Member of Adelphi University’s 10 Under 10.“I love teaching and empowering my students. My Adelphi professors made such a difference in my life. This is my way of paying it forward.”
Upon entering college, Dr. Elvin Ramos knew he wanted to be a high school teacher. At Adelphi, his professors’ example inspired him to set his sights even higher. “A lot of my professors at Adelphi became my role models. The more time I spent in the classroom with them, the more I began to think I wanted to do something in higher education,” Dr. Ramos said.
After completing Adelphi’s Scholar Teacher Education Program, a unique, five-year combined bachelor’s and master’s program that integrates field-intensive programs with a strong foundation in the liberal arts and sciences, he pursued his Doctor of Arts in History and Education at St. John’s University, while working full time.
In 2008, with two years left in his doctoral program, the Metropolitan College of New York (MCNY) recruited him to join its faculty. He continued teaching throughout the completion of his degree, which he earned in 2010. With doctorate in hand, Dr. Ramos received an incredible job offer: assistant dean of MCNY’s Audrey Cohen School of Human Services and Education. He turned it down.
“I really wanted this job, but I also wanted to teach. The thing was, you couldn’t teach during the first semester in this position,” he said. Fueled by his strong desire to remain in the classroom, Dr. Ramos was able to convince the dean to give him the opportunity to teach at least one class per semester, and he eagerly stepped into his new role.
While the majority of his responsibilities as assistant dean are administrative, Dr. Ramos’ favorite part of his job continues to be the courses he teaches—in a city that has so much to offer. “We have the opportunity to build really creative curriculum, using Manhattan as our classroom,” he said. “I’m a big believer in abstract versus reality. You can read about the history of New York in books, but what’s out there?”
For Dr. Ramos, it’s all about teaching his students to think outside the box. “In addition to bringing students to museums and historical societies, I’ve brought students studying urban studies to Harlem to walk through old brownstones, tour around Chinatown and visit Brooklyn, where we went into a manhole to check out the oldest railroad in the city,” he said. “I try to expose students to anything in New York that none of us who walk uptown and downtown on a daily basis would know.”
“We are surrounded by every culture here,” Dr. Ramos said. “I feel that if you are teaching in Manhattan and you have all these resources, you have to take advantage of them.” When he isn’t exploring one of the world’s most diverse and culturally rich cities with his students, you can find Dr. Ramos in the dance studio or on stage, performing with the Sapphire Dance Company.
The idea for Sapphire was born at Adelphi after Dr. Ramos took Professor Rhymes’ History of Black Dance in America class, and fell in love with the art. During his time at Adelphi, he was also very involved in Adelphi’s community service organization Cause to Achieve Leadership, Intelligence, Brotherhood, Excellence and Respect (CALIBER). He wanted to fuse the two. “I thought it would be cool to do something in the arts and something with community service,” he said.
At Adelphi he got the support of his friends and classmates; he began looking into obtaining non-profit status, and started putting his ideas about how they might fundraise and what they might support down on paper. After graduating with his undergraduate degree from Adelphi, he had to put this initiative on hold.
After several years however, the idea resurfaced, and he found that interest among friends and former classmates was still there. By 2009 he had a group of dancers together—many of whom he had been dancing with at Adelphi, or who he had introduced the organization to during those years—and they performed all over the New York City metropolitan area. By the end of 2010 Sapphire was granted non-profit status, and Dr. Ramos had recruited volunteers and members for a staff and advisory board.
In 2011, Sapphire held its first annual scholarship dinner, at which the very first recipients were awarded with scholarship money the organization had raised. “The scholarships are awarded to students who cannot afford formal dance school, but can receive high quality dancing skills from Sapphire,” he said.
“It’s something I love doing,” said Dr. Ramos, who credits his Adelphi experience with giving him the confidence to follow his dreams. “I learned how to take risks at Adelphi.”
“Adelphi was home. It was where I grew up,” he said. “Faculty, advisers and directors of student activities became my parents. My fellow classmates became siblings. Everyone at Adelphi encouraged me to be whatever I wanted to be.”
A student leader during his years on campus (Dr. Ramos was a resident adviser, president of his senior class and on the Student Activities Board), he appreciated that the University’s senior-level administration was directly involved in the students’ lives. “They came to your events, and knew your name and what you were doing. They were visible on campus,” he said.
“Dr. Scott would be having an event in the [Ruth S. Harley] University Center. If he saw a student organization in one of the side rooms having a meeting, he’d knock, come in and say hello. He’s just so approachable—and the entire campus community mirrors what he does.” The impact the Adelphi experience had on Dr. Ramos has shaped his current success and his future goals. Dr. Ramos’ ultimate career aspiration is to become a college president.