Code for Change: Student-to-student text book exchange challenge

Paul Russo, Ph.D., our Director of Online Programs, is working with a team of current CUNY students and graduates to develop a free student-to-student text book exchange as part of the ApplicationsforGood hackathon sponsored by the Motorola Mobility Foundation, Center for Social Innovation, Blue Ridge Foundation, and New York University’s Wagner School of Public Service.

While textbooks represent 17% of tuition costs in various majors, the team believes that there are simple ways in which technology can make books more affordable. Their application—much like other online communities such as or Craigslist—combines the broad reach of the Internet with the benefits of local face-to-face interactions. Focusing on urban areas such as NYC, offers the project access to a critical mass of potential users, which is necessary to make participation valuable to all textbook swappers.

The team is committed that the bookswap will “student owned” and “student operated” following the OpenSource model, to ensure future use will have only “student friendly” policies. Their model is also distinct from other services such as because the primary mode of exchange is student-to-student swapping or monitored low cost reselling, so there will be no high markups or shipping costs. The group says that over time, they are interested in adding more functionality to the site such as links to affordable housing, health services, and various types of student discounts.

The group currently has a working prototype, and as the next version of the platform comes online, Russo hopes there will be interesting research opportunities or chances for students to study the system as part of a capstone project. To learn more about their plans for the textbook exchange, see:

5 Questions With… Barbara Walters

Barbara WaltersWith a B.A. in Psychology from Vanderbilt University and a Ph.D. in Sociology from the State University of New York at Stony Brook, Barbara Walters joined the CUNY faculty in 1996, and now serves as Professor of Sociology at Kingsborough Community College. In 2005, KCC Provost and Academic Vice-President Stuart Suss appointed Barbara to the Steering Committee for Online Resources and Education (S.C.O.R.E.), a move which completely changed her professional life. It opened the door to the SPS CUNY Online Consortial Faculty, which she joined in 2006 with the first cohort of students. In May of 2011, Barbara was appointed Academic Director of the SPS Online B.A. in Sociology. Her primary interest has always been working with students to help them succeed in their program and then in their careers. Let’s learn a little more about Barbara and what her idea of a perfect day entails!

1.  What did you want to be when you grew up?

In sixth grade, I won a Junior Scholastic writing award and placed in the national competition.  With this victory under my belt, I decided to become a nonfiction writer in New York City.  Later, as a high school student, after reading Freud’s Interpretation of Dreams, I decided to become a psychiatrist. In the South, in those days, this quickly translated into being advised to go to Nursing School.  And I, just as quickly, transferred to the BA in Psychology Program after the first year.  My minor in Sociology alongside research work in the Sociology Department rekindled my earlier dream of becoming a writer.  This dream got legs as I focused on becoming a professor of sociology and gained admission to graduate school.

2.  How did you become a teacher?

My first teaching job was the full realization of a lifelong pursuit of the impossible dream – a long, twisted, and arduous path – but worth every ounce of blood, sweat, tears and frustration that went into it.  The 350th job application worked like a charm.  Never give up on your dreams.

 3.  What was your first concert?

The Jordon College of Music when I was 11; I played (sort of) Für Elise and a minuet from the Anna Magdalena Back notebook, choices made by a piano teacher who specialized in the torture of 11-year-olds.  This was the real beginning of my career in teaching sociology.

 4.  What’s the best advice you’ve ever received.

Finish your degree.

