Frank M. Sorrentino, Ph.D.: Informing Students About Politics and Governance
By Lois Elfman
Despite not being in the classroom, Dr. Frank M. Sorrentino has been quite busy over the past few months. His latest book, Presidential Power and the American Political System, has garnered a lot of attention and made him a sought after guest on radio talk shows. He is called upon to give his analysis of American politics, international politics, constitutional law, bureaucracy and the powers of bureaucracy
Sorrentino brought those insights into St. Francis College classrooms for 42 years, teaching political science, economics and history. The child of Italian immigrants, he felt a connection with the students and sought to reflect the college’s mission of service and hospitality.
He’s currently working on his ninth book, staying in touch with SFC alumni and preparing to return to in-person lectures when those become possible. Sorrentino is open to teaching a course when there is a return to the classroom, noting the vibrant exchange with students was always a pleasure.
For now, people can stay up-to-date with him on his website, drfrankmsorrentino.com.
Are you disappointed not to be teaching in this election year?
FS: One of the things I would always say is that within the course of the semester there’d be some fantastic, some interesting, some heartwarming and some frightening events. That was the beauty of teaching political science. It was always enjoyable to be able to analyze events as they were occurring and be able to test the theories that we discussed.
What has it been like opening the eyes of undergraduates to the political system, the workings of our country and some of the nuances of governance?
FS: That was always the purpose and the mission that I had set forth. When I was able to see so many of the graduates of St. Francis College that I had the privilege of teaching be very successful, it gave me great satisfaction. Even when I would see in the classroom an immediate recognition that they understood the world around them perhaps a little bit better or have a different perspective, you feel that special moment where people are getting what you’re trying to do.
When you’re doing it and people are in a process of learning and you’re going the back and forth, then people are having a good time. I certainly was having the best of times.
How has St. Francis College’s Franciscan mission impacted your teaching during your time at the college?
FS: The thing that mattered most to me was many of the Franciscan brothers that I had the pleasure to encounter. What I always found was there was a generosity of spirit, a kindness and that helped cement or make concrete some of the thinking behind the mission of St. Francis and of St. Francis College.
This is a school built for immigrants and working class people.
FS: That was a great connection and I felt at home almost immediately. I could see reflections of myself, my family and my neighbors in the students. I could understand students on a guttural, instinctual level. That helped me create the kind of learning experiences that they could relate to by using analogies and scenarios.
Is there a moment, class or event that especially stands out for you?
FS: It was a feeling. When I came to St. Francis I immediately felt at home. I could understand the students very easily. I understood the struggles that they were engaged in. I understood their dreams. I understood how they interacted with each other and how they interacted with me.
What ongoing relationships have you sustained with St. Francis alumni who you’ve taught and mentored over the years?
FS: That’s one of the great advantages of not only teaching at St. Francis, but teaching for so long at one institution. I get emails every day. I go out to lunch. I go out to dinner. There are events people have and they invite me. It’s really sustaining when so many people care to call you or care to invite you out to eat, to their homes. I continue to advise a large number of students about their careers, about graduate school and sometimes things in basic life. It’s an ongoing relationship. It continues and it’s thriving at the moment.
Do you have any message you want to share with the St. Francis community regarding the ongoing challenges due to COVID-19?
FS: I think the challenges are universal. You shouldn’t be looking at impediments. You should be looking at solutions. Life gives you many opportunities. You’re born with skills, a mind and an ability to solve problems. Don’t let the obstacles overwhelm you.