May 25, 2023
The Borough of Manhattan Community College (BMCC/CUNY) Office of Academic Affairs has named Science major Alex Brown—a first-generation college student from Jamaica—as Valedictorian for the BMCC Class of 2023. She will deliver remarks before an audience of thousands, including her proud Mother and siblings, during the 2023 BMCC Commencement ceremony at Barclay Center in Brooklyn on June 8. Brown will decide which four-year college she will attend in the coming weeks.
“We are honored to congratulate the 2023 Valedictorian, Alex Brown, who is a Science major graduating with a 4.0 grade point average,” said Erwin Wong, Senior Vice President and Provost at BMCC. “She has excelled academically and been active in the extra-curricular life of the college, serving as a tutor at the Urban Male Leadership Academy (UMLA) and the Impact Peer mentoring program. She was also treasurer of the Sculpture Club and President of the Honor Society of Black Student Scholar Club. Brown is also a member of the CUNY Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP). In addition, she conducted research with Science Professor Alexander Gosslau.”
From Jamaica to New York City and BMCC
Brown was born in Saint Andrew, Jamaica and at age nine, she and her family moved to Saint Elizabeth where she spent the rest of her childhood and adolescence and attended high school. In 2020, she moved to the Bronx in New York City where she lives today.
Brown found her way to BMCC through an aunt who worked at the Grace Outreach Program. She enrolled in an intensive six-week college preparation course that helped her manage the application process. As it turns out, a number of staff members and instructors highly recommended BMCC.
“I also decided to do my own research and decided BMCC would be a good fit for me,” said Brown.
She started classes in Fall 2021, just as the city was emerging from the Covid-19 pandemic. During her first few months at BMCC, Brown would attend classes in person, but would almost always go directly home afterwards. One of her courses she took that semester was taught by Science Professor Alexander Gosslau who leads laboratory research with students surrounding Cell and Molecular Biology.
“I asked him if he was conducting any research that I could be a part of,” said Brown, who joined Gosslau’s team of students the next semester. “Collaboratively, we conducted experiments to observe the effects of natural substances on the inflammation of cells. I learned the beauty of teamwork, cell culture and cell incubation.”
Brown first found her love of science when she started high school in Jamaica. She was intrigued by the many roles that science plays in day-to-day life. In high school, she took chemistry, physics and other STEM-related coursework and projects and even tutored her classmates along the way. At that point, she was pretty certain she wanted to pursue a career that was STEM related.
But she was also interested in a completely different career path.
“I wanted to be a ballet dancer and go to Juilliard,” said Brown.
Instead, after giving it great thought including many conversations with her mother, she decided she would pursue medicine. But at that point, she still wasn’t fully committed to the prospect of becoming a medical doctor, at least until she conducted research as part of an assignment for a BMCC English course.
Research on maternal morbidity and mortality among Black women helps solidify decision to pursue medicine
“I took an English course with Professor Boyda Johnstone and we were assigned a research paper on any topical subject we wanted,” said Brown, who chose write about reproductive rights. “While I was doing my research, I stumbled upon statistics detailing the maternal morbidity and mortality rates of Black women in America. The disparities were hard to believe.”
After researching and writing the English class research paper, she took a Speech course with Professor Angela Polite who also assigned a research project but this time, the findings would be presented orally in front of the entire class.
Brown decided to dig even deeper into the data and present her findings.
“I started to tear up around mid-presentation,” she said. “I said, okay, this is something I need to explore further.”
She began to watch virtual shadowing videos of maternal-fetal-medicine doctors and specialists which further confirmed her career goal of becoming a doctor.
“I finally had an even much deeper connection to the reason I wanted to study medicine,” said Brown, who in the next five years, plans to be in medical school and working to achieve her goal of becoming a maternal-fetal medical doctor and representing Black women in medicine.
Brown says her time at BMCC was rewarding and the diversity of academic courses as well as the student body were enriching.
“I met people from so many diverse cultures, religions, and heard so many stories from such a wide range of ages,” said Brown who served as tutor at UMLA and Impact Peer mentoring.
Brown, who was also treasurer of the Sculpture Club and President of the Honor Society of Black Student Scholar Club, encourages her fellow students to not only tutor, but if they have time, to get involved on campus.
“The time goes by so fast,” said Brown. “I made many connections and formed meaningful relationships while I’ve been here at BMCC.”
- Brown plans to become and MD specializing maternal-fetal medicine
- She is a first-generation college student from Jamaica
- Brown, who was tutor at UMLA and Impact Peer mentoring program encourages students to get involved.