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There was once a young girl with a learning disability. She was quiet, socially awkward, and kept to herself but was kind and intelligent. One day a girl in class she liked talked to her for the first time. The young girl was ecstatic. However, the following day that same classmate came up to her and said I hate you and walked away. What is hate? The dictionary says its a tense or passionate dislike of someone. Yet, is that all it is? It’s a way to put someone down, to build confidence, to get your way.

A teenage boy is bullied at school and struggles with his classes. He is always worried and anxious about everything. His ticks and obsessive-compulsive behaviors interfere. His grades drop and he wants to drop out of high school. Yet, he did not quit school due to a single teacher’s devotion to him. He followed his passion. He received his masters and became one of the top employees at his workplace.

Laura MacKenzie loves to learn about the world around her. She adores animals and has a dog and cat. She is always observing, thinking, and analyzing. Her goal is to become a police consultant/instructor on community relations and disability. Laura is enrolled in the Advanced Certificate in Disability Studies here at CUNY SPS.

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People are not very open about suicidal ideation. It can be embarrassing and shameful for some. People with emotional/mental issues tend to cover up their suffering. They do not want others to see it or be a burden. People will suffer in silence and fight it the best they can. When people are suicidal they hide it, but there are signs. Professionals are always looking for these signs, knowing that right before suicide; people are calm and happy because they know they will no longer suffer. People often misinterpret this calmness and happiness as the person doing better. Unfortunately, by this point it is usually too late.

Laura MacKenzie loves to learn about the world around her. She adores animals and has a dog and cat. She is always observing, thinking, and analyzing. Her goal is to become a police consultant/instructor on community relations and disability. Laura is enrolled in the Advanced Certificate in Disability Studies here at CUNY SPS.

Humility is a valuable characteristic in many situations, and an office environment is no exception.

If you were hired by an office, it is likely because you had some skills or knowledge relevant to the work. It is good to be confident about your qualifications, but the key is to keep your confidence in check.

You may think you know a lot about a topic, or the right way to do a procedure, or the complete history of your industry. Unfortunately, that mindset will limit your growth. Instead, approach every situation as a learning opportunity even if it is something you have already seen 100 times.

Blogger Armenoush Aslanian-Persico

A know-it-all attitude will also inhibit your relationships with your colleagues, superiors and even subordinates. If your coworkers feel you are being condescending, dismissive, or insensitive, they will clam up, and the channels of communication will be closed off. Instead, give your coworkers a chance to be heard, and they will feel valued and will want to talk to you more. People like to participate in the conversation and process. People like to teach and tell you their stories—let them.

Even if you are an expert in your field, approach every person in your office as if you have something to learn from them, because you do. Perhaps you won’t learn a technical skill from them, but you can learn about their experiences and history. Being humble in interactions will benefit your career, as the knowledge you gain from others will help you make smarter decisions in the future. It will also help you develop your social and emotional intelligence. Finally, humility will benefit your entire office by encouraging positive growth, openness, and collaboration.

Armenoush Aslanian-Persico has worked for New York City since 2013, doing program management and process analysis. She was born and raised in the Bronx and enjoys learning about city operations. Armenoush is currently a student in the Data Analytics (M.S.) program. 

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.”

Do you hate your job?

Many people answer yes. Some people say no and instead tell you how much they love their job. Regardless of the answer, the financial reality for most of us is that we need to work.

When people talk about how their job angers or frustrates them, they are rarely talking about their actual work. Rather, they complain about their colleagues, about rude conversations, about being confronted, slighted, bypassed, embarrassed, and humiliated. The greatest challenges at work are rarely about mastering the material. Rather, they are about mastering relationships.

Over these next few posts I hope to share some lessons I have learned from workplace interactions. We all have these stories. By sharing and reviewing our mistakes, we can improve not just our lives, but the lives around us, and the culture of our workplaces. Taking a thoughtful approach to a difficult situation can mean the difference between hating your job and loving it.

Armenoush Aslanian-Persico has worked for New York City since 2013, doing program management and process analysis. She was born and raised in the Bronx and enjoys learning about city operations. Armenoush is currently a student in the Data Analytics (M.S.) program. 

I was thinking that my client was extremely lucky when he died during his sleep after sharing his last night with his dearest friends. I was thinking that he was even more fortunate to have passed away almost at the end of a restful spa weekend in such a beautiful hacienda resort in Campeche, Mexico. I was thinking I would also like to be caught by death right in the middle of the mystic Mayan region of the Puuc, where every place you turn your head there is a sacred temple. I was thinking what a blessing it must be to release your spirit in such a sacred land. I was thinking about the least painful steps to help his family return his beloved grandfather’s corpse back home in the US when I realized that I was lost not only in my thoughts but also in the middle of nowhere, somewhere in the Yucatan.

