For a university to fully fulfill its mission, it needs to be inextricably interwoven with the community, both the internal community and the surrounding community. Some universities pay limited attention to their surroundings but I have always been proud of Hofstra’s history of embracing the community in ways that clearly meet important needs. Our NOAH program was the template for New York State’s Higher Educational Opportunity Program. This program has a long history of providing the support necessary for economically disadvantaged students who do not meet our regular admissions standards to receive a Hofstra education and ultimately receive their bachelor’s degree and an enhanced chance of succeeding. We also have a full service Community Service Center on campus which includes childcare, a psychological clinic, a speech and hearing clinic, a reading clinic, and a marriage and family therapy clinic, all in support of the community. We also work closely with many of the surrounding school districts in helping to provide support through STEP and Liberty Partnership Programs that enhance the chances for the economically disadvantaged students involved to succeed. Our Law School has multiple clinics in support of the community and our Medical School has a highly regarded pipeline program that serves to increase the numbers of economically disadvantaged students who are able to go on to medical school.
I am especially proud of two of our most recent initiatives, both making a major impact on and for the community. Through the efforts of two dozen Hofstra Democracy Fellows (Hofstra students) and with the support of the Kettering Foundation, the Hagedorn Foundation, the National Issues Forum Institute and the Goldman Foundation, we have moderated 100 nonpartisan issues forums in schools and libraries throughout Long Island. The issues of the day are so complex, our political parties so divided that nonpartisan discussions are harder and harder to find and solutions seems more and more elusive. We need less rhetoric and more discussion for the issues to be understood, and for workable solutions to evolve and consensus is to be established. These intergenerational civil conversations provide that setting and our students, with the guidance of a leading faculty member who is also a distinguished professor of nonviolent social change, are leading the way. Through this effort, which is called Deepening Democracy through Deliberation, we have been able to build on our hosting a presidential debate and facilitate this island-wide debate. We are also practicing democracy the way it should be practiced.
The latest initiative of our Center for Civic Engagement is also exemplary. Working as part of a team that includes our local community hospital, a new program has been implemented to help meet the non-medical health care needs of pediatric patients in the hospital. For example, what if a young child suffering from asthma lives in a home or apartment with a severe mold problem or a lack of heat in the winter time? The hospital and the patient’s physician will not be able to solve these problems directly but unless they are solved, the health of these children is likely to be compromised. Our students, under supervision, will run a help center that will work to resolve these issues. It is through their efforts that a total care initiative will be put in place for this vulnerable population.
For our students, we are providing highly worthwhile experiential learning. For our community, we are working with the community to address community and societal needs. The end result is that we are doing a better job fulfilling our mission, while promoting understanding and enhancing the quality of life. And as I stated in the beginning of this blog, I am proud of Hofstra’s record in that regard and even prouder that we are not resting on our laurels.