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Profiles of Two Queens College Graduates, Class of 2004:
MOZELLE DUCTAN: From Nurse’s Aide to Union Activist and Honors Grad
Mozelle Ductan, 29, is passionate about social justice. A former high school dropout who later earned a GED, she lost her only parent at age 17. “I came from a single mother on public assistance,” says Ductan, “but although she was poor, my mother liked to help others.”
When her mother died, Ductan had to leave Touro College to support and raise her 10-year-old brother as a nurse’s aide. She chose Kingsbrook Jewish Medical Center. “My mother was dissatisfied with her care there,” recalls Ductan. “I wanted to help improve the situation.”
Despite past hardships, she has much to celebrate. Her brother is about to graduate from college and Ductan will graduate magna cum laude from Queens College of the City University of New York (CUNY) on June 3 with a master’s degree in Urban Affairs. Her field, she says, “involves acknowledging that the society we live in is not a utopia.” But Urban Studies does offer theory and practical knowledge that “are key to obtaining a more balanced society.”
Ductan, a single mother who lives with her nine-year-old son in Prospect Heights, works full time for 1199 SEIU, New York’s health care union. Known for its grassroots organizing, the union had noticed Ductan’s tremendous success signing up members for its Political Action Fund and put her on staff to coordinate political education. Now she is immersed in such work as voter registration, the statewide campaign to increase the minimum wage, and organizing town hall meetings against proposed cuts to hospitals and senior centers. She also co-chairs the Brooklyn chapter of the Working Families party that had a recent victory with Leticia James’ bid for the City Council seat of the late Honorable James E. Davis.
At the same time she is working towards a Certificate in Labor and Civic Participation offered by the Queens College Labor Resource Center at the college’s West 43rd Street Extension Center in Manhattan. This is a 12-credit certificate for union members who are interested in politics and political campaigns. There she has studied with the likes of former Manhattan Borough President Ruth Messinger and state Supreme Court Justice and former Assemblyman Frank Barbaro.
“My current and past experience and my son’s future are closely tied to labor and urban issues. Many problems of our society need political answers,” she says. Ductan’s ultimate goal is to be a lawyer so that she can “be of greater service to society…It hasn’t been an easy journey, but it’s been well worth it."
INGRID ALEXANDER: From a Navy Tour in Afghanistan to a New York City Classroom
Ingrid Alexander, 26, has had several lives. On 9/11, she was on board the U.S.S. John F. Kennedy as a computer specialist bound for St. Thomas when command received word of the terrorist attack. The boat returned home, and then left later to participate in Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. Alexander, a Second Class Petty Officer, was responsible for computerized communications for her F-14 squadron. “I had to make sure the network was up 24/7,” she says. “That meant a lot of long, sleepless nights.”
The orphaned child of immigrants from Trinidad and Tobago, Alexander says she was taught to be ladylike, but the Navy forced her to become more assertive and independent. “You have to prove yourself in the military,” she says. "It was important to me to be taken seriously.”
A resident of Crown Heights, Brooklyn, where she grew up, Alexander continually seeks new challenges. As a graduate of the selective Fashion Industries High School, Alexander once considered a fashion design career—“I wanted to be the next Isaac Mizrahi,” she says—but was inspired by her AP class in American Government. Later she enlisted in the Navy and quickly moved up the ranks. Despite the urging of her supervisors to reenlist after four years, she declined, knowing that she wanted another career.
Alexander flourished at Queens College, where she graduates with a BA in political science and government on June 3. In college, Alexander held an internship with the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. “I got to meet diplomats and even spoke with then-president Aristide of Haiti. I was elated because I was able to use my foreign language skills,” she says. Last year Alexander represented Queens College as head delegate to the National Model United Nations—“a real privilege that would never have been available to me before,” she points out.
This summer, Alexander enters the New York City Teaching Fellows Program, an intensive program primarily geared for those who hadn't originally planned to be teachers. If all goes well, she expects to be teaching mathematics in city schools by the fall. Remembering how her parents couldn't assist with her math homework, she says, “I'm going to try to help other children of immigrants.”
Queens College (CUNY) is dedicated to the idea that a first-rate education should be accessible to talented individuals of all backgrounds and financial means. Founded in 1937, the college offers an exceptional liberal arts curriculum, with over 100 undergraduate and graduate programs. Located on a beautiful 77-acre campus in Flushing, Queens College enjoys a national reputation for its liberal arts and sciences and pre-professional programs. Its nearly 17,000 students come from more than 140 nations, creating an extraordinarily rich and welcoming environment. The college’s outstanding faculty have received numerous fellowships, awards, and research grants, including Guggenheim awards and Fulbright fellowships.