$250,000 to Get Annual Lecture Series on its Feet
By Emily Zoda & Clifford Michel
Geraldo Rivera has donated $250,000 to fund an annual lecture series surrounding disability studies over the next five years at the newly accredited Department of Social Work at the College of Staten Island.
The fund, officially titled “The Geraldo Rivera Fund for Social Work and Disability Studies,” will run for five years and will support public conferences, symposia, lectures, and new informative publications.
“This generous investment in our students, faculty, and college will benefit the academic discourse and rigor on campus, and will allow us to take a leadership position regionally, nationally, and internationally as we promote research, advocacy, and dialogues around this important issue in our society,” said CSI President Dr. William J. Fritz.
The Social Work program’s first lecture is called “Inaugural Geraldo Rivera Lecture in Social Work and Disabilities Studies,” and will be held on May 5 with special guest speaker Dr. Val and co-presenter Beth Richards.
Administrators also left open the possibility of additional funds being made to the Department of Social Work in the future.
“There might be some other income course in the future,” said Social Work director Barbra Teater. “But none has been committed.”
Rivera commented on the possibility of continuing his relationship with CSI in the future.
“This is just the first of what my wife Erica and I hope will be a long partnership with this wonderful school,” Rivera wrote to Capital New York in an e-mail interview. “We believe CSI is in the process of becoming the nation’s pre-eminent educational center for caring for the disabled.”
Rivera said he was inspired by the students at the School of Social Work when he spoke to them at CSI’s 2014 Commencement Ceremony and wanted to enhance the education of those who will be tasked with helping a class of people who are often forgotten.
“Asked to deliver the commencement for the School of Social Work last year I was inspired by the young graduates and encouraged them to go out and fight for their future constituents, especially the developmentally disabled,” Rivera wrote to Capital.
“As I spoke it occurred to me that I should be more personally involved in motivating and recruiting the next generation of crusaders against the kinds of abuse I uncovered back in the grim old days.”
Rivera, a broadcast journalist, rose to prominence in 1972 after he exposed the horrific abuse and neglect that occurred in the Willowbrook State School.
The school, which was on the same plot of land as CSI, became a national symbol of how the United States failed to treat mentally challenged individuals.
Rivera also made headlines when he interviewed Charles Manson in the 1980s and later down the line as a Fox News correspondent.
The Bachelor of Science in Social Work was fully accredited last year by the Council of Social Work Education.
The program plans to keep the admittance GPA at 2.5.
Since the accreditation, all courses have a specific learning objective according to CSWE standards called EPASS.
Students are to maintain a “B” or better in practice-based courses and obtain 480 hours of field placement work.
CSI also launched a Master’s of Social Work program this past fall, which focuses on treating individuals with disabilities, including those who fall within the autism spectrum.
Rivera heralded the achievements and possibilities that the program and its students could achieve towards the end of his speech last spring.
“You will make a difference in the lives of the people you are working with and for. The people that need you, their lives will be materially enhanced, in a way that you will be a walking angel,” Rivera told Social Work Graduates last spring.
“For every person that you help, that you guide, that you assist, that you make their lives richer and better, your life will be similarly enhanced by it, your soul will be fed.”