By Ben Suazo, Assistant News Editor
Next Monday, May 2 will be Robyn Kaplan's two-month anniversary—not of a wedding, but of the day she first came to Hofstra, filling the role of Associate Director in the Office of Student Leadership and Activities.
In these two months, Kaplan has already taken a personal interest in the student life at Hofstra. She has spoken frequently in front of SGA, asking senators to serve as role models and help move towards reforms for the sake of next year's new "blood."
"It's not going to happen overnight," Kaplan said in her office earlier this month, discussing the potential for positive change at Hofstra. "[But] it has to start somewhere, it has to trickle down to general membership."
To clarify, Kaplan does not have a direct hand in everything that happens on campus for students. And yet, in a way her office is connected to everything—her oversight extends specifically to SGA, which in turn approves and appropriates funds for all other student clubs on campus; to Greek Life, whose large student base was more visible than ever at Greek Week; and to service and leadership opportunities, such as trips into the city to feed the homeless.
For instance, on May 11 Kaplan will take 16 students on Midnight Run in a close and personal interaction with New York City's homeless. Midnight Run brings volunteers by van to designated spots where they can give food and supplies to the homeless.
When students come up to Kaplan saying they want to give food out to homeless people, Kaplan says she reacts positively to that initiative. "I think [with] that experiential leadership experience…you're building character too," she said. "Leadership is a thread that weaves through everything we [OSLA] do."
It may sound cliché, but Kaplan's office is providing rare opportunities often unknown at home. Kaplan talks about scheduling a future retreat to build SGA leadership, which would take students away from campus for a night of goal building. She hopes the experience would allow students to "come back and hit the ground running," with new energy and motivation.
Some new energy and motivation comes from Kaplan herself, but the student body has to meet her halfway. Kaplan claims that throughout studying at Brandeis and UConn or working at Fairfield, students around her have shown a desire to be involved in campus events. She observes energy at Hofstra, too—but communication is something lacking that she hopes to work on.
"I think students have a lot of hope and great ideas. But they don't know where to go first," she said. For that first step, Kaplan explained that her office is a key option, a route to expanding student opportunities and activities to represent what students themselves want. "They have to be willing to give us the feedback—this entire office is willing to help them, if they step up."
President Jimmy Wells has already indicated his support for Kaplan's advisement in SGA, and some senators welcome the third party guidance: "It's a fresh start SGA needs," Chairwoman of Spirit Services Cait Scungio said after Tuesday's SGA meeting. "We get stuck in our ways and it's good to have someone to tell us this is what you can improve."
Greek Life, also afflicted with a negative reputation to some students, hopes just as much for a better image. Brittany Smith, president of ΑΘΒ, said during Greek Week that although she has not yet met Kaplan, she has been aware of new leadership and shares a desire for change. "We need to improve the overall representation of the Greeks. We have a bad reputation. Maybe she can help that aspect, put something together to show to the community," Smith said. Yet she still recognized the need for personal motivation. "I know that's up to us in the long run," Smith pointed out.
Kaplan's strongest message appears to be her willingness to support anyone who would like to give form to their dreams, whether far-off or more immediate. Some students are already active, and Kaplan would like to see much more of that energy and support.
"For the students who don't know where to start, I'd love to engage them," Kaplan said. She added a message of encouragement for The University's people with a dream: "Be that one who wants to step up."