Q&A: Basketball Coach Rob deGrandpre

In late March The Scribe had a sit-down interview with men’s head basketball coach Rob deGrandpre, whois in his 20th year at Hilbert, and 19th season coaching. We discussed the challenges with inconsistency this season along with what he plans to improve on for next season.

TS: How would you describe your time at Hilbert?

Rob : It’s been a long run, but it’s been it’s a labor of love. You know, I remember when I got here back in 2002, I got hired in September, which is a little late for a basketball coach. When I first met the team, there were two twins that showed up to the meeting and they were both about 5 foot one. They were tiny. Obviously, there was a lot of work to do, but you know little by little we got through that first-year. Didn’t know if we would ever get a win; we didn’t have much to work with, but. You know then the following year we brought in a really big recruiting class and then it was just brick by brick, you know the foundation was put in place. Then one win turn into five wins, five wins into ten wins, ten wins into 15 wins. We really got it going probably around the 2011-12 year. I’d like to think we’ve been on the upswing ever since. The last decade has pretty good.

TS: Why do think it was hard stringing together consistent wins?

Rob: In general, we were very young. Great group of guys, you know, nobody was afraid of any work or anything like that, but it was the setbacks I guess, of the COVID year were really, probably a little more to overcome than what we had initially thought. It wasn’t so much that we had lost players to graduation, it was more of last year we just didn’t get a full season in. and in terms of growth and development, we really had to do a lot of that this year. So we were a little behind the 8 ball. You know, we had some signature wins, no question about it. Beating La Roche and Penn State Behrend on the road were a great wins. Even late in the year, winning down at Pitt, Bradford and winning at home to close the year against Mount Aloysius, those are some just some really great wins. Yeah, it’s a long season. It’s a tough season. Our league was good this year, really good and. You know, I think I think our young guys really got a lesson. You know, it was an opportunity to. play a lot of young people and and watch their growth and I think the future looks pretty good with what we have

TS: Do you think those reasons also attribute to the win loss consistency within the past couple of years a whole?

Rob: You know, we had a heck of a backcourt for four years with Messiah Phillips and Hunter Martino. Those guys were really good four-year players. When you graduate guys that are four year impact players, the next class that comes, there’s going to be a learning curve. It takes a little bit of time. You know, we’d all like to, be able to just continue on with, what you have. But sometimes you have to go through a little bit of the bumps and bruises along the way. We have talent, there’s no question we have some talent, it’s the chemistry component of putting the whole thing together and and making sure that you know it works. You know, the season starts on October 15th and. You know, you get up three weeks to really, you know, develop somebody. That’s not enough time. Once the season really gets going with, you know, this year we started, you know, our first game was on November 9th. We played a very good Alpha University team here at home and last by five had had our chances. You know, Alfred University had a great year in the in the Empire 8 Conference. So I I think it kind of goes in waves a little bit. But you know, I go back to you know. If you wanna go back six or seven years, we had a we had a really good stretch of probably 3 20 win seasons in a row and you know regular season Title 3 appearances in the championship game, this close to going to the NCA, it’s and. You know, consistency is hard when you’re on top of the mountain. Everybody wants to knock you off. You know, I thinkthe league’s gotten better you know kudos to the AMCC i mean there’s really no nights off you know you have to come to play.

TS: Those three years you mentioned you lost in the championship all three years. What went wrong in those games?

Rob: The first time around, we lost to a very good Penn State Behrend team on their homecourt. I don’t know if people were shocked that we were in that game, but we certainly deserved to be there. That was the eyeopener. That’s the moment that I think the players realize. Hey, you know we’re one step away from getting what we’ve all worked hard for. The second year believe it or not, it took a half court shot at the buzzer to send the thing into overtime where we fell to Medaille unfortunately. And then the third one we were the number one seed, we hosted and played a very good Pitt Greensburg team, a team that we had beaten twice during the regular season, significantly well. I think we felt good about it. But they had a very good game plan and we lost that game by two points. And you know, it was a tough one. That was a tough, I think. I think that moment for me was, you know, this this is hard. Winning is hard and everybody wants to win everybody likes to win but there’s so much that has to go into it you know for everything to come together and to have you know that magical season where you where you really get what you want and that’s a championship.

TS: What went wrong in the playoff game vs La Roche?

