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Alumni of the Month

Alumnae of the Month: November 2010

Karin Duncker '84
Lidia Szczepanowski '87

Karin Duncker '84

What is your edge (strength)?
Optimism, tenacity, resilience, and a good sense of humor!

What at Hofstra gave you your edge?
I think the encouragement of my professors to think creatively and reward creative thought, even in a scientific environment.

In one word, how would you describe Hofstra?
Challenging yet achievable for me, as I was putting myself through school, and proud still to this day that I did.

What was your major?
Biology/marine biology.

What was your favorite class?
Invertebrate Marine Biology and Calculus.

What is your fondest memory of Hofstra?
There are three, not in any particular order:

  • was a lab/teaching assistant in the biology laboratory, and working there with my friend Lorraine was a blast – think pizza and beer (legal drinking age was 18 way back then!) while doing preliminary pig dissections late into the night to prepare for the next day freshman biology classes.
  • The day I was told I had been awarded a graduate fellowship.
  • The Marine Bio class hosted a Seafood Fiesta holiday party for the Biology Department, and the entire menu was provided with proper genus/species names (the sangria made the pronunciation of these names a tad challenging but much more fun).

What is your field of specialty, and how did you come to work in the industry?
In addition to earning a degree in biology, I also took course work to become certified to teach high school biology. When I graduated, I applied to the Cousteau Society and was told, “We are always looking for passionate volunteers.” Not exactly part of my plan since I had to eat, pay rent, and pay back student loans. So I got a job as a public school teacher, and stuck as much marine biology as I could into the syllabus!

Who in your field do you most admire?
Philippe Cousteau (in marine biology), Colin Goddard (in biotechnology).

What was your first job after graduating from Hofstra, and what was the most valuable thing you learned there?
Teaching high school biology … and PATIENCE.

What advice would you give current Hofstra students?
Don’t be afraid of hard work, and learn to be flexible. It may sound trite, but you really can achieve your dreams if you believe you can and are willing to do the work.

How do you balance work and life?
Lifting my head up from the laptop, going outside into the world and walking around, looking.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I just started a new business in October 2009, so in 10 years I hope we are both thriving.

What is the single most rewarding experience in your career thus far?
Being the CEO of the NY Biotechnology Association and having the privilege to work with so many who are not only brilliant and visionary, but also great people and great friends.

Do you have a favorite quote or saying that has kept you motivated through the years?
Know when to take life seriously but, more importantly, know when to laugh.

Karin Duncker '84

After applying for her dream job and being told that the only position available was as a volunteer, Karin Duncker ’84 never could have imagined that one day she would be recognized as one of the Top 100 technology leaders in New York.

From 1998 to 2006, Karin was president and CEO of the New York Biotechnology Association (NYBA) and served as vice president of membership and programs from 1994 to 1997. She built the NYBA from startup to the fifth-largest state biotech association in the United States, established high-value membership programs, created the association's branding campaign, and produced annual conference programs that maintained net profits of 35-45 percent throughout her tenure. Karin was recognized as one of the Top 100 technology leaders in New York by Crain’s New York Business (2001) and was Featured Industry Executive in Biotech Magazine (2003).

From 2006 to 2009, Karin was director of life sciences business development for an international law firm. She created the firm’s first Life Science Practice Group, organizing attorneys from all practice areas and offices to work collectively to better serve clients and expand the firm’s business in the industry. She developed marketing budgets; established programs to track ROI; identified and created new sponsorship, membership and strategic marketing opportunities; and coached attorneys on the best ways to use these opportunities to meet firm goals. As a result, Karin was able to help grow Life Science Practice’s business by more than $10 million in three years.

Currently, Karin is founder and CEO of KMS Consulting. KMS provides executive coaching and advisory services to nonprofit associations seeking increased efficacy and constituent value, and businesses seeking maximum value from strategic marketing, sponsorship and membership dollars. Karin has more than 16 years’ experience working within the life science industry with notable skills in building cross-discipline diverse working groups to achieve a common goal and creating high-value strategic marketing programs.

