By Tiffany Miller
Former Congressman Steve Israel, a resident of Oyster Bay, became chairman of the newly created LIU Global Institute on Jan. 4, 2017. He recently spoke with “The Pioneer” to reflect on the Global Institute’s first year.
When Israel was in Congress, he represented the second and third Congressional District of New York, an area LIU is included in. He called Long Island University, a “jewel in the crown” of his district, so when LIU President Kimberly Cline called him after he announced his retirement from Congress and asked if he would be interested in creating an initiative at LIU, he was intrigued. While the university assisted in the initial funding to for the Global Institute, a part of Israel’s responsibility is fundraising to maintain the budget, pay speakers and keep the institute operating.
Israel wants to engage students interested in law, public policy and an array of other fields. “Any program we do, we start with the students, we have breakfast sessions with diplomats that students are invited to, we provide tickets to events at discounted rates for them, sometimes at no cost at all,” he said.
This spring the Global Institute Student Fellowship Opportunity was created for LIU students. It seeks “civic minded” students with an interest in politics, community engagement and global affairs. Students in the fellowship program participate in assisting the planning, set up, and execution of events, promote Global Institute events to the student body, make phone calls to members of the community on behalf of the institute, and work with staff to update and maintain paperwork. There are five LIU students in the fellowship, a majority of them majoring in political science.
Thomas Pallini, a junior political science major, is part of the Global Institute Fellowship. “Through working with Congressman Israel as a fellow of the Global Institute, I’ve been privileged enough to help coordinate the student-oriented events of the institute and help provide my peers a deeper understanding of the seemingly complicated world we live in today. I’ve been fortunate enough to meet our country’s current and former leaders, which, for my political science major, has been an incredible experience. This fellowship has provided me with a foundation in politics, and has allowed to me realize what my true passion is. Working directly with the Congressman, I’ve seen how much dedication and passion he puts into the institute, skills that I have now developed, and how much he cares about the students of the university. It’s been an honor and a pleasure working with him to help elevate LIU to a top-tier university that I’ll be proud to graduate from,” Pallini said.
Israel is also teaching an honors advanced elective course in the political science department on Politics, Media, & Culture this semester, his first course at LIU.
Madeline Nunley, a senior digital art and design major, is in the honors course this semester. “It has been an enriching experience to have Steve Israel as my professor. Getting to learn about Congress and politics from someone who has dedicated their life to it is something special,” she said. “I have learned a lot and feel like I have gotten the inside scoop on what it is really like to be a member of Congress and just how things works. It seems vastly complicated, but he is able to cut through the complicated things and really delve into what it means to work in politics,” she added.
Israel has connections with many political leaders, both Republicans and Democrats. He invited a few to speak on campus during the past year. “When I was in Congress, I really tried to focus on building relationships with people on either side,” he said. “If we can get people from the Democratic and Republican side to meet as Americans and for their best interest, you can make progress.”
In deciding who to invite to campus, he explained that he chooses “individuals who are thought leaders and not particularly partisan. In addition, people who will add value to this university, who are willing to speak to students and teach them new things that will be useful.”
Israel loves his new role at LIU. Being here allows him to “be an explorer and really sit down with political leaders to have meaningful conversations with them that last longer than the one minute maximum he was given while in Congress,” Israel said. “You can’t really understand what’s happening with ISIS, the economy, and North Korea based on a one minute speech; this gives me an opportunity to really understand it and share that experience with students and faculty,” he said.
Israel held events in the Tilles Center for the Performing Arts, where guest speakers General Colin Powell, Congressman Adam Schiff, former CIA Director General David H. Petraeus, former President Bill Clinton and more recently former Vice President Joe Biden gave a speech followed by a public talk with Israel. For the Fall of 2018, Israel plans to bring former President George W. Bush to LIU.