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…in my defense I did ask for an extension already early last week, since I knew I was going to be working 4 night shifts and I had a lot of other homework due. The professors are usually very nice about it, if you give notice ahead of time. I know it is easy to fall behind and it is good to have those deadlines, but I am also an adult student and sometimes life happens and there is no way that I can wrap my head around finishing all the work on time. That being said, I do all my work, and I put effort into all I do! A couple of times, of course, I sit at my break at work on a Sunday night posting to the discussion board while half asleep and when I open up Blackboard on the Monday morning, I do not dare to look what I actually wrote, though it does not happen a lot.

I started my journey towards becoming an RN in fall of 2013—4 years ago. One of my biggest obstacles to climb was to actually apply. I had a hard time figuring out how to do things, and on top of that I needed to have all my Swedish transcripts translated and sent in sealed envelopes from the Swedish institution to BMCC. I was excited when I got accepted to start in January of 2014, I bought a backpack and was off to school.

The first week I cried every day. Every time I came to school I needed a new paper, or a form needed to be filled out, and I was sent from the Bursar’s office to the Financial Aid office to the Registrar’s office. I once needed an electrical bill dated from August or July, and I had brought the latest from September and had to turn back home to get the correct one, just to get on that same line the day after and being told that I needed to show it somewhere else. It was a complete disaster.

I was born and raised in Sweden where pretty much everything is filed online and different institutions have access to your verified information from other institutions, and they keep track of your address and they know your grades—no papers are needed. My Swedish transcript looks like a print out from a Commodore 64, an ancient type of computer that has papers with holes on the side that you have to detach after you have printed (click to see a picture) and then BMCC demanded that the principal of the University I attended in Sweden should sign my transcript, stamp it, put it in an envelope, seal it, stamp it again, write his/her signature, tape it shut and send it to BMCC. That is NOT how we do it in Sweden. There they look in the centralized computer system and can see my academic record, (probably since 1st grade). It took a lot of phone calls and sending of stamps that would cover overseas shipping and patience to make that happen—blood, sweat and tears. Finally I got in and started taking my prerequisites needed for me to apply into the nursing program. The first semester I took Biology, Chemistry, Math for Nurses, Psychology and English, because I was in a hurry. I finished my “prereq’s” in one year (using summer semesters to squeeze it all in), and I got my 4.0 GPA that was required to be able to take the test and do the interview that would put me in the nursing program. And, in December of 2014, Mr Sierra, head of BMCC nursing program called me and said that I had gotten admitted…. to be continued. Good night.

Charlotte Wahlquist is from Sweden. She is a graduate of BMCC and is now a Registered Nurse as of January of this year. In addition to working as a full-time nurse she is enrolled in the online RN to BSN program at CUNY SPS and is a recipient of the ACE Scholarship. Shortly after Charlotte moved to New York, seven years ago, she took a giant leap of faith and went back to school. With her five children, and an impenetrable drive to make her dreams come true—she hit the send button on her CUNY application. The time since that life-altering push of the button has been spent with many early and late hours being a single working mom, a student, and a person wishing for more hours in the day. There have been many challenges that have threatened to pull her off track; however, having her son asking to sit down next to her one night, and work on his homework next to her while she studied made her realize that she had embarked on something much larger than herself.

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:

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.)

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.



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.


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

Reflecting back on my first encounter with a higher education institution, I vividly remember feeling secured and my professors always reassured and motivated me to believe that there was no room for failure. This gave me the drive to obtain my Associate’s Degree in Science from the Borough Of Manhattan Community College.

Unlike my fellow ACE scholarship recipients, I never took time off from school. I immediately transferred to Hunter College. There I felt overwhelmed, unsure of myself, and my drive slowly reduced. I felt like a fish in an ocean full of sharks and stingrays. My professors were intimidating just as much as my classmates were. I received no support and no reassurance that I could do this and excel. I remember crying for the first two weeks because I felt so lost. After a year of not wanting to be there, I received an impromptu email from the CUNY School of Professional Studies and I figured, “what would I lose by attending the information session?” I remember running from the number 1 train to the 3 train from the Upper West Side to get there. I made it in 15 minutes before the session ended. I vaguely remember Director of Student Services Z. Lobley being there and she handed me all the information I needed. She encouraged me to attend a one-on-one evaluation session with an advisor and apply in person. This has been one of the best life changing decisions that I have ever made.

