By Katie Farkas
In this new column, The Delphian highlights a different administrator at Adelphi University in each issue so that students get to know them better. We focus on what their administrative position is at Adelphi, their background and how they came to hold their current position.
Since 2008, Carol Lucas has been the director of counseling and support services at Adelphi. She oversees the Student Counseling Center, the Student Access Office (SAO), as well as the drug and alcohol and mental health promotion and outreach programs.
“I also teach in the School of Social Work, which I love doing,” said Lucas. “I believe that knowledge is like currency, it's like money. It has no value if it's not in circulation and I really believe [as a social worker], that you need to reach your hand down and pull the next one up and train the next generation.”
Lucas did not start her social work career until late in life, not finishing her PhD until she was in her fifties.
“My undergraduate is in economics and finance and I took the corporate route. I come from a blue-collar family and it was all about making money,” she said, adding she did well in the corporate world. “I was always promoted because I do have a really strong work ethic. I think it's called workaholism now, but I wasn’t happy. I always wanted to be a social worker, but that wasn’t something that was supported in my family.”
Lucas did her undergrad at four different schools and it took her about 20 years because she went to secretarial school right out of high school. “I think I started out in [SUNY] Farmingdale and then I went to Hofstra and a school that was out east that closed down. I finished up at New York Institute of Technology NYIT, then I came to Adelphi for my masters.”
She earned both a masters and a PhD in social work at AU. “This was the first and only place I ever worked as a social worker. And one thing that I love about working for a private university rather than a public school, which really has a lot of bureaucracy, is that Adelphi has let me do whatever I want to do, as long as it doesn’t cost a lot of money. That’s how I was able to build the Bridges program. That was the first program of its kind at any college.”
She explained that the Bridges program, which launched in 2007 and provides individualized academic, social and vocational support services to Adelphi’s neurodiverse students, was a model she developed in her doctoral work.
“It was a paper that I wrote,” she said. “I knew that there was a gap in services for students that have executive functioning difficulties and neurodivergent populations and the original director Mitch Nagler and I started it with just two students. It has just grown and blossomed and it's wonderful. Now it’s its own standing program.”
Lucas also spoke about her experiences in education, specifically that she's the kind of student who loved all of the courses she took. One of her favorites was public speaking.
“It wound up being my favorite course, but I was petrified to take it. I took it over the summer during undergrad. If you know about summer courses, it was like every single day, so every single day we had to give a speech. For example, we had to find a song and play the song and then give a speech about why that song was important to us. I remember the song I picked was by Regina Belle called ‘If I Could.’”
She said the course was transformational because it tapped into passions she hadn’t experienced with other classes. “I was no longer afraid to speak in public and I recognize that I learned to lean into that fear instead of back away from it. That wasn’t the only course that was impactful, but it was the first course that changed my view.”
Lucas was also influenced by her family. She’s originally from Brooklyn but moved out to Long Island when she was 12. “I just never got used to it because I was a city kid and that’s what everyone called me, the city kid.”
She was also raised in a family of musicians and to this day when they get together “it’s just so cool because all of my nieces and nephews all play instruments. At Christmas, somebody sits at the piano. Somebody gets guitars out and now my nephew is an opera singer so he comes and sings with them. So much of my family life was centered around music and it was country music, reggae, every kind of music, but my favorite would be just instrumental,” she said.
Lucas said she likes to hike, plant and “chill.”
“I recently bought seven acres of property up in [Berkshires] Massachusetts, so I’m to eventually put a house on it. A small little cottage house for just vacations because I love spending time in the woods.”
But if she can’t get away to Massachusetts, her favorite place on campus is behind the library, over by Res Hall A. “That’s my place if I get overwhelmed or I just need to walk for a little bit,” said Lucas.
She has advice for students about the education process, namely that “it’s a journey.”
“It’s not a race; it’s not about the finish line,” she said. “When I got hooded for my doctorate, my brother turned to me and asked how it felt to spend 50 years in school. You don’t need to study and be what somebody else wants you to be. I didn’t find my passion until I was in my forties and I say to people, ‘don’t be Carol.’ Choose your passion. Your parents might be pissed but they’ll get over it, but when you choose your life based on what somebody else wants it’s going to create mental health issues because it doesn’t fit you.”
But this advice pertains not only in academic settings but also to students' identity and self expression. Lucas went on to share that she didn’t come out until later in life “because I didn’t know who I was. I went to Catholic schools and everybody told me who I was and I was raised to be straight and to be in service to men and to be a cis-gendered woman, so I say to people don’t wait. Find your tribe. Find those people that are going to enhance your life, that are going to encourage you to move into your authentic self.”