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Graduating and Growing

October 15, 2012

This semester, all 37 CUNY and SUNY community colleges participated in Completion Day, which encourages students to utilize campus resources in order to expedite their graduation requirements.

One event, hosted by the Office of Student Affairs and Office of Alumni Affairs, was a Completion Day Alumni Panel.

Four BMCC graduates—Joel Barker (’06), Victoria Dombroski (’12), Dianne Orderson (’06) and Leslie-Ann Reid-Bacchus (’09)—shared their stories with current BMCC students.

The panel was moderated by Tiffany James (’06) of the Office of Student Affairs.

‘Stay connected’

At the Completion Day Alumni Panel, attended by more than 100 current students, BMCC’s Alumni Relations Director Pat Splendore described the panelists as “alumni with great stories and experiences to share with you.”

According to Splendore, at BMCC there are currently 175 employees who are graduates of the college; panel moderator Tiffany James being one of them.

“For some students, getting started is the hardest part. For other students, finishing is the hardest,” said Splendore. “However, finishing what you start fills you with confidence. And I hope you stay connected with BMCC after you graduate.”

Before James introduced the panelists, she confessed, “You’re looking at a college dropout who got her second chance at BMCC.”

After graduating from BMCC, James enrolled at Stanford University and studied oversees, before returning to BMCC as a staffer.

Crazy schedule towards success

Panelist Joel Barker got his accounting degree at BMCC while working fulltime and raising a family. He is currently an adjunct professor in the BMCC accounting department.

Balancing work, school, and family was “crazy," says Barker, who enrolled at Queens College after BMCC.

“I’m not going to lie, I wanted to give up, but I’m not a quitter. Most nights I’d come home at 11 p.m.”

His favorite poem, A Dream Deferred by Langston Hughes kept him motivated, too.  “It was my driving force.”

“I wanted to be a professor—that much I knew. And look where I am now; I’m a professor,” he said.

He also advised students to take advantage of every tutoring opportunity, and called the Learning Resource Center (LRC) his “backbone.”

Dancing and studying

Panelist Victoria Dombroski is a professional dancer who is soon relocating to Germany to study holistic medicine. She graduated from BMCC in 2012 with a degree in Liberal Arts and received MoneyWorks and Foundation scholarships.

“At 19, I moved to New York from Connecticut to dance,” she explained. “But dancing isn’t a stable career. What if I broke my leg? Then what? I needed more stability, so I enrolled at BMCC part-time and juggled dance auditions with classes.”

Dombroski encouraged students to join Phi Theta Kappa, if eligible.

“I was a Phi Theta Kappa Executive Board member which taught me so much about public speaking,” she explained. “I brought that confidence into my dancing.”

Jot it down

Panelist Leslie-Ann Reid-Bacchus was valedictorian of the class of 2009 and then graduated from New York University. She is currently pursuing her Master’s in speech therapy at Brooklyn College.

“Invest in a daily planner and write everything down,” she advised students. “I wrote everything I had to do. Even forgetting minor details can trip you up.”

Reid-Bacchus said she’d record blocks of time she was free—and use that time to study.

She also spoke highly of the Transfer and Advisement Center at BMCC.

“They let me know what classes I needed to transfer to NYU,” she said. “I was a Liberal Arts major and enrolled at NYU with 60 BMCC credits.”

‘I hurried up’

Panelist Dianne Orderson, who currently works as an accountant, returned to college later in life, graduating from BMCC in two years.

“I was in my 50’s when I enrolled at BMCC. I refused to let my age stop me and decided to ignore those who asked why I didn’t finish college.”

Orderson also advised students to “find a mentor.”

“I found one in Accounting Professor Sidney Askew,” she explained. “I talked to him about what I wanted to do, career-wise.”

Last words

When James asked the panelists for their last piece of academic advice, Reid-Bacchus first assured the students, “BMCC has amazing professors who really care, and I say this as a graduate of NYU. I didn’t get any less of an education here.”

She then said one helpful way to study was to rewrite her classroom notes in neater handwriting, in clean notebooks.

Barker said he studied for exams during TV commercial breaks and advised students to “choose a job you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.”

Orderson advised students to be proud of who they are—and where they came from.

“When you leave BMCC, you’ll meet up with the Fordham, Pace, and NYU grads in the job world. I sure did,” added Orderson, who attend York College after BMCC. “Sometimes people can be elitist about where they went to school. But I’m telling you, when it comes to accounting, I can go toe-to-toe with those elitist, and sometimes I’ve wiped the floor with them.”

According to James, when students define their goals, “it facilitates the fullness of their college experience, and that’s why Completion Day is important. With it, students are less likely to get ‘lost’ along the way, as they ease toward graduation.”


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  • A panel of BMCC alumni provided solid advice to current students
  • Panelists encouraged students to join clubs, find mentors
  • Completion Day motivates students to graduate as soon as possible.

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