I know Puuc’s roads better than anyone. And I have driven the roads so many times. I was angry at myself; I had no time to lose. I must have missed the right turn and then the jungle started to look just the same for about 20 minutes, the road also looked just the same and I could not find any familiar landmark to guide me. After about 20 kilometers without finding an intersection or a soul I decided I was too far away to go back. This road must lead me somewhere.

With no time and no gas, little by little the jungle ceased its attack and let a humble stone fence appear as the road became narrower and poorer. Those stony albarradas let me see little shy Mayan homes trying to hide from the road, placing themselves under the shadows of magnificent flamboyances, as if the trees needed to defend their fragile content. As if they regretted the existence of brief gaps in their stoned fences, they guarded the entrance marked by a drunken aisle crossing the front yard.

I drove past three rows of homes until I got in the middle of the main plaza, looked at both sides as my disappointment grew, when I realize I was the only human in the entire town. I turned around the plaza looking at a closed little church and a closed little comisaria, and not even the dog enjoying the shadows of a centrally located tree seemed to care he was the only witness of my visit. There was not even a rotten sign with the name of the town.

Aware of the time I am wasting I drove out to find the only Mayan casita with an open door, a light behind the tunnel, to ask for directions, I thought. I parked next where a family of turkey babies had decided to cross the road. As I walked through the aisle and pass the humble Mayan gate I entered the only round room to find no one except a handful of saint’s images standing on tiny altars with hardly shimmering candles. An impressive wood cross laid in the middle of the altar as I looked at the floor and immediately think the stone aisle I just walked past was better paved than the open dirt floor of this circular room.

On the wall the cross was hanging next to a ceiling of never ending spider webs, and an ancient colorless photo of a Mayan family posing. The portrait is poorly framed with a wood similar of that of the cross officiating the moment. Thousands of fingerprints have left layers of dirt all around the frame. I assume many hands have handled that photo after a hard day of work in the country. Despite the couple of desperate “buenos dias” I mourned I have no answer.

There is a jar full of watermelon juice attacked by hundreds of flies. Then I wonder if what is flouting on that water surface is actually seeds or some insects in disgrace. Finally, as I trespass more, I see a woman at the farthest side of the patio. She does not respond to my greetings. Without another choice, I walked 15 steps between endless hurdles of flower pots that artificially wanted the jungle to proceed. As I stand right next to her she begins to feel my presence. Her absolute attention is caught in her craft.

When she finally responds it is now me whose focus changes to a magnificent wall with shelves stuffed with a myriad of colorful hammocks. She is imprisoned behind two wooden bars linked by an intertwined wall of turquoise threads. She has a flat wooden needle in her hands that she uses nonstop to weave up her prison even more. When I recovered from the astonishment I could not tell the reason why I was there. I only said, “Madam, good afternoon. How much are your hammocks?”

With the sweetest 80 year old voice she answered, “80 peso.”

Thinking immediately in how to multiply my limited gas money, my impulse decides to buy one. As I am choosing between oceans of colors I ask the lady, “How can I get to Merida?”

Once again her sweet voice gives me this time a bitter answer, “I do not know.”

I continued my interrogation and she tells me the name of the town is Xcaloc. Her helpless words still mean nothing to me. Then I picked the most perfect hammock and I demand to know the size. She stops for the first time what she is doing and as she turns up her silver hair, perfectly woven with colorful ribbons, just like her hammocks, her eyes confessed to me she is completely blind. She tells me with her hands to get closer so she can touch the hammock. A simple touch was enough to tell me the size. In that moment I simply responded with, “How can you tell between the colors?”

She justifies herself by saying, ”I have done this since I was a child.”

“Let me get the money from the car,” I responded as I walked out.

I overlooked how she started to follow me out, slowly but with perfect awareness of her space. When I come back to her door she is patiently already awaiting for me. I described the value of every coin and bill I am giving her hoping she would trust me, but that seemed unimportant to her.

Before I proceed with my getting lost I cannot help to ask, “Who are those people on the photo?”

She says, “It is mom and dad, and me. When I could also see with my eyes.”

Rodrigo Rodriguez is a human rights and immigration lawyer living in the Yucatan among the Mayans. He is a lover of good music and food, and is always looking to be amazed by nature. Rodrigo is a student here at CUNY SPS working on his Advanced Certificate in Immigration Law.

I’m sure the title sounds frilly and full of smile’s and good stuff but no, you’ve been fooled. This is about the things that I have observed that drive me insane.

I’m friendly to a degree. You approach me or speak to me and I’m polite and social. Otherwise, you’ll likely meet my deadpan, emotionless or cold glare. It’s interesting because I wasn’t always this bad when it came to being social. When I first moved to New York I was still a social butterfly again to a certain degree. I’ve always been particular. In about 5 minutes maybe 10, I usually have people pegged. I’ve either classified you into one of 3 categories—we click, we will never click, and invisible. I have no in between. This is usually a result of my silence, however profiling. Everywhere I go I profile. It’s a habit, it’s innate and I can’t help it.

