Commencement 2014 profile: Jake, Jacque, Jenna Williams
By Eric Coker
Jacque Williams had a look of disbelief on her face when siblings Jake and Jenna offered their first word to describe her: organized.
"That's the best you've got, guys?" Jacque said with a laugh.
"We're getting there," Jenna replied. "We're just going to keep it simple for now."
The Williams triplets, who graduated last month from Harpur College, used words such as "ambitious," "hard-working," "dedicated" and "helpful" to describe each other. They are high-spirited siblings who are as likely to playfully give each other grief as they are to praise each other.
"This is a school where you can develop your own identity," Jenna said with a rapid-fire delivery. "We were able to have our own life with that distance and separation in between. In high school, a lot of people would just refer to us as 'the triplets.' Here, we didn't have that. Some people didn't realize I had two siblings on campus."
"Whoa! Take a breath!" Jake advised.
"Breathe!" Jacque added.
The siblings are 22 years old and from White Plains, N.Y. Jake is a minute older than Jacque. ("He takes advantage of it, too," Jenna said. 'Special privileges," Jake responded.) Jacque is a minute older than Jenna.
The Williams' parents left the college decision up to each of them.
"Being triplets, we had to make our college experience affordable," Jenna said. "We looked at other schools and got into other schools. It came down to price and the fact that Binghamton has a great reputation: the Ivy League of SUNY. That's why we applied to Binghamton."
The decision to attend Binghamton was made separately by each sibling, Jake said.
"It wasn't something that we decided together," he said. "We all intended to go to different schools and we all separately decided to come here."
"The difference at Binghamton University was the people," Jacque said. "I felt like they were down-to-earth and outgoing. The campus culture was something I valued."
And the family's reaction to the news?
"Crying with happiness!" Jacque said.
"I can't even imagine what commencement would be like if we were at different schools," Jake said. "It was hard enough coordinating going home for breaks and moving in and out (each year)."
Jake added that the only disadvantage to being triplets is "waiting for Jenna to get ready to leave for break."
"Let me tell you: I was ready this spring break," Jenna responded. "I was early and I was ready first!"
"That does not cancel out the other times," Jacque said.
At Binghamton, Jake majors in economics; Jenna majors in psychology, while Jacque is a double-major in economics and Spanish. Jake and Jacque usually saw each other daily in economics classes. The two said they saw Jenna a couple of times per week and they all would text a few times per day.
"Our parents taught us the value of being siblings," Jenna said. "For me, family is the priority – the No. 1. Spending time with them or taking care of them is on the top of my priority list."
Outside of class, Jacque and Jenna work as resident assistants – Jacque in CIW and Jenna in Newing. Jenna also served as head coach for the swim club and as a public speaking consultant. Jacque was the president of the swim club and editor-in-chief of Her Campus.
Jake, meanwhile, has already lined up a job at digitasLBi, a global marketing and technology agency in New York City.
After graduation, Jenna plans to pursue a graduate degree in industrial organizational psychology. Jacque is debating between a public-relations position in New York City and a summer internship in Spain.
One person who knows the siblings is Jennifer Wegmann, a faculty member in the Department of Health and Wellness Studies. Wegmann and her classes helped the triplets develop their identities and confidence, Jenna said.
"I had each of them in at least one of the classes I teach," Wegmann said, "They are each wonderful in their own unique ways. Although different in many ways, Jenna, Jacque and Jake are motivated, driven and passionate young adults. I am thankful I had an opportunity to get to know them as they have enriched both my classroom and my life."
Each of the siblings offered something they believe is essential for achieving success. For Jacque, it's persistence and positive thinking.
"Negativity never comes to mind," she said. "I'm an optimist. And I look to Jake and Jenna whenever I've tried to get through the hard moments."
"We've always been well balanced," Jake said. "Our parents made that a part of our lives. Be hard-working in school, but be social, too. Connect with people outside of your family. Be active and athletic. I don't think you want to put all of your eggs in one basket."
"It's about having an innate ambition," Jenna said. "You can have it – but do you realize that you actually have that potential? Sometimes people say: 'I can't do this; I can't do that.' Yes, you can. If you take your skill and your drive, you can make things work."
As they prepare for their first extended time away from each other, the siblings stressed how friends and professors have defined their Binghamton experience.
"I'm walking away thankful that I have a job," Jake said. "But the most important thing is that I'm walking away with so many good friends. I've met the most accepting, wonderful people here. I don't know if I would've made the same group of friends if I went to another school."
"I feel like I'm leaving Binghamton University with the power to create a legacy and the power to make a difference no matter where I am," Jenna said. "The people here care about you. They want me to go after my endeavors. They want me to feel that passion. I've learned so much from them. They empower you to leave that legacy and that is crucial. That's what support is all about."
Commencement 2014 profile: Peter Fiduccia
By Miranda Langrehr
Although his time in the MBA program has come to a close, Peter Fiduccia isn't quite ready to conclude his academic career. He credits the School of Management with fueling his love of learning. The Orange County, N.Y., native plans to enter a management doctoral program in fall 2015, and will bring with him a varied set of skills and experiences collected during two years in SOM.