Many tried to discourage me to not follow the path of online learning and I am very happy that I am not easily swayed. Having two jobs and working 50-60 hours a week gave me little time to sit in a classroom setting. After my first semester at CUNY SPS, I felt the same way I did at the Borough of Manhattan Community College. I felt safe, encouraged, and the support of my advisor and professors were just what I envisioned my learning experience to be. The professors had the same motto that “failure is not an option,” which they showed. It varied from emails, phone calls, and the Blackboard messages they bombarded us with on a weekly schedule. Being selected as the recipient of the ACE Scholarship validated for me that all of my late night studying and heavy consumption of black coffee did not go unnoticed.

While on the scholarship, I am currently giving back to my fellow students by being a mentor, which is another life changer. Now that I am so close to completing the requirements for my degree, I hope to use everything I have learned to continue working in my community, either in a non-profit organization that advocates for disability rights or in the education field.

Thank you, CUNY SPS, for this opportunity, and for supporting me and my fellow students in our future endeavors.

Noelitta Tailiam 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 BA in Disability Studies degree program in June 2016.

Peter Magri is a student in our new online Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing program. He explains why he enrolled here at CUNY SPS and what he expects to gain from his degree.

Peter Magri

1. Why did you choose to continue your education at CUNY SPS?

CUNY SPS offered the sense of continuity for me within the CUNY system since I had recently graduated from the Nursing Program at Queensborough Community College. I had come to trust the faculty at QCC and thought that it would be a good fit. I also was happy to hear that SPS used BlackBoard, which was also used at QCC, so the online demographic would be easy to fit into.

2. What is the single most important professional or personal goal that you would like to achieve during your studies at CUNY SPS or after graduation?

I would really like to land a job as a nurse. I have been on so many interviews and have applied to countless jobs and have yet to be hired in a hospital. I would like to get into critical care or the fast pace of a busy ER to really prove my skill sets to myself and those from nursing school.

3. How have you grown intellectually as a result of your studies at CUNY SPS?

I have definitely broadened my assessment techniques and understand the body and how it works because of the Pathophysiology class I took. I also have learned so much about culture and teaching and how important it is to incorporate a patient’s culture in the plan of care.

4. What advice would you offer to someone considering applying for admission to the program?

APPLY! I am so glad I did. The faculty are warm and are always there to assist you through anything that may concern you. You may feel that since it is an online program that you would get lost in the shuffle, but there is nothing further from the truth. They’re there with you every step of the way.

We also asked Peter a few fun questions about his life and his studies.

1. Place of residence: Franklin Square, New York.

2. Favorite CUNY SPS course: NURS301-Assessment.

3. Weirdest place you have studied: Oh God…really??? OK—the toilet.

4. Your favorite music to play while studying: I actually don’t like to listen to music while I study; I like to have CNN on in the background.

5. Best thing about your community or NYC: It’s close to Manhattan and my parents live just down the block from me! Always get great home-cooked meals!

Thank you, Peter, for bringing such a positive attitude about online learning and a passion for the field of nursing to your work here at CUNY SPS!

It’s Friday night and I am on a date. Yeah!

Don’t get me wrong most people who are on a date are probably having dinner and taking in a movie.  Guess what y’all?  My date night is me sitting on a computer while my date watches old boxing matches on cable.  But I am a college student and as much as I complain, I am really enjoying it.

I just had to post two initial discussion boards and since my date is enjoying watching old boxing matches, I also decided to post my responses to at least two fellow classmates.  Oh the joy of being an older college student… Maybe next week I will do something more college oriented and buy some beer and have some friends over and let them drink while I post my discussion boards.

Baby steps.


I think I am getting the hang of this whole school thing.

