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The Quarterly Magazine of Hostos Community College PROFESSING THE POWER OF PREVENTION Dr. Elys Vasquez-Iscan preaches proactivity to address societal issues What is the Eugenio María de Hostos Community College Foundation?


Questions with Willy Baez Lara, SGA President



How Hostos’ CBNP is helping to shape stronger communities

Fall 2016 Volume 1, No. 3



Fall 2016




elcome to Fall 2016 edition of the Caiman Chronicle.

The French philosopher and author Albert Camus once said: “Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.” If that is true, then now is the perfect time to celebrate the great things that are coming out of Hostos Community College. In this latest edition of the Caiman Chronicle, we looked for people who have dedicated their lives to finding solutions: people who transform. Our cover story features Assistant Professor and Presidential Fellow Elys VasquezIscan, from Hostos’ Education Department. Professor Vasquez-Iscan is committed to the power of prevention, whether it be in her classroom or addressing the needs of the community. We also will introduce you to Hostos’ Student Government Association President Willy Baez Lara, who wants to become an Architectural Engineer and build the “world’s best STEM high school in the Dominican Republic.” And, read about how the Hostos Foundation and the Development Office are working hard every day to raise support so our students’ lives can flower into something transformative and beautiful. Thank you and enjoy this issue.

AIMANChronicle Fall 2016 Vol. 1, No. 3

Publisher Institutional Advancement Division Office of Communications Manager Camille Currie Contributing Writers Camille Currie Ericka Douglas Richard Pietras Romain Suinat

Photography Ericka Douglas Arpi Pap Photography © Richard Pietras Romain Suinat Francisco López CUNY Ad Design & Production Ericka Douglas José R. García

Art, Editorial Design & Production José R. García


Caiman Chronicle




Willy Baez Lara, the President of the Student Government Association, moved back and forth from the Dominican Republic, before cementing himself in New York City and on the campus of Hostos. The 23-year-old is proud of the work he has done on and off campus as SGA President, and he is hoping to continue giving back after earning an advanced degree in Architectural Engineering.

Where are you from? I was born in New York City but was raised in the Dominican Republic. I moved here for good when I turned 21. How did you learn about Hostos? I actually learned about Hostos during a campus visit to City College of New York. It was there that I learned about the Dual Program for Civil Engineering. What are you studying? I am studying Civil Engineering at Hostos and will graduate in Spring 2017. From there, I plan to transfer to the University of Central Florida and earn a master’s degree in Architectural Engineering.



Fall 2016


How did get into that subject and why? My family is in the real estate business. I feel the best way to follow in my father’s footsteps is to learn how to design and build my own projects. What is your favorite movie? “The Pursuit of Happyness” What is your favorite book? “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” by Dale Carnegie. Why did you get involved in the Student Government Association (SGA)? First, I wanted to advocate for Hostos Community College students who do not have the available time to do so. Also, it is a great opportunity to develop leadership skills. What is the activity are you most proud of, related to the SGA? The GPA Watch event, where the SGA invited staff and faculty members to talk to students about multiple services that can help them raise their GPA. What do you enjoy doing when you are not at Hostos? Watching sports. I am a big sports fan. What are your future plans? Graduate with a master’s degree and give back to my community by building the best STEM high school in the Dominican Republic.

Division of

Continuing Education & Workforce Development Culinary Arts Certificate Program

Professional Skills Development for the Food & Beverage Industry

The Culinary Arts Skills Training is an introductory course designed to give students the skills and practical working knowledge to enter the Food Service Industry. With restaurant-industry job growth continuing to outpace the national economy, the opportunities for high-skill workers in professional kitchens continue to increase.

