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

When I was first notified that I would be a recipient of the ACE Scholarship for the fall 2016, I was beyond excited. I went back to school in January 2015 to finish up my Bachelor’s degree in hopes to move along to get a Master’s degree. Going back was scary and new. I had never taken an online class before. I do work remote and am very accustomed to working independently, but the first day of school is something entirely new! I was not sure of the systems, Blackboard and teacher expectations. I have picked up some tips along the way that have helped me succeed along the way and I’d like to share them. It’s what works for me and I encourage everyone to find what works for them.

Take the time to read through the Syllabus! Every teacher has different expectations and requirements. Some Professors require a DB post to be by a certain day of the week to receive maximum credit. This is such an easy way to earn the most points. Try to make that your deadline to receive the highest scores. Make note of how many reply posts are required for each class. This is another way you can achieve maximum points. If a Professor requires at least two replies to classmates, aim to complete those with substance. I can tell most Professors are looking for an interactive discussion and would rather two substantial posts rather than five replies with a couple of sentences.

I have taken anywhere from two to four classes a semester. Organization is key! At the start of each week, I make a running list in my notebook. I write down what is due each week for every class. I make note of how many replies are needed for each DB post. I also write down if I should be starting to spend time on group projects or reports. Even if a project is not due for a month; I make sure to spend some time on it each week. Sometimes that may just be 15 minutes, but I can tell you even just writing a rough outline helps. Anytime you can spend on homework is helpful. This list for each week helps me remember what needs to be completed. And I get satisfaction every time I get to cross something off for the week!

Don’t wait until the last minute! I know we have all been there. Myself included. Sometimes life is just busy and it happens. I work full time and have three children under the age of seven. I am fortunate to have a husband who will take the kids out on a Saturday morning so I can have time for homework. If I have a test to take over a weekend, he’ll take them out so I can have some quiet. Find what works for you! I work best when I have am not interrupted and can really focus on school work. If you have other responsibilities in life, which I am sure you all do, make the time for school work. Plan a night or some part of the weekend that is dedicated to school. If I know I have a busy weekend ahead, I try and get as much done as possible earlier in the week. Plan ahead!

I also encourage you to come to any CUNY SPS events that you can. I had never been to the actual school until I attended ACE Scholarship events. It was so nice to meet other students and share best practices. These are the only people who truly understand what you are going through and sometimes you just need to sit and talk about it. I can say how nice it has been to meet classmates and faculty in person. It’s been enlightening to share stories and experiences. Although this is an online learning environment, there are so many resources available to you to help you succeed. Don’t be afraid to seek them out!

Tina Nugent 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 Business degree program on May 31, 2017.

This post was written by Sharon Lynn Porcoro, a recipient of the CUNY School of Professional Studies ACE Scholarship.

Food, Fitness, and Fitting School into My Busy Life
I do some of my best thinking while sitting on the E train heading home from work. For many the commute home can be daunting, but for me, it is a time for reflection and preparation. It is here that I often plan out my evening and the following days ahead. I add tasks and events to my calendar, make lists of things that need to get done at home, at school, and at work, and I read and begin to write up some of my schoolwork assignments. My busy schedule has forced me to look at my life in a different manner. I no longer fly by the seat of my pants, not planning or preparing, but rather just living. With a full-time job, a fiancé and two daughters, and school to consider, I need to keep my priorities straight. I also have to consider my health, since without it none of this is even possible.

The reason why many people decide to attend classes online is for the freedom of working at your own pace. I know that this was one of the main reasons why I chose to attend CUNY School of Professional Studies. I have a full-time job and a family that demands my attention so the freedom allowed by working at my own pace is not only helpful, it is a necessity. I knew that I would be spread very thin once classes are in session. Some things like hobbies and spending time with friends would fall by the wayside but there are certain things that cannot be ignored like my job, my family, school work, and my health.

For me, the key to staying sane while juggling all of these responsibilities is to prioritize. The reality is that I can only really focus on three, maybe four, aspects of life without spreading myself so thin that things begin to suffer. So since this is the case, I have to think, what 3 or 4 things are the most important? For me, that is family, school, work, and my health. Also, in recognizing those important things, I have to find ways to make them run as smoothly as possible. This is helpful in keeping my sanity. So I stay organized, plan out my calendar, prepare meals ahead of time, make to-do lists and stick to them, focus on the task at hand, don’t procrastinate, and try to stay positive.

