Showing posts with label Alumni of the Month. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Alumni of the Month. Show all posts

Friday, February 15, 2013

Meet the 2011-2012 Alumni of the Month

The Alumni of the Month feature on the Hofstra University website showcases graduates who are doing interesting and exciting things, or who have made exceptional contributions to their chosen field or profession.

For information on how to nominate a graduate, please visit and click on “Recognition & Awards.”

To read more in-depth profiles of each honoree, visit

Summer 2011

Tracey Delio ’93, ‘97

I had the privilege of attending Hofstra as an undergraduate and then went on to be accepted into its graduate program in speech-language pathology. I hate to use the cliché that college makes us more “well rounded,” but my education was so balanced that I felt I had a solid basis to continue on in this challenging field no matter where the path of life was to take me.

Tracey has been providing speech and language services to toddlers, preschoolers and school-aged children on Long Island for the last 15 years. She earned a bachelor’s degree from Hofstra in teaching the speech and hearing handicapped as well as a master’s degree in speech-language pathology. Her work experiences include providing school-based therapy to middle and high school students with speech impairments and learning disabilities.

Tracey is also the author of The Secret Adventures of Louie V children’s book series. The three stories, The Secret Adventures of Louie V, Louie V Takes the Cake and Louie V Trims the Tree, chronicle the escapades of Tracey’s Siamese cat, Louie V.

Tracey is deeply involved in a number of charitable organizations, including the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, Autism Speaks and VH1 Save the Music. For more information on the Louie V series and Tracey’s charity work, visit

Cecilia Pagkalinawan ‘89

You have to be multidisciplinary when working in e-commerce. It is beneficial to use both the left and right sides of your brain. One day you could be producing or creative directing a photo shoot and, on another day, analyzing data on site performance. Working with a variety of clients early on had helped me understand the core needs of an online marketing campaign. No matter if it’s a car company, a bank, or a toy company, the goals are the same; it’s just the target audience that is different.

Cecilia is CEO of, an e-commerce boutique dedicated to helping entrepreneurial fashion designers from around the globe reach new customers through social commerce. She founded StyleTrek in February 2010 after raising $1.5 million in seed capital from angel investors and venture capitalists. Previously, she launched and marketed online stores for Nine West, Burberry, Frette, and La Perla. She has grown sales from 40 to 70 percent year after year for fashion brands.

Cecilia has experience in running and working for Internet startups such as K2, RichFX, and Abilon, and was CEO of Boutique Y3K, an e-commerce consulting firm. After working at several dot-com startups, Cecilia was the founder/ CEO of Boutique Y3K (1998-2001); vice president, strategic development at RichFX (2002- 2004); consulting director of e-commerce at Burberry (2004-2006); and vice president of e-commerce and direct marketing at Frette and La Perla (2006-2010).

Cecilia has received numerous prestigious awards for her work and is among 96 executives featured in the book Distinguished Asian-American Business People, published in 2004. She has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, The Wall Street Journal Asia, VOGUE, Asiaweek, Bloomberg Businessweek, Fortune Small Business, Entrepreneur, Advertising Age, and E-commerce Times, and appeared on CNN’s Entrepreneurs Only. She is a frequent speaker at conferences on e-commerce, multi-channel marketing and entrepreneurship.

Jessica Robles ‘10

The relationships I developed with my professors and Hofstra administrators gave me my edge. I fostered mentoring relationships, and have maintained them since graduation. The professors in the Health Professions and Kinesiology Department care about their students’ academic, professional, and personal goals. Student Affairs administrators taught me invaluable leadership skills and gave me the opportunity to implement programs for other students.

Jessica earned a Bachelor of Science in community health and psychology, and credits her educational experiences at Hofstra with providing the foundation for a career as a health educator. Jessica’s community health interests include family planning and reproductive health issues for women.

While at Hofstra, Jessica worked as a public health aide for the Nassau County Department of Health in 2008, interned in public affairs at Planned Parenthood of Nassau County in 2009, and served as the youth programs intern at NARAL Pro-Choice New York in 2010. Jessica is currently working as a community health educator at The Bronx Health Link (TBHL), a community-based organization focused on improving the health of women and their families in the Bronx. As TBHL’s community health educator, Jessica facilitates workshops on various health topics, including chronic diseases, family planning, nutrition and obesity, maternal health, infant and child development, and home safety. Jessica is also responsible for a youth advisory board, a project she proposed to The Bronx Health Link.


Dr. Pamela D. Straker ’75, ’79

Hofstra’s focus on infusing an understanding of the “business” aspects of the various fields of study was invaluable. As well, Hofstra’s graduate psychology program focused on the treatment of related outcomes, stressing the importance of being able to determine actual results from therapeutic interventions. That focus and understanding have been critically important to my success, especially as the field of psychology and psychotherapy moved into the managed care arena.

Pamela, a licensed psychologist, is the author of Let Me Stop You Right There and 28 Other Lines Every CEO, Manager, and Supervisor Should Know, which provides workplace solutions and strategies that build a spirit of collaboration, respect and mutual benefit.

Prior to founding her speaking and writing business, Pamela consulted with hundreds of senior executive and middle management team members in the mental health and leadership development arena. She provides consulting services to the Special Services Department of the Hoboken, New Jersey, Board of Education and serves as a psychologist peer reviewer for the OptumHealth/UnitedHealth Group.