This course focuses on the tiers of food preparation including:

· Fundamental cooking techniques · Knife skills – food preparation · Butchering – meat, poultry, and seafood · Fundamental baking techniques and pastries · International cuisine education Course contents:

· 18 hours Food Handler’s License training · 8 hours classroom instruction · 80 hours kitchen skills training · 8 hours job readiness training Weekday program: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday 6:00pm - 10:00pm February 21 - April 26, 2017


Saturday program: 8:30am - 5:00pm February 25 - June 17, 2017

Call 718-518-6656 for details or email:

Dec. 15, 2016 Orientation Thursday, Feb. 4, 2017 Dates Saturday, Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2017

All students must attend a mandatory orientation prior to enrollment

Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2017

6:00pm 9:00am 6:00pm 6:00pm

Tel 718-518-6656 Fax 718-518-6744 #IamHostos Caiman Chronicle 560 Exterior Street, Bronx, NY 10451


President David Gómez; Hostos Community Foundation board of directors Elba Cabrera, Carolyn McLaughlin, and the Chairman José A. Sánchez-Kinghorn

What is the Hostos Foundation?

I The Hostos Hostos Foundation Foundation “provides “provides The community community and and financial financial support support to to the the cultural, cultural, artistic, artistic, literary, and educational activities” of the College.



Fall 2016

nnAmerica’s highlyphilanthropic philanthropic America’s highly culture, culture, there probably one there probably isn’t one dayisn’t that passes day thathearing passesorwithout hearing or without reading theword word “foundation” the reading the “foundation” in theinmedia. media. From celebrities making large to From celebrities making large donations donations to their the cause choice to the cause of choiceof to their former politicians former politicians and business moguls and business moguls establishing their own, establishing theirbecome own, foundations have foundations have a widely discussed become widely discussed So topic. So awidely discussed, thattopic. it often widely discussed, that it often becomes becomes a fuzzy concept that needs to be a fuzzy concept that needs to be explained explained in order to be fully understood. in order to be fully understood. So, takeaacloser closerlook look what So, let’s let’s take at at what thethe Hostos Foundationisisand and what it does. Hostos Foundation what it does. The Eugenio María de Hostos The Eugenio María de provides Hostos Community Community Foundation support provides support to the College. toFoundation the College. Its official purpose is official purpose is to “provide community toIts“provide community and financial and financial to the cultural, artistic, support to thesupport cultural, artistic, literary, literary, and educational activities” of the and educational activities” of the College. It is responsible for all private ItCollege. is responsible for all private fundraising fundraising made of on the behalf of the efforts madeefforts on behalf College, College, including the management and including the management and allocation of the fundsInraised. other words, ofallocation the funds raised. otherInwords, the the Foundation solicits communitypartners partners Foundation solicits community by promoting promoting the and values of by themission mission and values ofthethe College, assists cultivates College, assists and and cultivates private private createscholarships specific donors donors willing towilling create to specific scholarships students of benefiting the benefiting students of the Hostos, organizes Hostos, organizes and funds and funds various events, all thevarious while raising events, all the while raising funds and

spreading the wordthe about College’s funds and spreading wordthe about the important institutional mission. College’s important institutional mission. All of these responsibilities and All of these responsibilities and accomplishments are interrelated accomplishments are interrelated made and made possible thanks to aand highly possible thanks to a highly dedicated staff dedicated staff and Foundation Board of and Foundation Board Foundation-based of Directors. The latest Directors. The latest Foundation-based event was College’s event was the College’s 11ththeAnnual 11th Annual Golf Outing, which raised Golf Outing, which raised more thanmore than $100,000 for student scholarships. $100,000 for student scholarships. Established onMarch March 2004, Established on 24,24, 2004, the the Board comprised a chairperson Board isiscomprised of of a chairperson and and 19 19 engaged members, all of whom have engaged members, all of whom have vast vast experience in everything the experience in everything from thefrom financial financial servicestoindustry, to to non-profits, services industry, non-profits, education. to Thehave one in thing they have Theeducation. one thing they common is a in common a strong affinity strong affinityiswith the College andwith its the College andcommunity. its surrounding community. surrounding The individuals who have served The individuals who have served Hostos Hostos through its Foundation truly value through its Foundation truly value what what the institution stands for and believe the institution stands for and believe in the in the important of Hostos. They put important of Hostos. They put their minds to their minds to work each day in order to work each day in order to ensure the Hostos ensure the Hostos Foundation continues Foundation continues to aid financially to aid financially challenged students, challenged students, move them closer to move them closer to graduation, and graduation, and provide the support the provide the support the College needs to College needs to pursue its mission. pursue its mission.

