JUNE 2015

A fond farewell. . .

An event that, for most, was years in the making, John Jay’s Commencement ceremonies on June 3 provided a festive send-off for more than 3,000 students who earned undergraduate and graduate degrees.

Commencement returned to the Theatre at Madison Square Garden, where honorary doctorates were presented to Chief Judge Robert Katzmann of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and William Ramirez, Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Puerto Rico.

In keeping with the College’s year-long 50th anniversary celebration, alumni from the “Founding Generation” occupied places of honor on the podium alongside faculty and administrators.

Click here for a complete recap and photo gallery.

Happy birthday to us!

The celebration of John Jay College’s 50th anniversary concluded in an explosion of confetti and streamers at the annual Commencement ceremonies, capping an academic year filled with special events, commemorative publications, public service, works of art, and visits, proclamations and congratulatory wishes from an array of public figures and celebrities.

The suite of anniversary offerings conceived by a committee chaired by Professor Allison Pease, chair of the English department, was designed to promote John Jay’s proud tradition and promising future by engaging students, highlighting faculty, celebrating alumni and raising the College’s profile.

“Wow! What an amazing celebration this past year has been!” said President Jeremy Travis. “From the opening event — our Convocation with Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor — to the wrap-up at Commencement on June 3, every step along the way as we marked John Jay’s 50th anniversary has served as a vivid and valuable reminder of how proud we can all be of our amazing college and its rich history, and how important it is for us to continue to be shining examples of “fierce advocates for justice.”

As the College’s guest for the official opening of the anniversary festivities, Justice Sotomayor spoke to several hundred new students in the Gerald W. Lynch Theater, and later met with a select smaller group of students in the Moot Court. She was awarded an honorary Doctor of Laws degree during the Convocation.

Over the ensuing weeks and months, the celebration went on to include the introduction of Li’l Jay, a whimsical bobblehead that was photographed in locations around the world, from Yankee Stadium to the Lincoln Memorial to a Venetian gondola. On Dec. 8, Li’l Jay was complemented by the unveiling of a life-size bronze statue of Chief Justice John Jay, which occupies a prominent place of honor in the Kroll Atrium.

Media played an important part in the anniversary celebration, including the production of a new film that commemorates the College’s 50 years and features interviews with students, faculty, alumni, administrators and trustees discussing John Jay’s impact on their lives and our communities. In the lobby of Haaren Hall, a timeline of John Jay history was unveiled in early September.

Special-edition publications that celebrated the milestone year included an expanded issue of Justice Matters, the John Jay alumni magazine; 50 at 50, a coffee-table book that profiles dozens of alumni and their achievements; the compendium Fifty Years of Research; and John Jay at 50, a compact overview of the College.

Art and expression were also significant components of the anniversary, beginning with the installation of a solar-powered kinetic artwork, “Dancing Solar Flowers,” by acclaimed environmental artist Alexandre Dang. During the fall semester, students were invited to participate in “The Future of Justice” expression contest, which produced an array of written and visual works that were displayed in the President’s Gallery in Haaren Hall.

Public service — always an important aspect of the John Jay College community — was emphasized in the anniversary celebration, with the yearlong community service initiative “Acts of Justice.” Each month, a new theme was adopted for acts of service on- and off-campus, including Stop Hunger Now, Treats for Troops and other civic engagement and community-building campaigns. In December, the first annual Day of Giving was held to raise funds for student-support programs.

Such support was also a key focus of the 2015 Educating for Justice Gala, which raised more than $700,000 for the John Jay Honors Program and student scholarships. The event honored alumnus Jim McCann of 1-800-FLOWERS, actress and activist Mariska Hargitay, and the Ford Foundation. [See related article.]

And, to be sure, John Jay’s sprawling, worldwide alumni community was involved in the anniversary. As part of the celebration, the annual Alumni Reunion was expanded for the first time to a weekend-long series of events, including an inaugural 5K Race for Justice and a family carnival on the Jay Walk. At Commencement, alumni from John Jay’s Founding Generation marched in the opening processionals, adorned in gold academic robes.

For more on the College’s 50th anniversary events, click here.

Annual Gala Is a Night of Stars

John Jay College’s 50th anniversary Educating for Justice Gala on May 19 honored an award-winning TV actress and activist, an alumnus and familiar entrepreneurial icon, and a foundation with a long track record of supporting social-justice causes.

