2024 John Jay Heroines
Women’s History Month: Honoring Our Incredible 2024 John Jay Heroines

The John Jay community is filled with extraordinary women who support, guide, and uplift those around them. This year’s John Jay Heroines inspired others to dream more, learn more, and become more. In celebration of Women’s History Month 2024, we hope that the moving tributes from their nominators encourage others to follow their example.

Maya and Andre

Heroine: Maya Colello-Wilson ’23, Academic Counselor, Institute for Justice and Opportunity (IJO)
Nominator: Andre Ward, Executive Director, IJO

Since she came to work at IJO, Maya has consistently demonstrated an unfailing enthusiasm for assisting individuals impacted by the criminal legal system. She’s supported over 145 students—helping them chart their academic journey, navigate the college application process, submit their financial aid applications, and stay on track to graduate. I’ve witnessed Maya guide students through daunting obstacles. One student—who was determined to become a nurse—received academic advice, career counseling, and wraparound support from Maya. When this student felt the devastating sting of rejection because of her criminal legal background, Maya never let her give up. This year, the student is completing her nursing degree and Maya couldn’t be prouder.

Susy Cullen and Anthony Carpi

Heroine: Susy Cullen, Director of Sponsored Programs, Office for the Advancement of Research (OAR)
Nominator: Anthony Carpi, Ph.D., Vice Provost for Research, International Partnerships, & Student Professional Advancement

Susy manages all grant submissions, which is a heavy load given the growth in the number of submissions and size of grants over the past few years. She interacts with faculty with the utmost care and respect and goes above and beyond the call of duty to meet deadlines—even making late-night or weekend submissions. Susy manages a highly technical process and does so with a smile and good humor. She makes our principal investigators feel engaged and supported, and she helps them navigate an otherwise difficult process. Susy does all of this, on top of managing two kids at home.

Kathy and Wynne

Heroine: Kathy Killoran, Associate Dean, Academic Programs
Nominator: Wynne Ferdinand, Director of General Education and Educational Partnerships

Kathy is the knowledge keeper of all things policy and curriculum related to academic affairs. She manages change and improvement processes that you see brought to life every day in our classrooms, information systems, and collaborations across many different departments and student success units. Whether she is supporting a student with degree-completion questions, facilitating the development of a new academic program, or completing one of a million other tasks to keep things running smoothly, we all benefit from Kathy’s commitment to educate for justice.

Fiona and Joshua

Heroine: Fiona Kim ’22, Academic Recovery & Engagement Coordinator
Nominator: Joshua Amador ’20, First-Year Engagement Coordinator

As one of the First Year Program coordinators, Fiona helps welcome first-year students and sets them up for success. From leading a hand-written postcard campaign that welcomed an entire incoming class, to carefully crafting workshops that empower students to tackle academic challenges, Fiona is steadfast in her commitment to student success. Unsurprisingly, Fiona’s passion for justice has taken her far—she’s currently a legal intern at Brooklyn Defenders and on track to earn her J.D. from Brooklyn Law School.

Marie-Helen and Mindy

Heroine: Marie-Helen Maras, DPhil, Professor, Department of Security, Fire, and Emergency Management
Nominator: Mindy Bockstein, Executive Director, External Affairs

Marie-Helen demonstrates a passion for teaching and research and regularly goes out of her way for her students. She values collaboration and interacts with her peers, staff, and external partners with great professionalism and respect. Marie-Helen is the principal investigator and co-investigator of several federal government grants which have fueled great opportunities for the College community—including many student experiential initiatives and the Center for Cybercrime Studies. She also served our country as a U.S. Navy Law Enforcement Specialist and Command Investigator.

Diaz and Delgado

Heroine: Jhoanna Diaz ’24, Cell and Molecular Biology
Nominator: Lissette Delgado Cruzatta, Ph.D, Associate Professor, Molecular Biology

Jhoanna, a PRISM and Honors Program student, was part of a group of students who mentored high school students in the College Now Program over the summer. She helped the students gain new lab skills and supported their desire to follow science careers. Jhoanna and her team designed all the activities and completely led the program themselves. She showed amazing leadership skills, truly inspired the young people around her, and helped form a great community of STEM-focused scholars.

Berlyn Morales-Witten and DeLandra Hunter

Heroine: Berlyn Morales-Witten ’08, Associate Director, Accelerate, Complete, and Engage (ACE)
Nominator: DeLandra Hunter, Director, ACE

Berlyn is a valuable resource to the ACE Program and the John Jay campus community. She inspires me daily. In her role as the associate director of the ACE Program, Berlyn leads the ACE academic advisement services and supervises a team of professional academic advisors. Her careful attention to the needs of our ACE students is at the heart of her leadership. Because of Berlyn, all of her academic advisors seek to provide the best quality academic advisement and focus on the individual needs of our students. Most importantly, her warm spirit ignites the flames and changes the lives of many students.

Alejandra Myerston and Edgardo Sanabria-Valentín

Heroine: Alejandra Myerston, Retention Specialist, Program for Research Initiatives in Science and Math (PRISM)
Nominator: Edgardo Sanabria-Valentín, Ph.D., Associate Program Director, PRISM

Alejandra has developed and tested new student-centric initiatives that keep our STEM students engaged with our programming and committed to their goals. She meets our students where they are, advocates for them, and is incredibly generous with her time. Alejandra closely works with our students and translates what they need from faculty so we can better provide for their needs.

Jennifer Insignares and Nancy Yang

Heroine: Jennifer Insignares ’20, Student Success Outreach Coordinator for First-Year Programs
Nominator: Nancy Yang, Associate Director, First-Year Programs

As one of the coordinators for First-Year Programs, Jennifer ensures that first-year students feel loved and supported. She has been integral in designing the fun and massively successful Summer Bridge program for incoming first-year students, and she makes sure that the students are well-prepared for the First-Year Research Showcase. Jennifer conducts outreach campaigns that empower students to meet their goals and stay on target for graduation. As a self-described shy student, she is now confidently leading her own student workshops and representing First-Year Programs at national conferences. Her commitment to student success, and her own growth, is truly heroic.

Juana Polanco-Thompson and Fay Williams

Heroine: Juana Polanco-Thompson, Administrative Specialist, SEEK Department
Nominator: Fay Williams, Associate Director, SEEK Department

Juana’s empathetic leadership skills and endless capacity to understand the perspectives of others make her an invaluable SEEK team member. No matter what the obstacles are, she brings a positive attitude, unfailing work ethic, and desire to be a team player. If a fellow staff member needs something handled quickly, she’s on the case. If a student needs something from SEEK to stay on track for their goals, Juana will find it for them or locate the right person to get the job done. She consistently goes beyond any job expectations and keeps the SEEK Department running smoothly.