March 2023

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Welcome to March! With the unseasonably warm winter we’ve been having, the college’s Black History Month programming, not the weather, is what anchored us to February. Speaking of that programming, I want to congratulate the first-, second-, and third-place finishers on the “I am QC Black History Trivia Month” quiz: Erine Desir, a Mellon Fellow and Africana Studies minor; Edi Corea, a graduate student in science and education; and William Modeste, a SEEK faculty member. I’m grateful to Africana Studies for creating such a fun, informative contest. 

Meanwhile, members of the QC community have been credited with making exciting discoveries in Nyayanga, an archeological site on Kenya’s Homa Peninsula.

Headshot of Plummer outside

An international team that included Thomas Plummer (Anthropology) and alumnae Frances Forrest and Raquel Lamela-Lopez excavated stone tools, animal bones, and hominin teeth from about 2.9 million years ago—materials that changed our understanding of which hominins made tools, when. The story was shared here and overseas by newspapers and wire services; Stephen Colbert did a bit about it on the “Late Show.” 

On February 28, I was briefly in the spotlight as one of the Chefs of the Year at the annual gala for the Queens Centers for Progress (QCP). I served dan dan noodles, one of my favorite dishes, from 44 South Village in downtown Flushing. I was privileged to lend my support to this important borough organization, which helps children and adults with developmental disabilities.

President Frank H. Wu shakes hands with Queens Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Thomas Grech (foreground) while President's Office Director Stacy A. Romano and St. John's University Vice President for Community Relations Joseph Sciame look on.

At Queens College, all kinds of activities take place at once, so it isn’t surprising that I found myself with multiple bookings on March 1. I gave testimony to the Queens delegation of the New York City Council, seeking a $2 million allocation to upgrade the tech infrastructure on campus—a capital project for which I am seeking state support, too (as reported in QView 148).

Members of our senior administration team and I hosted Queensborough College President Christine Mangino and her top-level team. QCC is our largest transfer partner college and we focused on ways to facilitate ease of access to courses and majors. 

Clockwise from left: Interim Associate Provost for Innovation and Student Success Nathalia Holtzman, Vice President for Student Affairs and Enrollment Management Jennifer Jarvis, Vice President for Communications and Marketing and Senior Advisor to the President Jay Hershenson, Dean of Mathematics and Natural Sciences Daniel Weinstein, President Frank H. Wu, Queensborough President Christine Mangino, Queensborough Dean of Academic Initiatives Michael J. Pullin, Queensborough Interim Provost and VP of Academic Affairs Sandra Palmer, Interim Associate Dean of Education Trina Yearwood, Interim Dean of Education Bobbie Kabuto, Director of Undergraduate Admissions Chelsea Lavington

I offered greetings for the panel discussion on Indo-Caribbean Community Leadership and Political Priorities in Queens, the first of two March events organized by the Guyanese Student Association, Department of Urban Studies, and Asian American/Asian Research Institute. (A second panel, to be held on March 27, at 12:15 pm, in Campbell Dome, examines Gender Justice in the Indo-Caribbean Community.) 

That afternoon, Women’s History Month got off to a wonderful start on campus with a lecture on the late Shirley Chisholm, who was a Brooklyn Congresswoman, New York State Assemblymember, and a principal co-founder of the CUNY SEEK program. The first African American woman in Congress, Chisholm spoke at QC during her historic 1972 run for the Democratic presidential nomination. CUNY TV Producer Barry Mitchell, at the time a member of the college’s radio station, WQMC, shared this clip from her speech. Today, Chisholm Scholars are coordinated by the QC SEEK program.

Women’s History Month programming continues with two events on International Women’s Day, Wednesday, March 8, at free hour. The Joy Luck Club, a movie based on Amy Tan’s novel of the same name, will be shown in Benjamin S. Rosenthal Library, Room 230. Alternatively, students can enjoy a low-key celebration in the Patio Room, snacking on cupcakes and coloring images of historical women. 

The following Monday, March 13, offers three choices starting at 12:15 pm. The annual Virginia Frese Palmer Conference will delve into Funny Folx and Feminism with a virtual panel session. At the Faculty and Staff Lounge (Student Union 126), Denise Padin Collazo will recount what she’s learned as a longtime activist and sign copies of her book, Thriving in the Fight: A Survival Manual for Latinas on the Front Lines of Change. If you missed the lecture on Shirley Chisholm, catch a documentary about her, Unbought and Unbossed, in the Summit. 

The feminist film festival will include a screening of Julie and Julia on Tuesday, March 14, from noon to 3 pm, and a reprise of Joy Luck Club on Wednesday, March 15, from noon to 1:30 pm, both in Rosenthal 230. That’s not all! Watch the weekly mailer for additional Women’s History Month listings. 

Appropriately, the Office of Student Development and Leadership is using this month to collect clothing, toiletries, and sanitary products for a local women’s shelter and the people of Ukraine. To find out what can be donated and where, click here

Here in New York City, many CUNY students need help, too. Before the pandemic, nearly half of the university’s student body was considered food insecure, which the Committee on National Statistics defines as a household-level economic and social condition of limited or uncertain access to adequate food. 

