However, when Mary C. Pearl became Dean in 2016, she advanced the long-simmering idea of opening the door to exceptional community college students.
Under a pilot program called Macaulay Bridge, 18 carefully selected sophomores will now have a chance to earn their associate’s degrees in the spring and then continue as Macaulay at Lehman College students.
One of the 18 students is 29-year-old Rohan Sharma.
According to a City University of New York (CUNY) press release, Sharma immigrated with his family from India when he was 11-years-old.
He was a high-achiever at Forest Hills High School and was capable of obtaining a Macaulay scholarship, “but I had to drop out when I was 16, after my father died and I had to get a job to support my mother. My goal became getting a security-guard license and just a regular life. For 10 years I worked every kind of job,” he told CUNY.
“A couple of years ago my mother said, ‘We’re a little comfortable now, maybe you should try school.’ I said, ‘No, I don’t think it’s for me, it’s been too long.’ But I thought about it and decided to go back to school at BMCC,” he added.
Sharma earned a high GPA his first semester and received an email inviting him to apply to a special Macaulay Honors College program.
“I looked at the requirements and thought I must have gotten this must by mistake, but I thought, why not?”
He was thrilled and astonished when he was accepted.
“For them to tap into this demographic of students who are very talented but are never heard of because of their lack of credentials, I think it’s beautiful,” he exclaimed.
Many others received the same opportunity including Mexican-American Carlos Perez-Valle, Sahar Alsaidi from Yemen and Lena Nelson, a local New Yorker.
“Our motivation is to make Macaulay a school that represents every segment of New York and better reflects the demographic profile of the senior colleges from which we draw. The diversity of our Macaulay Bridge students in terms of ethnic background, age and life experience not only expands opportunity for them, but we think it’s just a better education for all Macaulay students — the more diverse our classes are,” Pearl is quoted saying in a press release.
“Our traditional model of a Macaulay student is 18 years old, just out of high school. But there are really strong, academically talented students at the community colleges for whom life got in the way, for whatever reason: The death of a parent, the birth of a child, immigration status,” Joseph Ugoretz, Macaulay’s senior associate dean and chief academic officer, added. “We wanted those students to have the chance to get the package of benefits and creative, rigorous education we provide at Macaulay. Also this is a group of students with a rich diversity of experience that many of our students don’t have when they come to us. So the program is good for them, and they’re good for the program.”