On This Day: Adjunct Professor of History Katie Uva Lights Up LinkNYC

On This Day: Adjunct Professor of History Katie Uva Lights Up LinkNYC

Replacing New York City’s long outmoded pay phones, LinkNYC kiosks have become recognizable beacons on thousands of city blocks, offering free wifi, advertising space, and the occasional illuminating factoid. But where do they get their material? Baruch History Department Adjunct Professor Katie Uva, under contract with the Museum of the City of New York, has recently contributed dozens of “On This Day” New York City history facts to the LinkNYC kiosks. She took some time to answer a few of my questions.

Dan: How did you get involved with The Museum of the City of New York and how were you selected for this project?

Katie: From 2013-2018 I worked as a Museum Educator, giving tours to school groups, college classes, and various adult groups. After leaving that job, I hosted New York City trivia nights at the museum from 2018-2021. And then this summer I was asked to write some new “On This Day” facts for the LinkNYC kiosks. Through my time working as a Museum Educator and then hosting trivia, as well as working for the Gotham Center for New York City History at the CUNY Graduate Center and regularly teaching New York City History at Baruch and Lehman, I’ve acquired some expertise in New York City history but also a good eye for what’s broadly entertaining or sparks curiosity about this city. I’m a historian by training and a lot of my work involves research and substantive interpretation, but it’s also nice to just do something fun and simpler sometimes.

Dan: What are a few of your favorite history facts that you contributed?

Katie: I don’t want to give away the “On This Days”; you’ll have to keep an eye out for them as they turn up on the LinkNYC kiosks! But I will give you one fact for each borough:

Staten Island is home to the highest point on the eastern seaboard; Todt Hill (401 feet tall).

Queens has the most public library branches in the city.

Brooklyn has the most subway stops.

Manhattan is the birthplace of the Oreo cookie.

The city’s largest park and the nation’s oldest golf course are both located in the Bronx.

Dan: How do you feel a resource like “On This Day” affects the collective understanding of history in New York City?

Katie: I think there’s often a slightly pejorative connotation to the idea of trivia or factoids, but I love being able to share bits and pieces of information about New York City. We live in a fractured media landscape, so I really like that the LinkNYC is one common source of information, but that it also has a certain serendipitous quality–it’s generally by chance that you happen to pass one and notice one of these history tidbits. 

For some people who have lived here a long time, I think the “On This Days” will provide a glimmer of recognition, a sort of “I remember that!” moment on your commute. For more recent residents, it’s a light, fun way to learn more about where you live and help develop more of a feeling of rootedness. And my favorite factoid/trivia moments are when someone finds out something interesting enough to share with other people and it starts a conversation, so my hope is that some of my “On This Days” will do that.

Baruch’s Math Department Receives $40,000 Per Year from Jane St. Capital

Baruch’s Math Department Receives $40,000 Per Year from Jane St. Capital

For years, Baruch Math Professors Adam Sheffer and Pablo Soberón have run the NYC Discrete Math REU, not only mentoring countless students but helping to change the demographics of Mathematics PhD programs around the United States. 

Each summer, hundreds of promising undergraduate students from around the world apply to join Baruch College’s Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) Program. Sheffer and Soberón founded the program in 2017, and under their stewardship it has seen tremendous growth. Last summer, there were around 500 applicants for only 12 spots. “I guess you could say it’s become competitive,” Sheffer said.

Gathering in New York City for an 8-week intensive course of study, admitted undergraduates are given the opportunity to do advanced research work in combinatorics, discrete probability, theoretical computer science, and a variety of other topics. During this period, working closely with a dedicated faculty mentor, each student makes progress towards solving a problem on their own or collaboratively, sometimes publishing a paper. The real goal of the mentors, however, is not to publish but rather to support the student in whatever they wish to achieve as they go forward. These are all experiences that make alumni of the program especially desirable candidates for esteemed PhD programs. Like many REUs around the country, the program has typically received much of its funding from the National Science Foundation. Now, Baruch’s REU adds the Wall Street based global trading firm Jane St. Capital to its list of supporters. 

