Faculty Profile: Professor Musti

by Steven DeMartis (’19)

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Professor Shobana Musti

Coming to America

Professor Shobana Musti began her education in India, where she grew up. She finished her undergrad with a major in Zoology and went on to receive a Master’s degree in Special Education.

She is a Professor of Education here at Pace University, specializing in teaching those in the graduate program pursuing a Master’s degree in Special Education. When she is not educating the future educators of America, she loves being outside with her dogs and playing tennis.

Early Educations’ Influence on Future Career

During her high school career, Professor Musti took English language classes, which were composed of analyzing literature, grammar, vocabulary and spelling. Professor Musti shared that “English was the mode of instruction in schools in India.” It is important to note that every student entered school speaking a variety of different languages. Although she does not have a degree in English, taking these classes provided a better understanding of the foundation for the English language. Despite not truly utilizing these skills until her doctoral program, Musti added

“The dissemination of research requires me to use academic vocabulary that is different from the conversation and casual writing skills that I may have acquired previously in my K-12 schooling experience.”

Finding her Passion

As previously mentioned, Professor Musti started her education pursuing a career in Zoology. In India, there was no option to take a “gap year” after Hhgh school therefore she had to make a quick decision about which subject area she would study. It was not until she volunteered at a center for children with disabilities that she discovered her passion for teaching, specifically Special Education. Her father was not fully supportive of her decision to change career paths to Education because it was not seen as a practical career for her culture. Professor Musti explained, “Since I am Indian, it was expected that I become a doctor.” Despite her not being supported in her career choice by her father, she deiced to stand her ground and pursue her passion to educate those with disabilities.

Why Pace

Professor Musti highlighted various aspects of Pace that sets it apart from other universities in this country. She spoke specifically about our small class sizes, which provide a more intimate class experience, as well as Pace’s ample amount of resources. She said students get extra attention here, which was not something that was available to her during her school career.

 

Advice for an Education/English Major

“Find volunteer opportunities to work in you perspective field now. Get as much exposure as possible! Affirm this is what you want to do before you waste too much time.”

Alum Profile: Nora Rugova (’13, ’14)

Profile by Jamie Soldinger (’20)

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Nora Rugova (’13, ’14)

Nora Rugova is a Pace University Alumni.  She earned her Master’s in Special Education from Pace in 2013.  Nora was also part of the Women’s Volleyball Team, where she set records for both Pace itself and the NE10 Conference.  Nora is in her 3rd season as Assistant Coach for the Pace University Women’s Volleyball Team.  She is also a Special Education teacher at Church Street School, which is a public elementary school and part of the White Plains City school district.

Why Pace? 

Academically, Nora explained,  “I liked the five-year program.” Nora was also on a volleyball scholarship to come to Pace. Pace became a perfect location for Nora, being close to home and also in the neighborhood she later wanted to teach in. It seemed like the perfect fit.

Nora explained that teaching was definitely her first choice of majors. Even though at times she started to second guess teaching, “In college, especially before student teaching started, I thought about changing my major to some sort of business, because all of my older friends were getting these super cool internships.” However, she knew teaching was for her once she began her student teaching.  Student teaching also became the most influential part of college for Nora:

“There’s so much you can learn in the classroom.”

Overcoming Obstacles    

When picking a major, students will always have outsiders trying to persuade them to switch their major. Nora explained, “At times it was very, very difficult. However, once I got into the classroom (for student teaching) and actually started working with students, I was so happy that I wasn’t even thinking about what others were saying.”  Nora said that her favorite part of being in the classroom where all of the “light bulb” moments, where “it becomes very easy to realize you’re in the right profession and you’re helping children grow.”

Mentors

Even though Nora was an Education Major, her concentration was in English.  Throughout her experience at Pace she had two wonderful professors, who she still keeps in contact with today.  These two professors are Dr. Maxam and Professor Walker.

“Being an educator is about molding minds and always being there.  These two individuals did and still do exactly that.”

Nora also said that these two taught with such “heart and passion” and that their teachings made you want to become a teacher to teach just like them.

Advice to Future Teachers

 As you go through your college career, teaching seems to be a lot of work, Nora explained.  “At times, it’s more work than you think you can handle but it is absolutely worth it.”  Nora stressed the fact to stick with teaching.  Many teachers do not realize that they “have the ability to turn a student’s day, week, even life around.”

Faculty Profile: Dr.Francine Falk-Ross

Profile by Amy Venusio (’19)

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Dr. Francine Falk-Ross

Who is Dr.Falk-Ross?

Dr. Falk-Ross is a literacy specialist who fell in love with being a speech therapist. She preferred to work in the education setting and got a full time job with speech and language for 8 years. Most of the work she was doing was literacy: helping with the language, how to read, the language when reading books, and how to write.

