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April 12, 2024

The Power of Portraiture: Prof. Lizbeth De La Cruz and Baruch College Students Humanize Deportation Through Art

Prof. Lizbeth De La Cruz with the murals in progress

The bustling heart of New York City may seem a far cry from the remote deserts and rivers that mark the boundaries between nations, but Dr. Lizbeth De La Cruz, a newly appointed Assistant Professor in Baruch College’s Black and Latino Studies Department, has spent years working on a project that bridges communities and distance through the power of art and storytelling. Her latest endeavor, The El Paso del Norte mural project, captures transnational migration narratives, freshly illuminating the intricacies of U.S.-Mexico migration policies and their impacts on individuals' lives.


Soon to span a vast canvas of concrete along the Rio Grande, also known as Río Bravo in Mexico, the mural vividly portrays the diverse experiences of Latinx and Black migrants—each with a unique story of migration, incarceration, or deportation. This project, according to Professor De La Cruz, is "not just about creating art; it's about telling stories that need to be heard, about humanizing the dehumanized."

The mural features thirteen large portraits, each ten feet by ten feet, bringing to life the faces and voices of deported veterans, asylum seekers, and undocumented youth drawn from the archives of Humanizing Deportation, a community based digital audio storytelling platform. By depicting the Rio Grande/Río Bravo not just as a geographical marker but as a symbol of ongoing socio-political strife, this project endeavors to capture the pathos of the often-faceless statistics of migration.


Equally poignant is the project’s harnessing of the collective efforts of Baruch students, almost 90% of whom are either the children of immigrants, or immigrants themselves. De La Cruz emphasizes the importance of this collaboration: "It’s about layering the skills these students are going to be able to use later on in life—to say, 'I understand this on a different level than just indifferently studying it. I understand it emotionally." Students from her classes on “U.S.- Mexico Borders" and "Latinx Communities in the U.S" have been directly involved in painting the portraits, making steady progress each week, turning theoretical knowledge into practical, empathetic application.


A unique aspect of the mural is its interactive component. QR codes accompany each portrait and link to detailed stories of the individuals depicted, allowing passersby to hear directly from the migrants in their own voices. "This digital narrative is crucial," De La Cruz notes, "because it turns passive observers into active listeners, bridging the distance between the subject of the mural and the viewer."


By focusing on deported U.S. military veterans and families affected by migration policies, the mural also ventures into the darker sides of the United States’ policies on citizenship, challenging viewers to reconsider the human cost of stringent immigration laws and the realities of deportation. The inclusion of diverse narratives, from young activists to veterans, invites a broader discourse on citizenship, community, and belonging, especially poignant in an election year in which immigration is a hot issue.


With the mural’s installation set for May 2nd, Professor De La Cruz’s vision is nearing its most critical phase—bringing the collaborative creation to fruition at the border itself. In this endeavor, Professor Lizbeth De La Cruz Santana extends an open invitation for all to experience the mural and to engage with the stories it tells.


“Yes, these are stories of extreme hardship," she said, "but I think they also say something about the enduring spirit of these storytellers to overcome barriers, both physical and metaphorical.” Her project too underscores the indispensable role of art in education as well as advocacy. Once installed, they will provide a site where the personal impacts of migration policies are drawn up in sharp relief against the impersonal landscapes that bear witness to them.

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The Road Less Traveled: How a Weissman Philosophy Major Became a Tech Executive

When Kimberly Bloomston chose to major in philosophy at Baruch College’s Weissman School of Arts and Sciences, she was planting the seeds for a future in an unlikely field—technology. Today, as the Chief Product Officer at LiveRamp, a growing San Francisco-based data and marketing company, Bloomston’s path exemplifies how a degree traditionally seen as abstract and frivolous can profoundly impact the disposition of future leaders and the fast-paced industries they join.

Graduating from Baruch in 2005, Bloomston’s plunge into syllogisms and metaphysical systems was sparked by an intrinsic curiosity about human behavior and the nature of thought that she started exploring in high school. “I was young and full of teenage angst, so what can I say? I just found it fascinating.” This intrigue only grew as she took more courses in college—first at Nassau Community and then at Baruch. It was her terminal degree.

Bloomston still credits her philosophical training with laying the foundation for her critical thinking and problem-solving skills. "I began to see philosophy as so foundational to how we change as humans and grow as humans and work as humans,” she noted, emphasizing the discipline's comprehensive scope. These skills, too often classified as over-specialized and impractical, translated seamlessly into her career, especially in roles that required understanding the inner workings of complex systems and improving the web of human interactions that make them up. 

