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Long Island University Receives Ratings Upgrade from Standard & Poor’s

Standard & Poor’s, one of the nation’s foremost credit agencies, has again issued an upgrade for Long Island University, marking the fourth consecutive positive credit action issued for LIU since 2014.

“I am immensely proud of the efforts of all members of our community,” said Dr. Kimberly R. Cline, president of Long Island University. “This upgrade by Standard & Poor’s is yet another indicator that our future is strong and that we are well positioned to deliver on our commitment to academic excellence.”

S&P Global Ratings, a division of Standard & Poor’s, raised its rating on LIU 2012 general revenue bonds issued by the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York from “BBB” to “BBB+” with a stable outlook. LIU’s credit rating increase serves as a measure of the overall health of the institution. The indicators considered by ratings agencies include:

  • Affordability – LIU has capped its tuition rate increases at 2% for the last five years and remains committed to continue this policy through 2020. This stands in contrast to 2018 regional and national averages of 3.6% and 4.1%, respectively.
  • Endowment – LIU has generated unprecedented growth with the endowment increasing from $86.9 million in 2013 to $230 million in 2018, or approximately 165%. This has been complemented by a sustainable operating model which has allowed the University to increase its capital investment by 650% over 2013 levels. This has enabled investment in state-of-the-art classrooms, upgraded labs, research facilities, and student amenities.
  • Improved student academic credentials – The University’s status and reputation are enhanced by continued improvement in the academic credentials of its students. Efforts to increase the pool of first-year students with high-quality academic credentials have resulted in a 12.2% increase in average SAT scores over the past five years.
  • Expanded research & international engagement – LIU has established a formal sponsored research and development plan, launching a global research strategy. This year, University faculty will conduct more sponsored research than at any other time in the institution’s history. The hiring of world-class faculty members and talented researchers to join our distinguished faculty means more opportunities for students and an enhanced classroom experience with a valuable global perspective and impact.
  • Expanded out-of-state enrollment – Year-over-year out-of-state undergraduate enrollment increased 6.1%, led by programs in accounting, business, nursing, theater, and new programs such as veterinary technology and sports management.

“LIU’s strong market position has been built on improved operating performance and the University community collaboratively achieving the objectives set forth in LIU’s strategic plan,” said LIU Chief Financial Officer Christopher Fevola. “Our goal moving forward is to grow new, strategic programs aimed at market needs. We are focused on continuing to attract high-achieving students who graduate on time.”

“LIU continues to support and attract talented faculty members who offer a high-quality education with a focus on experiential learning that prepares students for the workforce of the future,” said Senior Vice President of Academic Affairs Randy Burd. “This upgrade correlates with the University’s strategic approach to recruit of world-class faculty.”

The S&P rationale specifically referenced LIU’s “expanded recruitment efforts,” “solid management team,” and increased alumni engagementas critical factors in their assessment. S&P also cited LIU’s strength in “establishing a presence at high schools and community colleges, as well as to students in other regions.”  The rating reflects their views of the University’s “exceptional operating margins resulting from good management.”

For the fifth straight year, LIU has generated an operating surplus of greater than $10 million, enabling unprecedented capital investments across the University. LIU’s financial performance has resulted in a perfect 3.0 financial responsibility ratio with the U.S. Department of Education and an improved outlook from Moody’s, along with this upgrade from S&P.


President of American Library Association Gives Special Lecture at LIU Post on the Vital Role Libraries Play in Our Country Today

Loida Garcia-Febo, president of the American Library Association

Loida Garcia-Febo, president of the American Library Association (ALA), which represents more than 120,000 libraries in the United States, delivered an inspiring Hutton House Lecture at LIU Post’s Lorber Hall on Jan. 14 about the challenges facing public libraries today.

Last year Garcia-Febo became president of the ALA, the oldest and largest library association in the world. As an international library consultant, she has travelled the globe, talking about the vital role librarians must play in a changing world. The theme of her talk was that public libraries equal strong communities.

“In some parts of the country, public libraries provide the only access to information for some underrepresented, marginalized, or most vulnerable communities,” she explained. “Today, getting information is easy as we know, but getting the right information can be difficult. That’s how libraries can help people navigating the information jungle.”

