Wednesday, April 17, 2013 (Bronx, NY) - Four students who have thrived thanks to a dual degree program between Hostos Community College and The City College of New York are proof that when you combine hard work with great instruction, you can engineer a great career.
Dane Christie, Nelson Altagracia, Stanley Tineo and Mohamed Afoda-Sebou took advantage of the jointly registered program, which enables students to start down the path to an engineering degree at Hostos, and earn a Bachelor of Engineering (B.E.) degree from The City College of New York’s Grove School of Engineering in one of four disciplines: civil, electrical, mechanical and chemical.
DANE CHRISTIE: FROM THE BALL FIELD TO THE CLASSROOM
A left-handed pitching prospect from Jamaica, Dane attracted the interest of several major league baseball clubs and played as a non-drafted free agent in the Toronto Blue Jays’ minor league system from 2005 to 2007.
But after ultimately realizing that a major league career was not in his future, Dane turned his attention to higher education. He always had a love and aptitude for math and science; the problem was that he could not afford the tuition at some of the schools he initially considered.
Dane immigrating to the United States from the Dominican Republic in 2007 and enrolled at Hostos Community College. He studied at Hostos from 2008 to 2010 and then transferred to the Grove School of Engineering at The City College of New York. Thanks to the dual degree program, and a lot of hard work, he has already started his graduate studies and will earn his bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering this spring.
The STEM community is already starting to take notice of Dane’s talents. He was recently awarded a prestigious National Science Foundation's Graduate Research Fellowship. NSF received over 13,000 applications for the 2013 competition, and made 2,000 award offers. The program recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students in NSF-supported science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines who are pursuing research-based master's and doctoral degrees at accredited U.S. institutions.
Nick Cromie, a Higher Education Assistant in the Department of Chemical Engineering at the Grove School of Engineering, said Dane’s award was particularly special because undergraduate students are rarely selected for NSF Graduate Research Fellowships. Dane said the award is even more unique because the Chemical Engineering Department at GSOE had not had a currently enrolled student receive the award. A total of six students associated with the department have been selected for NSF Graduate Research Fellowships, Dane added.
Dane was accepted to Princeton University, where he will pursue his Ph.D. He was also accepted at several other “all-star” universities, including Johns Hopkins, Delaware, Columbia and Harvard. Dane’s undergraduate research was in energy applications, specifically photovoltaic cells. He will work toward a Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering and focus on material science. The $120,000 fellowship funds will be awarded to both Dane and Princeton University over several years for his research efforts.
Dane said one of his most influential mentors at Hostos was Dr. Yoel Rodríguez, an assistant professor in the Natural Sciences Department and the Coordinator of the Joint/Dual Engineering Degree Program with CCNY's GSOE.
Professor Rodríguez said Dane earned everything he has achieved. "Dane is one of the most determined, persevering and dedicated students I have ever had—an extremely hard worker. Even in his most difficult times, he never gives up. Dane loves to be challenged at all times. He knows what science and engineering represent: challenge, dedication, love and passion.”
Dane said that ultimately he wants to teach and continue conducting research.
TWO SUCCESS STORIES IN ONE
Two graduates of the Hostos Civil Engineering program, Stanley Tineo and Nelson Altagracia, came from the Dominican Republic through an exchange student agreement between The City University of New York (CUNY) and The Ministry of Higher Education, Science and Technology (MESCYT) in the Dominican Republic.
But while Dane studied with Stanley and Nelson, these students from the Dominican Republic needed to pass English as a Second Language (ESL) courses before entering their degree programs.
Nelson, now 24, said the ESL offerings made Hostos an easy choice.
“I saw Hostos as a great opportunity. Other schools wouldn’t allow me to take core classes until I passed the reading and writing exams, but at Hostos, I was able to take ESL courses and engineering core requirements simultaneously,” Nelson said.
Hurricane Georges, which struck the Dominican Republic in 1998, had a great impact on Nelson. “I was nine years old at the time and will never forget how difficult it was to live without electricity, running water or communication systems for months,” Nelson said. “At the time, I did not realize that this was a transformative moment in my life until I was able to visit New York and realized how undeveloped my country was. This is the reason I decided to become a civil engineer—to have the power to directly impact the infrastructure development of the Dominican Republic, and also to improve the standard of living.”
