Berkeley College

Berkeley Grad Wesley Rebisz Leads Empire Outlets to a New Kind of Future

Wesley Rebisz, Berkeley College Class of 2008, is General Manager of Empire Outlets, based in Staten Island, NY. In this interview, Rebisz discusses how he maintains an optimistic outlook while operating New York City’s only outdoor retail outlet center during a pandemic; how he got his start in the commercial real estate industry; and his move to real-estate investment management company Madison Marquette in 2019 to launch Empire Outlets, after a 10-year career at General Growth Properties (GGP). Madison Marquette oversees a $6.2 billion real estate investment portfolio, with 330 assets in 20 states.

BFC Partners of Brooklyn developed Empire Outlets and has been responsible for the acquisition, development, financing, construction, marketing, and management of many of New York City’s finest residential, office and mixed-use projects since 1996. BFC Partners looks not only to break ground on new buildings, but also to jump-start the neighborhoods around them – economically, culturally and socially.

At Empire Outlets, Rebisz directs operations of a 1-million-square-foot shopping center located along the St. George section of Staten Island’s North Shore. The property’s development created 1,200 jobs, and is ramping up for the spring and summer months.  It has also served the public as a COVID-19 vaccination site since February 19, 2021.

Two of Rebisz’ proudest moments were opening a COVID-19 Vaccination Hub on the property at Empire Outlets, where retail and commerce intersect with social good, and hosting Broadway in the Boroughs, where thousands of people enjoyed Broadway performances on the property.  The breathtaking views of Lower Manhattan and easy access by ferry and public transportation make this a new New York destination for hipsters and discerning travelers from around the world. 

Link to full interview here

Bryant & Stratton College

High Fives & Hard Work Equals Success for Bridget Singh-Liebson

When Bridget Singh-Liebson arrived in the U.S. in 1983 with her two young daughters, she carried six dollars in her pocket and an extra outfit for each child and herself.

It was a Thursday. By Monday Liebson was at work behind the cash register of a local drug store.

Liebson, a native of Guyana, dreamed of following her parents to New York. When she finally arrived, she was dedicated to working hard to create a new home. It paid off.

Within three years she and her daughters moved out of her parents’ house. Her daughters became the first in the family to attend college, her youngest earning a spot at the prestigious Cornell University. Liebson married again and had a son who also enjoyed a successful academic career.

By the time her children graduated, Liebson had become a hairdresser. As her children’s academic accolades grew, so did their pay, and Liebson took notice.

“As a hairdresser we’re ok but they made so much money I figure education is the way to go. Education is everything,” she said.

When the hair salon she worked for closed in 2018 for remodeling, she said she “gave in” to visiting a friend who worked for Bryant & Stratton College and helped Liebson enroll.

Choosing a field to study was easy.

“I want to help people, I want to care,” she said.

Liebson completed her medical assisting degree in January of 2020.

Despite her reluctance about returning to school at age 56 and her even bigger worry about taking math classes, Liebson said all those fears dissipated when she stepped into Bryant & Stratton College’s classrooms.

“I love the diversity. In that room we were all the same, no one thought of us by age,” she said. “It was very, very nice.”

Liebson said Bryant & Stratton College gave her the opportunity to earn her degree and have a typical college experience.

She attended her first basketball game and enjoyed being part of the student section.

“I had young guys giving me high fives, we were all cheering and having pizza. I’ve never had that and I am in my 50s and all the other students didn’t care. We were all the same. I love that about Bryant & Stratton,” she said.

Her time in the classroom also gave her newfound computer skills, something she said she dreaded learning before attending Bryant & Stratton College. She can also now play a mean round of Jeopardy.

“I used to hate watching because I never knew the answer, now I can answer them all,” she said.

Now 60-years-old, Liebson said she should be considering retirement but would prefer to use her degree in the workforce helping others and encouraging retirees to earn their degree.

“If I can do it, why not you?” she said. “If you have the time and you can do it, why not?”

College of Westchester 

Accounting and Accountability, The Perfect Match to Succeed in Higher Education. Celebrating First Generation Week

Many people describe the meaning of accounting as numbers and an accountant as the person you see once a year when you file your taxes. However, for Steven Vera, a student at The College of Westchester, accounting is not only his major; it’s his passport to a long and successful career in the business world. While he may not be able to get firsthand anecdotes of college life from his parents being a first-generation college student, Steven’s parents are a big source of inspiration, especially his mother, who never stops encouraging him.