Jane Street Capital is one of the world’s largest market-makers, trading more than $17 trillion worth of securities in 2020. Jane St. heard about some of the success stories that have come out of the program and reached out offering their sponsorship. “Jane St. Capital has consistently provided generous support to the math community. They also hire many promising young mathematicians, usually not from CUNY, but from programs like MIT and Harvard,” Sheffer said. “So, out of the blue, they emailed me and said, ‘We want to sponsor your program. We’ll give you up to $40,000 a year.’”

Funding from the National Science Foundation helped make the program possible to begin with, but carries with it a number of stipulations. For one, it can only be used to fund students who are either American citizens or permanent residents. The Jane St. Capital funding on the other hand, will help the Baruch Math Department realize one of its main goals: expanding access to a high-quality mathematics education for students from disadvantaged backgrounds around the world. Many promising international students are not eligible to attend most summer programs, and this funding will help open the door to them.

“Our program is not meant to take just the people from MIT or Harvard. We get a ton of applications from these places, but that kind of misses the point of our larger mission within the math community,” said Sheffer. “We mostly try to take different types of students. Students who seem to have a lot of potential but have not yet had the opportunity to demonstrate it. That is where we feel we can really make a difference.”

For instance, in one of the other programs that Sheffer runs, he recently mentored a group of 30 students. Some were from universities like Columbia, Princeton, and Brown. But the best student in the group was from Egypt. “It was someone from the University of Egypt. He did amazing work and is an amazing person. So, of course I wrote him very strong letters of recommendation and really pushed him. He ended up getting accepted into several PhD programs in the US. I think that’s a case of someone with a tremendous amount of potential who, without the program, would have probably been limited to Egypt. Because of the program, he had a paper to show for himself. The paper even won an award. That’s how he managed to move to the US and do a PhD here. So now, with Jane St.’s help, I’m so pleased that we can continue to provide more opportunities to people like him from all over the world.”

Baruch College Hosts Historic Fuzhounese American Conference

Fuzhou America Conference

On October 8th, 2022, as the Baruch Performing Arts Center continues to reopen its doors and welcome all varieties of audiences back into its theatres, Baruch College hosted an unprecedented gathering. A self-organizing community made up of mostly the descendants of immigrants from Fuzhou, China came together for their largest ever in-person conference, “Take Out Only.” The conference was sponsored in part by Baruch’s Department of Sociology and Anthropology and the Asian American Studies Program. Ken Guest, a Professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology, was invited to give one of the keynote addresses. He’s been working with this community for 25 years.

“In the anthropological field, it’s what we call ‘longitudinal research,’” Guest said. “That’s a way of saying that you’ve devoted your whole life to something. I started working on the parents of this community that came to the US in the 90s and early 2000s. It is incredibly gratifying for me to see this new generation come together. And to be invited into their community as a researcher to provide a data driven perspective is really unique.”

Over the past 25 years, a wave of over half a million immigrants have come to the United States from Fuzhou, a large metropolitan area in Fujian, a province in southeastern China, revitalizing New York City’s Chinatown and changing the cultural and ethnic makeup of the Chinese American community. Guest’s first book, God in Chinatown, which began as his dissertation at the CUNY Graduate Center, traces their journey by exploring their work in restaurants, garment shops, and construction, and the vast human smuggling network that often aids their arrival in the United States. His writing also addresses the role of Fuzhounese religious communities both here and abroad, the religious revival that has swept coastal China, the Fuzhounese role in the rapidly expanding U.S. network of all-you-can-eat buffets and take-out restaurants, and the higher education experiences of the Fuzhounese second generation, particularly at Baruch College.

Fuzhou America, the non-profit that organized “Take Out Only” and oversees an online community that brings nearly 8,000 second generation Fuzhounese Americans together, relates the prototypical Fuzhounese immigrant narrative on their website. “You know how the story goes… someone in our family-usually a father, uncle, or grandfather-crossed the Atlantic by boat. Then, they opened up take-out restaurants in every corner of this country. From the rural villages back in Fuzhou, they succeeded in carving out a space for us in America.”