Roughly 350 friends and benefactors of John Jay were on hand for the Gala, with preliminary figures showing that more than $700,000 was raised. “The evening was a wonderful success,” noted President Jeremy Travis, “with proceeds from the Educating for Justice Gala earmarked for the John Jay Honors Program and student scholarships.”

The Gala honorees were alumnus Jim McCann (B.S., ’75), the founder and CEO of 1-800-Flowers.com; the Ford Foundation, and Mariska Hargitay, star of the long-running series “Law & Order: SVU” and founder of the Joyful Heart Foundation.

McCann was a freshly minted John Jay graduate, alternately working as a juvenile case worker, bartender and home remodeler, when he got an unexpected opportunity to go into the flower business. Through good fortune and business acumen he parlayed that opportunity into what would become 1-800-Flowers, which today is the world’s leading online flower-and-gift retailer. His success has allowed him to become a philanthropic fixture in the Greater New York area.

McCann thanked the College for having given him a second chance at higher education. “John Jay had an enormous impact on my life,” he said, paying special tribute to his former professor Blanche Wiesen Cook, who he said “taught me to think outside the box.” Cook, now a University Distinguished Professor of History and Women’s Studies, was McCann’s special guest at the Gala.

The Gala also honored the Ford Foundation with a Global Leadership Award for being “visionaries on the front lines of change.” The award was accepted by Doug Wood, the Ford Foundation’s program officer for higher education issues, with an emphasis on the needs of students from poor and marginalized communities in the United States.

Hargitay was inspired by her work on Law & Order to create Joyful Heart, whose mission is to heal, educate and empower survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence and child abuse. In introducing the honoree, John Jay College Foundation Trustee Peter Beshar credited the Law & Order franchise with helping John Jay “to attract the very best students and recruit the very best faculty.”

SVU frequently does location shoots on the John Jay campus, prompting Hargitay to note in her acceptance remarks, “I feel like I'm enrolled in this school by association.”

“I am so grateful for the young people that John Jay has sent and continues to send out into the world,” she said. “God knows we need them.” She called on attendees to continue to be fierce advocates for justice, “to be bold and dig deep into the hard topics. . . to be the brave ones that represent those whose voices have been compromised in society, for whatever reason.”

Click here for a gallery of photos from the event.

The Tiffany Standard

Tiffany Onorato, a former college assistant who is now Associate Director of the Office of Student Transition Programs, has been named John Jay College’s Employee of the Year.

The award will be presented at a luncheon during the BRAVO! Summer Employee Institute on June 19.

Onorato, who joined the John Jay staff in 2011, is one of the first people to see new students when they arrive on campus as freshmen, and one of the last to see them off as graduating seniors. She plays leading roles in new student orientations and Commencement, both projects that require extensive attention to detail and precision timing.

Vice President for Student Affairs Lynette Cook-Francis noted: “Every new student who walks through John Jay’s doors benefits from Tiffany’s creativity, execution skills, positive energy and incredible work ethic. In just a few short years she has developed major student events like New Student Orientation, Convocation and Commencement into hallmarks of a great student experience here at the College. The thing I love most about her is that she never rests on her laurels. Before each event is over, she is planning on how to make it better next time.”

Rosann Santos-Elliot, Director of Strategic Initiatives in the Division of Student Affairs, added that Onorato’s “creativity and use of innovative technology have put our orientation and commencement programs on the CUNY map for best practices.”

At orientation, Onorato introduced and implemented Guidebook, a mobile phone app that eliminates the need for printed programs and brochures, and provides an easy way to communicate efficiently with students before, during and after orientation. For Commencement, she was integral to the implementation of Marching Order software, which has helped to reduce the length of the ceremonies, increase Commencement attendance and provide a vehicle for assessment.

Onorato has also worked closely with Kevin Nesbitt, Director of Faculty Affairs in the Provost’s office, to engage faculty in various student programs and assist in New Faculty Orientations and Faculty Development Days.


Yay Team! Student-Athletes Are Celebrated at Annual Banquet


John Jay College celebrated its dedicated student athletes on May 13 at the 42nd annual Awards Banquet, at which an award-winning cross-country runner and a standout baseball player were named Female and Male Athlete of the Year, respectively.

More than 65 awards were presented, including Most Valuable Player and Most Improved Player for each team, conference all-star and scholar-athlete recognitions, and an award for the team with the highest aggregate grade-point average, which went to the men’s tennis team for its collective 3.387 GPA.