Besides the vital responsibilities that come along with family, work and school, my health is also very important to me. Whether this means setting aside time for me to mentally decompress, to go the CrossFit to work out, or prepping a week’s worth of healthy meals, I make sure that I make myself a priority. Normally on Sundays, after stocking the fridge with essentials, I take some time to cook and prepare meals for the week. I find it helpful that after a long day at work I have a healthy and delicious meal already prepared. I also use my slow cooker at least once a week so that I can come home to a hot, home-cooked meal. I have included one my favorite recipes for pulled pork below. Setting aside 5 minutes in the morning to throw things in the slow cooker helps to ease the stress of a hectic evening.

Crock Pot Pulled Pork

5 pound Pork Butt (bone-in or out)
3 Slices of Bacon
1 Tablespoons of coarse sea salt
6 peeled cloves of garlic

Trim any skin or excess fat from the pork butt (not really necessary). Place the bacon on the bottom of the slow cooker. Poke the pork butt with a knife and push the garlic cloves in the cuts. Sprinkle the pork with the salt. Put the pork on top of the bacon in the slow cooker. Cook on low for 10 – 14 hours. The meat should be able to shred with 2 forks. Don’t use the liquid, it will be way too salty. Serve on a salad or in corn tortillas with some lettuce, avocado, and lime juice.

Sharon Lynn Porcoro 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 Sociology degree program on May 31, 2017.

This post was written by Misty Gardner, a recipient of the CUNY School of Professional Studies ACE Scholarship, and representative on the Student Association.

Achieving Goals, One Cliché at a Time
This week, I will graduate from the City University of New York, School of Professional Studies with a B.A. in Psychology. Exactly twenty years ago, in the spring of 1997, I graduated from high school. Twenty years, an Associate’s degree, five colleges, and four degree program changes later I will finally achieve my goal of having completed my Bachelor’s degree. As is the case with so many of my fellow students at CUNY SPS, my journey has been a long one and I have learned some valuable lessons along the way.

Baby steps
When you want something, you have to set goals. Once you have identified a goal, put it in place and commit to achieving it. Set it, and forget it. Often, looking at the big picture leaves you feeling overwhelmed and this can discourage you from even taking the first step. No one gets from point A to point B in one step. Set your goal and then set about achieving it, one step at a time. For me, this began with filling out the application for CUNY SPS. I didn’t know if I had the time, I didn’t know if I had the energy, and I didn’t know how I would afford it. It took a bit of a leap of faith; I’d just have to figure it out when I crossed those bridges. And that’s what I did. I took it one semester at a time, one week at a time. I didn’t qualify for financial aid so I worked to get the best grades I could manage, one assignment at a time, so that I might be eligible for scholarships. Little by little, I did the best I could, focusing on each task at hand. I stopped letting the big picture overwhelm me and I got it done… one step at a time. It doesn’t matter how far you are from your goal right now, moving forward is always better than standing still.

The comfort zone
I can accredit the length of my journey, in large part, to fear. A career in the field that I am most interested requires an advanced degree. The idea of pursuing such a degree seemed just a bit too ambitious and I really wasn’t sure if I could even do it. Well, growth is often uncomfortable. Positive changes are hard to come by without doing something different and “different” is often scary. You must step out of that comfort zone. When your mind says, “I can’t do it,” do it anyway. This negative self-talk is deceitful and it will hold you back. At first, you will just have to ignore it and this will be uncomfortable. Once you begin to surprise yourself with what you are actually capable of (and you will), you will begin to challenge these thoughts. After a while you realize that “I can’t do it” has been replaced with “I’ve got this”. When you’ve given yourself this gift of confidence, obstacles are much easier to overcome.

It takes a village
Of course, getting to this point would have been much more difficult, if not impossible, if it weren’t for the support of others. My family has supported me in every way. They have been my inspiration to keep going, especially during the times that I wasn’t sure if I could. The faculty, staff, and my fellow students at CUNY SPS (some of whom I now call friends) have been instrumental in my success here by offering support, reassurance, or even an occasional needed laugh. In addition to allowing me to focus on my studies, no longer having to worry about tuition, having been chosen as a recipient of the ACE Scholarship has provided so many positive experiences, inspiring me to be my best possible self. This opportunity would not exist without the generosity of benefactor, Alan Fishman. We all have people that help drive us, supporting our efforts to grow. These are the people that push us to keep going when we are at our weakest and inspire us to pay it forward. Take the time to appreciate these people as they are a part of your journey; a part of who you are and who you will become.

