Christine Riordan: Setting Adelphi Apart

Dr. Christine M. Riordan, 10th President and the first woman to lead Adelphi University in its 118-year history, addresses the campus community in the Performing Arts Center Concert Hall (Photo by Claudio Papapietro).

Dr. Christine Riordan made history in 2014 when she was named the first female president of Long Island’s oldest private coeducational university, Adelphi University in Garden City. She recently caught up with us to share her thoughts on Adelphi’s impact on the community, how giving back is part of the mission and why personalized education is their hallmark. Our conversation was edited and condensed.

Long Island Press: What is your vision for the university?

Christine Riordan: Two years ago, we went through a comprehensive process and laid out the mission and our vision. In a nutshell, we’re striving to personalize higher education in a way that’s meaningful and purposeful for each student.

LIP: What sets Adelphi apart from other colleges and universities?

CR: The quality of the programs, hands-on learning, small classes, and our personalized approach toward education are really hallmarks for us.

LIP: The Bridges to Adelphi Program has been praised as a national model for helping students with autism continue their higher education. Are there plans to expand it to meet growing demand?

CR: I’m really proud of all of our pathway programs. I think it speaks to our core strength, which is helping all our students succeed regardless of learning differences. We do pay attention to the demand for that program as well as another program that we have called The Learning Resource Program, for students with any kind of learning need. We try to scale as much as we can. I’m really excited about The Bridges program because we start it in high school, so students can come the summer before college starts to help with that transition. And then we take them through the college experience with mentoring and tutoring and social support. We also now have a partnership with a nonprofit that’s helping place our students in employment situations.

LIP: Adelphi recently got a $1 million pledge to fund its new Faculty Leadership Fellows initiative that prepares faculty for careers as college administrators. Why is this important?

CR: The Viret Family Faculty Leadership Fellows Program was implemented to help faculty members who are interested in going into leadership at university really start to understand how a university operates. We began this program two years ago and the faculty members go through pretty extensive professional development for a semester. They meet with every single one of the executives in all the different functional units to learn about everything from the budget to alumni relations to fundraising to academic operations to how facilities operate. It has gone exceedingly well.

LIP: Is there anything I should have asked but didn’t?

CR: One of the things that’s pretty important to understand is the impact that Adelphi has on our community. There are four big areas where we’re going to continue to emphasize. One is giving back. We have the Carnegie Foundation classification for community engagement, which means our students are extraordinarily involved in the  broader community through volunteer activities. One of our trustees also gave a gift to begin what we call the Jaggaer Community Fellows program that places about 150 students in nonprofits every summer for internships. The second thing is we have over 500 strategic partnerships with various organizations throughout the state focusing on education, research and employment opportunities, and that’s going to be a major initiative for us going forward. The third thing that a lot of people don’t know is we provide a lot of services to the community. We provide an audiology clinic, as an example, that will help people with their hearing aids or do hearing assessments. We have a lot of community services. And then the last thing is we generate over half a billion dollars of economic activity in the community. All told, our economic impact on the community is pretty great and Adelphi is really focused a lot on developing strong relationships as we move forward.

Adelphi at A Glance
Student population: 7,978
Faculty: 349
Student to Faculty ratio: 10:1
Undergraduate tuition: $37,170
Graduate tuition: $36,370 – $45,940
Undergraduates receiving institutional scholarship award: 86%
Percent receiving financial aid: 92.9%