UAlbany Doctoral Student Paves Way for Family in the Dominican Republic

ALBANY, N.Y. (May 19, 2013) — When Lissette Acosta-Corniel and her mother first came to the U.S. in 1989, they cooked, cleaned and paid rent at a relative’s house to sleep on the living room sofa.

Together they struggled to make a new life in the United States. She made a promise to her 10-year-old sister who remained in the Dominican Republic to pursue a college degree and make a better life than the poverty-stricken one she left behind. 

Lissette Acosta Corniel at left, created a foundation to help children in the Dominican Republic

Lissette Acosta-Corniel, left, is earning a Ph.D. in Latin American, Caribbean & U.S. Latino Studies from UAlbany and she started a foundation to send food, clothing and educational supplies to children in Rio San Juan, Dominican Republic.

On May 18, she fulfilled that promise when she walked the stage to receive her doctoral degree from the University at Albany.

While at UAlbany, she started a foundation that sends food, clothing and educational supplies to disadvantaged children and families in her hometown of Rio San Juan, Dominican Republic. Last September, her organization Fundación Alegría Gri Grí sent a wheelchair to a handicapped child in Rio San Juan. In February 2013, the organization facilitated a hearing aid for “Papito,” a 73-year-old blind man who lost his hearing, and consequently his language skills, at the age of 10.

Acosta-Corniel also coordinated a conference for former President of the Dominican Republic Dr. Leonel Fernández Reina and the Dominican Studies Institute. She has a publication forthcoming in a project by the University of Michigan Press. As a result of her research in Cuba, she has been commissioned by the CUNY DSI and the National Public Library of the Dominican Republic to return to Cuba, where she will conduct research exploring primary documents never studied before.

In addition, the President of the Institute for History in Cuba has assigned her a special research project for 2014. Recently, she collaborated with Black Public Media for the “2013 Cuban Women’s Filmmakers Showcase NYC.” 

Acosta-Corniel credits UAlbany professors Colbert Nepaulsingh and  Edna Acosta-Belén with providing steadfast support and guidance. During the many research trips that were needed for her dissertation, she traveled twice to Cuba, twice to the Dominican Republic, and once to Spain.

She now plans to visit her grandmother in the Dominican Republic “who sat tight for two hours with the entire neighborhood watching my dissertation defense although they did not understand the language, except when I was pronounced ‘Doctor,’ and they all jumped and clapped,” said Acosta-Corniel.

She will continue to conduct research at the Dominican Studies Institute (CUNY DSI) working with Dr. Ramona Hernández. “Ultimately, I look forward to obtaining a permanent teaching position in the near future that would allow me to both teach and advance in my research,” said Acosta-Corniel.

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