College News

Every student’s academic journey has them: supporters, cheerleaders, mentors, guides. We asked seniors to tell us about important people who made a difference. Here are their stories.


Recognizing Arnold Franklin

Professor Franklin went so far above and beyond his responsibilities in overseeing the completion of my senior thesis. Not only did he welcome innumerable office hours visits whenever I had to ask questions, brainstorm ideas, or work through a writing block; he expressed enthusiastic support for my ideas, validated my concerns, academic and otherwise, and, overall, simply made me feel respected and valued. One could not ask for a better, more empowering thesis advisor, professor, or mentor.

–Gav Meiri ’23 (Queens College)

Recognizing Charles Liu

There is much I can say but I will make this short. Dr. Liu has made a huge impact on my life and where I am today. He valued creativity in his physics class and allowed freedom for the final project which led to me producing an entire book to spark curiosity. He always cared about effort and curiosity/creativity more than grades. Dr. Liu is someone who wants me to do what I think is best for me, not just what he thinks is best for me. He has supported me in changing my major, in scientific as well as artistic pursuits, in finding a way to study abroad even when it was difficult. I thank him very much for all of it.

–Janet Akselrud ’23 (College of Staten Island)

Recognizing Kavita Tanna

I met Kavita though the global education movement. When we first talked it was through zoom but when I studied abroad in London, I got to meet her in person. Kavita was the person who could see all of me in a way no one else had before. She became a mentor, a friend. Someone I could share my passions, my joy, my confusion, my sadness with. She loves me for all of who I am. She is the person younger me wishes to one day meet. She is magic.

–Janet Akselrud ’23 (College of Staten Island)

Recognizing Rita Akselrud

My mom told me since before I got accepted to college that college is about trying new things and gaining skills (that it isn't just about grades). That idea took me very far. To all of the fields I got a chance to experience, all the internships, all the countries I got to see. She encouraged me to study abroad every chance I got, supported me, even in the times when I doubted I could do it. I'm grateful for that. I've turned out to be quite the traveler. And I'm graduating college with much more than just the paper that says I got good grades in class.

–Janet Akselrud ’23 (College of Staten Island)

Recognizing Maria Shabalin

Maria is an amazing person and friend. When we hang out it's always a beautiful adventure, story, or nothingness. During college and particularly this last year, whenever I would got overwhelmed from classes or life, hanging out with her made the outside world dissappear. It recharged my curiosity, creativity, and trust, and gave me the energy to start anew or keep going. When my life revolved around logic and math classes, hanging out with Maria reminded me of my artistic side and helped keep me balanced. Because of her I have some sense of "I belong here, where I am, doing what I'm doing."

–Janet Akselrud ’23 (College of Staten Island)

Recognizing Lisa French

Lisa has been my Arts seminar professor and my Macaulay advisor at CSI. She is another one of those people who sees me for who I am, who doesn't think physics, math, writing, and art contradict each other. She has supported me in all of the crazy ideas I have come into her office with: from plans of changing majors, to studying abroad, to switching honors thesis projects, to submitting art for the Macaulay Art show. She's helped me navigate the logistics of the path I was creating for myself. I am very grateful because without her saying "there's no harm in trying," I wouldn't have been able to do half of the things that I've done.

–Janet Akselrud ’23 (College of Staten Island)

Recognizing Alvaro BaqueroPecino

I had taken spanish classes at another school and had gained the skill of speaking spanish but for a while it seemed like it wouldn't be possible to transfer the credits and obtain a minor despite the work I had done. Professor Alvaro BaqueroPecino from the spanish department for helping me transfer the spanish class credits so on the last day possible, I was able to declare my minor. He was willing to try several routes to help me achieve this and I am so grateful.

–Janet Akselrud ’23 (College of Staten Island)

Recognizing Gabriell Kleydman

Gabby was the first friend I made at Macaulay CSI. She is a year older than me and has already graduated but the time we spent together was amazing. She helped me have the courage to do environmental science field work abroad in Hawaii. I felt very young for the program but chose to go because she came with me. It was tough and rewarding and I wouldn't have gone without her. She later joined me in Costa Rica on another study abroad program. She shared with me her love of the movie "My Neighbor Totoro" ( a movie that shows the magic of everyday life). She shared with me her love of the singer Aurora. She joined me in finding the magic in life. And I was already a traveler, an adventurer, before I met Gabby, but I became even more of one with her. Used my time at Macaulay more meaningfully.

