Press Release: CUNY Baccalaureate Program 2007 Commencement Time Warner CEO Richard Parsons to Speak

Time and Place:  Wednesday, June 6, 10 am, The Great Hall at The Cooper Union, 7 East 7th Street at Third Avenue (the Foundation Building), Manhattan

Graduates:  260 Speaker: Richard D. Parsons, Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer of Time Warner Inc. Faculty speaker:  Professor Gertrude Lenzer, Professor of Sociology and Director, Children’s Studies Program and Center, Brooklyn College Student speaker:  Karalyn Shimmyo Administered by The Graduate Center, the CUNY Baccalaureate Program (CUNY BA/BS Program) is the university-wide individualized bachelor's degree.  The small program is 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

Selected 2007 Graduate Profiles

Celeste Escobar, originally from Paraguay, is a student highly committed to the social justice movements in Latin American and the U.S.  Escobar was a domestic worker and organized with Domestic Worker United, an organization of nannies, housekeepers, and elderly caregivers who have come together to build power, raise the level of respect for domestic work, and establish fair labor standards in the domestic work industry in the state of New York. She presented an abstract on the topic at a conference at SUNY/Stony Brook and helped organize a Human Rights Tribunal where judges from the UN and other organizations heard testimonies from immigrant domestic workers about abuses and exploitation in the industry.

She participated in Columbia University/New York Psychiatric Institute’s MOSAIC Program (funded by the Ford Foundation to mentor undergraduates in pursuit of graduate careers in sexuality, gender or health-related research) and received graduate-level training in research methods at the HIV Center for Clinical and Behavioral Studies.

On her own and through internships, she has been involved in producing and collaborating on a variety of community radio programs including New York City's WBAI 99.5 FM (Lengua Suelta), Chicago's WLUW 88.7 FM (Radio Chamba) and Immokalee's WCIW LP 107.9 FM (Radio Conciencia), bringing coverage to media news that directly affect various Latino communities in the fight for social justice. After graduating, she moved to Immokalee, FL with the Student/Farmworker Alliance, a national network of student and youth, to organize for national tours and mobilize allies from throughout the country to support farmworkers in Immokalee.

This summer she will be residing in the Highlander Center; since 1932, Highlander has gathered workers, grassroots leaders, community organizers, educators and researchers to address the most pressing social, environmental and economic problems facing the people of the South.


ACCOUNTING & Revival of the Secret Voice of Ancient Greek and Latin concentrations

Bakchik Goo was born in 1957 as the youngest of three children to a poor Korean family, in rural Japan. Although his family later relocated to one of the major industrial cities, his time was divided between the city and the country side where, Goo says, “I learned the value of hard work by helping my grandparents in their tobacco fields and chicken farm.” He attended public schools in Japan where drawing became his only interest. In 1978, Goo took a major leap and came to the United States, where his older brother had emigrated five years earlier.

In 1980, Goo registered at the College of Staten Island, and then transferred in 1981 to Hunter College, simultaneously enrolling in the CUNY Baccalaureate Program. Unfortunately, due to severe financial difficulties, he lost his home and ended up sleeping in a church basement. “It was the most unforgettable experience in my life, sleeping on four folding metal chairs every night in the basement; I had to take a leave of absence from school.” In 1985, while at Hunter he married a Hunter College student. Goo left college soon after to go back to work. (They are still married after 22 years, and have a daughter entering high school.)

“In 2004, I assessed my life, past and future, and decided not only to finish my educational goal but also to advance my education to a higher level,” says Goo. I have been focusing on three subjects unrelated by appearance, accounting, art, and Greek and Latin. Accounting is a subject which has been an on-going process to apply to my profession. My objective in this field is to advance my academic degrees towards a Ph.D. which is my ultimate goal.” (Note: Goo started out in the accounting and finance industry as an assistant manager at a Japanese trading company; today he is a vice president of Regulatory Reporting at Societe Generale.).

“The third subject, Greek and Latin, was first introduced to me by my brother when I first came to America,” he says. “His reason for introducing me to Latin was that he wanted to implant in me the core essence of European culture, which I now deeply appreciate more and understand his intentions better as I have gotten older.” During his studies of Greek and Latin at Hunter, Goo noticed some very specific patterns in Plato’s Symposium. He then embarked on a major research project, concluding with a book length thesis entitled Disclosure of the Secret Voice of Ancient Greek and Latin with Plato’s Symposium. MIKKIE HIDALGO


Mikkie Hidalgo grew up in an orphanage on Staten Island and the sense of familial rejection she felt as a result profoundly affected her. Although she earned her GED, after leaving the orphanage she spent many years living on the street and ultimately ended up in prison.

Seeing great suffering among the women in prison, she became an advocate for women’s rights, particularly the right to adequate health care. While in the Taconic Correctional Facility, she and five other women wrote a proposal to start and implement a 12-week program for women to become empowered over their health, and CARE was born (Counseling AIDS Research Education). The program consisted of epidemiology, risk behavior, transmission, safer sex, stages of death and dying and psychological issues. In that process, Hidalgo came to know her life’s work was to do both theoretical research in Health Education and provide hands-on counseling to women.

