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How many fellow CUNY SPS-ers are going to be graduating this upcoming May 18?

Commencements may only happen a few times over a lifetime for each of us. Often the ceremony is meant for the family and friends to watch the accomplishment of the students who are walking the ceremony. This is a journey that can take a traditional route from high school or it can be a non-traditional route. For a majority of CUNY School of Professional Studies students, this journey is completed online and may be a physical trip that happens or is skipped. Behind the scenes, the process of preparing for the ceremony is definitely months in advance.

I wanted to at least walk people through a meaningful activity I did this past year when I walked for my graduate certificate in Disability Studies, and that is the process of decorating a mortarboard. It is my belief that one does not have to be artistically gifted, since there are ready-made kits that are being sold at crafting and arts supplies stores. But the benefits of decorating a board are (1) a good photo prop, (2) you can show off the fact that you’re graduating, (3) it is a mental mind activity of prepping for the ceremony, and (4) blinging up a drab black gown. The memories that can be built on crafting a mortarboard are nice! Plus it is also good to meet up with classmates and fellow graduates to make memories. The only downside I see to this activity is $$$ and time investments.

Graduation Cap Decorated

So, last year, a few alumni got together in the lobby, and brought their own supplies to decorate their mortarboards with. I did my cap independent of that group, but being a representative on the Student Association this year I had hoped that people who are going to be graduating would want to do this activity again. I have every intentions of doing the same activity when I walk again for my masters in 2018. As I have been speaking with Anthony Sweeney, Virtual Campus Coordinator about doing this activity again for class of 2017 graduates. So this is what I propose, on May 23 from 5:30 to 7:30 – graduating class members can bring your own supplies to decorate your mortarboard with. We will be having limited supplies and food also available. RSVP here if you want to join us!

So even if you’re not going to make it to campus at CUNY SPS, I suggest this as an activity you can do with your family, friends or by yourself. I stress to please do a draft and/or dry run for what you want to put on your cap. Decorate your cap considering how you are going to be wearing the cap. So your motor cap should be on a diamond shape, not necessarily a square. Do not rush to stick things on your one cap!

These are art supplies that I suggest, and this is not a complete list or the absolute list that your cap has to have. Last year I made up my cap with the art supplies I have from my other projects, so I only spent about $20 for extra supplies. I used scrap paper, origami paper, index cards, ribbon and stickers. You will be wearing your cap during the ceremony, and an important advice I suggest is to have the items on firmly, that way there is no cap malfunction. That was my fear last year when I didn’t have a hot glue gun.

I pulled everything off my graduation cap after the ceremony was over, because my second CUNY SPS graduation is forthcoming. Enough about me! For people graduating, this is an activity that is a good building one for the crafters in us! Reflect on what pulled you through to graduation, find that special saying, and thank the people you want. You are the main character of this ceremony in world that you inhabit. If there’s any questions, or inspirations, there are plenty of videos on YouTube, photos on Pinterest, etc.

  • 12×12 Cardstock scrap paper of any type. This may be a backdrop for your embellishments.
  • Embellishments—sequins, rhinestones, glitter, gems, letters
  • Stickers
  • Ribbon
  • Hot glue gun or other sticky adhesive tools
  • Fabric paint
  • Stencils

Linda Yau is a native New Yorker. She is currently completing her MS Disability Services in Higher Education. She is constantly on the move, but on her downtime, she hearts folding origami. She is an assistant organizer of  OMG-NYC (Origami Meetup Group in NYC)

Dear Fellow CUNY SPS Students,

I wanted to say thank you to all the wonderful students, faculty and staff who I’ve had the privilege to learn from and work with these last few years.  I owe much to this school and the relationships I’ve formed here.

I am also deeply honored to have been elected to and serve upon the first Student Association here at the CUNY School of Professional Studies.  Thank you for voting me into this position.  Indeed, I am grateful to have worked alongside my Student Association colleagues.  Being a member of the Student Association is an endeavor I hope all of you will get to experience.

While I am happy to be graduating at the end of this semester, I am sorry to be leaving this school and the many people who have supported me here.  This also means that I must leave the Student Association (along with my awesome colleagues; Linda Y., Misty G. and Jacqueline R. who are also graduating or otherwise ineligible to run).

However, there are three members of the association who are still eligible to run again and having witnessed their hard work and dedication to what we’ve begun; I would like to endorse the candidacies of Shakima Williams, Yvette Humphries and Leonard Blades.

It is my hope that their re-election will help to establish the Student Association as an inclusive and hardworking representation of the students at CUNY SPS and dedicated to supporting and helping as many students as is possible.  Indeed, I expect that many of the initiatives we’ve put into place and the initiatives that future SA representatives will put into place, will support the students of CUNY SPS for years to come.

Let me express my thanks to my classmates, my Student Association colleagues and the faculty and staff at CUNY SPS for their friendship and support as I finish this chapter of my life.

Sincerely,

Daniel K. Chan

Daniel Chan is a belated student who took the 20+ year plan to get his Bachelor’s Degree. He recently received his M.A. in Disability Studies and is working on his M.S. in Disability Services in Higher Education. His proudest academic achievement is still his GED.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

This post was written by 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.

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.

