February 22, 2012 | The University
Caption: Chancellor Matthew Goldstein of The City University of New York (CUNY) after presenting the inaugural Ernesto Malave Outstanding Student Leader Award to Liliete Lopez (Hostos Community College, 2010 and presently at Queens College) and the inaugural Decade of Science Alumni Achievement Award to keynote speaker Yisa Rumala (York College, 2006), a doctoral student at the University of Michigan. The ceremony took place during a luncheon for CUNY at the New York State Association of Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Legislators Annual Conference held on February 18, 2012, in Albany.
The Ernesto Malave Award is named after the former CUNY Vice Chancellor for Budget and Finance, a proud alumnus who was deeply dedicated to student success. The award recognizes a student leader who inspired others by their actions.
Ms. Lopez, who has been legally blind since she was nine months old, emigrated from Nicaragua when she was 13. She could speak Spanish, but could not read or write. Yet Ms. Lopez went on to graduate from Hostos with a 3.8 GPA. She is currently at Queens College majoring in political science and urban studies and is a member of the University Student Senate, treasurer of the CUNY Coalition for Students with Disabilities, vice chair of the Queens College Committee for Disabled Students, an alumna of CUNY’s Malave Leadership Academy, and a recipient of the CUNY Student Government Leadership Award.
Mr. Rumala came to CUNY from Nigeria, began at York College as a 16-year-old. While there, he won a prestigious National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship. He was recruited to the University of Michigan’s applied physics Ph.D. program, which accepts only eight to 10 students a year.
He is now in the final months of his doctoral program and expects to finish in April or May. His research studies optical vortices, which, as he says, are like “tornados of light.”