Taking It to the Streets

  

By Jennifer Handt

It’s a Thursday afternoon, and students from the Corporate Reputation and Communications course led by Dyson Assistant Professor Paul Ziek, PhD, are learning the fundamentals of public relations: establishing a PR plan and strategizing on tactics. But today, they’re not learning these skills in the classroom. They’re getting hands-on experience through a meeting with the owner of a Katonah, NY bagel shop—their client.

The students are taking part in a program Ziek implemented last year, which, functioning as a PR consultancy, pairs students from Dyson’s Media and Communication Arts master’s program with Westchester area businesses and nonprofits seeking public relations support. Ziek describes the relationship that results as a win-win for both the organizations receiving these

services and the students delivering them. “When the students get out there and meet with clients, they start to see that what we’ve been talking about in class is actually what gets implemented in the real world,” says Ziek. “And these organizations, which see PR work as vital but not affordable, are getting professional work done for free.” The program is one of many Pace initiatives preparing thinking professionals for a lifetime of success.

A Voice for Patients

Some of Pace’s most successful experiential learning programs provide not only critical skills to future leaders but also critical services to underserved individuals in the New York City and Westchester communities.

In 2004, Lin Drury, PhD, RN, associate professor at the Lienhard School of Nursing, rekindled a partnership between Pace and the Henry Street Settlement, a nonprofit organization that provides health care and other services to residents of Manhattan’s Lower East Side. Every year, 100 students taking the Public Health Nursing course work for six weeks with the Henry Street Settlement population, which is impacted by challenges including low literacy and chronic illness. Students provide a range of public health nursing services to Henry Street clients, from home visits with housebound individuals to health education events and blood pressure screenings at senior centers and homeless shelters. Students benefit from the program, unique in its low ratio of professional nurses working with the students, which allows the students to work directly with clients. “Most of the students’ experience is within a hospital,” says Drury.

“Working with Henry Street helps them see what patients have to deal with once they go home, which helps the students better interact with patients once they’re back in a hospital setting.” Drury is currently working to secure funding to expand the reach of the Henry Street program, with a little help from technology. A pilot program last summer equipped 30 older, housebound Henry Street clients with an iPad to help facilitate “virtual visits” with nursing students to manage illness while reducing social isolation and depression, common among older adults. With data analysis currently underway, student participants point to positive anecdotal results. “One of my patients now uses an iPad to connect with friends and search for information from Frank Sinatra videos to medication side effects,” says Family Nurse Practitioner student Karen J. Yancopoulos ’14. “I’ve seen a decrease in her use of sleeping aids and anti-anxiety drugs… and she smiles more readily.”

Justice for All

In White Plains, the Pace Community Law Practice (PCLP), housed at the northern edge of the Law School Campus, is providing recent graduates with valuable first-hand experience while offering another vital service to individuals in need:  high-quality, lowcost legal representation. Each year, four recent Law School graduates, chosen as fellows through  a rigorous selection process for both their demonstrated legal skills and their commitment to serving low- and moderate-income clients, work through the PCLP on a caseload of approximately 40 individuals in the Westchester and greater Hudson Valley region. They gain valuable casework experience through the PCLP analogous to the on-the-job training physicians receive after leaving medical school.

“What makes the Pace Community Law Practice unique is that we are one of the first in the country—really in the world—to have this new structure,” said Jennifer Friedman, executive director of the PCLP. “We are a post-graduate legal residency program, which means that we have young, starting attorneys, representing clients for the first time under intensive supervision.” The PCLP, supported in part by funds raised for the new Pace Law classroom building named for Dean Emeritus Richard Ottinger, offers a one-of-a-kind approach to providing recent graduates with critical skills.  Though similar programs act as an “incubator” for admitted lawyers who have already taken steps to establish a solo practice, the fellows, who begin at the PCLP prior to bar admission, are still in training; their work is overseen by a full-time supervising attorney on staff. Currently focusing primarily on immigration law, an area of great need to the local community, the PCLP plans to expand into other legal areas such as family, housing, and employment law. The ultimate goal, says Friedman, is to provide a solid basis of training that eventually helps fellows open practices that further support those clients most in need of representation.

On April 4, the PCLP celebrated its official launch with a ceremony attended by Hon. Jonathan Lippman, New York State’s chief judge, who praised Pace Law for taking the lead in closing the justice gap and providing access to justice. “By providing legal representation under superb professional supervision to those who otherwise could not afford it… it’s a wonderful thing for Pace to do for the community as well as for our graduates,” added Ottinger, whose support was crucial to the launch of the new program.

Taking Care of Business

Another Pace program providing students with real-world skills is also gaining recognition for the students’ well-applied skills: the Lubin Student Managed Investment Portfolio (SMIP). Launched in January 2002, the SMIP began investing with an initial endowment of $200,000. Only three years after its creation, the student-run portfolio had increased the   fund’s assets by $65,000 and used a portion of the profits to create a scholarship fund for Lubin students.

But the last 11 years haven’t just been about money-making. Guided by Lubin Professor Ron Filante, the 500 students who have participated in the program have successfully navigated the often challenging world of investment and real-world decision making. In addition to this experiential learning, Pace’s SMIP has gone on to compete against 300 other SMIPs from around the country at the Redefining Investment Strategy Education Conference at the University of Dayton’s Center for Portfolio Management.

The results speak for themselves. “In the average year for this decade, the SMIP outperformed the Dow by 383 basis points, the S&P 500 by 428, and the NASDAQ by 66,” says Pace student Adam Bednarz ’13, who was not only part of the SMIP, but is also now trying to examine the secret to their success. Bednarz has teamed up with Filante as part of Pace’s Undergraduate Student-Faculty Research Initiative to try to analyze why Pace’s SMIP and student-run investment portfolios at other academic institutions are beating the odds.

Thinking Outside the Black Box

At the Seidenberg Creative Lab, students at the Seidenberg School—and other Pace students with relevant skills and interests—interact with other universities and businesses in and beyond New York, developing web sites, prototypes,   software, and apps for start-ups, established companies, and community organizations. Through a fee-for-service relationship, students take on about six projects each semester, providing cutting-edge research and development capabilities to organizations that lack ample resources to complete the work in-house.

“Many of these organizations may be on the other side of the digital divide,” says Seidenberg Assistant Dean Jonathan Hill, DPS. “We have the resources and knowledge to help bring them over, and create a better technology setup with the resources they do have.” Current projects of the Lab, which launched in 2009, include a social media engagement with the Lower Manhattan Marketing Association and work with Exerblast, a start-up working with the Labs to build digitally-enhanced exercise programs for children. By working collaboratively with universities from other countries including Japan, China, and Australia, Hill says the Lab provides a “24/7 development cycle” to better service clients.

While the students have been busy building their skill sets and resumes, the individuals and businesses on the receiving end of these programs have also profited from their interactions with students. The Katonah business served by the PR team is directly applying ideas from the students’ reputational analysis to expand its customer base. “Working with the team from Pace opened my eyes to the needs of our customers. It provided opportunities and ideas for us to come into the 21st Century,” says Tom Leggio, owner and operator of the Bagel Shoppe. These programs also help the community at large identify Pace students in a positive light, enhancing the school’s reputation for educating young professionals who have the skills, experience, and drive to jump into the marketplace ready to produce. “People see Pace students all the time—at local restaurants and stores,” says Ziek. “This gives them a better view, to see who they are as individuals and not just as students.”

The students, too, can’t help but benefit from the arrangement. “The students who participate in the Seidenberg Creative Lab don’t get one job offer—they get four,” says Hill.

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