–Janet Akselrud ’23 (College of Staten Island)

Recognizing Gloria Gianoulis

Prof. G was my English professor during my freshman year. I appreciate how she cared about my class and even sent us emails when we were no longer her students simply saying good luck on finals or happy new year. During her class, she assigned a creative project at the end, not confined to a particular structure. which really allowed me to showcase my creativity. When I reached out to her years later, she still remembered the project I completed. I'm grateful she took notice and encouraged my creativity and my writing. I'm grateful she was excited about my personal writing projects (such as publishing a poetry book) even when I had declared my math major.

–Janet Akselrud ’23 (College of Staten Island)

Recognizing Russell Davis

Russell Davis is a study abroad advisor at the CSI Center for global engagement. I'm so grateful for his effort in helping me go abroad, and transfer credits, even in times when it wasn't common to study abroad. I'm grateful for his enthusiasm at the projects I made as a result of my travels. When I was awarded the Gilman scholarship to study spanish in Argentina, I created a book of short stories about the experience as my follow on project. In reality everyone in the Center for Global Engagement was excited about it and shared what I had created. But Russell made a note to remind me everytime he saw me about how amazing everything I did was. I really appreciated that.

–Janet Akselrud ’23 (College of Staten Island)

Recognizing Tobias Johnson

Prof. Johnson was my professor for Proofs when all classes were online. He took a unique approach to the class where he didn't just lecture but used class time to have students work in groups to practice the problems. After the groupwork he would have us present and go over the answers to help us learn from any mistakes we might have made. The class was interactive and it was clear his goal was for us to learn, not just get a good grade. It was the class in which I fell in love with math over physics. I out a lot of effort into this class. Professor Johnson took notice and encouraged me to take more math classes. He also sent me an article about math being art in response to one of the reflections I submitted. Oh! It was great that a math professor assigned a few reflections during the course along with actual math homework. It really helped me to take the time to reflect on what I found easy, what i found difficult, what I found interesting. Later, I switched from being a physics major to being a math major. And the memory of this class was one of the driver's of my choice (which I am very happy with).

–Janet Akselrud ’23 (College of Staten Island)

Recognizing Joseph Maher

Professor Maher was my professor for calculus 2 and in my last semester became the supervisor for my math honors thesis project. The beginning of my senior year, I was enrolled in Macaulay Springboard and working on a research paper about Scandinavian Forest Schools. However, I spent the winter semester study abroad in Argentina. There I fell in love with dancing tango and wanted to change my life back home as a response. I realized tango had a connection to math and had the wild idea that I could write a math honors thesis about the connection between math and tango. It's something few people have done but the math department was supportive and Professor Maher agreed to supervise the project. Thisballowed me to switch directions and soend more time my last semester on something i was newly really passionate and excited about. I'm grateful Prof. Maher met with me every week, and that his guidance has been extremely helpful. For the project I set out to produce a 3D model, a donut shape with lines, mapping the path of a couple dancing tango. I had no experience previously coding 3D models but with trial and error, and trying different suggested coding languages, it became possible. I think that's part of what being in Macaulay is all about, finding out you are more capable that you think.

–Janet Akselrud ’23 (College of Staten Island)

Recognizing Kristina Gowin Lora

Kristina was my therapist for most of my time at Macaulay. I appreciate that she was there for me during the entire four years while many other people came and went, and many things in my life changed. I felt safe knowing I had someone to talk to when I needed, before and after each of my travels, when I was facing a challenge or when I had something happy to share. She helped me see some things from a new perspective and listened when I didn't feel I could tell anyone else the full story of something that happened. She's watched me grow from being anxious about everything to mostly feeling safe in all of who I am. And it feels really special to me to have someone who sees and understand how much I have grown throughout the years (not just academically). Someone who created that safe place for me to see my own growth.

