CUNY’s Fulbright HSI Leaders Reflect the Diversity of New York City and U. S. Higher Education

When the State Department Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs recognized 46 institutions as 2023 Fulbright Hispanic-Serving Institution Leaders, it came as no surprise to The City University of New York (CUNY) Chancellor Félix V. Matos Rodríguez that six of the CUNY colleges were among them. 

CUNY is the nation’s largest urban public university, with 25 different colleges spread across New York City’s five boroughs, serving more than 225,000 degree-seeking students. Founded in 1847 as the nation’s first free public institution of higher education, CUNY’s historic mission continues to this day: to provide a public first-rate education to all students, regardless of stage of life, means, or background.

Baruch College, The City College of New York, College of Staten Island, Hunter College, LaGuardia Community College, and Queens College were each acknowledged for their high level of engagement with the Fulbright Program during academic year 2022-2023.

This recognition, according to Rodríguez, is “a testament to CUNY’s long-standing work both producing and welcoming scholars in the storied program.” He said that the university, which counts nearly half of New York State’s Hispanic-Serving Institutions among its 25 colleges, “takes to heart its commitment to provide people from a diverse set of backgrounds with enriching opportunities like those provided by the Fulbright Program.”

CUNY’s vision aligns with the Fulbright program’s goal to reflect the whole of U.S. society and of societies abroad through the diversity of both the individual participants and the institutions that recruit and support those participants.

Speaking at the annual conference of the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Scott Weinhold emphasized that it is important to the State Department that the Fulbright Program represent all of higher education--community colleges, public land-grant institutions, and colleges and universities of all types and sizes.

The CUNY system reflects the breadth of U.S. higher education celebrated by Fulbright; the six CUNY colleges among this year’s Fulbright HSI Leaders represent a variety of institutional types.

Preparing students to contribute to New York’s diverse and globally-minded workforce

More than 80 percent of CUNY graduates stay in New York City, contributing to all aspects of the city’s economic, civic and cultural life and diversifying the workforce in every sector. It is particularly important to the colleges’ leaders that that their students are introduced to international perspectives both on campus and after graduation, through sending students abroad and hosting international students and faculty.

The university’s commitment to connecting students and faculty with Fulbright opportunities reflects its vision of serving as a transformative engine of social mobility in New York City.

The varied backgrounds of the students and scholars who received Fulbright awards in 2022-2023 reflect the diverse populations that CUNY serves.

Headshot of Prof Wu

President S. David Wu noted that Baruch College, a master’s granting institution that is also a Fulbright HSI leader and Fulbright Top-Producer, attracts world-class faculty and students “from every corner of New York City and the globe.”

Wu said that Baruch’s history of successful engagement with the Fulbright Program is proof that making high-caliber academic programs accessible to all is “not only possible –– but also a blueprint for a reimagined higher education model that strengthens society’s infrastructure for opportunity and delivers transformative outcomes for students.”

Baruch’s Valerie Hrimnak, the Deputy Director of the Office of National and Prestigious Fellowships Advising, notes that the number of Baruch students applying for a Fulbright award has increased at a steady pace since the office opened in 2013. According to Hrimnak, the applicants reflect the diversity of Baruch’s student body –– coming from a wide range of backgrounds, committed to exploring diverse fields of research inquiry, and pursuing a variety of career goals.

Recent alum Tiannis Coffie received a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant (ETA) award to Brazil after studying corporate communication and journalism as an undergraduate at Baruch. She is now pursuing a master’s in environmental policy and sustainability management at The New School. She says her Fulbright presents an opportunity to embrace a culture that mirrors both of her identities as American and Ghanian, since “Brazil is said to possess the body of America and the soul of Africa.” She is eager to learn about Brazilian approaches to climate and social justice issues, and she hopes her experience in Brazil will equip her with diverse approaches for generating solutions for solving the climate crisis.

Baruch Fulbrighters also include Professor Sarah Bishop, who interviewed asylum seekers sent back to El Salvador and Guatemala; Associate Professor Mark Rice, who conducted research in Peru; Juan Garcia, who went to Brazil to document Indigenous communities, and Kimberly Kazdal and Daniela Toribio, who took part in the Mexico Binational Business program.

The City College of New York, a doctoral institution, has been named as Fulbright HSI Leader for each of the three years of the initiative. President Vincent G. Boudreau said college education today demands the abilities to “navigate a complex and diversified world” and links “on campus learning with deep engagement outside the classroom.”

Headshot of Katherine Scardino

Boudreau explained that service learning, internship opportunities, study abroad and community based participatory research all help educators develop “engaged graduates.” He said that CCNY’s record of Fulbright recipients represents “critical evidence that the school is advancing its core educational mission.” After graduating from CCNY in 2022, Katie Scardino took her service-minded engagement abroad as a Fulbright English Language Teaching Assistant (ETA) to Mexico to facilitate English-language conversation and book clubs at the Instituto Technológico de Oaxaca.

President Timothy G. Lynch said the College of Staten Island looks forward to “making continued academic connections throughout the world through this program, in tandem with the global network of study abroad and visiting scholar opportunities that the College provides.” Several faculty members have received Fulbright U.S. Scholar awards, including Dr. Irina Sekerina, who studies Russian-Brazilian “super agers” who have preserved their bilingualism and defied cognitive decline.  

Headshot of Fulbright recipients
Recent Fulbrighters at Hunter College Sasha Balkaran '21, Leyla Haznedar '22, Cloé Mueller '22, Salwa Najmi '22, Kathleen Ray '22, and Luisais Taveras '22

In announcing its 2022 Fulbright recipients, Hunter College noted that their “brilliant and diverse students, many from immigrant backgrounds, are a natural source of Fulbright scholars, as this recognition shows.”

Among the recent Hunter College graduates are Fulbrighters who conducted research on marine life and global warming in France, and another who studied prenatal and maternal health outcomes in Morocco. Recent recipients of the Fulbright ETA went to the Canary Islands of Spain, South Korea, and Turkey, with the goal of using their training as language teachers through both Hunter and Fulbright to help immigrant communities and humanitarian causes upon their return to the United States.  

In 2020, LaGuardia Community College was the associate degree granting institution with the highest number of faculty selected as Fulbright U.S. Scholars nationwide.

President Kenneth Adams said he finds it especially meaningful for LaGuardia Community College to be named as a Fulbright HSI leader, since the college is one of the largest educators of New York’s Hispanic population.

Headshot of Billie Rosado

LaGuardia’s academic programs and support services advance the socioeconomic mobility of students while providing them with access to a high quality, affordable college education, including more than 65 continuing education programs for New Yorkers seeking new skills and careers.

“The Fulbright Program helps our efforts to empower and serve our students,” said LaGuardia Provost Billie Gastic Rosado. “Supporting academic research results in faculty bringing new educational approaches and knowledge into their classrooms—benefiting our students.”

Queens College, a master’s institution, had students who received Fulbright U.S. Student awards, and faculty who went abroad as U.S. Scholars. In 2023, Queens College was listed among the Top Producing Institutions for Fulbright U.S. Scholars for master’s institutions.

Since 2021, when the initiative began, a total of ten CUNY colleges have been recognized as Fulbright HSI Leaders, including seven in the inaugural year of the initiative.

As a whole, CUNY has been a strong producer of U.S. Fulbright Students and Fulbright Scholars throughout the history of the program, which dates to 1946. Continuing that trend, three of this year’s Fulbright HSI Leaders – Baruch, Hunter, and Queens College – were also among the nation’s top producers of Fulbright award winners for the 2022-2023 academic year. 

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