Vision Long Island’s annual Smart Growth Summit is an energetic, thought-provoking gathering of professionals from all industries, as well as SJC students, faculty, staff and alumni.
Held remotely for the first time this year, the three-day summit featured numerous panelists and important discussions — with a particular focus on COVID-19 and how the pandemic has changed the way we live.
For a number of years, Gail Lamberta, Ph.D., associate dean of community development, coordinator of experiential learning and chair and professor of recreation and leisure studies, has served as n a panelist for the Long Island Youth Summit. This year, the theme was Workforce Training During COVID-19.
Joining Dr. Lamberta on the panel was Alexis DiDonato, a 2020 SJC Long Island graduate who works as a certified therapeutic recreation specialist at Mather Memorial Hospital in Port Jefferson.
When asked about the resiliency needed for today’s workforce, Dr. Lamberta referenced how SJC transitioned and prepared for the COVID shutdown, and how internships and experiential learning opportunities were quickly moved to remote and virtual formats in the spring.
“To some degree, our students have always known how to function in a virtual world, even prior to COVID,” said Dr. Lamberta. “Pivoting to virtual internships was a challenge at first, but our faculty are so connected to their fields and we have so many great networks. The transition was made easier by those connections and our students still obtained great hands-on experience.”
All of the panelists were asked which skills are most important to have. Common answers were adaptability, flexibility and clear communication.
Alexis DiDonato was in her final semester at SJC her internship was suddenly shifted online due to COVID-19.
“The situation was stressful in the beginning, but everything I had learned was being put to use,” she said. “We assumed we would return in one week, but when that did not happen, we restarted in a new format. I learned to adapt based on what is happening around you. Things can change, so we must be able to adapt quickly.”
In the end, DiDonato’s internship led to her current career at Mather Hospital, which is a testament to the experiential learning opportunities at SJC. It is also reassurance that good work and positive outcomes are still happening, even in our current virtual world.