She said that libraries can provide an inclusive environment “where all are treated with respect and dignity.” Sometimes, she added, the library patrons’ requests for information may go beyond a simple reference question and include pleas for essential services like where to find hot meals, showers, shelters or even good medical care for pregnant women. It’s all part of the functions that American libraries have in society today since they serve as “the bastions of democracy,” she noted, providing access to intellectual freedom, promoting diversity and serving the public good.

“Those are parts of our core values at ALA,” she said with pride. “Libraries play a critical role in leveling the playing field and helping all members of the community find the resources they need to better their lives through education.

“Our efforts can have a domino effect, going from impacting our local area to the city to the region to the country and the world,” said Garcia-Febo, adding that providing access to information can become a tool for empowerment.

Sometimes libraries are so in touch with their communities’ needs they’ll lend ukuleles, fishing poles and knitting needles, as well as offer “drawers and drawers of neckties,” she said with a smile. Some libraries host resume-writing workshops. A public library in Oregon partners with local wildlife groups to lead nature tours.

“The examples I shared confirm my belief that libraries equal strong communities,” she said. “But we can’t take our resources for granted.”

Public libraries are alive and well in the age of Amazon, she insisted, “because librarians are the ones who can direct us to accurate information—they can direct us to the truth.”

Garcia-Fedo, who is currently pursuing the Ph.D. in Information Studies program at LIU’s Palmer School of Library and Information Science, expressed her hope for the future.

“Libraries are—and will always be—about the people: what they need and how we can help them find it,” she said.

LIU Post Hosts Regional Virtual Business Conference for Thousands of Ambitious Local High School Students

Here with John Adams High School's Grab'n'Go virtual business are (l-r) Tiffany Callejas, Bibi Bacchus, Joshua Mongal and Rodia Ramlall.

The Pratt Recreation Center at LIU Post was abuzz with budding entrepreneurs last week as the University hosted more than 2,000 local high school students who were on hand for Virtual Enterprises International’s ninth annual Long Island regional conference and exhibition.

It was the first time the Brookville campus has been the venue for the big event, and the place was packed with more than 100 student-run companies pitching innovative products that ranged from solar-powered roofing shingles to stress-reducing hammocks, recycled bagel bits and custom-made smoothies delivered door-to-door.

Vying for the gold, the teams competed in almost a dozen competitions, including Business Plan, Company Branding, Company Newsletter, E-Commerce Website, Employee Handbook, Sales Materials, Video Commercial, Booth Design, Salesmanship and Impact marketing. The final results will be announced later this month.

“Events like these are vitally important in preparing our young people for future success in college and career pursuits,” explained Nick Chapman, VEI’s president and national program director, who was accompanied by Iris Blanc, VEI founder, as well as Ellen Palazzo, LI regional director, and Irv Wortman, LI regional coordinator.

“We’re excited to welcome Virtual Enterprise to LIU,” said Ed Weis, LIU’s vice president of Academic Affairs. “We’re huge admirers of Iris Blanc and Virtual Enterprise due to their learning model because students are actively engaged. They learn how to be business people, not just learn about business.”

Virtual Enterprises is a nonprofit educational organization based in Manhattan that works with schools and districts to implement a year-long, credited class that provides students with an authentic, collaborative business and entrepreneurship experience through its business simulation model. Since its inception in 1996, VE has had more than 140,000 students participate in its programs in almost 20 states. Here 69 Long Island schools were represented.

Standing with Dr. Kimberly R. Cline, president of Long Island University, are (l-r) Iris Blanc, founder of Virtual Enterprises International; Ellen Palazzo, Long Island regional director, and Nick Chapman, president of VEI.

“We’re happy that LIU is hosting this conference,” said Lori Sheinberg, the faculty coordinator for the VEI program at John Adams High School in Ozone Park in Nassau County. “We feel very privileged to be part of it.”

Tiffany Callejas, a senior at John Adams High School, explained how Grab’n’Go, the name of her firm, operates. “Everybody likes food. Who doesn’t?” she said with a laugh. “We took into consideration the students who come late to school. You can pre-order your favorite snacks and you don’t have to wait.”

“We have the menu online so you can order a day or two before, and we give you a code,” explained Joshua Mongol, a senior at John Adams High School. “So when you come in, you scan the code right away and we give you your meal.”

Students from Mount Sinai High School in Suffolk County formed a company called Sol Energy. “We’re a solar-based company that sells solar products to help the environment and save money,” said Rianna Balz, a sophomore. Among the offerings are solar shingles that blend into the rooftop and solar-powered cell-phone chargers.