Xan Bullock is student in the HIM program. She is 40+, loving life and surprisingly school too!

shieldNow that the fall semester has begun, some students have reported issues accessing content in their Blackboard course site and have reached out to the Help Desk to ask which browser is best for use with Blackboard. Firefox is SPS’s preferred browser; however, the most recent release of Firefox may impact your viewing of YouTube videos and other media from within Blackboard and Digication.

Both Firefox 23 and Google Chrome 26 have introduced “Mixed Active Content Blocking,” a security enhancement that prevents active content delivered through an unsecure (HTTP) connection from displaying on secure (HTTPS) environments such as Blackboard and Digication. This security improvement prevents active content added to courses  (JavaScript, embedded objects, Flash animations, streaming video or audio, and external hyperlinks) from loading automatically. However, this feature works similar to your browser’s pop-up blocker and is easy to “turn off” and unblock desired media.

If you have trouble viewing embedded media from within Blackboard or Digication, look for a small shield icon to the left of the web address in Firefox or to the right in Chrome. Click on the shield and follow the prompts to unblock the missing media. View videos for detailed instructions for allowing blocked content in Firefox or Chrome.

To access all of SPS’s Help Desk videos click here.

It’s free!

I ended my last post with hoping that iPad works with Blackboard. It does, and I give it a solid B+/A.

I have used my iPad for reading my textbooks, accessing both my courses, opening all the links, folders, assignments, discussion boards and everything else that I need on Blackboard. By clicking on “Quick View”‘, I can create and reply to threads on Discussion Board. I am not sure if Quick View is something that needs to be enabled by the instructor. Both of my courses have that option. If you do not see it on the lower left side of the menu bar below Tools, ask your instructor to add it.

If you plan to post a long DB entry, I do not recommend typing directly into the comment box. The scroll feature with the comment box does not work on the iPad. If your entry is long, you cannot see all of it – only the amount of text that fits in the comment box is viewable. So, if you want to see what you wrote in the first paragraph and you are already on paragraph four, you cannot see or access paragraph one. It is there; you just cannot see it. You can click preview post and view it that way, but you cannot edit it unless the portion that needs to be edited is in the comment box. This is a bit hard to explain, so you may have to find out the hard way yourself.

As I said I would do in my last blog post, I purchased the Pages app for $9.99. It permits me to create a Word-type document, edit it, save it and seamlessly email it to myself so I can download it to a computer and then upload it into Blackboard. It is not as difficult or convoluted as it may sound. There is no “desktop” on the iPad and I have not yet found a way of uploading my saved Pages document directly into Blackboard. I also have not mastered “copy and paste” yet. It is kind of hard on a touchpad.

An added benefit to the Pages app is that I can open all Word documents in Blackboard – even Word 2007. Without Pages, I could open some but not all of them. Now, any Word document that otherwise does not open in Blackboard opens automatically in Pages. I am still undecided about buying the Numbers (Excel) app. I was able to open an Excel spreadsheet on Blackboard without it.

I am typing this blog post in Pages and I will email it to myself, download it to my desktop and copy the text into WordPress. The reasons are the same as for Blackboard – the comment box issue and my copy and paste issues on iPad. As an aside, The SPS Community Blog looks great on the iPad. But, posting comments to someone else’s blog entry does not work. Take care of that please, WordPress people?

Dr. Helft graciously commented on my last post and offered to look into making Blackboard more accessible to the iPad and spreading the word among faculty. In a follow-up email, she expressed some issues with the current version of Blackboard but advised that those would be addressed in the next upgrade. Thank you Dr. Helft. I am sure that the iPad will be used much more frequently with Blackboard and I am sure that by the time the next Blackboard version is available, it will be completely user-friendly with iPad and other tablets. Maybe even an app version will be ready.

Does anyone use an iPad or another tablet with Blackboard? How do you like it?

Mary Casey is a student in the MS in Business Leadership and Management program at CUNY School of Professional Studies and is an alumnae of Lehman College. She is an administrator for a university in NYC. She loves to travel and wants to see as much of the world as possible. Mary hopes to get more comments on the SPS blog than she received on the community/political blog that she created and maintained from 2002 to 2004.