After getting her Master’s she decided that she wanted to know and do more. She then went to get her doctorate in curriculum with a concentration of reading. In 2008 she came to Pace and became a full-time professor. She is in charge of the literacy specialist graduate program.

Who influenced her?

Dr.Falk-Ross was influenced by her graduate teacher, Christine Pappas, who was in the doctoral program. Dr. Pappas drove Dr. Falk-Ross to understand classroom discourse. She learned the way you ask questions is very important to how students respond. Dr. Pappas showed Dr. Falk-Ross how to write and more of what she knows today.

Career highlights?

Instead of having students get pulled out of the classroom to support their literacy needs, Dr. Falk-Ross wanted all students in the class. Even students with different backgrounds and especially second language students belong in the same classroom.

Dr. Falk-Ross wrote a book called Classroom-Based Language and Literacy Intervention: A Programs and Case Studies Approach. She also worked as a research professor in Illinois and was an assistant professor in Northern Illinois.  

Advice she has for future teachers?

Dr. Falk-Ross says to find something that you really like to do, and find a focus within that field.

For future educators, she said that when you’re in a regular classroom to keep a focus because the school may need your perspective and expertise to do programs. She also recommends getting your graduate degree: “You learn a lot more in grad school than undergrad.” From there you will be able to understand more and move forward successfully. 

 

 

 

Faculty Profile: Dr. Leslie Soodak

Profile by Carly Wood (’19)

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Dr. Leslie Soodak

Educational and Career Path

After graduating from college with an undergraduate degree in Psychology and English and a minor in Education, Doctor Leslie Soodak knew she wanted to work with people and policies. Right after graduation she obtained her masters in special education.

Dr. Soodak’s first job was with United Cerebral Palsy where she worked to deinstitutionalize Willowbrook Developmental Center, a housing institution for individuals with mental disabilities. The fight to deinstitutionalize was because many children living at Willowbrook were recommended by doctors to be placed there despite not having any significant disabilities.

After 10 years Dr. Soodak returned to school to get her doctorate in Psychology. Dr. Soodak currently works as a professor in the School of Education where her favorite course to teach is one on special education. She loves that through this course she is able to “discover people’s perspectives on individuals with disabilities and hopefully enrich their knowledge in that area.”

 The Importance of Reading and Writing

Reading and writing are two very important things in Dr. Soodak’s life. She can distinctly remember her favorite expository writing course she took during her undergraduate studies. She said the course required her to write constantly, and by doing so she was able to really understand herself and her writing. The class was small and a safe place for her to truly open up and express herself. She shared her opinion that “if you cannot comfortably relay information and express yourself then you are really at a disadvantage.” Dr. Soodak holds the firm belief that reading and writing are key in almost anything we do.

Dr. Soodak’s Words of Advice

In terms of the English path, Dr. Soodak’s first piece of advice is to stay on it! She expresses the need to look at information on a broader sense and consider more ways of communicating.

Dr. Soodak recognizes that the field has gone much more in the way of nonfiction and factual information; however, she has hopes that this generation will be able to bring back the love of reading and writing for pleasure.

 

Alum Profile: Rebecca Italiano (’16)

Profile by Maria Snelling (’20)

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Becoming an Education Major at Pace

Rebecca Italiano (’16), former member of the Pace University Women’s Volleyball team, was not always encouraged to choose an Education major. Her aunts and family members who were already teachers discouraged her dream to teach because of the heavy workload and low salary. Her number one supporters were her parents who saw Rebecca as a good fit for teaching young children. Rebecca believed, “If Education really wasn’t right for me, there are still many opportunities that I could work with kids.”

Because Pace University offers many opportunities to work with children, one of the main reasons she chose Education at Pace was to be able to “impact kids directly.” In addition, Rebecca’s main reason why she chose Pace to pursue her degree in Education was the five-year combined program. Within the four years of Undergrad, Rebecca received her Bachelor’s degree and is currently completing her fifth year to receive her Master’s degree in Special Education.

Time in an ICT Classroom

 Now, Rebecca is a teacher in an Integrated Co-Teaching (ICT) fifth grade classroom teaching both general education and special education children.

Teaching fifth graders with disabilities and speech and language impairment, Rebecca sees the benefits to her English courses at Pace. Although Rebecca does not have a concentration in English, she says that reading and writing are very important in the daily classroom.

Rebecca find her work inspiring: “Teaching in an underprivileged school, I can see immediately how I’m really changing these kids’ lives.” By noticing the way the children are speaking, Rebecca encourages them to speak with confidence: “I teach my kids everyday to believe in themselves. If they say ‘I can’t,’ then I make them resay everything they just said with no negativity.”

As one who balanced academics and collegiate athletics, Rebecca’s advice for Education majors is “stay ahead, always stay ahead.”