The Success Express to a Great Career Begins this Fall At The City University of New York

Judge Pam Jackman-Brown is just of one of the thousands of hardworking students who have traveled to a great career on the Success Express, The City University of New York network of two and four-year colleges and graduate and professional schools.

Undecided about their future, these students choose to begin a higher education in a supportive, nurturing community college environment, and CUNY has six community colleges conveniently located throughout the city.

But that is just their first stop. Each year, thousands of CUNY community college graduates proceed to a senior college, where the University offers hundreds of rigorous baccalaureate degree programs that prepare for exciting careers in engineering, architecture, medicine, education and business, just to name a few.

For many of these graduates the next stop is an advanced degree at one of the University’s 11 senior colleges, a law degree at the University Law School in Queens or a doctorate at the University Graduate Center in Manhattan.

Jackman-Brown enrolled in and graduated from a CUNY community college. She continued on and graduated from a CUNY senior college. Her next stop was CUNY Law School. Today, the 1986 CUNY Law School graduate is a Civil Court Judge in Queens.

“Our community colleges are part of a comprehensive system of colleges working to provide opportunity for students at every level,” said Chancellor Matthew Goldstein. “That’s why we say the City University is the Success Express to a great career.”

Chancellor Goldstein noted that more than 15,000 high school graduates this Fall are beginning their higher education 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 one of five CUNY senior colleges: Medgar Evers College and the University’s 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,” Chancellor Goldstein noted, “and every student who successfully completes their course of study for an associate’s degree is guaranteed a place in one of our senior colleges.”

In the last two decades, more than 32,000 City University of New York students earned an associate’s degree at a community college and continued on to study for a bachelor’s degree or higher at a CUNY college, graduate or professional school. In the last decade alone, over 13,000 CUNY community college graduates have earned higher degrees at CUNY senior colleges and graduate schools. Another 21,000 alumni have earned both a bachelor’s degree and a graduate degree at CUNY since 1979, over 8,000 of them in the last decade.

The following are profiles of six of those successful alumni:

The Hon. Pam Jackman-Brown was named a Civil Court Judge in Queens County in 1998. She began her all-CUNY higher education career at Borough of Manhattan Community College, graduating with an associate’s degree in 1979. She recalls that when she started at BMCC, public speaking made her so nervous, her hands shook. She soon got over that. She went on to earn a baccalaureate from John Jay College of Criminal Justice in 1983 and a J.D. from CUNY Law School in 1986 and was admitted to the New York State Bar the following year. She served as law secretary to Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Yvonne Lewis before being named to the Housing Court by Chief Administrative Judge Jonathan Lippman. Judge Jackman-Brown has been a director of the Metropolitan Black Bar Association. As a judge, she has set up mentoring arrangements between adolescents at risk and adults of various professions.

David Youngwood earned a GED after attending a private high school for students with learning disabilities. Although he wasn’t sure he wanted to attend college, he realized it was important. He chose LaGuardia Community College based on its reputation and a friend’s recommendation. He found individual attention and supportive teachers. While serving as both sports and political science 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 a B.A. in accounting in 1988. Youngwood, now the Controller of a public accounting firm, said, “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. If you only want a two-year degree, you are taught skills for good jobs. It is a no-lose proposition.”

JaimeLee Cohen, who earned her Ph.D. at the CUNY Graduate Center this summer, will start a new job this fall as Professor of Organic Chemistry at Pace University. She started at Queensborough Community College, earning an associate’s degree in 1996 when she was valedictorian of her graduating class. At Queens College she earned a bachelor’s degree in 1998 and a master’s two years later. She didn’t stop there, however, earning a Master of Philosophy at the CUNY Graduate Center before completing her doctorate in chemistry. Dr. Cohen, who credits Queensborough Community College with opening the doors for such opportunity, said, “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.”

Dr. Dennis Giordano was in his senior year at Sheepshead Bay High School when his father died and his family home burned down. He had to go to work to help his mother. As an iron worker, a member of union local 480, he helped build skyscrapers in midtown Manhattan. He 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, which was near his home in Brooklyn. He liked its seaside campus and he knew there was a good biology program. As a returning adult, he wasn’t sure he dared to consider medical school, which was his dream. “Dr. Joseph Muzzio, then Chair of the Biology Department, told me I shouldn’t shortchange myself. He found information about medical school and put in a good word for me at Downstate Medical School.” After graduating from Kingsborough in 1993, Giordano went to Brooklyn College, graduating in 1995, and was accepted at Downstate Medical School/SUNY, where he received his M.D. in 1999. Currently he is a physician, specializing in radiology, at Nassau University Hospital, the trauma center for Nassau County. Though he was the first in his family to go to college, Kingsborough Community College became a family affair. His two sisters followed him and two nieces and a nephew are currently studying there.

Maria Arroyo Aguirre, a health care administrator, holds two full-time jobs. When she finishes with her day job, she starts as executive director of the South Bronx Community Corp. Working a double shift is nothing new to her. When she went to school full time, she worked full time, and was married and raising her children. When she was in high school, however, she dropped out. Five years later, working as a clerk in a Bronx Health and Hospitals Corporation diagnostic and treatment center, she realized that no one listened to her good ideas and that she had to go to college and get her credentials. She found dedicated professors at Hostos Community College, where she earned 64 credits toward her major by the time she graduated in 1989 and transferred to Lehman College. She graduated with a B.S. in Health Service Administration in 1991, with honors, and was accepted to New York University’s Master in Public Administration program, earning her degree in 1994. “Going to a community college was a good experience for me,” she said. “Not everyone has the money or grades for Harvard, but this gives everyone a chance to compete.” She chose Hostos because it was near her home. “That’s the beauty of the CUNY system,” she said. “You don’t have to go that far to find a school. I just went a few blocks away.”

Blanqui DeJesus-Rodriguez worked as a legal secretary right out of high school. “I realized I needed to further my education, but four years seemed a lot to commit to.” She went to Bronx Community College, graduating in 1981. Later, as a single parent, she enrolled at John Jay College of Criminal Justice to study a field that always interested her. She earned her bachelor of science degree in 1990. “It took a little while, but it was a great experience,” she recalls. Now Senior Court Clerk in Bronx Supreme Court, to which she was appointed in 1999 after working her way up from court officer, 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. Furthermore, educating yourself broadens you to the knowledge of other cultures,” she added.

Judge Jackman-Brown, Dr. Giordano and Ms. Arroyo-Aguirre will join Chancellor Goldstein to speak about their experiences at CUNY for a special edition of CUNY Conversations on CUNY-TV, to be aired beginning today on Channel 75 at 9:00 AM, 4:00 PM, and 12 Midnight, and again on Sunday, August 19, at 11:30 AM and 8:00 PM.