Ricardo René Larémont, a professor of political science and sociology in Harpur College, recently testified before Congress regarding Muslim extremist groups in northern Africa. He discussed the potential threat posed by groups called Boko Haram, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and Al Shabab.
"What I told the committee is that military options are not necessarily the most important," Larémont said. "When you look at northern Nigeria, where Boko Haram is trying to grow, you have a society in which about 20-25 percent of the women are educated. You have high levels of fertility among women. And when you combine high fertility with low literacy, you have a recipe for social, economic and political disaster. Also, you do not have a U.S. diplomatic or developmental presence on the ground whatsoever, so you do not have any idea about what is going on."
When Larémont was invited to testify, he was on his way to a conference in Malta organized by the European Union. He had about a week to prepare his Nov. 30 remarks for the House Committee on Homeland Security Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence. The subcommittee works to ascertain present and future trends that may affect the security of the United States.
"Frankly, I was like a child in a candy store," said Larémont, who had never testified before Congress. "I was simply amazed by the grandeur of the place. ... It's just physically impressive."
Larémont, a Carnegie Corporation Scholar on Islam who travels the world for his research, said he found the members of the subcommittee quite knowledgeable. "They were prepared," he said. "The chair of the committee is a former U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, Congressman Patrick Meehan. The ranking Democratic member is Congresswoman Jackie Speier from California. They were both very well informed."
He was given just five minutes to read his remarks before members of the subcommittee posed questions.
Essentially, he said, the U.S. concern is that Islamist extremists are gathering strength in the Sahel, a region between the Sahara and tropical Africa. The committee wanted to understand the degree to which these groups are "aspirational" vs. "operational" in nature.
Larémont, who has written extensively about Islam, conflict resolution and democratization in Africa, offered a brief history of three jihadist groups and his views on their possible plans in the wake of the Arab Spring uprisings. He expects that Boko Haram, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and Al Shabab will attempt to expand their operations now that Muammar Qaddafi's regime no longer exists. Larémont said that even though Qaddafi was unpredictable in many ways, he played an important role in stabilizing the countries of the Sahel. The security vacuum created by Qaddafi's ouster may offer an opportunity for jihadist groups to work together to destabilize several states in West Africa, Larémont told the subcommittee.
"The U.S. budget is essentially broken, so we obviously have to take care of this home front," he said afterward. "But even while we focus on this home front, we have to realize that there are things happening overseas that may affect our security. The urgent task is to remain focused on threats developing overseas while at the same time finding a way to jump start this economy. Until that's done, we won't get security here or security overseas."
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MBA Capstone Case Competition
By Steve Seepersaud
It's not easy to find holes in a business that's performing well. However, that was the challenge facing MBA students during their recent capstone case competition.
Student teams had to choose a retail chain and play the role of consultants making recommendations to the company's board of directors. On Dec. 9, the nine teams made presentations to a panel of judges, who selected three finalists.
The winning team – with members Michael Madarasz, Daniel Schnitzler, Morgan Smith, Geoffrey Thill and Lu Xia – recommended that big-box retailer Target join forces with discount grocer Aldi on an expansion into France.
"The major retailers in France are focused on price," Madarasz says. "We feel going at this from a quality perspective is the right approach. French consumers are very quality-conscious."
Marc Budofsky, Ryan McGarity, Mike Monteverde and Arjun Reddy recommended that Office Depot scale back its U.S. operations, in part based on the conclusion that it's a lost cause to compete with low-price retailers such as Walmart and Staples. They said emerging markets like Brazil, China, India and Russia offered much more promise for future growth.
"The decline in U.S. employment and the rise of office vacancy rates has led to lower consumer spending and affected the bottom line," says Monteverde. "The company has depended too much on certain regions, like California and Florida. The unemployment rates are especially high in those states."
Arijit Auddy, Aubrey Bertin, Steven Nowicki, Christopher White and Yang Yang said electronics retailer Best Buy, despite the death of longtime rival Circuit City, isn't exactly without its challenges. Like Office Depot, Best Buy also has trouble competing against low-cost leaders. The team recommended shrinking the size of stores and reconfiguring merchandise so customers would have to walk further into a store to see the items they need. The team also said Best Buy should focus on salesperson expertise.
"It's important to have an extremely knowledgeable sales force," Nowicki says. "This can help turn a customer from someone who would have bought something into a customer who does buy something."