But, the descendants of this first wave of Fuzhounese immigrants now find themselves in a situation familiar to many children of immigrants growing up in insular communities: torn between their aspiration to assimilate into American life and their parents’ expectation that they continue working in their demanding restaurant businesses. “I wanted to imagine that there could be something more to my life than just working in a restaurant, only building towards owning my own restaurant or maybe becoming the boss’ wife,” said Lei Wang, herself a Fuzhounese immigrant and student at Baruch. “The options are really very limited for most people who come from Fuzhou. But now, I’m only a few weeks away from my graduation!” For Lei, and many of her generation, things seem to be changing.

“Take Out Only” was in part an event to collectively process this experience, reflect on the trauma of the past, and the possibility of the future. “This was really a powerful moment of self-recognition,” said Guest, “they wanted so many different perspectives included: a historical angle, a panel on entrepreneurship, and in the afternoon they wanted do a panel on intergenerational trauma led by Amy Zheng, a second generation Fuzhounese immigrant who has her PhD in Psychology. I was amazed that they wanted to open up and talk about that part of their experience.”

Fuzhou America Conference

The breakdown in communication between generations is especially challenging for this group. In many cases, the younger generation has trouble even speaking with their parents in their native language. Most grew up learning English and Mandarin, the dialect that has now become nearly universal in China due to the central government’s attempt to flatten out regional differences. Their parents often only speak the local dialect that they grew up with. For young Fuzhounese Americans, expressing themselves to their parents at all can sometimes seem impossible. In creating a safe space where this community can delve into their shared experiences, “Take Out Only” is the first event of its kind.

“It was inspiring to be able to help them frame their personal experiences in a slightly larger context,” said Guest. “Really it’s an extension of what I experience with my students all the time in my anthropology classes. Of course, Baruch students typically know about immigration when we get to that section on the syllabus. But it’s an anecdotal first-person experience. They have never thought about it in terms of these huge historical patterns and where they fit into that. They start to see that they’re not alone.” 

In continuing to document this generation’s experiences, Fuzhou America has asked Ken Guest to help. “We’ll see how it all continues to develop,” he said, “But, I think there’s at least one or two more books to be written on this community. To work closely with them on how their story is told is really exciting.”

Fuzhou America Conference

In Baruch Elevator, Teacher and Student Reunite After 20 Years

For students, faculty, and staff, thoughts of Baruch’s elevators typically evoke a variety of frustrations: remembrances of long lines, out of order signs, and tight squeezes. As in most busy Manhattan high-rises, this experience has become practically archetypal. But, as many long-time members of the Baruch community know, sources of consternation can suddenly, and unexpectedly, give way to moments of surprise and delight. 

In the middle of the second day of the Appreciative Inquiry Summit, an event which is part of the College’s five-year strategic planning process, Harold Ramdass, a Lecturer in the English Department, made his way to the elevator on the 14th floor of the Newman Vertical Campus Building. He held the door as a woman ran towards it, and as she entered her familiar appearance struck him. Unsure of exactly how he knew her, he decided not to approach. Then suddenly, he realized who she was. “What is your name? Are you…Debra Phillip?” he asked. She turned surprised, tilting her name tag towards him. “Yes, I’m Debra Phillip.” “You were my student!” he said. They hadn’t seen each other in twenty years.

Harold Ramdass, himself an alum of Baruch’s undergraduate English program, went on to earn his PhD at Princeton in 2007. A Chaucerian by trade, Ramdass has been teaching the Great Works Courses at Baruch for two decades, beginning as an adjunct in 2002. Of Indo-Trinidadian descent, familiar with Hindu and Muslim traditions, and a product of Catholic School, Ramdass is a perfect fit for the Great Works program, which seeks to give all Baruch students, regardless of major or ambition, a grounding in a historical and global view of the literary imagination.

“Throughout the years, I have always remembered Debra,” Ramdass said. “She took my Great Works class very early in my teaching career at Baruch. And she sat up front.”

One of the first texts the class took on that Fall of 2002 or 2003 was the biblical book of Genesis. Ramdass likes to take risks with familiar texts when he’s teaching.

“I want students to challenge the way they think about texts, the way they read them. To look at something very familiar as something new. To look at the actual language rather than merely replicating the received cultural reading.”