Pamela holds a doctoral degree in school and community psychology from Hofstra University, where she also earned a master’s degree, and she has achieved alumna status at Columbia University’s Executive Level Institute for Not-for-Profit Management.

Matthew Tully ’95

Early in my studies at Hofstra, I remember debating in one of my political science classes with then Political Science Professor Stephen Burgess about the judicial process and its impact on certain social and economically disadvantaged citizens. I found his classes and the course work stimulating, and I believe that what I learned helped to develop my commitment to influencing policy through the judicial-legal process to better serve the employment rights of individuals.

On September 11, 2001, Matthew escaped from the World Trade Center, where he worked in the legal department of Morgan Stanley. Shortly thereafter he and his family relocated to upstate New York, where he started a law practice out of his house. When the practice outgrew his home, he and fellow Hofstra ROTC alumnus Greg Rinckey ’95 opened Tully Rinckey PLLC in Albany in 2004. Today the firm has offices in Washington, D.C., and New York City.

Matthew concentrates his practice on the representation of military personnel and federal government sector employees. He has represented federal employees before numerous federal agencies and has appeared before the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit and the United States Supreme Court. He has become a pioneer in the field of Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) litigation, winning several landmark cases that have greatly influenced the laws protecting U.S. veterans.

He writes a biweekly “Ask the Lawyer” column for the nationally syndicated Army Times Publishing Company. A lieutenant colonel in the New York Army National Guard, Matthew was admitted as a solicitor to the Supreme Court of England and Wales, becoming one of the few American attorneys licensed in a foreign country.


Kara Koch ’07

In 10 years I hope to continue making a difference in children’s lives – either around the world or in my own home!

Kara Koch is lucky to count Cookie Monster, Elmo, Oscar the Grouch, Kermit the Frog, Bert, Ernie and Big Bird among her co-workers. As production coordinator in the global production department of Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit organization behind Sesame Street, she is responsible for production activities related to Sesame Workshop’s international properties such as Jalan Sesama in Indonesia and Sisimpur in Bangladesh. Kara works closely with the production teams in these countries to ensure the Sesame brand is successfully integrated with local content.

Prior to joining the global unit, Kara was part of Sesame’s special projects team, helping to produce various outreach programs, including Let’s Get Ready, Coming Home, and When Families Grieve.

Kara earned a Bachelor of Arts in audio, video, and film and graduated from Hofstra University Honors College. While she was a student she engineered the Gone Country radio program on WRHU-FM, and worked for Hofstra Spirit Support for four years as a mascot cheering on the Hofstra Pride.

Dr. Jayme Renee Albin ’95

Don’t worry about selecting the “perfect” major. Select something that relates to your interests as best as you can, but recognize that a lot of your career will be about what you do with your degree, not what the degree will do for you.

Talk about multitasking! Jayme, a licensed clinical psychologist and certified yoga instructor, holds a B.B.A. in banking and finance from Hofstra. She is also a published author and motivational speaker. She has a private practice and behavioral/wellness consulting firm on the upper east side of Manhattan. She specializes in Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT), Yoga/Biofeedback Therapy, and Executive Coaching in the treatment of anxiety, somatic complaints, mood disorders and behavior problems.

Following her graduation from Hofstra, Jayme earned a Ph.D. in clinical psychology with a concentration in health psychology from Albert Einstein College of Medicine at Yeshiva University and a master’s in developmental psychology from Columbia University.

In 2008 Jayme published a book on the treatment of fear of flying using biofeedback and virtual reality therapy. That same year she started an online forum and newsletter, Ask the Cognitive Behavior Therapist ( In 2009 Jayme began, a multidisciplinary consulting firm that focuses on holistic health and wellness therapies.


Margaret Brennan Bermel ’85

My first job after graduating from Hofstra was as a financial analyst with a company called Patient Technology. The most valuable thing I learned there was the importance of honesty and ethics in business dealings and in standing up for what is right.

Margaret chronicles her experience with cancer in her book, The Cancer Odyssey: Discovering Truth and Inspiration on the Way to Wellness, which she calls a blueprint to help others overcome their fear of cancer and return to wellness.

In 2009 Margaret was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, and as she sought to educate herself about the disease and its treatments, she began blogging about her discoveries. She calls herself an “accidental” author; she never intended to write a book, and certainly never a book about cancer. The book unfolded as her journey unfolded. Her intention in writing it was to challenge readers to look into nontraditional approaches to cancer treatments.

Margaret graduated from Hofstra in 1985 with an M.B.A., with distinction. She previously co-authored management articles published in scholarly journals, and was the co-recipient of the Human Resource Management and Organizational Behavior Journal Distinguished Paper Award in 1985. She is a first-degree black belt and an avid golfer. She is presently chief fiscal officer of a government organization.

David Obedzinski ’85, ’92

I’m pretty pleased with my own experience as a student at Hofstra, which was a mix of doing well in most of my classes and spending a good amount of time involved with student organizations. The classes grounded me and gave me a good foundation. The student organizations and my interactions with staff gave me a chance to lead and to be creative – a virtual life laboratory as it were. To this day most of my friends are those I met on the second floor of the Student Center in my days with The Chronicle and the Screaming Dutchmen Booster Club.