This situation is likely to worsen with the recent expiration of the federal COVID Relief SNAP Emergency Allotment. Yesterday, I joined Assemblymember Daniel Rosenthal, New York State Senator John Liu, Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal, Interim Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs Sean Pierce, Interim Dean of Students Dwayne Jones, legislative staff, student government and NYPIRG leaders, and staff of the Knights Table Food Pantry at a press event to support the Hunger-Free Campus Act. This state legislation, already passed in Pennsylvania and New Jersey and six other states, would provide expanded funding for basic needs programs such as the Knights Table. (Since QC’s pantry began operations in fall 2018, it has served more than 2,600 CUNY students and their families.) Distinguished Lecturer James Vacca moderated the press event, organized by Arianna Livreri of the Office of Student Development and Leadership and Robb Friedlander of the national organization Swipe Out Hunger.

From left: QC student Daniel Kahn, Distinguished Lecturer James Vacca, State Senator John Liu, Assemblymember Daniel Rosenthal, Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal, Assemblymember Steven Raga, and QC student volunteer Dariana Rosario hold examples of products available at the Knights Table Food Pantry.

President Frank H. Wu speaks about food insecurity among CUNY students and the importance of the Hunger-Free Campus Act as (from left) Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal, State Senator John Liu and Assemblymember Daniel Rosenthal listen. Linda Rosenthal and John Liu are primary sponsors of food insecurity legislation to fund pantries at CUNY and SUNY campuses.

By the way, all of us have the opportunity to support the Knights Table during its Day of Giving on Wednesday, March 8, from 10 am to 4 pm. I encourage everyone to bring new or gently used items (e.g., clothing and blankets), toiletries, or nonperishable food to the Knights Giving Room, adjacent to the pantry in the Student Union Underground. Donations will be sorted and routed to the pantry, the Professional Closet (a dress-for-success initiative we hope to launch on campus), or disaster relief in Turkey and Syria. 

Traces graphic with image of unisphere in flushing park

The impact of another kind of disaster—the Spanish flu, polio, HIV/AIDS, and COVID-19 pandemics—is explored in Traces, a theatrical piece that will be presented at Goldstein Theatre on March 9-19. What Will the Neighbors Say, a Brooklyn-based troupe specializing in documentary theater, developed Traces during a three-year residency at the college. The piece takes place in a single Queens apartment occupied by a series of immigrant families. Mentored by the troupe, students researched the relevant periods, interviewed Queens residents, and helped shape the story and script. It’s a great learning project and I look forward to seeing the results. 

As I write this newsletter, I realize that its subtext is diversity, which informs everything we do at Queens College and emphatically includes people with disabilities. That’s why I’m so excited about an event featuring John Dennehy (Biology) in conversation with Ana Caicedo on Wednesday, March 15, from 2 to 3 pm in Conference Room #2 in Rosenthal Library. The topic is From Self-Reliance to Self-Advocacy to Peer Support: Figuring Out My Path with Hearing Loss in Academia. The campus community knows about Dennehy’s research as a virologist and the WETLAB (QView 123) he’s establishing on campus, with funding secured by Congresswoman Grace Meng. He also promotes disability pride and has written about his experience as a biologist and professor who happens to be deaf. Caicedo, who teaches biology at UMass-Amherst, is a member of the team that produces The Mind Hears, a blog by and for academics with some degree of hearing loss. 

While I’m publicizing campus events, I want to put in a plug for the State of the College address, which I’ll deliver on Tuesday, March 21, from 3 to 5 pm in LeFrak Hall. On that occasion, I’ll have the great pleasure of presenting awards to outstanding faculty and staff. Please reserve the date so you’ll be on hand to applaud and be with deserving colleagues. 

I’ll close by announcing that Chief of Staff Desirae Colvin and Operations Manager Dhanya Bell will be conducting a listening tour to improve day-to-day functions at Queens College. The emphasis for this project will be on students and how to enhance their experience and success. Their efforts will extend to faculty and staff. Desirae and Dhanya will host multiple town halls, both virtually and in person. They will be inviting, among others, the Student Association and students in general, the Academic Senate, the P&B Committee, and the President’s Council; an additional session will be open to all stakeholders. 

Desirae Colvin

Dhanya Bell

Stacey A. Romano

Meanwhile, Stacey A. Romano will continue managing the day-to-day activities of my office, supervising office staff, and overseeing the college's event planning office, special projects, and administrative initiatives.

The purpose of the listening tour and town halls is to identify the most important priorities for change. The ideal input will be concrete but not personal, and it will be oriented toward practical measures that would advance the shared goals of the Queens College Strategic Plan. At the conclusion of the work, Desirae and Dhanya will submit a report to me, and an executive summary will be made available to the campus community. I expect to distribute a response.

You may send comments to a dedicated account set up for this purpose: [email protected]. Please note that participating individuals should provide only information that is public or which they are willing to make known. They should take care not to communicate anything that they would prefer remain confidential. For further background about the chief of staff and operations manager, click here

Information about the schedule for the town halls will be forthcoming. 


Stay safe and well.

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