He acknowledged at the outset that though three monotheistic faiths regard Genesis as holy scripture, his aim was to push the class to see the text in a new light. In particular, he guided his students to think about the two contrasting points of view embodied by Adam and Eve. “On the one hand, we see Adam’s reliance on received authority, the word of God, and on the other, Eve’s more empirical method. Given two conflicting sources of information, Eve figures the only way to discover the true nature of the fruit, is to try it.”

Around this time, Ramdass noticed that Phillip was having a very hard time. She looked uncomfortable in class. Always attentive to his students’ reactions, Ramdass asked her to stay after. Phillip explained that the discussion made her uncomfortable because she felt that this text was a spiritual text, a religious text, and if one were to remove the spiritual significance, as Ramdass had, he had no chance of understanding it. Ramdass reassured her, “I’m not here to tell you what to believe, only to experiment and see what happens.”

Debra Phillip too remembers their semester-long debate. “Here I am taking this class, and this young guy is using the Bible as a textbook,” she said. “And he’s telling me that I have to try to separate spirituality from my reading of it? That’s where the tension started between us. Everything he said, I had to answer. And I never gave up.”

Ramdass reflected, “As a teacher, I couldn’t be happier. What more could you want? And I could tell, throughout this experience that she didn’t know what her comfort level should be with me or with the kind of work we were doing.”

But Ramdass said that it was the last day of class that really lingered in his mind. Phillip stayed after once again to speak to him. “She said, ‘I still believe the Bible is spiritual and religious and there is a right way to read it,’ but she told me she got something very important out of the class. In church, whenever the pastor launched into a misogynistic interpretation of the Bible, she could now go to the same passage, the same textual moment, and argue her own interpretation.’ And I said to her, ‘this is amazing, that is exactly it, you have done amazingly.’”

Phillip, who remains deeply committed to Christianity, also remembered the conversation. “At that time, when I was in search of a place to worship, I encountered a pastor who made comments that were misogynistic. And the professor did make me think. He had me looking at things a little more in depth. It couldn’t be the case that just because the pastor told me ‘do x, y, z,’ I should do it. No. It was my responsibility to do my very own reading and pray to God that the spirit will reveal things to me. Luckily, my pastor now is one of character and integrity that pushes me to develop a relationship with the Word.”

Ramdass felt a connection with Debra in part because both trace their roots to the Caribbean, and both had an implicit understanding of the unifying role that religion played in the diaspora. “I’ve always been mindful of my experience with Debra when teaching and especially when creating my various documents and job application materials. She was significant to me.” 

These application materials eventually landed Ramdass a full-time Lecturer position in the English Department. “It’s a life changing appointment,” Ramdass said, who had spent many years stretched between adjunct roles at Baruch, Cooper Union, and Lehman College. “I can finally put all my focus on Baruch students.” His passion for students was another connection he would share with Debra Phillip.

Phillip, a single mom of two who left Grenada in the 90s to build a life in the US, graduated from BMCC with honors, and then began pursuing her BBA at Baruch while working full time as a nanny and housekeeper for several families in Manhattan. She went on to finish her degree at Lehman College in 2015. “I finally decided that I wanted to be helping students.” Phillip said. “If I could make a difference for even one person, it would be worth it.”

Her drive sent her to pursue her MA in Childhood Education at Brooklyn College. “As I was nearing graduation, my college advisor asked, ‘Are you going to do your masters?’ I told her there was no way! I didn’t have the money. She said, ‘Never say never,’ and gave me the information for the CUNYCAP program.

CUNYCAP, which provides financial support and employment opportunities to CUNY graduates that go on to pursue graduate degrees, helped connect Phillip with Baruch College’s Office of Enrollment Management. She has gone on to join the Baruch community more permanently as the Enrollment & Retention Coordinator in Office of Undergraduate Advisement & Orientation. For the past seven years, she’s been able to follow her passion for helping students realize their full potential and develop their educational goals. “I think everything happens for a reason,” she said, “Though I have struggled in my life, I always have something to draw on to relate to the students who come to me. Helping them is everything to me.”

Ramdass saw the spark in Phillip that first day she sat down in his class. “When you meet Debra, there’s a light in her. She’s special. But at that time, she also seemed to be dealing with a lot. My class might have stressed her out in some ways.” Ramdass laughs, “But now when I see her, I see a person who has totally come into herself. After all these years, it’s quite amazing.”