David is vice president for development for the U.S. Coast Guard Academy Alumni Association, an organization that operates on the Academy campus in New London, Connecticut, and raises funds to provide “margin of excellence” support for the Corps of Cadets to preserve the traditions and enhance the reputation of the Academy.

David started his professional career at Hofstra immediately after graduation working as an admissions counselor. After a little more than a year, he joined the Dean of Students Office as an assistant dean, working with clubs and organizations and overseeing winter entertainment programs. Not long after, he joined the Development Office as assistant director of special events. From there, his career in development and alumni relations took off. He worked at Hofstra for 11 years, ending his tenure as director of alumni relations and director of special events for development when he and his wife, Linda ’88, past president of the Hofstra Alumni Organization, decided to move to Connecticut.

David has been working at nonprofit organizations and fundraising for more than 26 years and previously held the position of director of major gifts, planned giving and capital campaign operations at the Baystate Health Foundation in Western Massachusetts. Today, he and Linda reside in Glastonbury, CT, with their daughter, Katherine.


Emily Miethner ’10

My first job after Hofstra was as a social media marketing coordinator at Sterling Publishing. It was a new position for Sterling so I learned not to sit back and wait for instructions but to take the initiative and start projects on my own. Some of my best experiences came from working on projects I took the lead on, which then gained support from the rest of the department. Sterling also had a great mentorship program, which solidified my belief in the importance of mentor/mentee relationships.

Emily noticed a disconnect during her college career, between internship hopefuls and companies that need them on their staff. In May 2010 she graduated from Hofstra with a B.F.A., and saw an opportunity to bridge that gap. She co-founded NY Creative Interns, an organization dedicated to enabling college students and recent graduates to find internships, mentors, and inspiration through networking and meetups. Since then, NY Creative Interns has grown to become the largest and most active meetup of creative interns and recent graduates in New York City. The NY Creative Interns blog offers great advice with an emphasis on encouraging readers to reach out to the contributors and those highlighted in their articles. Emily also works full time as the community manager at RecordSetter, a new home for world records, where she manages social media, communications, and events. She is a nextNY fellow and a board member of Techies Give Back.

Dean Young ’85, ’87

There were two Hofstra professors who had a significant impact on my decision to become a writer, and thus I found their courses to be the most memorable. The first professor was Peter Koper, who taught a variety of journalism classes. The second was Julia Markus, a creative writing teacher. They both told me that I had a talent to write and gave me the encouragement to cultivate it further ... At a time when I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to do professionally, their influence was quite profound. I’m grateful to both of them and look back on their classes with a particular fondness.

Dean moved to Los Angeles shortly after graduating from Hofstra to embark on a career as a sitcom writer. During the 23 years that followed, Dean would go on to write and produce television programming for Nickelodeon, MTV, Lifetime, the Disney Channel, UPN, WB, ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox.

Dean’s early jobs in Hollywood included both writing and producing dating and game shows. A five-year stint in this genre culminated in his producing the highly successful Singled Out for MTV. From the reality world, he transitioned into comedy writing. His writing and producing credits include Mad About You (writer/story editor), King of the Hill (writer/supervising producer) and The Drew Carey Show (writer/ co-executive producer). On the development front, Dean has written comedy pilots for CBS, NBC, Fox, Comedy Central and Spike. He has been nominated for two Emmy Awards.


Eve Tahmincioglu ’85

My favorite professor was, without a doubt, Ignacio Götz. He changed my life by believing in me. When I entered college, I didn’t understand the importance of a good education when it came to helping me achieve my goals. ... Professor Götz helped me realize I had something important to say, and he also helped me realize I needed a commitment to my studies to find my voice. I hunkered down that first year and never looked back.

Eve writes the popular “Your Career” column for and she is author of From the Sandbox to the Corner Office: Lessons Learned on the Journey to the Top. Her blog,, covers a broad range of career and labor issues, and was just named one of the “9 Job Blogs You Should Be Reading” by She was also named one of the top 10 tweeters on Twitter by CNN and U.S. News & World Report. She’s been a regular contributor to The New York Times, The Huffington Post,, and Bloomberg Businessweek, and her stories have appeared in Black Enterprise, Time, Working Mother, Kiplinger’s, Good Housekeeping, and Salon. She was a staff business reporter for UPI and Women’s Wear Daily in New York; The News Journal in Wilmington, DE; and the St. Petersburg Times in Tampa. She is a regular speaker at women’s conferences nationally, discussing leadership and social media; and she’s also appeared as a guest on a host of national shows on CNBC and NPR. In addition, she’s a mentor for the Op-Ed Project, and has written op-ed pieces for PBS’s Need to Know, AOL and USA Today. She lives with her husband, Andy, their two young children, Circe and Cheiron, and dog, Odysseus, in Wilmington, Delaware.

Tom Karlya ’81

You have no idea how much Hofstra means to you until you leave. I loved every single minute I was there and am so very proud to say I am a Hofstra graduate.