The Athlete of the Year honors went to sophomore runner Kaitlin Hicks, who took the prize for the second straight year, and senior first baseman and pitcher Nico Rivera. Hicks and Rivera were each MVPs of their respective teams.

Freshmen Zach Hyde of the men’s baseball team and Lisa Pellegrino of women’s softball were named college Rookies of the Year.

The co-ed rifle team and its head coach, Vincent Maorino, were recognized for recently capturing their 11th Mid-Atlantic Conference championship, the most by any team or coach in John Jay history.


Scholars, Fellows and End-of-Year Honors

Several John Jay College of Criminal Justice students – including three graduating seniors – and one recent alumna — have won prestigious academic scholarships and fellowships.

The end-of-year listing announced by John Jay College and the City University of New York includes a winner of a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, which provides annual stipends totaling $138,000 over three years.

Click here for a complete listing and description of the academic honors.


PRISM Students Shine in State Capitol Research Exhibit

Twenty John Jay College students who are part of the Program for Research Initiatives in Science and Math (PRISM) had their research exhibited in the New York State Capitol for a week starting on June 9. The exhibit was sponsored State Senator Brad Hoylman (D.-Manhattan), who along with Assembly Member Linda Rosenthal (D.-Manhattan), introduced a legislative resolution acknowledging John Jay’s 50th anniversary and saluting the PRISM program and its students.

Launched in 2006 at John Jay, PRISM aims to provide science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) students with faculty-led research experiences throughout their undergraduate careers. The deep mentoring relationships that are fostered between students and faculty result in significant scientific achievements for John Jay students. PRISM also helps students make the transition from CUNY community colleges to John Jay, and serves as a nexus for a National Science Foundation-funded scholarship program for disadvantaged students.

The program’s founder, Associate Provost and Dean of Research Anthony Carpi, was honored in 2011 by President Barack Obama with a Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Math, and Engineering Mentoring.

John Jay students and their faculty mentors visited the exhibit at the Capitol building on June 9, and discussed their research with guests and elected officials. Click here for photos from their visit.

The students who were showcased in the exhibit were:
Forensic Science/Toxicology — Melinda Chiu, Richard Khusial, Cristina Kinahan, Jazlene Montes, David Rodriguez, Danielle Rouse, Fidelis Tan, Veronika Yakovishina, Shari Yarde;

Forensic Science/Molecular Biology — Karen Conrad, Stephania Guzman, Imani Hargett, Erica Klafhen, Anna Lerer, Derek Sokolowski, Shawn Williams;

Forensic Science/Criminalistics — Herold Menier, Carlos Texeira;

Computer Science/Math — Jae Hyuk Oh, Shantoi Shaw.

For a summary of the students’ research projects and their faculty mentors, click here.


Presidential Scholar Designation Is Latest Honor for Kovera

Professor Margaret Bull Kovera, one of the country’s leading scholars in psychology and law, has been appointed as a Presidential Scholar at John Jay, effective fall 2015.

The appointment recognizes Kovera’s innovative research in the areas of eyewitness identification, jury decision-making, and perceptions of expert witness evidence, which has influenced legal policy nationwide and helped to shape the international debate on the influence of social interactions in legal decision making.

A member of John Jay’s Department of Psychology since 2004, Kovera earned her Ph.D. in Psychology from the University of Minnesota, where she won the first-place dissertation award from the American Psychology-Law Society (APLS). 

In 2004, she received the award for Outstanding Teaching and Mentoring in Psychology and Law from the APLS, and she was elected president of the APLS in 2007. She also won the 2010 Distinguished Teaching Award from John Jay. Most recently, she was elected by her peers as editor-in-chief of Law and Human Behavior, the leading international journal in psychology and law.

As a Presidential Scholar, Kovera will deliver an address to the college community during the 2015-2016 academic year. 


New Trustees Join John Jay Foundation Board

Two new trustees — a prominent member of the John Jay faculty and a leading advocate for people with disabilities — have joined the board of the John Jay College Foundation.

Professor Alisse Waterston, chair of the Department of Anthropology and president-elect of the American Anthropological Association (AAA), and Charles D. Hammerman, president and CEO of the Disability Opportunity Fund, were elected to the foundation board at its May 27 meeting.

