March 2024 Winners

Stepping in at the Starting Gate So Students Can Succeed

Photo of Monica Gonzalez

Monica Gonzalez

Assistant Director
CUNY Language Immersion Program (CLIP)

“Monica’s stellar work in support of the CLIP students is evidenced in the level of empathy and attention she dedicates to each student in our office and her exceptional commitment to helping those just starting out on their higher education journey,” said Maz Nikoui, Ed.D. Executive Director, English Language & Literacy Programs, who nominated Monica for the C.A.R.E.S. Award.

Stepping in at the starting gate for these students lies at the core of Monica’s mission and speaks to her love for Queensborough’s culture of care.

“Maz has done a wonderful job in bringing us to the forefront. "We have excellent ESL instructors and a supportive team that help to nurture and care for our students,” said Monica, herself a CUNY graduate who earned her bachelor's in applied linguistics from Queens College.

"The CUNY Language Immersion Program, better known as CLIP, provides students with an immersive English language learning experience,” noted Maz. “CLIP acts as a unique pathway for non-native speakers of English to improve their English language proficiency to pursue their college degree. Recently, our office has also developed English Academic Foundations – a program that acts as an extension of the CLIP program for students who are coming to us with limited proficiency in English.”

“Queensborough was losing these students, but we were determined not to turn them away,” said Monica. “This is why we created the CLIP program Academic Foundations which lasts for one semester to help them not only with their English, but we also help acclimate them to the educational culture in the U.S. and specifically Queensborough.”

The program’s success rate is in numbers. In fact, 85% of students in the Foundations class moved into the CLIP program to further their language learning journey. Often, students feel ready to take the English diagnostic test and start earning credit early into the CLIP program. Though financial aid is unavailable, the CLIP program is just $180 for fall and spring semesters and $75 for the summer. If students are Seek or College Discovery or receive city benefits, tuition ranges from $18-$45.

Nikoui noted that Monica also works closely with QCC’s community partners in CLIP –the NYC Department of Education and Pathways to Graduation (P2G) to identify opportunities for those seeking access to higher education but need language support to jumpstart the process. She also visits high schools that have a high population of ESL students or bilingual programs. Some of these include Flushing International, PanAmerican, Hempstead, and John Bowne. She also attends PTA meetings and college fairs.

Dr. Nikoui says, "We're really in a unique position here at Queensborough. Because of our location in Queens and the communities we serve, we're seeing a group of new, New Yorkers with very limited English language skills and while CLIP still serves as a pathway to the college, the Foundations program has allowed us to expand our footprint by serving students that would not be eligible or well-served by CLIP."

“It makes me incredibly happy to know that many of our former CLIP students have stayed on track and earned their degree,” added Monica.

Among them is Eric Zhong who worked in the IT department until 2021 when he was hired by a medical group, Vivian Fernandes, ‘17, who now works in the Office of Accessibility Services, Carmita Samanate, an early CLIP student, and alumna who is now a library administrative specialist at Queensborough and Tao Hong ’17, who emigrated to the U.S. from China more than ten years ago. He had difficulty speaking English beyond ‘hello,’ and ‘how do you do’ but before he graduated from Queensborough was awarded the most prestigious scholarly awards in the nation: Jack Kent Cooke, Goldwater and 2022 Soros Award.

“I sometimes see my former CLIP students who now have jobs here on campus and when I do, I wave and as I walk away, I am smiling ear to ear.”

From Impossible to Promising through Queensborough’s Culture of Care

Photo of Jeffrey Ballerini

Jeffrey Ballerini

Academic Adviser/Designated School Official (DSO)
Center for International Affairs/Immigration and Study Abroad

Sitting at his desk on the fourth floor of the library, Jeff Ballerini, Academic Advisor in the Center for International Affairs, Immigration and Study Abroad, reflected on a few of the many inspiring students he meets who come from far and near to attend Queensborough.

He smiled in admiration.

“A student from South Korea had completed an Associate of Arts in Liberal Arts and Sciences from Queensborough in 2017 and returned to Queensborough for the spring 2019 and Fall 2019 terms to begin a second degree in Computer Science and Information Security,” said Jeff who has served the international student population at Queensborough for about 12 years.

“The student then transferred to Queens College prior to completing this new curriculum. After the Fall 2020 semester, he left Queens College but did not earn a degree.”