Lidia Szczepanowski '87

What is your edge (strength)?
I believe my edge is my ability to communicate effectively and efficiently while still remaining approachable and real.

What at Hofstra gave you your edge?
I recall that the professors at Hofstra were very personable and the classes were quite small. This meant that I had no choice but to speak frequently and participate in many class discussions. I believe this gave me the opportunity to learn how to speak to an audience while feeling comfortable, which would turn out to be a very important attribute for my chosen careers./p>

In one word, how would you describe Hofstra?
Enriching.

What was your major?
International business..

What was your favorite class?
Although I enjoyed all my business classes, if I had to select one favorite, it would have to be Business Law. My positive experience in this class paved the way for my career as an attorney.

What is your fondest memory of Hofstra?
What is your fondest memory of Hofstra? I recall many days of studying outdoors just outside the cafeteria with my friends and enjoying the beautiful campus, particularly the tulips in the spring. (The weekend parties were great too!)

What is your field of specialty, and how did you come to work in the industry?
I have been a litigation attorney for more than two decades. After graduating from Hofstra, I worked full time for about six months and I felt that I was not quite finished with my formal education yet. Since I had really enjoyed my Business Law class, I thought to myself, “Why not go to law school?” So I took the LSAT, applied to one law school for a 2 ½ year program and lo and behold, I was accepted. It was as simple as that. I am also a personal safety advocate and I present “Stylish Safety” women’s safety awareness seminars to corporations and educational institutions. This came about shortly after I earned my black belt in karate and after I won the title of Mrs. New York America 2006. Because I had won Mrs. New York, I traveled across the country speaking about my “platform,” women’s safety awareness. I thereafter founded the National Organization for Women’s Safety Awareness, Inc. (the NOWSA), a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that was established to fulfill a fundamental need in our country to provide more information, awareness, and knowledge about women's safety issues.

Who in your field do you most admire?
The individual whom I most admire in my field as an attorney is Sandra Day O'Connor, the first woman named to the U.S. Supreme Court. She made history through her appointment by breaking the ultimate "glass ceiling" in the legal profession. What an incredible achievement, particularly in light of the fact that she was born only 10 years after women were granted the right to vote in this country.

What was your first job after graduating from Hofstra, and what was the most valuable thing you learned there?
After graduating from Hofstra, I attended St. John’s Law School and I worked part-time as a cosmetics consultant for Estée Lauder in Macy’s. Since I was selling “luxury” items, it was important for me to learn how to engage people in conversation while being genuine, and convince them why the product I was selling was the one they should buy. This skill has proven to be one of the most valuable things I ever learned.

What advice would you give current Hofstra students?
Learn from, enjoy and appreciate your remarkable years at Hofstra. There will come a point in time in your life when you will look back and will be grateful that you did. Also, remember to be humble, have integrity and stay true to yourself. Use your achievements to inspire others.

How do you balance work and life?
The “balancing act” is probably one of the most difficult issues I have to deal with on a daily basis, so I try to organize and prioritize everything in my life. I am forever making lists and planning exactly what I will be doing in the next hour, the next day, and during the next week. For me “next month” is usually too far away unless I’m planning a vacation. I then decide what I “must do” as opposed to what I would “like to” do. Once I have my written and mental agenda planned out, I just start doing! Having my Blackberry doesn't hurt either!

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
This is probably the most difficult question for me to answer because I have no idea where I realistically see myself in 10 years from now since I am working on so many different projects. With that said, I will definitely be a published author (book proposal is already written), and perhaps I will have a television talk show that will be devoted to educating, training, challenging, and inspiring women to live safer, more fulfilling and remarkable lives.

