Wednesday, March 27, 2024

Student Spotlight: Meet Sorelle Ineza

Student Spotlight: Sorelle Ineza

Meet Sorelle Ineza, a standout student-athlete whose journey at Hofstra University exemplifies the power of dedication, balance, and leveraging campus resources for success. Juggling the demands of basketball, academics, and career development, Sorelle not only thrived on the court but also secured a prestigious postgraduate internship with the NCAA. Reflecting on her experience, Sorelle underscores the importance of leadership experiences, resilience, mentoring, and collaborative campus support at Hofstra.

At the dynamic intersection of sports and career exploration, Sorelle discovered a passion for sports communications during her sophomore year. From there, she sought out industry mentors and participated in formal mentoring programs. On an individual level, Sorelle shadowed mentors in the Hofstra Athletics Communications and Marketing departments, receiving invaluable support from professionals like Rachel Vogel, Stephen Gorchov, Daniel Savarino, and Hannah Geller. According to Sorelle, “They were a huge help in teaching me the skills necessary to be successful in their profession.” Additionally, Sorelle joined the Women’s Sports Foundation/NBC Sport Group Mentoring Program.

In addition to participating in mentoring, Sorelle took the initiative to incorporate career development into her leadership experiences. She served as the media relations coordinator for Hofstra’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) Executive Board for two years, aligning her career and athletics passions with a role through which she honed her media skills. Sorelle also chose to participate in the Pride Leadership Academy, through which she developed her personal leadership style and learned a variety of leadership strategies and tactics that she will take with her into her desired future career with the NCAA.

When reflecting on how Hofstra’s support systems helped her juggle the competing demands of her athletics commitments and preparation for her career, Sorelle noted the importance of mentoring and synergistic relationships among campus departments that helped her navigate Hofstra’s resources. “I have to give a huge shoutout to our director of women’s basketball operations, Shaaliyah Lyons. She played a big part in keeping me focused on my career development. She made sure I used the resources that we have on campus, like the Center for Career Design & Development, and put me in contact with them. I am so thankful for their help.”

Sorelle also noted that the Center for Career Design & Development’s nimble approach to student service was helpful as she balanced competing demands. “They have helped me with my resume, interview process, and confidence building. Even though I had a hectic schedule, they still found time to take me in and prepare me. I would come in after practice or on my off days, or I would exchange emails with them. Sandra Buatti-Ramos is AMAZING! She was available throughout my whole interview process with the NCAA. I truly don’t know what I would have done without her. Every time we met, my confidence would go up. She always took the time to remind me how amazing and prepared I was. She made this whole process a whole lot easier for me. She’s a REAL one!”

When asked how engaging with the Center for Career Design & Development has added value to her experience as a student-athlete, Sorelle explained, “As student-athletes, we often think that we are not qualified to apply for anything because of how much time we spend practicing and playing or sport. I thought that I didn’t have enough experience to apply for the NCAA Postgraduate Internship Program, which was not the case. It is because of the Center for Career Design & Development that I started seeing how valuable and transferable my skills were for the position. Sandra made sure to show me how valuable everything that I have gained while being a student-athlete was. Just to name a few: Hofstra SAAC, Pride Leadership Academy, NCAA Career in Sports Forum, Madison Square Garden, community service, etc.”

Like many college students, Sorelle was initially hesitant to reach out for career preparation assistance, but she explained that her interactions with the staff helped set her at ease. “I was scared to reach out at first, but they made me so comfortable once I got there.” She remarked on her distinguishable experiences with the professionals at the Center for Career Design & Development as a positive influence on her career development. “The staff was very welcoming and supportive. They are professionals who understand what college students need. They ask about your day, classes, practices, games, and more. Very personable people who care about us as human beings! Moreover, they are very flexible and make time for us no matter the circumstances.” Sorelle also reflected on the staff’s ability to tailor their support and services to meet her unique needs. “What stood out to me was how intentional they were in getting to know me at a deeper level. For instance, what motivates me in life, what are my strengths and weaknesses, and more. By doing that, they were able to know who I am as a person and find the tools necessary to connect with me and help me reach my goals.”