For some students like Steven, he saw accounting as a door to a professional life. “This major,” he says, “will open many doors in my life as it is a versatile career, and I pursue this major because of my love for math. I was always good at solving problems and when I took Financial Accounting 1 during my first semester, I knew it was the right major for me.” But as many of us may think that accounting is a tough and perhaps a boring career, Steven finds it engaging, and he feels really passionate about it. Going from Financial Accounting to Federal Income Taxation, Steven enjoyed discovering what really happens behind those taxes we all pay every year to the IRS. “Who doesn’t want to know what the government does with our money? Accounting is a profession needed everywhere which means the opportunities are endless,” Steven explains.

However, the road to success has not been easy for Steven. Two major components that constantly play a crucial role to keep him moving ahead are his family and a scholarship he was awarded at CW. “My parents have always prioritized my education and made sure I stayed on top of all my classes,” says Steven. Also, Steven is the recipient of the Empower Full Tuition Scholarship; a scholarship that covers tuition, books, and fees at CW. “The Empower Scholarship is very important to me because it gives me a sense of freedom knowing I don’t have to take out student loans and worry about when I’m able to pay off my tuition,” says Steven, who is thankful for the scholarship but is also aware of his responsibilities as a recipient. “I first heard about the Empower Scholarship when signing up for college, and when I received my private tour, my counselor explained the Empower Scholarship. I do feel like it’s been one of the biggest motivations and blessings to keep me continuing to do great in school.”

As a first-generation college student in his family, Steven knows the responsibility he has and the expectations set forth from his family. “Since I will be the first one graduating from college in my family, my nephews and nieces will look at me for inspiration knowing how far education can take you. My plan after completing my bachelor’s is pursuing my master’s degree.” Steven explains. Steven’s ideal job is to work at a big CPA firm or private Accounting firm.

Steven, who enjoys football, traveling, and fashion, is one of our students being featured during, “First-Generation College Students Week.” We are glad to have him at CW and glad to see him enjoying his CW experience. “What I love most about CW is the endless opportunities I have been offered and the one-on-one attention I receive from the professors who allow me to learn at my own pace. I also like the fact that this is a small school which makes it feel like home as you get to know the people you’re interacting with on a daily basis.” Steven relates.

Five Towns College

Transitioning Students from College to CareersFive Towns College Career Services Center

Five Towns College is proud to boast about the accomplishments of recent alumni, Daniel Schrieber. A student who demonstrated that hard work, perseverance and pursuing one’s passion was worth the time and effort, Daniel Schreiber graduated in 2020 with a Bachelor of Science degree (B.S.) in Mass Communication and a concentration in Broadcasting.

Throughout his college years, Daniel Schreiber presented not only as an incredibly kind student but steadfast in his quest to enter the Mass Communication field. He frequently connected with the Career Services Center for job-related assistance.  The Career Services Center assists students and alumni with all phases of career development, job searching and helps them transition from college life to career. This includes career exploration and counseling, deciding on a major, making employer connections and identifying internships.

Career fairs, professional development workshops, individual appointments, professional lecture series, successful alumni panels, dining etiquette dinners, and networking events are just some of the many programs that are offered to students and alumni. The Career Services Center staff maintains strong relationships with noted companies in the entertainment industry, business world, generally, and, after almost 50 years, serves to consistently identify internships and job opportunities for students and alumni.  

Daniel’s confidence combined with the preparation and guidance he received through the College’s Career Access Prep Program motivated him to pursue varied opportunities in his field of study. To demonstrate this, while at Five Towns College, Daniel had his own radio show. He was able to research and present interesting conversations and information that covered topics such as entertainment, sports, local, and national news, and trivia.

By developing himself professionally and achieving his educational objectives, Daniel has landed a position that has placed him on a successful path. Immediately after graduating, he landed a position at ESR 24/7 eSports Network as a TV Network Scheduling Intern.

Daniel is very thankful for the support he received from Five Towns College in helping to achieve his goal of working in the sports industry. Similarly, the College is proud to share his accomplishments and wishes him well in all of his future endeavors.

 Jamestown Business College


A Personal Journey for Jamestown Business College Student 

Lioshira Hernandez's journey at JBC began with a strong desire to obtain a professional career. After many years of struggling with the uncertainties of employment, she finally found the motivation to go college.