The mission of Eugenio MarĂ­a de Hostos Community College is to offer access to higher education leading to intellectual growth and socio-economic mobility through the development of linguistic, mathematical, technological, and critical thinking proficiencies needed for lifelong learning and for success in a variety of programs including careers, liberal arts, transfer, and those professional programs leading to licensure. The College takes pride in its historical role in educating students from diverse ethnic, racial, cultural and linguistic backgrounds, particularly Hispanics and African Americans. An integral part of fulfilling its mission is to provide transitional language instruction for all English-as-a-Second-Language learners along with Spanish/English bilingual education offerings to foster a multicultural environment for all students. Hostos Community College, in addition to offering degree programs, is determined to be a resource to the South Bronx and other communities served by the College by providing continuing education, cultural events, and expertise for the further development of the communities it serves.

Thank you for your generous support‌



Hostos students graduate debt-fr DEBT FREE

To make a gift to the Hostos Community Foundation, please visit:


Caiman Chronicle




Fall 2016

PROFESSING THE POWER OF PREVENTION Dr. Elys Vasquez-Iscan preaches proactivity to address societal issues


n Hostos Presidential Fellow and Assistant Professor in the Health Education and Gerontology units, Dr. Vasquez-Iscan spent much of her life studying and trying to solve societal problems by attacking and addressing the root source. Her career was shaped early on, while working with some of the most vulnerable and underserved members of society. Whether it was helping incarcerated mothers infected with HIV/AIDS or men behind bars working toward a college degree, her philosophy might be best summed up by the proverb: “Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.” Vasquez-Iscan got a jarring introduction to the power of proactive practices working as a graduate student at Rikers Island Prison during the AIDS crisis in early 2000. Seeing mothers give birth to HIV-infected infants, she realized the unspeakable situation was also preventable. “It was already too late for the babies whose mothers weren’t being tested and treated,” Vasquez-Iscan said. “But when we tested a mother early on and put them on AZT, we found within a couple of months, the virus was gone in their child. That’s when I learned to appreciate the role of prevention because if you can prevent one baby from dying, that is one person who can grow up and have a positive impact on society.” That experience inspired Vasquez-Iscan to apply for a Fulbright Research Grant.

Applicants for the international awards design their own projects and will typically work at foreign universities or other institutes of higher education. Wanting to expand on her knowledge about HIV/AIDS — and prevention in particular — her application was accepted, and she spent 2002 and 2003 in Brazil, researching, studying and working. “What we were doing in the United States in the 1990s was not working,” said Vasquez-Iscan. “And, at that time, Brazil was getting a lot of international attention for its National AIDS Program. It was an eye-opening experience.”

Elys Vasquez-Iscan is a preventative force of nature.

Vasquez-Iscan witnessed how using generic medication, which treated people free of charge, and grassroots movements that destigmatized HIV were having positive effects. She found the approach was much more coordinated and advanced. HIV victims were sitting at the table and being part of the solution. She also saw first-hand how the distribution of free condoms at the wildly popular Carnival of Brazil played a huge role in stopping the spread of the disease. It played a large part in her professional development.


Caiman Chronicle



(Left to right) Herve Fossou, who graduated from Hostos in 2015, with Professor Vasquez-Iscan.

I tell my students that someday I want “them to be among my peers. I don’t always want to be seen as a mentor

Vasquez-Iscan returned to the United States infused with a fresh perspective and more dedicated than ever to make a difference. In 2009, as a program planner with the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, she was part of a team that took a revolutionary approach to addressing the HIV/ AIDS epidemic. Drawing from the experience in Brazil, she helped to launch the first New York City free condom distribution project. Using a strategic approach and promotion at “points of intercept,” condoms were handed out in areas of high risk, in high schools, and colleges. At that time, it was a very novel approach. Today, it almost seems commonplace. “It was an opportune time to do something like that, and it also was a great time to work directly with young adults,” she said. “Condoms became more normalized and that was a big step in the right direction in the prevention of HIV/AIDS.” That experience helped Vasquez-Iscan while she worked on her dissertation for the doctoral program at Teachers College at Columbia University, where she focused on the health behavior of young adults and college students. “I really wanted to look at what was working at the time and the coping strategies during the era of HIV. It was an incredibly important time, too, because this was the first generation where HIV was a part of life,” Vasquez-Iscan said. The budding social educator also realized she was often one of the few people of color at the table, so to speak, in these discussions. She thought if the populations she was working with saw someone they could identify with, they were more likely to listen and use the information. “I realized if I could impact the next generation of healthcare professionals by fostering a pipeline of racial and ethnic minorities students to enter the health field from different avenues, it could really effect a positive change down the road.”