The light at the end of the tunnel
As I close this chapter and move on to my next goal of obtaining my Master’s degree, I look back on this experience in awe. It certainly wasn’t easy but I worked hard and committed to finally achieving this goal, regardless of the obstacles that stood in my way. Not only did I get it done, I did so with straight A’s and I earned a full-tuition scholarship; all while being a full-time working wife and mother of three young children. I move forward with so much more than a Bachelor’s degree. Because of my experiences at CUNY SPS, I have grown to be a better version of myself. There was a time when I didn’t think I’d ever get here, but here I am… and if I can do it, anyone can.

Misty Gardner 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 degree program on May 31, 2017.

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

Being a working mom is something I am really proud of. I have worked tremendously hard to maintain my career, while raising my family and being a student here at CUNY SPS. I speak to a lot of working moms who struggle to find work/life balance. I have been really fortunate to work for a company that supports this initiative. But even if I didn’t have that support from my brand there are things that I do that help me stay on track and organized.

My story goes…


I have four children. Four daughters to be exact and each one has a very different schedule and plan when they wake up. My 2 year old is up before everyone, but give her some Cheerios and she is busy for a while. This is when I check my email, make notes of important to do’s and prepare for the day.

By 6:00 am the house is in full swing. My 13 year old is off, and the rest of the crew is waking up as well. At 7:00 am, my 9 year old is up and getting ready for the day. She is quite assertive, and I appreciate it when I am trying to calendar the remaining of my day. From 7:00-8:00 am, I am printing resumes, reviewing applicants, scrolling LinkedIn and catching up on social media. As a recruiter social media is a large part of how I engage with candidates.

By 8:00 am, it is show time. Whether it’s summer or school time, the house is in motion. I may have to help with some clothes decisions, and they are pretty good with getting the rest together. This is when my mother arrives. She helps with breakfast and bus stop runs. She also keeps my youngest on days she doesn’t have nursery school.

When it comes to my career, I am a recruiter for a large retailer. Therefore, I schedule all my interviews in advance, and make time to write my notes in between. I work from home a couple days a week, so it is very helpful when I have some downtime for school. I typically print out my assignments off Blackboard and use the mobile app to stay up to date on deadlines.

I tackle the larger school projects in the evening, when I am not working. But will do smaller discussion board posts between appointments or on lunch.

Balancing family—work—life and school is just that a balancing act.

What is my typical schedule?  

I start at 6:00 am and end at 8:00 pm. I will answer email up until the last set of eyes closes. Supporting other time zones it is important to be accessible after 5:00 pm EST. So I will always try to keep myself available. However, there are times when I have to stop and be a mom as the day goes on. But planning and knowing what coming helps you be prepared.

How do I stay organized?

I do a monthly calendar in Word with everything that is happening. I am always marking down appointments for the girls, me, my husband and my mom. I need to know where we need to be and what time. It’s color coded, and I have it available for all to see. I hand write changes, and while it’s manual it is still my go too for what is happening. I also use Gmail to calendar everything, and invite my work email and school email to the event. This allows me to have all my events on all my calendars—as to not double book. It is not fun when you overbook or double book do to personal/work conflicts. Know where you and your family are at all times, and you can stay organized.

Organization is a family affair. My 13 year old has a white board in her room. I put her calendar on there for her so she knows what is happening.

My 9 year old the same white board, to keep track of her Girl Scout activities and sports. Showing my older girls responsibility for being organized is very important. I am over organized, and I want my girls to be as well.

Finally, I carry a notebook with me and a pen. I write notes as things happen throughout the day, and sometimes it can happen when I am not in front of my computer to document it.

As a recruiter, my operations binder is my lifeline. I have all my important documents, passwords and job files. I put all resumes of candidates in process in my binder, and carry it with me everywhere. You never know when you will need to access their information quickly. I also print all notes that I send to business partners, and a copy of interview schedules as well.

As a student I have the same binder. I have my assignments, calendar of events, and updated course information at the tips of my fingers. I also update all my deadlines and due dates on the calendars as well. Sometimes various courses have different deadlines.

Staying organized is the key to it all. If you don’t organize yourself and your family for what is coming, it’s hard to be prepared. Good Luck!

