Letter to the Editor: Why the world needs more Baruch


Courtesy of Costa Michailidis

Costa Michailidis

America is failing.

Our health and food systems are broken.

Life expectancy in the United States is actually down for the first time. The obesity and opioid epidemics continue, chronic health conditions have been rising with alarming consistency, in fact, since the seventies. Lobbyists have been paying off scientists for decades in effect wrecking the population’s health. Mental health is no better. Suicides have been rising, especially among young girls.

Our education system is broken.

College costs have been outpacing inflation for a decade or more, but incomes are barely better than flat while income inequality rises, and dangerous levels of debt accumulate. A K-12 and university system that used to be the envy of the world is hardly achieving its mission of educating the people of a nation.

Our political system is broken.

A Princeton study showed what most of us already knew intuitively, that the American political system serves special interests at the detriment of everyday individuals. A brief glance at headlines about politics and you can see a twisted, corrupt system that no longer serves its rightful constituents.

Our environment is deteriorating.

Biodiversity is decreasing across many habitats, an estimated 16 billion pounds of plastic flow into the oceans each year, and CO2 accumulates in the atmosphere perpetuating our climate crisis.

Our military, diplomacy and security infrastructure have failed.

Just last month the United States military conducted a drone strike on an aid worker and his children. This level of flagrant negligence has no place in a civilized world. On the cybersecurity end, billions of dollars of fake tax returns were paid out by the IRS to hackers. How many more kinds of wars will we lose?

Our culture is fracturing.

The fronts on which Americans are united a vanishingly few. We can’t even agree on major American cultural pillars like free speech or an immigrant’s pursuit of the American dream. We’ve made enemies of our brothers and sisters. There is violence in streets.

I learned something during my time at Baruch College, from my classmates. Students at Baruch came from over 100 countries around the world. Most were young, but many were returning to school at an older age to improve their education and careers.page1image24136896 page1image24137088 page1image24137280

Nearly all worked to pay for school, interned year-round or volunteered with charities. Many students did all of the aforementioned. It was the most hard-working population of people I’d ever had the honor of spending my days with.

They taught me what it takes to make progress in the face of great adversity.

That is the soul of Baruch. Progress in the face of great adversity, and the world needs more of that — perhaps now more than ever.

Baruch also taught me that I am not alone, so I reached out to a few old friends, Baruch alumni themselves, to ask them why the world needs more Baruch right now.

Kristin Savage defied expectations, financial limitations and cultural norms as a first-generation, female college graduate. Baruch was a place she could shape her independence, resilience and relentless pursuit of passion. She’s never looked back.

Recently, Savage played a major role in designing the cultural components of the Hudson Yards development on the west side of Manhattan. Hudson Yards is the biggest development of its kind and is being used as a template for similar developments across the country.

“The world needs more Baruch right now because it represents young hope and possibilities for the future that seems (to me) lost due to the pandemic, civil-unrest, war, natural disaster . . . take your pick,” Savage said. “There’s also something to be said about how extraordinarily diverse Baruch is. I’ve lived in a lot of different places, got an MBA (out of state), and am pursuing my PhD. Yet to this day, the diversity at Baruch sticks out in my mind so much. In so many ways, Baruch shows that yes — we can enable the next-gen to build a better future together, geo-political none-sense aside.”

Alex Kosoglyadov immigrated to the United States from Russia at a young age. As a Baruch student, he aspired to work on a Wall Street trading desk. This was his dream. He was willing to do whatever it took to get it.

When a human resources representative from a major bank told Baruch students at an information session that they only recruit operational roles from Baruch and not front-office positions, Kosoglyadov stood up and challenged, “Why not?”

He doesn’t recall specifics of the unsatisfactory answer he got that day, but the signal of an impending uphill battle only served to motivate him. That, “Don’t give up, don’t ever give up,” attitude that turns obstacles into motivational jet fuel.

Kosoglyadov outperformed his Ivy League peers at multiple internships, opened doors not just for himself, but other Baruch students, and has been an options trader on Wall Street for a decade now.

“‘Grit’ has become a popular phrase in popular culture and business. New York City had exemplified grit during the COVID-19 pandemic over the last 18 months,” Kosoglyadov said. “Baruch’s students have been demonstrating grit since even before my time- with many students being immigrant and first-generation Americans from low-income backgrounds holding down jobs to support themselves and their families while commuting to university and maintaining academic excellence. There are many in the business world who have had doors opened for them, but Baruch students often find themselves having to break down barriers. It is this ‘grit’ that is often under-represented in the business world.

Having a ‘blue-ish tint’ in a white-collar role can be incredibly valuable to any organization — something Baruch students can often bring to the table, particularly at a time when organizations are facing unprecedented challenges that require creative solutions from emerging leaders who know a thing or two about overcoming obstacles and managing the pressures of the real world.”

Zvia Shwirtz is a true globe trotter. She manages the relationship with major donors in multiple countries and has worked in the non-profit sector for the majority of her career. Baruch was her catalyst.

She grew up in a homogeneous community, and it wasn’t until her time at Baruch, including two study abroad trips in Greece and Italy, that she was immersed in other cultures. She loved it, and has lived in multiple countries, and become a true citizen of the world.

“Baruch was a true melting pot experience for me,” Shwirtz said. “Even though I was raised in Brooklyn, I had never been exposed to people from all different backgrounds and cultures. I believe it made me more flexible and open to learning and growing. Not only that, I experienced such high levels of work ethics from my fellow students that it lit a fire for me to work hard and excel. The world needs people who are used to engaging and working with folks from all walks of life — an experience that Baruch offered in spades.”

Baruch graduates keep progressing in the face of major adversity, and they do it because they embrace the idea of cultural understanding and exude a contagiously hard work ethic. They cannot be divided, duped, scammed or stopped. They just tear down obstacles and build relentlessly.

The world needs more Baruch right now.

We need to learn to work harder.

We need to embrace the principle of cultural understanding. We need to become builders.

We need to speak truth to power.

We need to broaden our worldview.

We need to rise up to the meet the fierce challenges of today. And we will.

Because we have Baruch in us.