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City Tech’s 2010 Salutatorian Listens to Twin Sister, Success Follows

Photo credit: Michele Forsten

By her late 20s, Natasha Marcano had earned an associate degree and was well established as an art director in the global advertising agency giant McCann Erikson’s local office in her native Trinidad. But something was missing – she wanted to continue her education and earn a bachelor’s degree in graphic design. To do that, she’d have to leave her country.

What to do? Making the decision to leave friends, family and a career in Trinidad was wrenching. In the end, it was Marcano’s twin sister Katisha who advised her to take the chance. Armed with her life savings to pay for tuition, Marcano moved to Brooklyn to attend City Tech, where a friend of hers was enrolled.

Marcano, 32, who had been out of school for several years by that point, found the transition back to being a college student, combined with having to learn the ropes of a foreign country, to be daunting. So difficult in fact that she came very close to quitting her first semester.

 “Not seeing my sister every day was particularly hard,” she explains. “She is studying for her master’s degree in science in Trinidad. But we have a dynamic where we alternate in the role of big sister when advice is needed and I leaned on her.” The sisters now speak and see one another every day via Skype.

Marcano found that her previous experience in the graphic design field helped her excel in the communication design courses she took that first semester. However, her writing classes were another story. She feels that “words are not my strongest point, but I’m trying to improve on that.” She also notes that her education in Trinidad followed the British tradition which meant that she needed to adjust to an American protocol, especially as it pertained to spelling.

During the challenging transition to life in New York, Marcano drew on the strength exhibited by her mother and godmother back in Trinidad. “I thought about how these two women overcame hard situations in their lives and they inspired me to keep going,” she says.

Despite the difficulties, Marcano managed to get all A’s in her first semester, and she used that performance as the standard against which she measured and tested herself. “I had a mission to excel and told myself ‘try your best, don’t give up.’”

The result? Marcano has been named City Tech’s salutatorian (second to the valedictorian) of the class of 2010, achieving a grade point average of 3.952 out of a possible 4.0. With her mother and sister proudly looking on, she will be acknowledged for this achievement by City Tech President Russell K. Hotzler at the College’s June 2 commencement exercises in the Theater at Madison Square Garden in Manhattan.

With most of her time taken up with classes and studying, Marcano still found opportunities to get involved in campus life. During her second semester she joined the International Student Alliance (ISA) and was elected vice president in 2008.  In this position, she assisted in the launching of Project World Reach, a peer-mentoring program for international students. She also was involved in food drives and coat collections aimed at encouraging international students to help others less fortunate than themselves. She said her role as vice president “helped to build my leadership skills.” And it afforded her the opportunity to use her design background to create the ISA logo as well as fliers and other artwork for various events.

Additionally, she served as a college assistant in City Tech’s Office of Image/Visual Communications, where her responsibilities, among others, included the creation of new web pages and the preparation of creative concepts and graphic layouts for publications.

Marcano was instrumental, as part of a design team, in creating the artwork and logo for the City Tech Faculty Commons, an initiative to enhance faculty development and support faculty research. She helped create a cohesive visual identity. She also trains and supervises students for future design work with the Faculty Commons.

Among other activities, in 2008 and 2009 she participated in the annual conference of NAFSA (Association of International Educators), which promotes international education and exchange and global workforce development. On top of all of this, Marcano held down a job at the City Tech Atrium Learning Center as a Mac tutor, which helped pay for her tuition.

Marcano received two internships during her time at City Tech.  Of the first (in 2007) at the St. Nicholas Neighborhood Preservation Corporation, she says “it was great because I felt like I stepped back into the work world.”  During the second one in 2008, at The New York Times, she worked in the production department, which, unlike her previous jobs, didn’t involve advertising design, but taught her about making final changes to ads before they went to print.

In looking to the future, Marcano is interested in getting her master’s degree and teaching graphic design, printing and visual communications at the college level. She sees her selection as salutatorian as a validation of her hard work and acknowledges what a huge part City Tech has played in helping her to realize her dreams and develop new ones.

“I listened and observed my professors,” she says, “and they provided me with guidance that gave me the idea of becoming a professor and the confidence to pursue this goal.”

Growing up in Trinidad with her father (a carpenter), her mother (a housewife) and two brothers and her twin sister, Marcano early on developed an affinity for art. “At a young age I loved to sketch. I excelled in art and mechanical drafting classes. But when I was introduced to graphic design I got really excited. I want to communicate that excitement to others.”

And while her twin is well on her way towards earning her master’s degree, Marcano is following close behind. Although their areas of interest are vastly different, the sisters are passionate about keeping up-to-date and current with their respective fields. How far will this take them? With each supporting the other and providing advice, encouragement and understanding when the going gets tough, doctoral degrees may be in both their futures.


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