Bill Markowitz Scholarship Award Winners

Bill Markowitz Scholarship Award Winners

Bill Markowitz Scholarship Award Winners 2022

Natalie Acevedo

Joining ISP was the biggest blessing in disguise I’ve ever had.

During my time in ISP, I have learned so much about myself and what it means to learn about different forms of justice around the world. The classes are enjoyable because they are the most immersive and engaging. Classes in ISP aren’t just about learning about one issue or topic and focusing on that, but also about growing our skills to analyze that topic and thinking about solutions. The focus of an ISP class—whether it be sex and gender, or stereotypes and justice—is to looked at an issue through many different lenses. I believe that is the most beneficial way to learn. I fell prepared to go into the “real world” after my undergraduate years at John Jay. I feel prepared to tackle any situation in multiple different ways.

As I learn more about who I am as a person, these classes allow me to immerse myself in my own voyage of self discovery. I have always been more of a quiet and introverted type of student in a classroom, especially after going fully online. It has often been very difficult for me to speak in class, but in ISP I always have something to say and always felt excited to offer my opinion in class. I throw myself into the class discussion and speak so much more than in any of my other college courses. It is the biggest improvement I’ve made for myself so far these past two years and I couldn’t have done that without ISP.

If it were possible to be an ISP major I would definitely do it.


Bill Markowitz Scholarship Award Winners 2021

Joudy Sherif

When I changed my major to Computer Science, a common questionwas: why didn't I transfer to a college near me instead of taking a two-hour commute to John Jay?  ISP is what factored into my decision. I felt like no other program would give me the feeling of compassion while also possessing the desire to help them graduate smoothly. With ISP, you get the feeling of a second family at school. Now I know that may seem far-fetched but believe me when I say that I have a strong connection with all my ISP professors and classmates. For instance, the department hosts a welcome party for all freshmen enrolled in the program, and when I attended this gathering, I was able to make friends and break out of my shell. As a result, I felt at ease in being in a new environment, and that is something I believe one will never achieve at any other college.

For example, one of my professors from last year still sends periodic emails to check on me during these troublesome times. The level of understanding and patience the ISP professors have is outstanding. They try their best to accommodate students when something goes awry and they always give constructive, incredibly helpful feedback.

I cannot stress enough how much ISP classes have helped me during my two years at John Jay. I used to lack the confidence to speak up and share my thoughts. My high school years consisted of minor panic attacks and meltdowns at just the idea of sharing one word in front of my classmates. Fortunately, the setup of ISP classes forces you to face your fear of public speaking, and the professors are always encouraging us to share what's on our minds. One day, I was having a conversation with a classmate about ISP. My immediate response was the generosity of the professors. "The professors care about their students, and they also allow me to overcome my fear of public speaking and be able to express my thoughts and ideas more confidently in class," was my exact answer.

ISP is a break from all the stress that comes with other classes because I know that I will thrive and disconnect from the hardships of being a college student. Yes, ISP classes are challenging but in the best way.


Ly Hoang

Having grown up in a small town in Arkansas, ISP helped me overcome my limited rural experiences and made me more aware of the implicit biases I inherited from the American South. Through these classes, I was able to understand the complexities associated with more diverse urban settings.  ISP has allowed me to develop the skills necessary to understand a diverse group of people within different communities. Not everyone can relate to each other’s experiences, but I have learned that taking the time to listen and learn allows us to overcome misconceptions.

Throughout my time in ISP, I have been challenged by my peers to discuss our justice system and society as a whole. The ISP community has surprised me with our many well-thought out discussions on how we as individuals and as students should see the big picture of our society. I believe ISP is the perfect opportunity to develop as a scholar and as an individual.

Although John Jay has created its own large community, I have found the smaller community of ISP to be more nurturing.  ISP builds communities between peers and professors; it is reassuring to say that ISP is like another family far from home.

The best quote I have learned that embodies my time in ISP is: “Excellence is not a gift, but a skill that takes practice. We do not act ‘rightly’ because we are ‘excellent’, in fact we achieve ‘excellence’ by acting ‘rightly’.”


Talia Salamatbad

The fall semester 2020 … I was sitting in the dark void of my room, my eyes glued to a computer screen. I was dreading online college. I envied my friends that had the opportunity to go to school in person. I was exhausted and my body moved slowly every time I had to log into zoom and enter a user ID for classes. I would hold back the urge to scream into the endless online abyss every time I saw faceless names and mute breakout rooms where the silence was deafening.

Needless to say, I despise online learning.

However, there were a few classes that lit my dark computer screen, making my whole room a ray of sunshine. These classes were my Interdisciplinary Classes. ISP made the discordant into a beautiful, appealing melody. I was finally excited, engaged, and invested when I stepped into the virtual classroom. I no longer had to hide from everyone.  Names were no longer faceless; mute breakout rooms were no longer silent.  I had friends and professors that understood me and actually knew my name. ISP made me feel seen behind a black screen.  It was my own virtual reality. I was able to feel the presence of my classmates and my professors in this empty room where I sat alone.

