Press Release: CUNY Baccalaureate Program 2004 Commencement

Time and Place: Tuesday, June 8, 10:00 am in the Great Hall at The Cooper Union, 7 East 7th Street at Third Avenue.

Graduates: 250

Keynote speaker: Richard Wald, long‑time NBC and ABC news executive and currently Fred Friendly Professor at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.

Student speaker: Michelle Patrovani‑Tempro, a Magna Cum Laude graduate in Sociology/Public Communication: AI left my country, sought sponsorship in the U.S., and worked menial jobs for less than minimum wage for fifteen hours a day; it was a long challenge-filled journey from St. Joseph's Convent in Trinidad (1988) to the CUNY BA/BS program (2001), to graduation (2004).@ (rest of profile attached)

Administered by The Graduate Center, the CUNY Baccalaureate Program (CUNY BA/BS Program) is a small, University-wide individualized degree program intended for self-directed, academically strong students who have well-formulated academic and career goals. Most are working adults, many of whom are raising families; 80% are over 25 years old (49% are over 35 years old); and a significant number are returning to school, often after a hiatus of anywhere from 5 to 30 years. The Program has an enrollment of 700 students and has over 5,000 alumni. The program generates many graduates with compelling life stories, a few of which follow.


CUNY Baccalaureate Program profiles of selected 2004 graduates

Georgina Garcia
Puerto Rican and Latino Studies/Digital Art Media, B.A.

Although some of Georgina's earliest childhood memories are of playing school and of her parents= Asingle-minded determination to see that their children were educated,@ she left school to start and raise a family. She worked as a high level corporate assistant, a successful dancer and costumer, and a graphic designer. After a 20 year absence, she returned to college. AMy interest in Puerto Rican studies developed over many years and is a direct outgrowth of my career as a performer. Over fifteen years ago, I introduced a dance form that combines elements of Arabic and Spanish/Latino dance. This fusion, which is now enjoying wide interest in the dance community, has its roots in early Spanish history during the Moorish occupation. My work in this genre has stimulated my curiosity about my own Puerto Rican cultural heritage and how it dovetails with that of the Iberian Peninsula.@ She has been closely involved with a mentoring initiative at Brooklyn College aimed at retaining Latino students, sponsored by the Latino Faculty and Staff Organization of Brooklyn College. Another of her projects is working with a Long Island University anthropology professor who directs a drum and dance company known as Los Bomberos of Brooklyn. In an Independent Study, Garcia worked with two Latina filmmakers on a documentary about educational reform and community control in the NYC education system brought about by Puerto Rican activism. For this, she researched the history of negative Puerto Rican stereotypes dating back to the 1940's. ANot only did I watch a part of history being recorded, I watched history being made in the form of these two minority women making headway in a male-dominated industry.@


McDonald-Ian James
Political Science/Psychology, B.A.

McDonald-Ian James comes from the Caribbean island of Dominica, where life was so challenging he had to start working in elementary school to help his family make ends meet. In high school, he became involved in community service with the Red Cross and was elected to a number of leadership positions. AAfter I joined the Red Cross in Dominica, my life was never the same. I had the opportunity to counsel and comfort families during times of disaster and crisis in their lives. I witnessed first-hand what many people go through following natural disasters such as floods and hurricanes. In 1999, Hurricane Lenny caused severe damage to the coastal areas in Dominica. I was happy to work and bring relief aid to the families affected.@ These experiences motivated him to study Psychology and Political Science with the aim of working in a non-government organization, such as a United Nations entity or the International Federation Red Cross. He has completed his areas with courses from Medgar Evers and Brooklyn Colleges. At Medgar Evers, he is Associate Editor of the student newspaper, a member of the American Black Social Workers College Chapter, a student leader in the College=s Male Development and Empowerment Center, and an English tutor; he is also an after school program mentor in a Crown Heights high school. He recently represented CUNY at the 3rd annual Thurgood Marshall Scholarship Fund leadership conference and at a Congressional conference on AThe State of the African American Male.@ He plans to pursue a Master's and Ph.D. in International Relations and Politics.



Melissa Marlin
History/Dynamics in Criminal Behavior, B.A.

After a semester at Palm Beach Community College in 1987, a course at Trinity Christian College, and then an eight year career as an actress (in a featured role on an episode of Sex and The City, for example), Melissa Marlin made an about face. AAfter the last performance of Dressing Room I walked out of the Soho Playhouse with all my belongs and make-up in tow and made the decision to return to school to prepare myself for a life of more economic and emotional stability. I am convinced that this is the smartest decision I have ever made. Every day, when I walk through the school doors, I feel fulfilled. So much knowledge, so many things to learn!@ Taking courses at John Jay College and Hunter College while tending bar to support herself, she has maintained an almost straight A average. Marlin has two dreams now. One is to become a criminal lawyer. AAs an actor, the closest I ever came to >the law= was appearing on >Law & Order.= To get a taste of what a legal career might entail, I spent several days this past summer interning in the Brooklyn Criminal Court for the Brooklyn Defenders Service.@ Her second dream is to return to John Jay and teach in the Thematic Studies program. She still does the occasional commercial (recently for Meow Mix) and was the lead singer for Mocha Latte, as she balances work and college.