As the father of two children with diabetes, Tom has been active in diabetes charities and causes since his daughter Kaitlyn’s diagnosis in 1992. Tom, who is vice president of the Diabetes Research Institute Foundation in Florida, has lectured across the country and chaired many panels about being “Diabetes Dad” – his pen name. Over the years he has been featured in numerous newspapers, such as Newsday, USA Today, and The Los Angeles Times, to name a few. He has written and/or produced public service announcements for diabetes causes, featuring celebrities such as Ray Romano, Sugar Ray Leonard, Doris Roberts, Nicole Johnson, Sandra Oh, Patti LaBelle, Peter Boyle, Bret Michaels, and Jim Turner. Tom received the prestigious Jeff Hitchcock Distinguished Service Award from Children with Diabetes, Inc. in 2008, and was named “Man of the Year” by the Long Island Advertising Club and Diabetes Advocate of the Year by the American Association of Diabetes Educators.

As an actor for 12 years, he was featured in the original cast of Tony n’ Tina’s Wedding, Summer of the 17th Doll and his film Lbs., was which screened at the prestigious Sundance Film Festival. Tom also has appeared in Unsolved Mysteries, Spin City, The Cosby Show, NYPD Blue, Law and Order, America’s Most Wanted, Entertainment Tonight, and Access Hollywood.


Jenna Mucha ’08

Working in a very demanding, entry-level job at a television network taught me a few important things – give 110 percent every day, don’t complain, respect those more senior, and always offer your help no matter how small the task, because it will prove to others that you really want to be there. In the competitive communications job market, there is always someone eager to take your spot – so always prove that you are the best.

Jenna is the social media specialist for talent acquisition and employee communications at North Shore-LIJ Health System, the nation’s second-largest nonprofit secular health care system. Jenna began her career in television working full-time as a desk assistant at the ABC News Network. After spending a year working at World News with Charles Gibson, Weekend News, and contributing to, Jenna became a segment producer on Good Morning America. During her time at GMA, Jenna learned about the power of social media and became an avid Twitter and Facebook user, using the tools not only to promote hot segments, but to find guests for interviews as well.

After her career move to North Shore-LIJ, Jenna embraced the use of social media in her new communications areas. Jenna’s day-to-day tasks include working with the talent acquisition team to engage and communicate with potential candidates in new and exciting ways. She creates and posts unique content for the North Shore- LIJ Careers social sites, including Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. She also works with the employee communications department on special projects and events.

Jenna grew up outside of Buffalo, NY, and while she was a Hofstra student, she was active as a senior RA, an admissions ambassador, a WRHU-FM DJ and news reader, and a member of Lambda Pi Eta. Follow Jenna on Twitter at

Kevin E. Boston-Hill ’93

My favorite part of the job is helping students see their potential and that they are not alone in the world – as many adolescents think.

Kevin is an assistant principal at the Nassau BOCES Joseph M. Barry Career and Technical Education Center in Westbury, NY, helping students get a head start on their career goals with vocational or technical training. Kevin has worked in education for more than 15 years, teaching science, social studies, math, English, and technology to students of all ages. He has led professional development workshops in areas such as instructional technology and 21st-century learning. He has conducted a youth leadership program through the Toastmasters Club and is involved with The African American Museum of Nassau County in Hempstead, NY. He also speaks to high school students about college and career choices.

In addition to his position as assistant principal, Kevin serves as president and CEO of KBH Enterprises, Inc., a full-service public speaking company. He is also a voice actor and has recorded several audio and video projects that were used for professional development and training purposes. Most recently, Kevin established the SAVe (Smart And Versatile) Scholarship to assist Hofstra students.

In his spare time, Kevin can be found refereeing basketball or volleyball games or umpiring softball games. Kevin lives in West Hempstead, NY, with his wife, Donyshia, and son, Keith.

MARCH 2012

Tamika Blaize ‘97

My favorite professor was Nancy Kaplan. I remember her being easy-going and personable, and always very welcoming. One of my fondest memories of Hofstra is driving the 15-passenger Hofstra van full of ALSICA [African American & Latino Students Interested in Communication Arts] members to a taping of The Ricki Lake Show in NYC. We had so much fun going to a real, live taping of one of the hottest talk shows of that time period and seeing what we were learning in our classes taking place in a real studio.

Tamika is the founder of A Princess for a Day (APFAD), a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that honors students from impoverished communities with a magical prom. Honorees receive a dress donated by a celebrity and complimentary limousine, photographer, makeup artist, hair stylist, and tailoring services. Prior to founding APFAD, Tamika, a television producer, worked on daytime talk shows, court shows, and game shows such as The Queen Latifah Show, The Tyra Banks Show, and Divorce Court.

After graduation, Tamika worked at WNYW-TV, followed by a brief stint at CNBC. Then came opportunities with the Saks Fifth Avenue Training Program, The Queen Latifah Show and Divorce Court. Tamika tells people her idea for APFAD came from God while she slept, and she woke up to write down the entire concept in a notebook. In 2008 Tamika decided to turn this dream into reality. She made calls to a few industry contacts and got her first dress donation for prom season 2010 from Queen Latifah. Since then, she’s received donations from Good Morning America anchor Robin Roberts; supermodel Tyra Banks; mogul and model Kimora Lee Simmons; actresses Vanessa Marcil, Tichina Arnold, and Paula Patton; Fergie of The Black Eyed Peas; and many other celebrities.

Dr. John Tantillo ’80

Embrace the negative option: Never give up on your dreams, so that you can become the brand you are truly meant to be. This means surrounding yourself with people who support you, then planning the work and working the plan. Expect failure and learn from it and never give up. I really mean this. If you look at the people who succeed, never giving up is the one constant with all of them.