Mary McGlynn Investigates the Literary Form of Post-Crash Irish Fiction

With her new book, Broken Irelands: Literary Form in Post-Crash Irish Fiction, Professor of English Mary McGlynn takes a fresh look at the textual strategies and syntactical patterns used by contemporary Irish authors to represent Ireland during the Celtic Tiger and the global recession that followed in 2008. 

“At the time, there was a huge outcry that the artworld, and the literary world in particular, was not responding to or engaging with this economic reality. But it always seemed to me that there were Irish novels doing that work. Maybe they weren’t engaging with issues like inequality and overconsumption directly, but they were definitely thinking about them,” McGlynn said. 

As she read the novels that appear in the book by authors like Anne Enright, Colum McCann, Mike McCormack, and Lisa McInerney, McGlynn noticed that there were ways in which they seemed to be rejecting realist representations by using phrases that were quite literally ungrammatical. 

“I noticed some stylistic features that were reminiscent of internet memes. You know, phrases like “all the feels,” “I can’t even” or ‘I can haz Cheezburger,’ were emerging online. Likewise, the culture of Irish novel writing during this time seemed to be embracing fragments as well. In the book, I call them “ungrammatical techniques.”

McGlynn goes on to argue that such unconventional verb tenses, run on sentences, and syntactical fragments reflect a cultural moment shaped by feelings of impotence and rhetorics of personal responsibility. “The fact that there is no stable sense of agency in the language itself seems to me obviously linked to the same sense of economic instability. I know when you have a hammer, everything can seem like a nail, but it all aligned in an amazing way. The book is about a way of reading that allows Irish fiction to reveal its true political and cultural range.”

Buy Broken Irelands: Literary Form in Post-Crash Irish Fiction here.

Vera Haller and Gisele Regatão Publish a Trio of Articles on TheWorld.org

Journalism professors Vera Haller and Gisele Regatão began planning a joint reporting project into the economic and social implications of the global growth of avocado production before the COVID-19 pandemic. It was only this past summer that they were finally able to travel, choosing to focus on Peru, the world’s second largest exporter of Hass avocados behind Mexico. Editors at PRX Radio’s international news show, The World, accepted the story and asked whether they could find additional stories, seeing this trip as a way of generating more news coverage out of Peru.

The professors ultimately produced three stories that explored the contradictions of modern Peruvian identity and the country’s economic and political disparity. The stories looked at challenges small Peruvian farmers faced after switching to what they hoped would be lucrative avocado crops, a rising hip hop star’s exploration of her Quechuan identity through music, and a filmmaker whose success is driving an expansion of Peru’s movie industry. 

The research trip to Peru was supported by PSC-CUNY, Baruch College, and the Weissman Dean’s Office. The articles, taken together, reflect the diverse and little-known stories that are produced by faculty at the Weissman School of Arts and Sciences.

Read or listen to the series below:

Peru’s Avocado ‘Green-Gold Rush’ Loses Some Shine

Meet Peru’s Quechuan Hip Hop Star

Peruvian Filmmaker Melina León Boots Peru’s Film Industry With Strong Female Leads

Meet Interim Associate Dean, Cheryl Smith

I sat down with Professor Cheryl Smith to learn about her background, her new book project, and the way she hopes to bring her vision of a poetic teaching project to the Office of Associate Dean.

Dan:  For those that don’t know you, can you start by introducing yourself, say what program you come out of, and give us a brief overview of your journey here at Baruch College?  

Cheryl:  Sure! My name is Cheryl Smith and I come out of the English department. I came to Baruch in the fall of 2003 as an Assistant Professor. I guess I’m starting my 20th year here. It went by in a blink! 

I’ve done lots of interesting things in my tenure at Baruch. When I was first hired, I was the director of the Immersion Program for students that need some extra help meeting the basic benchmarks of college-level reading and writing. I was the director of the Great Works of World Literature Program for 4 years, and was the WAC coordinator for about 8 years. For WAC, I worked CUNY-wide with coordinators at all the campuses, and it was a great way to form a community across CUNY with other faculty who were interested in student writing and faculty development. I co-chaired our last self-study for re-accreditation. I’ve also been the faculty liaison to the Center for Teaching and Learning and the Dean’s Fellow for DEI. I’ve always been invested in faculty development opportunities and faculty training. 