— Elys Vasquez-Iscan

MENTORING THE CHANGE-MAKERS OF TOMORROW Although she had worked at Hostos as an adjunct professor as part of College Now since 2007—CUNY’s largest collaborative program with the New York City secondary public school system—a retirement opened the door for her to join the staff full-time in 2013. Always looking to be a mentor, VasquezIscan helped funnel six students to



Fall 2016

Elys Vasquez-Iscan worked with the incarcerated and other prison educators at Sing Sing Maximum Correctional Facility in Ossining, NY, at the National Coalition Workshop for Prison Education.

CUNY’s Sophie Davis School of Biomedical Education while with College Now. Some of those same students are now studying at the Ohio State University College of Medicine. When she became full-time faculty at Hostos—teaching Nutrition, Introduction to Community Health, Substance Abuse, Contemporary Health Issues, Bilingual Health Issues, and other courses—she again used her experience with the NYC Department of Health Research Training Program (where she interned herself) to help students launch their careers. “At Hostos, I have always taken on the role of mentor, not just classroom instructor. It lets me provide my students ‘social capital’ by having conversations and offering support. For some of my students, I am the first person they have talked to about earning a graduate degree or a Ph.D.,” Vasquez-Iscan said. One of those students is Herve Fossou, who graduated from Hostos in 2015. The 41-year-old emigrated from the Ivory Coast in West Africa to the U.S. in 2010 and found Professor Vasquez-Iscan to be much more than a teacher during, and after, his time at Hostos. “Having Professor Vasquez-Iscan as a professor and counselor gave me an incredible amount of energy and motivation that increased my desire to be successful in my academic preparation and the public health field,” Fossou said. “Her commitment, dedication, and willingness to help students grow in their academic and professional lives is something I will never forget.” While majoring in Community Health at Hostos, and with his mentor’s help, Fossou blossomed. Some of his many accomplishments include being accepted to the New York City’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s “Health and Research Training Program,” as well as being the first president of the Community Health Club at Hostos. Fossou is set to graduate from Lehman College in Spring 2017 with a bachelor’s degree in Community Health Education and Promotion. He is now applying to Columbia’s University Mailman School of Public Health, where he plans to study epidemiology. His mentor not only wrote letters of recommendation for his internship and Columbia application, she asked Fossou to help with a research project she is currently working on concerning HIV prevention strategies among Bronx college students. “I tell my students that someday I want them to be among my peers. I don’t always want to be seen as a mentor,” Vasquez-Iscan said.

COMING FULL CIRCLE AT HOSTOS Vasquez-Iscan learned she had a lot in common with Hostos when she interviewed current and former faculty members for a documentary she made in the fall of 2014 about the “Hostos AIDS Task Force.” Spending one full summer in the Hostos archives, she found out that Hostos was the first college in New York City to offer free HIV testing during the initial outbreak of the disease. She also was proud to learn that while most people in the city were turning their heads and running away from the epidemic, Hostos was running in—a fact she shares with her students when she screens the documentary. Fast-forward to 2016, and Vasquez-Iscan is busy supporting Hostos’ new Food Studies Program, the first of its kind in the nation that is educating people in and around the Bronx about food-related issues and industries to empower them to address longstanding socioeconomic concerns in their communities. She also teaches incarcerated students about health at the NYS Otisville Correctional Facility, as part of John Jay College’s Prisonto-College Pipeline Program. Her students include current Hostos student Lumumba Woods and alumnus Devon Simmons, the first graduate of the program who was the cover story for the Summer Edition of the Caiman Chronicle. And, looking to stem the tide of sugary drinks that are having a negative effect on health in the borough and beyond, she recently helped spearhead the “Healthy Beverage Zone” (HBZ), a collaborative initiative being launched thanks to a grant she obtained from the Aetna Foundation. Her expertise is also recognized statewide, as Vasquez-Iscan was just recently appointing me to the New York State HIV Advisory Body (HAB) as a voting board member. As part of this group, she will provide advice on service needs, affected populations and emerging issues related to HIV prevention, healthcare and supportive services throughout New York State. Through it all, her mission remains clear. “I feel myself, and all educators really, are much more than teachers,” VasquezIscan said. “We can’t think of ourselves solely as professors. We are all really activists, because what we do is advocate for the truth and the betterment of humanity.” Luckily, for her students and her peers, she has been that and more. “Professor Vasquez-Iscan has helped Hostos serve our community by educating

