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October 25, 2015

From Different Worlds

Geralde Vivi Anoukela Njatou

“I like the way our professors teach. They can take as much time as you need to explain what you don’t understand.” —Geralde Vivi Anoukela Njatou

Nine years ago, at age 22, Geralde Vivi Anoukela Njatou came from Cameroon to pursue higher education and a career in medicine more easily than would be possible in that central African country.

Whether from different countries or from the United States, transfer students are similar in their motivation for academic and career success.

Njatou has made the most of her time, having learned English and earned an Associate in Applied Sciences degree in nuclear medicine technology from Bronx Community College. Now seeking a B.S. in Nursing at Adelphi’s Manhattan Center, she is scheduled to graduate in May 2016.

Njatou worked for a year at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center before enrolling in Adelphi’s nursing program in 2013. A friend from Cameroon recommended Adelphi, and she selected the school over others she was admitted to.

She is happy she did. “I like the way our professors teach,” she said, noting that they take the time to address students’ questions. “They can take as much time as you need to explain what you don’t understand.”

Njatou, likewise, has impressed her professors. Jasmine Travers ’09, who taught her in Fundamentals of Nursing Theory and Fundamentals of Nursing Lab, said, “Vivi has a passion to learn all that she can in nursing, which is demonstrated by her time commitments to her studies and her collaborations with other nursing students.”

Travers herself was a transfer student (from Montgomery College, Rockville, Maryland). A past member of the Panthers basketball team, she appeared on the cover of Adelphi’s spring 2008 Transfer Students Newsletter.

A native French speaker, Njatou also appreciates the Manhattan Center Library, where she can access all the necessary books and resources and find a quiet place to prepare for classes. “I take hours and hours to study because I need to understand the language,” she said.

She recently began her clinical rotation at Lenox Hill Hospital, which she described as “very, very exciting.” That experience, she said, “enforced that I really like doing this. I feel like I was in the right place,” she said.

A look back at several transfer alumni shows that they too have overcome language and cultural obstacles to achieve the American dream—and, like Njatou, found themselves far from where they started.

Among those who came from abroad to earn their bachelor’s degrees after transferring to Adelphi were: Carmen Rojas ’13, originally from the Dominican Republic; Paulius Skema ’11, from Lithuania; Raluca Toscano ’10, from Romania; and Shahram Hashemi ’05, from Iran.

Rojas, a University College alumna who transferred from LaGuardia Community College, originally came from the Dominican Republic in 1963 at age 7. She recalled struggling with the language barrier until high school, when she excelled in English and math—and graduated as an honor student.

After some detours, she returned to college in May 2010 after a long absence to pursue her lifelong dream of obtaining a bachelor’s degree. Rojas was executive secretary to the chairman of Mitchell & Titus for 20 years. She then joined Blaylock & Partners as executive assistant to Ronald E. Blaylock, chairman/ CEO, from 2000 to 2007. In July 2007, when he launched GenNx360 Capital Partners, she became his executive assistant and administrative director.

She has been investor relations manager at the private equity firm since fall 2009. Despite the demands of her career and being a single parent of four children (ages 17 and up), Rojas’ persistence paid off. She graduated in 2013 at age 57 with a 3.9 GPA.

Skema, who played basketball for the Lithuanian 16-and-under team before moving to this country as a high schooler, transferred from the New Jersey Institute of Technology to Adelphi, where he majored in finance and played on the Panthers hoops team. Skema later earned an M.B.A. at the Robert B. Willumstad School of Business in 2013 and became managing principal at Trifecta Equities in early 2014.

Toscano, who arrived in New York from Romania in August 2005 knowing very little English, transferred to Adelphi as a math major in 2009 from Kingsborough Community College (KCC)—to which she has returned as a substitute lecturer since early 2013; before that, she was an adjunct lecturer at KCC since fall 2011. She also has a master’s degree in applied mathematics from New York University’s Polytechnic Institute.

An Iranian-born human rights activist, Hashemi was an Honors College finance major who went from organizing a chapter of Amnesty International on the Adelphi campus to becoming an executive at Amnesty International USA—chairman of its National Advisory Council since July 2013, Amnesty International USA chairman of the board in 2012–2013 and, for five years before that, its treasurer.

Hashemi’s sense of purpose was forged by childhood memories of the 1980s Iran-Iraq war and by his role in helping survivors and firefighters amid the 9/11 World Trade Center tragedy while a student at LaGuardia.

Bonnie Eissner contributed to this story

This piece appeared in the Fall 2015 Transfer Students Newsletter.
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