By John Schilling
It was almost four years ago that Carina D’Urso, a native Brooklynite and the daughter of Italian immigrants, first toured the Brooklyn College campus with her mother and maternal grandparents. At that moment, D’Urso foresaw the opportunities she could enjoy as a BC student, prompting her to apply to the school and start classes there during the fall 2018 semester as an art history major.
“I knew that as a commuter student, I could embrace New York City as my classroom – something that I’ve taken advantage of during my four years at BC,” D’Urso told The Vanguard.
What D’Urso did not foresee, however, is that her hard work and dedication would earn her the honor of representing her graduating class as the valedictorian of the 2022 Brooklyn College Commencement at the Barclays Center on Tuesday, May 31.
“I learned that I was selected on the Friday before spring break, and I immediately shared the news with my mom in disbelief!,” added D’Urso. “I feel so proud to have been chosen, and it is such an honor to represent the class of 2022.”
D’Urso, a Macaulay Honors student, has maintained an active presence throughout CUNY as a member of student life at the Macaulay Honors College, where she has served as the president of the Macaulay Peer Mentors and the director of the Macaulay Theater Club.
Although she started out as just an art history major, D’Urso will graduate on May 31 with a B.A. in Arts, Education, and Social Change, something she became passionate about early on during her initial art classes at BC.
“While I was mesmerized by the endless applications of color, form, and line, I was most interested in the connection between the arts and social justice, and the ways in which this intersection can be highlighted through teaching,” said D’Urso. “Therefore, I joined the CUNY Baccalaureate Program for Unique and Interdisciplinary Studies with the intention of cultivating a people-centered version of art history.”
Outside of school, D’Urso has kept just as busy. She works part-time at the Metropolitan Museum of Art as a temporary program associate for public programs and creative practice, and previously worked for numerous other museums and organizations.
Last year, D’Urso was named a Fulbright Canada Mitacs Globalink Intern in which she conducted research at Toronto’s York University on “How Should Liberal Arts Be Transformed? Perspectives and Responses from North America, East Asia, and Western Europe.”
D’Urso, however, does not credit her rich experiences for her recent honor. She instead credits the professors who encouraged her to apply for valedictorian and have had an impact on her.
As a member of History Professor Philip Napoli’s “museum group,” D’Urso credits him for teaching her about “learning and community” as they visited museums and cultural institutions throughout New York City and formed “sincere bonds” with her classmates as a result.
“I think she’s fantastic; she’s intelligent, driven, creative, organized, and exceptionally resourceful,” Napoli told The Vanguard. “I was asked to write letters on her behalf on several occasions in the past four years. I tell you without exaggeration that with each iteration, the letters grew longer and my praise more intense.”
One memory in particular with D’Urso that Napoli recalls came during the peak of COVID-19 in 2020 when the museum group could not meet in person. To stay connected, D’Urso began “The 2020 Theater Project,” which aimed to create verbatim theater from the oral history recordings of the Brooklyn College Listening Project. During this time, D’Urso even interviewed Napoli’s 91-year-old mother, a former college professor herself.
“By all reports, both had a great time as they chatted,” added Napoli.
This praise of D’Urso rings true for Art History Professor Christopher Richards, who mentored D’Urso last year while she worked as his teaching assistant. D’Urso credits Richards as someone who taught her “so much about what it means to teach.”
“Without question, Carina is one of the best undergraduate students I’ve ever mentored at Brooklyn College,” Richards told The Vanguard. “Her drive and initiative is unparalleled; she routinely sets her own goals and then exceeds them.”
D’Urso also credits School of Visual, Media and Performing Arts Dean María Ann Conelli as someone who has “shaped” who she is as “an aspiring museum educator” and has been a constant source of support in her college career.
“I served as Carina’s CUNY B.A. mentor for the last two years, and she is truly one of the most exceptional students I have had the pleasure of working with,” Conelli told The Vanguard. “Most importantly, she serves as a model for other students—focus on your studies, but take advantage of all the internships and external opportunities that the college offers.”
As D’Urso prepares to leave BC behind, she is grateful for these opportunities.
“To me, it’s such an enriching place to learn, with a diverse group of peers who constantly inspire me, and classes that allow us to think creatively and collaboratively,” said D’Urso. “Our professors foster an environment that challenges us intellectually and encourages us to lift each other up.”
In the fall, D’Urso will continue her studies at the Harvard Graduate School of Education as a master’s student of Human Development and Education with plans to study how “arts-based interventions impact the development of young people and the trajectories of their learning.”
“I can’t wait to see what career path she ultimately takes, as I know Carina will make an impact in whatever field she chooses,” said Richards. “[…] I can’t imagine a student more deserving of being the valedictorian. She is a shining example of what can be achieved, through dedication and self-motivation, at Brooklyn College.”
“I think the world of this young person,” added Napoli. “I think she’s going to rule the world one day.”