Distinguished Honorees are Celebrated for Outstanding Community Service and Artistic Achievement at Queensborough’s 2016 Partners For Progress Gala
Queensborough student speakers Asif Mobin, Tulasha Thapa and Melissa Martinez were among many outstanding students present at Queensborough’s 2016 Partners for Progress Gala, which was held last evening at Terrace-on-the Park in Flushing Meadows Park, Queens. Approximately 500 guests convened for the event, including corporate, community and business leaders, alumni, faculty, staff, students, retirees, friends and legislators.
Honors student Asif Mobin, who will graduate this summer with an A.S. degree in Liberal Arts and Health Sciences, opened the Partners for Progress Gala by discussing his academic career and the ways Queensborough provided many opportunities for him, including a seat in a prestigious medical program at Yale University. Asif was among 80 students chosen from some 800 applications submitted to Yale University’s 2015 Summer Medical and Dental Educational Program (SMDEP) from colleges and universities across the country. Of the 80 students selected, approximately ten were community college students.
Asif is originally from Guyana, and he and his siblings came to the U.S. in August 2012 to join their parents. Sadly, by the time the family was reunited his father was suffering the last stages of gastrointestinal cancer, and Asif had little time to spend with him before his father passed away that fall. Asif’s feelings of helplessness in the face of his father’s illness inspired him to pursue a career in medicine.
After graduating high school, Asif enrolled at Queensborough and was accepted into the Accelerated Program in Associate Studies (ASAP). His Career Adviser, Health Sciences advisers and professors all recognized his academic potential and encouraged him to apply for the SMDEP at Yale University.
Asif will continue his studies in the fall at York College to pursue a physician’s assistant degree then further his education to become a family care physician specializing in oncology.
Other students who addressed the guests during the evening included Tulasha Thapa and Melissa Martinez, who will both graduate this spring with an A.S. degree in Liberal Arts and Sciences.
Tulasha was raised in Nepal where her family struggled for basic necessities. Tulasha described Nepal’s cultural norm that girls neither attend college nor have professional careers. However, her parents chose to encourage Tulasha to pursue an education and a career. With the support of her parents, Tulasha graduated from high school at the top of her class.
After graduating high school and being happily reunited in America with her parents, Tulasha enrolled at Queensborough in the summer of 2014 and soon after the doors of opportunity began to open for her. She participated in the Collegiate Science & Technology Entry program (CSTEP) and successfully completed an internship at Elmhurst hospital in Queens. Tulasha also completed the Asian Social Justice Student Internship program, sponsored by the Kupferberg Holocaust Resource Center & Archives, and was a member of the Emerging Leaders Program. Currently, she is a mentor for the MALES initiative, which focuses on increasing support services for underrepresented groups, and she serves as the Student Government’s Vice President for Evening Students. Tulasha also aspires to pursue a career in medicine and will continue her studies this fall at Hunter College.
Melissa Martinez also shared her story at the event, citing her positive experiences as an art student whose focus is oil painting. She credits her professors with introducing her to oils and color theory which “immediately improved the quality of my work.” Melissa added that, “QCC was a great starting point to my art career. It’s very important for me to blend into a new environment rather than be thrown into a new situation. QCC made my successful transition possible.”
“Students telling their own stories are the best examples of how Queensborough makes a difference in the lives of our students,” said Dr. Diane B. Call, President of Queensborough Community College. “Our faculty and staff provide our students with opportunities to engage with their studies through our high impact practices, academic competitions, and experiential learning opportunities to keep them in school and earn their college degrees. Our students come from many communities as well as 139 countries speaking 87 different languages, but they all share one commonality --- they all believe that a college degree will help them achieve a better life for themselves and their families.”
Dr. Call added that students who graduate from Queensborough often describe how a particular faculty or staff member believed in their academic potential and that donors, volunteers and supporters also care about the quality of the education that Queensborough provides. In her closing remarks, Dr. Call expressed her appreciation for the “generosity, support and commitment of you, our donors, for working in partnership with us to make students’ dreams come true.”
COMMUNITY PARTNER OF THE YEAR
Anthony J. Simeone, Executive Vice President & Chief Lending Officer
Ridgewood Savings Bank
Anthony Simeone is Executive Vice President and Chief Lending Officer at Ridgewood Savings Bank, the largest Conventional Mutual Savings Bank in New York State. Ridgewood has been serving the local community since 1921 and is proud of its community partnerships.
