Probably about half of a Dean’s job is governance, with the rest of it divided between raising money for the school, doing public relations on its behalf, and forging ties with the wider community. I certainly do enough PR work in this blog, highlighting initiatives, including the Hofstra in Silicon Valley week in January that show our versatility and help prepare our students for the world beyond Hofstra. A program is only as good as its outcomes, and for a pre-professional program, that means employability in the technological field.
But as important as outcomes are, inputs are just as crucial for us. Some years ago, a colleague proclaimed at a statewide engineering dean’s meeting that his school had a very wide entrance door and a very narrow exit door. Admission standards were almost non-existent as dictated by the governing body for the school, and consequently few students could successfully navigate their way through the rigors of an engineering curriculum. That is certainly not the model we adopt! The entrance door here is welcoming, but there are gate-keepers who check for skills that indicate an aptitude and propensity for success.
It is important or any engineering school to monitor, and even to help shape, the secondary school programs that serve as feeders for our programs. For example, I have previously written about the computational methods in engineering course we offer in a few key high schools. It has gone through a few iterations already, and I think it is now poised to assume a form that will make it a highly regarded model for any high school student considering a future in engineering or computer science.
Beyond that, we recently launched an initiative in conjunction with the local branch of FIRST Robotics, thanks to the efforts of its Long Island officers (Mr. Jeffrey Stern and Mr. Bertram Dittmar) and several DeMatteis School representatives. They included new faculty member Dr. Lynn Albers who spearheaded the effort, the Hofstra chapter of the Society of Women Engineers and its advisor, Dr. Saryn Goldberg, and electrical engineering faculty member Dr. Edward Currie. Borrowing an idea first developed at The Ohio State University, they invited high school students already immersed in the intense world of the robotics competition to spend a Saturday in the DeMatteis School labs reconfiguring commercially available electromechanical children’s toys to make them accessible to youngsters with physical impairments.
This kind of outreach is triply beneficial: it introduces talented teenagers to our laboratory facilities and thereby serves as an advertising and recruitment tool, it hones their electrical wiring and soldering skills and clues them in on re-engineering a technology, and it creates an end product which can now be utilized by children with special needs.
The first offering of this program took place on December 1st and drew close to 30 students and a number of parents to our school. It was great fun for all involved, faculty, college students, and teenage toy reconstructionists, and plans are to repeat the program several times in the spring semester for new cadres of students. Hats off to all involved in this worthwhile endeavor.