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Alumni of the Month

January 2013
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?

Serendipitous.

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!

JeanCoppola

Dr. Jean F. Coppola (B.S. ’86), an associate professor of information technology at the Seidenberg School of Computer Science and Information Systems of Pace University, has become a recognized leader in the emerging field of gerontechnology research, the study of technology to promote the cognitive health of older adults.  According to a 2012 Pew Research Center study, 70 percent of the 50-64 age group surf the Internet, but only 38 percent of the 65+ crowd go online.  Dr. Coppola believes that can change; computer use has huge benefits for older users, says Dr. Coppola. “It helps them cognitively. It keeps them mentally stimulated. It’s a brain exercise.”

During more than 25 years in academic computing/information technology, Dr. Coppola is an award-winning educator, author and speaker on gerontechnology, service-learning, intergenerational computing, assistive technology, and critical thinking. She has been an advisor to many award-winning student academic teams participating in the Berkeley Mobile International Collaborative (BMIC) App Challenge, Pace Mobile Lab Green App Contest, Pace Pitch Contest, and the New York Campus Carter Academic Service Entrepreneur in recognition of service-learning excellence.

Since 2005, Dr. Coppola has worked with a research team studying the effects of technology on older adult life quality, attitudes toward aging, cognitive functioning, and student attitude change toward elderly via a service-learning intergenerational computing program. These efforts have led to awards such as the American Society of Aging MetLife MindAlert Award for Mental Fitness Program; Isabel Brabazon Award for Evaluation Research in Intergenerational Programs; Women: Builders of Communities and Dreams; Jefferson Award for Public Service; and, most recently, Computerworld Honors Laureate Award for visionary applications of information technology to promote positive social, economic and educational change.

Before pursuing an academic career as a technology professor and earning a doctorate, she worked as a technology specialist at Pace University's Division of Information Technology (now Information Technology Services) and was heavily involved with computers and networks. In those early days, it was not unusual for her to be found crawling under tables, working with network cables, installing hardware, or tracing electrical outlets along walls and ceilings and even underneath floors. At a time when computer technology was a predominantly male industry, she was not only an active member of the computer staff but was also heading her own unit.

Dr. Coppola holds a B.S. in computer science, M.S. in telecommunications, M.S. in computer science, and Ph.D. in computing technology in education.