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nu ward ostapenko


The Rose Bente Lee Ostapenko Center for Race, Equality, and Mission establishes critical interdependencies both on and off campus, working together with faculty and students across colleges and disciplines of study to leverage change in the academy and across sectors of education, business, government and the community. As such, the Center serves as a resource to the community on issues of racial equity.

Niagara University's Ostapenko Center is named in honor of Rose Bente Lee Ostapenko, a native of Germany who immigrated to the United States in the 1930s before becoming a successful entrepreneur and philanthropist. Utilizing her talents as a clothing designer, Ostapenko opened The Sewing Shop in Washington, D.C., the precursor to The House of Fine Fabrics, a 17-store corporation. She sold the fabric store chain in 1978 to Fabri-Center of America.

The Center also celebrates the living memory of St. Justin de Jacobis, a Vincentian priest and a loyal son of St. Vincent de Paul who ministered in Ethiopia and is considered an apostle to Africa.

Advisory Board

The Rose Bente Lee Ostapenko Center is led by Dr. Rolanda L. Ward. Dr. Ward earned her doctorate in social work and sociology from Boston University. She is a macro trained social worker. She has been the lead investigator or research associate on a number of studies focusing on society's most vulnerable, under-served and proven-risk populations. These populations include foster care youths, recent parolees, child welfare workers, and healthcare providers for those with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Her current research project, Niagara University Public School Collaborative (NUPSC) examines the role of student leaders in school reform at the building level, specifically targeting attendance.

Alongside Dr. Ward, interns from various disciplines create the advisory board. The advisory board includes members of the Research team, Community Development, Curriculum Development and communications. Each team focuses on specifics facets for the betterment of the surrounding communities and within. 

Current Projects:

  • Youth Conference on Race and Equality
  • University, Community and Government Partnerships for Race and Equality