• Commencement Speakers

  • Portrait Shot of President Kenneth Adams

    President Kenneth Adams,
    LaGuardia Community College President

    Kenneth Adams was appointed president of LaGuardia Community College by the Board of Trustees of the City University of New York on June 29, 2020. He assumed the role on August 17, 2020.

    Previously, he was dean of workforce and economic development at Bronx Community College (BCC) from 2016–2020—leading the departments of Adult and Continuing Education, Workforce Development, Career Services, Community and Economic Development, and the Center for Sustainable Energy.

    At BCC, Mr. Adams created career pathways to lead students into high-growth sectors of the city’s economy. Robust partnerships with employers, including unions and industry associations were fundamental to his work. Mr. Adams secured more than $1.7 million in grants and contracts for BCC. He and his team increased enrollment in their programs by 45%.

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    Prior to joining CUNY, Mr. Adams was the Acting Commissioner of the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance. From 2011 until 2015, he served as President and CEO of Empire State Development and Commissioner of the NYS Department of Economic Development. Before joining state government, Mr. Adams led The Business Council of New York State and the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce. As Executive Director of  New York Cares he created the Annual New York Cares Coat Drive and based it in the Falchi Building adjacent to LaGuardia Community College.

    After earning his BA and MA degrees from Middlebury College, Mr. Adams began his career as a high school teacher and youth services coordinator. He grew up in Brooklyn, where he lives with his family.

    Mr. Adams currently serves as Chairman of the Boards of Directors of New York State’s affordable housing agencies, including the Housing Finance Agency, the State of New York Mortgage Agency, and the Housing Trust Fund Corporation. He is a member of the Boards of Directors of the Long Island City Partnership, the NYC Employment and Training Coalition, the Queens Chamber of Commerce Foundation, and the Bronx Charter School for Excellence, and is a director of Opportunity America.

    Mr. Adams is the fourth president of LaGuardia Community College. His predecessors include Gail O. Mellow, PhD (2000–2019), Raymond C. Bowen, PhD (1989–1999), and the late Joseph Shenker, EdD (1970–1988).

  • Portrait Shot of Paul Arcario

    Paul Arcario,
    Provost and Senior Vice President of Academic Affairs

    As an academic leader and faculty member at LaGuardia Community College/CUNY (“LaGuardia”) for more than 32 years, Dr. Paul Arcario’s commitment to student success, and understanding of the vital role faculty play in educating and inspiring students, mark his tenure at LaGuardia.

    He was dubbed an “Undercover Boss” type administrator by the Queens Chronicle for his on-the-ground, first-hand research to help faculty address challenges in the classroom—e.g., enrolling in developmental math to learn why the course was often a roadblock for students. Read more on Dr. Arcario’s approach.

    From August 2019–August 2020, Dr. Arcario served as LaGuardia’s Interim President—appointed by CUNY Chancellor Félix V. Matos Rodríguez.

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    He was appointed as Provost and Senior Vice President of Academic Affairs in 2012. In this role, he manages the Academic Division’s $40 million annual budget, leads faculty recruitment and development, oversees day-to-day management of key academic initiatives; and supervises the Student Affairs Division, which serves the college’s nearly 20,000/yr. students pursuing associate degrees. Dr. Arcario returned to the positions of Provost and Senior Vice President in August 2020 when President Kenneth Adams joined LaGuardia Community College.

    As Provost, Dr. Arcario has advocated for more professional development for college faculty, as a means of improving student outcomes. Noting that doctoral programs typically don’t include teaching curricula, Dr. Arcario secured a major grant from the U.S. Department of Education to establish the college’s faculty development program, the Center for Teaching and Learning, which today is among the largest and most robust CTLs at New York metropolitan area colleges.

    Additional major grants secured to date under his leadership have totaled more than $34 million. From the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, and the U.S. Department of Education. He’s also helped secure grants from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Henry Luce Foundation, and other leading philanthropies that support higher education. He previously served as a consultant for a national Gates Foundation-funded project to improve pedagogy and outcomes in developmental education.

    Among his numerous academic achievements and honors include his selection for the 2019 Distinguished College Administrator Award from the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society (PTK), and being named “Outstanding First-Year Student Advocate” (2007) from the National Resource Center for the First-Year Experience.

    Dr. Arcario joined LaGuardia in 1988 as an ESL faculty member in the Education and Language Acquisition Department, and became chairperson of the Academic ESL Program in 1994. He joined the college’s academic leadership team in 1998 as Assistant Dean.

    Dr. Arcario earned his Ed.D. and M.Ed. in TESOL from Columbia University Teachers College, and his B.A. (magna cum laude) and M.A. in English from New York University.

    Dr. Arcario was born and raised in Ozone Park, Queens.

    Read more about Dr. Arcario’s leadership.

  • Portrait Shot of Chancellor Felix V. Matos

    Dr. Félix V. Matos Rodríguez,
    Chancellor, The City University of New York

    Chancellor Félix V. Matos Rodríguez’s distinguished career spans both academia and the public sector: He is a scholar, teacher, administrator and former Cabinet secretary for the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.

