Mount Made: But First, Matcha
From CMSV to NYU—and a latte in between
Picture this: it’s a chilly, brisk morning on the NJ Transit train platform. The sun is just starting to peek out from behind the horizon, and icicles hang from the lights overhead. A faint train horn is heard in the distance and groups of bundled up commuters turn their heads as they make their way toward the edge. One of those sleepy travelers is Jerome Viloria ’16, who is just starting the first leg of his trip into New York City. He can’t wait for the train to arrive so he can sit back and soak up a couple more minutes of quiet before leaping into the hustle and bustle of the greatest city in the world.
The next stop: Penn Station. Jerome hops off the train, makes his way through the underground tunnels, and emerges back into the crisp morning air—this time filled with the sounds of car horns and people chatting on street corners as they wait for the light to change. He misses the morning quiet, but is eager to navigate his way through the concrete jungle.
Before descending the steps to the subway for the next leg of his journey, Jerome stops at Starbucks and picks up a matcha latte. After all, a little caffeine goes a long way in the morning. Then, he finishes his trek downtown and arrives at a towering building on a busy New York Street, ready to start his day.
That building is, of course, the headquarters for the NYU School of Global Public Health where, since this past November, Jerome has been serving as the full-time program administrator in the public health practice.
Jerome himself is a graduate, earning his Master of Public Health (MPH) from the institution in 2019.
He arrives at his office—matcha latte still in hand—and settles into his desk. He greets his colleagues in Student Affairs and gets straight to work. As the program administrator, Jerome is responsible for providing guidance to students in the Master of Public Health curriculum and assembling their individualized applied practice experiences (APE).
“It’s essentially a variation of academic advising,” Jerome chimes in with a chuckle.
His days mostly consist of one-on-one meetings with his advisees, reviewing the requirements for their APEs, assessing their professional interests in public health, and assisting them with determining which foundational and concentration-specific competencies best align with their interests. And if you’re thinking, whew, that sounds like quite a big responsibility—it is. But, as an alum of the very same program he serves as administrator for, Jerome has a personal passion for helping his fellow degree-seekers find their niche in the public health sector.
Once students complete preliminary documents and surveys and receive approval from the MPH team, Jerome monitors each students’ progress throughout their APE seminar assignments. These typically consist of progress reports and reflections on their experiences.
“My director and I work together to pinpoint particular placement sites,” mentioned Jerome. “These are typically organizations throughout the five boroughs with which the School of Global Public Health wishes to maintain rapport, or forge new relationships with. In the coming months, I will be launching workshops on competencies for these students, as well as securing experts from the field to give guest lectures in their APE seminar courses.”
No two days are ever the same in Jerome’s office, and that’s what keeps him on his toes. He’s able to combine two of his biggest passions—public health and higher education—and put his skills into practice.
His favorite part of his job?
“I love connecting with the students and listening to their stories. In a way, I’m fulfilling my once-held goal of becoming a clinical provider, because I understand how critical it is to spend time with each patient (or student, in my case). In the field of higher education where I am now, I’ve found the parallel—utilizing motivational counseling skills to learn how each of these students got interested in public health, what their career plans are, and to understand external factors that can influence their academic/professional progress. It’s reminiscent of the faculty who supported me when I was a student—both at the Mount and at NYU.”
But prior to returning to NYU as the program administrator, Jerome landed a position as the Project Connect Coordinator for Apicha Community Health Center, a position he held for nearly two years. At Apicha, which is based in Manhattan’s Chinatown, Jerome’s work primarily focused on addressing the sociocultural aspects of health and wellness in LGBTQ+ Asian and Pacific Islanders through workshops, mentorship programming, and community engagement.
Additionally, the curriculum leading up to his MPH at NYU further prepared Jerome to sit for the Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES) exam later in 2019.
When asked if he’s always had a passion for public health, the easy answer is: not quite.
“I didn’t even know what the field of public health was until I was faced with adding organic chemistry to my course schedule during my sophomore year at the Mount,” Jerome said.
In case you might not be aware, organic chemistry is known worldwide as one of the most difficult courses undergraduate students in the natural sciences take. So, it’s no surprise Jerome found it daunting.
“During my second year of undergrad, I was so overwhelmed with the clash of academics and extracurriculars, so I tanked. I came to the Mount with a dream of becoming a pharmacist, but I quickly knew I wouldn’t make it into a pharmacy doctoral program. It was then that one of my close friends and fellow Mount alum, Gabby Loccisano ’16, introduced me to public health.”