–Janet Akselrud ’23 (College of Staten Island)

Recognizing Max Lerner

Max was the internship supervisor for NYC Parks. I'm grateful he accepted me to be a sustainability and emerging technology intern my freshman year mostly based on my enthusiasm, as I had very little experience at the time. I was one of the youngest people there but I learned that age didn't matter, that my opinions and ideas did matter. I'm grateful Max took notice of my effort and invited me to do environmental science field work abroad in Hawaii. I'm grateful for all of the support and encouragement Max sent my way. He believed in me and gave me responsibilities such as being a mentor to all the new high school interns that joined NYC Parks. All of this experience landed me a job in the summer after my sophomore year of college in Costa Rica working with high schoolers. It was a job that required employees to complete a bachelor's degree but I was allowed an exception. Max also gave me the responsibility to plan a pilot trip to Costa Rica for him and the operations director for GROW externship. Max is the reason I was able to enter the environmental science field all the while studying a different field academically. He is the reason my college life was so robust, why I had many of the opportunities I did. He's also one of reasons I feel confident pursing more of my passions even when I don't have experience to back it. I'm grateful for Max. He showed me that sometimes enthusiasm and consistently showing up willing to learn is enough.

–Janet Akselrud ’23 (College of Staten Island)

Recognizing Anita Romano

Anita is one of the CSI Macaulay advisors. I'm extremely grateful for all of the emails she sent about various opportunities, and all of the times she helped me edit my resume to present it in the best possible manner. She was the one who encouraged me to apply for the NYC Parks sustainability and emerging technology internship before I had experience in the field. I'm grateful she did, it was the internship I landed that opened many opportunities afterwards. I'm also grateful for her excitement about the projects and accomplishments I shared.

–Janet Akselrud ’23 (College of Staten Island)

Recognizing Jerone Hsu

Jerone is the operations director of GROW Externships, the company with whom I did environmental field work abroad in Hawaii. The flight to Hawaii was really rough for me and when I landed I wasn't sure I had it in me to complete the trip. Jerone was the first person I talked to on the phone in the morning. He was really understanding, talked about how mental health was important, and how he thought I was still totally capable of completing the trip. He was right. I'm grateful for his encouragement then, and later. Jerone along with Max, the executive director, supported me, believed in me, gave me positions and opportunities to work for GROW and even plan a pilot trip. And even in moments when I felt anxiety, or was the youngest in the room, they didn't see me as any less capable.

–Janet Akselrud ’23 (College of Staten Island)

Recognizing Liane Newton

I met Liane Newton through an internship at NYC Parks. She is such a wise person and an amazing beekeeper. She was one of the first people I ever considered a mentor. We would talk on the phone or through zoom and she would help me think of ways to further develop in the fields I was interested in. She even started a Google document with me called "Where to Begin? Notes for. Student interested in Physics & Writing." She shared so many resources, not all of them I've gotten around to, but all of them I appreciate. Looking back, I see how important our conversations were to me doing my own work in training my curiosity. There are notes in this long document following the words "Journey Tracker" which are essentially time lines of what happened when I followed a thought, a question, I was curious about. There are also time lines of events that happened after I chose to take a leap and apply for something new, make an attempt to get closer to the different dreams I had.

Many students lose their curiosity and creativity as they go through school. I didn't. I grew mine. And part of it was due to practice, and people like Liane Newton encouraging me. And my willingness to ask enough people enough questions, my willingness to go after what I wanted even when there wasn't a clear path, also grew from here. It's such a valuable thing, the belief that you have much power in creating your own path.

–Janet Akselrud ’23 (College of Staten Island)

Recognizing Robyn Marasco

My professor for 4 of the political science classes I've taken as well as my thesis advisor. She is absolutely brilliant thinker and lecturer and is the reason I am a political science major now.

–Daniel Iskhakov ’23 (Hunter College)

Recognizing Flavia García Tuñón

Flavia was my professor of Tango: From The City Margins To the World when I studied abroad in Buenos Aires, Argentina. I can say without a doubt that this is the best class I've taken in my entire college career so far. The class was structured so that for every hour we listened to a lecture, we spent another hour exploring the city learning about the history of tango, and another hour actually dancing tango. Flavia made it the best class ever. She loves tango, she lives tango, and that passion always showed. She cared about all the students, who we were as people, and what we were interested in. Flavia, this class, this trip, changed the direction of my life. I completely switched my thesis project from one about forest schools to one focusing on the connection between mathematics and tango (because I fell in love with tango that I wanted to keep it in my life, and I happen to be a math major).

The inspiration to change my thesis has led to me testing a way of modeling Argentine tango using geometric topology. Someone has thought of the model but no one has tested it, which means I've gotten to do something truly new for my thesis.

