MAY 2014

Commencement Beckons for Class of 2014

Graduating Students

Roughly 3,000 undergraduate and graduate students will become the newest John Jay alumni on Wednesday, May 28 when they receive their degrees in dual Commencement ceremonies. The College’s 49th annual Commencement will be held once again at the Jacob Javits Convention Center North, at 10:30 AM and 3:30 PM.

“John Jay students and alumni from across the disciplines have long made a difference locally, nationally and abroad,” said President Jeremy Travis. “I have every confidence that our newest graduates will make their own mark as fierce advocates for justice, and I look forward to the opportunity to celebrate their accomplishments in festive Commencement ceremonies.”

The 3,011 graduates include 1,789 females and 1,222 males, ranging in age from 20 to 72. There will be 2,370 bachelor’s degrees awarded, along with 585 master’s degrees and 50 associate degrees. The graduating class includes 115 military veterans, and represents 20 U.S. states and 85 countries.

The Class of 2014 will be led by valedictorian Cristine Fredericks, a native of Ecuador who achieved a perfect grade-point average majoring in Legal Studies. Salutatorian Venetia Siblal, who hails from Trinidad, completed her bachelor’s degree in Forensic Psychology, also with a perfect GPA. The tiebreaker is based on credits earned at John Jay.

Honorary doctorates will be presented this year to two leading figures in environmental chemistry and traumatology, who have proven themselves to be fierce advocates for justice in their respective fields: Nobel Prize-winning chemist Mario J. Molina and pioneering psychologist Charles R. Figley. (See profiles below.)

Pre-Commencement activities included departmental and college-wide awards ceremonies on May 12, a two-day Graduate Salute on May 13 and 14 and a harbor cruise for graduating seniors.

For complete information, visit the Commencement page on the John Jay Web site,


Doctoral Honorees Are Towering Figures in Environmental Science, Mental Health

At the 2014 Commencement, John Jay will award honorary doctorates to a Nobel Prize-winning chemist whose work alerted the world to threats to the atmosphere’s ozone layer and to a trailblazing expert in post-traumatic stress disorder.

Dr. Mario Jose Molina-Pasquel Henriquez, a specialist in atmospheric chemistry, shared the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1995 for his part in the discovery that chlorofluorocarbons — compounds commonly used in aerosol propellants — were helping to systematically destroy the earth’s ozone layer. The discovery was published in the leading scientific journal Nature, but more importantly, was announced outside of the scientific community to alert the news media and policy makers to the looming danger to the environment.

Molina, the first Mexican-born winner of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, earned his Ph.D. at the University of California-Berkeley, then moved on to a postdoctoral fellowship at UC-Irvine. It was there that he worked with Dr. F. Sherwood Rowland, one of his co-winners of the 1995 Nobel Prize, on the CFC ozone-depletion theory that cemented his claim to fame in environmental science.

A dedicated mentor, Molina has trained scores of graduate and postgraduate students in environmental chemistry, and donated most of the money from his share of the Nobel Prize to support science education in developing countries. Among many other honors, he is a past recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Fellow Commencement honoree Dr. Charles R. Figley is one of the foremost authorities in the field of traumatology, and a pioneer in developing the diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder.

While his interest in psychology and PTSD has its roots in the Vietnam War era and the mental health problems of returning veterans, Figley has since brought his expertise to bear on such crises as Hurricane Andrew in 1996, the Columbine High School shootings in 1999, the 1995 bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City, the 9/11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center, the 2004 tsunami in Sri Lanka and the Virginia Tech massacre in 2007. Wherever the need was great, Figley was there with his professional acumen and experience.

An oft-honored and widely published figure in his field, Figley earned his Ph.D. from Pennsylvania State University in the interdisciplinary field of human development. He currently holds the Paul Henry Kurzweg, M.D., Distinguished Chair in Disaster Mental Health at Tulane University.