Having the opportunity to be a part of ISP has provided me with a survival group to help navigate the foreign jungle of college. ISP has made this big jungle feel small. The professors want to hear what I have to say and give me the confidence to speak and be heard. The sense of empowerment that ISP has given me is enormous; I have learned to speak my mind and give my input whenever I feel is necessary and I couldn’t be more grateful for that.


Bill Markowitz Scholarship Award Winners 2020


Emely Garcia

The Department of Interdisciplinary Studies has impacted and changed my life for the better. If I had to put a name to describe ISP, it would be a supportive family. Since my first day at John Jay, all I ever received from ISP is love and support. I remember being scared by the image fed to me by my high school teachers that professors in college did not care about students and that they were rude, and then I met the professors in ISP.  They are amazing people and professors, role models, determined, kind, and passionate about the things they do, which are all the things that I aspire to be. They create a welcoming and safe space in which students could share their thoughts, beliefs, and opinions without feeling like they were judging us. They encourage the class to think critically and beyond the facts in situations. I was able to apply the skills I learned in class in my other courses. For the first time, I felt that what I had to say mattered to professors and this encouraged me to speak my mind and ask questions not just in classes but outside in the real world, as well as to questions the things that I don't agree with to make a difference and stop injustices.

ISP is the type of family that cares for you, advises you, guides you, gives you a reality checks when you need one. Most importantly, they help you grow, not just by teaching you the skills you need to succeed, but by teaching you how to be human, how to care for others, how to be emotionally intelligent. I am profoundly grateful for everything ISP taught me; I believe I wouldn't be the Emely I am today if it wasn't for ISP and the support that the program gave me when I first came to John Jay and continues to provide me with now. The skills I learned from ISP makes a better person every day.



Caitlin Garcia

The Interdisciplinary Studies Program has been a massive part of my higher education at John Jay. In my first semester, I took three ISP courses, which allowed me to fully immerse myself in the culture of the program. These courses stood out to me compared to the others because I was able to express myself more interactively with the students and professors. These classes were the highlight of my days because I knew I could communicate and understand real-life topics more profoundly.

During my first semester at John Jay, I questioned whether studying at this specific college was the best path for me. I wasn’t sure if going to college in Manhattan and striving for a completely different career than my sisters was plausible since no one else has tried to before. ISP then asked me if I wanted to be a part of their new ambassador program, intending to help first-year students thrive in ISP classes. I was touched that any of my professors thought to recommend me, and I believe that it was one of the many signs I received telling me to continue going to John Jay. In addition, in my Life Stories class I was able to help write a docudrama on legal and illegal immigration into the United States, a subject close to my heart because of the many people I know who have gone (and in some cases still are going) through the process of gaining residency in a country that currently rejects them. We gave a voice to those who would otherwise rarely speak of their experience. The project taught us how different people from different countries all want a better life. This project has opened my eyes to potentially study immigration law and help those who need their voice to be heard.


Alejandra Lopez-Rojas

“What the hell is ISP?” I remember my mom asking me the first time I told her about the program I had just enrolled in on my second day in New York. Now, two years into my degree at John Jay, looking back at that moment I feel so glad that I just happened to stumble into ISP.

ISP has represented everything I aspired to encounter by coming to the U.S. to study, and whereas some of my other classes have disappointed me along the way, ISP never has. It represents the reason I chose the degree I’m pursuing, the idea that you can go much further if you look at something from more than just one perspective. ISP has been an experience of not only learning to appreciate different points of views, but also learning that I myself have a point of view that is valuable. In almost no other classes but ISP have I actually been asked what I think about something.  For me, ISP has been a breath of fresh air where I know I can freely express myself about a topic we’re discussing because maybe my professors hadn’t approached it the way I did.

ISP is a true community where no one is looking to screw the other person; where you’re not in constant competition to get a higher grade than anyone; where the professors actually know who you are and how you think because you’re not just another head in a classroom.  Without ISP I would’ve never gotten to know some of my favorite professors who I know I can count on for a recommendation letter or to help choose my classes or even just for a chat. Likewise, I never would have met my best friend, who is now my roommate, and neither of us would’ve been able to get the apartment we now live in had it not been for the recommendation of yet another ISP professor. So what is ISP? ISP is a place for everyone to learn and teach each other, because we can all learn from one another.

Mirka Villarreal

The morals, ideas, and passions that shape me are all because of the ISP classes I have taken. To me, ISP is an opportunity to expand your perspectives on the world.  By taking ISP classes, I was able to view situations from a sociological, criminological, and philosophical perspective as well as many more. As I continued my studies here at John Jay, I realized that ISP has provided me with the education necessary to excel in my other classes.

If I had to say in one word what the Interdisciplinary Studies Program means to me, it would be opportunity. ISP classes have provided me with the opportunity to expand my perspectives on different topics. Instead of being a close-minded person, I am able to look at situations with different several lenses thanks to the readings we were provided with. Perhaps one of the most important opportunities that ISP has provided me with was the one to connect with New York. The values, the professors, and the endless opportunities are what persuaded me to choose ISP as a minor so that one day I can provide those opportunities given to me to others. Thanks to ISP, I will become a fierce advocate for justice.