Rob: I think they shot the ball really well, you know. We struggled to score at times. They zoned us a little bit. We did have a really good performance from one of our freshmen, Nevada Eldridge, who really emerged late in the year for us. You know, again, freshman doing this giving us an awful lot, but really came into his own as the season played out and we got closer to the finish line. He was a handful for a lot of opponents. He did a great job and we had a hard time getting him the ball and places where he could score. So just one of those nights where shots weren’t falling. I think we got good shots. The guys that needed to make shots got good looks. It was just a tough game. They’re really good. Yeah, they’re really good and you know, we just had a cold night shooting.  And sometimes those nights happen. We got off to a great start. You know, it was pretty tight until about 8 minutes to go in the first half and they really extended the lead. You know, a lot of long faces in the locker room at halftime that we had to wake up. Hey, we got 20 more minutes to play and we made our runs. We got it down, I think seven or eight a couple times. But we just couldn’t get over the hump at the end and you know, they were a really good team. A lot of size, a lot of athleticism, a lot of different guys that can score inside, score from the perimeter and you know kudos to them. They were good for a reason.

TS: What do you plan on doing differently next season in order to get more wins?

Rob: Were expecting a majority of are guys back. Now it’s another year of growth. The nice part about it is all of our young guys when they come back in the fall, I don’t think their heads will be spinning. They’ll know what the expectations are and what our standards are in terms of excellence. It should be a pretty seamless transition. We do have an unofficial preseason trip to Canada planned for some exhibition games. So that might give us a leg up a little bit on the 2022-23 season. So we’re looking forward to that for sure. Good to get those early tests in good to get those early practices in and should really prepare us for what I think could be a positive step forward with the next season. Recruiting is everything we do have some holes to fill. We’ve got to be a little bit better with the back court with some of our decision making and taking care of the ball and then passing the ball and and you know we have guys that can score but they got to get the ball where they can score and that really falls on you know on our point guard play so

Honors Students Headed to Philly

Dr. Amy Smith has led Hilbert College’s Honors Program since 2001. Smith said students usually have at least one opportunity to travel with the program.

This year, Smith is taking three students participating in this year’s Northeast Regional Honors Council Conference. The conference theme is “A More Perfect Union: Creating and Restoring Community in an Age of Disruption” and Smith’s students will cover topics on political platforms, residential segregation, and substance abuse.

To be considered for the program, students must apply with a letter stating why they feel they deserve a spot in the program and a letter of recommendation.

Smith’s advice for students interested in the program is to come willing and ready to learn.

“The kind of student who is willing to take a little bit of a risk to explore new areas and try different things, they want to expand their horizon,” Smith said. “Sometimes they’re asked to do things they aren’t always comfortable with, but it’s beneficial in the long run. . . I like students who are willing to do that, speak up in class, challenge ideas and opinions, even if they’re mine. Students who are thinking, that’s one of the key things. They aren’t always the best writers or test-takers, but they’re good thinkers and like to think. I think that’s another important attribute to have that aspect to them as well.”

There are many benefits exclusively for honors students; students get early registration, a scholarship, courses solely for honors students, traveling, the honors lounge, and more.

Smith took students to Italy, England, Barcelona, Kenya, Costa Rica, Hawaii, California, and more during that time.

“I enjoy taking students somewhere they’ve never been before,” Smith said, “Even if I’ve been there before, getting to see them experience it for the first time is neat because then it is new for me, also.”

Last spring Smith took her Reading and Writing Buffalo class, offered exclusively to honors students, to San Francisco, CA. Students visited Yosemite National Park, Alcatraz Island, the Golden Gate National Recreation Center, and explored the city of San Francisco. During this trip, students learned how to navigate public transportation, and Dr. Smith challenged students to look at different ways to navigate on feet in a big city.

This program budget covers most, if not all, of the cost of the trip.

“Depending on the number of students and where we’re going, sometimes students have had to pay a little bit toward the trip, but I don’t think I’ve ever asked students for more than maybe $50 to $75.” Smith said.

Junior Andrew Wozniak has been in the program since his freshman year and says his favorite part of the program is the opportunity for experiential learning. He took the Reading and Writing Buffalo class and is one of the students who went to San Francisco last spring. Wozniak’s favorite part of the trip was visiting Yosemite National Park. Growing up as a boy scout, he said, “nature was my forte.”

Any student interested in applying to the honors program should contact Dr. Amy Smith at asmith@hilbert.edu.

