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 associates 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
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 CUNYs 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 Universitys
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. Thats
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, includingof courseMTA
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 associates
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 bachelors 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
wasnt 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.
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 cant
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 associates degree (and
the honor of class valedictorian) in 1996. At Queens College
she earned a bachelors degree in 1998 and a masters
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.
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
dramaticallyfrom a medical secretary to an organic chemistry
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 KCCs 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 shouldnt 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 Countys 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 physicians 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 masters 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.
Thats the beauty of the CUNY system, she
said. You dont 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
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 didnt want to go to
college, I would say: knowledge is power. Without college
you dont 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.