Her first significant role after college involved training programs in retail operations, where she quickly advanced to VP of Operations. Bloomston’s ability to connect with staff and enhance operational efficiency was surprisingly influenced more by her background in the humanities than anything else. “There was so much of what I learned at Baruch that helped me think carefully about how to connect with people, and how you teach them to think differently without losing what’s special about what they already have. It’s a whole way of communicating, a way of thinking about thinking. That’s the best way I can describe it."

At LiveRamp, Kimberly has likewise leveraged the essence of critique to bring innovations to yet unarticulated industry-wide dilemmas. “I've made my career by being a divergent thinker, by questioning why things are happening the way that they are at any given moment and how to improve them. For me, it’s all about having a unique perspective, having a critical eye for things so that I can form that perspective, and drawing on information, whether it’s the text that's in front of me, knowing how to use that text to do research, or to think about what's surrounding that text, or what exactly has informed that text.” 

Bloomston credits her initial ignorance about a philosophy degree’s real-world applications. “Honestly, just not knowing about job prospects was helpful for me. I was able to be like, ‘Yeah, I can focus on this and I’ll be fine.’ It never even occurred to me that it would be a problem” she laughed, acknowledging how her background allowed her to take risks and explore opportunities she might have otherwise avoided based only on the taken for granted truisms of career advice.

Even now, after nearly 20 years of experience in the tech industry, Bloomston insists that the skills she developed through studying philosophy—critical thinking, ethical reasoning, and effective written and verbal communication—are more vital than ever for our evolving relationship to the digital world. “When you see something like generative AI pop up everywhere, you have to be able to understand the context of how that can actually change thinking and transform human behavior. The framing of ideas in this way is so central to being able to work in software.” Her distinct trajectory speaks to the enduring relevance of the humanities in understanding and shaping even the technological landscape. Proof: a degree in philosophy can be as practical as it is enlightening.

Scenes from Spring

Baruch hosts the annual NYC Public High School Journalism Conference. The High School Journalism Program gave awards to 15 NYC public high school newspapers in nine categories.

Amalia Lebowitsch, School News Editor of Midwood High School's Argus newspaper takes home 1st place for illustration at the Newsies.

The inspiring event is organized each year by Professor of Journalism and Director of the HIgh School Journalism Program, Geanne Belton (below).

Mishkin Gallery opened Taxonomies of Power: Photographic Encounters at the State Silk Museum, Tbilisi, co-curated by Alaina Claire Feldman (Director and Curator, Mishkin Gallery) and Mariam Shergelashvili (Exhibition Curator, State Silk Museum). The show features a selection of black and white historic photographs from the State Silk Museum in Tbilisi, Georgia, alongside the color film Raised in the Dust (2022) by Georgian artist Andro Eradze.

Dr. Alex Belser of Yale University (above) joined Baruch students (below) from the Department of Psychology to present, “Controversies in Psychedelic Medicine: Toward the EMBARK Approach to Psychedelic Therapy.” His talk addressed critical debates around psychedelic research including the mechanisms of treatment efficacy (neurobiological, psychological, and psychospiritual/mystical), which therapy models and theoretical framework to apply, issues with placebo and blinding, the qualifications and training of practitioners, the need for experiential training, and the historical challenges of racism, homophobia, and transphobia in trials.

Donald Mengay, Professor Emeritus of English, who taught Queer and Post-Humanist Literature at Baruch for more than 30 years, published his debut novel, The Lede of Our Undoing, the first in a trilogy, this past year. He returned to Baruch for a reading in March. "This novel was born directly out of all the teaching I did here over the years," he said.

Daphne Palasi Andreades in conversation with Professor and Chair of English Tim Aubry at the Spring 2024 Harman Writer-in-Residence Program Reading and Conversation.

Andreades’ acclaimed debut novel Brown Girls was a New York Times Editor’s Choice, a finalist for the Center for Fiction First Novel Prize, and Baruch’s First-Year Text for 2022-23 & 2023-24. A Baruch graduate ('15), she went on to earn an MFA from Columbia University and is the first former Harman student to return as Harman Writer-in-Residence.

Students get hyped for Spring Fling.


Johanna Fernandez Wins Prestigious Herbert H. Lehman Prize for Distinguished Service

Johanna Fernandez, Associate Professor of History, has been awarded the 2024 Herbert H. Lehman Prize for Distinguished Service by the New York Academy of History. This award recognizes her commitment to New York City history through both her scholarship and her service to the historical community, particularly her work with the Handschu files.

The Handschu files, which detail the surveillance of political activists by the NYPD, were supposedly lost but finally made public after Fernandez successfully sued the NYPD.

For more information on the Herbert H. Lehman Prize for Distinguished Service and details of the award ceremony, visit NY Academy of History.