Top Two Students Follow Their Dreams to John Jay

Top Students Follow Their Dreams to John Jay
“I came here with two little children, looking to fulfill the American dream.”

Cristine Fredericks, 38, is living a dream she might not have dared to imagine 12 years ago when she emigrated from Ecuador. On May 28, Fredericks, a Legal Studies major, will take to the stage at John Jay’s Commencement as valedictorian of the Class of 2014.

With an associate’s degree from Nassau Community College in hand, Fredericks said the decision to transfer to John Jay for her bachelor’s degree was an easy one. “The tuition is super affordable, I like being in New York City, and I liked the focus on social justice,” she said. “Plus, I read about the professors, and they are amazing.”

Currently working as a paralegal for an immigration law firm, Fredericks says her John Jay degree is just the beginning. She has applied to the CUNY Graduate Center for a master’s in Liberal Studies, after which she’ll set her sights on law school.

Just as passionate about education is Fredericks’ fellow perfect-score graduate, salutatorian Venetia Siblal, who transferred to John Jay from LaGuardia Community College, and recently completed her B.A. in Forensic Psychology.

“I was ready to learn when I came here,” said Siblal, a native of Trinidad and Tobago. Her mother is a diplomat who six years ago was working for the Trinidadian consulate in New York. Mindful of what she described as an escalating crime situation in her homeland, Siblal said she applied to John Jay because “I wanted to get into a program where I could give back and help my country.”

Like Fredericks, Siblal had personal motivations to excel academically. “When you want to make the world a better place, it gives you extra drive, a sense of responsibility to do something great.” Adding fuel to her fire was her mother’s subsequent transfer to a posting in Costa Rica, leaving Siblal on her own in New York. “When my mom wasn’t here with me, I thought ‘I can’t do this,’ but because of her I wanted to make it, as a way of saying ‘thank you’ for all her sacrifices.”

Next up for Siblal is applying to a graduate program for a master’s in Criminology, and looking for work in the nonprofit sector. “The passion to help is in me,” she said with a smile.


A-List of Choices

Imtashal TariqA last-minute decision by Imtashal Tariq is proving to have been a wise one. The graduating senior was one week from starting classes as a transfer student at Baruch when she had an abrupt change of mind, applied to John Jay and now, after a stellar undergraduate career, is about to continue her education at the University of Cambridge in England — just one of several prestigious institutions that admitted her for graduate study.

“I was drawn by the International Criminal Justice major,” said Tariq, a first-generation college student who also completed a minor in Economics. “I tried to focus on what I was passionate about, and turn it into a career.”

As a John Jay student, Tariq has found her niche and excelled. She has been a McNair Scholar, a John Jay-Vera Fellow and a member of the award-winning Model United Nations team. She was a summer intern last year for the Pakistani ambassador to the U.N., and studied abroad at the Hellenic-American University in Greece, where she now has an offer to teach a summer course on immigration and nationalism.

“Travel is my outlet. I want to fill my passport with visa stamps,” said the 21-year-old Tariq. Her mother works for the New York Asian Women’s Center, she noted, “so I was always aware of the plight of women around the world — human trafficking, domestic violence, education inequality, and so forth.”

Crediting the mentorship of Professor Rosemary Barberet, Tariq applied and was accepted to Cambridge, Oxford, the London School of Economics and four other top-flight British universities, along with Columbia University and the University of Delaware in the U.S. With her sights set on eventually completing a doctorate and becoming a professor herself, Tariq said simply, “I’m very dedicated to knowledge and education — for myself, and especially for others.”


Fixed Focus

Chantal AdlamChantal Adlam has known she wanted to pursue an education and a career in science since she was very young. Now she’s graduating with a B.S. in Forensic Science and preparing to move on to a doctoral program in Chemistry at Stony Brook University with a full scholarship.