As leaders often do, Sorelle reflected on advice she would offer to her student-athlete peers when it comes to navigating the balance between sports and career development. “I would tell them that they are much more than just student-athletes. Yes, it is important to focus on their sports, but life has so much more to offer. It is crucial to make time for career development. Like our coach often says, “the ball will stop bouncing one day,” and you cannot wait until your career is over to find what motivates you outside of your sport or who you are as a person. Get involved on campus, talk to people, network, ask questions, shadow people, etc. We are surrounded by professionals! We often forget how lucky we are because of how consumed we are with our sport. Get outside of your comfort zone, touch on different things, sharpen your skills, and build a network. Put in the same effort in your career development that you put in your sport, and you will understand how powerful and equipped you are to be successful outside of your sport.”

Sorelle also reflected on the importance of connecting with the Center for Career Design & Development. “It is crucial for student-athletes to use the Center for Career Design & Development because of how insightful the staff is. We are much more than just student-athletes and need to think about our future outside of our sports. There's no better place on campus than the Center for Career Design & Development to help us understand our transferable skills, how valuable our experiences are, and how qualified we are to work anywhere we want.”

When asked if there was anything else she would like to note about the support she received at Hofstra, Sorelle stated, “I cannot thank the Center for Career Design & Development enough! They have made my experience a great one and helped me land one of the most prestigious postgraduate internships in the country. Thank you so much!”

Monday, February 12, 2024

That Parent

 That Parent

By Stephanie Kepke

I’ve attended many Hofstra Admitted Students Day events as a representative of Hofstra Parent and Family Council. There is one nugget of advice that’s always dispensed, and that is, “Don’t be that parent. “Who is that parent?” you may ask. Well…if you’re inserting yourself into your student’s college experience—calling professors; checking email; reminding your student about deadlines; calling multiple times a day to check in—you might be that parent. It’s discouraged for obvious reasons.

But…what if you are that parent? Is it ever okay? Maybe not to the extent mentioned above, but there are exceptions to the rule. Full disclosure, I am that parent now, even though I was the exact opposite when my oldest son attended college four hours away at UMass Amherst. I had no idea who his professors were, what his grades were (until I checked once at the end of the semester). I didn’t know if he handed in his assignments on time or if he failed any tests. Never once did I call and tell him to do his work. We spoke maybe once a week and usually only if he called me. And while I would have loved to check in more often, I respected his space. Here’s the thing, though—he did not need me to be involved in his academic life. He made Dean’s List pretty much every semester. He was an early to bed, early to rise type, so I know he wasn’t missing classes. I didn’t need to interfere, so I never became that parent. But, my oldest is neurotypical, unlike my younger boys who have ADHD, OCD and hypermobile Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, which can cause attention issues. My youngest also has Tourette’s and is on the autism spectrum.

My two younger sons attend Hofstra (a sophomore and a senior). When my middle son matriculated, I assumed the same hands-off approach as I did with my oldest. I didn’t nag him

about assignments. I didn’t check his email. Even though he commutes and lives at home, I gave him a wide berth and didn’t interfere. And then…well, then covid hit, Hofstra went to virtual before any other university in New York, thanks to early positive cases. My son struggled, as many students did. But, I still maintained that hands-off approach…until my son failed three classes in the fall of 2020 and had to take an academic leave in the spring of 2021 (we thought he lost his scholarship and by the time we realized he didn’t, thanks to the amazing Branka Kristic, it was too far into the semester for him to return. (You can read more about that in this essay: Triumph Over Failure.) All of the sudden I realized that my son needed my interference. He had multiple emails from professors unread in his inbox warning him that he would fail if he didn’t turn in his missing assignments. I was furious with myself, thinking that perhaps if I even glanced at the portal or his inbox, I would have known of the impending academic doom. He finished the semester with a .42.

He returned in the fall of 2021 with a new major that truly captured his passion, music business and performance, and a renewed determination to do well. Part of our agreement when he returned was that I was allowed access to his inbox and would be checking it and the portal regularly. I wasn’t overbearing, I simply gently steered him to complete his work on time and answer emails promptly. He appreciated the support and put in the hard work necessary to succeed. He earned a 3.47 that semester and has held pretty much steady with his GPA since, with a slight dip here and there, usually due to extenuating circumstances (for instance, wrist nerve pain for a percussionist guarantees a less than stellar grade).