Being in New York again since childhood from 2008 to present, I still enjoy my space, which we have very little of. If a train is packed, I’m willing to be late to let 4 trains pass me then to plaster myself onto the window or subway surf on the outside. So this morning as I jump onto the elevator, I let one pass so as to not enter a packed one. (I have a morbid theory that if the elevator was stuck, I’d rather be alone than to be packed like a sardine. I think it’s an entirely valid reason, maybe not.)

The moral of the story is, I enter the elevator. Where do I stand? Can you guess? In the most invisible corner humanly possible. Want to guess what happens? Two more people enter and where do they stand in an entirely empty elevator, next to yours truly Suzy sunshine. I move my head and I know my face has taken the puzzled look as I think to myself, why?

Why do people feel the need to stand so relatively close to you when there is clear space, in front and in the middle of the elevator. It drives me insane. My little hamster wheel squeaks with the fury of why? I try to move myself away. I’m blatant about it, because again, why must you stand near me when there is such an obvious amount of space?!

My personal favorite is the packed meat locker called a subway. It’s one thing for the train to be full, it’s another when you think your getting in and your practically riding the platform. You clearly see that there is no space, so where do you seriously think you’re going? I’ve been known to ask people if they’d like to ride my shoulders? Perhaps a piggy back ride? Shouldn’t you at least know my name since you’re so in my space right now? Of course, depending on the mood, there are far less nice things I have said about this.

It’s really just the lack of courtesy that pulls my chain. I am evil to a lot of degrees, yup I admit it and very openly, but I also know how to treat people with dignity and respect. unless your on my dark side…may the force be with you. Blame it on being a double Capricorn, blame it on a self diagnosed personality disorder, whatever it is all I’m saying is it’s really not hard to treat each other just a little bit more courteously and not trample one another.

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.”

To read books like this, I have to be in a certain mood. Just like any other genre, be it mystery, true crime, or forensic psychology related. I knew from the moment I was about 80 pages in, that this was going to require a certain state of mind from me to be able to finish it. So over the past month, in between reading thrillers, etc., I finally finished it.

The book was about a neurosurgeon that was diagnosed with cancer and his journey until his untimely demise. The book offers an interesting perspective into the journey of someone who’s life is cut short by such a serious illness such as cancer. There were a few quotes that stuck with me and a few thoughts that I’d like to share and understand your thoughts.

At the end of it all, what really matters? There came a point where he was diagnosed with cancer, would he return to neurosurgery—his passion? Where would he go? What would he do, and most importantly, what really mattered? I often think about my own demise, what have I accomplished, what have I not, what do I want, and what would I do but my own question of what really matters. Now that I am a mother, I have an Achilles—my daughter. Had I not been a mother the answer would be simple, what matters to me is money and my friends. Now I find that what matters to me is the ability to see my daughter grow and guide her through life. Money is still there, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to having a sordid affair with money. It is the root of all evil after all and everyone has a price, or at least I’m honest enough to own that I have one.

The book was a good read, again heavy in the content and the reflection and understanding that we all have a counter over our heads, just ticking the minutes and days away. But the takeaway is much larger in scale, because I reminded myself to take more time to myself, more time to slow down and enjoy my surroundings, more time to see and be one with nature and the things that I enjoy and love.

So at the end of the day…what really matters to you?

Here are the quotes:

“Human knowledge is never contained in one person. It grows from the relationships we create between each other and the world, and still it is never complete.”
Paul Kalanithi, When Breath Becomes Air

I began to realize that coming in such close contact with my own mortality had changed both nothing and everything. Before my cancer was diagnosed, I knew that someday I would die, but I didn’t know when. After the diagnosis, I knew that someday I would die, but I didn’t know when. But now I knew it acutely. The problem wasn’t really a scientific one. The fact of death is unsettling. Yet there is no other way to live.”
Paul Kalanithi, When Breath Becomes Air

“The tricky part of illness is that, as you go through it, your values are constantly changing. You try to figure out what matters to you, and then you keep figuring it out. It felt like someone had taken away my credit card and I was having to learn how to budget. You may decide you want to spend your time working as a neurosurgeon, but two months later, you may feel differently. Two months after that, you may want to learn to play the saxophone or devote yourself to the church. Death may be a one-time event, but living with terminal illness is a process.”
Paul Kalanithi, When Breath Becomes Air

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.”

Professor Stacey Murphy teaches in the CUNY SPS Health Information Management program and shares her thoughts on motivating students to learn and health care systems.

Stacey Murphy Health Information Management Faculty

1. Who or what inspired you to join the health care field?

During my junior year of high school I had a job where my supervisor, a clerk, gave me the opportunity to code some records. At that time, everything was on paper so I learned completely from scratch.