Zachary Stock, Sol Energy’s chief operations officer, came up with the idea. “We needed a better way to have a sustainable future,” he said, “and so we thought, ‘What better way to make a profit and save the environment?’” As they envisioned it, their company’s solar shingles would come embedded with small, efficient solar panels that would look like specks on the roof so they wouldn’t stand out the way solar panels mounted on suburban homes do now.

“We needed something different,” Stock added. “We couldn’t be like a normal solar company. So, we thought, almost everyone on Long Island owns a home, so our product has a very large customer base.”

John Panos, a junior at Huntington High School, was the chief executive officer of Poppy, Inc., whose motto was: Giving bagels a second chance.

“Basically, what we do is repurpose bagels from local stores,” he explained. “At the end of the day, we take items that would be thrown away and repurpose them as bagel chips. Most of us have worked in delis and bakeries, and we saw a lot of bread being thrown away.”

Bursting with enthusiasm, Panos believes his company has serious potential.

“I’m biased because I think ours is so capable of becoming a real business,” he said. “I am really hoping that as a team we can all get to a point where we have the full capability of physically putting this in the real world.”

Calhoun High School senior Samantha Fortmeyer, who was seated at the booth of her company called DefenseLine, had come to LIU Post in October with her team to compete in VE’s Elevator Pitch Contest—and they’d won a $1,000 check. Working as a team was much harder than she thought because “you can’t put your faith in one person,” she explained. “You have to have strong communication skills and work together really well.”

Calhoun sophomore Christie McBride had come up with the concept for DefenseLIne, which would market a line of products such as key chains and nail polish that would turn different colors in the presence of a date-rape drug.

“I saw the idea of nail polish that changes colors,” McBride recalled. “With college coming around the corner, parties will be part of our life style, and safety will be our No. 1 priority.”

Fortmeyer said that she’s learned a lot by participating in the VE program.

“I’ve taken marketing and accounting classes, but nothing has really taught me what it’s like to actually present in the real business world like this,” she said. “It’s so much harder than you think.”

But thanks to her experience with Virtual Enterprise at LIU, she’ll be well prepared for whatever comes her way.

Hoping for a repeat of their October success in VE’s Elevator Pitch Contest but now on a much bigger stage at LIU Post is the team from Calhoun High School’s DefenseLine. Seated are Samantha Fortmeyer, left, and Elizabeth Herman; standing (l-r) are Christie Powell-McBride, Margaret Joseph, Brenden Rosario and Harrison Valdes.

LIU Post Honors the Top Local High School Art Students

Talented young Long Island artist Marcella Sanchez from Floral Park Memorial High School is flanked, on the left, by Winn Rea, chair of the LIU Art Department, and Dr. Donna Tuman, director of the Art Education Program at LIU Post, on the right.

The artistic creations of 63 talented Long Island students selected from 33 local high schools received special recognition on Jan. 9th when the LIU Post Art Department hosted an awards ceremony to honor them in the S.A.L. Gallery in the B. Davis Schwartz Memorial Library on the Brookville campus.

Called “Advanced Visions 15: High School Artists of Excellence,” the exhibition featured the talented artwork being done by students in Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, and Portfolio Preparation art programs.

This annual exhibit, which ran from Dec. 18, 2018 until Jan. 9, 2019, marked the 15thyear that LIU has hosted this unique presentation.

Curating the exhibition is no easy task, explained Winn Rea, chair of the LIU Post Art Department.

“It’s the very highest level students,” she said, “and the teachers from each high school are allowed to send just two works.” Then their work is judged by LIU’s Art Department.

“This year’s work is an excellent example of a wide selection of media, yet there is a coincidental and beautiful content theme in many pieces,” explained Cristina Lomangino, exhibition coordinator for all the student art shows on the LIU campus and a graduate herself as well as an adjunct professor. “There’s a lot of self-portraiture this year that we’re seeing, and a lot of work playing with focus and depth of field.”

In general, the top awards are based on how well the students use concept, form and method in their creations. As Lomangino put it, the criteria translates to “what they’re actually drawing; the way that it’s drawn, the technique; and if they’re doing something original with the artwork that hasn’t been done before.”

The top three artists who received the “Juror’s Awards” were Marcella Sanchez from Floral Park Memorial High School for her compelling self-portrait called “Glass Window;” Margo Christie from Hicksville High School for her mixed-media representational piece painted on balsa wood, “Epidermodysplasia Verruciformis”; and Steven Rogers of Massapequa High School for his multi-textured landscape oil painting, “Under Overcast.”