students about healthy choices. That seems simple, but it is incredibly important in the environment we live and work in,” said Hostos Provost Christine Mangino. “Whether it is teaching at Otisville Correctional Facility, so the incarcerated can re-enter society prepared to be productive, or helping to shape our Food Studies curriculum, so our students can become change agents themselves, her dedication and expertise in preventative measures is to be applauded. It has truly made a difference in the lives of so many people.”

MORE ABOUT DR. ELYS VASQUEZ-ISCAN Elys Vasquez-Iscan holds a master’s in public health degree from New York University and a doctorate degree in Health Education from Teachers College, Columbia University. She is also currently working with the Bronx District Public Health Office in creating a food dessert survey to assess barriers to adopting healthy eating behavior in the South Bronx. As part of her efforts to promote health and health careers to underserved populations, she is a member of the planning committee and contributor to the health curriculum of the Health Education and Research Opportunity (HERO) high school in the South Bronx. HERO High School has been noted by Mayor Bill de Blasio for serving as a bridge high school; awarding high school students from the South Bronx the opportunity to simultaneously obtain a high school diploma and an associate’s degree in a health-related field. Vasquez-Iscan also mentors a vast amount of ethnic and racial minority doctoral students during the dissertation process. She has worked as a program planner for the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene in the Bureau of HIV/ AIDS and has served as a consultant for the United Nations and is currently a voting member of the New York State HIV Advisory Board, an advisory body to the New York State Department of Health AIDS Institute.


Caiman Chronicle




WRITERS & PHOTOGRAPHERS!!! Attention Hostos Students, Faculty and Staff!!! It’s time to sharpen your writing skills and focus your lenses! Your passion for writing or keen eye for photography is needed.

For more information, contact: Camille Currie Director of Communications or 718-518-4334


Sketchnotes by

Build your portfolio by volunteering for the recently launched Caiman Chronicle, a quarterly magazine all about the achievements and journey of Hostos students, faculty, staff and supporters.


n the midst of an intense national debate on community policing and neighborhood conflict, the Hostos Center for Bronx Nonprofits (CBNP) brought together a group of influential community leaders, elected officials and law enforcement to share critical perspectives on a galvanizing issue. The proactive dialogue created a productive, face-to-face discussion about ongoing conflicts between the community and police agencies, as well as an opportunity to create solutions on how to turn potentially combative situations into civil, openminded learning opportunities. CBNP Executive Director Eileen Newman, who coordinated the event, said she was encouraged by the outcome. “It was Hostos’ and the CBNP’s pleasure to bring together so many diverse members of the community to talk with each other. We see these types of events as our responsibility, and this was a big first step toward helping our communities identify and solve ever-present concerns.”

Councilwoman Vanessa L. Gibson, who served on the panel, said: “It’s very important that we have these difficult and sensitive conversations about policing, the justice system in the country and on a local level, and what we can do to reduce and end gun violence. And, what we do in our community is equally as important. You don’t need a title to do the work. If you’re a resident and care about your brother or sister, you can get involved and make sure your voice is heard. Building relationships, and sustaining and maintaining community partnerships, is crucial. Gibson was joined on the panel with James Rivera, Program Manager for Save our Streets; Rabbi Bob Kaplan, Director for the Center for Community Leadership (JCRC-NY); Sgt. Matthew Feigenbaum, NCO Officer from the NYPD 40th Precinct; Letisha Boyd, College and Community Fellowship; and Javier López, City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. Hostos Professor Sandy Figueroa served as the moderator.