 5.  What’s your idea of a perfect day?

It must have the following ingredients:

  • students
  • 8 hours of sleep
  • Some time for writing
  • Oatmeal for breakfast with a great cup of hazelnut coffee
  • A walk on the beach, in a park or in the snow with Steve (my husband)
  • Smoked salmon for lunch
  • Great keyboard music
  • A glass of Cabernet before dinner with cheese and crackers
  • A raspberry soufflé for dessert
  • At least three encounters with children under the age of 5 (other people’s children)
  • At least two encounters with nice friendly dogs (other people’s dogs)
  • At least two real conversations with friends or colleagues

Zoë Williams, Artist

You may know me as Zoë Williams, Marketing Assistant, but I would like to introduce you to Zoë Williams, Artist! When I’m not helping the SPS Marketing Team with our work here, I am making wooly sculptures inspired by dreams, symbols, and animals. You can find pictures of my work at and see it in person at these upcoming shows:

April 6th – May 4th (opening reception April 6th, 7:00pm)
G40 Art Summit

various locations, Richmond, VA

May (opening reception May 11th, 2012)
Buddy’s Den

TT Underground, 91 Second Avenue, Lower Level, New York, NY 10003

June (opening reception June 6th, 2012)
The Guild of the Black Eagle 5

Fuse Gallery, 93 2nd Ave # A, New York, NY 10003

Gold Rhino (2011)

Gold Rhino (2011)

SPS Faculty Development Day, March 30th

Hold the date of March 30, 2012 for our faculty development workshop event organized around the theme of using technology to promote writing in all disciplines. This on-site event is open to and appropriate for all SPS faculty, whether teaching face-to-face, online or hybrid courses.

Activities will include a morning plenary session which will focus on the common challenges and creative approaches to designing effective student writing for all disciplines, a lab session (offered twice– in the morning or afternoon) that will explore how a variety of different technology tools can enhance student writing assignments, and a lunchtime panel featuring faculty presenters. There will also be an opportunity for you to learn more about Blackboard 9 through a lab session available in either a morning or afternoon session.

Faculty are welcome to attend one or more of the sessions during the day, but we ask you to register for your preferred lab sessions and lunch so that we are able to accommodate as many faculty as possible.


9:00-10:50 am                     Plenary session

11am-12:25 pm                    Technology for Writing Lab (morning session)

.                                              Intro to Blackboard 9 Lab (morning session)

12:30-1:25 pm                     Lunch and faculty panel

1:30-3 pm                            Technology for Writing Lab (afternoon session)

.                                              Intro to Blackboard 9 Lab (afternoon session)

WHERE: Murphy Institute, 25 W. 43rd St. (between 6th and 5th Ave), 19th floor.

SPS Student Featured in Article

SPS is delighted to share that one of our students, Chancey Fleet, was recently featured in an article on Chancey, who is blind, is pursuing her master’s degree in Disability Studies here at SPS, and was interviewed at length for the piece, which focuses on the myriad technological tools which have “drastically changed the way [people] navigate the city.” The article can be found here.

Hurricane Irene: SPS Supports NYC’s Coastal Storm Plan

evacuationcenterFollowing Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the New York City Office of Emergency Management (OEM) partnered with SPS to help prepare for the potential impact of a large coastal storm. This preparation included the development and delivery of in-person and online training programs and field guides for opening and operating emergency evacuation centers, as well as enhancing the capacity of its web-based disaster management tool, Sahana.

Sahana is a free and open source software application that manages common coordination functions during a disaster.  These functions include managing aid, managing volunteers, finding missing people, and tracking information among government agencies, non-profits, and victims.   SPS has been adapting this software application for OEM to provide basic functions for managing the NYC Coastal Storm Plan Emergency Sheltering System.  SPS provided OEM with the current product solution on August 2nd, just in time for the start of the hurricane season, and, to date, the School has provided emergency sheltering training to over 25,000 city employees.

When it became clear that Hurricane Irene was likely to make landfall in the New York City region, the NYC OEM called upon the SPS team to support its deployment of Sahana. The core Sahana team, led by Washington Hernandez and including Chad Heuschober, Clayton Kramer, and Shirley Chan, worked around the clock from Tuesday, August 23rd through late Sunday, August 28th, deploying and adjusting the Sahana application as necessary during the various phases of implementation on site at the School’s West 31st Street offices. In addition, Andrew Boyarsky, SPS’s Project Director for the Coastal Storm Plan training initiative, was deployed to several evacuation centers in Queens and Brooklyn to help oversee its operation. Before Irene arrived, NYC OEM was able to open 81 evacuation centers throughout the city, many of which were located on CUNY campuses. Andrew chronicled his experience during his 30 hour shift on his blog: Stop Playing Games.

