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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.

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

We all know too well how important education is. Education enlightens us, provides us with knowledge, and helps us to realize the careers that we dream of. However, education to me is more than that. To me, education is a privilege. There are millions of people, especially children, around the world who do not have the opportunity to go to school. I am a Tibetan refugee, born and raised in India, but I was fortunate enough to go to one of the best and largest Tibetan schools in India. Not every Tibetan refugee children had been as fortunate as me. Therefore, I do not take education for granted. I take the opportunity as a responsibility too. I am always grateful for any opportunity that allows me to be back in school. I make sure that I work hard and get good grades, not just for my GPA, but also to fulfill the responsibility that comes with the privilege of being in school and receiving education.

When I first came to the U.S. I wanted to go to back to school and get a degree in Nursing. I wanted to become a nurse because I believed that it is one of the very few professions that can provide not only joy and satisfaction, but also purpose and meaning to your life. Nursing, to me, is not just a job, it is also a medium through which I can fulfill my spiritual values and beliefs.

I found out that CUNY provides nursing programs in its community colleges, and I could avail financial aid to help with my tuition. I enrolled in LaGuardia Community College nursing program, and completed my Associate’s degree in Nursing in 2014, finishing with the highest GPA in my batch. After graduating from LaGuardia Community College, I got accepted into Hunter and CUNY School of Professional Studies BSN program. However, I chose SPS over Hunter college, without any hesitation, since SPS is an online school, allows for flexibility with time management, and SPS’s Nursing directors had earlier come to LaGuardia to talk about the BSN program. I thought SPS was the right school for me.

Once I started my BSN classes at SPS, I realized that I had made the right decision. The staff in the registrar’s office, the financial aid staff, my advisor, and most important of all, the nursing department professors and director were incredibly supportive and helpful. I’ve been to different colleges in India, and here in the U.S, but, the administration and staff, and professors here in SPS are way more supportive and helpful than any other college I’ve been to. The quality of education provided here is excellent.

To make my BSN program even better, I was accepted as an ACE Scholarship one year into my BSN program. The ACE Scholarship helped pay my entire tuition fee for the remaining semesters of my BSN program. Since I’ve started working, I knew that I wouldn’t be eligible for financial aid, and would have to pay the tuition fees out of my own pocket. However, the ACE Scholarship came along, and helped alleviate my financial concerns. The only thing that ACE Scholarship program asked in return was to mentor two new students (nursing) who had just joined SPS. I was a school teacher when I lived in India, and I mentored nursing students when I was in LaGuardia Community College. Furthermore, I have always been forthcoming, and volunteered to help others. Mentoring comes as second nature to me. So, it was not an uphill or a new task for me to be a mentor to new students. Mentoring also provided me with the opportunity to meet and interact with new students.

I will be graduating from CUNY SPS with BSN degree this month. I feel blessed, and very fortunate to get the opportunity to continue my education, to be a student of SPS, and to receive the ACE Scholarship when I needed help the most. I’ve had the most rewarding and fulfilling two years of my life being a student at CUNY School of Professional Studies. I am forever grateful to SPS including my professors, the staff at SPS, and Mr. Alan Fishman, who established and provided funds for the ACE Scholarship.

Tenzion Lekshay 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 Nursing degree program tonight.

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.

When it comes to women there are some misconceptions. For instance, there are those who think that women do not support one another. We are all competing with one another over a job, a friend, or a romantic interest. Women are all catty. Right? Wrong.

I had the privilege of attending the 2013 Women’s Leadership Conference hosted at Hunter College. Female students from all of the CUNY schools were invited to participate in a day that was all about girl power. Talk about your rah rah women or your girls rule and boys drool. Ok, well, maybe not the boys drool part but women certainly ruled at the WLC.

Marissa Job and Kelsey Richardson, representing CUNY School of Professional Studies, greeted me when I arrived to let me know what the day’s agenda would be. It was a nice way to begin the day. CUNY’s support system is amazing.

One thing that I couldn’t help but notice when I walked in was the diversity. I come from Long Island and Long Island is not known for diversity so it was wonderful to see African American, Muslim, Asian, and white women all there. And I will own up to one of those woman stereotypes. Those girls all knew how to dress. I resisted the urge to tell one woman to forget school and get on a runway.

There were so many remarkable speakers but let me give a glimpse of some of the highlights. Rosanna Rosado, publisher and CEO of El Diario/La Prensa brought tears to my eyes. Through her story of a five year old dancing on a table she made me go back to my five year old self on a table dancing for a room full of grown-ups who made me feel like a star. I was a star. So where did I lose that star power? What made me move from center stage to mixing in with the scenery?

