From Pace to Peralvillo: Rohana Sosa helps communities in the Domincan Republic

Seidenberg student Rohana Sosa (BS in Computer Science) recently participated in the Pace Setters Leadership Program on a non-profit advocacy project that took her to the Dominican Republic to assist vulnerable communities. Rohana’s work both here at Pace and within the community in Peralvillo, Domincan Republic, is both humbling and inspirational. Rohana sent us the following about her experiences – so read on!

Lifting up people is the world’s most beautiful gift. This January 2017, I had a rewarding learning experience assisting communities living in poverty in the Dominican Republic. Having this experience provided me with the knowledge to share with others how we can all be unified and bring peace to all.

As a computer science student at the Seidenberg School, I truly enjoy that being a humanitarian creates a balance between connecting the world through technology and actual in-person interaction to help heal others. Seeing smiles on the faces of people I worked with shows huge positive impact through being a donor of love. It was heartbreaking to see the struggle to simply survive, but inspiring to witness how unified the Dominican community truly is despite lifelong hardship.

My fellow volunteers and I were so happy to be blessed with sunshine the day we went to Peralvillo, Yamasá to bring healing, hope, and happiness to the poor in Dominican Republic through volunteering with the not-for-profit organization Juan Bautista Gautreaux Foundation.

The Juan Bautista Gautreaux Foundation was founded by my grandfather in February, 2000, to provide assistance and health for those most in need.

Since my freshman year at Pace University, I have been inspired and naturally driven to create a shared sense of belonging and purpose into building a resilient community in the Dominican Republic. There is a lot of potential in the long term for the Foundation to assist the growth of sustainable communities and help the most vulnerable develop their own abilities. Unfortunately, a lack of funding has prevented the Foundation from achieving its full effect. I aim to help revive it because striving for the well-being of the most vulnerable is worth it, especially for those who have special needs and who are elderly. As part of this, I chose to serve those in most need in DR as my Advocacy Project for graduating from the Pace Setters Leadership Program this May 2017.

The community needs an act of healing and renewal so I have taken the time to listen, connect, and support those in most need through service this January 2017. Having contributed more than 400 hours of community service throughout my academic years, my natural desire and motivation to serve has grown stronger with this project.

 

What Happened

Benefit Dinner Events & DR Mission Trip November 2016 & January 2017:

New York, Pace PLV Campus: The Benefit Dinner I hosted with my volunteers at the Kessel Multi-Purpose Room on November 13th, 2016, collected donations to bring relief to families in need in the Dominican Republic. Pace WPAW was the DJ of the event and there were four raffles as well. My mentor, Vincent Birkenmeyer (Vinnie), was a tremendous help for me to organize the event months in advance and I will always be grateful for his support. Vinnie and Pace Restaurant Sponsor with Pace Residence Life were able to provide the dinner. Donations of non-perishable food, toiletries, gently used clothing and shoes, as well as educational supplies for all ages, were accepted at this dinner and during tabling sessions (information sessions). Handcrafted accessories I crocheted were sold in exchange for donations. I made necklaces, scarves, headbands, and butterfly-bouquets. I created a website and sell these accessories to continue raising money to donate.

Hosting the event was one of the best short-term ways for me to help solve the large-scale problems and primary necessities faced by the most underprivileged which include: damaged housing that is not safe to live in, medications, sanitation units, fresh water, adequate living and academic supplies, and school support. After the event, we reached our goal of packaging six extra-large boxes to ship overseas to Dominican Republic.

Trip to Peralvillo, Yamasá – Dominican Republic:

While walking on mountainous trails to bring food for those families in most need, my volunteers and I witnessed extreme living conditions, which include broken down outhouses made out of rags and twigs. We personally brought food packages to twelve different homes of elderly people and learned about their needs. The team and I visited the sick, blind, and injured. Many homes had no lighting and water for their homes. We met one elderly woman in her eighties who was missing a leg. Sadly, this elderly woman passed away in February 2017. Other people were suffering from osteoporosis, asthma, and depression. A bedridden and sickly man, father of two elderly sickly siblings, about 101 years old, smiled at us because he was so excited to have visitors stop by his room, a dark shack with sand and dirt for floors and dogs roaming around. His daughter was in tears because she was so happy that we came to bring her food.

Back on the site of my grandfather’s foundation, there were approximately 100 people from the community in need who showed up to receive donations. The team and I helped kids make Vision Boards so they can draw what they want to aspire when they grow up. We made sandwiches to feed everyone and gave out juice, distributed the donated clothes and toothpaste with toothbrushes. I taught young girls how to crochet as well so they can continue to build that skill to help their families. School bags with supplies were given to kids too. There was so much excitement and joy at this moment. Everyone who received their donation was so grateful to us and showed their gratitude with lots of hugs and smiles. It was incredible to see the huge positive impact we all created with combined efforts from NY and DR.