Lynne Alba 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 Business degree program on May 31, 2017.

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

Throughout my life, I have come to appreciate and embrace opportunities afforded to me. I have always believed that the confluence of my ambition and presented opportunities would inevitably lead to success. I am eternally grateful to have been a recipient of the ACE Scholarship as it has helped me complete my BSN, which is essential to my ultimate goal. My journey has not been a straight path but one filled with pit stops and detours. I hope that by writing this blog, others will be inspired regardless of where they are currently—whether peaks or valleys. Through introspection, I have come to realize that while I always viewed education as essential, life lessons learned can never be understated. During the course of my studies, there are three important elements that I can say have helped me to never give up or lose sight of my ultimate goal.

Firstly, my passion for nursing has always been there. As I am writing this I can recall vividly, during my formative years, I received a Fisher Price medical kit as a Christmas gift. I would play and use this kit every chance I got, whether using it on my mom and my brother, even my pets were not spared. I was always fascinated by the human anatomy and how different parts of the body worked in such harmony. This deep rooted curiosity along with my desire and affinity for helping people directed me on a path to pursue a career in nursing. So even when faced with challenges in my life, that passion always kept burning within me and helped me to persevere amid life struggles.

Secondly, my ambition to succeed has never wavered and I must attest that without it I may have given up. One of my favorite quotes by Roy T. Bennet, in The Light in the Heart, is “Believe in your infinite potential. Your only limitations are those you set upon yourself.” I always attempted never to put a limit on what I can achieve even when that may have seemed reasonable and pragmatic at times. As a young black woman growing up, I have always been told by those before me of things that I cannot be or careers that are out of my reach. However, I was never deterred or deflated by those words, it only further incentivized me to go after what my heart truly yearns for. I did not let breaks in my studies, whether for financial reasons or otherwise, shut the door on my dreams.

Finally, while passion and ambition were indisputably important, they would mean very little without opportunity. For this, I will be eternally grateful to the ACE scholarship program for providing me with the opportunity to pursue my goal. As I near completion, I have no intention or desire to stop here. I fully intend to make full use of this by furthering my studies in the field of anesthesiology, which is my ultimate ambition. The ACE Scholarship has been vital to the realization of my dream of becoming a qualified nurse anesthesiologist. By no means is my journey over, however, I believe as with everything in life, it is important to look back in order to move forward with even greater enthusiasm and appreciation. So I move forward and am ready to board the train of opportunity afforded, growing from the experience and enjoying the ride toward the next level of success.

Kiyra Jones 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 Nursing degree program on May 31, 2017.

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

I’m finally here: my last semester in a four-year journey at CUNY SPS. In fact, it’s my last week of my last semester, in my last class at the school. The capstone class (in this case, Strategic Management) is almost done: my team members and I have recently input the last of the data required for the closing quarter of the business simulation, Marketplace; and we’ve handed in our final case study about Delta Airlines’ response to the threat posed by low-cost carriers in the aftermath of 9/11. Next week, I and the class will take the final, and then goodbye. Great stuff, and now it’s practically over. I will definitely miss it.

I wonder what I will do with myself now that there are no classes to take, no readings, no team projects, no case studies, no exams, no discussion board assignments. If it sounds like I’m already experiencing some withdrawal symptoms, it’s because I am. As I said, I will miss all of this, and the great community that CUNY SPS has been for me the last few years. For sure, there are new challenges to be faced: updating my LinkedIn profile with that infuriatingly blank “education” field (I’m in my fifties, so it’s particularly galling), parlaying my enhanced skills learned from professors and classmates into a better position at my current employment, looking and perhaps finding that job that not only pays the bills but fills that little bit of hollowness in the soul. That last one is the one, isn’t it? It’s the one we all have to go for, even if we don’t achieve it, even if we only just get close and almost make it. Don’t give up, be sensible by all means, but don’t surrender.

These thoughts crowd my head as I step off the curb to cross to the other side. The way ahead will interesting, I will have to make it interesting: what does it mean to have prepared, spent, and sacrificed so much if it keeps you in the same place you started from? Is that even possible? I’m thinking ahead to the new preparations I will soon undertake, and as I strategize my next moves I also think back on the four years spent at CUNY SPS. What would I tell a new mentee just starting out at CUNY SPS? What would I tell my sons as they start out in higher education? What would I tell a friend? The thing that comes to mind is this: don’t just show up. To me showing up is doing the minimum to get the diploma and moving on. If you do that, you’ll end up with a marginally useful piece of paper, and not much else. What you can do instead is to use your classes, use your time in school to breathe some life into your dreams and get them a little closer to becoming a reality.

