CUNY Baccalaureate for Unique and Interdisciplinary Studies 2011 Commencement

CUNY Baccalaureate for Unique and Interdisciplinary Studies 2011 Commencement; Writer Adam Gopnik to Speak; Seven Awards to be Presented

Time/Place: Monday, June 6, 10:00 am, The Great Hall at The Cooper Union, 7 East 7th St. at Third Avenue (the Foundation Building), Manhattan

Class of 2011: 175 graduates

Featured Speakers

KEYNOTE:  Adam Gopnik. A writer for The New Yorker since 1986 (with over 500 essays published), Adam Gopnik has come to be known as one of the preeminent interpreters of contemporary life writing today. Mr. Gopnik was The New Yorker’s art critic from 1987 to 1995; he left in that year to live and write in Paris.  His expanded collection of essays from Paris, Paris to the Moon, appeared in 2000 and was called by The New York Times “the finest book on France in recent years.” He still often writes from Paris for The New Yorker, has edited the anthology, Americans in Paris, for the Library of America, and has written introductions to new editions of works by Maupassant, Balzac, Proust, Victor Hugo and Alain-Fournier. His book on Abraham Lincoln and Charles Darwin, called Angels and Ages, was published in January 2009; it was a national bestseller, which the Telegraph in London called “the essay ever essayist would like to have written.”  He is also the author of two children’s novels. Mr. Gopnik has been honored with three National Magazine Awards for Essay and Criticism, a George Polk Award for Magazine Reporting and the Canadian National Magazine Award Gold Medal for arts writing.  

FACULTY SPEAKER:  Professor Marina Fernando, Associate Professor of Sociology and Director of the International Studies Program at City College. Prof. Fernando earned her B.A. in History at the University of Sri Lanka, then went on to earn her M.A and Ph.D. degrees in African American and United States History at the University of Wisconsin. She taught at the University of Sri Lanka before coming to the U.S. to teach at the University of Texas at El Paso and the University of Santa Clara in California. She has been a consultant, director and project coordinator for “Save the Children” in Sri Lanka and in the U.K. She directed the World Studies Program at Marlboro College in Vermont before coming to City College in 1990. She has mentored 14 CUNY BA students, three of whom are graduating June 6. Professor Fernando is retiring this year.

STUDENT SPEAKER:  Karla Rodriguez, Managerial and Political Leadership, B.S., June 2011. Colin Powell Leadership Fellow, Skadden Arps Fellow in Legal Studies, City College Honors Student, Harvey Leopold ’57 Scholarship in Management, City College Asian Studies Award for Excellence, SUNY Award for Outstanding Achievement, Dean’s List.

The Ceremony

100 graduating students will participate. Guests are coming from all over the U.S. as well as from Costa Rica, the Czech Republic, Ecuador, Ethiopia, France, Guatemala, Guyana, Kenya, Romania, Serbia, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom.

Some notable accomplishments of this year’s class include:

Veron Edwards (Religious Psycho-Social Development) has been accepted to Harvard Divinity’s School’s Diversity and Explorations Program.

Michael Hattem (History of Colonial and Revolutionary America) has been accepted to Yale’s Ph.D. program in History, one of the most competitive and prestigious programs in the U.S. He’s been awarded a five-year tuition-free fellowship plus a $26,500/yr. stipend and full healthcare coverage for himself, his wife and their two children.

Daniel Kennedy (Media for the Performing Arts) has been accepted to Clare College of Cambridge University for an M.Phil. in Arts, Culture and Education.

Rion Lyle (Sustainable Systems Management / Economics) was accepted for a Master’s degree in Development Economics and International Project Management in Paris at Université Paris-Est Créteil.

Gareth Rhodes (Public Policy / Political Economy) was named a Harry S. Truman Scholar this year.

Julia Szendro (Social Reform / Criminal Reform) was named a Fulbright Fellow this year.

Special Awards Presentations

Faculty Member Barbara Sproul, Religion, Hunter College, will be recognized for having mentored over 100 CUNY BA students. Prof. Sproul began her teaching and mentoring career at Hunter in 1971, the same year CUNY BA was established.

The following students will receive awards at the ceremony:

The CUNY Baccalaureate Alumni Fund Scholarship (three students):

Diana Diaz has started her Master’s in Interdisciplinary Studies in Education at Teachers College/Columbia University where she is focusing on Early Childhood and Adult Learning, as well as Leadership Studies. Her concentration was Education Policy Analysis which gave her a profound understanding of current educational issues facing children and families today. She credits the passion and inspiration she derived from being a CUNY BA student with her acceptance to Teachers College.

Andrea Liskova has been accepted for a Master’s in Strategic Communications at Columbia University. Andrea is the media relations manager for tourism for the Czech Republic. She feels firmly that her interdisciplinary degree in the Psychology of Literature strengthened her already capable writing, analytical and interpersonal skills. She looks forward to her graduate degree helping her become a leader in successful PR strategies. 

Rachel McCroy has been accepted to NYU’s Silver School of Social Work. When Rachel started college she wavered between majoring in Anthropology and Sociology; only through CUNY BA could she achieve her real academic ambitions which were in Social Work with Vulnerable Populations and Contemporary Global Issues. At NYU, she will focus on community mental health services for adults, and hopes to serve marginalized peoples both at home and abroad.

The Abby Stein Award:   Julia Szendro studied Criminal and Social Reform and says she is “passionate about prisoners’ rights, alternatives to incarceration for young people, and restorative justice.”  She is the recipient of a Fulbright Fellowship to Hungary, where she will conduct research on troubled and homeless teenagers this fall.

The Nan Bauer-Maglin Prize for Literary StudiesJames Stull designed his area of concentration in Victorian Literature and Culture with undergraduate and graduate courses and achieved a near-perfect 4.0 GPA. 

The Lesley F. Hughes Health Services AwardDianne Phillip completed her concentration in Community Health with courses in Biology, Education, Health Sciences and Psychology at Brooklyn and Medgar Evers Colleges. 

Ursula Taylor Memorial Community Service Award:   Chad Infante did extensive community service while in college, including serving for three years as a judge for the New York City Urban Debate League and organizing fund raisers for Haiti Earthquake assistance, the Keep A Child Alive Foundation which assists children in Africa whose parents have died from AIDS, and the ASPCA.  He completed the NY AIDS Walk three times and served on campus as president of the Poetry Club and the Debate Team. 

CUNY Baccalaureate for Unique and Interdisciplinary Studies (CUNY BA) is a university-wide individualized bachelor’s degree where students work one-on-one with faculty. With an annual enrollment of 500, the degree is for self-directed, academically strong students who have well-formulated academic and career goals. Most are working adults, many of whom are raising families; 65% are 25 years old and older; and a significant number are returning to school, often after a hiatus of anywhere from 5 to 30 years. CUNY BA has one of the highest graduation rates in New York.  Since its inception in 1971, almost 7,000 students have earned their degrees through this route; 50% have gone on to graduate school.

PRESS CONTACT:  Beth Kneller,