Community outreach has become an integral part of the Hofstra experience
By Ginny Ehrlich-Greenberg
At a January 2007 meeting of the Long Island Women’s Agenda (LIWA), Hofstra President Stuart Rabinowitz addressed a large group of local elected officials and business leaders, and said that as we continue to move into the 21st century, it is vital for Hofstra to further extend the use of its resources and facilities to the community and eliminate the delineation between what he called “town and gown.”
Hofstra has many facilities and programs that are focused on community outreach. Some have an institutional and academic impetus while others are student-motivated.
Among those are Hofstra’s Joan and Arnold Saltzman Community Services Center, the Scott Skodnek Business Development Center and the Center for Suburban Studies. The first offers a wide variety of clinical services and early childhood education.
The second is focused on enhancing the skills of local business leaders and assisting small business owners. The last is a think tank that addresses the concerns of a suburban population.
“It is important that Hofstra be a vital part of the community at large and teach its students how to become good citizens,” says Richard V. Guardino, Hofstra vice president for business development and executive dean of the Center for Suburban Studies.
Hofstra students have their own ambitious philanthropic initiatives, which are completely in line with a nationwide focus on volunteerism among college students. These efforts, while helpful to the public, have also allowed students and faculty members to explore their educational, professional and civic interests in ways they probably never imagined.
Hofstra Students and the Office of Student Affairs
The emphasis on community service among students and student organizations is growing, not only at Hofstra but on college campuses nationwide. These efforts, which have received a lot of public and media attention, can be helpful to students who are building their resumes. It would seem, however, that the transformative experience of helping others has been reward enough for Hofstra students.
The satisfaction students felt for their fund-raising and relief efforts in the aftermath of 9/11, the tsunamis that hit South Asia in 2004, and Hurricane Katrina is fueling ideas and record participation for future programs.
The consensus among the offices that work closely with students on community projects is that young people are exhibiting philanthropic interests before they even start as freshmen here, and it doesn’t take a lot of handholding to help them plan worthwhile events with impressive results.
Incoming Students Ready to Pitch In Hofstra students are committed to making a difference — not for a club or organization or to fluff a resume, but really for the greater good. Anita Ellis ’88, ’90, assistant dean of students and director of student activities, says, “Students are more apt to serve today. Where campus offices become involved is channeling that energy into different service projects and helping students find their niche.”
“It speaks to the values of Hofstra as an institution,” says Vice President for Student Affairs Sandra Johnson. “We want to cultivate a value-centered philosophy here, and we do that from the point of admission.” In fact, volunteerism was incorporated into the New Student Orientation program for the Class of 2010. “We asked all incoming students to bring crayons, paper, and other school supplies. We packaged these goods and shipped them to a school district in Texas — an area where a lot of people relocated after Hurricane Katrina, and the district did not have the resources to accommodate all the new students.” This project encouraged the students to work together as a class and feel a sense of pride in their accomplishments as a group.
According to Dean Ellis, Hofstra students logged 1,040 hours of community service in 2006. Eighty percent of those hours, she says, were community efforts initiated by the students. Campus offices provided staffing and organizational support.
A Friend In Need,
“Look what they did with the  Sinterklaas Festival,” says Vice President Johnson. “The idea is that we come together at the University to celebrate the diversity of our beliefs. In recent years the students have taken this as an opportunity to extend our community beyond the borders of the campus.” This year’s holiday celebration included a gift drive for the local Boys and Girls Club. In 2005 student clubs and organizations raised money and dedicated time to decorating and donating Christmas trees for families in need.
Other impressive efforts include “Light the Night” for leukemia; Phi Epsilon’s annual spaghetti dinner, which raises money for cancer research or a cancer patient, Hofstra Hillel’s Songs of Love program (also for cancer patients), and the Thanks & Giving Project. There are food drives for the Interfaith Nutrition Network, blood drives, and coat, blanket and sheet collections. Students also work closely with a number of organizations such as Meals on Wheels and with community centers that sponsor programs for the elderly.
That the students are volunteering in greater numbers is wonderful. But what most impresses the Office of Student Affairs is that these young men and women are constantly thinking of unique ways to serve. They want to be involved in their own programming and are devising ways to fund their events and mobilize their peers.
