Adelphi University (NY): From the Desk of President Riordan

February 2018
From my desk: News from President Riordan
Charlotte, Joseph, Tracy, Vanessa, TaLona, Yumnah, Mirirai and Brandon: Lives Changed at Adelphi.
Most all colleges and universities have a strategic plan that lays out what must be done to move the university forward. We certainly do, and we live by it.
But I think Adelphi University is unique in that we have a stated mission that is larger than all the parts of the strategic plan: to transform the lives of our students.
So I thought that, this month, I would let stories of students whose lives were changed at Adelphi—just a few of the thousands—lead this issue. 
It is fascinating to me to see all the different ways that this happens: sometimes through an academic experience, like Vanessa Mallilo ’15, who began her life in the preemie ward at New York-Presbyterian Queens and is now working there as a neonatal nurse. Sometimes it is the arts which change a person deeply; Broadway actress Mirirai Sithole earned her M.F.A. at Adelphi, and is now acting, producing and mentoring upcoming actors. Charlotte Champigny’s story is part of an effort Adelphi is leading: bringing higher education to students with cognitive challenges. In fact, the introduction last month of a Sensory Room for students at Adelphi with autism spectrum disorder is the first of its kind at any college campus in the nation.
Sometimes these transformations happen in small moments. The Long Island president of 100 Black Men, Curtiss Jacobs, addressed students from the Robert B. Willumstad School of Business last week with a talk titled, “Succeeding in a Rapidly Changing World: Advice From the Front Lines.” The talk was scheduled to end at 3:00 p.m., but students kept him on for a full hour after that. According to Dean Rajib Sanyal, Ph.D., “They would not let him go.” I wasn’t in the room—but I can imagine that the students who heard Curtiss speak that day about finding your first job left much wiser. 
Then there are students like Brandon Buono, a junior from Brooklyn, who says he spent his first two years at Adelphi, according to Assistant Vice President and Dean of Student Affairs Jeff Kessler, “just going to class and back to the residence hall.” That changed when he took the Leadership Certificate Program at Adelphi. He signed up to be a hall attendant, joined Hall Council and became president, joined the Student Activities Board and the Resident Student Association, participated in alternative spring break and last year assisted on a panel on career building with Emmy Award–winning sportscaster Al Trautwig ’78, ’17 (Hon.).
It takes work to make transformations like these happen. We think it has a lot to do with our small class size (usually about 21), professors who are personally engaged with their students, and the way we approach our students as individuals with unique gifts and strengths. We call it our personalized approach.  
The transformations continue. Last week, Charlotte, a double stroke survivor, went for her NYU Winthrop Hospital ID badge and is beginning her internship. Tracy is continuing her switch from physics to civil engineering. Yumnah will be fighting to bring wellness to adolescents with trauma. And students at Adelphi—all of them—are finding their own unique paths. 
As I saw once on a dorm poster, “Will it be easy? Nope. Will it be worth it? Absolutely.”
Christine M. Riordan, Ph.D.
Casually Suicidal | Sarah Liberti | TEDxAdelphiUniversity
Watch a TEDx talk, and see how it changes you.
Last year’s speakers captivated our campus. On March 9, TEDx returns with 10 deeply personal conversations about cybersecurity, transgender youth, urban gardens and other topics to illuminate and educate.
Celebrating neurodiversity: Meet Charlotte Champigny, stroke survivor and biology student.
Adelphi is on the leading edge of including students with autism spectrum disorder, TBI (traumatic brain injury) and other challenges. Here is the story of Charlotte, who is graduating in May from Adelphi with a degree in biology, an internship at NYU Winthrop Hospital and newfound confidence.
One internship didn’t change Joseph Lucito’s life. Four did. Read how one student broke the tradition of the rising junior summer internship by taking on four separate internships throughout his years at Adelphi—and find out what makes him feel that working at four companies, in four roles, was right for him.
Read how Adelphi’s personal approach to higher education helped Tracy Paltoo, a gifted young woman in STEM, bounce back from setbacks to build a brilliant college career. Now pursuing a second degree at Columbia University, she has studied lasers, astrophysics and civil engineering. Here’s how she did it.
Read the inspiring story of how Vanessa Mallilo, born a micropreemie, grew up to study nursing at Adelphi’s College of Nursing and Public Health and now helps newborn infants as a neonatal nurse. It’s a story that modern science made possible, but only a woman with Vanessa’s passion for nursing could accomplish.
TaLona Holbert, who started life in foster care, is now a law school graduate who earned high praise in a recent immigration law competition.See how her amazing drive, academic skills and support during her years at Adelphi helped her overcome the odds and become the first in her adoptive family to earn a college degree.
Many students who struggle with the academic and social demands of the University can come back to be stronger, better studentsSee how we’re helping challenged students, one by one, by using fresh ideas, relentless dedication and our personal approach of “meeting students where they are.” It’s academic S.O.S.
Yumnah Syed-Swift’s life has been transformed by her master’s degree in social work—and that, in turn, is helping her change the lives of adolescents from diverse backgrounds around the country. Read about a young woman who has struggled with mental health issues since age 11, and is now shedding light on adolescent trauma.
Athletics Update
Far Afield, a Transformative Experience for Field Hockey Star Mercuri
As part of our alternative break options this winter, senior field hockey star Libby Mercuri traveled with 11 other students and two faculty members on a service-learning trip to Guatemala with nonprofit Mayan Families. Mayan Families works with indigenous people living in extreme poverty. “These people were not sad, they were not defeated, and their heads did not hang low. Balancing the life of being a nursing major and an athlete can be a real challenge at times. But in doing service for others, those challenges became nonexistent to me. I am eager to see what ‘challenges’ life will throw my way after I graduate in May, and I look forward to my next life-changing experience.”
Alumni Making a Difference
Lenny Achan ’99
In this issue about lives changed, I am pleased to feature the extraordinary Lenny Achan. He began his transformative career as a nursing student at Adelphi, and has gone on to become chief innovation officer at the Hospital for Special Surgery, a gifted multimedia artist, a mentor, an advocate—and a dedicated trustee of Adelphi University. Read his story.
Momentum Tour 2017–2018
On February 15, my Momentum Tour 2017–2018: Stories of Lives Changed: Hear Ours, Tell Yours will be coming to Washington, D.C. It has been fascinating for me to hear stories of lives changed at Adelphi, all around the country. Join us—and watch for Adelphi’s Heart of Gold Giving Day, March 21.
Let’s Stay in Touch
I love sharing news about Adelphi. But even better is hearing from you. Please feel free to reach out to me anytime at
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