Meet students who put a face on what it means to give to Manhattan College.
With the Help of a Scholarship, Computer Engineering Student Makes Every Minute Count
An accomplished pianist with 15 years of practice and competitions under his belt, Jonathan Alania ’20 has gleaned wisdom for life from his music studies. The key to building fundamentals, he observes, is to master the classical pieces that might seem formidable to newcomers. “If you learn the harder material first, everything else is easier,” he says.
That dauntless outlook has served the computer engineering major well during his time at Manhattan College, which he chose to attend for its proximity to his home in Hawthorne, New York, and its strong reputation in engineering. In high school, he’d discovered an aptitude for computers and, when it came time to choose a course of study, he decided to pursue the route of several uncles who were engineers in his parents’ home country of Peru.
Alania soon found that he enjoyed the challenges he encountered in his coursework. He credits his academic success to the College’s smaller class sizes and the quality of teaching by professors like Romeo Pascone, Ph.D., professor of electrical and computer engineering; George Giakos, Ph.D., chair and professor of electrical and computer engineering; and Ahmed Hussein, Ph.D., assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering, all of whom he describes with enthusiastic superlatives.
Recently, he became intrigued by the field of data science, which is geared toward providing meaningful decision-making information based on large amounts of complex data. To develop his knowledge of the field, he assists professor Yi Wang, Ph.D., assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering, with data science and cybersecurity research.
“Data science requires a high level of knowledge in software languages and mathematics,” he explains. “Dr. Wang is teaching me the fundamentals in order to do the research. I’m learning the software language Python and how to use an open-source data science library, TensorFlow.”
Alania also has an on-campus job in the IT department, though he has had to cut back on his hours while he pursues a concentration in applied mathematics. Last summer, he put his classroom learning to practice at an internship at STV, an engineering, architecture and construction management firm. He enjoyed his work as part of a large team designing a new terminal at Newark Liberty Airport in New Jersey.
“I worked on setting up electrical panels, wiring and conduits,” he says. “It was the first time I had what felt like a regular job. It was tiring, but I felt good at the end of it.”
Prior to his junior year, Alania received the Corr-Schmidt Scholarship for Engineering. Founded in 2007 by Mary Corr in memory of her husband, Francis Corr ’54, Ph.D., and her father, John Schmidt ’29, the scholarship provides tuition assistance to upper-level engineering students who are first-generation college students. Alania says the scholarship lightens his family’s financial burden and gives him more freedom to focus on his studies.
“Seeing a lower figure on the monthly tuition bill takes the weight off,” he says. “It shows that Manhattan College will actually take action to help students that are struggling financially. I’m unbelievably grateful for the donor’s support and wish I could say that in person.”
In addition to his studies, Alania is an active member of the campus community, serving as secretary of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE) and risk manager for the Phi Mu chapter of the Delta Kappa Epsilon (DKE) fraternity. He’s intent on building opportunities for members of both organizations. Community service, he says, is an integral part of membership in DKE, whether it’s helping at soup kitchen or doing a Sunday morning cleanup around the local neighborhood streets near the College’s campus.
As he looks to the future, Alania is optimistic about the potential for his chosen field and his place in it, noting that companies ranging from media, tech, business and law need data scientists. In the meantime, he knows he’s at a college that will help him to reach his dream.
“I wouldn’t have met the friends I have or had the experiences I’ve had at a bigger school. The quality of the education at Manhattan is great,” he says. “I know what I want to do now, and I know what I have to do to get it.”
The DeFeo Family Scholarship Makes College Possible
Crista (Miranda) Rodriguez Trejos ’21 was a high school senior when a visit to the Riverdale campus changed her college plans. “I originally wanted to go upstate,” recalls the 19-year-old Plainview, NY, native. “But my aunt works at Manhattan, and she raved about it. I figured I’d apply.”
When she received her acceptance letter, Miranda scheduled a campus tour. “The College was beautiful,” she says, “and the business school had a great reputation.” With her parents’ blessing, Miranda enrolled, and the experience has changed her life. “That first trip convinced me it was the right fit,” she says. “Manhattan’s been everything I hoped for, and more.”
