CIE Alum, Dr. Marvin Jaime-Vasquez Returns for Speaker Series Event

Here at the Center for Inclusive Education, we consider it an honor whenever an alum returns to participate in one of our programs or events. We believe there is much for current CIE scholars to learn from their past experiences, as well as where their career paths have led them. It is truly inspirational to listen to stories about the exciting research projects with which they are engaged, the places they have traveled and the connections they have made along the way. We are humbled when they mention the role we may have played in positioning and preparing them for their careers – whether it be through a program-specific funding mechanism, a professional development workshop or a simple networking opportunity.

On Monday, October 26, we had the esteemed privilege of welcoming Dr. Marvin Jaime-Vasquez as our guest for the Center for Inclusive Education Speaker Series. A former AGEP Fellow and Turner Postdoctoral Trainee, Dr. Jaime-Vasquez completed his PhD in Materials Science and Engineering at Stony Brook University in 2002.

In his talk, “Finding Success From Possibilities”, Dr. Jaime-Vasquez shared his experiences as a researcher and entrepreneur. Currently, he is a physicist at the United States Army Research, Development and Engineering Command (RDECOM), Communications Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center (CERDEC), Night Vision and Electronic Sensors Directorate in Washington, DC. He is also the President of Sabor de mi Tierra Distributor, Inc. and CEO of Bakery Products by Genesis, Inc. – a wholesale bakery located in Bay Shore, NY.

Dr. Jaime-Vasquez considered himself to be a shy person while working on his doctorate. “Through the networking opportunities and professional development offered by the diversity programs at the CIE, I learned how to network and speak in public,” he said. These skills proved invaluable as he progressed professionally and then eventually embarked on the journey of owning a small business. “The analytical and problem solving skills you learn as part of your PhD are relevant and valuable in all aspects of your life and multiple career paths.” Dr. Jaime-Vasquez stressed to our attendees the importance of pursuing your passions, in all aspects of life, because it is from your passions and interests that ideas and innovation spring. It is often these innovations that serve as the starting point for entrepreneurial ideas and business opportunities.


Recruitment 101 – by Kathryne Piazzola

Recruitment season is upon us once again. The CIE team is gearing up to travel to conferences and meet with qualified, diverse, prospective scholars for graduate and postdoctoral opportunities at Stony Brook. This time of year also brings to mind our current scholars who are planning to travel to a conference to present a poster or perhaps learn more about an organization. If this is you, here are three tips, based upon what we look for in potential candidates who stop by our table, for maximizing the effectiveness of your time in the conference exhibit hall.

  1. Come prepared: If you are approaching the table, you should be able to quickly and concisely explain to the representative(s) who you are, what research you are conducting and what types of information you are looking for (e.g. summer internships, graduate admissions, fellowships, postdoctoral/faculty positions). Recruitment representatives love when attendees have a copy of their CV to reference later. Make sure it has up-to-date contact information so that representatives are able to reach you for follow-up.
  2. Ask questions: We want to spend time with attendees who are truly interested in Stony Brook and the resources available to them through the Center for Inclusive Education. Attendees who ask questions and engage in mutual conversation stand out amongst the crowd. We suggest you research and pre-select questions to get you started. Do your homework about the institution you are approaching in advance of the conference. Know how your interests fit with their opportunities, and make this match known. Ask targeted questions about the institution that will help you understand your potential fit – “what is the culture like in the institution/lab/team?”; “why did you choose this institution/lab/team?”; and “what types of funding opportunities exist to support research?”. You also want to know “what is the average departmental time to degree for PhDs?”, and “what is the timeline of completion (including coursework, comprehensive exams and dissertation milestones)?”. As the conversation unfolds, more questions may come to mind, but hopefully you will be more comfortable to engage from this starting point.
  3. You are always networking: It’s possible that you may not have the specific qualifications a representative(s) is recruiting for at the time of the conference or meeting. However, you never know if a different opportunity will arise in which they will find you to be an ideal candidate. Whenever you are speaking with a representative, even if it is away from the recruitment table, you are networking. Be sure to smile, offer a firm handshake and engage in conversation. Follow-up with every person from whom you receive a business card or email address. The connections you make may seemingly have no immediate outcomes, but the network you build will have a ripple effect into your career.