When my youngest son started Hofstra in the fall of 2022, I requested access to his email and the portal right off the bat. He agreed and also appreciates the support. He was accepted into the PALS program, which could have taken my place as the steady hand steering him (though of

course much more involved than I could—or should—ever be), but we decided that it was not possible financially for him to participate in it. It is definitely worth the money for those who take advantage of it, and I truly wish he could have done it, but it was not feasible for us with two college tuitions to pay, even with my students’ generous scholarships—especially since we had been paying college tuition for our kids steadily since 2016 (with two also overlapping in 2019-2020).

Of course, Hofstra does not let students who do not join PALS flounder, as Student Access Services is ready and willing to help all students with disabilities. And this is another area in which a little push from parents can be helpful. I encouraged my sons to fill out the SAS contract and take advantage of all the accommodations afforded them. I had to remind my son several times to drop off his contract, and I dropped off all the initial necessary paperwork from his high school, and his psychologist and neurologist. Luckily, SAS understands that sometimes students with special needs require a bit more parental involvement. And they are now encouraging students to be proactive by requiring they hand in their accommodation letters to their professors directly. This will help the most vulnerable students learn to advocate for themselves. You can learn more about this by watching The Student Access Services (SAS) Changes on the Hofstra Parent and Family Council Events page. This is so important, because while I keep an eye on the portal and inbox, I do NOT contact professors for my kids. Yes, it can be incredibly frustrating to keep reminding them to answer emails, but they need to learn to speak to professors and to handle any issues that arise on their own.

So, am I bad parent for being that parent—the parent we are all cautioned against becoming? I’d like to think that I’m just doing the best I can to help my kids navigate what can sometimes be a daunting experience for students with special needs like ADHD and autism.

Since I didn’t become that parent with my oldest, but I did with my two younger sons, I’d also like to think that I’m nimble in responding to what each individual child needs at the time.

So…here is my advice (and you can take it with a grain of salt, since it’s against the advice of experts)—if you think your student would benefit from an extra set of eyes on his/her/their inbox, request permission to be that pair of eyes. Request permission to check the portal to help your student stay on track. You should NOT force your way into helping your student nor should you sneak into your child’s inbox and portal. The arrangement works with my kids because I asked and was granted permission—mind you, you can impose conditions if permission is not granted. As I mentioned above, part of our agreement to allow our son to return to school after failing three classes is that we had access to his portal and mail. The same thing with my youngest—he had struggled with turning assignments in on time in high school, so a condition of him attending Hofstra was access to his inbox and portal. If he refused, we would have had to rethink investing such a hefty chunk of change in his education.

Only you can decide what’s best for your student, and just know that if your student is at Hofstra and you’re reading this blog, you’re already doing a great job in being an involved parent who wants only the best for your child…no matter how hands-on or hands-off you are.

Wednesday, December 20, 2023

Farewell Hofstra & Dear Freshman Me

Farewell Hofstra by Logan Grasso (Right)

It's been four years apart from myself now, and so it's become hard to recognize that person anymore. I was asked what I would tell the Freshman version of me now that I'm graduating. I'm sure there are plenty of ways I could prepare that kid. There's advice I could give like I gave so many others that weren't myself. And yet, if I had the opportunity to tell him something, I don't think that I would say a single word. 

There's a difference between foresight and hindsight. It's easy to look back at something after the fact, regardless of the experience being a difficult one even, and appreciate that for helping you to grow as a person. It's not so easy looking at hardship ahead of yourself and thinking it'll be all worth that trouble when you finish enduring it. 

I wouldn't be able to tell myself it'd be okay in the end, not for the sake of lying or giving a shred of hope, but because that isn't my decision to make. Who I was then and who I am now are different and it would be a crazy thing to ask that kid to go through what I did for my sake. 

But I'm here at the end waiting should my past self decide to go through it all. I'm here waiting to not say congratulations or to express how proud I am. Rather, I'm here to say "thank you" for making that tough call and never giving up. Because I never did it for myself and I know neither did he. 