This can be done by using CUNY SPS and its network of faculty, students, and staff to the fullest extent. Don’t believe that getting the diploma, graduating, magically changes everything: one day you’re a student, and the next you’re a graduate, and then the world changes. Perhaps on some minor level this is true, but it doesn’t last. As you take each class, you should think about how you can apply what you are learning to your present situation: be it your current job, or the job you eventually want to get. You should access your professor and the other students in your class as resources of knowledge, and the possible start of network that you can draw upon for years to come. With that in mind, consider your classmates, who might help you through their experiences or professional background—think also about how you might benefit them in the same way in return. Also consider your professor, who might have a wealth of information about a particular subject you’re interested in. If you feel you need advice in how to proceed in your studies, or how to position yourself to get a certain type of job he or she is familiar with, ask to meet with them. They may or may not say yes. If they can’t meet in person, ask them for a phone call or teleconference. You’ll find that many of them are very helpful and willing to accommodate you in some form.

Also, don’t pass up on the opportunity to stay in touch with faculty and students who share your common interests. One easy and well accepted way to do this is through LinkedIn. Ask them to be in your network, so that at some point in the future you might easily reconnect and communicate with them—remind them you were in their class. Additionally, keep in mind that they may be able to introduce you to people they know on their networks.

Another way you can get more out of your education is to give some of your time back to the school. Show up at the gatherings. Given that many of the programs at CUNY SPS are online, this is very valuable. You’ll meet some of the staff, faculty, and students face to face, and they in turn will get to know you better. Volunteer to help out, or join the student council. Remember that the more of yourself you put into a situation, the more you’ll get back, sometimes in ways you can’t conceive of in the moment. So enough of my sermonizing, and I do apologize if I’ve gone a little long on this. It’s just that I can’t stress enough the importance of doing more than just showing up. Let’s get on with it. I wish you all the best.

Jerome Basma 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 B.S. in Business degree program on May 31, 2017.

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

I first began pursuing my Bachelor’s Degree many years ago, back in Kenya, where I am originally from. Due to personal circumstances, I have had to start, stop, continue and discontinue several times. The thing that kept me going was that it was my late mother’s deepest wish that I continue with my education and obtain an advanced degree. It has been an arduous trip getting here.

Sometimes financial conditions have limited my participation and at other times the pressure of working full-time reduced the time needed to attend school. I constantly hoped and prayed for something to give so that I could complete my degree. Either I could obtain a full scholarship or I could work at a job that would allow for class attendance at very odd hours. The online classes given at the CUNY School of Professional Studies were an answer to half my prayers. It was a financial struggle attending the classes but through thick and thin I worked at it, sometimes taking one course, other times two.

Finally, I was awarded the ACE Scholarship just in time. I have been told that the last few semesters are usually the most difficult and are referred to as the breaking point. That is across the board for the Bachelor, Graduate and even the Post-Graduate degrees. Having struggled to get to the finish line, it was the ACE Scholarship that pushed me through. Not only was it financially essential, it gave me added momentum to get to the finish line and not to lose hope.

Even more pleasantly, it motivated me to obtain better grades than ever. The motivation to work at having really good grades was a surprising upshot of being an ACE Scholar. To keep the scholarship, my GPA had to be above 3.0. I work full-time at a job that, though rewarding, can be really stressful. Having the scholarship ensured that I worked harder not just to complete the assignments on time, but also to submit the kind of quality work expected from an ACE Scholar.

Another requirement of being an ACE Scholar is to be a mentor to new students. In my first semester as an ACE Scholar, I mentored a new student with whom I shared a class. He is one of those students who submit their work way ahead of time. Additionally, his work is always thoughtful and well-written. Many times I wished that he was my mentor instead. On the other hand, having him in my class was very beneficial to me as it motivated me even more to always submit my assignments in a timely manner (though rarely way ahead of time). Mentoring my mentee was a joyful experience and I can only hope that my future mentees will have the same disposition that he does.

Through the mentorship program, I have learned a lot, not only in how to be a mentor, but also how to be a good student.

Esther Kimani 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 Communications and Media degree program on May 31, 2017.