Mr. Simeone has more than 20 years of distinguished experience in the lending industry and manages all lending functions including a comprehensive portfolio of residential, commercial and consumer loans at the bank. He was named Assistant Vice President and Commercial Lending Officer at Ridgewood Savings Bank in 2002, has since been promoted to Senior Vice President and Chief Lending Officer and in 2013, to his current position.
Prior to joining Ridgewood Savings Bank, Mr. Simeone held several positions at community-based lending institutions and served as Vice President and Senior Underwriter of the Multifamily Lending Department at New York Community Bank where he was responsible for all phases of multifamily loan underwriting and the presentation of loan proposals to the Board of Directors.
Earlier in his career, he worked with Home Federal Savings Bank (North Fork), Self Reliance Federal Credit Union and The Greater New York Savings Bank.
Mr. Simeone grew up in Long Island and attended Chaminade High School in Mineola. He continued his education at Hofstra University and graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration with a concentration in Banking and Finance. He received his Master of Science degree in Accounting (MSA) from Long Island University at C.W. Post and completed America’s Community Bankers Senior Leadership Institute in 2009.
“It is important for students to feel a part of the college community not only in their studies but in obtaining a broader knowledge base as well. When we interview young people who apply for jobs or internships we consider what they have accomplished in the classroom and how they have served their communities while attending school; we believe being engaged in volunteer work or similar community projects are essential for gaining practical real life experiences.”
Mr. Simeone currently serves as a Director on the board of the Mercy Home for Children. It is the mission of Mercy Home to assure the quality of life for persons with developmental challenges through the recognition of each person’s inherent dignity and absolute right to a life filled with learning and love. Additionally, he volunteers with several animal shelters on Long Island.
Mr. Simeone resides with his wife, Tara, and their children in Long Island, New York.
All funds raised in honor of Anthony Simeone, Ridgewood Savings Bank, will support the College's High Impact Practices, such as academic service learning which partner with community organizations to better engage students in the learning process, within the goal of increasing retention and graduation rates.
ART GALLERY PARTNER OF THE YEAR
Dr. Wenzhi Zhang, Contemporary Sculptor, Professor of Ceramics
Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts
“My sculpture garden offers students and all members of the community a sense of belonging, a feeling of warmth, an appreciation for different cultures and a welcoming source of inspiration.”
Dr. Wenzhi Zhang is an internationally recognized artist, scholar and author. Her distinguished career spans more than 25 years and has included major exhibitions at the National Art Museum of China, Malaysia National Art Museum, Norway National Museum of Art, Korean Palace Kiln Museum and many other university museums. Her works are represented in prestigious private and public collections, including the private collection of Queen Margrethe II of Denmark.
Dr. Zhang first exhibited her eclectic works at Queensborough in 2011 when the QCC Art Gallery established a cultural exchange with Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts in China. The exhibit, Duality, Stoneware and Bronze, emanated from her desire to express many cultural beliefs, including the vast history of Chinese myth and folklore and in particular reconfiguring the image of the dragon to endow it with human qualities rather than the more traditional attributes of a turtle, fish or snake.
In the spring of 2015 the QCC Art Gallery acquired more than 40 of her sculptures at the opening of the Metaphysical Thinking on Romantic New Mankind series. The works, mostly life-sized, are an amalgam of human, animal and vegetable forms.
Selected works from Duality, Stoneware and Bronze and Metaphysical Thinking on Romantic New Mankind are dispersed throughout the QCC Art Gallery’s outdoor space.
“It is a pleasure knowing that my work has a permanent presence on the beautiful campus of Queensborough. There is a wonderful connection between the sculpture garden, the gallery, and members of the college and community who experience how my sculptures create harmony between nature and architecture.”
Prior New York exhibits include The New Mankind—My Family: Contemporary Ceramics Exhibition in 2005 at Crystal Windows Art Gallery in Flushing, Queens, and Women Of Esther -- Stoneware and Bronze at Madison Jackson Gallery in Manhattan in 2012.
A native of Guangzhou in southern China, Dr. Zhang has achieved high honors for her multicultural visions. She received First Prize at the first annual Chinese Contemporary Ceramics Exhibition in Shanghai in 1997. In 1998 she received the Collection Award in Chinese Women of the Century Exhibition, held by the China National Women League. After she moved to the U.S. in 2001, she lectured extensively in U.S. universities, including North Carolina State University, Illinois State University, New York University and Lake Superior College in Minnesota. She has taught classes at the Racine Art Center in Wilmington, North Carolina and at Lake Superior College in Duluth, Minnesota.
