On the Job with Phyllis Kurland

Phyllis Kurland is a Professor and Counselor, Office of Student Activities at Nassau Community College.

Does your community college have residence halls? If not, how do you cater to a commuter population?
Kurland, PhyllisWe have never had them, and we cater to a lot of people who work one, two, and three jobs, and it seems the ones that aren’t working are desperately looking for jobs. They are very stressed for time. We’re still a very active school with over 120 clubs, although space is short. We have a unique evening program schedule where classes are canceled in one of three time slots every Tuesday night, and that’s a special activity time. Faculty help publicize it, often giving students credit for attending.

Much research shows community colleges as being as diverse, if not more than, four-year institutions. What has been your experience?
This is my 50th year here, and when I came here in 1969 it was a lily white institution. Today it’s 45% white, 25% Latino, 25% black, and 5–6% Asian. The Latino and Asian communities are growing populations in our county and so, too, at our college. That makes a huge difference, as we now have a wide variety of clubs that cater to specific ethnicities — a Jamaican club, a Pan-African club, our student government president represents a minority. We also have about 150 children in our day care.
Many community college students need evening, weekend, and online courses.
Does student life at your community college help facilitate students in those types of schedules?

We have online courses, we have weekend courses, but our enrollment has been shrinking as the economy is getting better, so we have fewer evening students now than we used to. There has also been a shift to part-time, and that has to do with people working more and longer hours.
What is most unique about student life/the student union at your institution?
First, our facility is unique. We’re on what was a former working military base, Mitchell Air Force Base. It’s a very beautiful campus and it’s unique … our parking lots are the old airplane runways. But for me, it’s really that our students are so autonomous. They have a lot of control over the budget, and then once it’s allocated, they have control over what is done with the money. The faculty don’t have much control over what the students do.
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