So, I’ve had a lot of different perspectives on the institution, and I was really excited for this opportunity to join the Dean’s Office at Weissman because I feel like I can bring those different frames of reference to the office. I’m really excited to work on the student end of things: bringing Weissman majors in and supporting them.  

Dan: I know that you’ve been working on a new book project, can you tell us a little about that?  

Cheryl: The working title is Poetic Justice: Poetry, Protest and Democracy in Public Higher Education. It’s a project that I’ve been working on for probably six or seven years, although I started writing it in earnest in the summer of 2020. The manuscript is now finished, I have identified a press, and I’m hoping to get this out very soon! 

It looks at writing instruction at CUNY in the late 60s and early 70s. This is a moment that became interesting to me because this is when first-year composition and poetry improbably mingled in university classrooms. At the time, CUNY was hiring all these up-and-coming poets to teach writing. I look at this as a micro-history, ultimately to call for a renewed focus on creativity and social justice in our college classrooms today. 

In order to get there, I talk a lot about the connections between higher education, writing and learning to write, and our connection to a civic, democratic identity. There is a chapter for instance, that talks about the origins of CUNY in 1847.  I ask, what was some of the rhetoric around the beginning of CUNY as an institution? I set that into a larger frame of thinking about other forms of access to higher education, other policy decisions that have happened nationally, and all of the ways that the nation was trying to bring historically underrepresented people onto college campuses.  

But mostly, I look at these poets in the classroom. I look at their pedagogy. I look at how they talked about learning and advocated for students, how they talked about CUNY at the time, how they talked about open admissions. And I try to pull out lessons for instructors today. I’m really trying to advance what I call a poetic teaching practice, to define what that is and give examples of how to enact it in the classroom. Both how the poets enacted it in their classrooms in the late 60s and early 70s, and how I am trying to do it today at CUNY.  

Dan: Sounds like a marvelous project. How do you see this poetic teaching practice, as you call it, influencing the work that you want to do in the Associate Dean’s Office.  

Cheryl: That’s a good question! So, with this book, I feel like I have finally found my voice. I am a literary studies scholar. I have a PhD in literature, 17th century literature. I love literary studies and I enjoy working through close readings. For me, the close readings of poetry in the book are some of the best examples of me as an intellectual. 

On the other hand, I’m also a total pedagogy geek. I’m really into it. I’ve worked on faculty development my entire career. I’ve thought about teaching really deeply. I’ve written about teaching, and that’s in the book as well. So, this book is a way for me to express my split identity as a disciplined intellectual in my discipline and a teacher. I feel like I’ve always engaged with the intellectual work of the discipline, the theory of literary studies, in a different way. I was always interested in thinking about a kind of literary studies practice rooted in student advocacy.  

This book merges those things, and I think that this office can potentially merge my split intellectual mind in really useful ways too. I write about how teaching can be a poetic practice. I think administration can be a poetic practice as well. One of the elements of a poetic teaching practice is the importance of collaboration, the importance of teacher-student collaboration, of writing together, of opportunities to write together, of opportunities to share.  

I think administration can be more collaborative. It doesn’t have to be so top down. It can be about learning from one another. Sitting in meetings, we often have very prescribed roles, and we sort of sit with our titles and we operate from our titles. I think that there can always be ways in which we operate around our titles, through our titles, and despite our titles. We can share spaces in different ways, and get different kinds of work done, thinking more creatively about how to move forward.  

Part of a poetic teaching practice is also about saying that everyone should have access to beauty, awe, and pleasure. We often don’t talk about that. For college students, we don’t prioritize that. We don’t say, my learning goal is that a student will write something that they feel proud of because they think it’s beautiful. But that’s really important. I want that for my students. Poetry, as a form, as a practice, really helps us get there. The emotional connections that we have with one another, to school, and to learning are potentially poetic.  

I see the end point of the work I want do here as creating opportunities for students to have little moments of awe in their educational journeys. To bring a little poetry into the work we do together. I’m really excited to begin. 

