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October 2001

Campuses Mobilize After Terrorist Attack

CUNY's "Success Express" Highlights Grads
Freshman Enrollment Rises at CUNY
First Festival Presented by Gotham Center
CUNY TV enhances recruiting outreach
U.S. Cheers Poet Laureate: Prof. Billy Collins
A Dream of Food On Washington Mall
Navy League Award to Hunter Physicist
Nine Leading Scholars Named Distinguished Professors
Haitian First Lady, CCNY Alumna, Feted
Baruch College Opens Vertical Campus
Historic Matters
Baruch Center Confronts Quality of Urban Life
Hunter College Historian Communes with the Saints
A Displaced Person Discovers His Place on Campus
CUNY Students Vault into Poll Work
Double Play for CUNY Broadcasters
Multiple-Degree CUNY Graduates Rise

When Pam Jackman-Brown started classes at Borough of Manhattan Community College, public speaking made her so nervous that her hands shook. But, with the help of her speech teacher Golda Solomon, she got over that in the course of earning her associate’s degree in 1979, then went on to extend her comfort zone to John Jay College, where she added a baccalaureate in 1983, and the CUNY Law School at Queens College, which granted her a J.D. in 1986. Next year she was called to the New York State Bar.

Jackman-Brown now does much of her public speaking from the bench of Civil Court in Queens County as a judge of the Housing Court, where she has served since 1998. Prior to that, the jurist served as law secretary to Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Yvonne Lewis, then was named to the Housing Court. She has also been a director of the Metropolitan Black Bar Association and has worked to establish mentoring relationships between adolescents at risk and adults in various professions. One of her most influential teachers at BMCC, business law professor Percy Lambert, says Judge Jackman-Brown, is still mentoring her.

success express candidatesJackman-Brown is a prime example of what could be called the “Twofer” and “Threefer” Phenomenon at the City University. She is one from among the large cohort of about 32,000 students who, in the last two decades, have earned more than one degree at CUNY’s consortium of community and senior colleges and graduate and professional schools

Each year, thousands of CUNY community college graduates proceed to a senior college, where the University offers hundreds of rigorous baccalaureate degree programs preparatory for such careers as engineering, architecture, medicine, education and business. For many of these B.A. and B.S. graduates the next goal is an advanced degree at one of the University’s 11 senior colleges, a law degree at the CUNY Law School, or a doctorate at the Graduate Center.

Refining the time-honored “subway university” image, Chancellor Matthew Goldstein observes, “Our community colleges are part of a comprehensive system of colleges working to provide opportunity for students at every level. That’s why we consider the City University a ‘success express’ to a great career.” (That phrase is being featured this fall in a multimedia ad campaign, including—of course—MTA subway cars and buses.)

The Chancellor also pointed out that more than 15,000 high school graduates are beginning their higher education this fall and pursuing an associate degree at Kingsborough Community College in Brooklyn, LaGuardia and Queensborough Community Colleges in Queens, Hostos and Bronx Community Colleges in the Bronx, and the Borough of Manhattan Community College. Students may also pursue associate degrees at five CUNY senior colleges: Medgar Evers College and NYC Technical College in Brooklyn, York College in Queens, John Jay College of Criminal Justice in Manhattan, and the College of Staten Island. “Every high school graduate is guaranteed a place in one of our community colleges,” Goldstein said, “and every student who successfully completes his or her course of study for an associate’s degree is guaranteed a place in one of our senior colleges.”

In the last decade alone, more than 13,000 CUNY community college graduates have earned higher degrees at CUNY senior colleges or its graduate schools. Another 21,000 alumni have earned both a bachelor’s degree and a graduate degree since 1979 (about 8,000 of them in the last decade). Here is a tiny sampling from these CUNY Twofers and Threefers.

David Youngwood earned his GED after attending a private high school for students with learning disabilities. Although he wasn’t sure he wanted to attend college, he decided to give LaGuardia Community College a try because of its reputation and a friend's recommendation. He found individual attention and supportive teachers and served as both sports and politics editor for the campus newspaper, The Bridge.

Youngwood decided upon a career in accounting. He graduated with an A.A. degree in 1985 and transferred to Queens College, where he received his accounting B.A. in 1988. Now the Controller of a public accounting firm, Youngwood says, "I definitely owe a lot to CUNY for helping me to pass the CPA exam through the Public Accounting track. I went from a GED to a CPA thanks to CUNY. What is good about CUNY is that transfer into a four-year college is guaranteed. With two-year programs you can’t go wrong. You are an instant winner. Even if you only want a two-year degree, you are taught skills for good jobs.”