New Orleans — A Transformative Experience
Perhaps the best example of students taking the inspiration and success of one program and inventing another is the 2006 alternative spring break trip to New Orleans. Inspired by the story of a single mother who lost everything as a result of Hurricane Katrina, 16 Hofstra students and three administrators donated their April vacation to participate in the relief and cleanup effort. Working with Catholic Charities and Brother Martin High School in New Orleans, the students tackled jobs such as minor construction, cleaning of debris and providing hospitality to families still displaced.
The Dean of Students Office and Hofstra Concerts volunteered to provide transportation and housing for the students. Student Activities and the Campus Catholic Parish took the lead in coordinating the trip. Other involved student organizations at Hofstra included the Student Government Association, Students for Life, the Newman Club and the Interfraternal Sororal Council.
This trip was a life-changing experience for participants, and it has resulted in another alternative spring break. From March 30 to April 5, 2007, nine Hofstra students will travel to Bluff, Utah, where they will be working with St. Christopher’s Mission to the Navajo. During that week students will work closely with residents of the Navajo reservation, helping to rebuild, restore and renew homes in this impoverished area.
“The momentum from New Orleans is what is driving this opportunity,” says Vice President Johnson. “We are now well on our way to offering an annual alternative spring break trip that is initiated by our students. There are many commercial alternative spring break programs out there, but this is Hofstra-inspired, Hofstra-based and Hofstra-organized.”
Involvement in the community is also driving interest in local and national politics. Hofstra students reported on-site from local Democratic and Republican headquarters as they covered the 2006 mid-term elections for WRHU (Radio Hofstra University), 88.7 FM. Other students who wanted to watch the election night returns gathered at the Political Junkies’ Election Night Party, sponsored by the Political Science
Reflecting and further motivating political involvement is the recent creation of the Center for Civic Engagement and also last year’s announcement of the Peter S. Kalikow Center for the Study of the American Presidency and the appointment of presidential scholar Dr. Meena Bose as the academic chair of the center.
Cynthia Bogard, director of the Center for Civic Engagement, says, “The Hofstra community wants to make sure that our students are given every opportunity to practice civic involvement while they are learning with us. We see it as an intrinsic part of the holistic curriculum that Hofstra seeks to provide our students.”
Dr. Bogard said that students have often commented that they felt powerless to influence the course of the nation’s politics. The Center for Civic Engagement was founded, in part, so that “students understand the necessity of citizen involvement if democracy is to go forward,” she said.
Among the principles the center will stress are freedom of speech and expression, respect for others, appreciation for diverse persons and viewpoints, the ethics of public issues, personal and group empowerment, social and economic equality, and preservation of the environment.
Joan and Arnold Saltzman Community Services Center
Among Hofstra’s happiest “students” are the children who attend the Diane Lindner-Goldberg Child Care Institute (CCI), located at the Joan and Arnold Saltzman Community Services Center. CCI, says Executive Director Joseph Scardapane, is not so much a daycare as it is a center devoted to early childhood education for both Hofstra families and the community.
What is truly unique about the campus’s youngest students is that they benefit not only from the care and attention they receive from their teachers, but also from the other clinics housed at the Saltzman Center. These include facilities for literacy, speech and language, and psychological evaluation. Hofstra students who are studying these disciplines while interning at the Saltzman Center clinics have opportunities to apply what they are learning to babies, toddlers and pre-kindergarteners who are just beginning to develop their thinking, social and communication skills.
In addition to the Psychological Evaluation Research and Counseling Clinic, the Reading/Writing Learning Clinic and the Speech-Language-Hearing Clinic, there is also a Marriage and Family Therapy Clinic. All these serve patients of every age, with a variety of needs, for a very nominal fee. No one in financial need is ever turned away from the Saltzman Center clinics. “When people need treatment beyond what’s covered by insurance,” says Dr. Scardapane, “they’re stuck. We’re able to provide low-cost service and fill that gap.
Mission of Education, Training and Research
The most important benefits of the Saltzman Center are those that impact the education of the students. “The Saltzman Center exemplifies professional training,” says Dr. Scardapane. “There is a three-pronged mission: education, training and research. We exist to train the professionals of the future.