    Dr. Matos Rodríguez is a dedicated champion of accessibility, inclusion and excellence in higher education. He built a diverse team of tested leaders to serve on his cabinet, and as administrators. During his first year in office, he appointed pioneering leaders such as Dr. S. David Wu, as president of Baruch College, who became the first Asian-American to serve as a college president at CUNY starting in July 2020. In keeping with his ambition to grow access for traditionally underrepresented firms to CUNY, he unveiled a comprehensive plan to bolster business opportunities for firms owned by women, minorities and service-disabled veterans.

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    Responding to the crisis of the coronavirus pandemic in March 2020, Dr. Matos Rodríguez oversaw within a week the transition of nearly all of CUNY’s 50,000 course sections to distance education. To ensure the success of CUNY students who lacked the resources to participate in distance modalities, the University quickly purchased thousands of laptops and tablets, and paused classes on most campuses to safely distribute the devices to those who needed them.

    In April 2020, the University announced the Chancellor’s Emergency Relief Fund to provide urgent support to students facing financial hardship amid the pandemic. Launched with $3.25 million in initial donations, the fund has provided grants of $500 each to thousands of CUNY students, including undocumented students who were excluded from financial relief by the federal government.

    Prior to his appointment as Chancellor, Dr. Matos Rodríguez was president of CUNY’s Queens College from 2014 to 2019 and of CUNY’s Eugenio María de Hostos Community College in the Bronx from 2009 to 2014, making him one of a select few U.S. educators who has led both a baccalaureate and a community college.

    A cum laude graduate in Latin American Studies from Yale University, Matos Rodríguez received his Ph.D. in history from Columbia University. He has taught at Yale, Northeastern University, Boston College, the Universidad Interamericana de Puerto Rico, City College and Hunter College, and was affiliated with the History department at the CUNY Graduate Center. At Hunter, he also directed the Center for Puerto Rican Studies, one of the largest and most important Latino research centers in the United States.

  • Portrait Shot of Fay Maureen Butler

    Fay Maureen Butler, Ed.D,
    Interim Associate Dean for Student Success

    Dr. Fay Maureen Butler has spent the past 36 years working in higher education, 30 of which have been spent in various positions at The City University of New York. She is currently the Interim Associate Dean for Student Success at LaGuardia Community College. Dr. Butler is highly regarded by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, having been invited to serve as an evaluator seven times. She has also presented workshops for NACAC, The College Board, NCBAA and the League for Innovation. Dr. Butler does missions work every year in east or southeast Africa, especially focusing on clean water initiatives. In February 2020, Dr. Butler Hiked Mt Kilimanjaro in Tanzania to bring greater attention to clean water initiatives.

  • Portrait Shot of Diana Athena

    Diana Athena,
    LaGuardia Community College 2021 Class Representative

    Diana Athena, age 31, is graduating from LaGuardia Community College with an Associate of Arts in Creative Writing. She is a member of the Phi Theta Kappa International Honors Society and holds a 3.9 GPA.

    Diana was born and raised in Russia. At age 19, Diana moved to New York City to learn English and find her passion. She found work as a waitress and bartender, while taking English classes. “At the time, I wasn’t confident that my English would ever be proficient enough to attempt earning a college degree,” says Diana.

    In 2016, eight years after moving to New York, things improved for Diana when she became a yoga instructor. Being able to teach in English to a room full of yoga students made her feel ready to get back to school.

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    Guided by her yogic experiences of the healing effect of movement, Diana enrolled at LaGuardia Community College intending to pursue the Physical Therapy Assistant Program. However, a creative nonfiction class revived a passion for writing that she’d had as a teenager, prompting her to switch majors. A story she wrote about her favorite band was honored in the College’s Creative Writing Contest.

    For most of her time at LaGuardia, Diana juggled work as a bartender, yoga teacher, and front desk manager at a chiropractor’s office. However, during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, she was out of work for five months. She applied for a scholarship from the LaGuardia Community College Foundation and was honored to be the first recipient of the College’s Dr. Susan Young Scholarship—named in honor of the late English Professor Susan Young, the scholarship is awarded to one Writing and Literature major every year.

    Currently, Diana is getting ready to start classes this fall towards a bachelor’s degree in writing and psychology—preparing her for the career she envisions combining her interests in wellness and mindfulness, yoga, and literature. “Stories can bring awareness to daily life,” says Diana. “I plan to keep sharing my story, so that nontraditional students know they are not alone in their journey.”

  • Portrait Shot of Kristy L. Guzman

    Kristy L. Guzman, RN,
    Alumni Speaker for LaGuardia Community College’s 2021 Commencement

    Kristy L. Guzman graduated from LaGuardia Community College in 2019 with her associate degree in nursing. She works as a registered nurse in the intensive care unit (ICU) of Bellevue Hospital, which is part of New York City Health + Hospitals.

    Like many LaGuardia students, Kristy enrolled at the College to pursue a career change. After earning a bachelor’s degree in Spanish Language and Literature from Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania, Kristy had trouble finding work as an interpreter in New York City. Instead, she returned to working as a makeup artist, which she had done during college. “I ended up interpreting people’s style preferences, not their language,” says Brooklyn-native Kristy.

