Elsa-Sofia Morote
John Jay Graduate Studies Retention Rate Reaches New High

Graduate Student Success

Jeffrey Guzman

Jeffrey Guzman ’05, ’22
Graduate Degree: M.A. in International Crime and Justice
Current Job: Case Coordinator at the Center for Alternative Sentencing and Employment Services

“Earning my M.A. helped me land a job in my field working at a supervised release program. My coach, Mr. Rony Rodas, was always encouraging and inspired me to pursue my dreams. Now, I’m using my multilingual skills—I’m fluent in seven languages—to coordinate pre-trial services at the agency.”

Angie Francois

Angie Francois ’05, ’22
Graduate Degree: M.A. in Criminal Justice
Current Job: Paralegal at The Flomenhaft Law Firm

“I earned my master’s degree thanks to the coaching I received from Hamid Ikram. In a matter of eight weeks, he helped me pass a two-part test in statistics and research studies. He was clear, patient, and willing to clarify anything I didn’t understand. After our sessions, I truly felt ready and confident to take my exams.”

When Elsa-Sofia Morote, Ed.D., Ph.D., Dean of Graduate Studies, first joined John Jay College in August 2020, she had one immediate goal: Find out what graduate students wanted and raise the retention rate. “The first thing I needed was an assessment. I sent out a survey to over 300 graduate students focusing specifically on retention,” says Morote. “I wanted to know what things we were doing great and what we needed to correct.” After two years of evaluation, enrichment activities, alumni interactions, collaborative conferences, and innovative partnerships, the positive results are more than evident. “I’m very proud to say that graduate studies retention rate is now at 68.5 percent—which is the highest rate in the last five years.”

How did Morote and her talented team manage to reach this five-year high? They listened to the students, tapped into our alumni network, and focused on highly sought-after skills. The four biggest takeaways that Morote received from the survey were that graduate students wanted:

  1. More connections and stronger professional networks.
  2. Enhanced guidance from advisors.
  3. Career center support designed specifically for graduate students.
  4. Stronger emphasis on 21st-century skills that would make them more competitive in the market.


“They wanted a sense of belonging, cooperative learning, faculty support, competency, and purpose,” says Morote. “At first, we didn’t have a very big budget to accomplish all those things, but I was going to do whatever it took to help our graduate students achieve their dreams.”

At the beginning of the process, she connected with the alumni team at the Office of Institutional Advancement and zeroed in on alumni interested in being interviewed on Facebook Live. “I needed to do something that didn’t cost a lot, but would engage students and help them explore what they could do with their master’s degrees after they graduated,” says Morote. “If they wanted to become an FBI Director, I found an alumni member who was in that field. I put on my John Jay jacket, set my Zoom background to a photo of the campus, and got to work interviewing different alumni from different career fields. The live format allowed the students to ask questions on the platform in real-time.” Every Monday for an entire semester, Morote suited up and interviewed a new alumni member. Now, she alternates doing the interviews, every other Monday, with Maria D’Agostino, Faculty Associate Dean of Graduate Studies.

After obtaining some well-deserved funding from the Student Activities Association (SAA), and three years of funding from the CARES Act Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund, Morote established the Graduate Student Career Success Center; created micro-credential programs; produced an annual graduate student research conference; instituted an annual graduate student intercultural Thanksgiving; offered an array of coaching opportunities; and put on bootcamp-style workshops focused on career-enhancing skills, such as writing and branding. “The Graduate Student Career Success Center, directed by Mayra Nieves, gives graduate students guidance on their careers, suggestions for their resumes, and offers different pathways to success,” she says.

“I’m very proud to say that graduate studies retention rate is now at 68.5 percent—which is the highest rate in the last five years.” —Elsa-Sofia Morote

“The research conference gives graduate students the opportunity to present their research with their faculty mentors. We also invited alumni to the conference, so the students built a larger network and deepened their relationships with their professors.”