Poverty can be greatly reduced when people create dreams to strive for. My hope is that with this volunteer experience is that we helped developed courage, strength, and creativity in the lives of those in need so they can develop a better overall quality of life.

The experience was made possible thanks to my grandfather, Dalio Gautreaux (president of the Juan Bautista Gautreaux Foundation); my mother who is always there with me every step of the way, especially with this project; my father in heaven who inspires me everyday to achieve goals; my mentor, Vincent Birkenmeyer; family and friends; volunteers in NY and DR; Seidenberg School of CSIS and Pace University faculty and staff; and the Pace Setters Leadership Program for giving me this opportunity to make an impact on a global scale.

Thank you so much for sharing your experience with us, Rohana!

Check Rohana’s website if you’re interested in buying handmade accessories to support communities in the Dominican Republic

You can also connect with Rohana on LinkedIn and read her blog, Tech Bytes for Women.

LST Honoree Speaker Series: Judy Spitz, Part II

See the first part of this interview here!

Welcome back! This is the second part of Judy Spitz’s incredible interview with Seidenberg student Niamh Fitzsimon. The event is the first in a series featuring previous winners of our prestigious Leadership and Service in Technology (LST) award.

Tickets for the LST Awards in April are available now!

One of the topics that kept reoccurring during Niamh’s interview with Judy is something very close to our heart at the Seidenberg School: women in technology. Niamh herself is Vice President of the student organization Pace Women in Tech. She asked whether Judy found that being a woman ever played a part in how she worked with her teams.

“No, it never changed anything that I did, one way or the other. I will say that there’s all this data that shows that women feel like they need to meet 120% of the job requirements to apply for the job. Men are in the 50-60% range. Don’t look at job ads and say oh I can’t do that part I shouldn’t apply for it. Men look and say ‘oh, I can do most of those things’ and that’s plenty.

“Once, early in my career, I got called into the senior executive’s office and he said ‘I want to give you this job’. I said to him ‘I’m not sure that I’m qualified for that job’. He looked at me like I had three heads. I’m not sure he’d ever had anyone in that office he’d offered a promotion to who said no, thanks. The lesson is that if someone who knows you thinks you’re qualified for a job, you probably are.”

Judy went on to tell the audience to trust themselves more. “Your instincts are usually the right instincts.”

While on the topic of women in tech, Judy took some time to talk about how WiTNY came to be.

“The number of jobs in the technology industry has gone up but the number of women participating has gone down. During my time at Verizon, I became alarmed at the small amount of women coming up behind me. Who was going to be the next CIO? I got the WiTNY program going, a 5 year initiative to get more women studying STEM.”

The Women in Technology and Entrepreneurship in New York, or WiTNY initiative, aims to significantly increase the participation of women in STEM fields in the New York market. Through strategic initiatives, WiTNY mainly works on enabling high school girls preparing for college to focus on STEM paths and secure rewarding and lucrative careers within the tech field.

As an institution with our own Women in Technology initiatives, like STEM Women Achieve Greatness (SWAG) and Pace Women in Tech, we think WiTNY is a wonderful, extremely valuable project.

Head to part 3 of Judy Spitz’s amazing interview here!

This was the first event in our three-event series, with the next taking place on March 22nd with Nicholas Donofrio, IBM Fellow Emeritus (Ret.) IBM Executive Vice President, Innovation and Technology, on our Westchester campus. The final event will be an interview with Austin A. Adams, Executive Vice President and Chief Information Officer (Ret.), JPMorgan Chase, at our NYC campus on April 19th.

The LST Honoree Speaker Series is part of a run up to our annual benefit, the Leadership and Service in Technology Awards. Tickets are available now!

Part 3

Krutika Wadhwa brings Indian culture and dance to the Pace University stage

“I’ve never been so proud of being an Indian before!”

Listening to Krutika Wadhwa (BS in Computer Science ’19) talk about Amateur Night is exhilarating. It turns out that not only is she a stunning traditional dancer, but she can tell a great story too – something she attributes to her mother’s writing talents and her own journey through elocution lessons.

Krutika is our only Indian undergraduate student, something she attributes to an unfortunate myth in international communities that undergraduates don’t get scholarships. Krutika herself gained scholarships on her acceptance to Pace that made her moving to the United States possible.

As well as being the one person you can count on to have a smile on her face, Krutika is a Seidenberg front desk staff member and probably spends more time here than anywhere else. We’re more than cool with it.

On March 2nd, she participated in Pace University’s Amateur Night, a showcase of some of the community’s top talent at the Schimmel Center.

The performance was a vibrant, energetic, traditional Indian dance which left an impression not just on Krutika, but on the community as a whole.

