Category Archives: Student Spotlights

Mamma Mia! Empire State College Alumnus Lisa BresciaÔÇÖs New Role!

Headshot Lisa BresciaAlumnus Lisa Brescia landed the role of character mom Donna Sheridan in the Broadway hit “Mamma Mia”, playing at the Winter Garden Theatre in New York, NY.

In 2008, Brescia earned a Bachelor of Arts degree through the Empire State College’s Center for Distance Learning, with a concentration in Theatre Arts.

This is not her first Broadway appearance, as Brescia has also played in theatre productions of Wicked, Aida, The Times They Are A-Changin’, and more.

Congratulations Lisa from your friends at CDL!

For more information visit

Business was his Major. Teaching is his Hobby.

New to online learning, David Czuba began his Business Administration program at the Center for Distance Learning in 2006. He hadn’t been in a “formal” college class in many years but was determined to finish his degree in a distance-format classroom. At the start of his educational journey, Czuba searched for a “guide” for online learning; an overview; a one-stop reference that would help him figure out how to navigate courses, organize assignments, structure discussion posts, and make his transition back to college a little easier. He found a few, but none was exactly what he was looking for.

The Solution
Cover of BookPublished in 2010, Czuba combined his tips, tools and experience into this handy guide, “Distance Learning for Adult Students” to help online learners be more successful in their educational experience.

David Czuba, Class of 2008

“This book is really a primer for adult students,” said Czuba who is originally from Hamburg, NY (a suburb of Buffalo). “I am trying to get it in the hands of students who can benefit from it most,” he said. Czuba, now an Empire State College alumnus, is also an author, poet and comic strip artist. He lives in Bellingham, Washington.

Student Spotlight: Jorge Escobar

If you could see the world through Jorge Escobar’s eyes, he’d take you to faraway places like Cartagena, Tokyo and Cairo. He’d even give you a tour of Bangkok, Thailand where he currently lives.

Although legally blind, Jorge could lead you to many places.

“When I was in my 20s I’d throw three darts at a map, see where they landed, and then book my flight,” said Escobar, who originally earned his associates in Travel and Tourism from Johnson & Whales University in 1995. “So many of my relatives traveled all over the world – I’d always hear about where they went and what they did and eventually, I followed in their footsteps,” he said.

Originally from Wethersfield, CT, Escobar always loved to travel. However, it wasn’t until he connected with a political science teacher at Bangkok University International College when he realized his real passion: Teaching.

“I dreamed of being a teacher from the time I was a little boy. But I always wondered how I’d do it if I couldn’t easily read the textbooks or see the students,” he said. After building confidence in a volunteer program through the University teaching English to Thai university students, Escobar pursued a TESL certificate to begin his much-anticipated career.

“Teaching was just in me. I was always a coach. I was always there to help someone. It’s just natural for me,” he said. A native Spanish speaker, Escobar understands the challenges students face when learning the English language. “It takes a lot of time and a lot of practice. I know how it feels – I can really relate to my students,” added Escobar.

Maybe it’s because he has to work at studying as they do. To complete his Empire State College assignments Escobar uses a 17 inch computer with an “auto bump up” feature to magnify font sizes. He also has a magnifying glass, which he uses to read hundreds of college textbook pages each week, word-by-word. “It isn’t easy. It gives me a huge headache. But I get it done,” he said. And this is evidenced by his transcript, as Escobar has nearly completed all the coursework in his Educational Studies program, where he built a concentration in Educational Psychology.

Jorge pictured with his wife, Joy.

What’s next for Jorge?  Perhaps scuba diving in the Red Sea; backpacking Mount Siani; or touring Athens to visit ancient Greek ruins, as all are on his top-trip list.

“Adventure travel doesn’t have to mean bungee jumping off the Acropolis or skiing down the Great Pyramid. Some of the best adventures can be had roaming around a city and leaving options open to travel to destinations you had not planned,” said Escobar, pictured here with his wife, Nampeung, who offers this simple approach to vacation and relaxation. No wonder he is so successful…It’s very similar to his outlook on life.

Student Spotlight: Derek Aucoin

Derek Aucoin

You get three strikes, then you’re out. Sometimes you have to sacrifice. The next pitch is the most important one. These three basic rules of baseball all translate into the following real life lessons: “Be conscious of your mistakes.” “You don’t always get what you want.” “Be fair to other people.” All are straightforward, pre-school concepts that are key elements in building respect and good character. “Baseball gives you tools for life,” said Derek Aucoin. And he speaks from experience.

Aucoin’s baseball career began in Boisbriand, in a small town north of Montreal, Canada, when he was just 6 years old. His passion grew from playing catch with his grandfather, Alfred Cockle. Aucoin then started to play for his country in several minor league teams before he finally ended up playing in the major leagues for his home team, the Montreal Expos. “How many people get to do this…to live out their dream? The odds of making it to the majors are low. And to make a career out of it is even more difficult. I knew I had to give back,” said Aucoin, the 6’7” ballplayer who delivered a fastball as a right-hander, #66.

As his professional baseball career came to an end, one thing that remained constant was his passion and commitment to the sport. In 2000, he built the Manhattan-based sports facility, The Baseball Center. His mission is to use the game of baseball to build leadership, confidence and self-esteem in “kids” of all ages.

“My responsibility is more than just to teach how to throw or hit a ball. It is how to be a good person, a good teammate. In baseball, like life, there are bad calls, bad decisions. But how do you react to these situations?,” Aucoin questioned. He believes baseball prepares people for many different types of life situations.

“Baseball is a game of failure – you fail seven out of ten tries. Three for ten makes you an All Star! That’s why at the Center, we use the 1,000 praise rule. We encourage players to try things in a different way or to think of things differently, and we never use negative dialogue,” he said. That’s the motivation that keeps players in the game.

This month, The Baseball Center celebrated its ten-year anniversary. Located at 202 West 74th St., near the Beacon Theatre on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, the center offers “everything baseball” from casual and recreational programs to camps, parties, leagues, sports training, corporate team building, competitive coaching, and more. The center is bustling with activity and learning, both in sports and in academics.

“We encourage our players to get good grades, to stay in school, and to go to college,” said Aucoin. “This is why ‘Coach Derek’ had to go back. I could talk the talk but I couldn’t back it up. I didn’t have my degree.”

That’s when Aucoin found Empire State College. In 2009, he began his pursuit of a Bachelor of Science in Business, Management and Economics in order to expand his knowledge in topics such as management, marketing and entrepreneurship. Helpful topics for every business person, they’ll assist Aucoin in attaining his ultimate goal, to impact and inspire young baseball players in the United States and across the world. Aucoin believes, “If you’re a winner in the sport of baseball, you’ll be a winner in the game of life.”
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