Judges were: E. Kay Adams '75, executive for Lockheed Martin in Owego; Ferris Akel '59, president of Giant Markets in Binghamton; Daniel Babcock, founder and CEO of Modern Marketing Concepts in Kirkwood; Jon Layish '91, owner and founder of Red Barn Computers in Binghamton, Carl Ernstrom '61, retired insurance executive; and Michael Zuckerman, partner at the Vestal law firm Levene Gouldin & Thompson, LLP.
Industrial engineer puts simulations to work
By Rachel Coker
Sarah Lam's research in discrete event systems simulation involves modeling the flow of products and product components through factories and other areas of an enterprise system. She has partnered with high-tech manufacturers including IBM and Endicott Interconnect Technologies as well as with healthcare-oriented firms such as Innovation Associates.
When Lam and her students build a model of a production line or an entire system, they're able to see where there are bottlenecks and idle resources and even where there are activities that aren't adding value. Such simulations often lead to a company relocating materials or reallocating operators to reduce travel time or material-handling time as well as to new designs for product flow and facility layout. "Activities that don't add value should be eliminated," she says. "Inventory should be minimized. We want things to move smoothly and quickly through the system."
This kind of simulation is especially good for exploring what-if scenarios, says Lam, associate professor of systems science and industrial engineering at Binghamton. "Building an imitation of how a system and its components work so you can actually see things moving adds depth to the planning stage," she notes. "That lets you test out an idea and see if you get the benefits you expected. You see what isn't going to work and how deadlines will be affected. Then you can make changes in the simulation world to see if you can get better results."
Lam's simulations allow her to compress time, too. Once a model has been built, using time studies and historical data as well as the relevant physical details, she can simulate how a system will work over the course of a year in just minutes. "Simulation results not only can assist with planning but also often can tell us something new," she says. "We can see results faster."
Visuals, even a simple 2D model, can make a huge difference and are increasingly common in the software Lam and her students use. In fact, newer software packages often include 3D modeling. Such simulations help people visualize the entire system and focus on what's moving, whether it's patients moving through a hospital's emergency room or a printed circuit board moving through an electronics manufacturing line. "Companies like to see animation," Lam says. "They say, 'Show me how it runs.' Animation is a big deal for communicating."
She and her students can create simulations in as little as a couple of weeks or, for more complex models, in as much as several months. A typical project takes two to nine months.
"It allows companies to see what they're not doing so well and where they can improve," she says. "The bottom line is important. We provide the tools to help them get there."
Lam's primary motivation is in seeing a system work more smoothly. "As industrial engineers, we don't make things, but we try to improve on how things are done," she says. "Seeing an improvement is gratifying. We have seen significant improvement in return on investment. That's very important. That's one of the ways we can maintain the research relationship year after year."
Decker graduate receives regional honor
From the Capital Chapter of the Nurse Practitioner Association
Patricia K. Reed '92, of Saratoga Springs, N.Y., was honored as the 2011 Nurse Practitioner of the Year by the Capital Chapter of the Nurse Practitioner Association (NPA).
She received this award for excellence in service to the chapter and community education on universal healthcare. She has been an active member of the NPA since 1990, and served as a key volunteer on the Practice Issues Committee. She developed and implemented a website for the Capital Chapter, NPA and serves as its coordinator.
She completed a post-master's program at Binghamton specializing in gerontology. She has experience in clinical practice, hospital administration, nursing education, home care and primary care.
Reed worked as a nurse practitioner at Stratton VAMC in the home-based and community primary care programs. She received the Secretary's Hands and Heart Award from the Department of Veterans Affairs, which recognizes excellence and care in practice. She also was vice president and executive director for nursing at Albany Medical Center and implemented the AMC/Regents College Project L.E.A.R.N.- BSN program. This was the only non-traditional BSN education program for working nurses in New York.
She has been a lecturer, instructor and presenter for multiple professional practices and health topics for healthcare professionals, community emergency responders and the public. She has practiced in Michigan, New York City and New Jersey.
Reed is a community activist for social justice issues and committed to Universal Health Care-Single Payer as the solution to the health care crisis. She received the Carrie Chapman Catt Award for outstanding service to the League of Women Voters in Saratoga County.
CCPA professor to lead national public affairs organization
From Staff Reports
Nadia Rubaii is doing her part to shape and improve public service education in her new role as 2011-12 president of the National Association of Schools of Public Affairs and Administration (NASPAA).
"It's exciting and really quite humbling," said Rubaii, an associate professor in the Department of Public Administration. "Some of the people who have been past NASPAA presidents are prominent individuals in our field who I put on a pedestal. In that sense, it's a little daunting to be in the same position as people you hold in very high regard."
