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General Studies, SIPA and CUNY's Hostos Establish Serrano Scholars Program for Foreign Affairs

Congressman Jose E. Serrano has been instrumental in the program's conception.

Columbia's School of General Studies and School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) and the City University of New York's (CUNY) Hostos Community College have established the Serrano Scholars Program, which will prepare non-traditional students for careers in foreign affairs. The program will accept eligible Hostos students and graduates to attend Columbia's School of General Studies for two years to complete their bachelor's degree in liberal arts, then attend SIPA for two years to earn a master's degree in international affairs.

The program, backed by grants from the U.S. Departments of State, Education and Defense, honors Democratic Congressman Jose E. Serrano, U.S. Representative for the 16th District of New York, who has been instrumental in its conception.

"I am proud to officially inaugurate this program, which already has its first Serrano scholars who will bring their unique backgrounds and skills to tomorrow's leadership positions in America's foreign policy," said Congressman Serrano. "This program is designed to be a challenge as our scholars move from Hostos Community College to Columbia. I am proud that with the help of so many I am able to officially bring this opportunity to our young people who have accepted this challenge and will have futures filled with service, pride and satisfaction."

The first Serrano Scholars are currently enrolled in Columbia for the 2001-2002 academic year.

Participants receive Serrano Scholars Fellowships, which include tuition and fees for full-time study for four years at Columbia (two years at the School of General Studies and two years at SIPA), plus a stipend. In addition, participants will take part in mentoring, leadership and internship programs designed to guide and support students in their academic and career goals. For fiscal year 2002, the Serrano Scholars Program will receive $2.6 million in federal funding. It received $2.3 million in fiscal year 2001.

"The Columbia community is proud to be a part of this ground-breaking program," said Columbia President George Rupp. "The University as well as the fields of foreign affairs and national defense will greatly benefit from this infusion of talented and dedicated students."

President Dolores M. Fernandez of Hostos Community College stated, "Hostos is honored to be part of this initiative, as it provides students from our school with the opportunity to acquire the necessary skills to serve our country throughout the world."

Peter J. Awn, dean of the School of General Studies, hailed the program as "an innovative public and private partnership" between CUNY and Columbia.

"We are excited about the prospect of establishing a unique crossover between a community college and the Ivy League," said Awn. "General Studies is uniquely positioned to extend this opportunity to highly qualified minority students."

SIPA Dean Lisa Anderson also praised the establishment of the program. "International affairs in the 21st century poses a complex set of new questions that must be addressed by professionals with a range of skills and perspectives," said Anderson. "The Serrano Scholars Program will serve as a valuable tool in meeting this need by helping to attract a diverse and skilled pool of students."

Columbia faculty from the Institute of Latin American Studies (I.L.A.S.), housed at SIPA, and Arts and Sciences will help design courses and seminars that will include the use of distance-learning technology. Staff from Columbia and Hostos will develop recruitment materials and design admission standards for Hostos students. In addition, the Columbia Center for New Media
Teaching and Learning, in conjunction with faculty at the participating institutions, is developing digital resources to further enhance the learning experience of the participants.

Students and graduates of Hostos Community College are eligible for consideration as Serrano Scholars if they meet the following criteria:

  • Minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0 at Hostos
  • Passing score on the CUNY/ACT Basic Skills Test
  • Strong bilingual skills
  • English language proficiency (satisfied by a level of 9 or above on the English placement test as administered by the American Language Program at Columbia).

Applications, which include essays, recommendations and transcripts, will be due in April. After a preliminary screening by Hostos, applications will be forwarded to Columbia's School of General Studies, which will then invite applicants to campus for personal interviews and placement tests. Successful candidates will be notified in early June of their admission to the program and their scholarship award. During their final semester at the School of General Studies, participants will need to submit a separate application for admission to SIPA for the following academic year.

Published: Feb 26, 2002
Last modified:Sep 18, 2002


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