Enter the Community and College Fellowship at the CUNY Graduate Center, which assists previously incarcerated women return to finish their college degrees.  Hidalgo became involved with CCF which then referred her on to the CUNY Baccalaureate Program. As a CUNY BA Program student, Hidalgo has designed an area of concentration in “Health and Behavior” using courses in Health and Psychology, while also working at Bailey House where has been promoted to Housing Coordinator. She has also volunteered at New York area prisons and as a speaker at health fairs, schools and hospitals. For her outstanding work and scholarship, Hidalgo has been recognized many times with scholarships from the Roothbert Fund, the New York Women’s Forum, the John F. Kennedy Jr. Worker Institute, and the CUNY Baccalaureate Program. MICHELLE MANTIONE


Michelle Mantione was born to dance: she put on her first slippers at the age of five and hasn’t stopped since. This is not an unusual dream for many young girls and boys, except when one realizes that Michelle was born with cerebral palsy and walks with a crutch. Fast forward 17 years. To graduate in June ’07, Michelle has worked through many academic and personal challenges to become the first person with cerebral palsy awarded a CUNY Baccalaureate in Physically Integrated Dance Theory and Practice.

Mantione's coursework combined traditional dance techniques with a graduate course from the CUNY School of Professional Studies called "Psychosocial, Cultural and Political Aspects of Disability" plus fieldwork and independent study. Mantione's many contributions to Hunter’s Dance Program will continue through graduation and beyond. In the Spring Concert in late March, not only did she perform beautifully in two pieces, but also had her first choreographed work, “Fractals,” debuted at the Danny Kaye Theatre. Concurrently, she works as a dance company manager and a college assistant under her CUNY BA faculty mentor, the Dance Program’s Director, Jana Feinman, and plans to carry on in the latter capacity after graduation.

The future holds many exciting possibilities for Michelle. Her dream is to teach dance to disabled children, and she is looking into various master’s programs in special education. Fervently believing that “people with disabilities can become professionals in dance,” Michelle also would like to have her own dance company that will incorporate people of all abilities, a company much like her own spirited outlook: one with “no barriers.”



In her native Argentina, Shoshana Polanco studied acting at the Escuela Municipal de Arte Dramatico and was awarded the title of “Actriz” (Actress). At the same time, she was a performer in a TV Series called Hombres de Ley and she also performed in Come and Go by Samuel Beckett at the First Iberian-American Biennial of Young Art in Buenos Aires. Two years later she was Assistant Director of Hamlet that toured Argentina and France. From 1992-98 she worked as an acting teacher, continued to act, and acquired new experiences in set dressing, theater production, and writing, not only in Buenos Aires, but in London, Paris, and New York, too.

Upon relocating to New York, she interned with, and was later employed by, the Brooklyn Academy of Music. In 1997, she performed a one-woman show whose main purpose was to address traditional feminine tasks in an unconventional manner. For that purpose, she researched various representations of women in 20th Century art, theater, and literature. She then came to the CUNY Baccalaureate Program in 2001 to study “women’s role in theater, with a specific focus on the social factors that have embraced or excluded women’s participation in this field.” As part of her studies, an interdisciplinary project resulted in the development of a piece called committed, about the issue of women artists and suicide.

Today Polanco is an independent creative producer, working in partnership currently with theater director Jay Scheib, with whom she just premiered the play This Place is a Desert at the ICA (Institute of Contemporary Art) in Boston. She is also working as company manager and volunteer coordinator in TeatroStageFest, a Latino theater festival in NYC. Her other recent credits include working as the Creative Producer of BAiT (Buenos Aires in Translation), an international theatrical collaboration. In Fall 2006, BAiT held world premiere performances at Performance Space 122 and at Prelude 06, an annual event sponsored by the Martin E. Segal Theatre Center and The CUNY Graduate Center.

The summer before that, another new show of hers, Pedestrian: A Walking Tour for Multiple Voices and Portable Phones, co-conceived by CUNY BA graduate Jennifer Bainbridge, premiered in New York as part of the HOWL Festival’s Art in Odd Places series. KARALYN SHIMMYO


"For many years, I believed that obtaining a college degree was an impossible goal." The death of Karalyn Shimmyo's parents while she was an adolescent derailed her high school years and made it hard to concentrate in her first attempt at college. Instead, she pursued helping other young people who had experienced crisis, becoming an assistant teacher for Green Chimney's Children's Services.

Two years later, she worked as a volunteer beautifying homeless shelters; she and a friend then founded a nonprofit agency called Artists Paint for Peace, Inc. that provides free murals and facility beautification for shelters, group homes, hospitals, treatment centers, etc., and also provides arts training for the children who reside within them. Shimmyo became development director for the organization, which motivated her to return to college.

She writes: "Being nothing if not an opportunist, I took advantage of every possibility in expediting my degree, taking CLEP tests for college credit, attending full time during summer sessions, submitting a Life Experience Portfolio for credit, and applying for and receiving two scholarships from the CUNY BA Program. Although I had originally come into the program to study art therapy and nonprofit arts management, I became interested in (and enamored of) Experimental Psychology."

During Spring 2007, she has continued on this project, analyzing the statistics and extending the study to young Catholic women in an effort to understand how religious observance may relate to eating behavior in other religious and cultural populations. She says, “This has been, and continues to be, an outstanding opportunity and excellent learning experience for me, due to my interests in the relationship between religious/social factors and mental health.”

Submitted on: MAY 1, 2007

Category: Press Room