St. John's Professor Helps Students “Win
One Day at a Time”
Andrew Ferdinandi ’73Ed, ’76G, ’91Ed.D., Associate Professor of Human Services
and Counseling at St. John’s University, comes to work every
day hoping to make a difference in his students' lives. “When I
come here, I never tell my family I'm going to work. I tell them
I'm going to St. John's. It's a beautiful environment, with nice
people and students who want to make something of their lives.
Being able to participate in that — even a little bit — makes me a
After a long and successful career in the counseling field, Dr.
Ferdinandi began his career at St. John's as an Associate
Adjunct Professor in The School of
Education 15 years ago. “I started out as a middle-school
teacher, but in my third year I became involved with counseling,”
he said. “As a teacher, I instructed students about particular
subjects, but when I started counseling, I realized I was assisting
them with life. I started to see the humanity in their
Some of the students he counseled were dealing with issues such as
poverty, divorce and a sense of hopelessness. Working with them
touched him deeply. “I saw a lot of me in them,” Dr. Ferdinandi
said, “I was always the underdog, and struggled as a child. I
didn't have anyone to reach out to help me. As an adult, when I
reached out and gave others that hand, I witnessed the impact, and
it moved me.”
Dr. Ferdinandi spent his entire academic career at St. John's — a
very conscious decision. "I liked the way I was treated, and how
the professors dealt with me. I want to carry on that tradition.
Every day, I try to offer my students respect and dignity."
That ethos ties directly into the University's Vincentian mission,
observed Dr. Ferdinandi, a longtime member of the Vincentian Mission
Institute. “The spirit of St. Vincent is alive and well here —
it provides me with a moral compass,” he said. “A lot of schools
try to turn out good students. St. John's does that, but we are
interested in turning out better people, who don't just excel in
the classroom, but contribute to making this a better world.”
Modeling that mission has been of paramount importance to Dr.
Ferdinandi. He has participated in several Midnight Runs with his
students, distributing food to the homeless, and worked with St. John's Bread and
Project Identity, which helps needy local residents obtain the
official identifications needed to vote, obtain employment and
achieve self-sufficiency. In 2008, he took a group of students on a
weeklong service trip to Rome, Italy, where they worked at soup
kitchens and senior homes.
"These were all opportunities for me to bring some of St. Vincent's
work to life," Dr. Ferdinandi recalled. On the academic side, he
has created several programs that embody the mission and give his
students the practical tools they need in their careers.
For example, "Win the Day" — an Academic
Service-Learning initiative developed by Dr. Ferdinandi — sends
St. John's students into schools to work with struggling students,
helping them build confidence and self-esteem through varied
academic techniques and activities. “[During the program] we want
the kids to focus on a single problem that they encounter in their
studies. We try to win one day at a time and build on that success
Dr. Ferdinandi also created the
Student and Faculty Engagement (SAFE) program, in which St.
John's faculty, administrators and staff members mentor a group of
students, helping them successfully transition from high school to
college. "If there's a problem, we try to figure out what that
barrier to success is and overcome it."
Reflecting on his career at St. John's, Dr. Ferdinandi observed,
"From day one, the University community made me feel as if they
were happy to have me, and that's made a big difference. Jerrold Ross [Ph.D.,
Dean of The School of
Education] is an outstanding leader, and my colleagues are
supportive and helpful. I've been able to make a difference for a
lot of kids. That is very meaningful, and it’s something I'd like
to be remembered for."