At 40, He Enrolled at Baruch. Now He Works for the Mayor.

Jose Bayona immigrated to New York City from Colombia 25 years ago. At age 40, he enrolled at Baruch College. Now he’s been named executive director of the Office of Ethnic and Community Media under Mayor Eric Adams.

This newly created office serves as a liaison to City Hall for more than 300 print, digital, and broadcast outlets that provide news and information in three dozen languages in neighborhoods all over the city.  “Hundreds of ethnic and community media outlets are the voice of millions of immigrants, working-class and everyday New Yorkers, and we, NYC, recognize their hard work with this new office,” Bayona said in a Facebook post.

Portrait of Weissman alumnus Jose Bayona
Jose Bayona, Baruch Weissman ’09

Bayona earned his bachelor’s degree in journalism and political science from the CUNY Baccalaureate Program in 2009, with Baruch Weissman as his base college, then went on to get his master’s degree from the CUNY Newmark School of Journalism. In addition to his work at City Hall, Bayona is the CEO and founder of Grassroots Strategies, a consulting firm specializing in politics and multicultural communities. He’s also worked for the Daily News, writing for and covering the city’s Spanish-speaking communities, and for NY1. His work in city government includes serving as press secretary for Mayor Bill de Blasio, for the city’s Administration for Children’s Services, and for the city Department of Transportation.

“My life changed when I enrolled at Baruch College for a BA in journalism and political science when I was 40 years old,” he says. “The support I found in both departments was terrific and helped me go through the process of getting my college degree at an adult age in a much better way.”

He added: “I am really grateful to many professors and administrative staff at Baruch, especially Andrea Gabor, Josh Mills, Vera Haller, Geanne Belton, Chris Hallowell, Roslyn Bernstein, among others, at the journalism department, and Thomas Halper, a great mentor on political education, at the political science department. Also, Jennifer Salas at the admission office. All of them have a special place in my heart because they showed me their support and gave me the opportunity to change my life through education. I will always be grateful to Baruch College, my alma mater, for helping me to get where I am today. The story of my new life in the United States started at Baruch College.”

Alumna’s Debut Novel ‘Brown Girls’ Scores a New York Times Review

We’re so thrilled for Daphne Palasi Andreades, a 2015 Baruch Weissman alumna. Her debut novel, Brown Girls, scored a terrific review from The New York Times and is included on many “must-read” lists for January and the new year.

Times reviewer Dwight Garner calls Brown Girls a “fearless novel” and says the author “has put herself immediately on the radar screen” by writing with “economy and freshness.” The book tells the story of young women from immigrant communities in Queens.  “Brown Girls achieves immediate liftoff,” Garner writes. The book is published by Penguin Random House.

Brown Girls was also included on the Times’ list of recommended books for January and as an editors’ weekly choice; The Guardian’s book highlights for 2022; the Chicago Review of Books must-read January listDebutiful’s “can’t miss” list for January;’s best books for 2022; and Nylon.coms January book releases. The book was also heralded by VogueIndia and by author/bookseller Emma Straub, and Palasi Andreades was profiled in the Minorities in Publishing podcast, and by the Boston Globe, the Asian American Writers’ Workshop,, and Electric Literature.

Brown Girls book cover and author photo‘Brown Girls’ author Daphne Palasi Andreades

The author majored in English and psychology at Baruch and was a fellow in the Harman Writer in Residence Program.

Sixty fans turned out for her book launch and reading at PowerHouse Books in DUMBO, Brooklyn, January 4. She told her audience that the book started out as a short story for a class at Columbia, where she earned an MFA. She then worked on the novel over the course of nearly four years, supporting herself by taking jobs ranging from working in a bar to teaching pre-K. She completed the book during the pandemic after being furloughed from work during the early shutdown. Initially, she recalled, “I was in despair,” but writing the book “got me through. It kept me sane.”

Asked about her unusual choice to narrate the story in the first-person plural “we” voice, she said she wanted to capture the collective “experiences of second-generation daughters” of various diasporas and immigrant communities in her home borough of Queens.

Daphne Palasi Andreades, left, at book launch for "Brown Girls" at PowerHouse Books
Daphne Palasi Andreades, left, at book launch at PowerHouse Books

Inspired by Inca Messengers, Weissman Student Wins Idea Contest

Huge congratulations to Weissman student Bruno Santos Rodrigues ’23, who won a national competition sponsored by Blackstone Launchpad for his proposal for Chasqui Outdoor Clothing. Named after the official messengers of the Incan Empire, Chasqui Outdoor Clothing is a socially responsible, environmentally sustainable brand focused on cultivating exploration of the Peruvian outdoors.

Bruno was one of just four students out of nearly 1,150 applicants selected as winners of the inaugural Blackstone Launchpad Ideas Competition, each of whom will receive a $10,000 cash prize.

