First Class Graduates From Dominican Republic Community College Established With Help of LaGuardia Community College; Chancellor Cites CUNY’s Leadership in Caribbean Area Studies

City University of New York Chancellor W. Ann Reynolds told the first graduating class of the first community college in the Dominican Republic on January 31 that the graduates would “have a role in driving the economic engine of this region.”

Established in 1994 through a collaboration between CUNY’s LaGuardia Community College and the Universidad Autonoma de Santo Domingo (UASD), the new Centro Universitario Regional del Suroeste is located in the underdeveloped region of Barahona.

“By pursuing this college education, you have all asked for a hand in shaping the future,” Chancellor Reynolds said.

With an eye on developing the lushly beautiful area for tourism, the college’s first class of 32 students majored in travel and tourism and computer science.

Modeled on LaGuardia’s cooperative education curriculum, the new college requires that its students participate in two internships and take entrepreneurial courses to learn how to start their own businesses.

LaGuardia Community College President Raymond C. Bowen and UASD Rector Edylberto Cabral recently signed documents extending the international education partnership for another four years. President Bowen was among other distinguished speakers at the graduation.

In an address on “Public Higher Education and Dominican Immigrants at CUNY” on January 30 at the Universidad Autonoma de Santo Domingo’s main campus, Chancellor Reynolds said, “The Dominican Republic has a wellspring of gifted individuals who come to New York City. CUNY makes a welcome home for Dominicans; they are the largest immigrant group we currently have enrolled.”

In a time of increasing immigration, CUNY’s population mirrors New York City. Half the freshman class for the past two years was born outside of the 50 states. In the year 2000, the Hispanic population of New York City is expected to reach 29 percent, with the non- Hispanic white population at 35 percent. In recent years, no group has had a greater impact than Dominicans, the largest concentration of immigrants to arrive in New York City since 1970, with the rate of immigration increasing dramatically.

The history, language and literature of Caribbean nations, including the Dominican Republic, are more a part of the United States today than ever before, Chancellor Reynolds said.

“The City University is poised to become a leader as Caribbean culture is made an integral part of the national curriculum,” she said, noting that CUNY is especially well suited to accomplish this because of its location, its student population and its faculty talents and research interests.

Among CUNY’s educational opportunities in this area, she cited:

  • the Dominican Studies Institute, headed by Professor Silvio Torres-Saillant, who also addressed the gathering;
  • the study-abroad programs in Latin America and the Caribbean, including one in Santo Domingo;
  • the Center for Puerto Rican Studies, the only university-based research institute in the U.S. dedicated to the interdisciplinary study of the Puerto Rican experience;
  • the Inter-University Program for Latino Research, which brings together eight Latino research centers focusing on social policy concerns on the national and international levels;
  • CUNY’s Hostos Community College, a bilingual college in the South Bronx, where degree candidates whose first language is Spanish can begin their academic studies while gradually learning to use English through a series of English-as-a-Second-Language classes. It also offers a large number of adult education and language immersion programs for non-degree students living in the largely Dominican neighborhoods of the South Bronx.