In 1999, deciding she could not get an excellent education in her native Argentina, Monica Agrest moved to New York. In 2001 she enrolled in the Borough of Manhattan Community College and, by her third semester, was invited into the Honors Program. She then did what would become the first of many independent research projects, an honors project on Pablo Neruda’s poetry. “Writing this research paper and making a final presentation to the Honors Committee was one of the most challenging and positive learning experiences of my life.”
Outside of the classroom, she became a Social Sciences tutor, a mentor for students in the 24 College Credit Mentoring Program, a notetaker and Spanish tutor in the Disabilities Services program, Recording Secretary of the Phi Theta Kappa Honors Society, and she was nominated by BMCC president for the All-USA Academic Team. Beyond BMCC, she volunteered to work with a public school and a homeless shelter, and she collaborated with the Jewish Braille Institute to record Spanish language books to be used by visually impaired people.
Of Agrest, BMCC Professor Ellen Ciporen wrote “She has an enormous reservoir of intellectual curiosity…she anticipates her academics with spirit and zeal.” Agrest entered CUNY Baccalaureate in 2003 to study “Latin American Studies/Jewish Diaspora” and made extensive use of CUNY, taking courses at Hunter, Brooklyn, and the Graduate Center. Her mentors were Prof. Michael Turner and Prof. Robert Seltzer, History, Hunter.
Agrest completed much coursework outside the traditional classroom, including an Individual Tutorial Research Project on Human Rights groups in Argentina, guided by Dr. Margaret Crahan, the Dorothy Epstein Professor at Hunter; fieldwork with Jewish Holocaust Survivors; and two Independent Studies with her mentors, one on Sephardic Jews and another on Brazilian Jews (which required that she read in Portuguese). She also completed an Honors Seminar on Latin American Literature.
Agrest is now a Ph.D. student in the CUNY Graduate Center’s Program in Hispanic and Luso-Brazilian Literatures and Languages with a full tuition scholarship and a Teaching Assistantship. This Ph.D. program was recently ranked as one of the top ten doctoral programs in the nation. Agrest is about to complete the Master’s en route; she is teaching Spanish Language at Brooklyn College (Spring 2010) and in the Fall 2010 hopes to teach a Latin American literature course.