AGEP-T FRAME and Turner Fellows have the opportunity to apply for conference travel support through these programs. Contact Karian Wright (AGEP-T FRAME) or Toni Sperzel (Turner) for details.  We recognize the impact these opportunities have on your professional development and career trajectory and would love to support your participation to make connections and build your professional network.

The CIE is particularly excited about two events we will be hosting, right here on the Stony Brook campus:

GEM Grad Lab – Saturday, October 24 – 9:00 am to 3:30 pm – LDS Center **tomorrow**

Graduate School Preview Day – Friday, November 20 – 8:00 am to 5:00 pm – Wang Center

If you are interested in experiencing what it’s like to serve as a recruitment representative, we  would love for you to join us at one of these events to represent the CIE and your graduate program – Please contact me (Kathryne Piazzola) for more information.

Alumni Voices: Dr. Sharonah Esther Fredrick

Every semester, the CIE will highlight the current work of an early career CIE alumnus. In recognition of the 2015 Hispanic Heritage Month celebrations, we are featuring Sharonah Esther Fredrick, PhD in Hispanic Languages and Literature (December 2014). Dr. Fredrick currently serves as the Assistant Director of the Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies (ACMRS) at Arizona State University. We asked her a few questions about the journey leading up to her current position, as well as her hopes for the upcoming ACMRS Conference.

What factors influenced your decision to pursue a PhD in Hispanic Languages & Literature at Stony Brook?

At the age of 40, I embarked on my doctorate in Latin American literature after 17 years in international development and archaeology, in Argentina, Mexico and Israel. That pre-doctoral work took me to indigenous communities in Latin America, and to peace and reconciliation projects with Israeli and Palestinian professionals. Because I began (and finished) my doctorate at a later age, I wished it to have a genuine meaning in terms of my professional experience, and in terms of the daunting social reality faced by many Latino students in the US.

What do you remember most about your time as a Stony Brook PhD student?

In CIE, I was a Turner Fellow and participated constantly in research seminars and employment workshops. They were some of the most helpful experiences that I have had in all of academia, and in my professional life in general.

Can you share about your experience on the job market?

The irony of my time on the job market is that, while I did receive two other offers from searching in the conventional way, the one which interested me most by far was ACMRS. I heard about ACMRS by attending the annual conference, which really shows how important physical, “be there” networking is. Then, while I was in the finishing stages of my thesis, I applied for, and got, the position in which I am currently employed as the Assistant Director of the Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, at Arizona State University.

What do you hope to accomplish in your current position as the Assistant Director of ACMRS?

Through my teaching and writing, I hope to diversify the idea of Renaissance history, which often concentrates on Europe to the detriment of the areas conquered by Europe during that period. In the academic world, anti-indigenous prejudice is still palpable, intellectually and politically.

What are your future career goals?

If I project into the next ten years, I would like to see my career continue and blossom in terms of what I am currently doing: incorporating Latin American, African and indigenous studies more firmly into the field of general Early Modern and Renaissance studies, and widening the intercultural conversation regarding Early Modern cultural contact/ conquest/ and the grey areas in between.

Tell us about the conference that ACMRS is planning.

The 22nd Annual Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies Interdisciplinary Conference will be held at the Embassy Suites in Scottsdale, AZ on February 4-6, 2016. ACMRS invites session and paper proposals that explore any topic related to the study and teaching of the Middle Ages and Renaissance and especially those that focus on the general theme of “Marginal Figures in the Global Middle Ages and Renaissance.” We encourage registration and proposal submissions from a wide variety of fields of study, as there are many disciplines whose investigative work addresses the topic of the conference.

I attended the ACMRS Conference prior to securing my current position as Assistant Director. In 2013, I was awarded a conference travel grant and delivered a paper on images of the dragon in Andean colonial chronicles and its relationship to pre-Colombian archaeology and iconography. I also presented as a panelist and featured lecturer at the ACMRS Conferences in 2012, 2013 and 2014, as well as the Fearless Females series in 2014. It was an excellent opportunity to connect with professionals in my field and to showcase my research and findings. I suggest that scholars research the conference travel grants available to them and to consider the networking opportunities that presenting at a conference can lead to. Here I am now working for ACMRS!