Baruch Hosts United Nations Development Programme for New York City’s Climate Week

For the past 14 years near the end of September, the United Nations has hosted Climate Week NYC, one of the largest, global climate events of its kind. During the week, the East Side buzzes with activity as influential leaders from the private sector, governmental agencies, the climate community, and the serving members of the United Nations General Assembly fill the City of New York. Though Baruch College lies only blocks away from the United Nations, partnerships between the two institutions have been rare. This year however, with the instrumental help of Professor Shelly Eversley of the Black and Latino Studies Department, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), an organization which advises the UN on driving its sustainable development agenda, brought a panel of young climate activists to Baruch College for People’s Climate Vote Live. Together, through a series of talks, fireside chats, and a lively Q&A with our students, the three speakers offered an engaging exploration of how policymakers and advocates can move from conversation to political action in the fight against the impending climate crisis.

Formally, the event highlighted the results of the UNDP’s latest project, The People’s Climate Vote, the largest survey of public opinion on climate change ever conducted. With 1.2 million respondents across 50 countries, the project uses a novel approach to bring everyday people’s voices front and center in the climate conversation. Poll questions asking respondents whether or not they felt climate change was an emergency and which government initiatives they supported, were distributed to users through advertisements in mobile gaming apps in 17 languages. The poll resulted in a unique sampling of people of all genders, ages, and educational backgrounds. 

At the event, which was held in-person in The William And Anita Newman Vertical Campus Conference Center and live streamed around the world, coauthor of the People’s Climate Vote and internationally recognized expert on treaty negotiations around climate change, Cassie Flynn polled a full room of Baruch students, faculty, and staff. Like the respondents in the study, they were asked if they believed climate change was a global emergency. 100% of the audience said yes.

This majority response was typical of the study as a whole. When it comes to age, younger people (under 18) were more likely to say climate change is an emergency than older people, 65% of those aged 18-35 regardless of education, nationality, or economic status answered in the affirmative.

Flynn was soon joined by Ana Sophia Misfud, a climate advocate since middle school and one of Forbes 30 Under 30. Today, Ana Sophia is a Manager at Rocky Mountain Initiative where she works with cities and states to eliminate the use of fossil fuels in large buildings. Also making an appearance was Kevin Patel, the founder of OneUpAction International, an organization that supports and empowers marginalized youth by providing them with the resources they need to be advocates for their own communities on a range of environmental justice issues.

Perhaps most moving was the Q&A, as Baruch students from across disciplines lined up at the microphone to ask how an average person can create meaningful change around such a complicated, global issue.

In his welcome remarks at the event, President S. David Wu tied Baruch’s “ever-expanding commitment” to furthering research on climate change with the UN’s climate project.

“We will do this through our students—by launching them into climate-related leadership positions through our Climate Scholars Program, and through our faculty—by their groundbreaking research from the natural sciences to social sciences to the arts cross-discipline exhibitions. Their work helps us to understand what we stand to lose if we stay complacent, and what we stand to gain if we work together,” he said.

He went on to address how work represented by The Peoples Climate Vote aligns with Baruch’s mission to be the People’s University. “Our students are global,” he said, “they come here, in part, to learn how their voices can shape a more just and equitable future.”

In all, People’s Climate Vote Live represented a unique opportunity for Baruch students to join the conversation and to tangibly realize the ways in which their voices and insights matter. Their contributions, and Baruch’s partnership with UNDP, felt especially pertinent given that The People’s Climate Vote and its creative polling process, offers new ways to insure that the voices of youth activists from around the world are part of the climate conversation.

Check out a recording of the whole event on UNDP’s Twitter page.

A Message from Dean Jessica Lang

Dear Colleagues,

It gives me great pleasure to welcome you back to campus this Fall. I especially want to welcome the 34 new faculty members who have joined us for their first year at Baruch and in their home departments in the Weissman School of Arts and Sciences.

This Fall we welcome the largest freshman class Baruch has ever seen. And while we are certainly still living with COVID-19, for the first time since March 2020 our campus feels full—bustling with activity, energy, and excitement. In the Weissman School of Arts and Sciences, 75% of our classes are in person, the highest since the pandemic started. It is wonderful to be back.