Yes, there is also a Fivefer category. One of the Graduate Center Ph.D.s minted this past summer was JaimeLee Iolani Asao Cohen, who is beginning her appointment this fall as a professor of organic chemistry at Pace University. She started at Queensborough Community College, earning an associate’s degree (and the honor of class valedictorian) in 1996. At Queens College she earned a bachelor’s degree in 1998 and a master’s two years later. On a decided higher-education roll, she went on to earn a Master of Philosophy at the Graduate Center before completing her doctorate there in chemistry.
Dr. Cohen credits Queensborough Community College with opening the doors for such opportunity. “Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined that my life would change so dramatically—from a medical secretary to an organic chemistry professor."

Dennis Giordano was in his senior year at Sheepshead Bay High School when his father died and his family home burned to the ground, forcing him to go to work to help his mother. As an iron worker and member of union Local 480, he helped build skyscrapers in midtown Manhattan and recalls sitting out at the end of a steel beam high over West 42nd Street when he was 31 years old and making $60,000 a year and thinking, “What am I doing here? I have to go to school.”

Interested in biology, he chose Kingsborough Community College, near his Brooklyn home. He liked its seaside campus, and he knew about KCC’s outstanding biology program. As a returning adult, he admits he was doubtful about pursuing his real dream: entering medical school. “Joseph Muzzio, then chair of the Biology Department, told me I shouldn’t shortchange myself. He found me information about medical school and put in a good word for me at Downstate Medical School."

The rest is medical history. After graduating from Kingsborough in 1993, Giordano went to Brooklyn College, graduating in 1995, and was accepted at SUNY Downstate Medical Center, where he received his M.D. in 1999. Currently he is specializing in radiology at Nassau County’s University Hospital. Though he was the first in his family to go to college, Kingsborough Community College has since become the Giordano family campus. The physician’s two sisters followed him, and two nieces and a nephew are studying there now.

Maria Arroyo Aguirre, a health care administrator, holds two full-time jobs. When she finishes her day job, she starts as Executive Director of the South Bronx Community Corporation. Like many a CUNY student, working a double shift is nothing new for her. While a full-time student, she worked full-time, was married, and was raising her children. Five years after dropping out of high school, Arroyo-Aguirre was working as a clerk in a Bronx HHC diagnostic and treatment center and began to notice that no one listened to her good ideas. A college degree, she reasoned, might raise her credibility.

Arroyo-Aguirre found some dedicated professors at Hostos Community College, where she earned 64 credits toward her major by the time she graduated in 1989. Then she transferred to Lehman College, graduating with honors in Health Service Administration in 1991. That was topped off with an NYU master’s in Public Administration three years later. “Going to a community college was a good experience for me," she said. “Not everyone has the money or grades for Harvard, but the two-year campus gives everyone a chance to compete.” Arroyo-Aguirre chose Hostos because it was near her home. “That’s the beauty of the CUNY system,” she said. “You don’t have to go far to find a school. I just went a few blocks away.”

Legal secretary was the first job for Blanqui DeJesus-Rodriguez coming out of high school. “I realized I needed to further my education, but four years seemed a lot to commit to,” she remembers. So she enrolled in Bronx Community College, graduating in 1981. Later, as a single parent, she enrolled at John Jay College to study criminal justice, a field that had always interested her. DeJesus-Rodriguez earned her B.S. in 1990. “It took a little while, but it was a great experience.”

She became a court officer at the Bronx Supreme Court, and began a steady ascent that climaxed in 1999 with her appointment as Senior Court Clerk. She is in charge of everyday functions of the court, supervises the courtroom staff, and loves her job. “If anyone told me they didn’t want to go to college, I would say: knowledge is power. Without college you don’t have negotiating power.”

Then she adds, “Furthermore, educating yourself broadens you to the knowledge of other cultures.” Handy knowledge for a public official in her multicultural borough.

Judge Jackman-Brown, Dr. Giordano and Ms. Arroyo-Aguirre joined Chancellor Goldstein to speak about their experiences at CUNY for a special edition of CUNY Conversations on CUNY-TV.