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College of Professional Studies Celebrates Innovation and Entrepreneurship

Friday, October 26, 2018

Technological innovation has always been a staple for the College of Professional Studies at St. John’s University. It was highlighted again on October 19 when the Celebration of Innovation and Entrepreneurship Initiatives, held in St. Augustine Hall on the Queens campus, showcased the dedication of the Farella Innovation Laboratory and the Joseph and Ellen Tufano Control Office, as well as the establishment of The Professor Sumitra Janorkar Shah Memorial Scholarship.

During his welcoming remarks, Simon G. Møller, Ph.D., Interim Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, said that he believed innovation and entrepreneurship are interwoven. “They encompass, but are not limited to, the successful implementation and commercial use of new ideas, knowledge, and technology.”

He added, “At St. John’s we have student and faculty entrepreneurs working together on research projects with direct socio-economic impact and value.” Dr. Møller stressed that success in these endeavors is based on having the right people at the right time in the right place. “We have the people. This is the time. Today we celebrate the place.”

The idea for the innovation laboratories came from a memo between Mr. Farella and Kathleen Vouté MacDonald, Ed.D., M.B.A., former Dean, College of Professional Studies, noted Katia Passerini, Ph.D., who succeeded Dr. MacDonald and Jeffrey P. Grossmann, J.D., as Dean of the College. “This memo proposed the idea of an ‘Innovation Garage,’” she observed. “It was (about) spurring innovation and creativity among the students.” The Farella Innovation Lab is a hands-on design and test space where students learn how to develop new ideas and products and how to transform them into final “sellable” content/output.

Steve Farella ’77SVC is the founding CEO of Havas Media and Chair of the Advisory Committee for the College of Professional Studies. His son, David Farella ’15CPS, is also a graduate of St. John’s and majored in Communication Arts. “Innovation,” Mr. Farella stressed, “is the key to many things. It will differentiate you, your team, and your business. It will give you a sense of ownership and pride. It will also allow you to make your mark in the world and help you succeed.”

He added that, for him and his son, St. John’s provided “outstanding support that guided us through graduation. From great teachers to great administrators, St. John’s gave us the tools we needed to get our careers started.”

Dr. Passerini noted that Joseph J. Tufano ’73C ’75G was “an incredible ally” in helping get the labs built. He is former Vice President and Chief Information Officer for St. John’s, and his wife, Ellen Tufano, Ph.D. '74C, is a former Associate Dean and Associate Professor in the Division of Computer Science, Mathematics, and Science. Dr. Tufano, she added, was a great help to her in acclimating to St. John’s shortly after her installation as Dean. “It is symbolic that the heart of the labs—the control room—is named for the Tufanos.”

During her remarks, Ellen Tufano called the new spaces “a wonderful addition to the College that provide outstanding learning opportunities for our students. Our professional programs have become much richer with the incorporation of hands-on, active learning experiences.” Joseph Tufano added, “In today’s world, the experience the labs will provide for our students is critical. During the time I was a member of the University’s technology team, providing the best technology for students, faculty, and administrators was always one of the University’s highest priorities.” 

Professor Shah was a retired Associate Professor in the Division of Administration and Economics in the College of Professional Studies. Dr. Passerini stressed that Dr. Shah possessed a passion for social entrepreneurship, especially among women. “It’s very important that we celebrate this scholarship today because…this week celebrates Women Entrepreneurship Week worldwide.”

The scholarship’s goal is to provide financial support to students interested in a research project involving small organizations that solve social issues, or to a woman entrepreneur in the developing world who has made a positive social impact.

Dr. Shah’s husband, Shashi Shah, Ph.D., a retired Professor of Maritime Business from the US Merchant Marine Academy, Kings Park, NY, spoke on behalf of his late wife. “Sumitra was totally devoted to her students, and her research interests were focused on women’s economic status,” he said. “As a family, we felt that establishing this memorial scholarship will encourage female students to explore the field of entrepreneurship and give Sumitra a lasting legacy, and a footprint for a long time to come.”

Communication Arts major Chelsea Coote, the inaugural recipient of the scholarship, thanked the Shah family for their generosity. She observed, “In future years, this scholarship will provide access for more of my peers to unleash their creativity and allow them to become entrepreneurs.”