Hilbert Hosts Fresh Check Day

HAMBURG, NY – Hilbert College hosted its first Fresh Check Day, an event aimed at spreading awareness about mental illness and suicide, earlier this semesyter.

In the years that have passed since the COVID-19 pandemic began, mental health has become a common topic, and the stigma surrounding mental illness has decreased significantly.

Interim Director of Residence Life Grace Adams organized the institution’s participation this year, and said she hopes that this will become an annual event at Hilbert. Staff and students volunteering helped with setting up tables and booths for students to go around to.

Those in attendance used “passports” to visit each booth in exchange for prizes. Prizes ranged from Hilbert T-shirts to an Amazon firestick. In order to qualify for prizes, students had to visit at least eight of the booths.

At the first table, students took a vow to help others struggling or contemplating suicide while learning about the signs the someone is contemplating suicide. Once they sign the pledge, students continue to eight other booths in Franciscan Hall. 

Students were able to write down the things they’re thankful for, write down their insecurities and “trash them,” make their own stress balls, and more.

A crowd favorite was a booth where students wrote down things that make them angry on a piece of paper and then they got to slip on some boxing gloves to make a piece of abstract art.

Once students had the gloves on, they chose two paint colors and the paint was put on their gloves. A volunteer places the paper on the punching bag and the student punches that paper, releasing some of that tension. When students finished, they had the option to keep their paper.

Bert the Hawk stopped by to take photos with students and participants.

Associate Human Services professor, Sharon Sisti, had a booth called “The Elephant in the Room” run primarily by her students. The purpose of this activity is to help students see they are not alone in the feelings that they have or the things that they have experienced in their life.

“The statements on the board are things that people don’t necessarily want to talk about,” Sisti said. “It is easy to feel alone with what you’re going through. This shows students that they are not alone and it validates those feelings.” Adams said she hopes to make this an annual event at Hilbert College.

Help is available. Speak with someone today. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-8255 (this number will change to three-digit number 988 in July 2022)

Big Turnout for Fresh Check Day

The Hilbert College Community came together to reinforce the fact that Mental Health Matters.

“Fresh Check Day was a staff and student volunteer-led event that focused on discussing and reclaiming a topic that is all too often neglected, mental health,” Jordan Salomone said

Fresh Check Day involved not only the help of Faculty, but also the help from many Hilbert College Students who truly believe that mental health is important.

The experience from the student volunteers goes unnoticed. In fact, Brandon Kottwiz was one of the volunteers who fully enjoyed his participation in this event. Kottwiz volunteered for one of the booths called “Be Yourself” Booth.

“This booth was about creating an ally chain by having participants write down inspiring or meaningful messages to the LGBTQ+ community” Said Kottwiz.

One interesting perspective that Kottwiz had dealt with was looking at the turn out of the event, in comparison to the times when CoronaVirus was heavily impacting student activities.

“The turnout for this event was pretty unique for the time that we’re in. We are getting back to normal and I can say, there was a larger turn out for this event than is normally seen for events at the college and all the participants were very willing to listen to and discuss mental health awareness” said Brandon Kottwiz.

There were other intentional booths at this event as well. Jordan Salomone is a full time student here at Hilbert College who also volunteered at the Fresh Check Event. One of the booths that Salomone worked at was called “YOUnique.” This booth was all about trashing insecurities.

“You could write down any negative image or insecurities you have and throw them out” “I wasn’t really sure what to expect of this event, but I was definitely excited to see how everything played out.. And it did not disappoint” said Salomone.

Deboise continues to push for more Equity and Diversity Programming

Dr. Diedre Deboise is the head of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion here at Hilbert College. She has great ideas, programs lined up and some of Hilbert’s faculty to assist her, but there still seems to be a ball and chain on these recent efforts. Dr. Deboise shared her thoughts with student involvement and shared her experience with not having enough students in attendance to really shake the table.The Students are what makes Hilbert College, Hilbert College, and without them, we cannot change the climate here on campus. While this is a current struggle, the optimism and determination to better our campus is at an all time high and Dr. Deboise is working tirelessly to make sure things change.

“As the director of Diversity Equity and Inclusion, I provide leadership and strategic vision in the efforts to cultivate and sustain a diverse, equitable, and inclusive campus environment.”

