2008 Nassau BOCES Education Partner Award Honoree

Wendy J. Eisner, Ph.D.

Wendy J. Eisner, Ph.D.

Project Coordinator
The Achilles Project Nassau Community College

Wendy Eisner was seven years old when she heard President John F. Kennedy ask the now-famous question: “What can you do for your country?” She was slightly older when she heard his brother Robert F. Kennedy say, “Some people see things as they are and ask why. I see things that never were and ask why not.” Those special moments helped to frame her future.

A graduate of Wellesley College with a bachelor’s degree in philosophy, of Columbia University with a master’s degree in anthropology, and of Hunter College with a doctoral degree in psychology, Eisner has spent the past 20 years “doing” for her country and making changes in education where she sees they’re needed.

A professor of psychology at Nassau Community College, Eisner sees opportunities at every turn and successfully turns those opportunities into added value for her students. The results of her unwavering dedication to helping others can be seen in the success of The Achilles Project, a college-level program designed to address students’ academic and psychosocial needs.

Inspiration for the Achilles Project came from Eisner’s personal experiences as the parent of a “twice-exceptional” child, an individual who shows high potential with learning challenges. “Through the years, a team of dedicated and passionate teachers and support staff collaborated with my son and me to provide the tools needed to celebrate his strengths while overcoming his differences,” she said. “I realized that such a collaborative program did not exist at the college level, so I decided to create one.”

That’s where the partnership with Nassau BOCES began. Students who attend Nassau BOCES Alternative Learning program (ALP) — a high school for those who are gifted, and have been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders and/or have neurobiological disorders — were some of the first candidates for The Achilles Project. These students, according to Eisner, are also twice-exceptional, and show interesting individual patterns of strengths and weaknesses.

What makes the program special is its holistic and strength-based approach to helping students adapt to college life and achieve independence.