Dear Freshman Me by Rida Shah (Middle)

Dear Freshman Rida, I would like to start and congratulate you on accomplishing a great feat that many do not have the privilege to do. It will be a bittersweet journey in which you will face many challenges and question yourself but don’t worry, those you meet along the way will help you more than you can ever imagine. These friends, peers, and mentors will push you to explore your interests and achieve many accomplishments that will help you down the line in real-world experiences. You will have to wake up early in the morning and stay awake until late into the night, pushing yourself to your own limits and passing them- creating new ones, to achieve your dreams. Do not worry if you feel lonely because the next moment you will have an abundance of people who care, surrounding you with that warm fuzzy feeling that made the Grinch’s heart grow. It has been a long journey with many ups and downs but all your hard work has paid off and you have acquired a degree from a prestigious university, one that you may share with pride. I wish you all the best and hope you will always believe in yourself- as I believe in you. Best, Graduating Senior Rida <3

Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Parents Need Friends, Too


Parents Need Friends, Too

By Stephanie Kepke

Close your eyes and let the years spin back to your student’s early childhood. What do you remember? Maybe the beautiful chaos of small children is the first thing that pops into your mind. Or perhaps, you recall how easy it was to make friends. Pre-school pickup, play dates at the park, endless birthday parties. There was always an opportunity to chat with other parents and an opportunity to forge relationships based on your kids being in the same stage at the same time.

Those memories are so sweet. I still keep in touch with my first mommy friend almost a quarter century after we pushed our kids on the swings at our favorite park, pushed strollers around the mall on rainy days, and lifted the brightly colored parachutes at Gymboree. We’re literally half a world away from each other—she’s lived in Australia for two decades now—but that bond is unbreakable. Same goes for the other Gymboree moms with whom we became friends. We’re all still connected.

When we moved from Boston to Long Island (to my hometown) I easily made even more friends—with each kid, I met moms with whom to bond. But…as my kids grew, my ability to make new friends shrunk. It got harder and harder to meet new people. Without the communal experience of chatting while picking up our kids or sitting on the bleachers watching Little League, life felt more isolated, although I still adore all my mom friends from every era, of course. Covid was a nail in the coffin, moving PTA meetings, the one place I still socialized with a group of moms, to the virtual realm.

But then…something happened at around the same time covid hampered my in-person relationships—I met new friends. Yes, it started as in-person friends just before covid in the fall of 2019 (when my middle son started Hofstra), but grew into vibrant virtual connections that eventually transitioned back into the real world. You may wonder what I did as a fifty-something to finally make new friends. The answer…I joined Hofstra Parent and Family Council! We are a group of parents, guardians and family members dedicated to bridging the gap between home and Hofstra. Fostering a connection that is often overlooked when students leave for college is rewarding for parents, the university and the student body—everyone wins.

We gather for dinners; have our own cheering section at home basketball games; attend monthly meetings, which are on Zoom and always chock full of information (the last meeting of

the spring is in-person, as well as on Zoom); we support each other; and we care about all students, not just our own, raising funds for the Student Emergency Fund. (Parent and Family Council also presents monthly “Timely Topics” Zoom sessions, which are “must-see.”) Perhaps best of all, we have the amazing Branka Kristic, Director of Parent and Family Programs and Assistant Dean of Students, leading us. She is a gem who will guide you through any crisis that may arise with compassion and knowledge. And she facilitates that feeling that we are all there for one another.

And to be sure, members are so supportive of each other. I feel very fortunate that my fellow PFC members crowded a book store on an icy night last February for my book signing. It meant so much to me to look out at the audience and see my PFC friends. It really sent home the message that we are there for each other, beyond supporting our students and Hofstra.

The bond you form with parents of children in the same stage as yours is undeniably strong, even when those children are young adults. I have commiserated with other PFC parents of students struggling with the same issues mine have struggled with (I currently have a senior and a sophomore at Hofstra), and it helps to not feel alone. I would argue that with the stakes being so much higher in college than they were when we were young parents chatting at school pick-up, it’s even more important to have friends with kids in the same stage. Having others who understand the parenting struggles and challenges of raising children who are on the cusp of full-fledged adulthood is priceless. (And yes, I know they’re adults at eighteen, but having raised three humans, one of whom is twenty-five and “fully adult,” living on his own, I still think of college age as “almost adult.”)

