May 27, 2021
Borough of Manhattan Community College (BMCC/CUNY) is alive with ideas and innovation, and supportive of student’s ambition to take the next step in their academic career. As part of its mission to improve student success, BMCC offers transfer services as well as an array of articulation agreements with a number colleges and universities that allow course credits to transfer seamlessly to four-year baccalaureate programs.
Despite the unprecedented challenges presented by a deadly global pandemic, the college has continued to offer opportunities to students who want to pursue them. These include two outstanding 2021 graduates—Criminal Justice major Cristina Diaz and Economics major Thinn Nandar Soe.
Criminal Justice major Cristina Diaz puts no limits on what she can accomplish
Criminal Justice major Cristina Diaz, who graduates in June, was recently accepted into the Colin Powell Fellowship in Leadership and Public Service at City College, CUNY. While at BMCC, Diaz maintained a 3.8 GPA, was a member of the Pre-Law Society and served as a representative in the Student Government Association. She also held down a job working as an administrative assistant for United Building Security.
“I was never your regular child,” said Diaz, who was born and raised in New York City and plans on becoming an attorney. “I was very outspoken and protective of those around me. Everyone would tell me that I will become a lawyer. I knew it in my bones when I was just eight years old.”
The summer after Diaz finished high school, she enrolled at Queensborough Community College, CUNY. But life’s challenges interfered with her plans. Before her current job as an administrative assistant, she had been working as many as 60 hours a week as a security dispatcher near Herald Square in Manhattan so she could help support her family.
Four years later she enrolled at BMCC and hit the ground running. She became part of the BMCC Learning Academy, utilized the college’s counseling services as well as the BMCC Virtual Success Center. She also dove into her academic studies and found professors who were willing to go above and beyond for their students.
“Professor Shenique Davis (Corrections course), Professor Maureen Matarese (Forensic Linguistics course), Professor Daris Jackson (Criminal Justice and the Urban Community) and Professor Kwan-Lamar Blount-Hill (Constitutional Law) truly challenged my mind,” said Diaz. “For those professors, it was more than just teaching me the material. They also made sure I understood it and encouraged me to form my own thoughts for every topic they presented.”
She says her professors always encouraged their students to stand up for what they believe in. Nonetheless, the encroaching horrors of the pandemic took a toll.
“As a chronic asthmatic, I spent a great deal of my childhood in the hospital fighting for oxygen, so my anxiety was heightened by the pandemic,” said Diaz. “I was terrified if I did catch it, my lungs would not be able to handle it. And, like many people, I had family members who passed, and it was torture to not be able to go to their funerals or see them at the hospital.”
But Diaz persevered. When she begins the Colin Powell fellowship this fall at City College, she feels confident she’ll be prepared to learn the leadership skills necessary to help the public.
Among the issues she is most passionate about are the blatant income gaps between men and women, in particular women of color.
“It baffles me that we still live in a time where woman earn 82 cents for every dollar a man earns, and that gap widens for those of color,” Diaz said.
After City College, she plans to complete law school in a joint program with forensic linguistics. Her long-term goal is to run for attorney general, a judge or perhaps mayor or governor.“I will not put a limit on anything I can accomplish,” said Diaz.
Looking back, Diaz says her time at BMCC didn’t lead to any new discoveries about herself. Instead, BMCC re-lit a fire that had simply gone out.
“I knew my passion,” said Diaz. “Covid had so many of us feeling helpless, but BMCC showed me the path. The college not only provided me with the resources but connected me with faculty and students who felt the same way I did about society and wanted to make a difference.”
Economics major Thinn Nandar Soe is motivated by BMCC students and faculty
Economics major Thinn Nandar Soe will begin Columbia University’s School of General Studies in Fall 2021. She is one of just 10 students to receive a select scholarship set aside for CUNY community college graduates this year.
Soe was born in Myanmar/Burma, a country currently experiencing epic upheaval due to a February 2021 military coup. Although her parents struggled financially when Soe was young, they were able to use their apartment as collateral to help pay for Soe’s high school education in Singapore. After finishing high school, she enrolled at a University in Australia, but had to drop out after just three months because her parent’s financial situation grew dire.
A friend in Singapore told her about a community college in New York City called BMCC and encouraged her to take the necessary steps to enroll. She took her friend’s advice and in August 2018 moved to New York City and enrolled at BMCC as a Business major. Even as an international student, the tuition was affordable and she found the academics stellar.
“While studying at BMCC, I was recruited by my finance professor to work as a Supplemental Instruction Leader for his finance classes,” said Soe. “Before that, I also worked as a mentor for the BMCC IMPACT Peer Mentoring program which helped me grow as an individual. I was also treasurer of the BMCC Talent Club.”
Being awarded the Money Works Ambassador scholarship gave Soe the opportunity to attend financial literacy seminars.
“All the professors were very understanding of their students’ needs,” said Soe. “I could talk to my professors about anything that was happening in my life. Classes such as Speech, Marketing, Finance, and English Literature were the most rewarding.”
Soe said Finance Professor Christian De Rojas Prats was especially supportive. His classes helped her discover a passion for finance that she someday hopes to bring back to her home country and use to help develop its economy.
“I would advise anyone considering BMCC to believe in themselves and grab the opportunity,” said Soe. “When I first started at BMCC, transferring to Columbia University did not even come to my mind, but I was motivated. I was motivated by the students at BMCC who are so hardworking and talented.”
While at Columbia, Soe plans to make use of the core curriculum and after graduation, work in the finance industry.
“My goal is to become an entrepreneur one day which is not an easy feat,” said Soe.
- BMCC has articulation agreements with a number of colleges and universities
- Criminal Justice major Cristina Diaz and Economics major Thinn Nandar Soe have both been accepted into challenging four-year programs