“We teach our students the latest, empirically supported, evidence-based treatments. We pride ourselves on following the latest science in each field.”
Though the ability to utilize the latest techniques and sciences is of great importance, Dr. Scardapane says that the center also then shoulders the responsibility of researching the effectiveness of new treatments. “Some of the approaches are glamorous, but they don’t work. That’s such an important message to give to the students — we always have to evaluate what we do.”
One treatment at the Saltzman Center that has attracted a lot of attention is virtual reality therapy. Through the technology of virtual reality therapy, patients with phobias of flying, public speaking and even thunderstorms are able to work through their fears and deal with situations that may be preventing them from leading full and active lives. Because the effectiveness of the therapy is being studied at the Saltzman Center, the only cost is that of a plane ticket for patients who complete the therapy for fear of flying. Though the study of virtual reality treatment is ongoing, initial feedback from patients, thus far, has been very positive.
The Saltzman Center recently unveiled several other new programs — all of which have grown in popularity very quickly.
The Speech-Language-Hearing Clinic recently introduced the Toddler Language Development Program. Dr. Scardapane explains, “Toddlers who have been identified as being somewhat delayed in their language development participate in weekly group enrichment sessions with other toddlers and their parents. Certainly all the research shows that the earlier we intervene, the better when it comes to language.
Another new program is the Diagnostic and Research Institute for Autism Spectrum Disorders. The only other institution to offer a similar service operates out of Yale University, and that program, says Dr. Scardapane, has a five-year waiting list.
“Unfortunately, the diagnosis of autism is one that seems to be growing in number,” he explains. “We’ve also expanded the definition of the spectrum so it’s more likely that people would fall under the diagnosis of autism and autism spectrum disorders. We know an accurate diagnosis is crucial, and this institute is providing very current diagnostic services and treatment.”
“Again, early intervention is important — but this program is not limited to early intervention. We work with children, adolescents and, at times, adults who need help with activities for daily living, communication and socialization.”
The Reading/Writing Learning Clinic has introduced the Community Literacy Connections Program, which provides literacy studies to children in need who would otherwise not be able to afford services beyond what is offered in the schools. Dr. Scardapane says, “That is one program that is always filled and also one that is completely based on the generosity of our donors, who fund scholarships for these students.”
Dr. Scardapane also believes the new Premarital Assessment and Counseling Program, operating out of the Marriage and Family Therapy Clinic, will attract many clients. He says, “There is such an awareness today of knowing your life partner as well as you can before you get married. It’s important to learn how to create a healthy family.”
One final program that is growing rapidly is the Institute for the Study and Treatment of Anger and Aggression. “We are getting many referrals from the courts, from physicians and from other psychologists to treat patients who are suffering not only from anger but from the consequences of aggressive behavior,” explains Dr. Scardapane.
The Saltzman Center also hosts breakfast lectures that are free and open to the public. These events feature guest speakers who address topics of interest to the community that are also related to the work of the Saltzman Center.
Scott Skodnek Business Development Center (BDC)
The BDC, located on the second floor of the Joan and Donald E. Axinn Library, is a multidisciplinary center that offers human and technological resources for business support and education, as well as community service. The BDC also supports government agencies in their endeavors to assist businesses in the metropolitan area.
At any given time, the BDC offers a number of lectures, workshops and management training opportunities. Serving as vice president for business development at Hofstra is Richard V. Guardino, who was supervisor of the Town of Hempstead — the largest town in the United States — for five years before joining the University.
Upon entering the world of academia, Vice President Guardino devised a plan to marry the resources of the University with the goal of assisting local business leaders and business development. “The University has some tremendous resources in its faculty and facilities. I saw a great opportunity to make both available to the public and private sector.”
Among the services offered are a number of lectures, including the Distinguished Lecture Series, moderated by Dr. Irwin Kellner, Hofstra’s Augustus B. Weller Distinguished Chair of Economics and author of the weekly column “MarketWatch” by Dow Jones. Though attendance is by invitation only, it is important because it gives “influential business and political leaders on Long Island the opportunity to interact with some of the world’s most powerful and influential speakers,” including MTA Chairman Peter Kalikow, Chairman and CEO of Monster.com Andrew McKelvey, former prosecutor and author Linda Fairstein, and George Ross of The Trump Organization.