The five students given Honorable Mentions were: Mehr Sharma from Hicksville High School for “Lost in Connection”; Blue Ruthen from John F. Kennedy High School for “Work in Progress: A Self Portrait”; Gianna Companaro from East Rockaway High School for “Hearing;” Katya Jaworski from Northport High School for “Typewriter”; and Payton Odierno from Cold Spring Harbor High School for “Looking Back.”

This exhibition at LIU presents aspiring local high school art students a great chance to advance their careers, Lomangino explained. “They get to put it on their resumes when they’re applying to art schools, if that’s the direction they wind up going,” she said. “Having their work shown at the university presents an exclusive opportunity for a lot of high school students.”

But Long Island’s art teachers also get a shout-out.

“We salute the dedicated teachers who work tirelessly to maintain outstanding high school art programs,” Rea and Lomangino proclaimed in the exhibit program, and “make a place for young creative spirits to grow and be recognized.”

The next exhibit in the S.A.L. Gallery, which opens Feb. 5 and runs just a week, will feature the work of Jessica Hart, an LIU Post grad student in the MFA Fine Arts program.

LIU’s Dr. Richard Nader Is Awarded Fulbright Scholarship to India

Dr. Richard Nader

Dr. Richard Nader, Chief Research and International Officer at Long Island University, has been selected for a 2019-2020 Fulbright-Nehru U.S. International Education Administrators (IEA) award to India. This is his second Fulbright Award; his first was in 2014 to France. Dr. Nader heads the LIU Research and International Office (RIO), where his role includes strategic global research development and assisting faculty to enhance research and international activities.

This particular Fulbright program is a specially designed, short-term intensive program to connect U.S. universities to opportunities in India that match the interests and priority areas of LIU.

“I am thrilled and honored to be selected for this award and to represent LIU in highly recognized venues in India,” said Dr. Nader.

As Jeffrey L. Bleich, chair of the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board, said in his recent acceptance letter to Dr. Nader, “The Fulbright Program, which aims to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries, is the flagship international exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government.”

Named after U.S. Senator J. William Fulbright, more than 380,000 Americans have participated in the program since its inception in 1946. As a grantee, Dr. Nader will join the ranks of 59 Nobel Laureates, 84 Pulitzer Prize winners, 72 MacArthur Fellows and 16 Presidential Medal of Freedom recipients.

“I think Fulbright said it best,” added Dr. Nader, “when he said: ‘The making of peace is a continuing process that must go on from day to day, from year to year, so long as our civilization shall last.’ ”

Dr. Nader has more than 30 years of experience in research and international affairs.

Before coming to LIU in June 2018, Dr. Nader served as Associate V.P. for International Development at Mississippi State University, where he led efforts in international development, education and research, including establishing the state’s first Fulbright Association. Previously, Dr. Nader worked at the National Science Foundation’s Office of International Science and Engineering and at Texas A&M University.

“Research and creative activities are noble pursuits,” Dr. Nader said. “A university values faculty because they carry out its goals: the pursuit of truth through discovery, and the pursuit of peace through freedom of expression, debate and understanding the human condition. Research, teaching and service are the key means of accomplishing the university’s goals, and for universities to thrive, they must excel at all three missions.”

Renowned Professor of Constitutional History Delivers Hutton House Lecture on Impeachment at LIU Post

Constitutional historian James Coll tells his listeners at Hutton House how the founders gave Congress impeachment powers.

The topic couldn’t have been more timely as a crowd packed Lorber Hall on the LIU Post campus in mid-December to hear a Hutton House Lecture delivered by James Coll on the issue of impeachment.

Coll, a retired New York City Police Department detective, is an adjunct professor of American and Constitutional History at Nassau Community College and Hofstra University. For a decade he’s been a popular guest lecturer at Hutton House.

Before a very attentive audience, he began his talk with a disclaimer.

“No one in here wants to hear me spout on whether I think the president should be impeached or whether I think the president should not be impeached,” said Coll, with a smile. “And no one in here wants to hear whether you think that, either. We’re going to have a conversation about process. I don’t talk about outcomes.”

He told his listeners he also wouldn’t say whether the impeachments against President Andrew Johnson in 1868 and President Bill Clinton in December 1998—the only two American presidents so far to be impeached—were justified.