Learning to dance showed me a new way of connecting to people, to strangers, that doesn't involve words. Flavia made this class something that lit up my heart and my soul in a way I didn't know was possible. And the most important thing is that Flavia taught us about the true essence of tango, not the commercialized tango danced for entertainment or competition, not the stereotypical tango where women wear red dresses and heels and have the role of the follower. I learned from Flavia that dancing tango isn't about dancing to look good for others, it's about dancing so it feels good to you.

–Janet Akselrud ’23 (College of Staten Island)

Recognizing Kevin O’Bryant

Kevin O'bryant is a professor I had for the class of cryptology. He made the class really interesting and engaging, always asking the students to solve problems at the beginning of class. I asked a lot of questions, and participated, and he often let me know the effort was appreciated (which I really appreciated). Now in my final semester, I pass by his office every week to say hi, and sometimes tell him about the Math Club or how my math honors thesis project is going. He has told a few other professors about my project, and now more people are excited to see the final result. My thesis about the connection between mathematics and dance is a little out of the box, and I'm grateful for how encouraging all the professors are around me, even when they aren't my thesis advisors. I feel like the math department really believes I can do something amazing so I'm not scared to try.

–Janet Akselrud ’23 (College of Staten Island)

Recognizing Sean Thatcher

A shout out to my Meteorology and Climateology professor! Someone who is always willing to chat about grad school and career goals. He wrote a recommendation for me for my first part-time job working with students. Up until then, I had a lot of experience in environmental science and physics, but not in education. I was really interested in education but didn't know if I could get into the field without a teaching degree. Then the opportunity presented itself and with the help of Professor Thacher, I landed it! I got to work in an educational environment and loved my job, and now I am pursuing other opportunities where I can work with students.

–Janet Akselrud ’23 (College of Staten Island)

Recognizing Jonathan Peters

Shout out to Professor Peters who taught my Individual and Society seminar class. He took the time out of class to teach us something very important and practical: how to buy a house. I don't intend to buy a house yet, but I know how, and when, and what to look for, if I ever do. Also, a huge thanks for revealing all the tricks and sneaky rules that go into building a mall, how they are designed to keep you there. I never liked being in malls, and I found this part of the class eye opening and hilarious. Now if I ever go to a mall, many of their tricks have no effect on me.

–Janet Akselrud ’23 (College of Staten Island)

Recognizing Troy Heffron

Mr. Heffron has been an essential part of my academic journey. Any questions or concerns I had were always taken seriously, and he provided guidance and answers every step of the way. Going through college was a much smoother experience knowing Mr. Heffron was my advisor. I appreciate everything he has done for me!

–Emanuela Gallo ’23 (Baruch College)

Recognizing Gisele Regatao

Professor Regatao has made a significant impact on my education at Baruch. Her features writing and journalistic podcasting classes were integral to my understanding of types of journalism I previously had little to no experience with. She has also been a great mentor and supporter. I am so appreciative and grateful for her positive influence.

–Emanuela Gallo ’23 (Baruch College)

Recognizing Suha & Saifa Chaudhury & Khan

I couldn’t choose one of these girls without the other because I met them simultaneously when we first met. I met Saifa and Suha through our Macaulay Honors Orientation. The three of us were in our First Year Seminar together, and from there on out, we were inseparable. From hanging out between our shared classes to exchanging numbers and chatting online, our friendship kindled from a spark of commonality to a flame of attachment. These two girls have helped me immensely throughout these four years, whether through academics or life. They were my second pair of advisors and patiently guided me through any distress or questions. From editing essays to resumes, they were truly there for me and made a massive difference in my academic journey. I would not have made it this far without them and their loyalty to this friendship. One of the greatest blessings of this journey has been finally getting my degree and meeting Saifa and Suha. I pray our friendship lasts a lifetime, and I am thankful for this school because it was God, fate, and the Macaulay program that united us all together in the first place.

–Siddrah Alhindi ’23 (Baruch College)

Recognizing Troy Heffron

Troy has been a wonderful advisor! Whenever I have a issue, Troy makes sure to calm me down and talk through the problem before giving me the solution to solve it. He is extremely caring and will check in with me periodically to provide resources and opportunities that he thinks I will be a good fit for. Of all the advisors at Macaulay, I believe that Troy is one of the best ones!

–Suha Chaudhury ’23 (Baruch College)