The Operation Downtown lecture series, also free, is open to the public. Vice President Guardino says that this is “geared toward small business owners, giving them a chance to learn, update and improve their business management skills. For this seminar we try to bring in successful entrepreneurs and professional trainers to tell their stories.” Operation Downtown is supported by a grant from the state government, secured by New York State Senator Charles Fuschillo. Recent speakers included David Neeleman, CEO of JetBlue; Wally Amos, founder of Uncle Wally’s Famous Muffins; and Stuart Levine, author of The Six Fundamentals of Success and Cut to the Chase.
The BDC also offers opportunities for people to study and develop the skills they need to become successful business owners or to advance within their organizations. The Entrepreneurship Certificate Program has provided assistance to more than 1,000 people interested in starting or expanding their business. The program is partially supported by a grant from The Empire State Development Corporation.
The BDC also provides on-site training. Winthrop University Hospital, the Nassau Library System, DOAR Litigation, Lancer Insurance and the Town of Brookhaven have all welcomed the BDC to work with their employees on management leadership skills or technical training on programs such as QuickBooks. The BDC was also behind an economic impact study of Long Island’s MacArthur Airport and has worked with the Towns of Bayville and Oyster Bay to assist in economic development in those areas. The BDC recently submitted a proposal to the Town of Hempstead to do a study of Roosevelt’s business district.
Under the umbrella of the BDC are polls for News 12 Long Island, conducted by Professor of Marketing and International Business Elaine Sherman and her students. Professor Sherman has been conducting the polls for close to 18 years and has been collaborating with the BDC since 2003. These public opinion polls cover a variety of topics that affect the quality of life for Long Islanders.
One of the newer components of the BDC is the Institute of Real Estate, founded in 2006. Vice President Guardino says, “The reason we started this was to promote professionalism in the real estate industry — to serve the industry and enhance the quality of real estate business on the Island. We want to provide meaningful networking where industry leaders, newcomers and those inbetween can exchange information and ideas.” The institute’s inaugural event, Redeveloping Long Island in the 21st Century, was held in November and focused on affordable housing construction, revitalizing downtowns and preserving open space.
Center for Suburban Studies
Vice President Guardino additionally serves as executive dean of the Center for Suburban Studies, and his staff also coordinates the events for this branch of the University. Founded in 2003, the center was created as part of an initiative to raise the academic profile and increase Hofstra’s involvement in the community.
Vice President Guardino says, “Many universities have urban institutes and think tanks. In rural areas you’ll find agricultural colleges. And there are certainly many lobbyists in Congress representing interests in both those areas.
“The suburbs are a different story. There are very few centers that focus primarily on suburban issues, and the result is that federal and state policymakers often overlook the special problems and prospects of suburban areas.”
Noting that more than 50 percent of Americans live in the suburbs, Vice President Guardino says the Center for Suburban Studies “was a natural for Hofstra. We’re close to the birthplace of suburbia, Levittown. We’re devoted to looking at suburban issues throughout the nation using Long Island as a microcosm.”
Prior to the creation of the center, Hofstra boasted the Long Island Studies Institute, which continues to be a major center for the study of Long Island local and regional history. It is headed by Dan Rubey, dean of library and information services at Hofstra, and University Archivist Geri Solomon.
Since its founding, the Center for Suburban Studies has utilized the resources of the Long Island Studies Institute to present a number of very well-received events. The first conference in 2004 was on suburban energy issues. The second, New Visions of Suburban Life: An Interdisciplinary Conference, focused on a number of important subjects, including transportation, immigration, homeland security, affordable housing, architecture, health care and education.
In 2006 the center hosted U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff, who spoke to the public, local officials and first responders about emergency preparedness. In the summer, improving the efficiency and accountability of Nassau County’s 200 special tax districts was the topic of discussion and debate at the first-ever countywide conference on Nassau County special districts. Both events were free.
On the horizon is a celebration of the 60th anniversary of Levittown, the development of a suburban studies curriculum for Hofstra and the appointment of a faculty member to focus on this area of study.