What he did do is make good on his promise to fully inform his class on how the U.S. Constitution came to embody the founders’ idea of holding our highest elected officials accountable without undermining the democratic process.

This vital question of not just how to put people in office but how to remove them arose early in June 1787 after the Constitutional Convention had barely begun its meeting in Philadelphia. By that time, five states’ constitutions already had impeachment clauses so these representatives had something to work with. Delaware’s John Dickinson proposed that the president could be removed by a majority of state legislatures voting in favor of it, but that idea was dropped.

Ultimately, the House of Representatives was given the power to impeach with a simple majority vote, and the Senate had the sole ability to convict and remove but only with a super majority—two-thirds of those Senators present. As Coll explained, during an impeachment, the House of Representatives acts like a grand jury, and the Senate performs like a jury in open court.

“The impeachment process is designed to be political,” Coll said, but he added that the founders definitely did not want a simple majority to be able to “undue an election.”

Coll explained that the Constitution specifically defines two impeachable offenses, bribery and treason, but what it means by the mention of “high crimes and misdemeanors” has been open to debate for over two hundred years.

“Ultimately, if it’s a president that the Congress opposes for any reason almost of their choosing, they have the ability to use those Constitutional clauses to their advantage,” Coll said.

For President Johnson, after the House voted to impeach him by a lop-sided vote of 146-30 in February 1868, the Senate conducted its trial in March. Coll noted that even though it was an election year, “they literally couldn’t even wait until November” to get rid of this man. But the votes to convict Johnson on those impeachment charges fell one short of the super majority. For President Clinton, the House tally to impeach him was closer, 221-212, but the Senate didn’t come close to having a super majority on either of the two impeachment charges against him, rejecting the first charge 55-45 (67 votes were the threshold), and the second 50-50. Ultimately, on Jan. 20, 2001, his last day in office, Clinton accepted a five-year suspension of his Arkansas law license and paid a $25,000 fine. No criminal charges were ever filed against him.

Getting to the impeachment issues embroiling the current occupant of the White House, Coll was more circumspect. He cited what the presumed incoming chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. Jerrold Nadler, a New York City Democrat, had warned about a process that could tear the country apart if a “good faction” of the American voters on both sides of the political aisle weren’t convinced that it had to be done.

“The model that Nadler is talking about, which I think is the model that the founders envisioned for impeachment,” Coll said, “is that it’s not a partisan endeavor.”

He noted that President Richard Nixon resigned rather than face impeachment, once it became clear that he’d lost the support of members of his own Republican Party—a stunning turnabout.

“In 1972, Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew get more votes for the presidency and the vice presidency than any candidates running for those offices in the history of our country,” Coll recounted. “Within two years, both offices are occupied by two people who did not get a single vote for either of those offices.”

In conclusion, Coll said that the founders gave the House of Representatives a tremendous amount of power—and it comes with a tremendous amount of responsibility.

“If we’re talking about impeachment, it is literally whatever 218 members of the House say it is,” he explained, but he hoped “it is something that we do not use as a way just to overturn election results. Now we’ll see what happens going forward.”

When Coll finished, he was greeted with an ovation.

To view Hutton House Lecture’s winter catalog, visit the website at webapps.liu.edu/HuttonHouse

LIU Brooklyn Fitness Program for People with Parkinson’s Disease Is Highlighted by Student Video

Janice Holt Mason, an adjunct instructor in the Department of Athletic Training, Health & Exercise Science at LIU Brooklyn, has been involved with the exercise class for people with Parkinson's disease since the fitness program began in 2008.

Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a progressive brain disease that causes a person to increasingly lose control of their movements and balance, and experience other difficulties. For more than a decade, LIU Brooklyn has been collaborating with the Brooklyn Parkinson’s Group to help individuals with Parkinson’s stay active through a free exercise program called Fitness for PD, directed by Dr. Rebecca A. States, professor of Physical Therapy.

“Anyone with Parkinson’s is encouraged to stay physically active and socially active,” said Dr. States. “This program helps them do that.”

Recently two LIU Brooklyn students, Savvy Williams and Chris Burgess, made a video of the program in action. Here’s the link.

“They were a pleasure to work with, very professional and with great skills,” said Professor States, who explained that the program’s goals are to help people find a way to live with Parkinson’s and enjoy their life.

