Dr. Jean F. Coppola (B.S. ’86)
Q & A:
What was your favorite class, who was your favorite professor, or what is your fondest memory of Hofstra?
My favorite classes at Hofstra included Computer Engineering, Business Communication, Philosophy and Logic. My favorite professors were Dr. Ronald R. Janssen (English), Dr. Sam Saddawi (Engineering), and Dr. David G. Cernic (Philosophy/Religious Studies). These dynamic teachers truly cared about their students.
What was your first job after graduating from Hofstra, and what was the most valuable thing you learned there?
My first job after graduation was as a computer lab supervisor in the Academic Computing Department at the Pace University campus in lower Manhattan. I learned to support professors in all different disciplines, some proficient with technology whereas others were novice; while supervising 40 undergraduates. Most importantly, I learned all aspects of technical support, repairing computers, and designing computer networks. The skills I learned on the job allowed me to be promoted quickly, to obtain multiple campus responsibilities, and to make connections to even more staff and faculty around the university’s campuses.
What is your field of specialty, and how did you come to work in the industry?
My field of specialty is gerontechnology and service-learning from the perspective of information technology/computer science in the higher education industry. While at Hofstra in Dr. Janssen’s Business Communication course, we were challenged to work in teams to make a difference in the community with our semester-long project, long before the term “service-learning” was prevalent in higher education. During my high school days at St. Francis Prep, I loved computer programming, building joysticks, and light pens. My Franciscan training of being of service to others, while using innate talents, led me to a career in higher education.
What advice would you give current Hofstra students?
Aim at landing a job after graduation that pays for graduate school – thus any lack of finances will not be a barrier to life-changing education. Always work harder than anyone else does in your field – hard work always pays off! Choose a career that you love, so you never have to work a day in your life! Moreover, pay it forward – give back to your community and those less fortunate.
In one word, how would you describe Hofstra?
How has your degree from Hofstra helped you?
The degree from Hofstra gave me the stepping stones I needed for graduate studies and the credentials to enter into a higher education profession.
What made you decide to enter the field of gerontechnology research?
Doctoral research involved designing smart e-classrooms to improve critical thinking skills. After obtaining my Ph. D., my mentor, Br. Louis Miritello, encouraged me to pursue my interest in teaching the elderly technology, simultaneously reminding me that a doctoral degree was a commitment to give back to the community. Utilizing emerging technology to improve cognitive functioning in older adults and improve their quality of life, especially with the manifestation of iPods, iPads, Android tablets, touch screen computers, etc., seemed a natural progression of research. In 2005 the Westchester Department of Senior Programs and Services contacted Pace University seeking a professor with a group of students to visit an adult day care program for a session with technology. After the one-day event, I had a strong feeling to engage in this area of scholarly research.
What is the single most rewarding/exciting experience in your career thus far?
The most rewarding and exciting experience in my career thus far is being able to change the lives of elderly people who are institutionalized in nursing homes, as well as affecting the lives of students through mentoring. Gerontechnology opens up a new world of communication to frail, aged adults, thus fostering technology use in the elderly population to stimulate cognitive functioning while improving the overall quality of life socially, emotionally, and practically. In tandem, most students learn best through hands-on service-learning experiences. As a professor, I have the best job in the world – mentoring college students while researching how to improve the lives of older adults – helping the young and old alike!