Dr. Zhang holds a Master of Fine Arts degree from the Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts in China and a doctorate from the Seoul National University of Sciences and Technology in South Korea. Dr. Zhang has written several textbooks on Ceramics including: The Art of Contemporary Materials (1993), Classroom Ceramics (2001), and Contemporary Ceramics Art and Design (2011).
Currently she works and teaches Ceramics at the Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts, China. Her daughter, a graduate of Cornell University, resides in Hong Kong.
All proceeds raised in Dr. Zhang’s honor will support the maintenance and preservation of the College's new permanent collection of Asian Art which joins existing permanent collections in African Art and Pre-Colombian Art.
As a celebration of the impact and importance of philanthropy in enriching the educational experience of students, special proclamations were given to the Honorees by elected officials, including New York State Senator Toby Ann Stavisky; New York State Assembly Members Edward Braunstein, David Weprin and Nily Rozic; New York City Council Member Barry Grodenchik; Borough President Melinda Katz; Former Senator Frank Padavan and Former Borough President Claire Shulman.
All funds raised by the Gala will be used to support student success initiatives with the goal of increasing student retention and graduation rates, giving them an extra edge to find a career and earn a living wage. Funds will also be used to enrich the student learning experience by supporting faculty development, the Kupferberg Holocaust Resource Center and Archives (KHRCA), the QCC Art Gallery and the Queensborough Performing Arts Center (QPAC).
The annual Partners for Progress Gala is hosted by the Queensborough Community College (QCC) Fund, Inc. The officers of the QCC Fund, Inc. are Chairman Mark Kupferberg, Kepco, Inc., Vice Chair Charlene Prounis, ʼ76, Flashpoint Medica who also serves as Chair of the foundation’s Edge for Success Campaign, Treasurer Charlotte Biblow, Esq. , Farrell Fritz, P.C., and Secretary Patricia Tiffany, Flushing Bank who also served as Chair of this year’s Gala. Liren Wei of Wei, Wei & Co., LLP and a past honoree, served as Co-Chair of the Gala.
Queensborough is ranked in the top 100 community colleges among approximately 1,200 community colleges nationwide by Community College Week. The College is committed to open-admission access for all learners and to academic excellence. Its academic programs are renowned, as are the credentials and research activities of its faculty, of whom nearly 76 percent hold doctoral degrees.
Queensborough Community College, The City University of New York, is one of the most diverse campuses nationwide, with students coming from 143 different countries, speaking 84 different languages. The ethnicity of the student body is a near perfect balance of African Americans, Asians, Caucasians and Latinos, and Queensborough is a critical gateway into higher education for many students who are the first in their families to attend college.
Queensborough’s transfer programs are designed for students who plan to continue their studies at a four-year institution. Career programs provide the academic foundation and training for students who plan to begin or advance a promising career. Queensborough offers the Associate in Arts (A.A.), the Associate in Science (A.S.) and the Associate in Applied Science (A.A.S.) degrees, as well as non-credit Continuing Education programs. More than 16,000 credit and another 10,000 Continuing Education students are enrolled at Queensborough. Nearly 70 percent of graduates transfer to senior colleges or universities, and others obtain the necessary skills for career advancement.
The College has several Dual/Joint Degree programs with four-year CUNY institutions: Nursing with Hunter College, York College and CUNY School of Professional Studies; Biotechnology with York College; Criminal Justice, Forensic Accounting and Forensic Science with John Jay College of Criminal Justice; Education with Queens College and Pharmaceutical with York College.
Queensborough earned national recognition in 2009 when it launched the Queensborough Academies, an initiative that offers all students personalized academic and student support based on their area of study.
Each of the five Academies (Business; Liberal Arts, Health Related Sciences, Visual and Performing Arts, and Science, Technologies, Engineering & Mathematics) features individual guidance, special learning opportunities, and High Impact Practices (HIPs), which are progressive methods of delivering course content known to encourage deep learning, hone critical thinking and problem skills, and transform students into lifelong learners.
HIPs are nationally recognized instructional strategies shown to help students develop academic skills beyond the classroom and are known to improve student performance, retention and graduation rates. More than half of all students at Queensborough were enrolled in HIP classes in the spring 2016 semester.
The Harriet and Kenneth Kupferberg Holocaust Resource Center and Archives is continuing its National Endowment of the Humanities (NEH) Challenge Grant for Two-Year Colleges. Queensborough is one of six community colleges nationwide chosen by the NEH to receive the Challenge Grant, and it has allowed the College to strengthen its humanities programs and deepen student experiences with and understanding of other cultures.