Dean's Alumni Messages
Spring 2009 Message From the Dean
I write on February 12, 2009, the 200th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln's and Charles Darwin's birth. This day is also the 100th anniversary of the founding of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Our world would be quite different were it not for these three remarkable beginnings.
It's tempting today to think we would have recognized the significance of these beginnings as they were happening. But actually, it is the rescued Union that secures our appreciation of Lincoln's greatness. Advances in contemporary genetics make clear the extent of Darwin's transformative genius. The election of our first African-American president confirms our admiration for a band of citizens who were armed with courage, the law and a willingness to appeal to the public's conscience.
Working with undergraduates puts me perpetually at "the beginning." We work with students whose life stories are not yet written. Their creative energy, their previous achievements, and their enthusiasm mark them as capable of great things. With us they gather the tools they need for their future roles as scientists, artists, scholars, educators and business leaders. We participate in the unfolding of that potential.
Looking back at great figures, we tend to forget their doubts and anxieties. We overlook the anguish of Lincoln's presidency. We gloss over Darwin's struggle with questions of faith, science and family. We struggle to remind ourselves there was a time when court orders and street demonstrations were required to secure our civil rights. Undergraduate life, though sometimes romanticized as "the best years," is also filled with anxieties, uncertainties and fears of failure. That's the difference between living through a moment and remembering it via history. The thing I value most in my role as dean of HUHC is the opportunity it affords me to lend support to students who are wrestling with the challenges they face as they discover who they are and stretch to become who they want to be.
Supporting students does not mean making their lives easier. As alumni, you know this firsthand. Yes, we did help you with bureaucratic issues, and we were there to listen if you needed to talk about academic and other concerns. But we also challenged you. We worked to help you sustain high expectations, sometimes in the face of disappointments. C&E, honors seminars, honors options, the honors thesis, and our graduation requirements all set a high bar that we knew you could reach. Honors education assumes that supporting students at this stage of life begins with believing in their potential for high achievement.
Since I wrote to you last summer much has happened at Hofstra. The presidential debate consumed our attention and a great deal of our energy throughout the fall ‘08 semester. I know you were proud to see Hofstra play such a prominent role in this historic election. The atmosphere on campus was electric. We were inundated with visiting speakers, media, and a level of student involvement that was extraordinary. On the day of the debate, Hofstra ranked 79 in Google's top 100 searches overall for October 15, 2008, and 12 on Google Trends for debate day at 9 p.m. – the time the debate began. Imagine that! More than 350 students worked as volunteers with the media and convention managers during the debate. Another 350 were lucky enough to win coveted tickets to the event itself. We had many HUHC students in both groups. Students who were not in the hall made the rounds of media sites to watch and in some cases participate in the post-debate commentary. We all have stories to tell about the day the entire world focused its attention on Hofstra University.
Focusing specifically on HUHC, I'm pleased to report that our most recent entering class (2012) is our largest (more than 180!) and among the most accomplished to date. We continue to draw half our students from outside of New York state. This year's class includes students from Alaska, California (5), Colorado, Iowa, Kentucky, Texas and Michigan, as well as New Zealand and Zambia! As has been true from the beginning, HUHC students continue to pursue majors in all of the colleges and schools at Hofstra.
We began the year as we always do, with the Aims of Education Address. This year Professor Meena Bose, The Peter S. Kalikow Chair in Presidential Studies, gave the address. Her talk, naturally, was on the nature of leadership and the American presidency. It was a great way to kick off this extraordinary semester.
In the last issue of the HUHC Alumni Newsletter, I pointed out that HUHC was initiating a conversation about the potential role that an Honor Code might play in HUHC life. I'm pleased to report that our conversation has actually broadened into a campus-wide task force that will have faculty, administrators and students thinking concretely about the various ways Hofstra educates students toward personal and social responsibility. I look forward to reporting the results of that work to you soon.
A generous gift from Mr. Mark Marcucci '85, supplemented by donations from several of our most recent alumni, enabled us to offer 12 study abroad incentive grants of $500 to students who went to Venice, Greece, London, and Mali. This summer we'll be offering special $2,500 grants to students traveling to China. The funding for this program is from a gift dedicated to promoting the study of China among HUHC students. We're already looking for funding that would allow us to continue this program into next year. Contributions to HUHC are always welcome!
With an eye toward future HUHC students, we will be initiating a new Summer Scholars Program for high school students. Designed with rising juniors and seniors in mind, this four-week residential program introduces students to life at Hofstra and to HUHC. Participating students earn college credit, enjoy extra- and co-curricular enrichment activities in New York City and Long Island, and live in Liberty/Republic residence halls. If this sounds a lot like HUHC, that's no accident. We want these students to experience what it would be like to be an HUHC student. If you have siblings, relatives, or friends who you'd like to coax into thinking seriously about following in your footsteps, give a call to us at the office. We'll be happy to reach out to them.
Speaking of the office, I'd also like report some exciting news regarding personnel. During the past year Ms. Peggy Ann Matusiak was promoted from her original position as senior support specialist to a newly created administrative post with responsibilities that include outreach to our ever-growing body of HUHC alumni. You should expect to hear from her over the next few months as we look to update our alumni database, and seek new ways to make it easier for you to stay in touch with us and one another. Peggy Ann's promotion made it possible for us to bring in Ms. Rita Corbett, who comes to us from the Philosophy Department, where she had been the departmental secretary. Rita will work directly with Associate Dean Neil Donahue. Her arrival enables us to expand our support system and offer HUHC students so much more information and general support. We're very excited to have her with us.
Ultimately, the HUHC mission is "to be at the forefront of Hofstra University's pursuit of academic excellence." We pursue that mission confident that our graduates will take up the challenges put to us by the Lincolns, the Darwins, and the leaders of organizations like the NAACP. Not all will achieve that level of greatness, but we're quite certain that all have a role to play in completing the work they've left undone. We knew that to be true for you, as it continues to be true for this current crop of HUHC students.
Warren G. Frisina, Dean
Hofstra University Honors College