Dr. Gempesaw Lauds Student-Faculty Engagement; Celebrates Growth and Expansion of SAFE Mentoring Program at St. John’s University
Conrado “Bobby” Gempesaw, Ph.D., President of St. John’s University, joined with students, faculty, staff, and administrators at an appreciation dinner on Thursday, November 3, 2016, to celebrate the successful growth and recent expansion of St. John’s University’s Student and Faculty Engagement (SAFE) Program.
The goal of the SAFE Program is to provide first-year students at the Queens campus with mentors that can help them successfully transition from high school to college. In the spring 2017 semester, the SAFE Program is expanding to include sophomores.
In fall 2011, the SAFE Program was created by Andrew Ferdinandi, Ed.D., Associate Professor of Counselor Education, The School of Education. During the same year, the University Freshman Center was under the leadership of the Associate Provost for Student Success, Jacqueline Grogan, Ed.D. Together, they decided to launch the SAFE Program as a pilot program.
A key to the success of the SAFE Program are the mentors. Mentors are recruited and required to attend training sessions over the summer to understand the process and specific terminology of SAFE. Mentors call, and then meet with, their students within the first month of school to welcome them to St. John’s University. The SAFE program hosts no less than two events during each semester so the SAFE mentees can have a little fun between going to their classes and studying.
The program began with only 10 faculty mentors and 107 students. This year, the program includes 37 mentors serving approximately the same number of students. Mentorship has been expanded to include staff, administrators, and students. Mentors are trained to deliver a high-quality mentoring experience to mentees by building trust, expanding student confidence, and creating mutual opportunities for student-mentor engagement. To support the inclusion of sophomore students, 65 new mentor applications have been submitted from across the campus.
As guests mingled at the appreciation dinner, Dr. Ferdinandi said, “These individuals give freely of their time, effort, and energy to help our freshmen find their way. This effort deserves our full respect and support. While the SAFE Program was my idea, the truth is, without these hard working people, this idea would go nowhere.”
During the dinner celebrating the successful expansion of the SAFE Program, attendees were addressed, via Web-Ex, by Gabriel Consunji, a 2016 magna cum laude graduate of St. John’s College of Liberal Arts and Science who majored in Biology. Gabriel, a native of California, returned home after graduation and is now studying for the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT). He spoke eloquently about how his transition to life at St. John’s was both eased and enhanced through the fostering relationship that he quickly developed with his SAFE mentor, Irene Caccavallo, a staff member in the Office of the Provost.
Gabriel explained that early in his college experience, the SAFE Program served to expand his awareness of campus life and exposed him to resources and extra-curricular opportunities that truly enhanced his personal student success story. Recalling how the SAFE Program helped to bridge the geographic divide and ease the journey from high school to college, Gabriel fondly shared how his mentor helped him from the very moment he stepped foot on campus for New Student Orientation. He warmly reminisced how, on short notice, his mentor once helped him to track down the availability of a ukulele for a class assignment. That process, in turn, helped him connect with the Chamber Music Society on campus that ultimately led to his active participation in the organization. “Be the light that guides St. John’s University,” implored Gabriel, a proud graduate who hopes to pursue a career in medicine as well as mentoring.
At a speech given that evening, Dr. Grogan shared that “under Dr. Gempesaw’s leadership, mentoring programs on campus are expanding, including the SAFE Program, and he challenged the SAFE Program to recruit new mentors for current sophomore students.” She mentioned that “with a quick-witted email created by Dr. Ferdinandi—and with organizational assistance from Geraldine Castelli of the University Freshmen Center and Graduate Assistant Ruby Wheaton—within 72 hours there were 65 mentors volunteering their time for the sophomore SAFE Program.”
Dr. Gempesaw lauded all of the mentors that share their time and talents to actively engage with and mentor students. Citing the ongoing work of the Freshman Center and the marked improvement in first-year retention rates at St. John’s that increased to 84 percent this year, a 5 percent increase from just two years ago, Dr. Gempesaw challenged the entire University community to support student retention efforts. Noting how college students who successfully complete their first two years persist and graduate at higher rates than others, Dr. Gempesaw cheered the recent expansion of the SAFE Program to include sophomores. He remarked, “Not everyone is given the opportunity to transform lives . . . the SAFE Program at St. John’s does just that and more, and its reach is only limited by the need for additional mentors.” He continued, “I am so proud of what you have done, and what you will continue to do, to help St. John’s University achieve our number-one strategic priority—to ‘ensure student success’ and better live out our Vincentian mission of service.”
The SAFE program invites all members of the St. John’s community to become a mentor to assist our students. If you are interested in learning more about the SAFE Program or want to become a mentor, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Current SAFE Mentors
|Last Name||First Name||Title/Position||Department|
|Acampado||Karen||Career & Internship Advisor||University Career Services|
|Beaudet||Bob||Career and Internship Advisor- Tobin College of Business||University Career Services|
|Bruhn||Gregory||Assistant Director of Academics & Short-Term Programs||Office of Global Programs|
|Caccavallo||Irene||Administrative Assisitant||Office of the Provost|
|Camacho||Taina||Graduate Student||Experimental Psychology/SJC|
|Cascio||Mary||Student Employment Manager||Human Resources|
|Castelli||Geraldine||Assistant Director/Freshman Advisor||University Freshman Center|
|Croft||James||Assistant Professor||Legal Studies/CPS|
|Ferdinandi||Andrew||Associate Professor||Counselor Education/SOE|
|Fewell||Cheresa||Career and Internship Advisor||Career Services|
|Gentile||Corrine||Director of Enrollment Mgt Events||Amissions Office|
|Gonzalez-Quiles||Kimberley||Graduate Student||Experimental Psychology/SJC|
|Gouldthorpe||Kyle||Transfer Student Service Coordinator||Transfer Student Services|
|Grillo||Jaime||Career Advisor, College of Professional Studies||University Career Services|
|Kilian||Gina||Associate Director of Transfer Admission||Undergraduate Admissions|
|Kyriakides||Michelle||Director of Experimential Learning||University Career Services|
|Marotta||Meagan||Graduate Student||Mental Health Counseling/SOE|
|Mosley||Alicia||Graduate Student||Mental Health Counseling/SOE|
|Pelkowski||Mary H||Associate Dean for Student Engagement||Student Affairs|
|Perry||Mary Jo||Associate Professor||Radiologic Sciences/College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences|
|Philipose||Tom||Associate Director and Instructor||Writing Center/English|
|Pitilli||Lawrence||Associate Professor of Speech||English and Speech/CPS|
|Pucciarelli||Matthew||Associate Provost||Global Programs|
|Russell||Michael||Graduate Student||Mental Health Counseling/SOE|
|Russo||Cecelia M||Director/Pre-AdmissionPrograms/ Asst tp VP||Special & Opportunity Programs|
|Sacca||Annalisa||Professor||Languages and Literatures|
|Sakowski||Chrinstina||Transfer Admissions Counselor||Admissions Office|
|Seward||Shakera||Graduate Student||Mental Health Counseling/SOE|
|Swike||Jim||Project Manager||Information Technology|
|Tagatac||Paolo||Assistant Director||Transfer Student Services|
|Toala||Connie||Graduate Student||School Counseling/SOE|
|Tongson||Danielle||Graduate Student||Mental Health Counseling/SOE|
|Warne||Mary Ellen||Financial Aid Counselor||Student Financial Services|
|Wheaton||Ruby||Graduate Assistant/Graduate Student||SAFE Program/Experimental Psychology/SJC|