At Hostos, Nelson was inducted into the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, made dean’s list and was elected president of the Environmental Club and vice president of the Engineering Club. He also joined the Student Leadership Academy and became a Student Ambassador. As an ambassador, he participated in several community service events, such as cleaning Joyce Kilmer Park, volunteered at freshman student orientation and served as a free tutor for students struggling with math. He also earned the Scholastic Achievement Award, the Environmental Stewardship and Community Service Award and a Gold Medal in Mathematics.
Nelson is pursuing a master’s degree in business administration and is currently shopping for schools.
Both Nelson and Stanley have the same two-part success story. They came from the Dominican Republic, started their ascent at Hostos and graduated from The City College of New York in Fall 2012.
But their story does not end there. For the past two years, Nelson and Stanley have been working for a Verizon consulting company, Pisgah Telecommunications, Inc., which designs and plans the infrastructure for FiOS projects throughout New York City. Nelson works as the engineering manager and Stanley is the network engineer.
Stanley said his initial interest in architecture evolved into a love of civil engineering. “I realized that a civil engineer really handles a larger part of the actual construction of buildings. At Hostos, I received a lot of encouragement and support. The personal one-on-one attention is something I didn’t find anywhere else.”
Stanley graduated with honors, made the dean’s list for 2008-2009, and was inducted into Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society in 2010. He was president and vice president of the Engineering Club for three terms.
While transitioning to City College, Stanley helped to develop the Structural Mechanics Workshop for what he considers to be one of the toughest courses in civil engineering. He proposed the course to administrators, and with the help of Karla Contreras, Dual Degree Program Advising Coordinator for the Office of Academic Affairs, the Structural Mechanics workshop was initiated in Summer 2010. Being part of the Student Government Association (SGA) at Hostos, Stanley provided tutoring to students at the workshop.
After graduation, Stanley took charge of the workshop with the help of Professor Rodríguez, and he intends to continue leading it in order to strengthen the development of the Dual Degree Engineering Program. Now 23, Stanley is planning to pursue an advanced degree.
BUILDING A NEW HOME FAR AWAY
Mohamed Afoda-Sebou moved to the United States from Togo, a small country in Africa, to study engineering. He was always interested in the subject, thanks to an uncle who worked as an architect.
Looking to expand his educational horizons, Mohamed first moved to North Carolina, then to the Bronx in 2007. He applied to The City University of New York (CUNY), which recommended that he enroll at Hostos. Mohamed thrived under the guidance of professors Yoel Rodríguez and Alexander Vaninsky and will graduate with his B.E. in electrical engineering this spring.
However, that does not mean he has stopped working toward his goals. In addition to tutoring math and physics at Hostos— which he has done for the past four years—he has already started his master’s courses.
When he is not studying or tutoring, Mohamed is interning as an electrician to gain practical experience. He is also conducting independent research as part of his master’s degree requirements. He is particularly interested in designing electrical systems that power large buildings, as well as general, large-scale power distribution.
Mohamed is considering NYU Poly and Columbia University for his future studies and is grateful for the opportunity that Hostos gave him.
“It was a very good experience,” Mohamed said. “When you study at other schools, you realize that the professors at Hostos make themselves more available and you can really reach out to them. They are always doing what they have to do to make you better.”
For more information about the dual degree program, go to: http://www.hostos.cuny.edu/oaa/ddp/
About Hostos Community College:
Eugenio María de Hostos Community College, part of The City University of New York (CUNY) system, was founded in 1968. In addition to associate degree programs that facilitate easy transfer to CUNY’s four-year colleges or baccalaureate studies at other institutions, Hostos also has an award-winning Division of Continuing Education and Workforce Development that offers courses for professional development and certificate-bearing workforce training programs. In four decades, Hostos has grown from a class of 623 in 1970 to more than 7,000 students in 2012. The college also serves an additional 12,000 students through its Division of Continuing Education and Workforce Development. For more news and stories about Hostos Community College, visit www.hostos.cuny.edu
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