    Then one day while working, she started feeling weak. Her alarm grew when she realized that she was unable to lift her arm to apply blush to a client’s face.

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    After a series of doctors’ appointments, Kristy was diagnosed with Myasthenia gravis, a neuromuscular autoimmune disease that causes muscular weakness. Doctors recommended removing her thymus gland, which sits on top of the sternum, to stop the production of autoantibodies that mistakenly attack a patient’s muscle-nerve connections.

    So, at age 24, Kristy underwent open chest surgery, spending seven nights in the hospital, including two nights in the cardiac ICU.

    Thankfully, she went into remission almost immediately after the surgery, and has remained in remission for nearly eight years.

    The experience made her want to work in healthcare.

    First, she got certified in phlebotomy (drawing blood) and started working at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center. She decided to pursue nursing and enrolled at LaGuardia because it was conveniently located to her job at Weill Cornell.

    “I’m grateful that I found LaGuardia,” says Kristy, who was a member of LaGuardia’s President’s Society for high achieving students. “The nursing program is rigorous and for good reason—we’re dealing with people’s lives. As a LaGuardia nursing graduate, I felt fully equipped for my job at Bellevue, where patients with the most difficult cases are often transferred from other city hospitals. We have to be ready for anything.”

    One thing that was hard to prepare for was caring for patients during the Covid-19 pandemic. “My nursing uniform and PPE became a shield of honor that I put on before going into battle. Not only was I doing my job in frightening circumstances, but really making a difference.”

    These days, thanks to the nurses, doctors and surgeons who diagnosed and treated her autoimmune disease, Kristy, now age 31, has a lot to look forward to. She and her fiancé recently bought their first home together in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, and are planning to get married in October.

    Kristy is also getting ready to start classes towards her bachelor’s in nursing, and then plans to continue her education journey towards ultimately becoming a Doctor of Nursing Practice, enabling her to work as a nurse anesthetist. “When I had my surgery, I had a great nurse anesthetist working on my case. Becoming one would be full circle for me,” says Kristy.

    “It’s been difficult to be Latina and queer,” says Kristy, who’s family is El Salvadorian and Puerto Rican. “Living in NYC where diversity is embraced has made me more comfortable in my own skin. LaGuardia’s welcoming environment and supportive professors were a great foundation.”

  • Portrait Shot of Sofia Moncayo

    Sofia Moncayo,
    Pandemic Hero
    Mosaic Community Center Food Pantry of Sunnyside, Queens

    Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, Sofia Moncayo has led a food distribution program through the Mosaic Community Center in Sunnyside, Queens. Moncayo began volunteering there in March 2020 through the Mosaic Church, and then jumped in to expand the food pantry as she saw the need for it grow. More than a year later, Moncayo coordinates dozens of volunteers who distribute more than 2,000 boxes of food a week to families from Sunnyside, Woodside and nearby communities.

    As she recently described on The Kelly Clarkson Show, Moncayo has led numerous fundraisers, procured donations from local restaurants, and helped secure resources from the Farmers to Families Food Box Program overseen by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to sustain the pantry and ensure that diapers, formula, toiletries, and other necessities are available for those in need.

    Moncayo did all of this despite experiencing her own struggles during the pandemic: she was furloughed from her job as an accountant at a construction company, and she and her husband were months behind in rent on their martial arts studio, Glory Gym MMA as a result of being forced to temporarily shut its doors. Add to all of this, they struggled to transition their kindergartener to remote learning.

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    Moncayo, who was born in Colombia, was compelled to volunteer by her Christian faith and by memories of the food insecurity she faced growing up in New York. Moncayo recalled how she would join her family in lines to pick up bread and cheese from pantries, and how sometimes she felt ashamed of their circumstances.

    “It’s very important to me, and to my fellow volunteers, to do everything we can to make coming to Mosaic to get food and necessities a positive experience. One of the things that we wanted to make sure is that we don’t look at people on the pantry line as people that need food, and really focus on, ‘hey, these are our neighbors,’” says Moncayo, who organizes musicians and other artists to perform outside for the patrons of the pantry and its volunteers.

    In addition to running the food pantry, Moncayo helped start 25 for Sunnyside & Woodside, a Facebook group that encourages neighborhood residents to patronize local restaurants and businesses. The group has just over two thousand members and has helped many local restaurants stay afloat and recover from the financial crisis of the past year—with some even reporting that because of exposure on 25 for Sunnyside & Woodside, business improved, and they were able to rehire employees.

    Moncayo lives in Sunnyside/Woodside with her husband, Michael Kim, their six-year-old daughter Ava and 18-year-old son Julian. They are also parents of David, age 25, an audio engineer in New York City.

    These days, Moncayo juggles her work at the Mosaic Food Pantry, 25 for Sunnyside & Woodside, with freelance accounting jobs and part-time work at the construction company. The family business, Glory Gym MMA, has reopened for in-person Tae Kwon Do and other classes.

    Adapted from an Associated Press article about Sofia Moncayo, titled, “New York woman loses job, leads pantry feeding thousands”