That was something Dr. Deboise said during our interview to give us an idea of what she does and what her goal is. The interview not only addresses the student involvement struggle, but the interview also highlights Dr. Deboise’s  efforts within the Hilbert Community to reach her goal. Let’s take a look at how the interview went..

  1. What are your priorities as head of DEI? 

As Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, I provide leadership and strategic vision in the effort to cultivate and sustain a diverse, equitable, and inclusive campus environment. Inspired by the Catholic, Franciscan mission of Hilbert College, I collaborate and develop programs and services designed to enhance the recruitment, success, retention, and well-being of underrepresented students. Additionally, I serve as the Chair of the Committee of Diversity and Inclusion (CDI) and the Chair of the Bias Committee. 

Furthermore, I work with leadership to proactively ensure that campus programs, policies, and procedures foster a college-wide commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. I also recommend training initiatives and professional development to foster equitable pedagogy and create an inclusive campus climate. Overall, I am responsible for ensuring that diversity, equity, and inclusion are embedded in all facets of the institution. 

  • Can you give me examples of some of your intentional programs? 

MLK Program: This event honored Dr. MLK and helped carry the message that “It starts with Me.” Additionally, students’ were provided an opportunity to share either a poem or readings from Dr. King. And we were provided an opportunity to hear from our staff and how Dr. King has impacted their lives. 

Stand up to Bias Campaign: Our Stand Up to Bias campaign empowers students, faculty, and staff to proactively address acts of bias and discrimination to promote a more harmonious campus community and insure fair and equal treatment of all people.

Cultural Climate Survey: Evaluate students’ sense of belonging 

Desserts and Discussions: This event provides the DEI director with an opportunity to get to know students. The focus of this program is to listen to voices of underrepresented students and hear what their needs are, at Hilbert College. 

Cultured Conversations: An event series that brings students together over conversation, food, and culture. 

In fall of 2021 there were 26 programs and events aimed to provide educational opportunities focused on DEI for all members of the Hilbert College community. 

  • Do you think student involvement is crucial to DEI efforts? Absolutely 
  • Has student involvement been a challenge for you and your mission? If so, why do you think so and how do you plan to combat this struggle?  

Yes, student involvement has been a struggle. Many of the DEI events, activities and presentations have produced low student attendance rates. Although marketing and advertising is an important aspect in cultivating student involvement; building relationships with students and infinity groups is also important. Having a greater understanding regarding the needs of our students is key. The cultural climate survey results will provide us with some direction regarding the most effective ways to increase student involvement. 

  • Do you think these struggles are just subjected to students? or do you think getting faculty members involved is a struggle as well.
    These struggles are not only subjected to students, but faculty involvement has been a struggle as well. I believe that faculty are interested in participating, but due to the high demand of their jobs, it has been difficult to find a time that works for most faculty and staff. 
  • What does a perfect Hilbert College look like to you after a successful heavy impact of DEI?
  • Having a college-wide commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion- this includes the recruitment, success, retention and the well-being of underrepresented students, faculty, and staff
  • Collaborating with community partners and campus stakeholders to create, implement, and assess programs designed to support the academic and personal growth of students
  • Faculty and staff serving as a mentor, advocate, and as a support system for students.
  • Ensuring that the curriculum is informed by diverse viewpoints.
  • Ensuring that diversity and inclusion efforts are data-driven and regularly assessed
  • Conducting Cultural Climate Surveys, analyzing results, and making recommendations for action.
  • Ensuring that all our policies are equitable 
  • Providing orientation and professional development for campus stakeholders.
  • Supporting the alignment of diversity and inclusion with the broader effort to create social justice as part of Hilbert College’s Catholic, Franciscan mission. 
  • Ensuring that we all work together to provide a campus that is welcoming, respectful and inclusive. This includes all students having a “sense of belonging.” 

While there have been struggles with getting students involved, and even getting the help from faculty, Deboise said she will keep fighting the good fight and making sure people feel comfortable at Hilbert College.

Changes to Graduation Cause a Stir

Hilbert College’s commencement ceremony will begin to look a lot more like it did before the coronavirus pandemic this year.

For the past two years, Hilbert students have not been able to participate in the typical commencement and graduation ceremonies because of pandemic restrictions. Now that case numbers are lower and mandates are being lifted, students have been highly anticipating a normal graduation where students can walk across the stage for their diploma. However, due to a change in venue, some restrictions remain in place.

