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Getting to Know You – January 2016

Getting to Know You is an ongoing series of mini-profiles of your TC faculty, staff and union colleagues. “Getting to Know You” focuses more on the lives that TC community members lead when they’re away from West 120th Street.

A Survivor, and Then Some: Husamedin Kadribegic  

 

As the College’s Lead Electrician, Husamedin Kadribegic is a familiar sight around campus, where he manages everything from the installation of new lighting systems to upgrades of electronic security.

Yet few would guess at the remarkable story that brought the mild-mannered “Hus,” as he is affectionately known, to the College 24 years ago.

Kadribegic was born to a Turkish mother and Bosnian father in Kosovo – then part of Yugoslavia, which was considered by many the most liberal and open of all the communist states created in Eastern Europe after of World War II. He earned an electrical engineering degree (which he still keeps in his desk) at the technical institute in Mitrovice, launched a successful business career with the Trepca Mines, then one of Yugoslavia’s largest companies, lived in a comfortable home and traveled all over Europe.

With the death of President-for-Life Josip Broz Tito in 1980, however, ethnic tensions began to emerge. Kadribegic was concerned but initially unwilling to uproot his family, which included three young children.

“I was born there, I had a beautiful life there,” he recalls. “I said, ‘I can’t leave.’”

But then came 1990, and the early stages of a series of violent conflicts that would soon lead to Yugoslavia’s dissolution and consume Bosnia, Croatia, and other former constituent republics. The deteriorating political climate and growing influence of Serbian nationalism in the region made it impossible for Kadribegic to continue working at Trepca. He and his brother started a business of their own, but by 1991, Kosovo had become unsafe for Muslims. The outbreak of full-scale war and the many crimes later documented at the trial of Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic in The Hague were still in the offing, but the Kadribegics knew it was time to leave.

They found temporary refuge in Turkey, after which Hus’s wife and children made their way to the United States. He soon followed them, and all were eventually granted political asylum. But that was only the first of many hurdles for a man who spoke Bosnian, Turkish, Albanian and Czech, but not much English, and had little understanding of every-man-for-himself, free market New York City.

“In those first years I almost went back,” he says. “There was no work. I had to pay $800 a month in rent, but I had no job. It was very difficult, and back home the government took care of you.”

Then fate intervened. Kadribegic met TC locksmith Muharrem Broja, also from Mitrovice. Broja helped find Kadribegic temporary custodial work at the College that led to a full-time position.  His new employers soon discovered Kadribegic’s technical skills, and eventually he worked his way up to his present job.

Kadribegic has returned to Kosovo in recent years to visit family and friends, but the scars still run deep.

“People in America don’t understand what it means to lose everything you have, everything you have worked for,” he says. “When they come and burn your house, destroy everything…”

Kadribegic has had other job offers in New York City over the years, but he isn’t leaving TC, which has enabled him to put three children through college, and live a safe and productive life.

“TC gave me a big hug when I came here,” he says, tears welling up in his eyes. “So I stay.”  

 

At Home Among Students: Yvonne Destin

 

Yvonne Destin has worked under three different TC Presidents and seen her office change its official name a few times, but her focus and her passion have remained constant: working with the diverse group of people who make up the student body.

“I’m always fascinated by what our students do and their level of commitment,” says Destin (M.A. ’91), Director of Student Development & Activities. “I’ve met students who have started libraries and professional development programs for teachers in Africa. I’ve met a student who started his own college. I’ve met students who are involved in drinking water programs. There’s never anything dull here.” 

Destin was born in Kansas and raised in New Jersey, and began her professional career as a third grade teacher. At one point she considered going to law school, but never regretted changing direction and earning a TC degree in Higher and Postsecondary Education.

“There’s too much research and not enough human interaction,” she says of law. “I love meeting people and engaging them in conversation, being part of the general community.”

Destin, who has lived in Harlem for years, still remembers getting off the subway for the first time in Morningside Heights and seeing a college campus in the heart of New York City.

 

“I thought, ‘Aren’t we in Harlem?’” she recalls. “But there was all this grass!”

At TC, Destin runs an office that stages three annual orientations (including an extensive program every fall to welcome 1,800 new students); oversees more than 30 student organizations, hosts a series of programs directed specifically at doctoral students and a “Casual Conversations” series that brings together students and faculty over lunch; and even offers discounted tickets to events all over the city. Somehow she also finds time for her family (which includes a high-school age daughter), her church and her hobby – crocheting intricate and colorful quilts, which she learned from a neighbor as a child.