We spend so much time trying not to appear vain or full of ourselves that we forget to acknowledge all that we are. What’s wrong with knowing we are strong, beautiful, smart, capable human beings who also love shoes? What’s wrong with putting on a tiara, even if it’s imaginary and knowing that we have a star power, that we are worth the glitter in our crowns? Listen to Rosanna and straighten your tiara and dance on a table, maybe not literally, but why not?

Joanna Barsh, Director of McKinsey & Company and creator of the “The McKinsey Centered Leadership Project,” gave the first presentation. She had our full-attention. She used exercises that enabled us to get to know the people sitting around us in a way that didn’t feel forced. By the end of the presentation I had learned some interesting things about the woman sitting next to me. I also felt invested in her and wanted to see her succeed.

More important was Joanna’s message to us about all of the self-talk that we do and the way that some of our negative thinking becomes obstacles, obstacles of our own making. No. She didn’t give some power of positive thinking talk that inspired us only to be forgotten later on. Through examples and demonstrations she showed us the small ways that we psyche ourselves out, small ways that can become paralyzing.

I especially loved her tip on thinking of a few good things that happened during the day and one bad thing. It was, according to Joanna, a way of retraining your brain to sort through the bad and recognize the good. It is a way of building confidence and through that building, you become your best self, a leader.

There were other inspiring women. Whether it was City Council Member Gale Brewer talking about the importance of community building and having a voice, or listening to Joyce Moy, Executive Director of the Asian/American Research Institute as she talked about overcoming shyness after witnessing her parents eviction being the catalyst that made her realize how important her voice was; there were women, strong women there throughout the day to provide guidance and support.

It was a day about women. It didn’t matter what ethnicity, religion, or age. We were all women there with one common goal–supporting one another and forming an unbreakable bond. We were colleagues, peers, mentors, and sisters.

I’ve never been a fan of the stereotype that women cannot be friends. My closest friends and supports are women. It is something my own daughter has grown up knowing. Women rock!

The 2013 Women’s Leadership Conference was a day that was all about us. I looked around the room and thought about the United States being so far behind other countries when it coms to women as CEOs, holding political office, being President. I looked around that room and felt such a sense of hope. Maybe somewhere sitting in that room was the future first female President. I just hope at her inauguration she will dance on a table or two and be sure to wear the most blinged out tiara.

Kristen is a single mom of 3 kids and studying at The CUNY School of Professional Studies. She is blogging while she still figures out what she wants to be when she grows up.

April is officially Disability Awareness Month throughout CUNY and to celebrate our commitment to enabling students, faculty, and staff with disabilities to excel in their studies, research, and work there are a series of events throughout the university. Whether you are interested in learning more about a particular disability or you want to gain skills in your search for a career, there is something for everyone!

Disability Awareness Month at CUNY

At the College of Staten Island, students tell their stories of challenge and triumph as students with disabilities in My Story: A Dialogue Among Students in just one of the many events being held on campus throughout the month.

Similarly, Lehman College is having a panel discussion on disability and higher education from an international perspective on April 17.

The CUNY Learning Disability Project is sponsoring a Learning Disability Awareness Conference on April 16 at Baruch College geared toward helping faculty and staff to better understand learning disabilities.

The Autism Spectrum is the focus of several events across CUNY including “Promoting Successful Transition: Into, through and beyond Higher Education, for students on the Autism Spectrum” at Brooklyn College on April 8 and “Autism Spectrum Disorders: Moving Forward” at BMCC on April 11.

Queensborough Community College is offering two very interesting events with “Engaging Faculty and Tutors in the Success of Community-College Students with Disabilities” on April 17 and “Young People with Disabilities” on April 24.

On April 18, Bronx Community College is hosting a screening of “Going Blind: Coming Out of the Dark About Vision Loss.”

And last but not least, Hunter College is hosting a series of events all month long covering everything from Career Choices and Job Readiness to Learning Self-Advocacy Skills, they’re even hosting movie screenings throughout the month too!

CUNY SPS students seeking information about disability services can contact Student Services. Students at other campuses can access services through The CUNY Disability Resources & Services website.

If you are a CUNY student, faculty, or staff sponsoring an event for Disability Awareness Month not listed above, add the information in the comments below. We will also update this list with new information shared with our office in the coming days.