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November 2014 Archives

By Lydia Liebman

On November 7, 2014, Vaughn College of Aeronautics and Technology appointed Dr. Sharon DeVivo as the college's seventh and first female president. Formally Senior Vice President of Vaughn College, DeVivo has worked at the college for nearly twenty years. Previously she worked in public relations at the C.W. Post campus of Long Island University as well as the director of communications at Fordham University.

The installation ceremony featured words of praise for Dr. Devivo from a plethora of Vaughn College dignitaries. "Sharon knows absolutely everything," said Mr. Thomas Broschart, President of the Faculty Senate, "she helped move us to the point that we're at now and she has visions for the future. I know that she will continue to work tirelessly and I hope that she stays with us as president for many, many years to come."

Jade Kukula, a 2007 graduate of Vaughn College who currently works in the defense and intelligence community at Aerospace Data Facility East, Lockhead Martin, spoke highly of the college and of Dr. DeVivo. "We have a saying where I work: supra et ultra. It means to go above and beyond," said Kukula, "and if ever there were a place where that's going to happen its here at Vaughn College with Sharon DeVivo." Kukula expressed that Vaughn College "gave her literally everything" and that the education she received has "kept the fire burning" since she graduated nearly eight years ago. "The staff and faculty instill a fire in us and we need more of that in the STEM world," she said.

The president of the Student Government Association, David Cepeda, also shared positive remarks about DeVivo and the college. "Devivo has hit the ground running. She has been the vigor behind many of our events that have occurred this year and has cooperated with the students to bring forth many accomplishments," said Cepeda, "Dr. DeVivo has been the epitome of communication and integration." Cepeda went on to praise DeVivo for facilitating and organizing a recent meeting at the college with Vice President Joe Biden, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and the student ambassadors to discuss the future modernization of local airports.

After Cepeda's comments, DeVivo was formally installed by Chair of the Board of Trustees, Mr. Thomas J. McKee to thunderous applause. "I am so touched," began Devivo, "This ceremony is not about me but about this campus and this community. It's about taking time to mark the significant achievements of this institution."

DeVivo spoke on her last nineteen years at Vaughn with pride. Notably, she discussed how when she started at the college, 90% of the students were tied to one industry that, at the time, was struggling. Then, in 1996, Vaughn received approval for a Bachelor of Science degree. In 1997, the inauguration of President John Fitzpatrick brought about a series of significant changes that included several new degrees including flight, management, engineering, graduate degrees, a residence hall and fundraising efforts, among others. She spoke at length about the importance of community at Vaughn College, noting that it is a priority of hers for all to feel welcome, respected and valued.

DeVivo also addressed the challenges facing Vaughn College and higher education in general, citing the shrinking number of high school graduates, the high cost of college tuition and the need for higher education to be simultaneously innovative and rigorous. "Our response to these challenges must include voices from inside and out," said DeVivo, "it will only be through a transparent, inclusive process of developing new degrees, finding new teaching methods and providing complimentary services that we will meet the needs of 21st century learning. DeVivo referred to a famous quote from William Butler Yeats, "education is not the filling of a pail but the lighting of a fire", as one of her favorites and encouraged others to take it to heart. "As educators [lighting a fire] has to be our goal. In the short term it is to provide the knowledge and the skills necessary to write a paper or solve a problem but the long term goal is to inspire a generation who are curious about the world," said DeVivo, "the challenge is to inspire lifelong learning."

In 2013, Vaughn College enrolled 1742 students. Currently, the institution offers Master's, bachelor's and associate degree programs in engineering, technology, management and aviation as well as certificate programs in air traffic control, aircraft maintenance and aircraft dispatch.

The American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) opened its doors to its new exhibit Nature's Fury, dedicated to the science of natural disasters.

President of AMNH Ellen Futter said the new exhibit sheds light on historic and recent natural disasters, and the science it takes to predict and lessen the risk of future catastrophes.

"While these events often instill fear, understanding the science behind them helps us better predict, prepare for, and cope with them," said Futter. "This exhibition is part of the Museum's longstanding effort to explore the interactions between humans and the natural world. And as our climate warms and our environment changes, understanding the impact of these phenomena is more important than ever."

Senior Vice President Michael Novacek said the exhibit illustrates how dynamic the planet is.

"Natural disasters are part of the human experience," said Novacek. "They're phenomena that are tremendous in terms of our daily lives."

Curator of Nature's Fury Edmond Mathez said science is bringing us an understanding of how natural disasters work and how we can lower the risk that are the result.

"Science is allowing us to be more probabilistic about these natural disasters," said Mathez.  "In the last several years we have seen extreme weather events, we will be able to better prepare for the ones in the future."

Other speakers included assistant curator for the division of anthropology Jennifer Newell, and James Webster curator for the department of earth and planetary sciences. Each speaker noted the importance of studying and researching disasters and highlighted that their research will allow mitigation that will help save more people when nature strikes again.

