Womxn’s Herstory Month: Meet Our John Jay Heroines

Womxn’s Herstory Month: Meet Our John Jay Heroines

Womxn’s Herstory Month: Meet Our John Jay Heroines

In celebration of Womxn’s Herstory Month 2022, John Jay College students, faculty, and staff are acknowledging and showing their appreciation for some of the incredible women in our community. These “John Jay Heroines” play a pivotal role in our community’s success. They work hard to ensure that our students reach their academic and life goals. They unfailingly support their teams. And, they make it a priority to create a welcoming and inclusive environment for everyone they encounter. In short, they’re an inspiration for everyone around them. 

(left to right) Carmen Leon and Heath Brown
(left to right) Carmen Leon and Heath Brown

Heroine: Carmen Leon, John Jay Children’s Center, Head Teacher

Nominator: Heath Brown, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Public Management

Carmen Leon is a heroine and fierce champion for our littlest Bloodhounds. She cared for our six-month-old son when he couldn’t walk, talk, or do anything but smile and sleep,” says Brown. “By the time Carmen was done working with him, he was saying words, walking, painting with his fingers, and eating solid foods. He was developing, getting smarter, and growing strong. He’s four years old now and doing better than ever thanks to every moment Carmen spent with him. She’s done the same thing for so many parents at John Jay College, especially for our amazing student-parents, many whom couldn’t succeed without Carmen and her colleagues in the Children’s Center. She’s been doing this incredible work for decades. Carmen helped inspire me to become a better dad and for that our whole family celebrates her every day.”  

(left to right) Massiel Florentino and Claire Sternberg
(left to right) Massiel Florentino and Claire Sternberg

Heroine: Massiel Florentino ’20, John Jay College & APPLE Corps Alumna

Nominator: Claire Sternberg, Service-Learning Specialist at APPLE Corps  

Massiel Florentino ’20 is one of the most dedicated and adept students I’ve ever worked with. While in APPLE Corps, she completed a service-learning position with the Women’s Prison Association and excelled. She went on to complete an internship with CORE Services and was eventually hired to continue her work with them. Massiel earned her degree, was a standout in all experiential learning opportunities she participated in, and established a strong network of colleagues and friends who root for her—and she did this all while being the parent of two kids,” says Sternberg. “What’s amazing is that since graduating John Jay, Massiel has chosen to return to the College and speak with our current APPLE Corps students about her experience with the program and at John Jay. She’s an exemplary example of what John Jay students can accomplish.”

(left to right) Juana Polanco and Monika Son
(left to right) Juana Polanco and Monika Son

Heroine: Juana Polanco, Administrative Manager at SEEK

Nominator: Monika L. Son, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Chair & Director at SEEK

The SEEK Department would like to lift our praises and gratitude for Juana Polanco’s commitment and service. Juana is a living example and model of service. She takes joy in every aspect of her work, including the parts that can be frustrating or challenging for most,” says Son. “She supports everyone in the SEEK department, including our wonderful students, and will persist until she knows she has done everything in her power to help someone.” 

(left to right) Mindy Bockstein and Cat Alves
(left to right) Mindy Bockstein and Cat Alves

Heroine: Mindy Bockstein, Executive Director of External Affairs

Nominator: Cat Alves, Director of Athletics & Recreation Department

I had the great fortune of sitting next to Mindy in 2013 at a professional development meeting when we had both just joined the John Jay community. I knew from our first interaction what an inspiration she was in terms of her career accomplishments, relationship building, thoughtful partnership, and generous spirit,” says Alves. “Over these past nine years, Mindy has proven to be an incredible mentor and friend. Not only does she bring leaders in public and private industries to campus, Mindy always finds a way to incorporate faculty and student voices into all she does. I’m so very grateful for her wise counsel and friendship.”

(left to right) Holly Davenport and Judith Cahn
(left to right) Holly Davenport and Judith Cahn

Heroine: Holly Davenport, Director, Instructional Design

Nominator: Judith Cahn, Ed.D., Director of the Department of Online Education and Support

“In an unassuming way, Holly is an exceptional leader. She’s worked with and gently guided hundreds of faculty members, one-on-one, to develop online courses that created the six fully online graduate programs John Jay offers,” says Cahn. “Through the challenges and uncertainties of the pandemic, she continued to manage the instructional design team, supporting the entire College’s pivot to online modality. She collaborated on the development of the award-winning Effective Practices in Online Teaching workshop that certified hundreds of faculty to teach online. Under Holly’s leadership, her staff provided College faculty with ongoing, high-quality support through countless webinars about effective online teaching. She has connected, supported, and empowered so many faculty members, which, in turn, impacts the students’ remote and online educational experiences. Holly’s intelligence and skill, interpersonal skills, and good humor make it a pleasure to partner with her.”