Now entering her junior year, the accounting major is a recipient of the DeFeo Family Scholarship at Manhattan. Through their family foundation, Neil ’68 and Sandra DeFeo established the scholarship in memory of Neil’s brother, Noah. It assists students based on demonstrated leadership, academic excellence and financial need.
“The DeFeo Scholarship really helped to make it possible,” says Miranda. “It relieves so much financial pressure on me and my parents.” The assistance allows her to focus on her studies and reduces the loans she would need to afford her education. With three younger brothers expecting to follow her to college, Miranda adds, the aid is even more valuable.
Miranda’s education has shaped her life in many ways. A gifted math student, she switched her field from business analytics to accounting in the O’Malley School of Business. “My instructors showed me how challenging — and enjoyable — the field can be,” she notes, with special thanks to Dr. Jing (Crystal) Xu, an assistant professor of accounting, CIS and law; and Dr. Marc Waldman, Ph.D., an associate professor of business analytics and CIS.
The DeFeos’ generosity has made a tangible difference in Miranda’s education. “I’m so grateful for my scholarship,” she says. “When you’re struggling with college costs, every penny counts.”
Business Scholarship Inspires Student to Get Involved, Make the Most of Her Education
When Alyssa Reesor ’19 left Buffalo to attend Manhattan College, she was looking to start her academic and professional career in the Big Apple, but she still wanted to have that sense of community that she experienced and appreciated while in high school.
“It was always my intention to be in a big city and have a fast-moving career, and when I saw Manhattan College’s campus, it just made sense,” she says. “I liked the feel of it. I liked the small classroom size. I liked the idea of getting to know my professors and being on a personal basis with them. I just liked having an actual campus feel that felt like home in the city.”
The accounting major didn’t find her true calling until her sophomore year. She initially pursued marketing, but when she took her first accounting class with Aileen Farrelly, assistant dean and visiting instructor in accounting, computer information systems and law, she fell in love with it.
“I took my first accounting course, and it just made sense to me,” Reesor says. “I like that there are exact numbers. I’m super organized and love things to be a certain way. With accounting, there’s always an answer, and I love that concept of you will have an answer.”
Plus, Reesor likes the fact that she’ll always have room to grow with a career in accounting. She knows that she can start at the entry level and possibly become the CFO or CEO someday. But for now, Reesor wants to go into the tax field or auditing, most likely at a Big Four company. And she definitely wants to stay in New York City, which has become home.
Back in Buffalo, Reesor worked two jobs each summer to support her education, as she is primarily financing her degree. So, when she received the Walter C. Camas ’52 Scholarship in her junior year, she was especially grateful for the assistance.
The Walter C. Camas ’52 Scholarship was established in 2015 by Robert G. Pulver ’69 in memory of his uncle to provide tuition assistance to upper-level students enrolled in the O’Malley School of Business who demonstrate high academic achievement.
“This scholarship has helped me so much by enabling me to continue my education,” she says. “It’s really helping to make my dream of being at Manhattan College more attainable. I have a giant thank you for Mr. Pulver for rewarding me with this honor.”
Reesor is a member of Beta Alpha Psi and Beta Gamma Sigma, both business honor societies, and was recently inducted into Epsilon Sigma Pi, the College’s highest scholastic honor. She participated in the Summer Research Scholars program and conducted research with a student from Bethlehem University that focused on financial literacy, and compared nongovernmental organizations in the Bronx to those in the West Bank.
Through Beta Alpha Psi, Reesor does a good deal of volunteering, including working with the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program, which is sponsored by the IRS and provides training and certification classes to those who wish to help prepare tax returns for low-income individuals.
“I love doing it because I get to meet the different people there, and I’m able to help,” says Reesor, who works in the O’Malley School of Business dean’s office. “It also helps me to get the hands-on experience of tax work.”
She plans on staying at the College to pursue her fifth-year MBA in accounting and then take the CPA exam. In the meantime, Reesor intends to be involved in as much as possible, to take advantage of all the programs, events, courses, and mentoring and networking that she can as she finishes up her undergraduate studies in May.
Since graduation, Reesor began the five-year MBA program in accounting. She has accepted a job in the audit department of accounting firm CohnReznick LLP, which she will begin in the fall of 2020.