Event Highlights Hostos prides itself on building our community with a strong foundation through events and outreach practices. From political figures to student game-changers, Hostos believes in the spirit of people.


Here are just a few highlights of our mission thus far.

Hostos Community College values its alumni, and their power to help the College achieve its mission.

Student Fair 2016 September 7 Hostos celebrated the kick-off of the Fall semester with a 2016 Student Fair that included information booths, games and prizes.

Hostos College Foundation Annual Golf Outing September 16 The 11th Annual Golf Outing raised more than $100,000 for student scholarships and support services. The event included 120 golfers, Title Sponsor Barnes & Noble, Lunch Sponsor Alpha Medical Equipment, and Dinner Sponsor Heating & Burner Supply, as well as Premium Foursomes, and golf hole sponsors.

Bomplenazo October 6 The biennial celebration of Afro-Puerto Rican music and dance was a wild success this year with a special theme, as it was dedicated to the memory of José “Chema” Soto, who passed away in 2015, Soto was known as a patriarch of the musical style.

Mock Presidential Draft November 2 The Assisting Latinos to Maximize Achievement (A.L.M.A.) Club and Jerry Rosa, Director of Student Activities, hosted the “2016 Get Out And Vote” event. Secretary Hillary Clinton was portrayed by Professor Alisa Roost, while Donald Trump was portrayed by Professor Rafael Mejía.

These volunteers have personal knowledge of the high quality of instruction and outstanding academic programs Hostos offers.

If you would like more information or have questions about the Bureau, please contact:

Hostos Water Initiative September 28 New water fountains on campus were installed to refill water bottles. The design also features a digital display that indicates how many water bottles are being saved from waste dumps on a daily basis.

The Office of Alumni Relations created the Hostos Alumni Speakers Bureau,
a free service to the community. Experts in
various fields are available to give presentations about their academic and professional achievements.

Nydia Edgecombe, Director Office of Alumni Relations Hostos Community College 718-518-4180 or

Hostos Alumni Office

BY THE NUMBERS: Alumni Speakers Bureau launched in 2012 at the last Hostos Homecoming Celebration More than 20 presentations by volunteer members conducted More than 80 members are alumni speakers Hostos’ alumni network is strong, with 17,228 out of approximately 25,000 graduates officially remaining involved with the College


Caiman Chronicle


This Year I… “This school year I hope to learn how to fully use technology to produce music. For a long time I had others produce music for me. I want to learn myself and become a skilled music producer.”

“This school year I aim to meet new people. I want to become more involved with student clubs. I also want to gain more skills in juggling being a serious scholar (as a member of Phi Theta Kappa) and being social outside of my studies.”

— Keith Irving Major: Digital Music

“This school year I hope to gain even more knowledge. To broaden my experiences on and off campus.”

“This school year I want to excel in my classes, and become more aware of myself as a person. Outside of campus life I hope to continue my goals to become more aware of society. Such as those not being respected by the law. My professors at Hostos have done an amazing job helping me with knowing what human rights are.” — Hillary Monegro

Major: Food Studies

— Linette Rondon Major: Criminal Justice



Fall 2016

— Vanessa Pujols Major: Civil Engineering

“This school year I hope to maintain my GPA and personally continue to maintain my lifestyle of eating healthy and staying active.” — Chris Goh Major: Nursing

DREAM MAKER Yoel RodrĂ­guez

Associate Professor, Chemistry, Physics, Environmental Science Hostos Community College/CUNY

HISTORY Prepares minority and other students for careers in science, technology, engineering and math.

ACCOMPLISHMENTS 2016 Fulbright Fellowship to the Institute of Experimental Pharmacology and Toxicology of the Slovak Academy of Sciences in Bratislava, seeking new heart medications.

GOAL To help students build a solid academic and personal foundation for their lives.


Caiman Chronicle


Caiman Chronicle Magazine, V1, N3  

Fall 2016 Volume 1, No. 3

Caiman Chronicle Magazine, V1, N3  

Fall 2016 Volume 1, No. 3