Janice Holt Mason, a certified fitness instructor and an adjunct instructor in the Department of Athletic Training, Health and Exercise Science (ATHES) at LIU Brooklyn, has been teaching this class since it began in 2008 and seen it evolve.

“We saw that it would be a great benefit to the students and the school to turn it into a bonafide course,” she explained.

Dr. States praised Holt Mason’s “extraordinary ability” to tailor the exercises to fit the needs of each individual.

“Having a form of exercise that works for them helps them fight the disease,” added Dr. States.

Nancy Petaja, who heads the Brooklyn Parkinson’s Group, commended Fitness for PD.

“The program has made a huge contribution to the services we have available for people,” Petaja said.

The two-and-a-half-hour class meets on Tuesdays and Thursdays during the Fall, Spring and Summer semesters. On any given day, there are usually a dozen participants. All told 120 people have gone through the program, according to Prof. States, who added that two other ATHES faculty members, Amerigo Rossi and Tracye Rawls-Martin, also help run it.

LIU Post’s Dr. Joan Digby Receives National Collegiate Honors Council’s Top Award

Dr. Joan Digby

At its recent 2018 annual conference held in Boston, the National Collegiate Honors Council paid its highest tribute to Dr. Joan Digby, director of the Honors College at LIU Post, by giving her the NCHC Founders Award: “the most prestigious award bestowed by our organization.”

Founded in 1966, NCHC currently boasts 900 member institutions and several hundred individual members, altogether impacting more than 330,000 honors students.

The Founders Award, which was created on the association’s 50thanniversary, “serves to honor members who have been instrumental in the development and advancement of NCHC and its programs.”

Digby fits that description perfectly.

“If honors education in some sense celebrates a Renaissance vision of humankind, Joan Digby is that image incarnate,” said Dr. Jeff Portnoy, co-chair of the NCHC Publications Board and editor of the NCHC Monograph Series, at the presentation ceremony. “She is a scholar, an essayist, an editor, a poet, an adventurer in nature, a protector of wild camels, a woman of the horse, a publisher, a film producer, a provider of food and lodging for generations of cats, and a Founder of initiatives central to the heart of honors education and NCHC.”

Dr. Digby has been at LIU Post since 1969 after she received her Ph.D. in English from New York University, where she did an award-winning dissertation on 18thcentury fabulists and had previously gotten her undergraduate degree. She earned her Master’s at the University of Delaware.

The honors program at Post had gone through three directors when Digby was asked in 1977 if she wanted to take it over. She readily agreed—and has been running it ever since. According to the National Collegiate Honors Council, the average duration of an honors director is three years.

“I have fun,” Digby declared. “I never get bored. I really have a ball with it.”

Over the years, she has been the president of the national organization as well as of the Northeast Region. She’s served on numerous NCHC committees as well as its publications board. She took the initiative and with her assistant, Tracey Christy, compiled “Peterson’s Guide to Honors Programs & Colleges,” which NCHC called “a mammoth undertaking [that] chronicled the resources of honors operations, attributes, and offerings at colleges and universities across the country.”

With Heather Thiessen-Reilly, Digby co-edited “Partners in the Parks: Field Guide to an Experiential Program in the National Parks,” now in its second edition, which grew out of a unique collaboration between NCHC and the National Park Service. Digby’s inspiration for the partnership program had come after she had visited Rocky Mountain National Park, a breathtaking 415-square-mile expanse in Estes Park, Colorado, following an NCHC conference in Denver.

While gazing at that magnificent panorama, Digby had an epiphany.

“I started to think that Long Island students do not move off this square,” she recalled. Back in the classroom she asked her students how many had been to a National Park? A few had been to Sagamore Hill in Oyster Bay, the home of President Theodore Roosevelt, and some students had been to the Statue of Liberty, but almost none had ventured to a National Park west of the Mississippi. Digby came up with a two-page proposal.

“I wrote it knowing that I have no idea how to go camping!” she laughed. “I’m from the Bronx—what do I know?” She emailed her proposal to NCHC’s members and within minutes she said—snapping her fingers to emphasize the speedy response—two professors in the honors program at Southern Utah University replied. “They said, ‘We’ve always dreamed of doing this.’ I said, ‘Go run with it!’” And so the innovative program was born.

Since then, Digby has accompanied honors college students to Utah’s Bryce Canyon, Alaska’s Denali National Park and Preserve, Maine’s Acadia National Park and Virgin Islands National Park on St. John. Nearer to our shores, she’s gone to Fire Island National Seashore and Ellis Island.

