Professor Gail Lowney Alofsin has spent her career helping students at URI, as well as donating book profits to developing nations abroad. Photo contributed by Gail Lowney Alofsin.
With over 20 years of experience as an adjunct professor at the University of Rhode Island, Gail Lowney Alofsin is a symbol of initiative and positivity for both the local and global community.
Alofsin has been a “people person” since the age of seven, participating in local service through her elementary school and with her Girl Scouts troop. The concept of helping others made Alofsin envision a boundless future. From then on, she has committed herself to an enthusiastic career which epitomizes the importance of a selfless mindset.
While studying at Tufts University, Alofsin accompanied her father on his annual mission to Haiti and assisted in his orthodontic practices. On her morning runs, Alofsin would see families competing for food against neighbors and starving animals. She said being exposed to these sights of desperation changed her entire outlook on life. It was during this time when she knew her outreach was necessary for the sake of others.
Alofsin’s ardor for public service flourished, motioning her to speak out to the public. Before arriving at URI, she returned to Tufts for her senior year and began teaching a course on developing nations. In 1994, Alofsin began hiring interns from URI with the Newport Restaurant Group, formerly known as Newport Harbor Corporation. She received a call five years later that ignited her involvement at URI.
“It was January of 1999 when I received a call from Dr. Tony Silvia,” Alofsin said. “It was one of those life changing moments. I was asked to teach at the University of Rhode Island.”
Alofsin taught a number of journalism courses in her first few years at the University before pioneering the development of a public relations curriculum. Working closely with former Harrington School of Communication and Media Studies Director Adam Roth and film professor Tom Zorabedian, the realm of communications at URI began to thrive with Alofsin’s support. She pitched the idea of a course which gives students opportunities to travel and gain hands on experience while navigating possible careers. Now, this pitch has turned into reality, producing ITR 300: Career Planning Concepts and Skills.
Fourteen students per semester are accepted into this course, travelling to either New York City or Boston to delve into the working world under Alofsin’s guidance.
“We network with URI alum, some of my Tufts colleagues and many clients,” she said. “We are in and out of corporations all day, even working lunches. We’ve visited companies like Google, Hulu, Thomson Reuters, CNN and more.”
This year’s COVID-19 pandemic has been no match for Alofsin’s resiliency. While traveling is restricted this year, this three-credit course is still taking place online and has been a huge success. The pivot to teach via Zoom has enabled Alofsin to bring in dozens of professionals who help the class in many different focus areas, such as marketing, banking and public relations. Some of the most notable guests who have worked with ITR 300 students are Adam Weiner, Sammi Vogel and other members of the Harrington Board.
Over the years, URI has enriched Alofsin’s fondness of teaching, just as Alofsin has done for the community.
“People talk about their happy place, and my happy place is being with the students in the classroom or the students in the audience when I am speaking in class or at conferences,” Alofsin said. “I love it, and here’s why: not only are you sharing your insight and experiences, but you are learning so much. The teacher is also the student.”
According to Dr. Dean Libutti, Vice Provost for Enrollment Management, Alofsin makes the classroom a happy place for her students, too.
Libutti has worked closely with Alofsin in the execution of ITR 300. He believes that even amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, students are thrilled to be a part of the course, especially considering the lively atmosphere brought by Alofsin.
“I appreciate the amount of creativity, hard work and dedication she gives to the students in connecting them with really fantastic friends of the University who are looking to help the next generation,” he said.
Alofsin’s list of accomplishments expands beyond her work with URI. For over 30 years, she has worked with the Newport Restaurant Group, facilitating over 2,000 events including concerns, weddings and festivals. Her work has caught the attention of corporate associations like Pepsi and Ram Trucks who have sponsored some of her largest events, such as the X Games.
In 2014, Alofsin became a published author, releasing her book “Your Someday is NOW – What are YOU Waiting For?” One hundred percent of her book sales have benefited nonprofit organizations such as the Haitian Health Foundation and the Newport Tennis Hall of Fame. The book started as a gift for her son, yet soon transformed into a $42,000 endowment to such global nonprofits. Alofsin uses her book in ITR 300 as a supplemental text.
“The book focuses on communication, time management, leadership, goal setting, and the best part is that at the end of every chapter is advice from all of my clients,” Alofsin said.
Recently, Alofsin has been delivering a plethora of motivational speeches via Zoom which are typically booked in person for business including Southwest Airlines and Snapple. Her most popular speech, “Eat A Frog For Breakfast,” focuses on practicing acute time management and the importance of completing life’s most difficult tasks early in the day. Alofsin offers a variety of speeches which are integrated into her teaching practices at URI.
Libutti believes that Alofsin’s success is inherited by the students which she teaches.
“Gail just couldn’t be kinder, always willing to give back, always willing to champion our students at the University in such an amazing way,” Libutti said. “Her style is so affirming, positive, and hopeful which I think is infectious and will help students believe in themselves.”
Whether you are taking her ITR 300 class, reading her gripping book or attending one of her various motivational speeches, Alofsin has an undoubtable way of inspiring all who surround her. Her overarching goal is to instill hard work and excitement in the lives of students and professionals.
“What I want my students to learn in the end is to live every heartbeat,” said Alofsin. “To really, really appreciate your jobs and your future. That is the most important concept.”