It’s fair to say that Alma Marko and Dino Becaj have more in common with each other than just about any other students graduating this spring.
The Gabelli School of Business seniors are both first-generation immigrants from Eastern Europe (her parents are from Hungary, his are Albanian). Both were born at the same hospital in Manhattan and attended Eleanor Roosevelt High School on the Upper East Side. Both commuted to Rose Hill as first-year students and transferred to the Gabelli School at Lincoln Center their sophomore year, where they both majored in global business with a concentration in digital media and technology.
It’s been an eventful path to graduation for each of them.
A Nudge Toward Something New
Although Marko tried her hand at marketing when they first enrolled at the Rose Hill campus, it didn’t quite click for her. Becaj suggested she give computer science a shot.
“Before that, I never really knew what computer science entailed. No one ever talked to me about it. Then I took Computer Science 1 and I just instantly loved it,” she said.
Not only did she take to it, but because she had AP credits from high school and took summer classes, she finished her undergraduate studies a semester early and enrolled in GSAS this spring to begin her graduate studies. This summer, she’s interning at Take Two Interactive, the makers of Grand Theft Auto video games; she expects to graduate with her master’s in December.
Becaj started out with a pre-med concentration at Fordham College at Rose Hill before transferring to the Gabelli School, and will be taking a little longer to finish his graduate studies. At the Gabelli School, he tried his hand at finance and marketing as well. He credits Marko with giving him the strength to try—and fail at—new things.
Feeding Off Each Other’s Successes
“I’m actually more comfortable with trying things when she’s around. I’m just a lot more comfortable doing it. She steps out of her comfort zone all the time,” he said. In their sophomore year the couple were finalists for the Consulting Cup, a semester-long course where student teams are tasked with investigating real companies.
Marko currently works part-time as a salesperson for BLU Reality Group, but is hopeful that upon graduation, she will be able parlay her Take Two internship, which is in infrastructure automation, into a position in that area. Becaj is considering working this summer alongside his father, who turned 71 this year, before plunging full-on into his graduate studies. Like Marko, he’d like to intern for a software development company.
Both students say they take inspiration from their families. Marko’s father moved from Győr, Hungary, when he was 14, and found work as a limousine driver and personal assistant to Placido Domingo. Becaj’s father likewise made his way to the United States when he was a teenager; he has been a superintendent for nearly 50 years at a building on the Upper East Side—a far cry from where he came from.
“My dad was from a family of very poor farmers. The first time he had shoes, I think, was when he went into the army when he was 17,” he said.
Needless to say, Marko and Becaj, who both received scholarships to attend Fordham, are grateful for the opportunities they’ve been given. Marko credited Michael Kadri, an adjunct professor of computer science, with turning her on to computer science, while Becaj said James McCann, a lecturer of finance and business economics, made business easier to grasp.
The Great American Story
Vincent DeCola, S.J., assistant dean for the B.S. in Global Business at Gabelli, is their “number one” though, they said, and not just because he helped them transfer to Lincoln Center.
“I hear stories about what he’s done for other students who have gone through difficult times, and he’ll just be there to listen or provide advice. That’s technically not his job, but he goes above and beyond,” said Becaj.
Father DeCola, for his part, has fond memories of the couple visiting him five times, by his estimate, over a year and a half to change either their concentrations or minors. He called theirs a “great American story.”
“They both have very positive attitudes. That’s one of reasons I never got tired every time they came to my office thinking about changing their career path. They’re always so positive and just pleasant to work with. I always found it cute that they’d come in together, and that they were still together,” he said.
“And if they decide they want to come back and get married, I wouldn’t mind if they ask for my services in that capacity as well.”