“Dating back to my years growing up on the island of Jamaica, where herbal medicine was the order of the day, my grandmother would often prepare tea using an assortment of plant leaves,” she recalled. “The potency of these plants in eradicating or subsiding the effects of the flu virus, fever and other ills was mind-boggling for a seven-year-old — and the beginning of a lasting sense of curiosity that served as the fuel to propel my interest in the sciences.”

Adlam moved to the United States full time in 2008, and entered the CUNY Justice Academy program at Borough of Manhattan Community College — primarily because it provided a pathway for her eventual transfer to John Jay.

Once at John Jay, she was accepted into the Program for Research Initiatives for Science Majors (PRISM), and through that was paired with no less a mentor than Professor Anthony Carpi, now the College’s interim Associate Provost for Advancement of Research. “Having Dr. Carpi for a mentor is like winning the Oscar for a student researcher,” said Adlam. Her scholarly work as an undergraduate earned Adlam an invitation last November to the annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students, where she did a poster presentation using the skills she was taught through PRISM.

Adlam will become the first forensic science student to graduate from John Jay as a product of the CUNY Justice Academy. “I’m grateful for having been provided with the opportunities, challenges and professional guidance that will help lead me to a successful career in medicinal chemistry,” she said.


The Write Stuff

Constantinos KatergarisConstantinos Katergaris may be a first-generation American, and the first in his family to graduate from college, but as of May 28, his résumé will boast a proud second — his second bachelor’s degree from John Jay.

Katergaris, a CUNY public safety officer, will receive a B.A. in English to go along with the B.A. in Criminal Justice (cum laude) that he earned in 2012. He said the degrees reflect the diversity, depth and interdisciplinary nature of his interests.

He became a peace officer for CUNY after his 2012 graduation, he noted, because it provided an ideal way to enter a community-based law enforcement organization. “We have a population that is larger than some police districts, and we are responsible for all of the entire college’s safety needs. I know a lot of people, and I am very at home here,” said Katergaris, whose family hails from Paparousi, Greece.

He has also been deeply interested in literature and writing since he was a child and found encouragement from his English professors at John Jay to pursue this passion as well. This fall, Katergaris will begin pursuing a master of fine arts degree in Creative Writing at City College.

“I have a passion for literature and writing and for police work,” said Katergaris, whose favorite writers include Oscar Wilde and Arthur Conan Doyle. “This passion really came alive with the guidance of the English Department faculty who encouraged me to pursue graduate work. Most of my work in creative writing deals with criminal justice issues. I feel like my job and education merge into a great interdisciplinary point of view in my writing.”


A Doctor in the House

Eugene Gonzalez-Lopez

Eugene Gonzalez-Lopez is a study in determination. He will graduate from John Jay with a master’s in Forensic Science this May and then head to Pennsylvania State University to enter the Neuroscience Graduate Program with a full five-year STEM Scholars fellowship.

Gonzalez-Lopez, who received a B.S. in Forensic Science from John Jay in 2012, has won numerous grants and internships. A scholarship he received through the Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation: Bridge to the Doctorate program provided $60,000 to help pay for his graduate tuition.

Born and raised in Brooklyn, he attended alternative high schools, and never received a science education. At the age of 15, Gonzalez-Lopez left his parents’ house. “I was living by myself or with friends, so I had to wait until I was 23 and legally independent. Then I decided to go to John Jay because it was affordable and I was attracted to their solid science curriculum.” Gonzalez-Lopez began at John Jay as a SEEK student, which helped him pay for his books, assigned him to a mentor, and provided tutoring and consistent logistical support.

Gonzalez-Lopez began working with Professor Shu-Yuan Cheng, who introduced him to different areas of science and encouraged him to study neuroscience when he became passionate about how pesticides affect brain cells.

“I’ve always known what I wanted to do,” he said. “No one in my family went to college, but I had dreams of being a scientist. John Jay is the Harvard of forensic science, offering hands-on experience with faculty members who are amazing and bring a wealth of experience.”