John is a branding and marketing consultant, radio talk show host, contributor to the Fox News opinion page, and a go-to expert for BBC on a range of marketing issues. He frequently appears in the national media, including Cavuto, Fox & Friends, MSNBC’s Weekends With Alex Witt, ABC News Live, Fox News Live and the Mario Solis Radio Show on Colorado’s Progressive Talk station.

In his marketing analyses and critiques, he refers frequently to a concept he calls “adpublitizing,” which means creating an advertisement that is sure to generate controversial coverage, thus ensuring that the advertisement and the related brand get many more impressions than a typical media buy. He has also been called the “Howard Cosell of marketing” for his distinctive voice, mannerisms and clothing. In December 2007 he provoked controversy for advocating a fat Santa campaign and commented that Santa Claus should lose weight and join the fight against the obesity epidemic. He has also been particularly outspoken about what he perceives as money wasted on Super Bowl advertising.

John earned a Ph.D. in applied organizational psychology at Hofstra. He is the host of BrandTalk (, the only show on the radio where branding gets practical. It can be heard every Wednesday from 3 to 4 p.m. on WVOX Radio. He is also the author of the popular book People Buy Brands Not Companies available at in print and e-book.

APRIL 2012

Todd Zelnick ‘77

My education at Hofstra also taught me the importance of time management. Being able to manage your time properly and multitask is important if you want to advance professionally.

Todd is marking his 29th year working for the federal government, currently as an auditor with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in Washington, D.C. Todd reviews reports in connection with disaster relief projects to determine if they are in accordance with the federal government’s requirements.

At Hofstra Todd was a business major with an interest in political science. He landed his first job with the federal government in 1984. From there, he worked for the IRS in Manhattan as a taxpayer service representative.

Over the course of his career with the U.S. government, Todd has worked within the departments of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the Bureau of the Public Debt, and the U.S. Department of Treasury Office of the Inspector General. In March 2003 he transferred to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Office of the Inspector General and has worked there since.

Vincent Micucci ‘01

There is no question that my experience at WRHU made my time at Hofstra an enjoyable and fruitful one. The work associated with the radio station helped me make a smooth transition into professional TV and radio. I cherish the times that I covered and traveled with the Hofstra sports teams. I’ve maintained close friendships, to this day, that originated in Dempster Hall.

As an avid sports fan, it was evident from an early age that Vinny needed at least part of his day to revolve around sports. While at Hofstra, he worked with both WRHU and HTV Interactive. His fondest memories are at WRHU where he was sports director for nearly three years and broadcasted 100 games, which – back in 2001 – was a record. A few months after graduation, Vinny was hired by as an engineer. At the same time, he worked during home games for the Long Island Ducks Baseball Club as the in-game on-field host. At, he was promoted to the position of on-air talent. Over the course of a decade, he called play-by-play commentary of Major League Baseball games on TV and radio. He has interviewed many baseball legends and celebrities, including Derek Jeter, Jay-Z and Robert Redford.

In 2010 Vinny started his own company in order to teach aspiring students how to speak in public and become sportscasters. His new website,, has many features where students can elect either to train at his East Meadow, New York, studios or download online classes to perfect their craft. In early 2011 he published From Sports Fan to Sportscaster, which chronicles what it’s like for an everyday sports fan to climb the ranks and be on the field and in the mix as a sportscaster.

MAY 2012

Christy Bareijsza ’97

The fondest memory I have of Hofstra is being part of the Hofstra University Kickline [now called the Dance Team] and ranking nationally at the Universal Dance Association Championships in Walt Disney World. We were considered an underdog and successfully placed in the top five, bringing an overwhelming sense of Hofstra Pride back to the campus.

Christy is founder and CEO of The Red Carpet Events, and is one of the most sought-after event planners in the New York metropolitan area. She has been responsible for detailed party planning and venue consultation since 1999. She is known in the industry for her constant creativity, fresh ideas and commitment to surpass client expectations. She has created a multitude of memorable events for a long list of corporate and celebrity clients, including IMG World, Brooks Brothers, Bombardier Flex Jet, American Express’ Departures magazine, Brown-Forman, and many radio and television personalities.

As a former vice president of corporate events for one of North America’s top financial firms, Christy has vast experience in negotiations, event and sports management, hospitality, and audio/visual and venue consultation.

Michael Cruz ’02

My fondest memory was working on a student-run show called TNL, Thursday Night Live. It allowed us to put into practice all that we had learned in class. Today, I work side by side with many of those students. There were no grades, nor was any credit assigned; it was truly a passion project, and it’s where I learned most of my real-world skills.

During his 12 years of experience in the film and television industry, Michael’s talent for directing has enabled him to work on a variety of projects ranging from Web-based media to television commercials. In 2006 he co-founded Hiccup Media, a full-service creative content production company, with clients such as Sony, T.J. Maxx, MTV, Procter & Gamble Co., E*TRADE, Comcast Corp., TLC, and Dave Matthews Band.

Michael came to Hofstra, following in his older sister’s footsteps. After a meeting with an academic counselor during which he professed his interest in the buttons found in the radio control room, Michael decided that a career in production was for him and double majored in video/television and film.