Hammerman, who holds a J.D. degree from Fordham University, was a senior member of Private Executive Services, a division of Merrill Lynch’s Global Private Client Group. While at Merrill Lynch, he spearheaded the creation of its headquarters-based Disability Awareness Professional Network. His leadership helped Merrill Lynch win recognition from Diversity Inc. magazine as the “number one company for employment of people with disabilities” in 2005 and 2006. 

Prior to the creation of the Disability Opportunity Fund, Hammerman founded the Burton Blatt Institute at Syracuse University, an organization to advance civic, economic and social participation of persons with disabilities in a global society. The institute is named for Hammerman’s uncle, Dr. Burton Blatt, an advocate for integration of the disabled community and the inspiration for the DOF.

Waterston is a cultural anthropologist whose most recent work focuses on the processes and aftermaths of political violence, ethnic and religious conflict, displacement and transnationalism, remembering, diaspora, cultural trauma and identity formation. Waterston is author of My Father’s Wars: Migration, Memory and the Violence of a Century (Routledge), an intimate ethnography.

Due to serve as AAA president in 2016-2017, Waterston is also the editor of Open Anthropology, the association’s public journal. She earned her Ph.D. from the CUNY Graduate Center, and is a Soros International Scholar affiliated with the Gender Studies Department at Tbilisi State University in the Republic of Georgia.

Waterston serves as chair of the Faculty Campaign at John Jay, a role in which she helped create the Rising Star Fellowship, which supports students who are offered unpaid internships, research assistantships or study-abroad opportunities.


Sentencing Reform Gets a Careful Examination


On May 27, John Jay College hosted a panel discussion at which New York State Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman announced plans to reform New York’s “ad hoc and piecemeal” sentencing laws. Lippman acted on proposals developed and presented by the New York State Permanent Commission on Sentencing, including a move toward full determinate sentencing for all but the most serious homicide offenses. Lippman’s announcement was complemented by a distinguished panel that included many members of the Permanent Commission.

Click here to read the full report.


Faculty/Staff Notes

On Board
Jana Arsovska (Sociology) is the new director of the graduate program in International Crime and Justice, succeeding Rosemary Barberet (Sociology).

Presenting. . .

Sandra Swenson (Sciences) led a group of 40 students and four faculty members in a three-hour sail on the Hudson River on April 28 to learn firsthand about ecology and the water quality of the Hudson. The group sailed on the Mystic Whaler, a replica of a 19th century schooner.

Kimora (Law, Police Science and Criminal Justice Administration) spoke on a panel titled "Racial Inequality in New York City High Schools" at the Stuyvesant Equality Coalition conference, held at Stuyvesant High School in Manhattan on April 25. Kimora noted that segregation is prevalent across New York City high schools and poses various problems, including racial isolation. She also quoted from her new book, Ethnic Profiling: a Modern Framework.

Effie Cochran (English) co-conducted a three-hour grammar/editing workshop on the formal English sentence during the 60th annual conference of the International Linguistics Association at Teachers College, Columbia University, on April 25. The workshop was especially for teachers of English composition.

The Printed Page
Amy Adamczyk (Sociology) will have her article “Explaining attitudes about homosexuality in Confucian and non-Confucian nations: Is there a ‘cultural’ influence?” published in Sociological Forum, a major journal in the field. The article, co-written with Yen-hsin Alice Cheng of the Institute of Sociology in Taiwan, focuses on differences between Southeast Asian societies and the rest of the world in the extent to which residents approve of homosexuality, and in the process dispels some myths about Asian personalities.

Jeffrey Kroessler (Library) has had two opinion pieces published recently. “Historic Preservation Saved New York City” appeared in the New York Daily News on April 19, in conjunction with the 50th anniversary of the signing of the landmarks preservation law. Click here to read the article. On April 16, CityLand published Kroessler’s commentary “My Rules for Thee but Not for Me: the City Destroys a City-Owned Landmark.” Read the full article here.

Jodie Roure (Latin American and Latina/o Studies) has been awarded a Campaign to End Mass Incarceration Research Fellowship by the American Civil Liberties Union. Fellowship scholars work on mass incarceration policy reform, primarily in the Deep South and Texas. Focusing on less punitive, more holistic and restorative societal responses to violent crime, Roure will pursue research and writing in the area during the fellowship years 2015-2017.

Jeff Butts (Research & Evaluation Center) has been appointed to the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Justice Programs Science Advisory Board. The 25-member board advises OJP on the areas of social science and statistics for the purpose of enhancing the overall impact and performance of the agency’s programs.