Hofstra’s newest schools – School of Engineering and Applied Science and School of Health Sciences and Human Services–off to a strong start.
Frederick Smith had completed his freshman year as a mechanical engineering major when Hofstra announced it was turning the existing engineering and computer science programs into a School of Engineering and Applied Science.
“I was in the library with a friend when I heard,” said Smith, who graduated in May 2014 and is heading to Columbia University for graduate school. “We both looked at each other and said ‘Wow – now when we graduate, our diplomas will say School of Engineering.’ We already had a great program. But in the last few years, I’ve seen more of everything – more equipment and more students and more diversity. It’s exciting to be a part of.”
Since 2011, Hofstra University has launched new schools – the School of Engineering and Applied Science and the School of Health Sciences and Human Services, investing more than $11 million in new equipment, facilities, faculty and programs. Both schools were created from existing programs.
The new schools come hard on the heels of the opening of the Hofstra North Shore-LIJ School of Medicine, which will graduate its first class in 2015, and signal a new emphasis on the natural sciences and long-term plans to increase the University’s research footprint.
– Nickolas Boroda ’16, biomedical engineering major.
“There’s no question that the economy of the 21st century will involve a much-heightened need for health care professionals, and not just physicians,” said President Stuart Rabinowitz. “And clearly, we will need more engineers and computer scientists. The region needs entrepreneurs with science backgrounds. These [new] schools are a way to raise a flag.”
Nearly half of the top 30 fastest-growing careers between now and 2020 are in the health or engineering fields, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. And the number of natural science and engineering bachelor’s degrees granted by U.S. colleges and universities has grown nearly 20 percent in the last five years, according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.
At Hofstra, undergraduate enrollment in engineering and computer science programs has increased 69 percent since 2011, and the number of new freshmen has more than doubled in health sciences and human services.
And when they arrive on campus, these students find programs that encourage them to participate in research, and courses taught by faculty committed to involving their students in meaningful work, inside and outside the classroom.
When Corinne Kyriacou, associate professor of health professions, became the first director of Hofstra’s Master of Public Health program, she hoped to enroll students with a pioneering spirit.
What she got was a juggernaut. That first class quickly organized a student chapter of the Society of Public Health Advocates (SOPHA), created a biannual newsletter and spearheaded the University’s celebration of National Public Health Week.
In just its second year, Hofstra’s 2014 National Public Health Week celebration featured several panels, lectures, film screenings and interactive events, including a community health fair in partnership with the Nassau County Health Department.
“Our first MPH cohort – within six months, they were knocking on my door saying ‘we’ve got to do a newsletter, we’ve got to do something for National Public Health Week,’” Kyriacou said. “We started with the idea that maybe we could do one event. They turned it into this incredible campaign. They pushed us, and it’s been incredibly gratifying.”
Said Ronald Bloom, acting dean of the School of Health Sciences and Human Services: “There’s an incredible energy in the school, and I think we’ll see that only grow as we continue to add to the programs at HSHS.”
Besides the Master of Public Health, the school will launch a minor in nutrition science in the fall.
In the School of Engineering and Applied Science, Hofstra is preparing to open new Big Data and Robotics labs in the fall, on top of the millions already invested in new equipment and facilities, including an atomic force microscope and a 3-D printer. The co-op program, which will provide students with practical experience with industry partners, will launch in spring 2015.
What sets the school apart, however, isn’t all the new hardware, but who gets to use it.
“Our students have access to every single piece of equipment from the moment they get here,” said Dean Simon Ben-Avi. “That puts you in a position where you can do research with faculty as a freshman, and that is pretty unique.”
Take Nickolas Boroda, a sophomore majoring in biomedical engineering who has been conducting research using the atomic force microscope.
“Being in this lab has inspired me,” he said, “… and having access to this equipment really showed me that with enough passion and interest in the subject, I can do amazing things that advance the fields of medicine and science.”
But not everything at the School of Engineering and Applied Science is high-tech. For the freshmen in Mauro Caputi’s first-year design class, the challenge is to become problem-solvers who know how to communicate and work as a team.
The class culminates in a final design project in which students must solve engineering challenges with a $15 budget and simple materials such as foam core, twine and glue. The challenges include building a device that can launch bagels over a six-foot wall or toss a hard-boiled egg across the room without breaking it.
Caputi, an associate professor of engineering, runs his class like a game show – The Design is Right – and incorporates jokes, songs and video clips into the lessons. “I think students can be engaged in a variety of ways,” he said. “I like to engage them with comedy, by learning their names, by knowing a little bit about who they are.
“This is not only a design class; we treat it as a transition from high school to college,” he said. “And when they finally leave Hofstra, I hope they remember this class and the fun they had and are able to translate some of the lessons into their lives and careers.”