Michael has worked at Burnpeak, Connecticut Yankee, AOL Music and Grey Worldwide. Through creative planning and his relationship with Connecticut Yankee, Michael was offered their Avid Editing system, enabling him to start Hiccup Media with Rob Simone, a colleague from Grey Worldwide.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Alumni of the Month- May 2011

Cara Castronuova ’04

“Boxing and martial arts teach you focus, discipline and how to be strong through adversity. It’s about bouncing back up after being dealt a crushing blow, whether in the ring or in life. It is this mentality that has played a crucial role in my success, and keeps me striving for more in life.” 

Cara, the newest fitness trainer on NBC’s hit show The Biggest Loser, is a two-time Golden Gloves winner who was once ranked nationally by USA Boxing. Born in Elmont, New York, Cara began boxing at the age of 5 in the family garage with her father, a former Marine. She wrestled in high school and college, and graduated from Hofstra University with a Bachelor of Arts in communications. Cara won her first New York Golden Gloves championship at Madison Square Garden in 2005. Following the win, she started competing nationally and was ranked No. 2 in the nation by USA Boxing. She went on to win numerous titles. Certified as a boxing coach by the New York State Athletic Commission, she is also a personal trainer certified by the ISSA (International Sports Sciences Association). She has worked as a reporter and fitness writer for New York and boxing press outlets, and as an announcer and sports commentator for various boxing venues throughout New York City, such as Madison Square Garden.

Darrell Lerner ’96, ’99

“There is a shortage of quality programmers, and the demand is going to increase in the future. Knowing how to program opens up so many doors: from great job opportunities, to positioning yourself to open your own Internet start-up, as well as simply being able to build websites for fun.” 

Darrell is the co-founder of SNAP Interactive, Inc., a leading provider of online dating applications for social networking websites. SNAP has developed social dating applications on Facebook, such as, which currently has more than 40 million installations. Darrell’s responsibilities include handling business, operational, and legal features for SNAP. He also performs many of the regulatory and administrative tasks associated with a publicly traded company. Darrell previously served as president, CEO, chairman, chief financial officer, secretary and treasurer of Universal Flirts Corp.
Prior to joining SNAP, Darrell founded an Internet sports company that operated fantasy sports games for major media partners, including WFAN Sports Radio and Daily Racing Form. He served as CEO and president of Fantasy Sports Net, Inc. for three years.

Alumni of the Month- April 2011

Lauren Ruotolo ’00 

“I would tell students to explore every opportunity given to them, because you never know what can happen. Never reject anything that could offer you direction in life, and do not fear taking chances.”

As director of entertainment promotions at Hearst Magazines in New York City, Lauren develops strategic partnerships with television and cable networks, music labels and movie studios. She recently helped produce the E! Entertainment Style Network show Running in Heels, which focuses on the inner workings of Marie Claire fashion magazine. She is currently working on three one-hour specials with Scripps Networks for Esquire, The Food Network, and Good Housekeeping magazine. Lauren’s success has been hard-won. Born with a rare genetic disorder known as McCune-Albright Syndrome, Lauren stands 4 feet 2 inches tall. Throughout her life, Lauren has met this challenge with determination, faith, bravery, and love from her family and friends. Her first-person essay “Get Shorty,” published in Marie Claire magazine in 2009, shared her philosophies about living with McCune-Albright Syndrome. She recently published her first book, titled Unstoppable in Stilettos — A Girl’s Guide to Living Tall in a Small World, where she discusses her struggles and achievements.

Alumni of the Month- March 2011

Ty Fuller ’00 
“Hofstra gave me an edge in numerous ways. The information I learned, from geographic information systems to hydrogeology and sedimentation, gave me a competitive advantage in my career. The professors of the Geology Department also maintain a close relationship with alumni. Dr. J Bret Bennington was directly responsible for my current employment. He not only encouraged me to attend a
networking dinner engagement, which eventually led to an interning opportunity, but also drove me to the interview when I did not have a car.”

While still in high school, Ty was asked by a teacher what he wanted to do after graduating from college. He joked that he wanted to save the world and make money doing it. He never anticipated that years later he would be working for the largest groundwater supplier in the United States. Ty, who graduated from Hofstra with a Bachelor of Science in environmental resources, is a senior hydrogeologist at Suffolk County Water Authority, responsible for overseeing the drinking water wells and conducting research on groundwater quality for more than one million people. During his time at Hofstra, Ty was active in the Geology Club and developed a passion for public speaking, which would become a valuable skill in his future career. He has more than 10 years of experience as a hydrogeologist, and has turned his high school dreams of success into reality.

Scott Nicholson ’88

“Hofstra students need to understand that the real world is not easy. It is an extremely competitive and fast-paced environment that can offer incredible opportunities with the right synergies of passion, desire, and drive.” 

Scott is the author of Seeds of Achievement: The Ultimate Roadmap for Young Adults on Obtaining Success, Prosperity, and the Winning Edge in Life. The book offers knowledge and strategies to achieve life and career success, prosperity, happiness, inner joy, confidence, and personal pride. Scott’s natural athleticism enabled him to excel in both baseball and football at Hofstra. After graduating from Hofstra with a B.A. in communication arts, Scott briefly pursued a career in television sports broadcasting in Washington, D.C. In 2005 he created Xtraordinary Home Products, which focuses its manufacturing on innovative kitchen technologies for major U.S. retailers such as Kmart, QVC, Avon, and Bed Bath & Beyond, to name a few. In 2008 the company developed the Perfect Brownie™ baking pan, which became a No. 1 selling baking item in the United States.