Initial emails went out to students and suggested that Hilbert College will only be providing students with two tickets per family. This did not sit well with many Graduating Seniors.  The Graduate information also indicated that the ceremony will be held in The Hafner Recreational Center instead of the nearby Revive Wesleyan church where it had been regularly held before 2020.

One Hilbert College Student Suggests that the location of the Graduation could’ve been better.

“There are better locations even on Campus where we could’ve had the Graduation, such as Swan Auditorium.” the student, who asked not to be named, said. “I get that space is a big issue and we have a larger graduating class than usual, but I think we could’ve found a more professional looking location.”

Hilbert College Students were also concerned with how the ticket amount provided will affect how they can accommodate their families.

“Not everyone comes from a small three person family” said another graduating senior who asked not to be named. “I come from a particularly large family with multiple important people in my life, so figuring out who I am going to bring to my graduation is going to be hard for me.”

This disappointing news fueled graduating seniors to create a petition for more tickets. After the petition gained more and more attention, decisions on behalf of the school had to be made.

On Friday, March 18th, emails went out to students with great news. Graduating Seniors will now be given 4 tickets.

Hilbert Softball Prepares for Season

The Hilbert College women’s softball team is getting ready to kick off their season with a week full of games.

The Lady Hawks are set to play games Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Saturday this week. The softball team will be hosting their first home game on the FSSJ field this Tuesday against Elmira College.

The softball team has been waiting years to have the chance to have home games in their backyard. Last year Gowanda High School allowed the team to host their home games.

Sophomore Adriana Vara said playing on the new fields was exciting.

“It is exciting to be able to have more fans at our games since we are on campus and have close support,” Vara said.

The team is looking forward to performing in front of their peers and hoping for a big turnout. Make sure to check out the FSSJ field at 3 pm and 5 pm to watch the Lady Hawks take on Elmira.

Senior Psychology Students Begin Data Collection

Hilbert senior psychology students have begun collecting data for their senior capstone studies.

Five senior students spent last fall researching topics of their interest to use to run their own study this spring. Assistant Professor of the psychology department, Dr. Caitlin Szalkowski is overseeing the students’ studies.

“Students get to understand what life as a researcher looks like in the field of psychology” Dr. Szalkowski said when asked about the benefits of senior psychology students completing their own study.

“Students also gain skills like organization, time management, and problem solving, that are needed in all professions” said Szalkowski.

Data collection for these studies has started and will continue through April 13th, 2022. If you wish to participate in any of the five studies, please contact Dr. Szalkowski at CSzalkowski@hilbert.edu.

St. Joe’s Will No Longer Offer Single Dorm Rooms

Residence Life recently announced that they will not be offering single rooms in the St. Joe’s dorm building, starting in the fall.

This change in the dorm room set-up is mainly due to the new addition of sports teams, including football, women’s ice hockey, and track and field. The idea with this is to increase availability with dorm space, to allow the incoming freshman and transfer students to live on campus and not have to worry about housing issues in the upcoming semester, Grace Adams, Interim Director of Residence Life, said.

Adams mentioned that this has not been the only reason for change in the housing selection process in recent years.

“The pandemic and amount of space was the impact changing how housing selection has been conducted the last two years,” she said. “The decision to not offer singles at housing selection was in anticipation that we may have a higher number than normal of incoming students and will need the potential for full occupancy between all buildings”.

St. Joe’s dorm rooms are already quite small, and students who have their own room enjoy having their own space to themselves.

“There are always growing pains with change,” Adams said. “Our hope is to thoroughly train our staff in the fall to be prepared for the possibility of increased tension or mental health concerns. While St. Joseph Hall rooms are not as big or as new as Trinity Hall, they are still larger than a handful of options at other schools in Western New York. St. Joseph Hall is on our list to make improvements and part of doing that is getting feedback from students who live there for what would be most beneficial.”

Residence Life is allowing students to join a waitlist, and depending on availability, may be permitted to reside in their own space, but there is no guarantee. The waitlist determination is based on student status, as well as credit hours achieved by the next semester, Adams said.

The Resident Assistants (RA’s) in each of the dorm buildings will continue to reside in their own space, as ‘it is important for their role and their mental health’.

Adams also mentioned that there have been concerns about not offering singles for the next academic year and are willing to take feedback under consideration for future processes and will make adjustments as needed.

“We hope to take the student insight and perspective to apply positive change and improvements over the next few years”.