NYIT President Hank Foley, Nancy Borchers, Claude Gagna, Barbara Piccirillo, and Farzana Gandhi


Presidential Engagement Awards: Putting NYIT’s Best Values Forward

May 10, 2018

Pictured from left: NYIT President Hank Foley, Ph.D., with Nancy Borchers, Associate Professor Claude Gagna, Assistant Professor Barbara Piccirillo, and Associate Professor Farzana Gandhi.

On May 4, five NYIT faculty and staff members were recognized for extraordinary service to students, engaging them in scholarship, research, and experiential learning as well as providing support services and mentorship. This year’s Presidential Engagement Awards were presented during the NYIT Academic Senate meeting, followed by a celebratory luncheon for the winners and senators.

“This year’s nominees showcase the best values of NYIT,” said NYIT President Hank Foley, Ph.D., who presented the awards during the noontime ceremony at NYIT de Seversky Mansion. “They are among the superstars of our faculty and staff, chosen from some very impressive nominations.”

The annual awards honor NYIT faculty and staff who are nominated by peers for their major contributions to increasing engagement with our students. See a list of awardees over the years.

This year’s award categories and winners are:

Student Engagement in Research and Scholarship:
For the past 20 years, Associate Professor of Life Sciences Claude Gagna, Ph.D., has explored and taught molecular biology and anatomy. Along the way, he has engaged an estimated 215 undergraduates, co-authoring 37 published peer-reviewed journal articles and 49 abstracts and mentoring 159 Symposium on University Research and Creative Expression (SOURCE) posters and presentations. Other engagement activities include creating custom research-based lab manuals with novel research strategies and starting a chapter of the Beta Beta Beta Biological Honor Society at NYIT.

Student Engagement by Faculty or Professional Staff:
As Director of Professional Enrichment (PE), Associate Professor of Marketing Deborah Cohn, Ph.D., has grown student participation in the program from 397 in 2011 to 1,377 in 2017 and its offerings from 65 activities to 107 over the same time period. Not content to keep the PE program solely in the School of Management, Cohn has engaged students by cross-promoting programs with other NYIT schools and colleges, like the School of Engineering and Computing Sciences Entrepreneurship Seminars.

Focusing on sustainable and socially conscious design solutions locally and abroad, Associate Professor of Architecture Farzana Gandhi, AIA, LEED AP, has engaged students with her passion for community-driven, public interest design research. She has worked with dozens of students on experiential real-world projects and research in the classroom and via community outreach in places like Berlin, Senegal, and Puerto Rico. “It’s my students that make my work so meaningful to me,” she says. “They inspire me.”

As the primary institutional resource for veteran students at NYIT, Associate Registrar Nancy Borchers goes above and beyond in providing prospective students with information about veteran benefits, admissions, and more. “She is probably the one NYIT staff member every student veteran knows by name and is appreciated by each of them for her friendly and dedicated support,” according to her nomination. She has also served on the NYIT Student Veteran Support Committee for the last several years to gather institutional data by conducting focus groups, distributing surveys, and reaching out directly to students. Says one student veteran: “If she doesn’t have the answer, she goes out of her way to find the help I need. I know I can count on her.”

Integration of Technology for Enhancement of Student Learning:
One of few physician assistants trained in point-of-care ultrasound, Assistant Professor Barbara Piccirillo, M.S., PA-C, brings her expertise and a healthy dose of enthusiasm to her courses, spending countless hours outside the classroom training both faculty and students in the technical and clinical aspects of the technology. In the past year, PA students under her guidance taught first-year NYITCOM medical students, and she is now preparing a group of students for a national conference competition in clinical ultrasound. “She is appreciated by faculty and students for her enthusiasm and her dedication, as well as her knowledge and skillset,” according to her nomination.