She had to overcome a fear of oral communication that has limited her from many things in life. The skills, knowledge, and experience she acquired throughout her time at JBC has helped her to be able to effectively, communicate her ideas in any situation or work environment.

The support, commitment, and professionalism from JBC's many dedicated deans, instructors, and faculty have helped Lioshira become a well-rounded, educated, and focused professional.

"I am profoundly grateful to our dean, Pamela Reese, who took my hand and reminded me of my achievements and dedication to my education," aid Hernandez. "JBC represents a better quality of education; this offered me the ability to choose a career path in the medical field. My future has never seemed so bright until now."

LIM College

Graduate Student Q&A: Learning Fashion Marketing while Running a Personal Brand

Dante is currently earning his MPS degree in LIM's Fashion Marketing program, while also developing his own clothing brand, Concrete Blossoms Garden. The native of Duval County in Jacksonville, FL plans to complete his degree this coming August.

What was your educational background before coming to LIM?
I studied visual arts growing up. Then, I attended the University of Central Florida (UCF), where I earned my Bachelor of Science in Business Management. Although I spent my first two undergrad years majoring in Industrial Engineering, I decided instead to pursue a degree in Business due to my entrepreneurial passions.

Why did you choose LIM for your master's degree?
Every interaction I had with LIM’s faculty, staff, and students while I was still an inquiring student made me feel like a member of the community. My graduate admissions advisor was a great point of contact during my application and enrollment processes, helping me realize that LIM was destined to be my new home.

How would you describe your LIM classmates and instructors? 
I would describe my fellow classmates as adaptable, curious … and hungry! I would describe the LIM faculty as supportive, compassionate, and experienced.

What is your career goal? 
Ultimately, I want to create intimate experiences for brands in my passion areas: fashion, music, and sports. I’d love to be a creative director for streetwear/lifestyle clothing brand, marketing firm, or music label, while also running my own clothing brand, Concrete Blossoms Garden. I have been developing that brand for three years and plan to continue scaling it while pursuing my master's degree.

What do you like most about your MPS program?
My coursework includes exercises that directly reflect industry responsibilities, such as creating mock marketing campaigns, using MailChimp, or studying pivot strategies for brick-and-mortar businesses in the wake of a global pandemic. I hate not being able to experience the beauty of my graduate education in a traditional classroom, but I am appreciative of LIM’s commitment to public health displayed in creating this unique learning experience.

What advice would you give to someone who's thinking about applying to a master's program at LIM?
Personal development is professional development. Don’t hesitate to discover yourself. Your unique point of view is what makes you special. It doesn’t have to be perfect, all positive, or traditionally beautiful, but it must be authentic. Enter every room ready to learn. Give yourself room to grow. Have faith in yourself and whatever grounds you, as that is the only weapon against doubt.

Monroe College 






Alumni Scholarships Awards 2021: Pushing Boundaries and Expanding Possibilities

What’s one word that sums up the 2021 Alumni Scholarship Award winners’ feelings about receiving support from the SVA Alumni Society? Gratitude. After an exceptionally challenging year, the 59 students who received $40,500 to fund their thesis or portfolio projects greatly appreciate the monetary relief. 

“Thanks to the Alumni Scholarship Award, I was able to push the boundaries of my thesis project without having to worry about money,” says Sanika Phawde (MFA Illustration as Visual Essay), whose thesis project is a graphic novel addressing people’s relationships with food. “I got to cook, control and construct my reference images and source the high-quality materials I needed to produce the best version of my story.”

Established in 1999, the Alumni Scholarship Awards are presented annually to SVA students. “In this unprecedented time, students are still finding ways to make their work,” says Miranda Pierce, associate director of Alumni Affairs and Development, who also spearheads this annual program. “The Alumni Scholarship Awards program always shows the strength of the SVA community—alumni donating to support students looking ahead to entering the job market. But this year, you could feel it even more as the panelists deliberated, well aware of the additional challenges the students were facing.”

“I feel so honored and delighted to receive this award for my project,” says Miki Isayama (BFA Design), who is launching a biannual magazine focused on the traditional Japanese lifestyle, called Wabi Sabi. “Because of this scholarship, I will be able to curate and refine my project further and expand the possibility of my work.”

“Winning this scholarship is everything! ... It’s providing me with the financial support needed to tell the story about an underserved community that would otherwise not ever be told,” says Lisa Durden (MFA Social Documentary Film). Through her thesis documentary, Durden tells the story of her brother, Kesis Amdetsion, a respected priest and rising leader in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. 

