t forget the cover letter: Even with e-mail or online applications, a killer cover letter helps get you noticed.
    • Update your LinkedIn profile: Those resume tips above work great here too.  Consider investing in a professional profile photo.  Repost interesting articles to get your profile noticed, or better yet, write an article showing your writing skills and creativity.
    • Scrub your social media presence: Hide all those pics with the red plastic cups.
  2. Assess your skill setBe humble enough to admit there is always more to learn.  Stay relevant and take classes where needed.  Some excellent free choices are: Coursera, MIT Open CourseWare, and even Lynda, LinkedIn’s online learning arm, which offers 10 day free trails.
  3. Write your elevator pitch: That 30-60 second narrative that tells who you are and why you are perfect for the job.  Practice it in front of a mirror till you have it down.

Lisa Sheridan, Communications and Media

  1. Network:  You never know where a job lead can come, it could be from a friend of a friend.  So tell everyone you know that you are looking for a job.  Do not be ashamed!
  2. Practice mock-interviews Enlist the help of a good friend and role play some interviews.  Become comfortable with talking about your accomplishments.  Gather quantifiable data about why you are the right choice for the job.  “At my previous position, I was able to grow sales by 10% by improving our social media presence.”  Our own Career Services here at SPS can provide valuable insights on this step as well as the entire job hunting process.
  3. Remember to follow up: Don’t forget the thank you notes, the follow-up phone calls, and keep recrafting your resume, cover letter and LinkedIn Profile.

Finding a new job is a full-time job.  But with diligence, creativity, and a spirit of adventure, you will land a new post in no time.

Designer, single mom, and ongoing student, Lisa Sheridan is busy juggling life, work, and academics as an undergraduate in the Communication and Media department.