Many thanks and acknowledgements are also due to Brian Peterson and Jill Hyland, for their leadership, and to Paul Russo, Shawn Abraham, Cristina Finan, Pradeep Vijagiri, Z. Lobley, and Joe Vehling, for their support of this application’s deployment. SPS made a real difference during this time of city-wide crisis. We can be extremely proud of each other, our accomplishments, and the help we were able to provide.

Photo (from left to right): Shirley Chan, Washington Hernandez, Andrew Boyarsky, Clayton Kramer, Pradeep Vijagiri, and Chad Heuschober

Recruiting Volunteers for Hurricane Irene in NYC

From Associate Dean Brian Peterson: Fellow New Yorkers…if you are holding out in the City during hurricane Irene and are able to mobilize, The City of New York is recruiting volunteers to help staff hurricane evacuation centers and shelters as well as 311. If interested, contact Whitney Hampton at or 347-776-1513.

SPS Applied Theatre and CUNY Creative Arts Team play The Power Game

The CUNY School of Professional Studies is delighted to announce that 10 students and 2 alumni from its Master of Arts in Applied Theatre program are working on the upcoming CUNY Creative Arts Team (CAT) Youth Theatre original production of The Power Game. The play investigates the relationships and responsibilities that exist between people and power, and the kinds of power young people want and have.

The award-winning CUNY CAT Youth Theatre is a free after-school and weekend program that operates virtually year-round.  Its 100-plus members, ages 11 to 24, come from all five boroughs of New York City and represent 58 different public schools. This year is the company’s 15th anniversary. There are no auditions – but participants must commit to being active parts of the CAT Youth Theatre community.  New members are accepted on a first-come, first-served basis.  Together, the teens collaboratively create and present original ensemble theatre productions on topical subjects.

helen white

Helen White

“The Power Game developed from the young people’s reflections on how they see power at play in their own lives,”says Helen White, who is a faculty member in the SPS Master of Arts in Applied Theatre program, as well as the CAT Youth Theatre founder, and program director. “Since September, the 42 members who are working on this production have been researching the many faces of power – from physical strength, to peer pressure, to political authority – uncovering many players of the ‘power game’. They have improvised and refined original dramatic scenes that juxtapose systemic power with individual power and have exposed the nuances that exist within these power roles.”

The Power Game will be performed at the BMCC Tribeca Performing Arts Center, 199 Chambers Street, Manhattan, from February 25 to March 6.  In addition to its public performances, the CAT Youth Theatre will present an afternoon program for school and community youth groups.

For schedule, tickets, and group discount information, contact Elly Richards at (212) 652-2828 or

SPS seeks an Academic Faculty Development Director (HEO)

The School of Professional studies is currently seeking an Academic Faculty Development Director (HEO).  The Academic Faculty Development Director will ensure ongoing faculty development to support high quality student services delivery of both classroom and online teaching; promote best practices in the field; direct programs for faculty to incorporate classroom activities that enhance student success;  introduce and administer programs to provide faculty with enhanced skills in instructional design;  mentor industry professionals in techniques to successfully integrate industry related experience with course materials;  conduct annual needs assessment to identify appropriate professional development initiatives; develop and coordinate special recognition and award programming;  conduct faculty workshops; distribute learning materials and promote resources to support teaching and learning; provide any necessary training for faculty orientation; manage an annual budget; develop proposals and other initiatives for expanded funding; and serve as primary liaison to faculty and administrators to plan and execute faculty development activities.

For a complete description and qualifications please visit and search for Job ID # 3754/Academic Faculty Development Director. This posting is currently scheduled to close on January 2, 2011.  All interested parties must apply through