What is the single most rewarding experience in your career thus far?
Although I have had many rewarding experiences throughout my career as an attorney, if I had to select one “single most rewarding experience” thus far, the first one that comes to mind is a recent jury trial I conducted in the New York State Supreme Court. Everyone thought the odds were stacked against my client, and it was truly a David versus Goliath situation. My client was a small business suing a multimillion-dollar cooperative, and there were several causes of action and hundreds of exhibits. I am proud to say that due to my dedication, preparedness and sincerity, my client received a jury verdict that was very favorable. (Establishing “Teen Personal Safety Week” in the state of New York was pretty terrific too!)

Do you have a favorite quote or saying that has kept you motivated through the years?
I grew up on the North Shore of Long Island, and since I was a child I have been fishing and catching eels in the Long Island Sound with my father. This was always very serious business for my dad because after he caught the eels, he would smoke them in a large metal drum in the backyard and eat them with dinner. I recall one sunny day while we were eel catching (which by the way is done during low tide in a small estuary in deep black mud while two people hold a large net), there were horse flies biting me on my arms and shoulders and the net started to slip out of my hands. My dad saw me and yelled over to me, “Don’t drop the net!” and I didn't. To this day, whenever I am confronted with a challenge or I feel like giving up, I hear my dad’s voice telling me not to “drop the net.”

Lidia Szczepanowski '87

As a post-modern day Renaissance woman, Lidia Szczepanowski ’87 encourages women to try new things, broaden their horizons and “check their ordinary at the door.”

After earning a Bachelor of Business Administration at Hofstra, she went on to receive the Juris Doctor from St. John’s University Law School in 1990, which led her to become a partner in a successful general practice law firm in Smithtown, New York. She has provided legal counsel in the areas of corporate and commercial litigation, real estate, bankruptcy, negligence and other areas of law.

Lidia currently owns and manages her own practice, The Szczepanowski Law Firm, P.C., located in Melville, New York. As a civil litigation attorney for more than 20 years, Lidia recognizes the fact that many people simply don’t know where to start when looking for an attorney, and they just want to know their legal rights. In response to this need, Lidia created www.AskLidiatheLawyer.com, an interactive website where general legal questions can be asked via e-mail or at designated times through a “live chat” function. The objective of this complimentary service is to provide information about the law, give answers to legal inquiries, and help individuals understand the legal process.

Lidia is founder of Everything Lidia, Inc., an organization that provides dynamic and highly motivational seminars designed to educate women with practical and effective defensive techniques that can be used in real-life situations, while promoting awareness, building confidence and empowering women with a keen sense of assertiveness.

In June 2006 Lidia was crowned Mrs. New York America and was also presented with the prestigious Mrs. Community Service Award. While representing New York state in the nationally televised Mrs. America Pageant, Lidia was selected as a Top 12 finalist. Subsequently, in January 2009 Lidia was selected as Mrs. New York International 2009 and during her respective pageant reigns, Lidia was able to travel throughout the country and promote her platform, women’s safety awareness.

In November 2007 Lidia founded the National Organization for Women’s Safety Awareness, Inc. (the NOWSA), a New York nonprofit corporation (IRS 501(c)(3) (www.TheNOWSA.org). The organization was established to fulfill a fundamental need in our country to provide more information, awareness, and knowledge about women's safety issues. The NOWSA supports the work of many advocacy groups, including those that educate the public about child abuse issues, domestic violence, and crimes against women in general. Lidia works tirelessly with community service organizations, elected officials, and celebrities to educate the public about crimes against women and how to prevent them.

In an effort to continue to help make a difference in the lives of women and teens, the NOWSA, in conjunction with Hofstra Entertainment, will present Voices For A Cause, a fund-raising performance, on Saturday, November 13, 2010, at the Helene Fortunoff Theater at Hofstra University’s Monroe Lecture Center. 100 percent of the proceeds from this exciting event will go directly to the NOWSA to support women’s safety awareness education and advocacy.

Lidia currently resides in Dix Hills with her husband and their three children. During her free time, Lidia enjoys dirt bike riding with her family, fitness training, playing tennis, skiing, windsurfing, and boating.