So, join us…whether it’s for a fun Zoom event or to cheer on Hofstra’s basketball team or to sit around a table enjoying delicious dishes and sparkling conversation (if you’re local or visiting), you will be glad you did—and you may even make one or two (or several!) new friends.

Wednesday, November 15, 2023

Dear Mom, Thank You


Christine Rice MBA '23 and her mother, Josie Rice

Dear Mom,

January 2017

After a long day of classes on a brisk and chilly afternoon, I got home from school and scoured our home mailbox, spotting the letter that would completely change my life. Arriving in a white pack with the school logo on the upper left-hand side, the material was dense, as if it had multiple pieces of paper inside. My heart began to race as I ran inside to find you, the moment had arrived. So many questions and thoughts ran through my head- there was only one way to find out. I stood at the kitchen table alongside you as I opened the acceptance letter.

As soon as I saw the Congratulations in a bolded font on the first line, we both began to cry- this is what my grandmother, my mother, and ultimately I always worked for. From humble beginnings coming to the United States and working our way up into homeownership and entrepreneurial endeavors, I always knew that I would be the first person in my family to go to college and earn a Bachelor’s degree. Without you, this wouldn’t have been possible. I was incredibly excited for the next 4 years.

August 2017

Moving to a new city that was 3 hours away from home, I transitioned into university life. From freshman move-in to Homecoming Weekend, despite the distance, you were always there for me in ways that I couldn’t even comprehend.

Many difficulties arose as I began my battle with an autoimmune disorder that affects the very way that I lived my life. Throughout it all, you would advocate for me, call me every day to check on how I am doing, often drive up every weekend to see me and take me out to eat at my favorite place. In the moments when I didn’t have the strength to continue on my path, you encouraged and supported me to get through some of the toughest moments of my life.

May 2021

I finally made it to the finish line to earning my Bachelor’s Degree with Summa Cum Laude honors amidst a global pandemic. I did it! I became a first-generation college graduate.

As I walked across the stage and shook the hand of the Dean and University President, I turned to my left to see my Mom in the audience. Through it all, my Mom was there, once again, cheering me on for this momentous achievement. I felt so grateful. From all the things that I went through in order to get to this moment, I wouldn’t have been able to do so without my amazing Mom.

Looking back at my 17-year-old self, I would tell myself that my life journey hasn’t always been easy and that I can lean on my family and university for support. There are so many people who want to see you succeed, especially, in my case, my Mom.

The simplest way to summarize it is: Thank you Mom for everything.


Your Daughter

Tuesday, March 7, 2023

Connection on Campus

By Logan Grasso

Is the sharp thrumming of your heartbeat due to a lack of oxygen flow as you hold your breath, or are you terrified that you’ll meet the gaze of who’s occupying the same space you’re in? Whether you’re hiding from a familiar face in the frozen foods aisle of a grocery store, a chill prickling the hairs on the nape of your neck. Or you feel the tension in your legs as you crouch to duck down behind your office desk, wishing to flee the scene. We’ve all been there before. You spot someone you know in public before they’ve noticed you, and now you have to hope that they don’t make that same connection. 

Oddly enough, I’ve never felt that disconsolate dread during my time at Hofstra. Any time I cross paths with one of my former classmates, there’s a mutual excitement that comes with that recognition. Even when I happen to see a professor! Instead of rolling my eyes, they light up a bit. I occasionally find myself wishing to happen upon them some days, when the sun needs just a little more brightening. It’s amusing when put this way, but I feel like I’m searching sometimes, my eyes scanning the crowds like I’m going to finally find Waldo. 

It may be a bit of an exaggeration to call this change in attitude a phenomenon, but one can’t help but wonder why there’s such a dramatic shift simply by circumstance. It’s kinda obvious. I didn’t have to ponder in rumination for too long. Though it still surprised me. Even for an introvert such as myself, I don’t mind the company of the people on campus. Because they enjoy my company as well. There’s a sincerity that isn’t just surface level.