Vincent DiGirolamo is NY Academy of History Fellow

Vincent DiGirolamo, Associate Professor in Baruch College’s Department of History, has been elected a fellow of the New York Academy of History. Membership in the academy is by invitation only and is limited to those with a demonstrated record of accomplishment in New York history as authors, archivists, public historians, teachers, librarians, administrators and others. He joins a distinguished group of 200 in the academy.

“It’s an unexpected honor,” said DiGirolamo. “I wish I could share the news with my Ellis Island ancestors.”

DiGirolamo is a leading authority on the history of labor, childhood, journalism, and city life. He is the author of Crying the News: A History of America’s Newsboys, published by Oxford University Press in 2019. 

Ken Guest in The New York Times

Professor Ken Guest is featured in The New York Times article "From China to New York, by Way of the Southern Border," by Winnie Hu. In the article, Professor Guest, an expert in Chinese immigration, provides insights into the patterns of recent Chinese migrations to New York City. He notes the significant yet underreported scale of this migration and discusses the role of ethnic enclaves in supporting the integration of these immigrants into urban settings without the need for city shelters.

Read the full article here.

Carol Berkin Wins McIntosh Award for Feminism

Carol Berkin, Professor Emerita of History at Baruch College and co-founder of the Women’s History Minor, was recently honored with the Millicent Carey McIntosh Award for Feminism by Barnard College.

The award is named after the former Barnard President, known affectionately as "Millie Mac," who played a pivotal role in inspiring students like Berkin during a time when feminism was gaining momentum. Professor Berkin’s recognition by her alma mater celebrates her significant contributions to the field of women’s history and her ongoing commitment to elevating feminist ideals in academia and beyond.

Harold Goldstein is a SIOP Fellow

Harold Goldstein, Professor of Psychology, has been accorded Fellow status by the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (SIOP). This honor recognizes members whose significant contributions—be it through impactful research, innovative practice, or influential teaching—have notably advanced the field of I-O psychology. Fellowship is one of the highest honors bestowed by SIOP, emphasizing a member's sustained and extraordinary impact on the field over a decade or more of active involvement.

Clemente Diaz Publishes on

Clemente Diaz, Associate Director of The Starr Career Development Center at Baruch College, has co-authored an educational resource published by the American Psychological Association.

The I-O Psychology Lesson Plan for High School Teachers, designed to introduce high school students to the field of industrial-organizational psychology, covers a range of topics including job motivation, work stress, teamwork, and organizational dynamics. This initiative is part of the efforts by the Teachers of Psychology in Secondary Schools (TOPSS) to provide comprehensive, accessible resources for enhancing psychology education at the secondary level.

The lesson plan is available listed under "Teaching Modules" here!

Ted Henken on PolitiFact

Professor Ted Henken, of Baruch College's Department of Sociology and Anthropology, was recently cited in a fact-check article by PolitiFact. The article addresses claims about the potential seizure of property belonging to Donald Trump by the New York Attorney General, contrasting it with seizure in Cuba. Professor Henken provided a grounded perspective on the implications and processes involved in such legal actions, contributing to a deeper public understanding of the case.

Read the full article here.

Mishkin Gallery in New York Review of Architecture

Mishkin Gallery's recent film exhibition, The Right to the City: Public Space on Film, curated by Alexandra Tell appeared in the New York Review of Architecture. The exhibition explored the theme of public spaces and their critical role in urban social life through various cinematic portrayals.

Read the full story here.

Baruch Performing Arts Center and Heartbeat Opera in New Collaborative Run

Baruch Performing Arts Center (BPAC), in collaboration with Heartbeat Opera, has launched a new opera production that has quickly drawn media attention. The New York Times recently featured the opera and a review from Theatermania offered a particularly favorable perspective, praising the innovative presentation of Eugene Onegin, which is interpreted through the lens of secret gay love. This review underscored the production's emotional depth and creative direction, attributes that resonate well with both new audiences and seasoned opera enthusiasts alike.

Read more about the productions and reviews here and here.

Get Your Tickets Now!


Baruch Alumna Debuts Short Film

Shoval Tshuva, a graduate of Baruch’s Journalism program, has embarked on a new journey in filmmaking with her debut short film, Funky. The narrative centers on a young woman's struggles with intimacy. Since its completion, Funky has entered the festival circuit and is garnering attention for its poignant storytelling and singular perspective.

The film was recently featured at several festivals and is set to screen next at the Miami Film Festival. This progression marks a significant achievement for Tshuva. "My education in journalism at Baruch not only honed my reporting and media skills but also shaped my artistic voice," she said.

In addition to Funky, Tshuva has been involved in other projects including two forthcoming short films and a collection of essays. Her work has caught the attention of international media, with features published by Hey Alma and the Israeli magazine Atmag, highlighting her unique contributions to film and culture.

For more details on Tshuva's work, check out these articles on Hey Alma and Atmag.

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