2. How do you get your students excited about subject matters such as medical billing and coding in an online learning environment?

In the classroom, we share real life experiences with students and ask them to do the same. In our discussion boards, everyone participates and has unique questions. Students find ways to engage with one another in order to answer each other’s questions. I also always advise my students to not become frustrated with the work. Coding takes time; it’s not something that can be memorized.

3. Are there any attributes of other countries’ health care systems that you would like to see adopted by the U.S.?

The World Health Organization (WHO) developed the ICD-10 Coding System. Approximately 25 countries currently use the ICD-10 Coding System. Some use it for morbidity/mortality statistics and others for resource allocation and reimbursement purposes. Australia, Sweden and Netherlands began using it as early as the 1990’s. Canada, China and France began using it in 2000’s. Of record, the most recent country to adopt ICD-10 is Dubai in 2012. The U.S. was scheduled to adopt ICD-10 on October 1, 2011. The implementation date was delayed to 2013, 2014 and again to October 1, 2015. Physician medical associations nationwide have asked Congress for yet another delay, which will delay implementation to October 1, 2017. What is the future of ICD-10 in the U.S.? I guess we will just have to wait and see.

4. As a health care professional, which piece of technology do you think has most benefitted the field?

The online class platform. For me, as an adult learner and professor, I wasn’t initially sold on the benefits of online learning. However, I was faced with certain adversities in life so I went online and realized how much this platform has to offer. Of course, the person running the class makes all the difference in student learning outcomes.

5. What changes do you foresee occurring in the U.S. health care system within the next decade?

Electronic medical records across the board would be a great thing, especially for the consumer since it gives greater access to information.

Professor Murphy also shares some personal information.

1. Favorite spot vacation (so far): Las Vegas. It reminds me of NYC; another city that never sleeps.

2. Best song to listen to after a long day: Mary J. Blige.

3. Greatest piece of advice you have received: Don’t set high expectations for others. You’ll always be upset and disappointed if they don’t meet them.

4. What you’re reading right now: ITTIO PCS Resources (for my January prep class).

5. The person you most admire: Maryanne Rice, my mentor and the first person that inspired me to get involved in the HIM field.

6. If I wasn’t a professor, I would be a: Nurse, but I don’t like blood and needles. 7. Best part of living in NY: It’s the city that never sleeps! And, all of the employment opportunities.

7. First thing you would say to the Queen of England upon meeting her (Stacey aspires to meet the Queen one day): I would start crying first and then gain the courage to say, “It’s truly a pleasure to meet your acquaintance.”

Thanks, Professor Murphy! So many of the HIM faculty who we’ve spoken with have shared the importance of a strong mentor. I’m sure you are fast becoming a mentor to CUNY SPS students.

Hi, it’s Christina again!  Just to remind you, I’m a grad student in the CUNY School of Professional Studies Online Business Management Program and I’m grateful that with this education I will have the background, knowledge, and skills I need to pursue my life’s passions.

What’s yours?

Very interesting…go for it!

Now in my last article “No New Business:  Doing You” I wrote about focusing on yourself first.  My hope is that you received that message in the spirit that it was given.

Giving back (#givingtuesday) is one of the most meaningful things you can do with your life. There’s nothing like it.  And time and time again, it has been proven that regardless of one’s level of success, wealth, or fame, most people just don’t feel complete and satisfied until they participate in giving back.

But again…how do you get there?  To the place where you are giving AND you feel full?  To the place where you are so filled with love, joy, and happiness, that you can’t do anything but share?

Well, I’m no Buddha, but I want to remind you all to PERSIST, PUSH, and PERSEVERE.

A lot of us are working really hard for jobs, pushing important family, health, finances, and dreams to the side.  I’m here to say “push back!”  I learned the hard way, in my career, that unless you are running your own company, you are quite DISpensable.  Which I say to remind you to put your career in perspective when you compare it against all the other reasons why you were put here on this earth.  Respect and honor the job that allows you to provide—but make sure you are providing for something other than just getting to work the next day.  Get it?

I charge you to take the same tenacity or fever you put towards school and work and turn it upon yourself, your families, your health, your finances, and your dreams.  Live outside the 9 to 5.  Live a fulfilled life, not a settled for one.

In fact, there are some great productivity tools that can really help you piece together the many elements of your life.  Try a tool like Trello for organizing your life and getting things done.  And don’t forget, keeping a calendar can make a huge difference, too!!

Christina is passionate about teaching and helping others, social justice, and business ownership. She has a BA in English from George Washington University and a MA in Education from Howard University. She is currently completing a MS in Business Management and Leadership at CUNY SPS. After 10 years of teaching in public and private schools, she’s chosen to focus on helping women and minority owned small businesses succeed and give back so that her families, friends, and communities can thrive.