Though his studies at Baruch were twice interrupted by military service, Agosto-DaFonseca was determined to earn a college degree. Born and reared in East Harlem, he calls his mother his inspiration. His father, who was from Puerto Rico, died when Gustavo was six, so his mother struggled to raise him single-handedly. She impressed upon him the importance of pursuing the educational opportunities that were not available to her under Brazil's former military regime.
Agosto-DaFonseca corresponded regularly with his professors via e-mail. "I shared with them my experiences," he says. They, in turn, gave him moral support and an extensive reading list.
A serious, careful, and well-spoken young man, he first came to Baruch in 2002. At the time, he was already an army reservist, having enlisted at age 17. He managed just one semester before being called to active duty. Agosto-DaFonseca lost a year. He then re-enrolled in 2004 and managed to complete an entire year plus a summer of course work before being sent to Iraq. During that year, he met Baruch Professor of Sociology and Black and Hispanic Studies Ted Henken, one of three faculty members who would become mentors. While stationed in Tikrit, amidst mounting violence, he corresponded regularly with the three—Henken, Associate Professor and Chair of Black and Hispanic Studies Héctor Cordero-Guzmán, and Professor of Sociology and Anthropology Susan Chambré—via e-mail. "I shared with them my experiences . . . how I was doing, how my unit was doing," he says. They, in turn, gave him moral support and, in the case of Henken, an extensive reading list. Henken also began urging him toward graduate school.
When he returned to Baruch in Spring 2006, he was ready to consider both graduate school and a senior honors thesis. Fascinated by social marginalization, he has decided to study social stratification, race, and ethnic relations. With dedicated advisement and mentoring from Professors Henken and Chambré, he applied to graduate programs in sociology at some of the country’s top universities and was accepted at Boston College, the CUNY Graduate Center, the University of Chicago, and the University of Connecticut, all with offers of full-tuition remission.
He graduated in Spring 2007 with an overall GPA of 3.67 and a GPA of 3.98 in sociology. He has accepted a Presidential Fellowship at Boston College—$19,000 a year plus full-tuition coverage. Professor Henken predicts a distinguished academic career for his prize pupil, who hopes to return to CUNY to teach.
Photo by Jerry Speier