Jeff continued, “In March 2023, he contacted me to ask how he might earn his second degree at Queensborough, for he was applying for technology jobs back in his home country of South Korea and wanted to add this degree to his resume to increase his chances of securing employment. After reviewing his course history at both Queensborough and Queens College, I realized that he had the necessary number of credits that were not part of his first degree and was eligible to earn the second degree, but he faced administrative complications in updating his profile. So, I worked with the Registrar, Admissions, and the Office of Academic Affairs, and his second degree was approved in February 2024.”

Another international student enrolled a few days before the spring 2023 semester started but had not received the U.S. F-1 Vaccinations and Immunizations. The clock was ticking, and Jeff searched for local clinics and finally got him an appointment and then sent him to health services so the student could register for classes.

Sometimes students from another country enroll at a school in the U.S. but then want to transfer to another school. In this case, a student studying at the University of Massachusetts, Amhurst was struggling with mental health issues and wanted to transfer to Queensborough for better student support, such as the College’s Counseling Center.

“He enrolled here in fall 2017 and though he still struggled with anxiety and depression, he sought out the support he needed and stayed on track to get his degree. I was surprised to learn that although his GPA was low, he should have been on probation, instead he was dropped after one semester.”

Jeff contacted the registrar who then corrected the students’ standing to probation. He stayed at Queensborough and earned his degree in liberal arts in 2021.

Tikola Russell, Dean of Students/Student Affairs and a nominator of Jeff for the C.A.R.E.S. Award, said, “He provides students with the information they need to remain in compliance and take the correct courses for their degree. In my experience working and collaborating with Jeff, when a student has an issue, he has already looked in the file and can offer solutions.”

This semester a student with mobility issues came to the office, not sure of what he needed to do before classes started. Jeff helped him obtain a letter from his doctor and a treatment plan. Jeff then called the health Center to confirm that he would be granted special accommodation not to take a full course load.

Deborah Karlin, Student Affairs/Academy Advisement, also a nominator, agrees. “His knowledge of immigration law keeps his students on track with their responsibilities. He ensures that their Immigration status is processed in a timely fashion to avoid issues with Immigration. Just this past semester, with the influx of international students, Academy Advisement had assisted Jeff and until now, I never realized the amount of work an international student requires to receive an education in the United States.”

“Our primary student population is individuals from overseas who want an education here and they need an F1 visa and proof that they are financially independent and not in need of social services. We work with them post-acceptance.”

Jeff’s first connection to Queensborough was in the summer of 2006 between his sophomore and junior year at the University of Rochester. A friend referred him for a two-month temporary job at Queensborough in advising. He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in Music and European History with a minor in Psychology from Rochester in 2008 and continued his education at Queens College where he earned his master’s degree in music history in 2010. During this period, he also tutored at College Discovery and in the writing center at Queensborough.

Students can schedule an in-person or distance appointment via their Starfish account. Students will receive an email containing the link that provides access to the meeting when the session is scheduled to begin.

The Center focuses on the academic, social, and professional development of F1 visa students, Dream scholars, and Global Citizenship Alliance study abroad participants. The Center promotes CUNY study abroad programs and scholarship opportunities and provides study abroad program advisement and application assistance. The Center promotes and administers the Global Citizenship Alliance (GCA) study abroad and leadership program. We also develop the comprehensive pre-departure training course for the GCA program and also organizes immigration events for the campus and local community. To become an F-1 student, one must first apply to CUNY. After an applicant is accepted, s/he must obtain an I-20 before applying for an F-1 visa.

Campus Cultural Centers

Kupferberg Holocaust Center exterior lit up at nightOpens in a new window
Kupferberg Holocaust Center Opens in a new window

The KHC uses the lessons of the Holocaust to educate current and future generations about the ramifications of unbridled prejudice, racism and stereotyping.

Russian Ballet performing at the Queensborough Performing Arts CenterOpens in a new window
QPAC: Performing Arts CenterOpens in a new window

QPAC is an invaluable entertainment company in this region with a growing national reputation. The arts at QPAC continues to play a vital role in transforming lives and building stronger communities.

Queensborough Art Gallery exterior in the afternoonOpens in a new window
QCC Art Gallery

The QCC Art Gallery of the City University of New York is a vital educational and cultural resource for Queensborough Community College, the Borough of Queens and the surrounding communities.