How can CIE Scholars submit their proposals for consideration to present at the upcoming ACMRS Conference?

Proposals will be accepted on a rolling basis until midnight, MST on December 4, 2015. Responses will be given within a week of submission. Please submit an abstract of 250 words and a brief CV to Proposals must include audio/visual requirements and any other special requests; late requests may not be accommodated. Any additional questions can be directed to 480-965-5900 or email

The Independent Fellowship Advantage – written by Program Manager, Toni Sperzel

On Thursday, September 10, the CIE hosted its annual Writing to Win workshop – a two-part panel and presentation event that assists Stony Brook University students in preparing a competitive application for the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship (NSF-GRFP). In recognition of this prestigious program and the level of funding it provides, the CIE has since 2002 offered this comprehensive information session to the entire Stony Brook Community. I had the pleasure of serving as this year’s event coordinator, and despite some considerable challenges brought to us by mother nature (in the form of not one, not two, but three flash flood warnings in under one hour), I believe that the workshop attendees walked away that (very rainy) evening with the know-how, the network and the inspiration to apply for this funding opportunity.

The GRFP is one of many independent fellowship opportunities that supports students who are pursuing research-based doctoral degrees. There exists a multitude of funding opportunities that seek to fund talented and passionate graduate students. In fact, the Stony Brook University Research Foundation manages a database that Stony Brook undergraduate and graduate students, staff and faculty can access to search for opportunities and collaborators. For many reasons, it is advantageous for you, as a graduate student, to compete for and obtain independent fellowship support instead of relying solely on the teaching and research assistantships made available through academic departments.

Opportunity begets opportunity

Winning a competitive fellowship comes with prestige, notoriety and acknowledgement of the recipient’s research potential and commitment to doctoral work. Bringing your own awarded fellowship with you to graduate study can be a competitive edge over your peer applicants as it can be seen as evidence of your initiative, drive and determination. The honor that comes with winning an external fellowship can be an important asset on your curriculum vitae or resume, and also has the potential to increase your chances of winning future awards. Additionally, by applying for external fellowships, you are gaining considerable experience building the dynamic skills essential to success in research and the academy. Namely, the ability to communicate your research interests through writing for a specific audience; to develop long term project goals, timelines and budgets; and to develop a research idea, based on a question of inquiry, into a specific, measurable and achievable project.

Protection from dour funding markets and institutional change

Independent funding is seen by principal investigators as an incredible asset, and you should see it as one too! Prospective lab members who bring an independent fellowship, in some cases (depending on your PI’s funding support), release the PI’s research dollars to be used for alternative research purposes, such as additional equipment, materials or team travel. In financial crisis situations, such as lapses in project support or an unrenewed grant, graduate students with independent fellowship support can continue their research and receive funding, often without a teaching obligation to the department, until the financial situation improves. In a worst case scenario, such as your mentor or PI leaving to join another institution, independent fellowships also have the advantage of portability. Often, support can and will travel with you from one institution to another.

Power and freedom in forging your research and financial path

Well, maybe just a little bit of power and freedom. As a graduate student working under the advisement and mentorship of a faculty member, in an academic department within a university, there will always be a level of responsibility you will have to support the work of these three entities. That being said, successfully securing independent funding for your doctoral degree can put you in a position of having more power and control over the timeline and direction of your own dissertation research. Fellowship funding can free you from taking on continued teaching assistantships and give you more time to focus on your writing and research. Some fellowships, like the GRFP, even allow you to decide when and how you wish to distribute your support over the five years of your PhD work. For students who have already received a comprehensive, multi-year financial support package from your department, an external fellowship gives you the ability to leverage institutional funding to structure your five years of financing in a way that best supports your research plans and objectives, while ensuring timely completion of your degree .

In the coming weeks, the CIE will be coordinating additional, first-time-ever workshops to support our scholars’ applications to other independent fellowships, such as the NIH-funded Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award (NRSA) and the Ford Foundation Predoctoral and Dissertation Fellowship programs. It is our hope to provide better support to all of our scholars, across all disciplines, in writing competitive independent fellowship applications. If you have an opportunity you wish to share, let us know!