The National Association of Schools of Public Affairs and Administration is an international membership organization of programs in public administration, public policy and public affairs. Its 280 members confer more than 10,000 master's degrees annually. NASPAA's mission is to ensure excellence in public service education and promote the ideal of public service. It also serves as the accrediting body for master's programs in public affairs. More than half of its member programs are accredited.
"This is an association that allows for administrators in programs to communicate across their institutions and to look at the bigger picture of what's in the best interests of the students in the programs, as well as employers," Rubaii said.
Rubaii, who began her year-long term in late October, previously served on NASPAA's Executive Council and chaired the Commission on Peer Review and Accreditation.
"Nadai has been a leader in the public affairs education community for almost 15 years," NASPAA Executive Director Laurel McFarland said. "We are honored to have someone with her experience and commitment to educating the next generation of public sector professionals, and to social equity, as our president."
College of Community and Public Affairs Founding Dean Patricia Ingraham served as NASPAA president in 1995-96.
The position carries a great amount of time and subject commitment. Besides teaching her regular classes, Rubaii conducts conference calls with the association's executive committee and speaks with McFarland by phone at least two to three times per week. Rubaii also uses Skype to oversee several task forces and works to draft various proposals.
"This is when you have the opportunity to really shape the agenda and priorities for the association," she said. "I don't want this to be a year of being a place-holder. I want to go out on a limb and say what we need to be doing. I'm only going to have one opportunity to make a mark on what the association does."
One priority is emphasizing NASPAA's commitment to diversity and social equity.
"Like many professions, we struggle to have more people of color in faculty positions or training to become faculty members in public affairs," she said. "We also need to have more people of color who are advancing through public service positions. In order to do that, we need to invest the resources of the association to support those efforts."
Another priority is an examination of whether the association's name is outdated, as the organization is no longer limited to just U.S.-based schools.
"We now have international members and international programs seeking accreditation," she said. "NASPAA as a stand-alone acronym does have recognition and carries some clout, so we don't want to just scrap that and start over as something brand new. So we are exploring some options."
Other priorities include working to increase the value of the MPA and the pursuit of more collaborations across programs and associations, Rubaii said.
Rubaii's position also will prove beneficial to Binghamton University, she said.
"At a minimum, this will increase the profile of Binghamton University," she said. "Everything I do as NASPAA president has my name and affiliation with Binghamton on it. It will get people talking about what we're doing. We have a great program here and I think having me in this position will be helpful in making people more interested in sending students here or applying for faculty positions."
Rubaii also believes that the position – and the travel that goes with it – will increase the opportunities for international partnerships.
"It's something we have made a commitment to strengthening in this program," said Rubaii, pointing to CCPA Associate Professor Thomas Sinclair's partnership with Shenzhen University in China. "As a department, we've said that we want to do more so our students have the opportunity to be exposed to students in other countries and look at issues from different perspectives."
When her term ends next year, Rubaii will remain on NASPAA's executive committee as immediate past president.
"It's different than the work we get into the routine of doing as a faculty member or department administrator," she said. "It's nice to step back, look at the big picture and think that I could have a big influence on the entire profession."
School gets new name
By Katie Ellis
Following an all-school vote to ratify a change in the school’s by-laws, Binghamton University's School of Education has been renamed the Graduate School of Education (GSE). According to Dean S. G. Grant, several factors prompted the change.
"The addition of the word 'graduate' to our name more accurately reflects our mission — working with graduate students at the master's and doctoral levels to become educators who contribute to the field as teachers, administrators, scholars and policy makers," he said. "In the long run, this will give us a distinction among top-notch graduate schools in the country and will be a mark among our graduates who will trumpet that they went to a graduate school of education.
The School of Education was founded in 2006 when Binghamton's School of Education and Human Development was separated into two schools − the College of Community and Public Affairs is the other.
"The change in name to the Graduate School of Education at Binghamton University supports and extends the excellent work for which the school is known," Grant explained.
"The time is right for this name change to the Graduate School of Education," said President Emeritus C. Peter Magrath. "We do a marvelous job of educating our undergraduate students in their disciplines, but this change will draw attention to our Graduate School of Education’s exceptional track record of developing teachers and administrators at the graduate level who can work with students from birth through grade 12 – teachers who understand how to get the best out of students in the classroom."
"This change also puts our school more firmly in the company of other outstanding schools of education, all of which are graduate-only," Grant added. "Recognizing that we are the Graduate School of Education will help Binghamton continue to recruit high-quality students and faculty, as well as give our school more visibility locally, statewide, nationally and internationally."