“They are really life-changing trips,” she said. All told, the program now has more than 1,5000 alumni.

Partners in the Parks epitomizes Digby’s belief that an honors program should get college students to do undergraduate academic research and write a thesis as well as obtain some “experiential learning out in the world—not just sitting in the classroom.”

What she won’t do, she said, is do “honors by contract, meaning that you take any class but it you do an extra this or an extra that, you get honors credit,” Digby explained. “I’ve done it a few times out of necessity, but it’s not my idea of what honors should be.

“For me,” she continued, “all my classes are little seminars—that’s how I’ve structured it. The students are never in a lecture situation. They’re really talking with each other and communicating as a group and doing things in a group—and that makes a big difference, too.”

As she envisions it, having students meet in an honors class together helps them form a cohort that may long outlast their graduation. Recently two students Digby hadn’t seen in over 30 years each came to tell her how much she’d motivated them in their subsequent careers.

“I try to push them wherever they’re going,” she said, referring to the honors students she’s seen come and go.

Along the unconventional path she’s taken, Digby has befriended many feral cat colonies on the Post campus as well as taking the horses at the nearby Northshore Equestrian Center under her wing. In 2005, with her collage-artist husband, John Digby, she founded The Feral Press, which has published more than 250 limited-edition books. Last year, on her sabbatical, she wrote three volumes of poetry, including one with her favorite equine collaborator, Snowball. When she turned 50, she learned to ride horseback on him despite his cantankerous reputation.

Taking Snowball for a walk at the Northshore Equestrian Center [Photo by Joan Harrison]
“He was known as a sour horse,” she admitted. “Even now, he’s not a really friendly horse…Snowball doesn’t think. Snowball eats, tries to bite me, and goes for a walk—I love him!”

About 20 years ago, Digby recounted, “I decided that if I could pay particular attention to him, I could soften his temperament and make him bite people less frequently.”

These days, it’s become a moot issue since Snowball has lost all his teeth. Nonetheless, their partnership has been quite productive. “I’ve written poems about him for years,” she said with a smile.

Although she no longer rides on horseback, Dr. Joan Digby knows she has many more inspirations still to come.

[Photo of Dr. Digby with a camel was taken by Ruth Iannuzzi.]

Runway to Success

Under the leadership of industry expert Cherie Serota, LIU Post’s Fashion Merchandising program is looking glamorous these days.

New York City is the fashion capital of the world. LIU Post’s School of Business is approaching 20 consecutive years on The Princeton Review’s annual list of best business schools. Conjoining those two assets was the logic that fueled the University’s decision to launch a Fashion Merchandising program in 2015.

It should not then come as a surprise to see the program en vogue just three years later. With field trips abroad to fashion capitals in Europe, internationally-renowned guest speakers, industry-leading adjunct professors, frequent visits to Manhattan, a student-run boutique on campus, and much more, the excitement and pace are a perfect fit for such an ambitious degree.

As part of the College of Management, the B.S. in Fashion Merchandising teaches students business fundamentals and entrepreneurship, while fostering creativity in marketing and branding, with each class tailored to instruct industry-specific minutiae.

“We’re educating students on a broad spectrum,” Director Cherie Serota said. “They can go out and start their own businesses or they could work for a big company and be well versed in all the business aspects expected of them in today’s fast-paced, global fashion industry.”

The faculty lineup is star studded from the top to bottom, with vision casting from Serota and College of Management Dean Robert Valli, both of whom are prominent authors, and classes taught by industry professionals like Margaret Nicklas, a branding executive at Nine West Group, and Caryn Hirshleifer, one of the owners of luxury retailer Hirshleifer’s.

Those are just a few of the experts that students interact with on a weekly basis. Each semester they also rub elbows with some of the world’s biggest fashion icons beginning with events and shows at New York Fashion Week in September, visits to Women’s Wear Daily (WWD), The Doneger Group, and to meet prominent fashion designers at the New York City headquarters in between, capped off by an annual trip abroad.

During last year’s trip to Paris, Pamela Golbin, chief curator of fashion and textiles at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs at the Louvre, met with students and signed copies of her popular book Couture Confessions.

“It’s important to be in touch with global fashion scene,” Serota said.

Behind-the-scenes access to runway shows, garment centers, and museum exhibits, provide invaluable exposure and networking opportunities for students.

