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Leadership and Service: The Class of 2014

Colin Powell School for Civic and Global Leadership

Leadership and Service: The Class of 2014



With palpable joy and pride, graduating students in the Colin Powell School’s class of 2014 walked across the commencement stage on May 30 before cheering fans: their fellow students, parents, friends, professors and advisors. There was no shortage of accomplishment among the graduates, which makes our standout students—both within our departments and in the various fellowships we offer to students in any CCNY division—all the more impressive; these students have displayed a high level of excellence throughout their undergraduate tenure. 

These graduates are noted not only for their impressive academic records, but also for representing the heart and soul of what makes the Colin Powell School for Civic and Global Leadership an institution that readies our best and brightest to serve and lead with public purpose.

Kay Atanda: B.A., Political Science; Colin Powell School Valedictorian 

Kay Atanda

Oluwadamisi “Kay” Atanda was born in Brooklyn, but early in his life he returned to his parents’ West African homeland in Nigeria. "My parents believed that in order for me to truly appreciate the opportunities in the United States, it was important that I experienced life in another part of the world, outside of the U.S.," he said. 

Atanda returned to New York for college in 2010. He began his undergraduate career at Queensborough Community College, and transferred to CCNY in fall 2012. He has earned many honors since, including the Pearson National Prize for Higher Education and the Josephine de Karman Fellowship, and receives his BA in political science summa cum laude. This semester, he received the Ward Medal in Political Science, given to the best overall student. He was also the Colin Powell School for Civic and Global Leadership's valedictorian.

A summer 2013 White House intern, Atanda was just named a 2014 Thomas R. Pickering Graduate Foreign Affairs Fellow. The award will cover tuition for graduate school at Columbia University, and a position in the Foreign Service awaits him once he receives his master's degree.  

Evan Burke: B.A., Economics

Evan Burke

Evan Burke, the Ward Medalist in the Economics and Business Department of the Colin Powell School, entered the City College of New York with the intent to take full advantage of the opportunities provided by the school, including access to mentoring by faculty members that would prepare him for a career in finance.

Burke had a double major in economics and history. “Underlying this interest,” Evan said, “is the desire to understand how these fields have shaped, and are being shaped, by current events around the world.” 

Burke worked full-time as a coffee barista all throughout his undergraduate years. In addition, he worked at a soup kitchen in the Church of St. Paul the Apostle, an ongoing volunteer commitment that he’s sustained throughout his time at CCNY. “I feel that my experiences have contributed to my motivation for academic success, while also increasing my desire to give back in the future.”

Yasmine Ouchikh: B.A., Psychology

Yasmine Ouchikh<br />
When Yasmine Ouchikh entered City College in 2009, she had many interests, but had not yet determined her focus. A violinist, she considered studying music with the intent to teach. A budding social activist, she also considered political science. In the end it was this interest in service and positive change that steered her into a Psychology major. 

“I wanted to become a counselor for high school students, or a clinical psychologist,” Yasmine recalls. “In my freshman year I took a class with Dr. Vivien Tartter called Unconscious Ways of Knowing, and it helped inspire my current interests. We learned how slips of the tongue could relate to deep-seated life struggles, which are kept hidden in the unconscious mind.”

Ouchikh has been involved in research on bilingualism with Robert Melara, the Department Chair of Psychology at the Colin Powell School, as well as with Dr. Natalie Kacinik at Brooklyn College, who mentored her thesis project titled “Executive Control and Mathematical Problem Solving: Is There a Bilingual Advantage?” for which she won the Jed Barmack Award for Outstanding Undergraduate Thesis.

She is interested in learning how to administer electroencephalograms (EEGs), and gaining more fluency in coding in order to develop programs that assist researchers with experiments, testing, and research. 

Rebecca Panko: B.A., Biology; Colin Powell School Community Engagement Fellow

Rebecca Panko

Rebecca Panko has plants and wildlife in her blood. As a child, her parents were park rangers for the National Park Service, first on Liberty Island in New York, and then in Florida's Everglades National Park. Panko would return to New York as an adult, and after working a series of jobs that included selling houseplants, she decided to pursue a path in ecology. 

After taking classes in Latin at Hunter College to help decipher taxonomic names, Panko transferred to Borough of Manhattan Community College, earning an associate's degree, and gaining valuable research experience. She then enrolled in City College of New York to pursue a BA in Biology.

An advisor introduced Panko to Professor of Biology Amy Berkov, who became her mentor and guided her to opportunities, which included the Colin Powell Community Engagement Fellowship. "City College has a lot of resources," Panko said. "When you ask the right questions and expand your network, you can achieve a lot here."

For her community engagement project, she demonstrated the efficacy of using compost leachate to water salt marsh plants instead of allowing it to run off into storm sewers. This project was a collaboration that centered its work at the Lower East Side Ecology Center. A short film about this collaboration and featuring Rebecca was produced in 2013 and published on the Neighborhoods and Nations blog.

Rebecca Panko has been awarded a fellowship and will pursue her PhD in ecology at Rutgers University – Newark.