What does it mean to be successful? What does success mean to you? As I prepared over the summer, for what will be my final semester towards my BA, I reflected a lot on what success meant to me. After all the effort it took to get this far, how will I use what I have been given? What is my next step?

Earlier in the summer, as I listened to the radio on my way home from work, I heard a playback of an interview of a well known American jazz musician, Charlie Haden. Haden described in his interview what a remarkable life and career he enjoyed. Although his accomplishments were many, what really stood out to me wasn’t so much what he did, it was why he did what he did, the motives behind his work.

Like any young professional, Haden struggled to make ends meet in the beginning of his career. Feeling guilty because he was not able to provide for his family, he decided to start recording commercial music. Although he was still working at creating music, creating commercial music was not something he believed in. In his own words, he said: “It isn’t what I want to do. I have a very clear picture of what I want to do and what I feel is important as far as my contribution or my appreciation and respect for this life that we’re living, and to try and make it better. I can’t feel that I’m making it better playing commercial music, and I never could and never will.” Listen to the full interview here.

What does this comment have to do with success? Well, Haden focused on producing work that he believed in and could feel proud of. It had real substance.  The feeling behind his work was what really resounded with me. It made me ask, why do I do what I do? What is really important to me? As I begin to take my first steps in my chosen career, how will I use my gifts and abilities? What will my contribution to society be? How will I be remembered one day?

Ultimately, I think I will have achieved success if I am able to produce work that I can stand behind of proudly. My journey up until this point has been a long and winding road. I feel like I scaled a huge mountain and am now at the top, gazing at the horizon. Looking ahead, beyond graduation, I want to strive to work hard at things that I believe in. I’m not sure where this journey will end, but I can’t wait to get started!

Stephanie Perez is in her final year at CUNY SPS, majoring in Sociology. When she is not busy joining her four year old son on his daily adventures, she likes to spend her time reading, cooking, and dancing to her favorite music. After graduation she hopes to pursue a career in human rights law and advocacy.

Share your photos of commencement with us on Instagram! Follow us at @CUNYSPS and don’t forget to use the commencement hashtag #SPSGrad2013!

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About a month ago I received an email from the faculty at SPS inviting me to join a few of my fellow students to attend a dinner in the city. The dinner was organized to give this year’s commencement speaker, Ms. Tanya Fields an opportunity to meet with the students she will be talking to in a few weeks at graduation. Prior to receiving the email I’d never heard of Ms. Fields and at the time, overwhelmed with class work, I did not have time to Google her. Nevertheless, I eagerly accepted the invitation and a week later found myself seated with a few students and staff from SPS at a table in the middle of a candle lit restaurant in mid-town.

When Ms. Fields arrived we took turns going around the table to introduce ourselves. Hearing the diverse exchange of personal and professional stories reminded me just how unique the SPS community is. From students who attend class via the web to those, like myself, that attend in person, SPS brings together students from all backgrounds and ages to a single learning environment. Finally it was Ms. Fields’ turn to share with us her story. She began by telling the table about her current role as director of The BLK ProjeK, a Bronx community food justice campaign.

Tanya Fields has been extremely successful in using social media to bring attention to her social work and community building projects. Over the course of our evening the conversation covered food justice, new media, higher education and politics that included a spirited debate on the social cost of corn commodities between Ms. Fields and myself.

I soon discovered Tanya Fields is a vibrant and energetic young social entrepreneur. Her personal commitment to creating a positive change in her community is a noble act worthy of recognition. In a city as big as New York, it is easy for us to get caught up in our own lives and overlook social problems like poverty, reductions in high school graduation rates, and youth unemployment. It is easier to simply regard these issues as the problem of someone else and turn a blind eye. However, simply ignoring these issues will not make them disappear.

As New Yorkers we enjoy the benefit of living in a great city that encourages us to be ambitious go-getters. Yet in doing so we often forget that we still live in a communal society where a negative impact to any one segment of the population will eventually affect all of us in some manner. Because of this we all have a social responsibility to each other and Tanya Fields’ work reflects this. Her food justice project, which educates young children on good dieting habits, is raising a new generation of New Yorkers that won’t have to shoulder the burden of increased taxes to address obesity related health effects and the increased social cost they place on the public. Ms. Fields’ mentoring and outreach program is empowering young girls by teaching them the importance of education. I believe Ms. Fields’ work is true a benefit to not just her community but also our entire city.

The night concluded with the students sharing their thoughts on what a good graduation speech should touch on with Ms. Fields. I left the dinner feeling truly inspired by the work Tanya Fields does. So much so I thought it only right I use the power of social media to share with the SPS community our commencement speaker and her story.

Following our dinner, I asked Ms. Fields if she would be interested in doing an interview for the SPS Community Blog, which she eagerly accepted. I spent a morning at Ms. Fields’ office in the Bronx chatting about every thing from the future of social media in education to the Jedi mind trick Celie plays on Albert in the end of The Color Purple (her favorite movie). My interview with Tanya was both informative and lighthearted and provides some insight into the life of Ms. Tanya Fields.

Brandon M. Chiwaya is a current SPS student studying Public Administration and Public Policy at the Murphy Institute. He is a member of the school’s 2013-2014 Technology Budget Fee Committee, and was recently awarded the CUNY Vice Chancellor’s Excellence in Leadership Award. Below is an excerpt from Brandon’s interview with Tanya Fields.