Q & A:
What was your favorite class, who was your favorite professor, or what is your fondest memory of Hofstra?
After living on Long Island my whole life and passing Hofstra on a regular basis, the MHA program was my first experience at the school. I found the program to be a great mix of the academic and the practical. The professors applied real-life experiences to their teaching, allowing the students an insight to the world of health care administration.
What was your first job after graduating from Hofstra, and what was the most valuable thing you learned there?
My first job after graduating from Hofstra was as a clinic director for United Cerebral Palsy of NYS (UCPNYS). I was a hospital social worker who knew nothing about the business end of health care, let alone anything about disability services. I learned very quickly that a good administrator combines the compassion needed to reach those you serve, while still keeping an eye on the financial bottom line.
What is your field of specialty, and how did you come to work in the industry?
My field of specialty is disabilities services. I fell into it quite by accident when I got the job at UCPNYS. My plan was to work there for a year, get some administrative experience, and then get a job at a hospital. But, as anyone who works in this industry can tell you, this is not a population you can be lukewarm about. You're in or you're out 100 percent. After about a month, I was in. Seventeen years later, I'm still in the field, and I wouldn't change it.
What advice would you give Hofstra students?
Whatever path you choose, make sure it's something you believe in. You will be working for many years. It can't just be a paycheck. You need to ensure that when you get up in the morning, your heart's in it.
In one word, how would you describe Hofstra?
How has the MHA helped you in your career?
Hofstra's MHA program was a perfect complement to my master's degree in social work. Using the skills learned in both, I am able to balance the clinical side with the business side. I do not feel that I would be as productive an administrator for both the agency and the clients without this degree.
What is your favorite part of working in the health care/nonprofit industry?
As cliché as it might sound, my favorite part of working in this industry is helping the clients and their families. In my current agency, we serve those with chronic physical and mental illnesses. Some of our clients come to us from the shelter system or an inpatient hospital unit. Options for Community Living affords them that first step back into a typical community life. There's nothing better than being a part of that!
What is the single most rewarding/exciting experience in your career thus far?
Choosing a single experience isn't easy, but if I had to pick, I'd say the education piece. Let me explain. My agency predominantly serves those who have various types of mental illness, those who are living with HIV/AIDS, and many of whom have been homeless/inappropriately housed. Believe it or not, in 2017 these situations still bring with them much stigma. So when I, as a representative of my agency, can do my bit to educate the community, and when someone I'm speaking to "gets it," there's no better feeling. The thing I want people to take away is that no one chooses to have an illness of any kind, and things like mental illness, HIV/AIDS, and homelessness can affect any of us at any time. Education, combined with compassion, and the realization of this, goes a long way to ending that stigma.
Yolanda Robano-Gross joined Options for Community Living (Options) as executive director in 2014, with more than 20 years of prior executive-level experience within the health care industry. She was formerly vice president of developmental disabilities residential services at FEGS Health and Human Services, a not-for-profit agency with programs throughout metropolitan New York. In addition to her experience at FEGS, she served as director of developmental disabilities services at PSCH, a comprehensive human services agency. Her additional prior experience includes adjunct field instructor liaison for Stony Brook University, and operations director for global healthcare staffing and director of quality assurance for The Beacon Group. She earned a Master of Health Administration from Hofstra University, a master's degree in social work from Yeshiva University, and bachelor's degree in social work from Marist College. She additionally holds a certificate in executive education, nonprofit leadership from The Fordham Center for Nonprofit Leaders and is currently enrolled in the Not-for-Profit Management in a Changing World certificate program at Hofstra University Continuing Education.