Jose Chavarry ’12, a double major in history and Spanish, excelled both in and out of the classroom at MC, and is now on a full scholarship to pursue his Ph.D.
Nearly 10 years ago, 12-year-old José Chávarry moved to Island Park, N.Y. from Lima, Peru with his family, only able to speak a few words of English — although “cat” and “kitchen” weren’t of much use in daily conversation.
On May 20, the now 21-year-old history and Spanish major graduated with honors from Manhattan College, and has accepted a competitive fellowship at the CUNY Graduate Center to earn a Doctorate in Hispanic Literature and Language.
After completing six months of ESL (English as a Second Language) training in eighth grade, Chávarry started at West Hempstead High School, excelling in advanced placement courses. But he wasn’t sure what the future held.
“I didn’t know anything about college,” he said, noting that a friend of his mother’s recommended Manhattan. “I knew you take classes and get a roommate.”
When he visited campus for orientation, he left overwhelmed by the thought of living on his own for the first time and adopting an unfamiliar routine. In a sense, it was like moving to a foreign country all over again.
But when school started, Chávarry made friends with a close-knit group in his freshman dorm and decided to pursue history, a subject he’d always enjoyed growing up.
“I took Western Civ and it reminded me of how much I liked learning,” he said. “It was fascinating.”
Come sophomore year, Chávarry had acclimated to college life and began to flourish.
He attended a Lasallian Outreach Volunteer Experience (L.O.V.E.) trip to New Orleans, joined student government and became an orientation leader for the Admissions office. He worked as a Resident Assistant, helping Manhattan’s new students adapt to the same community that had so graciously accepted him two years prior.
The summer before senior year, Chávarry was chosen to represent Manhattan College at the Congress of World Catholic Universities in Avila, Spain, getting the opportunity to travel to Europe for the first time.
Academically, Chávarry took on a rigorous schedule, adding a medieval studies minor and working one-on-one with professors in four independent studies courses throughout his time at Manhattan. He was inducted into the Spanish honor society, Sigma Delta Pi, as well as the nation’s oldest academic honor society, Phi Beta Kappa.
He selflessly spent his summers mentoring and tutoring disadvantaged high school students in the Young Scholars Immersion Program, as well as working for the Manhattan College Summer Institute for Teachers of Advanced Placement Courses as a language laboratory assistant and tutor.
“It’s been fun discovering what I like and what I’m excited about,” he said, confident that he’d like to pursue teaching as a career, and perhaps translating.
Eager to take the next step toward his goal, Chávarry will be attending the CUNY Graduate Center on a full scholarship this fall to begin a distinguished five-year Ph.D. program in Hispanic Literature and Language.
“I look forward to José becoming a colleague in the field of Hispanic studies,” said Marlene Gottlieb, Ph.D., chair of the department of Modern Languages and Literatures at Manhattan, and one of Chávarry’s mentors. “One day I’d like to invite him back to teach here at the College. He’s a model for our future students, especially those first generation students of Latino origin.”
Until then, he plans to relax by tackling a long reading list including Midnight’s Children, The Road, The Once and Future King and some Spanish literature on the CUNY syllabus.
As graduation day approaches, the humble senior said he’s grateful for the opportunities he’s been given and the endless support from his mother.
“I’m most excited to have my mom and friends there at graduation, and to see it all come together,” he said. “It’s been tough, but I did it.”