Baruch student Bruno Santos Rodrigues wins idea contest
Baruch student Bruno Santos Rodrigues, winner of Blackstone Launchpad Ideas Competition

Bruno said the Incan “Chasqui” messengers were tasked with running many miles through different climates to carry and transmit objects and information.  The brand would promote cultural awareness as well as “exploration of the Peruvian outdoors and environmental consciousness” among Peruvians.

In his pitch, he proposed making the apparel from Peruvian Alpaca wool, “one of the greenest fibers on earth, ensuring high-quality, durable and sustainable clothing” that’s water-repellent and odor-resistant with thermoregulation qualities (insulates against cold, breathes when it’s warm). Production would also be local, with benefits and fair compensation for workers, with a goal of making “a positive impact in the
communities involved in the process.”

Silhouette of Incan runner with mountain backdrop and the word Chasqui
Chasqui brand logo (image courtesy Bruno Santos Rodrigues)

Blackstone describes the competition as “a virtual business plan competition designed for students with no prior entrepreneurship experience … so that any student — no matter their major or career plans — could practice the important skills of distilling and presenting a latent idea.”

Last spring, Bruno was named as a Jeannette K. Watson Fellow at Baruch. He’s also a Baruch Climate Scholar and an economics major.  On his LinkedIn profile, he says: “I am very interested in the history of economics, philosophy, environmental issues, solving problems, technology, and the discussion of current topics.”

Bruno was born in Brazil, went to school in Peru, and came to the US when he was 18. He’s fluent in Spanish, Portuguese, and English.

He thanks Zicklin Professor Chris Meyer for mentoring him for the Blackstone contest.

(And we thank the Baruch Entrepreneurs Field Center for the graphic we borrowed for this post, and for bringing this exciting news to our attention.)

CUNY Connections on a Literary Tour of Brooklyn

The Brooklyn Public Library has produced a literary walking tour that includes a number of writers with CUNY connections, including Baruch Weissman’s very own Professor Bridgett Davis, author of the acclaimed memoir The World According to Fannie Davis. The tour is downloadable in audio or text format as a cellphone app.

Davis is mentioned in connection with Weeksville, a historic site marking a 19th century African American community in what is now Crown Heights. The Weeksville Heritage Center‘s collection includes newspapers written by African American journalists and documents that were used to teach literacy to African Americans who’d escaped slavery.

“That history inspired Davis to create the Words@Weeksville program, which is still running today,” the tour states, adding that when Davis worked at Weeksville, she “spoke about the power that writing and journalism once gave to this self-sufficient community of free Blacks. It was a means of self-determination and self-documentation.”

Screenshot from Brooklyn Public Library literary walking tour about Bridgett Davis and Weeksville
Brooklyn Public Library literary audio tour mention of Bridgett Davis


Photo of Weeksville historic site in Brooklyn
Weeksville historic site in Brooklyn

Responding to a tweet about the tour, Davis tweeted: “Any chance to be included on the same list as both @JackieWoodson and Biggie Smalls is a good thing! #Brooklyn is lit.”

Hip-hop legend and lyricist Biggie Smalls is memorialized with a stop on the block where he grew up, St. James between Fulton and Gates. Woodson, who grew up in Bushwick, is the author of more than 20 books and has won the National Book Award, a MacArthur genius grant, and many other prizes.

Davis is one of many authors with CUNY connections on the tour. The others are Hunter alumnae Pauli Murray, Paule Marshall, and Kaitlyn Greenidge; Tanwi Nandini Islam, who holds an MFA from Brooklyn College, and City College alumnus Alfred Kazin, who taught at the CUNY Graduate Center.

Congratulations, Dean Lang!

By now you’ve probably heard the good news: Jessica Lang has been named dean of Baruch Weissman after serving as interim dean for 16 months during what was “arguably one of the most challenging periods in all of higher education,” as Baruch Provost Linda Essig put it.

“Your tenure as interim dean came at the most critical time when we were all on survival mode and focused on daily challenges,” said Professor Pablo Peixoto (Natural Sciences). “You got us through it all and put the future back in our perspectives. With your kind leadership, you reminded us of the value we bring to the table and inspired us to roll up our sleeves. Thank you for your catalyzing leadership, and here’s to many more victories!”

Professor Shelly Eversley, interim chair of the Department of Black and Latino Studies, called Dean Lang “an incredible collaborator and a compassionate leader who listens to and cares about the students, faculty, and staff in Weissman and across the college community.”

Dean Lang is also the founding William Newman Director of Baruch’s Sandra Kahn Wasserman Jewish Studies Center, and a scholar and expert in the fields of early American fiction and Jewish American and Holocaust literature. Her most recent book, which she co-edited, is Off the Derech: Leaving Orthodox Judaism.

Portrait of Weissman Dean Jessica Lang
Baruch Weissman Dean Jessica Lang
Her appointment, pending approval by CUNY’s Board of Trustees, is official January 1.