Not only does the award reward recipients financially, but it also validates the effort that goes into their—often very personal—thesis work. Rose Kang’s (BFA Animation) short film Junk is about a mother and daughter who must address their strained relationship. “It is a great feeling to receive support from SVA and the Alumni Society on a project that is the cumulation of the time I have spent at SVA,” she says.

“There are projects that are a direct result of the pandemic and there are others that could be from any other year,” Pierce says. “All of the projects were in some way affected by the current situation—whether it meant adhering to protocols on a film set, difficulty accessing materials, or masterfully fixing up the old computer you have at home—they all felt the impact and rose to the occasion.”

“I am very thankful to the SVA Alumni Society for this honor and acknowledgment,” says Fin Handel (BFA Animation), whose film, Woe’s Comet, is about a man whose life perspective shifts as a comet hurtles towards his city. “I am continuing to push forward and to convey a film worth viewing; one that provokes wonder, thought and comfort.” 

Swedish Insitute


Alumni Spotlight: Weadly Jean, Nursing, Class of 2018
For over 100 years, Swedish Institute graduates have been providing essential care in the healthcare professions of Nursing, Medical Assisting, Massage Therapy, Surgical Technology and Medical Billing and Coding.  Since our inception in 1916, we have graduated thousands of healthcare professionals who have brought their care and services to hospitals, clinics, medical spas and much more.  Whether it has been behind the scenes volunteering at Ground Zero after 9/11, or on the front lines as part of the medical staff at Mt. Sinai in the wake of COVID-19, our alumni have been supporting the NYC community for decades.
It has been nearly a year since COVID-19 changed our entire world.  We salute all the healthcare heroes from our own Swedish Institute family who have been serving both on the frontline and behind the scenes.
This month's featured alum is Weadly Jean from our Nursing program.  Weadly graduated Swedish Institute in 2018 and, upon passing the NCLEX exam, he began his nursing career as a field nurse where he visited patients in their homes.  He moved up to his current position as Nursing Supervisor for Meadow Park Rehab & Healthcare, where he is responsible for addressing all units in the building.  Weadly was in a morning staff meeting in early March 2019 when he was made aware that the world was on the verge of a pandemic.
"I remember it was during our morning meeting and our Director of Nursing informed us that according to DOH and CDC there was a virus upon us and it was projected to hit us hard. At the time her words were powerful, but it wasn’t until weeks later that I fully realized the true impact of her words."
Weadly recalls getting his first code blue at the beginning of the pandemic.  "I immediately ran up the stairs to the resident's room to find our nurses performing CPR. I assisted in rotating between proving compressions and breaths but realized that we were doing CPR on a patient that had already passed. For the next two weeks we lost at least 1 patient a day. It was a very surreal feeling being so close to death, and having interacted with almost every resident in our building, every loss was devastating.  It was a wake up call to me."
Weadly had enrolled in the Nursing program at Swedish Institute in 2017, following in the footsteps of his family members who work in the healthcare field.  
"I initially choose to be in this profession because almost everyone in my family is in healthcare, so naturally I gravitated towards the field.  However as I began my nursing career I learned the value of what I actually do. When I see my patients, I see all the elderly members of my family in their faces and I take pride in being able to be a source of comfort to them in any way possible."
Hillory Thorpe, Dean of Nursing at Swedish Institute, recalls the powerful impression Weadly made from the start.
"When Weadly joined our Nursing program, he immediately stood out as a star student," explains Dean Thorpe.  "He dedicated the time necessary to be successful in the program.  He would come in during school breaks to ensure that everything was in place for the upcoming semester.  As a student, Weadly sought answers and functioned as an advocate for others in his class. These are the traits that we look for in a nursing student who is going to enter the nursing profession.  I am very proud that Weadly is an alumni and a representative of the Nursing program at Swedish Institute."  
We asked Weadly what motivates him to keep going despite the challenges he has faced over the past year.
"Facing this pandemic is an everyday battle not just for me, but for all those on the frontline, and all those that are affected by this virus. While it has been very challenging, the fact that I can provide a certain sense of comfort to our residents encourages me to continue.  
I’ve expressed to my staff on several occasions that you don’t join the army if you’re afraid of going to war...and we as health care workers don’t join the field if we are afraid of providing our assistance and care for those that need it in the face of a clinical war.  We know that when we are able to get past this situation we will be able to look back at what we did and be proud of it."