The museum features hands on exhibits including a seismometer that measures magnitude as you make a stomp with your feet; an interactive table that shows the timeline of Hurricane Sandy, and the effects it had on the island; and a stimulator that allows the visitor to see the inside and approach of a tornado. It also features historic tornados, hurricanes, earthquakes and volcanoes showing the progression in technology and predictability between the events.

The exhibit is open to the public starting November 15th until August 9th. 

by Mariah Klair Castillo

RCSN gala.jpg(L-R) Margaret Cuomo, M.D., Jeff Lynford, Tondra Lynford, and Jennifer Raab

Resources for Children with Special Needs, the only independent non-profit organization in New York City that works with the families of children with special needs, recently held their 30th Anniversary Gala at the Manhattan Penthouse. The organization, founded by Tondra Lynford, Helene Craner, and Karen Schlesinger, helps children with special needs and their families by giving them support and various resources to help these children gain a greater quality of life. These three co-founders created the organization after having children with special needs. Moreover, Lynford, along with her husband Jeff Lynford, are active supporters in improving the quality of life for children all over the world.

Mickey Stalonas, Executive Director of the Warner Fund, was given the Impact Award, for investing in non-profit organizations. The Warner Fund recently gave Resources $960,000, making the organization the largest receiver of grants from the Warner Fund. Stalonas praised the organization for their efforts, saying, "Parents are the heroes, and Resources gives them the ammunition to help their children."

Ellen Miller-Wachtel, Chair of the Board of Directors of Resources and the Vice President and Deputy General Counsel of Major League Baseball Properties, Inc., was given the Leadership Award.

Margaret Cuomo, M.D., was awarded with the Visionary Award for her work advocating cancer prevention. Dr. Cuomo, a certified radiologist, has worked with cancer patients at North Shore University Hospital, and has seen firsthand the devastating impact of being diagnosed with cancer. She therefore used her experience to advocate living a healthier lifestyle and to write A World Without Cancer.

Tondra Lynford presented Dr. Cuomo with the award, said, "Since its inception, Resources for Children with Special Needs has provided advocacy and support for all children and their families dealing with all things that prevent or disrupt the process of learning. Any child who has undergone cancer treatment falls in this category. For a child, cancer is not only a loss of innocence; it is a learning handicap."

In her speech, Cuomo talked about cancer prevention. Over 50 percent of all cancer is preventable through a healthy diet, exercise, moderation of alcohol, abstaining from smoking, protecting the skin from the sun, and managing stress. There is a critical time of development for children where one can reduce their risk for cancer, and she notes that what parents can teach their children should be reinforced at school and through legislation. Cuomo advocated for new legislation to eliminate harmful chemicals from household products, and invited the audience to join her in this fight.  She states, "A collaborative effort is needed to prevent cancer, and that goal is within our reach."

She also quoted Eleanor Roosevelt: "Surely, in the light of history, it is more intelligent to hope rather than to fear, to try rather than not to try. For one thing we know beyond all doubt: Nothing has ever been achieved by the person who says, 'It can't be done.' You must do the things you think you cannot do."

Cuomo and Lynford are prime examples of Roosevelt's quote.#

By Sybil Maimin

The larger-than-life self-portraits currently hanging in the gallery spaces of New York's Child Mind Institute are arresting in their intensity and straightforwardness. Created by teen-age students at the Dalton School, the pastel portraits are products of young minds open to new ways of seeing and doing. Under the guidance of art teacher Lotus Do, students in Beginning Drawing classes began the project by sketching small everyday objects and learning how to make the objects "pop" out of the page, or contrast with their backgrounds. They moved from charcoal to pastels as they took on the assignment of portraying themselves. Do explains, "The idea is for students to suspend self-critical thinking and think more objectively about drawing."

The young artists studied facial proportions, shapes, composition, light, and color tones. They learned the basics of shading and perspective. To capture their likenesses, they looked in mirrors.

Max, a student, explains, "You look at yourself and analyze your face. . . The biggest struggle is having a feel, feeling the lines rather than overly thinking about them. You have to distance yourself from the idea of a self-portrait and get away from preconceived notions." 

Ben, another student, who sees himself as a "novice artist," says the challenge was, "You see your face every day and have a clear picture of what it should look like. . . "On paper it looked different--my nose was too big, my hair unruly. . . It was hard to look at." He concluded, "You mustn't be self-critical. Art is a mental game." The resulting observational portraits are wonderfully expressive, subtly mysterious, colorful, sober, and skillfully executed.