Alumni of the Month- February 2011

Sergio Argueta ’03 

“My experiences as a sociology student and campus leader frame my fondest memories of Hofstra University. My introduction to the social sciences came by way of a rigorous academic program, under the tutelage of great professors who inspired me to challenge the world.” 

Sergio is among the youngest and most influential community activists on Long Island. He is founder and executive director of S.T.R.O.N.G. Youth, Inc. (Struggling To Reunite Our New Generation), one of the leading gang prevention and intervention agencies in the northeastern United States. He earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology with a minor in political science from Hofstra University, where he served as president of Hofstra’s Organization of Latin Americans and senator in the Student Government Association. He was awarded the Turner Fellowship at Stony Brook University, where he earned a master’s degree in social work. Sergio recently became an adjunct criminal justice professor at Nassau Community College and is considered a leading regional expert on gangs and youth violence.

Joel Simkins ’98 

“Don’t wait until graduation to figure out what you want to do. Start looking today for internships and other learning opportunities that will differentiate you from your peers at Hofstra and other universities. ... Many of the people you know today, or will meet right after graduation, will form the foundation of your career network for many years to come.” 

As a Hofstra student, Joel interned at VZB Partners, a hedge fund managed by a Hofstra alumnus, where he gained pivotal real-world experience. He has held a number of high-profile positions since graduating, including senior associate at Moody’s Investors Service, associate analyst for Bear Stearns and for Deutsche Bank Securities, and vice president and senior gaming and leisure analyst for Prudential Equity Group, as well as managing director and senior gaming and leisure analyst for Macquarie Capital. Joel is a frequent guest speaker on Bloomberg Television and CNBC, where he discusses the gaming and lodging industries. In 2009 Institutional Investor magazine named him “the best up and coming gaming and lodging analyst on Wall Street.” Joel currently serves as director-senior gaming, lodging, and leisure
analyst for Credit Suisse Securities.

Alumni of the Month- January 2011

Jennifer Santorello ’09 

“Having past business experience really helped me become a business teacher and branch out within the school. I decided to start teaching after I had a few rough years in the business world. I had a love for teaching from the time I was younger ...” 

Jennifer started a career in the business world before coming to Hofstra to pursue an M.S.Ed. Now a business teacher at the Plainview-Old Bethpage JFK High School on Long Island, Jennifer was recently selected as the Julian A. Milkes Outstanding New Business Educator by the Business Teachers Association of New York State. She teaches courses in marketing, law and accounting and has served as assistant chapter adviser of DECA, an association of marketing students. Jennifer is active in many community activities, including fundraisers for the Little Shelter, Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, and Dress for Success Foundation.

Bret Strauss ’02 

“My favorite experience at Hofstra was student teaching. I was thrilled to finally have the opportunity to use all the tools and resources I gathered from the courses in the program. It truly felt like the culmination of all my hard work. During that time, I developed my teaching style and cemented my belief that teaching was what I was meant to do.” 

Bret graduated from Hofstra with an M.S.Ed. in business education and was hired by the Valley Stream Central High School District. In 2004 he received the Outstanding New Business Educator Award by the Business Teachers Association of New York State. He was promoted to department head of career and technical education in 2008 and currently serves as the full-time dean of students. Bret oversees the school store and serves as the adviser for Future Business Leaders of America, which has won numerous state and national awards. He is also treasurer of the Long Island Business Teachers Association and serves as an adjunct professor in Hofstra’s Department of Teaching, Literacy and Leadership.

Alumni of the Month- December 2010

Alexa Silverman ’08

“My fondest memory [of the University] is my first day at Hofstra in September 2005. As a transfer student, I expected my needs to be swept under the rug. I quickly realized that Hofstra was the type of school that would help me to assimilate and reach my goals.” 

In summer 2009 Alexa and a close friend founded a 501(c3) nonprofit organization, NY Fresh Connections, with a mission to engage young adults in meaningful service through leadership, professional development, and hands-on events. Alexa is currently a law student at New York Law School. She recently competed in the Charles W. Froessel Moot Court Competition, which led to a seat on the New York Law School Moot Court Association. She is involved in the pilot program of the New York Law School POWER Mentor Program and is a candidate for the New York Law School Public Service Certificate.

Daniel Spahr ’02 

"Up until I had come to Hofstra, I had never been very social, and when I heard about Entertainment Unlimited and Hofstra Concerts, I quickly joined. ... Those two organizations gave me so many real-life experiences that I never could have had in a classroom.” 

One particularly special part of Dan’s Hofstra experience was the study abroad opportunities, the first of which was five weeks in Italy. Following graduation, he began to work as a part-time teacher, while also pursuing a Master of Arts in school counseling. He later worked in the Bay Area of San Francisco as a high school counselor and followed that up with a position as a day counselor and job coach for five mentally disabled adults. He also volunteered his time to and financially supported Under One Roof, which raises money for HIV/AIDS charities. In 2010 he published a memoir, The Montepulciano Mob, about his first study abroad experience and what he discovered about himself, his peers, and the
world. Proceeds benefit a study abroad scholarship that he established at Hofstra.

