We are honored that Dr. Claude Brathwaite has joined the Futures Initiative Faculty Advisory Board. In addition to a dedication to social and educational equity that aligns well with FI’s mission, he also brings with him a wealth of experience in higher education and an intimate knowledge of the CUNY community, through his involvement with the university in several roles over many years. Dr. Brathwaite began his college education at Hostos Community College, received his BS in Chemistry from the City College of New York, and his Ph.D. in Organic Chemistry from the CUNY Graduate Center. He served as a Chancellor’s Fellow, and conducted additional postdoctoral training at Weill Cornell in the Division of Molecular Medicine.
Dr. Brathwaite is passionate about increasing diversity, especially in the STEM disciplines, and credits his uniquely CUNY experience with cultivating his global perspective and strong sense of social commitment: “There’s a cultural education that you get at CUNY that you may not get at other universities. I got that in the classroom and I got that on the soccer field.”
Dr. Brathwaite currently serves as the Director of Student Resources and Services at the City College Grove School of Engineering, utilizing a model of High Impact Practices and Engagement (HIPE). He previously served as the Project Administrator and later Executive Director of the NYC Louis Stokes Alliance, Deputy Director of the City College Black Studies Program, and Director of the City College Black Male Leadership and Mentoring Program. Dr. Brathwaite has taught courses in Black Studies and Chemistry at the City College, and at the NYC Alliance, he oversaw the day-to-day operation of the NYC Alliance programming across the 18 participating CUNY campuses for 20 years.
In a conversation (below) with FI Graduate Fellow, Rod Hurley, Dr. Brathwaite discusses the importance of the work done by the Futures Initiative, the experience and expertise that he brings to his role as a member of the Faculty Advisory Board, and the ways that the cultural and academic aspects of his CUNY education have shaped his perspective.
How did you first learn about FI and what is your view of the work that we do?
I learned about the Futures Initiative several months ago and what the overall goal was. Then there was the announcement regarding Dr. Davidson and the CUNY Office of Transformation. Then I got an email from Dr. Oyo and that’s when I took a deeper dive into what the Futures Initiative does. One of the unique things within CUNY and with the Futures Initiative is a dedication to equity in public education and to social mobility.
What motivates you as an instructor?
My background is in Chemistry, in the STEM disciplines, and I originally came to CUNY and studied at Hostos, which is very different from the other Community Colleges at CUNY, in terms of being in the South Bronx and a Bilingual School. I was in an algebra class taught by a bilingual professor and the class was filled with folks who were born in the US, from the South Bronx, people from the Caribbean, folks from Colombia, Cuba, Puerto Rico. And I was coming from an environment where that wasn’t the case. Then when I was a doctoral student I went back to Hostos to teach and the student body in Chemistry wasn’t very different. So my experience at CUNY has been huge in terms of what I do in the STEM disciplines and also being involved in programs targeting diversity issues and access for minority folks and seeing the role that CUNY as a whole has played in New York City.
Why did you become an FI advisory board member and what perspective do you bring or what do you hope to advance in this role?
The mentoring aspect of the Futures Initiative Is one of the things that I really do like, in terms of working with students – undergraduate and graduate students and getting them involved in the right programs. We can help position the university to not be in a reactive mode, to look ahead, understand what the challenges are, put things in place to handle those challenges, and be at the forefront of many things that are happening in this changing space. I’ve worked a lot with programs that focus on getting minority students into high-impact activities that facilitate the engagement of students and lead to student success.
What do you do outside of the classroom?
Well, I played soccer for CCNY. My intention when I left Antigua was to become a professional soccer player but at the time Brooklyn College was the only CUNY school playing Division 1, and I was at Hostos. At Hostos I was introduced to micro soccer, they call it futsal, and that was played by a lot of South Americans. But you then end up at City College with people on a soccer team that come from Haiti, Colombia, Nigeria, Afghanistan, Russia, Jamaica, Trinidad and so forth, and people from the US. There was an intersection of sports and politics. And this is also why I say the CUNY experience is a unique experience. There’s a cultural education that you get at CUNY that you may not get at other universities. I got that in the classroom and I got that on the soccer field. These global competencies were a big plus. So I’m a soccer fan. That’s one thing.
Another thing that I’m involved with is the African American Historical Society of Rockland. It’s in the Hudson Valley and there’s a lot of history that’s involved with this small community as far as thinking about National African American history and in terms of politics as well.
The third one is kind of connecting it to engagement in a global way. It’s also here at CUNY, working with students to make international research a component of their education here. It’s not in the curriculum per se but it’s a part of these high-impact activities that you want students to engage with.
So bringing everything home, I think CUNY placed me in a unique position – I grew up as a scientist/chemist/educator, be mentored by remarkable educators along the way, and it allowed me to still indulge in soccer, meet people that I would not have met if I’d stayed in Antigua, and to do it in a place where I feel I can make an impact.