John O’Keefe (City College, 1963) describes his discovery of the brain’s “internal GPS,” which won him a 2014 Nobel Prize, and discusses his formative years as a CUNY undergraduate. The son of Irish immigrants, born in Harlem and raised in the South Bronx, he transferred to CUNY from a private college that he had attended at night while working to support himself during the day. But at CUNY, he could afford the day program with far less time devoted to outside work. Deeply curious, O’Keefe explored philosophy and film courses, among others, graduating with more than 40 credits beyond the requirements of his psychology major.
Cuban dissident Yoani Sánchez gained international fame for her eloquent and outspoken opinions on Cuba in her blog, Generación Y, translated into 20 languages. In her visit to City College in March, Sánchez praised blogs and social media as “vital” journalistic tools, and described her dreams for a free press in her country: “In this future Cuba, I expect that words will be more common and more powerful than military uniforms, that information will be more common than ideology.” City College professor Carlos Riobó, chair of Foreign Languages and Literatures, was moderator for the event and Baruch College professor of Black and Hispanic Studies Ted Henken served as translator.
There’s a myth about Rosa Parks – a pivotal figure in the American civil rights movement who refused to give her seat on a Montgomery, Ala. bus to a white passenger. The myth is that Parks was a quiet, humble woman until that historic moment. But, in the revealing new book, “The Rebellious Life Mrs. Rosa Parks,” Brooklyn College political science professor Jeanne Theoharis documents more than a decade of activism leading up to her stand against segregation on Dec. 1, 1955. Perpetuating the myth of a “meek and tired” Parks, argues Theoharis, erases the resistance she faced and fails to recognize the racial injustice that still exists.
Kofi Annan, former U.N. Secretary-General, used his post as a “bully pulpit” to draw world attention to issues such as human rights, poverty and child soldiers, says Jean E. Krasno, a political science lecturer at City College, who led a six-year project to organize and publish Annan’s collected papers. Krasno sees the historic papers as crucial to documenting Annan’s legacy and leadership style as he navigated international relations in the post-Cold War era.
In his new book, Deadline and Disruption: My Turbulent Path from Print to Digital, Stephen Shepard describes how journalism is experiencing a “best-of-times, worst-of-times moment,” but that, in spite of the turmoil, will continue to thrive as it adapts to the ever-changing technology that delivers news content. “There is a bright future for journalism,” says Shepard, the founding dean of the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism and a former editor-in-chief of BusinessWeek. “More journalism is being done, on more platforms, by more people, than ever before in our history.”
Author Joshua Henkin says that when it comes to families, Tolstoy was right — it’s adversity that keep them interesting. “All happy families are the same, unhappy families are unhappy in their own way,” says Henkin, citing the iconic Russian novelist to describe his latest novel, “The World Without You.” Henkin, who directs the MFA program in fiction writing at Brooklyn College, discusses his book, which revolves around a family mourning the death of their son in Iraq and how a calamity impacts family members for years to come. “Tragedies do big things to the most stable kinds of people.”
New York City’s Mexican population has exploded in the past three decades, and while a large majority has found work in the food and construction industries, as an immigrant group there’s been less success in the classroom. “On average, the educational attainment for someone from Mexico is the 6th grade,” says Alyshia Gálvez, acting director of the new CUNY Institute for Mexican Studies, based at Lehman College. “There is a very important need, especially when you look at the second generation.” An associate professor of Latin American and Puerto Rican studies at Lehman, Gálvez discusses the key objectives of the institute, including increasing college enrollment. “CUNY has its door open to them.”
New York City managed to survive the Great Recession largely intact and in roughly half the time it took the rest of the country to recover, thanks to its diversified economy combined with a bailout on Wall Street, according to Greg David, director of the Business and Economics Reporting Program at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. “The city has changed a lot — and manufacturing is no longer important,” says David. “Manufacturing is also cyclical — and the biggest sectors by jobs now are education and health, and they are not cyclical.” Formerly a business editor of Crain’s New York, David discussed his newly published book, Modern New York: The Life and Economics of a City.
For decades the retail industry provided a stable career path —with paid benefits and steady wage increases — but that’s no longer the case, according to recent study by CUNY’s Murphy Institute. “Retail is such a large sector and an important part of our economy,” says Stephanie Luce, lead author of “Discounted Jobs: How Retailers Sell Workers Short.” But “if we continue to pursue a policy of low-wage workers — with no benefits — for such a large portion of the country, our economy won’t be able to sustain itself.” Luce discussed the study, which found, among other things, that the majority of retail workers in New York earn a median of $9.50 an hour, work temporary or part-time hours and don’t receive health insurance through their jobs.
Third Way initiatives that would combine both liberal and conservative ideas could help the millions of Americans who are out of work, said Robert Cherry, co-author of a new book, Moving Working Families Forward: Third Way Policies That Can Work. “We propose that the government buy up a million housing units and turn them into subsidized housing,” says Cherry, professor of economics at Brooklyn College and at the Graduate Center. “This policy would combine the liberal view that government should spend money to help people move forward and the conservative idea of efficiency-it’s the cheapest way for the government to create affordable housing.”