(left to right) Alana Philip and Raymond Patton
(left to right) Alana Philip and Raymond Patton

Heroine: Alana Philip, Honors Program Manager

Nominator: Raymond Patton, Ph.D., Associate Professor of History and Faculty Director of the Honors Program

Alana Philip embodies the values of John Jay and the Honors Community. She brings an intellectual rigor and compassion to our community, holding her advisees to a high standard, showing understanding for the myriad challenges they face while also refusing to underestimate their potential,” says Patton. “She is a model of intellectually curiosity, striking out to familiarize herself with the latest research in a variety of disciplines and interdisciplinary fields, and always looking for the best practices across higher education. Besides shuffling between a variety of roles in Honors, off campus she is a dedicated parent and fierce advocate for educational equity. Somehow, she manages to find the time to do all of this work, balancing the needs of the John Jay and the Honors community with needs at home. Alana is an inspiration to us all.”

 (left to right) Sandra Jeffers and Fern Chan
 (left to right) Sandra Jeffers and Fern Chan 

Heroine: Sandra Jeffers, Continuing & Professional Studies, Administrative Assistant

Nominator: Fern Chan, Director of Continuing & Professional Studies

Every member of the Continuing and Professional Studies staff is thankful that Sandra is a part of our team. She is truly dependable and selfless with her willingness to render service to others,” says Chan. “Whether it’s coming in early to set up a classroom or staying late to make sure all the students’ needs are met, Sandra is a constant in our department keeping us on track. The ease at which she interacts with people and her positive demeanor when addressing the concerns of others is her superpower. Sandra's vast knowledge of our offerings and her ability to transition between programs and support the team’s work cannot be measured or understated. Sandra is the quiet force of nature that is a contributing factor to our department’s success.”

(left to right) Andrea Akinbola and Natalie Jordan
(left to right) Andrea Akinbola and Natalie Jordan

Heroine: Andrea Akinbola ’19, John Jay Alumna

Nominator: Natalie Jordan, Senior Academic Advisor, APPLE Corps

I have known Andrea since 2015, when she came to John Jay as a freshman and a member of the APPLE Corps program. Through APPLE Corps, she took advantage of engaging in ethnographic research, community service, internships, and service learning,” says Jordan. “Andrea’s unwavering commitment to social justice, public service, and law were demonstrated in several ways while she was a student at John Jay. She volunteered with the Red Hook Community Justice Center, working with the Justice Center’s Youth Court program and then went on to become the President of the African Student Association, a Pinkerton Fellow, a member of the Ronald H. Brown Law School Prep program, an Innocence Project Fellow, and a Youth Mentor with the Center for Court Innovation, all within her undergraduate years. Fast forward to almost seven years later, Andrea is now in her final year at the Maurice A. Deane School of Law at Hofstra University.”

(left to right) Sulema Ebrahim and Brian Kerr
(left to right) Sulema Ebrahim and Brian Kerr

Heroine: Sulema Ebrahim, Director Special Projects & Events, Strategic Initiatives, Marketing & Communications

Nominator: Brian Kerr, Ed.D., Vice President for Enrollment Management & Student Affairs (EMSA)

Sulema inspires me and several of my colleagues every day. She recently suffered the loss of two very close family members in a very short period and had every opportunity to put in her retirement papers and walk away, but she chose not to,” says Kerr. “She was committed to a promise she made to me, regarding seeing our commencement efforts through. I admire her resilience, intelligence, and can-do attitude. In the short time I’ve been at John Jay, I have learned so much from her. She is the ultimate EMSA historian and champion for our students’ success. I’m so happy to work with a colleague as knowledgeable and caring as Sulema.”

(left to right) Jehovahnie Saint Rose and Oluwaseun Ogunwale
(left to right) Jehovahnie Saint Rose and Oluwaseun Ogunwale

Heroine: Jehovahnie Saint Rose ’22, John Jay Honors Student 

Nominator: Oluwaseun Ogunwale ’22, John Jay Student, President of the Black Student Union

As a senior at John Jay College, Jehovahnie strives to make the College a more inclusive environment for students of different religions and races. Currently, she works as a mentor in the Honors Program where she provides valuable information to her mentees and encourages them to apply and participate in many programs and opportunities the College has to offer,” says Ogunwale. “As a Vera Fellow she works to empower women dealing with violence by listening and providing safe options for them. Her work for the community is outstanding. The College is lucky to have her.” 

(left to right) Helen Cedeno and Mark Flower
(left to right) Helen Cedeno and Mark Flower

Heroine: Helen Cedeno, Director of Non-Tax Levy Budget and Adjunct Lecturer in Public Administration

Nominator: Mark Flower, Interim Vice President and Chief Operating Officer

Helen Cedeno is such a valuable member of the John Jay community with over 30 years of dedicated service at the College. Her career at John Jay began in Public Safety as a College Assistant,” says Flower. “Then she continued to work her way up, eventually moving into the business office, all while working to earn a master’s degree in accounting and her CPA (Certified Public Accountant). Her tenacity to expand her skill set, better the work environment, and work with others is remarkable. She’s now responsible for an accounting team that manages all the non-tax levy budget operations and oversees all the external audit operations. She does this while also educating our students in her role as an Adjunct Lecturer in the Public Administration Department where she teaches accounting.”