“They get to feel and sense the fast pace of the industry,” Serota said. “It’s great for them to see what goes into a line from concept to completion.”

When students aren’t soaking up expert knowledge, they are working with real products. The Student Body, one of LIU Post’s student-run businesses, is a boutique offering designer clothing. In addition to picking out the clothing and working the floor, the program utilizes the boutique to teach students how to craft a business plan, with detailed strategies for social media, marketing, and branding. The program also boasts 25 top-of-the-line Pucci mannequins, donated by Saks Fifth Avenue in Huntington last December, along with 50 high-fashion vintage couture gowns from top designers, such as Jacques Fath, Ungaro and Yves St Laurent as part of its fashion archive. Over the summer, students conducted a runway fashion show in Hillwood Commons for an enthused audience of more than 200 during LIU’s annual Summer Honors Institute (SHI).

The senior capstone project requires students create a fashion start-up, beginning with the inception of an idea all the way to the launch of a product, crafting a logo and exhaustive business plan in the process.

“It’s amazing to see everything they learned in their four years here, before going out and doing it on their own,” Serota said.

LIU Post’s Special Collections Hosts Elementary School Kids Who Learn the Art of Book Restoration

As Special Collections' acting director Jarron Jewell looks on, Paul Belard shares his skills with the Book Doctors from Norwood Elementary School in Northport.

LIU Post’s Archives and Special Collections hosted a unique class of students from the Norwood Elementary School in Northport, N.Y., who are called The Book Doctors because they want to learn how to take care of their library books.

As shown on Fios1 News, almost a dozen fifth-graders came to the Archives and Special Collections room on the third floor of the B. Davis Schwartz Memorial Library at LIU Post to learn firsthand from the master book repairer/book binder Paul Belard, who’s been a long-time friend of the University’s Special Collections. An engineer by training and a self-taught bookbinder who studied in France, his native country, Belard is the owner of New York Book Repair.

Also on hand for the morning session were Meghan Fitzsimmons, the new librarian at Norwood Elementary School; her predecessor, Linda Dickman, a co-teacher of “The Book Doctors”; and Jarron Jewell, acting director of LIU Post’s Archives and Special Collections and also the curator of the American Juvenile Collection, which is housed at the University.

Asked by Fios1 reporter Briella Tomassetti what he enjoys about being a Book Doctor, August Gesell, a 10-year-old student at Norwood Elementary School, replied, “My favorite part about doing this is knowing that people who have books are going to feel nice and warm inside when they get their books back.”

Fifth-grader Lily Forman described the process. “Books that are really old can take a couple of weeks to do because you have to glue back the pages [and] you have to fix the spine,” she explained. One benefit from being among the Book Doctors, she said, is that she can fix books with her friends.

Master book-binder and repairer Paul Belard, who volunteers his time with the Book Doctors, told Fios why he does what he does.

“It’s a way to pass my craft along,” he said wistfully, with a handful of students huddled behind him. “I don’t know, probably maybe one or two will keep on and go in this direction because there aren’t too many of us left now!”

School librarian Linda Dickman, who recently retired from Norwood Avenue Elementary, was instrumental in bringing Belard on board to share his skills. “In this current age of technology children are being encouraged to make things again. And what they’re doing is learning to make an old thing new.”

Dickman explained that the Book Doctors began about six years ago when a group of second graders approached her and said, “We’re going to start a club and you can join—or not!” So, she arranged for Belard to visit and he’s been a regular advisor ever since.

As part of the morning’s presentation, the students saw a first edition of Mark Twain’s “Huckleberry Finn,” which was printed in 1885, and got to examine the Special Collection’s copy of “The Book of Kells,” which Dickman dubbed “the rock star of books!” Originally created by a group of Irish monks in the year 800, this special reprint was published in 1990 by a Swiss firm specializing in the reproduction of medieval manuscripts.

Jewell also outlined the steps to take in the proper handling of vintage books with Belard weighing in. The Book Doctors do most of their work at the library before school starts. The kids were avid listeners and eager questioners. Their enthusiasm impressed their new librarian, Meghan Fitzsimmons, who said, “It’s really fun. It’s nice to see that all the kids are really interested in preserving books in the world of technology today.”

Whether they intend to follow in his footsteps and learn his craft or not, the students gave Belard a warm hug as they bid him farewell and boarded their bus to return to their school in time for lunch.

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