I would like to personally thank the following Stony Brook faculty and CIE Scholars/Previous NSF-GRFP winners for their outstanding work with Writing to Win:

Faculty: Dr. Anne McElroy (Marine and Atmospheric Sciences), Dr. Miguel Garcia-Diaz (Molecular and Cellular Pharmacology)

Graduate Students: Sarah Bannon (Clinical Psychology), Jesse Brizzi (Computer Science), Ashleigh Lussenden (Neuroscience).

Biomath Learning Center: Modified Supplemental Instruction (mSI) Program Launched

The Center for Inclusive Education was highlighted by President Stanley in Newsday’s Special Sections, Presidents’ Forum, distributed on Sunday, February 8, 2015. Particular attention was given to the $1.4 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to establish the Initiative for Maximizing Student Development (IMSD-MERGE) program, which aims to increase the number of underrepresented scholars completing undergraduate and doctoral degrees in the biomedical sciences.

The release of this article was especially timely because the IMSD-MERGE Biomath Learning Center: Modified Supplemental Instruction (mSI) program launched yesterday, February 12. “The Biomath Learning Center is designed for freshman and sophomore biomedical science majors to receive peer-to-peer tutoring in calculus prerequisite courses,” said Dr. Angel Gonzalez, IMSD-MERGE Program Manager. “The goal is to support their aptitude in these courses so that they can continue on with their degree programs successfully and on-track.” There are currently 40 Calculus A (MAT125) students registered to participate in the mSI program for the duration of the spring semester.

The Biomath Learning Center mSI sessions will be held in the Center for Inclusive Education, 2401 Computer Science Building, on Thursdays and Fridays each week. Undergraduate Student Supplemental Instructor Leaders (peer tutors) received training from the on-campus Academic Success and Tutoring Center and will follow the curriculum set forth by the MAT125 instructors. The four Student Supplemental Instructor Leaders currently assigned to facilitate the mSI program are Wilka Carvalho (senior, physics major), Michael Lam (sophomore, biology major), Robert Maloney (junior, mathematics major) and Kevon Pekchi (senior, biology major).

To participate in the Biomath Learning Center, students must be enrolled in MAT125 during the Spring 2015 semester and have attended one of the information sessions about the mSI program. Registration is now closed, but more details about the mSI program and future opportunities to participate can be found here.

The complete article written by President Stanley for Newsday can be found here.

Faculty Diversity Search Provides Information on Career Opportunities in NYC Independent Schools

On Tuesday, January 13, the Center for Inclusive Education welcomed Cathy Cramer, Executive Director of Interschool/Faculty Diversity Search (FDS), to speak with scholars about career opportunities in the independent schools of New York City. Cathy and her team work to recruit and select outstanding candidates of color and other underrepresented minorities who demonstrate excellence or future promise as independent school educators. Since its inception, approximately 350 teachers have found and accepted positions through the FDS program. Cathy and the FDS team have participated in annual information sessions at the CIE since 2012. To date, they have placed six of our CIE scholars and alumni in faculty and leadership positions.

The FDS information session provided an opportunity for attendees to learn more about the eligibility requirements and aspects of a career in K-12 private education. Cathy emphasized the role research can play in designing curriculum and engaging students. “There is more freedom to involve students in your area of academic speciality,” said Cathy. “Having a master’s degree or PhD affirms your knowledge in the field and will make you quite marketable. Keep in mind that FDS will work closely with you to highlight your transferable skills.”

If you missed the information session, but would like an opportunity to meet with Cathy, you are invited to attend the New York Association of Independent Schools (NYSAIS) Job Fair on Saturday, February 21, 2015 from 9:00 am to 2:00 pm at the Columbia Grammar and Preparatory School in New York City. Registration is now open and will close on February 6th at 5:00 pm. More details about this event can be found at Please let the CIE team know if you register to attend so that we can connect you with Cathy in advance of the event and coordinate your meeting with her onsite.

CIE Program Manager, Karian Wright Selected as Recipient of Caribbean Life News’ “40 under 40″ Award

Karian Wright, CIE Program Manager

Karian Wright, CIE Program Manager

This November, AGEP-T FRAME and IRACDA NY-CAPS Program Manager, Karian Wright, was selected by Caribbean Life News as a recipient of their 2014 “40 under 40″ award. This award celebrates the achievements of professionals born in or with roots in Caribbean nations. 2014 marked the second year of the awards ceremony.