Read on to hear all about our smiliest student’s incredible experience.

Why did you decide to perform at Amateur Night?

I attended Amateur Night last year – it was my first event at Pace university! I had just come to the United States, and it was very inspiring to see all these students perform. I thought about how cool it would be if I did an Indian dance – people who had never seen something like that before, how awesome would that be? I made a mental note: do it myself next year. When the time came, I had to do two rounds of auditions before the final show. I did two routines, one for each audition. The second routine is the one I did on stage. Throughout the whole process I was never nervous about how it would go, because I was not expecting anything. Everybody in that show was already a singer or dancer and was a major in that field, and I was the only computer science student!

On the day, I was getting a little nervous because it was going to be in front of an audience, not just judges. I didn’t know how they would take it, seeing something they hadn’t seen before. I didn’t know my audience, I was going in blind. But I had awesome friends. Melanie Greene and Rachel Gonzalez (fellow Seidenberg students) helped me get ready. They even researched traditional Indian clothing for me to wear and helped me get dressed! And when the time came, I walked into the dressing room and all other 13 contestants were there and it was very intimidating – sharing one space with all who were competing.

I was nervous. I hadn’t been on stage performing in 4 years. Pace gave me that and I’m very grateful for it. I didn’t know if I still had it in me, and when I walked into the dressing room everyone was checking me out top to bottom because I was dressed in this weird outfit! They asked all these questions: what did I have on my hand, why did I have henna on, they complimented my jewelry. I couldn’t talk to anyone, but gradually I started. One of the best parts was that people could tell I was nervous and that it was my first time, and they spoke to me, made me feel comfortable. They told me not to worry about it, told me not to stress.

I was the second to last performer, so the nerves were building all night. Once it began, it was fast. I was backstage watching the performer before me and I told myself “just enjoy yourself. That’s what you’re here for. You’re going to get to do what you love and it’s going to be great.” Then it was my turn. I walked on stage. I cannot tell you how awesome the crowd was. As someone who was so scared and worried in the morning about what people would think, I was there on stage and people were screaming and it was just incredible. During the transition between the two songs, people screamed so loudly I will never forget it. I remember performing one move with so much energy and enthusiasm it’s etched in my memory for life. After I got off stage, I was crying. I was so happy. The best reaction was from the other contestants. They had all seen me perform and found me halfway to the dressing room. They surrounded me and gave me compliments, they told me how they saw I was nervous then I came on stage and it was like seeing someone totally different.

The best reaction though was from the crowd. About 5% of the audience was Indian, but that’s about it. People were coming up to me and said they had been so happy to see me perform. I was approached by some second generation Indians who told me that they felt represented by me, that it was the first time they had felt that way at an event not specifically for Indians.

At that point, I didn’t care if I won or if I lost, it didn’t matter. The response that I got, I don’t think I could’ve gotten that from an Indian only audience. People were just so welcoming and sweet to me.

I was representing my community, and the Seidenberg community. Most of my Seidenberg family was there, which made me feel very happy.

Krutika came second in the competition, scoring a $500 award for her stunning performance.

In the end, winning second place didn’t really have much of an impact on Krutika’s experience. “After coming to Pace, I get to do all the things I loved doing in India. My mom is so happy back home in India because I’m happy.

“I have not been this happy ever before. I am doing so much here I couldn’t even have dreamed of in India. It’s not just me, it’s my parents. They can feel happy that the decision they made is the right one. They’ve even become Seidenberg International Parent Ambassadors in India.”

Krutika, we love you (and your parents). We also can’t wait for you to teach us your moves. Thank you for sharing your thrilling experience and what it means to you with your Seidenberg family!

Accepted students came to meet us and it was awesome

The first weekend of March brought frigid temperatures, but many students who have been accepted to the Seidenberg School braved the weather to meet us for lunch and learn with the Dean events on both campuses.

On the Pleasantville campus, accepted students and their parents visited Seidenberg for the first time for a warm, friendly event that included games, presentations, lunch, and the chance to get to know our community a little better. Seidenberg students, faculty, and staff attended to meet with our prospective new students – it was a lot of fun and we were delighted to meet the students we have invited to join us in the fall.

To offer a little taste of our academic program, we held a cryptography competition: teams were given a decoder pinwheel and had to crack several codes. The first few to finish were awarded prizes, so the competition got pretty heated and many a Seidenberg t-shirt was won. Congratulations to our winners!

There were also presentations from Matt Ganis, a Seidenberg alum who works at IBM. Professor Ganis also teaches here at Seidenberg – he offers classes in programming for Python.

Dean Dr. Jonathan Hill also made some remarks.

“College is both a choice and a cultural fit,” said Dean Hill, emphasizing the importance of finding the right program and community for your individual needs.

