Muhammed Chowdhury ('11) and Marsha Gilbert, his CUNY LEADS counselor in Baruch's Office of Services for Students with Disabilities. Photo by Franklyn Roa ('07)
Success Beyond Words
This year's Oscar-winning film The King's Speech helped audiences understand the great disadvantages people who stutter face. This year's graduate Muhammed Chowdhury didn't need Colin Firth's moving performance to understand those challenges. Chowdhury's story is no less inspiring than the regent's.
In January 2008, Chowdhury traveled from Bangladesh to the U.S. to attend Baruch. His first semester was extremely difficult: English was not his first language, financing college plus living costs was challenging, and he had a severe stutter. Determined to do well in his college courses, Chowdhury pushed himself to get involved and actively participate in class. The empathy of his professors and classmates soon became respect. Chowdhury earned a 3.7 overall grade point average (3.9 in his major, accountancy).
As graduation time neared, the star student discovered that his greatest difficulties lay outside the college classroom. Although he was called for many interviews, he was unable to land a job. He became so frustrated that, at one point, he stopped applying.
But not one to give up for long, last winter Chowdhury made an appointment for career counseling. He met Marsha Gilbert, a CUNY LEADS counselor in Baruch College's Office of Services for Students with Disabilities. CUNY LEADS is a partnership project between the City University of New York and Vocational Services for Individuals with Disabilities. The partnership was established to facilitate successful academic and career outcomes for students with disabilities enrolled in CUNY programs.
Both Chowdhury and Gilbert knew that his stuttering and resulting inability to communicate concisely was preventing him from landing his dream job. Gilbert offered what became a winning strategy for dealing with the stutteródisclosing it. "I suggested that in the beginning of the interview, after he answered a question with confidence, he should say, 'I am sure you realize I stutter. However, it is important that you understand that this in no way affects the quality of my work, and once I feel comfortable, the stuttering is minimal."
Next they worked on his confidence. After several meetings and careful, in-depth practice of anticipated interview questions, Chowdhury's stutter was barely apparent. Their strategy and hard work had paid off.
Starting this July, the accountancy grad begins the next phase of his life, working for a major bank. "I want to tell my story," he says. "I want to motivate other students with disabilities to feel inspired."