“I drove my mother crazy because I was such a perfectionist that if I didn’t like what I made I would take it apart. I don’t do that quite so much any more,” she says with a laugh.  “But I still find it very relaxing.”  

 

A Social Change Activist: Riddhi Sandil

 

As a young girl in New Delhi, India, Riddhi Sandil decided she would dedicate her life to women’s issues and social justice.

“I grew up with a very feminist mother,” recalls Sandil, Assistant Professor of Practice and Coordinator of TC’s Ed.M. program in Counseling Psychology. “I knew that women were severely oppressed all around the world, but in India the sexism is perhaps more explicit. It became very apparent to me that women’s health needs, especially mental health needs, were largely ignored – and they still are today.”

Instead of studying medicine – a route to career success for some women in India – Sandil sought a different sort of helping role” as “an agent of social change.” She co-majored in Psychology and Creative Writing at Illinois’ Knox College and earned her Ph.D. in psychology at the University of Iowa.  

She joined TC’s faculty in 2011, after three years of teaching and providing professional counseling at the University of Utah. She has since co-founded (along with TC’s Aurelie Athan and Melanie Brewster) the College’s Sexuality, Women & Gender Project, which works to integrate a focus on LGBTQ, women’s and gender issues into a broader range of TC’s course offerings and to envision and implement new theories and practices to improve well-being for LGBTQ individuals and women. 

Since Fall 2014, Sandil also has served as TC’s Ombuds for Gender-Based Misconduct.  Created to augment the work of longtime College Ombuds Erwin Flaxman, the position provides a confidential alternative resource to whom students, faculty and staff affected specifically by gender-based misconduct. 

“There are times when someone might have a gender preference with regards to a confidential resource,” Sandil says. “Since my research and clinical interests are centered around women’s and gender issues, so it was a good fit professionally.” 

In her spare time, Sandil participates in a book club, and enjoys the many art opportunities New York City, in particular, independent cinema. She also hopes to get back to writing short stories some day.

“I enjoyed that creative side of me,” she says. “In academia, sometimes traditional creativity gets left behind. With everything I do, it’s something I hope to find time for in the future.” – Ellen Livingston

Published Friday, Jan 22, 2016

Husamedin Kadribegic
Husamedin Kadribegic
Yvonne Destin
Yvonne Destin
Riddhi Sandil
Riddhi Sandil
Yvonne Destin
A quilt made by Yvonne Destin

Getting to Know You is an ongoing series of mini-profiles of your TC faculty, staff and union colleagues. “Getting to Know You” focuses more on the lives that TC community members lead when they’re away from West 120th Street.

A Survivor, and Then Some: Husamedin Kadribegic  

 

As the College’s Lead Electrician, Husamedin Kadribegic is a familiar sight around campus, where he manages everything from the installation of new lighting systems to upgrades of electronic security.

Yet few would guess at the remarkable story that brought the mild-mannered “Hus,” as he is affectionately known, to the College 24 years ago.

Kadribegic was born to a Turkish mother and Bosnian father in Kosovo – then part of Yugoslavia, which was considered by many the most liberal and open of all the communist states created in Eastern Europe after of World War II. He earned an electrical engineering degree (which he still keeps in his desk) at the technical institute in Mitrovice, launched a successful business career with the Trepca Mines, then one of Yugoslavia’s largest companies, lived in a comfortable home and traveled all over Europe.

With the death of President-for-Life Josip Broz Tito in 1980, however, ethnic tensions began to emerge. Kadribegic was concerned but initially unwilling to uproot his family, which included three young children.

“I was born there, I had a beautiful life there,” he recalls. “I said, ‘I can’t leave.’”

But then came 1990, and the early stages of a series of violent conflicts that would soon lead to Yugoslavia’s dissolution and consume Bosnia, Croatia, and other former constituent republics. The deteriorating political climate and growing influence of Serbian nationalism in the region made it impossible for Kadribegic to continue working at Trepca. He and his brother started a business of their own, but by 1991, Kosovo had become unsafe for Muslims. The outbreak of full-scale war and the many crimes later documented at the trial of Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic in The Hague were still in the offing, but the Kadribegics knew it was time to leave.

They found temporary refuge in Turkey, after which Hus’s wife and children made their way to the United States. He soon followed them, and all were eventually granted political asylum. But that was only the first of many hurdles for a man who spoke Bosnian, Turkish, Albanian and Czech, but not much English, and had little understanding of every-man-for-himself, free market New York City.