Corwin Moore
B.A. Creative Writing

Corwin Moore has been a professional comedian since the age of fifteen, performing at colleges and clubs around the country; was on AShowtime at the Apollo@ and the ABC-TV sitcom AFamily Matters@ and in two feature films, AJuice@ and ARace;@ and was a cast member, writer and producer for the AUptown Comedy Club@ TV show which ran for three seasons, among numerous other other writing, directing and producing credits. For his area, he took advanced courses at Medgar Evers, Brooklyn, and City Colleges, and he also completed two Independent Studies (in Modern Fiction and the Study of Urban Music) and a Media Internship at Medgar Evers College, where he visited several variety shows and prepared script analyses. The CUNY BA/BS Program awarded him twelve life experience credits based on his submission of a portfolio of career work. While in his last year of college, he received offers from Saturday Night Live and Comedy Central at the same time; he accepted the offer at SNL and has been a staff writer and consultant to cast member Tracy Morgan ever since. In the Spring of 2003, NBC sent Moore to California to work as a writer for an upcoming pilot. He has been accepted into Lesley University=s Master=s of Fine Arts program in Creative Writing.


Michelle A. Patrovani-Tempro
Sociology/Public Communication, B.A.

Michelle Patrovani-Tempro is orginally from Trinidad, and succinctly says of her journey: AI left my country, sought sponsorship in the U.S., and worked menial jobs for less than minimum wage for fifteen hours a day; it was a long challenge-filled journey from St. Joseph's Convent in Trinidad (1988) to the CUNY BA/BS program (2001), to graduation (2004).@ At the time of her application to the Program, she was working as a NYC Board of Education school secretary while raising two young boys, and she was very determined to earn her undergraduate degree. In the CUNY BA/BS Program, she sought out numerous learning opportunities for herself. After becoming passionate about Urban Sociology, she did an Internship at the Brooklyn Borough President's Urban Planning Office where she did on-line research and field work to identify city-owned properties in Brooklyn areas in need of housing, commercial development, community facilities and open spaces. For her area in Speech, she worked as a research assistant to Prof. Messano-Ciesla on a project titled AListening and Communication in a Globally Diverse Workplace.@ In the summer of 2003 she traveled to Costa Rica for a summer immersion program to enhance her Spanish, with funding from Brooklyn College=s Olga Kattan Award. For a Criminology Seminar, she completed a paper called AThe Social Construction of Terrorism as a Moral Panic in American Society: From 1979 to the Turn of the Century.@ She says AIn many ways, the CUNY BA/BS Program promoted my path to greater self-assurance and independence; refined my skills and abilities; challenged me in ways no other program would; and allowed me to accomplish what for generations of my family has never been. My children celebrate my achievement and for the first time my family members can grasp the fact that higher education is not an impossibility. Thanks to the CUNY BA/BS Program I can peer into a future filled with greater potential, power and possibility.@


Cecilia Rich
Human Pathology in the Urban Sector, B.S.

In 1978, while she was still in high school, Cecilia Rich was accepted into the U.S. Naval Sea Cadet Corp. Two years later, she became one of the first women B and the first African American woman B to be stationed on a U.S. aircraft carrier. After her tour of duty on the U.S.S. Saratoga, she entered Temple University in her home town of Philadelphia to study nursing. There she broke another barrier and became the first woman to start a Temple University Women=s Crew Team. Injuries from an earlier car accident began to take their toll; she left college in 1991, deferring her educational plans due to her rising medical expenses. Still, she continued to challenge herself and later spent two years traveling across the United States. Rich has worked within the social service field for many years helping people with disabilities. She currently serves as a Special Education Teacher=s Aide for the Norwalk Public Schools in Connecticut; previously, she was a primary counselor for a substance abuse rehabilitation center in Manhattan. She has recently been invited to apply for an internship position with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in Washington, D.C. AThe empowerment and encouragement I have received from the CUNY BA/BS Program and John Jay College have now pushed me to another level beyond my wildest dream.@ Her area was constructed with courses in Biology, Sociology, Psychology, Anthropology, and Ethnic Studies.

Submitted on: MAY 1, 2004

Category: Commencements, Press Room