Karian, who was born in Jamaica and currently lives with her family in Massapequa Park, was one of 40 honorees recognized in a ceremony and gala celebration held on November 26th in Dyker Heights, Brooklyn. Karian was recognized for her long history of work with underrepresented postsecondary scholars. For six years prior to her joining the CIE, Karian was an advisor, adjunct faculty member and Assistant Director of Graduate Student Recruitment at Monroe College, where she also completed her MBA in 2011. Karian joined the Center in 2013 as Program Manager of the NSF-funded AGEP-T FRAME project. This past summer, she added management of the NIH- fundedIRACDA NY-CAPS Postdoctoral Scholars Program to her responsibilities. In addition to all she has accomplished in her career, Karian was also recognized for her service and volunteerism with the community as both a reverend and a minister.

When asked by Caribbean Life News to whom she looks up to as a mentor, Karian responded that it was her father. “He is one of the kindest, most affectionate individuals I have ever known. He has always been my biggest supporter and encouraged me to do my best at all times.” Congratulations, Karian! The CIE is proud of all you have done and all you will accomplish in the future!

You can read the entire list and profiles of Caribbean Life News’ “40 under 40” awardees here

First SBU SACNAS Chapter Meeting of the Academic Year on November 6, 2014

Stony Brook's SACNAS Chapter

Stony Brook’s SACNAS Chapter

The Stony Brook Chapter of the Society for Advancement of Hispanics / Chicanos & Native Americans in Science (SACNAS) had their first meeting of the academic year on Thursday, November 6. 16 students attended the meeting to discuss club programming for the academic year. Topics discussed included strategies to reach out undergraduate students interested in research opportunities, potential community service efforts, and cultural celebrations for the coming semester. The next SACNAS event, a Mexican Posada Mixer, will be taking place on December 4.

SACNAS is an organization dedicated to increasing the visibility of scientists from underrepresented and underserved backgrounds. If you would like more information regarding the Stony Brook Chapter of SACNAS, please contact Angel Gonzalez at

CIE Presents Writing to Win on Tuesday, September 9, 2014

On Tuesday, September 9th, the CIE, in conjunction with The Graduate School and The SUNY Research Foundation, hosted Writing to Win, a panel to familiarize students with the process of preparing a competitive application for the National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP). The panel was comprised of past and current NSF GRFP Fellows, including Dr. Susan Brennan, Professor in the Department of Psychology, Dr. Cindy Leiton, Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Anesthesiology, and Stephen Lee, Doctoral Student in the Department of Biomedical Engineering.

The NSF GRFP supports outstanding graduate students in NSF-supported science, technology, engineering, and mathematics disciplines who are pursuing research-based master’s and doctoral degrees. The panel was well attended, with 70 undergraduate and graduate students getting the opportunity to learn about the general application requirements, the panelists personal journeys to becoming NSF GRFP Fellows, and the application review process. If you would like to review the presentation, you can find it here: Writing to Win 2014.

CIE Staff Steps Up to the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

The CIE Staff Preparing for the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

The CIE Staff Preparing for the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

The CIE Staff braved 75 degree weather to step up to the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge on the morning of Wednesday, August 20. The CIE was challenged by our very own Toni Sperzel, Program Manager of the Turner and GEM Fellowship Programs. Toni dedicated her participation in the challenge to her grandfather Clem Vicari and family friend William Johnke, who both passed away in 2010 after fighting long battles against ALS.

ALS (Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) is a neurodegenerative disease that affects as many as 30,000 people in the U.S. alone. The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge has been wildly popular in raising awareness to the disease, resulting in $22.9 million donated to The ALS Association over the last three weeks, compared to $1.9 million they received last year during the same time period. 

Watch the CIE take the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

The CIE Staff took their soaking in stride, calling out all CIE Scholars and Faculty and the Graduate School Staff to participate in the challenge. For more information on ALS or to find out where you can donate, please visit The ALS Association.

The Aftermath of the The CIE Staff Preparing for the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

The Aftermath