Do applauds the students for allowing their portraits to be hung on public walls.  "Kids are worried about what people think of them," she notes.  "These students are very brave." The show, "Pastel Self-Portraits: Works by High School Students from The Dalton School," is part of the Child Mind Institute's Student Art Project and the inaugural exhibit funded by the Doris Sirow Memorial Art Fund. As noted by  co-founder and president Dr. Harold S. Koplewicz, the Child Mind Institute, an independent non-profit organization dedicated to children's mental health care, has always exhibited student art in its gallery. He explains, "When families come to see us, they are struggling. Creating a warm and inviting environment is essential." In addition,  "I love having the opportunity to offer local school kids a place to display their work."  Linda Sirow, daughter of the late Doris Sirow and an art teacher at Dalton, explains the Memorial Art Fund will honor her mother by ensuring the exhibition program continues. Public and independent schools in the New York Metropolitan area are invited to submit proposals for a gallery exhibition at the Child Mind Institute to curator Angela Gage at 212-308-3118, or angela.gage@childmind.org

Sybil Maimin, a senior reporter for Education Update, is an artist as well as an alumna of Columbia graduate school.

By Lydia Liebman

When Dina Habib Powell, President of the Goldman Sachs Foundation and Head of Goldman Sachs Bank USA's Urban Investment Group said, "When you educate a woman, you create a nation," those words rang as the theme of the Empower Breakfast sponsored by The Young Women's Leadership School (YWLN) held at Cipriani on Wednesday, October 15.

Tony award winning actress Idina Menzel, Pultizer Prize winning author Anna Quindlen and Andrew Farkas, CEO and Chairman of Island Capital Group were honored along with Habib Powell for their outstanding service to their communities and for the cause of educating young women.

New York dignitaries had praises to sing about the Empower Breakfast and YWLN's president, founder, and board member, Ann Rubenstein Tisch.

"This is one of the most extraordinary events," said fashion designer Tory Burch, "Ann is a true leader and everyone on that stage was so inspiring."

Tisch also commented on how joyous the event when she said, "I am so profoundly proud of our students and our alumni. You can see how much each group has accomplished both inside our schools and outside. These schools wouldn't survive and certainly wouldn't replicate if the students hadn't done the work to make them excellent schools. I'm blown away and so proud," said Tisch.

Sy Fliegel, President of the Center for Educational Innovation- Public Educational Association praised the event, "I'm exceptionally impressed. I love when they present where the graduates are today because in the final analysis that's what it's all about. Honestly it brings me to tears." President Ellen Futter, former president of Barnard College, current president of the American Museum of Natural History, shared Fliegel's sentiments. "I think this is a great event. I'm a long-term supporter of girls and women and especially their education. This is a great example of how transformative educational opportunity can be for young girls," said Futter, "The single best predictor of the health of a family is the level of the mother's education. This really matters."

The success of YWLN can be easily measured by its impressive statistics: more than 95% of students graduate, nearly 100% are accepted to college and $21 million in financial aid awards. "Our school offers a lot of opportunities and it opens up our minds to different things," says YWLN of Brooklyn student Evelies DeFrietas, 14, who have a penchant for science.

The students at the Empower Breakfast were chosen to attend based on teacher recommendations. In the case of DeFrietas, she was chosen out of over 400 applicants. Other students including Esrat Erina, 14, also shared inspiring words about the school. "This school gives you great opportunities to go to a good college and get a good job," she says, "there's a lot of love and sisterhood at this school."

Janelle Jones, 14, is a student at YWLS in Brooklyn and has already decided that Howard University will be her alma mater. "My school gives a very high level of work but they help you take the steps to do it and understand it. I feel like a lot of people are supporting us and it's an encouragement to go to college," said Jones. Based on the words of Hunter College President, Jennifer Raab, it seems that these girls have a great chance of being admitted to the college of their choice. "We have number of phenomenal girls [from YWLN] in our freshman class. We want to have as many of these girls as we can recruit," said Raab.

Each honoree had something profound to say as the accepted their award. Idina Menzel, perhaps best known for playing Elsa in the animated feature "Frozen", is the founder of A Broader Way Foundation, a performing arts program dedicated to offering girls from urban communities an outlet for self-expression and creativity. She held tightly to Jada McBeth, a 7th grade student at YWLN of East Harlem, as she described with happiness the dedication the girls show particularly to writing music at Camp Broader Way. "They're committed to taking risks," said Menzel, "and they help me to find my voice."

Andrew Farkas, Anna Quindlen, and Dina Habib Powell addressed the importance of education in their speeches. "Education is the foundation of self sufficiency. Self sufficiency is the cornerstone of self esteem and self esteem is the cornerstone of happiness," said Farkas. Quindlen said, "When you educate one girl, you improve the world by leaps and bounds. To have this many girls in the room educated so well you really think the world can get better."

YWLN began in East Harlem in 1996 as the first single-sex public school the United States had seen in over 30 years. Under Tisch's extraordinary leadership, YWLN has grown to five high-performing schools serving more than 2,200 girls in New York City.

YWLN currently operates in East Harlem, Queens, Astoria, the Bronx and Brooklyn. National affiliates include schools in Chicago, Baltimore, St. Louis, Rochester and various locations across Texas including Austin, Dallas, Lubbock, San Antonio, Fort Worth, Grand Prairie and Houston. #

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