In addition to welcoming new faculty and new students, the Dean’s office also welcomes new Interim Associate Dean Cheryl Smith, who formally assumes her position on September 1. I want to again thank Associate Dean Gary Hentzi for his many years of dedicated service to our students, faculty, and staff. Dr. Hentzi and Dr. Smith will be working together to ensure a smooth transition for the first six weeks of the semester, before Dr. Hentzi formally steps down to enjoy a much deserved sabbatical.

This upcoming year has much in store for the Weissman School of Arts and Sciences. Our two new majors, in Black and Latinx Studies and Computer Science, have officially been approved by New York State. I want to congratulate both departments and recognize the visionary leadership of Professors Shelly Eversley and Warren Gordon in advancing these new learning opportunities for our students. Equally exciting, this fall we have successfully launched Weissman’s first Executive Education Master’s Degree program in Industrial and Organizational Psychology. Program director Professor Charles Scherbaum, department chair Professor Jennifer Mangels, and WSAS Director of Graduate Studies, Leslie Ann Hunt, were integral to this extraordinary effort.

Our great hiring boom continues: the Weissman School of Arts and Sciences has been awarded 35 new full-time faculty lines, with searches taking place this academic year for Fall 2023 appointments. Between last year and this year, we will see nearly a 30% growth in our full-time faculty numbers. This is truly unprecedented at Weissman and at Baruch—and brings with it a sense of possibility and depth to the development of new knowledge through research, creative work, and teaching.

This semester will certainly bring with it challenges; we continue to learn to live and work in an era of public health and safety challenges that loom large. CUNY has designed guidelines to help us navigate these challenges (download here). Please know that many resources are in place at Baruch to support faculty, staff, and students, including counseling services for all students (Counseling Services – Student Affairs | Baruch College (cuny.edu)) and health and wellness benefits for faculty and staff (Benefits – Office of Human Resources (cuny.edu).

I wish you all a successful and joyful semester and look forward to seeing you at any number of on-campus gatherings that will take place this Fall.

All good wishes,


Jessica Lang
Weissman School of Arts and Sciences
Baruch College, CUNY

Black and Latino Studies Launches New Major

It’s official! Students can now major in Black and Latino Studies (BLS) at Baruch College.

The innovative degree track, housed at Weissman and chaired by Professor Shelly Eversley, adds five full-time, dedicated faculty members and breaks new ground by answering the call for a 21st century approach to race and ethnic studies — combining an explicitly anti-racist, interdisciplinary pedagogy with an emphasis on skills that will serve students no matter where they go from here.

According to Dr. Eversley, Baruch’s BLS degree will build upon ethnic studies’ perennial commitment to community engagement by making explicit connections between classroom learning and practical applications.

“All careers need problem solvers and critical thinkers” says Dr. Eversley, “BLS students will be able to think through challenges using multiple lenses for analysis. They’ll get experience working with the discourses of poetry, politics, history, and communication, just to name a few.”

While traditionally professional skills have been seen as separate from the kind of critical thinking engendered by a liberal arts education, Baruch’s BLS major is founded on the idea that interdisciplinary learning is the very bedrock of students’ future career ambitions. This more dialectical approach to course goals will prepare students for post-college life in both the public and private sectors, including education, human resources, public policy, journalism, the law, and economic development.

A unique component of the 30-credit degree program is a substantial fieldwork requirement. Students will receive course credit for their work with New York City-based and national organizations dedicated to advancing racial and social justice, gaining the operational and leadership skills they’ll build upon for the rest of their lives

At Baruch since 1970, the BLS program was originally born out of student activism calling for open education and more diverse representation in the student body, as colleges and universities across the country launched Black Studies departments for the first time. At that time, Baruch had one of the only combined Black and Latino Studies departments in the country, as other institutions established programs that treated these as separate fields. 

Building on this tradition of inclusion, the department centers the study of race, racism, and power while continuing to question categories of gender, sexuality, and class. This explicitly intersectional approach together with its cross-disciplinary scope, has always been a hallmark of Black and Latino Studies. Its introduction as a proper major at last, promises to offer new life to Baruch’s course offerings and make BLS’ commitment to the liberatory potential of critical race studies more central to CUNY’s mission.