Support for students at Borough of Manhattan Community College (BMCC/CUNY) comes in many forms. Staff members and others who provide services to students are role models in that they continue their own development by earning advanced degrees and expanding their ability to help students succeed.
Ashtian Holmes is Coordinator of the BMCC Urban Male Leadership program, part of the CUNY-wide Black Male Initiative (BMI) program. In that role he organizes events and provides students with academic guidance and a shoulder to lean on.
Kokou Doumassi is a Disability Accommodation Specialist in the BMCC Office of Accessibility. He connects students with software that helps them read assignments and write essays for class—and when students need support researching those papers and navigating online resources, they have Lane Glisson, a faculty librarian, in their court.
These three individuals not only share a commitment to student success, they each just completed a master’s degree while working full time at BMCC.
Kokou Doumassi earned an M.S. in Computer and Information Systems Management (MIS) at The City College of New York, CUNY.
Lane Glisson, who already held a Master of Library Science degree from Queens College, was just awarded an M.A. of Liberal Studies with a focus on comparative literature at The Graduate Center, CUNY.
Ashtian Holmes received his Master of Science in Education in Higher Education Administration (MSEd-HEA), as well as the Dean’s Excellence Award and Scholarship at Baruch College, CUNY.
Kokou Doumassi: Empowering students, through assistive software
Kokou Doumassi has a passion for assistive software and how it unlocks subject matter for individuals with disabilities.
He introduces students to software such as Dragon, Kurzweil, Zoom Text, Jaws or Texthelp and “I work with them until they feel confident and comfortable with it,” he says.
“Texthelp can help a student create a study guide. Zoom Text and Jaws assist students with visual impairment. Jaws talks back to them and can even tell them what keys they are typing.”
Doumassi, who completed his degree in two years, worked days at BMCC and went to class at night.
Marcos Gonzalez, Director of the Office of Accessibility is quick to say, “He is great. Students come looking for him, and he is happy to do things for them that are not part of his official duties, such as cleaning out the software on their laptops. He also works with them through the registration process.”
Lane Glisson: Helping students become ‘makers of knowledge’
Faculty Librarian Lane Glisson helps students conduct research for papers in their business, English, speech, psychology, history and other courses.
“First, we want them to feel that the work they are doing is relevant and important; to think of themselves as makers of knowledge and to think of themselves as creative people,” she says, adding that “they have to navigate and assess an increasingly complex information universe, in print and online.”
She also guides them in the use of library technology, e-books and databases, and provides citation support and information on academic honesty.
Often, she helps students understand how good research can strengthen their writing about literature.
“Students are moved by what they read,” she says, “and it helps them make choices based on complexities. That’s one of the great pleasures of working BMCC. You see the students develop and evolve.”
For the last three years, Glisson has coordinated research activities to enhance an English 201 online course with Professor Kelly O. Secovnie.
“Lane has worked tirelessly, often late into the night, to help students with their research questions and concerns,” says Secovnie. “She wouldn't stop working with them until she was satisfied that they had not only the information needed to complete their assignments, but also a broader understanding of the importance of research.”
She adds that Glisson “is an amazing example of a dedicated librarian. I am fortunate to have her as my colleague and partner in our joint project.”
Ashtian Holmes: Mentoring future leaders
As Coordinator of the Urban Male Leadership program, Ashtian Holmes works with the Offices of Academic and Student Affairs to provide resources for students including the BMCC Leadership Breakfast and speaker series, as well as peer mentoring programs such as Each One Reach One.
He also mentors students in the program, including Cinque Lipscomb, “who just won an essay contest from the National Association of Women Judges, and now he’s getting his bachelor’s degree at Baruch,” Holmes says.
Another mentee, Shaquille Blake, is himself a mentor for MECA high school students and was recognized as one of 12 honorees in a Men Who Mentor award ceremony through the New York Black Publisher’s Association.
When asked who he thinks of as his own mentor, Holmes named his father, then BMCC Associate Dean of Academic Affairs Michael Gillespie.
Dean Gillespie notes that because of Holmes’ dedication, the Urban Male Leadership Academy was able to sustain participation in an MDRC Black Male Momentum Study for several years.
In addition, he says, “Ashtian has expanded the cultural horizons of the males in the program by taking them to several operas at the Met as well as to Broadway shows through TDF.”
“Ashtian is an exemplary role model for our students,” Gillespie says. “We are lucky to have him.”