Home-Run Hitter, On and Off the Field

Kalyssa DaleyAs a four-year softball player and team co-captain at John Jay, Kalyssa Daley knows something about swinging for the fences. Off the field as well as on, she has proven herself an adept hitter.

Daley, a Criminology major, is wrapping up her undergraduate career with two feet already in the door at the FBI, where she has been an intern since the summer of 2013. Her experience there gives her an inside track to gain a full-time position after graduation.

The competitive, coveted internship involved 20 hours per week when classes were in session, and 40 hours per week the rest of the year. She won the internship with the help and mentorship of Professor John Walsh of the Department of Law, Police Science and Criminal Justice Administration, who noted, “Kalyssa is a credit to John Jay and will be a valuable asset to the FBI.”

The internship is no pencil-sharpening, paper-pushing assignment. Daley has been working side by side with FBI agents and other employees on a variety of cases. Currently attached to the Reactive Violent Crime Squad, Daley said the high point of her experience thus far was assisting on a surveillance in a murder-for-hire investigation. “That was a long night for me,” she noted.

Once the softball season began in the spring semester, things got a little hectic for the talented infielder. “It got tough at times, what with 6 A.M. practices and my internship after class,” she said. “I was definitely more tired this season.”

Still, tired or not, the 21-year-old Queens resident will leave John Jay with a smile of satisfaction. “Everything I wanted to accomplish here I did,” she said. “I’m graduating with honors, I led my team to the playoffs and I made the conference all-star team. I’m proud, and I know my parents are proud.”


Thinking Outside the Box

Sudip UlakSudip Ulak’s life so far has taken him from the Himalayan mountains of his native Nepal to the concrete and steel canyons of Manhattan, where he will graduate this month with a B.S. in Computer Information Systems. Now the relentlessly curious international student is ready to move on to one of the four doctoral programs in computer science to which he has been accepted: Florida International University, University at Albany, University of Central Florida and West Virginia University.

“I used to be amazed that such a small box like a radio can produce different type of voices,” Ulak recalled. “This curious nature of mine led me to actually open up electronic devices to see how they work. This curiosity grew in me, and I began to work with computers, and taught myself QBasic programming language.”

The recipient of multiple scholarships and awards as an undergraduate in the Honors Program, Ulak supplemented his academic and research endeavors with service work. He worked as a teaching assistant for the First Year Experience to prepare students for the CUNY math placement test, and with the Upward Bound program as a math and science tutor. He is currently a peer tutor with the Math & Science Resource Center.

Ulak’s interest in all things high-tech was stimulated by his work on a project with Professor Hunter Johnson in the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science. “John Jay has been an integral part of my life. The diversity has been so vital for learning, learning that made me a better and knowledgeable person.”


Something to Cheer About

Michael Thomas-FrancisMichael Thomas-Francis is more than just your average student-athlete. He is the captain of the relatively new John Jay cheerleading team, and he says the experience has enhanced his patience, made him stronger, and taught him to deal capably and successfully with challenges.

Thomas-Francis, a Brooklyn native with family roots in Trinidad, will be graduating with a bachelor’s degree in Public Administration. He will become the first in his family to graduate from college, just as he was the first to complete high school.

He said he chose John Jay because of its mission of educating for justice. “I chose public administration because I want to own my own charter school,” he said. “It’s a lot about policy, budgeting and managing, and I love it.” Charter schools appeal to Thomas-Francis because they are geared to students’ particular interests, they are small and teachers can help develop a student’s craft.

A lifelong dancer and performer, he envisions a charter school devoted to the performing arts.
A member of the Campus Activity Board, Thomas-Francis planned the College's first "Gaypril," a month-long celebration of diversity. But it is clearly the experience of leading a college cheerleading squad that has gone a long way toward shaping him.

 “As captain, I have matured and become more professional because I know I am the leader,” he said. “It has taught me to learn to listen, and be more empathetic. I love my team; they are amazing. I won’t miss them because I will see them all the time — they are like my family now. They are longtime friends.”