Switching his major from chemistry to biology, Jerome liked the idea of health education and promotion, and the thought of transitioning to a career in public health floated in his mind until he was faced with a health scare during his junior year of college. He didn’t know what route to take to seek medical assistance, but his friends directed him to a DOH clinic in the nearby Morrisania section of the Bronx.
“Every step of the way, the staff at the clinic were very supportive because they could see how terrified I was,” Jerome frankly added. “At the end of my visit, I spoke with the case manager and the counseling I received really sparked my interest to work towards earning an MPH.”
Aside from that not-so-successful attempt at organic chemistry, Jerome wholeheartedly agrees that his time at the Mount helped prepare him to launch his career. The intimate class sizes contributed to better retention and application of the material from theory to practice, and taught him how to properly coordinate within small teams. But most importantly, the openness and warmth of the professors inspired Jerome to be compassionate when he works with his students.
“The tradition of striving to become a servant leader at the Mount shaped me into the person I am today and ignited my drive toward public health,” reflected Jerome. “I firmly believe in starting at the grassroots level to understand what our communities need, what resources they have, and how we, as advocates for public health, can help them to move forward.”
And although Jerome had doubts about succeeding at a larger university like NYU, those began to fade as he recollected on his time at Mount Saint Vincent, which helped him excel in both grad school and beyond.
Outside the classroom, Jerome had the honor of having been named one of the College’s Corazon C. Aquino ’53 scholars for his cohort—which was a huge factor that led him to his undergraduate career at the Mount. He was involved with SAMAHAN, a student club that celebrates Filipino heritage through projects and events that have both social and educational value, and minored in Philippine Studies.
“At the Mount, I fell in love with my culture and history,” said Jerome. “So, after graduating and leaving that solid culture of Filipino individuals behind, I looked for every opportunity to remain immersed.”
Today, Jerome regularly converses in Tagalog with his parents, as well as with his friends and family. He learned the “inside outs” of the language during his studies at the Mount—part of the requirements for receiving the Aquino scholarship.
Additionally, he joined Kinding Sindaw, a 501(c)(3) dance-theater organization dedicated to the preservation and assertion of indigenous Philippine culture, particularly from Southern Philippines.
“As a member of Kinding Sindaw, I participated in dance workshops that culminated in an off-Broadway performance at La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club in March 2020, right before COVID-19 engulfed the country,” Jerome reflected. “Despite the ongoing crisis, we launched virtual performances, a web-series on cultural education, and a public health research study.”
Through his work with Kinding Sindaw, Jerome has come to understand the value of bayanihan, or a sense of mutual community support and the uplifting of each other’s spirits. And, fun fact, the artistic director and founder of Kinding Sindaw was the first instructor of Filipino language classes here at the Mount!
Jerome was also involved in a catalog of activities across campus, including serving as a tour guide for the Office of Admission, dancing with Filiment Dance Troupe, and serenading event attendees with his beautiful music on the violin for get-togethers across campus for both the College and the Sisters of Charity.
And even after walking across the commencement stage—almost six years ago!—Jerome continues to keep in touch with several members of the Mount community. Aside from a core group of friends who continue to be some of his biggest supporters, Jerome regularly speaks with adjunct instructor Noel Pangilinan, who continues to teach Filipino courses at the Mount. Professor Pangilinan, affectionately referred to as “Tito Noel” by his students, introduced Jerome to the Asian American Writer’s Workshop. And Jerome has even performed on Professor Pangilinan’s web-based talk show!
Reflecting back on his Mount experience, Jerome wouldn’t change a thing.
“I wish I could do it all over again,” he exclaimed. “I want all current Mount students to realize that your four years as an undergraduate are shorter than you think. Make the best of every waking moment and document it, whether through social media, polaroids, journaling…anything!”
What’s down the line for Jerome? A doctoral degree? Landing a professorship? Continuing his dance career? Joining the New York Philharmonic? The opportunities are endless! But, no matter what and no matter where, we can guarantee that Jerome will be doing it with compassion, drive, and a large matcha latte in hand.
Are you Mount Made? Do you know other alums carrying out the mission of the College? Let us know—we’d love to show how the Mount helped launch your career. Contact us to be featured!
About the College of Mount Saint Vincent
Founded in 1847 by the Sisters of Charity, the College of Mount Saint Vincent offers nationally recognized liberal arts education and a select array of professional fields of study on a landmark campus overlooking the Hudson River. Committed to the education of the whole person, and enriched by the unparalleled cultural, educational and career opportunities of New York City, the College equips students with the knowledge, skills and experiences necessary for lives of achievement, professional accomplishment and leadership in the 21st century.