“In those first years I almost went back,” he says. “There was no work. I had to pay $800 a month in rent, but I had no job. It was very difficult, and back home the government took care of you.”

Then fate intervened. Kadribegic met TC locksmith Muharrem Broja, also from Mitrovice. Broja helped find Kadribegic temporary custodial work at the College that led to a full-time position.  His new employers soon discovered Kadribegic’s technical skills, and eventually he worked his way up to his present job.

Kadribegic has returned to Kosovo in recent years to visit family and friends, but the scars still run deep.

“People in America don’t understand what it means to lose everything you have, everything you have worked for,” he says. “When they come and burn your house, destroy everything…”

Kadribegic has had other job offers in New York City over the years, but he isn’t leaving TC, which has enabled him to put three children through college, and live a safe and productive life.

“TC gave me a big hug when I came here,” he says, tears welling up in his eyes. “So I stay.”  

 

At Home Among Students: Yvonne Destin

 

Yvonne Destin has worked under three different TC Presidents and seen her office change its official name a few times, but her focus and her passion have remained constant: working with the diverse group of people who make up the student body.

“I’m always fascinated by what our students do and their level of commitment,” says Destin (M.A. ’91), Director of Student Development & Activities. “I’ve met students who have started libraries and professional development programs for teachers in Africa. I’ve met a student who started his own college. I’ve met students who are involved in drinking water programs. There’s never anything dull here.” 

Destin was born in Kansas and raised in New Jersey, and began her professional career as a third grade teacher. At one point she considered going to law school, but never regretted changing direction and earning a TC degree in Higher and Postsecondary Education.

“There’s too much research and not enough human interaction,” she says of law. “I love meeting people and engaging them in conversation, being part of the general community.”

Destin, who has lived in Harlem for years, still remembers getting off the subway for the first time in Morningside Heights and seeing a college campus in the heart of New York City.

 

“I thought, ‘Aren’t we in Harlem?’” she recalls. “But there was all this grass!”

At TC, Destin runs an office that stages three annual orientations (including an extensive program every fall to welcome 1,800 new students); oversees more than 30 student organizations, hosts a series of programs directed specifically at doctoral students and a “Casual Conversations” series that brings together students and faculty over lunch; and even offers discounted tickets to events all over the city. Somehow she also finds time for her family (which includes a high-school age daughter), her church and her hobby – crocheting intricate and colorful quilts, which she learned from a neighbor as a child.

“I drove my mother crazy because I was such a perfectionist that if I didn’t like what I made I would take it apart. I don’t do that quite so much any more,” she says with a laugh.  “But I still find it very relaxing.”  

 

A Social Change Activist: Riddhi Sandil

 

As a young girl in New Delhi, India, Riddhi Sandil decided she would dedicate her life to women’s issues and social justice.

“I grew up with a very feminist mother,” recalls Sandil, Assistant Professor of Practice and Coordinator of TC’s Ed.M. program in Counseling Psychology. “I knew that women were severely oppressed all around the world, but in India the sexism is perhaps more explicit. It became very apparent to me that women’s health needs, especially mental health needs, were largely ignored – and they still are today.”

Instead of studying medicine – a route to career success for some women in India – Sandil sought a different sort of helping role” as “an agent of social change.” She co-majored in Psychology and Creative Writing at Illinois’ Knox College and earned her Ph.D. in psychology at the University of Iowa.  

She joined TC’s faculty in 2011, after three years of teaching and providing professional counseling at the University of Utah. She has since co-founded (along with TC’s Aurelie Athan and Melanie Brewster) the College’s Sexuality, Women & Gender Project, which works to integrate a focus on LGBTQ, women’s and gender issues into a broader range of TC’s course offerings and to envision and implement new theories and practices to improve well-being for LGBTQ individuals and women. 

Since Fall 2014, Sandil also has served as TC’s Ombuds for Gender-Based Misconduct.  Created to augment the work of longtime College Ombuds Erwin Flaxman, the position provides a confidential alternative resource to whom students, faculty and staff affected specifically by gender-based misconduct. 

“There are times when someone might have a gender preference with regards to a confidential resource,” Sandil says. “Since my research and clinical interests are centered around women’s and gender issues, so it was a good fit professionally.” 

In her spare time, Sandil participates in a book club, and enjoys the many art opportunities New York City, in particular, independent cinema. She also hopes to get back to writing short stories some day.

“I enjoyed that creative side of me,” she says. “In academia, sometimes traditional creativity gets left behind. With everything I do, it’s something I hope to find time for in the future.” – Ellen Livingston

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