Alumni of the Month- November 2010

Karin Duncker ’84

“Don’t be afraid of hard work, and learn to be flexible. It may sound trite, but you really can achieve your dreams if you believe you can and are willing to do the work.” 

As president and CEO of the New York Biotechnology Association (NYBA) from 1998 to 2006, Karin grew the NYBA from a startup to the fifth-largest state biotech association in the United States. She established high-value membership programs, created the association’s branding campaign, and produced annual conference programs that maintained net profits of 35-45 percent throughout her tenure. She was recognized as one of the Top 100 technology leaders in New York by Crain’s New York Business (2001) and was Featured Industry Executive in Biotech Magazine (2003). Currently, Karin is founder and CEO of KMS Consulting, which provides executive coaching and advisory services to nonprofit associations.

Lidia Szczepanowski ’87 

“Learn from, enjoy and appreciate your remarkable years at Hofstra. There will come a point in time in your life when you will look back and will be grateful that you did. Also, remember to be humble, have integrity and stay true to yourself. Use your achievements to inspire others.”

Lidia has shown remarkable ingenuity and ambition throughout her career. Following graduation from Hofstra, she attended law school and opened her own practice, The Szczepanowski Law Firm, P.C. She created the interactive website to help people who need basic information about finding an attorney. She also founded Everything Lidia, Inc., an organization that presents motivational seminars designed to educate women about practical and effective defensive techniques while helping to empower them and build confidence. In November 2007 she founded the National Organization for Women’s Safety Awareness, Inc., to provide more information, awareness, and knowledge about women’s safety issues.

Alumni of the Month- October 2010

Nabeel Kahn ’00 

“Set your priorities. While at work, focus on work only, and set aside enough time for your personal life regularly.” 

Nabeel found success in the construction industry after earning a Bachelor of Business Administration at Hofstra. However, playing and introducing people to the sport of cricket has become as much of a passion for him as his career. During his time at Hofstra, Nabeel started a cricket club with fellow international students. Nabeel comes from a family of cricket players, and that has inspired him to attempt to take cricket to the next level in the United States and establish a U.S. team presence at the 2020 Olympics. He is currently pursuing of a master’s degree in construction management at Columbia University.

Alumni of the Month- September 2010

Lauren McCullough ’04 

“Social networking sites have given college students an enormous amount of control over their future. There’s no better way to show a prospective employer that you’re smart, savvy and informed than by having a well-executed personal social media strategy.” 

Lauren is an award-winning journalist and social media enthusiast. She has traveled around the country to speak about multimedia journalism, and she lectures on the use and importance of social media in the newsroom. In her role as social networks and news engagement manager for The Associated Press (AP), Lauren oversees the newsroom’s social media efforts. She was recognized by The Associated Press Managing Editors Association with the 2008 John L. Dougherty Award. She has also been awarded two AP Beat of the Week awards for her work with citizen journalists during the 2009 Hudson River plane splashdown and the 2007 Minnesota bridge collapse.

Alumni of the Month- Summer 2010

Claudia Gabel ’00 

“All the comparative literature classes I took at Hofstra gave me the critical thinking skills that are needed to be an effective book editor, and the creative writing courses challenged me a lot. I was able to forge successful careers on several fronts because of that, and I consider myself very lucky to be part of an industry that has enriched my life ever since I was a little girl.” 

Claudia earned a Master of Arts in English and American literature from Hofstra. She deviated from her original plan to pursue a Ph.D., and instead decided to follow her love of creative writing and books into the world of publishing.

In 2007 Claudia’s first young adult series, In or Out, was published by Scholastic/ Point. The four books are loosely based on her life and feature two best friends who grow apart during their freshman year of high school. Currently, Claudia is a senior editor at Katherine Tegen Books, and her newest novel, Romeo and Juliet and Vampires, was published by HarperTeen in August 2010.

Robert Harrison ’75 

“Don’t blame others for your shortcomings, and remember to give thanks to those who have helped you along the way. Try to keep connected with your fellow Hofstra classmates after graduating; networking will benefit your future. Be humble, be honest, and be fair.” 

After graduating from Hofstra, Robert became a successful communications manager, published poet, cartoonist, newspaper and documentation photographer, children’s book writer, historian, playwright, baseball history re-enactor, docent, and magazine staff writer, as well as a sought-after guest speaker on radio and television and at various events. Robert has participated in numerous Hofstra Cultural Center conferences and has donated photographs to the Hofstra University School of Law and Hofstra Bird Sanctuary websites. In fall 2005 Robert was asked by Hofstra Assistant Dean for Special Collections Geri E. Solomon to photograph every September 11 memorial site on Long Island. The photos were featured as part of the 2006 Hofstra University Museum exhibition Voiceless in the Presence of Realities.

Meet the 2010-2011 Alumni of the Month

The Alumni of the Month feature of the Alumni Affairs website showcases alumni who are doing interesting and exciting things, or who have made exceptional contributions to their chosen field or profession.

For information on how to nominate a graduate, please visit and click on “Recognition & Awards.” 
The nominations of an alumnus may be based on the following: 
  • Doing something particularly interesting or different. 
  • Making outstanding achievements in his/her profession. 
  • Setting a positive example, either by philanthropy, balancing work and personal life, or showing a loyal commitment to Hofstra and the community. 
To read more in-depth profiles of each honoree, visit

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