Speaking with someone is overcomplicated. Even arranging the conversation is difficult. Sometimes, it doesn't seem worth the trouble. That is, until we actually do it. When you think about going to an amusement park, you think about the rides and how fun it'll be. Not the crowded competition of finding a parking spot so you can get your turn on the rides. Not the online ordering process worse than having to create a new password just to get some tickets. Not even the lines you'll have to wait on. Maybe, the pricing, I'll let that one slide. But you get the idea. We tend to concern ourselves with the level of difficulty when it's not tough to do at all. As a matter of fact, like all those issues with arranging a park vacation, you can just call them up to walk you through the process. That's what my advisor did for me. I hadn't thought to set up a meeting to figure out my class schedule. Figuring out a website to create an appointment seemed too complicated. But if you can find your advisor's office, or get as lucky as I did to have them as your professor, you can essentially do a walk-in. Anyone and everyone on campus is willing to help, all you have to do is find them. They may not be able to come to you but it's worth the trouble to go to them. 

Our professors don’t just ask us how we’re doing to be polite. They genuinely care to know. Our peers aren’t just waving as we pass by; fellow students actually stop to talk. It’s a distinct contrast from what most of us are familiar with. Making time for others even when we’re in a rush doesn’t cross our minds during the New York hustle, but time stops for everyone here because right now is OUR time. 

It’s our optimal time to grow. To connect. To become who we’re going to be for the rest of our lives. It’s time for class. It’s time for Common Hour. It’s OUR time.

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

The Transformation

By Stephanie Kepke Kaplan P’24 

I don’t mean to alarm you, but there’s a stranger in your home. Oh sure, that person sprawled on your couch, eating all your food, may look familiar, but rest assured the person you thought you knew has transformed into a…college student. Franz Kafka couldn’t have penned a bigger transformation. A college student is very different from a high school student. High school students had a curfew and ate meals at set times. College students are used to coming and going as they please and having tons of food available any time they desire with just a swipe of a card. College students are used to staying up all night and not having to answer to anyone (as you may have figured out when texts or phone calls sometimes go unanswered, until you’re pacing with worry only to finally have your phone chime three days later—been there)… 

This may be the first time you see your college student since drop-off three months ago. Three months might not seem like a long time, but at the age of eighteen or nineteen (or seventeen), it really is, especially with all the changes that living on one’s own brings. To be sure, commuting students go through their own transformation—having two myself I can attest to that—but it’s more subtle when you see your student every day. For my youngest, who’s a freshman now, the transformation has been a joy to watch. He was not really social in high school, being on the autism spectrum. He had a small group of close friends, and they would hang out at one house. Now, he has joined clubs and has made lots of new friends. He stays on campus until late at night, hanging out in the game room or Hof USA. He’s found his tribe. But, back to the student who comes home for the first time at Thanksgiving… 

While it is amazing to have this newly minted adult back in your home, it can be an adjustment. But, here’s the thing…your child has had tons of new experiences and that should be your jumping off point. Ask about everything with open-ended questions. Be engaged and interested. Put down your phone and really focus. And if your student doesn’t want to talk yet and just wants to sleep or see high school friends or veg in front of the TV, that’s fine too. It’s a long weekend with lots of opportunities to reconnect. When you do get a chance to chat, be sure to ask about some of the amazing cultural opportunities at Hofstra. My son went to see Hamilton on Broadway with his freshman seminar class! Your student will have similar stories to share.  

If your student is struggling, then listening with an open mind is also the best approach. My middle son, who is a junior now, was really struggling freshman year and the first semester of sophomore year. I sat down with him, and we had a conversation about his passions. I read every major description out loud to him, leading him to an epiphany—music is his passion and music business (with a performance concentration) would be the perfect major for him. He’s in his second year in the program now, and he loves it. His grades are the highest they’ve ever been. Always remember, your student’s major freshman year isn’t a lock for the next four years. There’s lots of fluidity allowed, and changing majors is sometimes the best solution.  

This Thanksgiving, take a moment to be grateful for your amazing child and all the growth that has occurred in three short months. And while he/she/they may seem like a stranger—at least at first—the child you love is there and so happy to reconnect with you at this special time.