The next day, in New York, the lunch and learn took place as part of an overnight #PaceBound event happening at Pace University. There was an impressive turnout as accepted students and their parents flocked to join us for presentations, food, and fun!

Just like the Pleasantville event, faculty, students and staff enjoyed meeting new accepted students and getting the opportunity to chat about just what makes Seidenberg so special.

Seidenberg students Connor, Melanie, Eiman and Christian sat on a panel discussion and shared their experiences and the opportunities they have received as students at Pace. They also offered tips on how to navigate college-work-internships balance and their favorite things about Seidenberg.

Guest appearances were also made in the form of Lego robots – part of a programming challenge that got students thinking about code (there’s no such thing as a day off here!).

Seeing programming come to life in a hands-on exercise really helps cement the idea of just what you can do with programming.

We very much hope that everybody who attended our lunch and learn events had an excellent time. We certainly did – and we hope to see you here in the fall!

Want to learn about upcoming events? Connect with us!

Pace Women in Tech celebrates official club status in first meeting

The Pace Women in Tech club held its first meeting as an official Pace organization on Monday, February 6, 2017. Led by Seidenberg students Eiman Ahmed and Niamh Fitzsimon, the meeting was a brief introduction to the club and the plans for the upcoming semester.

Aimed to be a welcoming group where members can make new friends and build a peer network, Pace Women in Tech already has a lot planned for this year. Hackathons, internship workshops, and potential attendance to the 2017 Grace Hopper Celebration conference in Orlando, Florida, were just some of the things on the table.

The group aims to meet every two weeks and new members are welcome to join them for discussions, workshops and the chance to meet guest speakers from the tech industry – all over free pizza, of course.

“We want to spread awareness for the underrepresented group of women in technology,” said Ava Posner (BS in IT ’18). “My goal is to bring Seidenberg students – especially women – together so they have a network of individuals they can share experiences with, ask questions, and make new friends.”

Pace Women in Tech has an active Facebook group that is recommended for members not only so they can stay up to date with meetings and events here at Seidenberg but for local hackathons and other events taking place outside Pace.

Melanie Greene and Dr. James Lawler present inclusion programs for students with disabilities

By Melanie Greene

It was an honor to attend  the Faculty Resource Network’s National Symposium in Atlanta in November. I co-presented with Dr. James Lawler on inclusion programs for students with disabilities in the Seidenberg School. I spoke about the class I took with Dr. Lawler (CIS 102w Web Design for a Not-for-Profit Organization), mentoring students in AHRC’s junior high school and high school programs (they had different levels of autism; one was more severe than the other), mentoring and tutoring Adil Sanai, tutoring his students last semester in his two CIS 102w courses, the two research projects we worked on together, and being a co-moderator for the Disability Film Festival. I got the chance to speak about all of my experiences that I have had working with people with disabilities.

I am uplifted and inspired by Dr. Lawler’s drive and commitment to give people with disabilities access to a college education. I support everything that he is doing.​ I get very emotional talking about all the adventures and learning experiences I have had with Dr. Lawler – they have been life changing opportunities that affect me deeply.

During the conference, we went to three different schools: Morehouse College (an all-male college where Dr. Martin Luther King went), Spelman College (all-female college), and Clark Atlanta University (co-ed).  All of the schools were beautiful, it was a privilege to visit them. I got choked up when we went to Morehouse College because Dr. King went there. I felt like I was walking through history. At the school they had a picture of President Obama delivering the Commencement speech in 2013 and I was in awe: both President Obama and Dr. Martin Luther King’s presences were there.

At the conference, I got the chance to meet other professors from schools  in NY, Atlanta, Hawaii, and others. I enjoyed listening to their research and learning about how we could use social media and technology platforms to teach millennials.

Dr. Lawler and I went to a delicious Italian restaurant one night and a Brazilian restaurant (it was my first time going to a Brazilian restaurant). We invited a professor from Spelman College that I met to join us for dinner, which was a lot of fun. One night our bus broke down which was an experience in itself. The bus was literally like the engine that could. When we broke down one professor started to play Bob Marley “Don’t Worry” and we all chimed in – it was priceless. The bus kept trying to get us all back to the hotel, but unfortunately it failed. We had to walk back to the hotel. On our final day we visited the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site. I was overwhelmed with emotion, I had the chills the whole time – history was brought to life. To walk where Dr. King walked, to stand in the area where he preached in Ebenezer Baptist Church, to see the pole in the firehouse where he played on as a child, and lastly to see his grave was indescribable.

My favorite part of the trip was having the privilege to present with Dr. Lawler.  This certainly is a weekend that I will never forget. I thank Dr. Lawler and the Seidenberg School for giving me the opportunity to attend this conference. I will always cherish the incredible memories from this trip.