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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.




The SPS Scholarship Committee has identified six scholarship recipients for the 2013-14 academic year. After careful deliberation, the Committee selected these students from an impressive pool of approximately 70 submissions—the most SPS has received to date.

Vearlane Edge and Velma Felix have been selected as 2013-14 Bob Martin Scholars. Vearlane is a student in the Online B.A. in Communication and Media program, and she anticipates graduating in 2014. For the past 20 years, she has organized and hosted Girl Scout troops of all ages, and has been especially active in an event providing children in need with backpacks and school supplies. With her help, this event has grown from 150 to over 300 participants in just three years. Velma, a student in our Online B.S. in Business program, is on track to graduate in December 2013. Velma returned to SPS after discontinuing her college education because of financial hardship. The Bob Martin Scholarship will allow Velma to finish her degree with SPS.

Tiffany Garcia is our inaugural Timothy Meade Scholar. A student in our Online B.A. in Disability Studies program with a Spring 2014 anticipated graduation date, Tiffany was led to the degree through her work as a special education teacher’s assistant in New Jersey. Tiffany has always worked hard for her education. Following an associate’s degree at LaGuardia Community College, she chose to finish her undergraduate education at SPS. She is on her way to becoming the first person in her family to graduate from college, which has inspired her older sister to return to higher education as well.

Nooria Nodrat and Merrilee Robinson have been awarded Founding Dean’s Scholarships for the 2013-2014 academic year. Nooria is an in-person student in the M.A. in Disability Studies program, and anticipates graduating in May 2014. Nooria, who is blind, decided to come to SPS to pursue Disability Studies in order to give back to her community. Merrilee is currently pursuing a B.S. in Health Information Management with an anticipated graduation date in Spring 2014. Born in a “third-world country,” Merrilee has overcome hardship and prioritizes her education. Her goal is to enter the workforce, earn certification in RHIA and RHIT, and find employment as a compliance officer

Elmo Paige will be receiving the 2013-14 Stephen M. Rossen Memorial Scholarship. Elmo, a single father of four teenagers, is guiding them through their educational journeys as he embarks on his own. With the full encouragement of his employer, this scholarship will allow him to reduce his work hours and focus more closely on his studies: he anticipates graduating from SPS in 2015 or 2016 with the M.S. in Data Analytics.

Dear SPS Community,

As we inaugurate the 2012-13 academic year at the CUNY School of Professional Studies (SPS), in addition to celebrating new beginnings, we are also very proud to mark the 10th anniversary of SPS. As a member of the SPS community, you are vital to our growth and success, and I deeply appreciate your ongoing commitment to our School.

In the last year alone, we have continued our tradition of consistently enhancing the opportunities we offer our students by:

  • Graduating over 300 students in June 2012.
  • Launching three new degree programs: an online B.A. in Disability Studies, an online M.S. in Information Systems/Data Analysis, and an in-person M.A. in Urban Studies. Other programs are also in development.
  • Awarding scholarships from a third scholarship fund, The Stephen M. Rossen Scholarship Fund. This fund now joins the Founding Dean’s Scholarship and Bob Martin Scholarship, allowing more students to receive support they need.
  • Formally launching the SPS Foundation.
  • Beginning preparatory work on the future home of SPS at 119 W. 31st Street.
  • Updating the SPS website at

Your support is critical to our continued growth — your contribution will allow us to continue to develop new degree, certificate, and training programs; attract and support a diverse student body; recruit and retain world-class faculty; and, perhaps most importantly, expand the number of scholarships we award to students. We have already seen that number of scholarships grow in the past year.

To make a gift, please complete the enclosed form and return it via traditional mail. Contributions can also be made online by clicking here. While considering your contribution to SPS this year, please remember that every gift, regardless of size, matters.

On behalf of our School and our students, thank you in advance for your support.


John Mogulescu
Dean, CUNY School of Professional Studies

John Mogulescu is the Senior University Dean for Academic Affairs and the Dean of the CUNY School of Professional Studies, and his responsibilities involve him in many different aspects of the University’s academic life. In addition to SPS, Dean Mogulescu has overseen collaborative programs between CUNY and the NYC Public Schools, CUNY Prep Transitional High School, the CUNY Language Immersion Program, CUNY Start, and the Adult Literacy and GED Preparation Programs. Dean Mogulescu also supervises the University’s Workforce Development Initiative, special training initiatives for City and State workers, and programs for welfare recipients, in addition to Adult and Continuing Education at CUNY and its non-credit programs, which serve over 250,000 students per year.

The School of Professional Studies (SPS) is pleased to announce three new scholarship opportunities for students.

Two Dean’s Scholarships will be awarded, one to a full-time student in the amount of $1,500; the other in the amount of $500 to a student enrolled in an SPS program part-time.  The scholarships will be determined  on the basis of financial need, academic merit, and to students within one semester of completing their degree program.

The Bob Martin Memorial Scholarship in the amount of $1,000, will be awarded to an applicant enrolled in an on-line baccalaureate program on a part- or full-time basis and who will be entering his/her last semester prior to completing the on-line degree.  At least one scholarship will be awarded to an applicant meeting this criteria and also on the basis of financial need and academic merit.  The scholarship is in honor of Bob Martin, the late husband of SPS Director of Student Services Dr. Z. Lobley.

Those interested in applying should go to for additional criteria and application forms.  The deadline for submission is April 1, 2011.  Recipients will be notified May 2, 2011.

Recipients will be asked to provide a photo and profile for inclusion in the Commencement Program and to attend the Commencement 2011 Ceremonies on June 7, 2011, at Alice Tully Hall in New York City.

Please contact the Alumni Relations and Development Office at 212-817-7169 for questions or additional information.

Leslie Kerr is the Alumni Relations and Development Director for the School of Professional Studies.

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