Fiduccia, who earned his undergraduate degree at Hartwick College, was a graduate assistant to Associate Dean George Bobinski and to Alesia Wheeler-Wade, assistant director of Binghamton's MBA and MS programs.
"Peter was a very strong team member who thrived on challenging assignments," Bobinski said.
Fiduccia assisted with student registration, met with prospective applicants to the MBA program, mentored first-year MBA students and helped run information sessions. As part of his marketing efforts for the school, he produced promotional videos that appear on the SOM website.
"It was a wonderful opportunity to see behind the scenes – into the admission process – how SOM strives to look for and admit top-quality candidates on the MBA side and MS side as well," he said.
During the past academic year, Fiduccia was also vice president of the Graduate Student Organization, playing a leadership role in beginning to rebuild the organization's constitution and streamlining day-to-day processes to make the group more professional and accessible to all students.
"It has been a great experience that allowed me to branch out beyond SOM, start making great connections with other schools, and really work to create a sense of unity and community around campus. I've been really fortunate to have a part in it," he said.
Fiduccia said Professor Surinder Kahai's e-business course was a standout experience in his graduate school career. Kahai taught the class how to use electronic systems to increase marketability and profitability while emphasizing the importance of human connection and emotional outreach.
"Often people view business as cut and dry, but it's very much a social science, a human-based experience, as much as any other kind of study," Fiduccia said. "It's because the majority of our work deals with numbers, data or figures that our responsibility to create and maintain these strong emotional connections with our peers, friends and families is that much more meaningful and our responsibility is that much greater."
Fiduccia said that small class sizes and responsive faculty positively shaped his SOM experience. He was pleased by the level of personal attention afforded to him by faculty, administrators and staff.
"Anybody can teach you coursework. It's how you craft an experience and how you engage the students that creates long-lasting connections benefitting alumni and future students coming into the program, and I feel that Binghamton has done a surprisingly good job at making those connections happen from day one."
Commencement 2014 profile: Paul Watrobski
By Eric Coker
Paul Watrobski traces his love of engineering to observing a trapped balloon as a 5-year-old.
"My little sister let go of a helium balloon and it went up into a skylight at our house," Watrobski said. "She was upset about it and didn't know how to get it down. My dad was at work, but I had an idea. I told my mom to get the central vacuum and floor attachment. She reached up with it and pulled the string and balloon down. At 5, I was able to come up with that idea."
As a first-grader, young Paul started playing the violin.
"Halfway through that year, my teacher told me that I had big hands and I should switch to a larger instrument," he said. "So I started playing the cello and have not looked back since."
Engineering and music have provided the foundation for Watrobski's success at Binghamton University. The 22-year-old graduated in May with a degree in electrical and computer engineering. He also recently delivered his senior cello recital and performed as part of the University Symphony Orchestra.
Watrobski, who is from Penfield (near Rochester, N.Y.), spent the summer of 2012 at the University of Oakland in Michigan as part of the National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates program (NSF REU). In the summer of 2013, he was chosen as an undergraduate research fellow at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in Maryland. NIST is a federal agency that works with industry to advance measurement science, standards and technology.
At NIST, Watrobski studied dynamic spectrum access or the better use of the radio-frequency spectrum.
"We are running out of frequencies to allocate," he said. "We're not using them efficiently. So we're looking to be able to determine when they are being used and not being used, so we can communicate over those gaps."
The NIST research served as Watrobski's senior project this year. He plans to return to NIST this summer before pursuing his master's degree in electrical and computer engineering at Binghamton University.
On campus, Watrobski helped organize TEDx-type engineering talks, in which Watson faculty members such as Ron Miles, Scott Craver and Guy German discuss their research.
"This was a way for me to get students to see the exciting research that professors are doing and to see if students could get involved more with their departments," Watrobski said.
Watrobski also spends 10 hours a week working as the lead Watson peer advisor. Besides overseeing 10 other peers, Watrobski offers advice and helps students plan for courses and understand degree requirements.
"It's about guiding them toward making the best choices that will affect them positively for their education here," he said.
Sharon Santobucco, associate director of Watson Advising, praised Watrobski's contributions to the advising office.
"Paul is nothing short of amazing and will continue to amaze me long after he graduates," she said. "He is one of the kindest, multi-talented and well-rounded engineering students I have ever known. He has a gentle, quiet leadership style that made him very accessible to students and fellow peers."
Watrobski's leadership style has also found a home in Mountainview, where he is spending his first year as a resident assistant.
"It's another opportunity for me to help students," he said. "But instead of just helping them academically, it lets me help them with personal issues. I've been here for years and feel like I've done a lot around campus. I can help students decide what they want to do or to just step out of their comfort zone."
Music, meanwhile, provides Watrobski an outlet and a way to unwind.
"It allows me to step back from the engineering and not worry about any issues I may have with my projects," he said. "It lets me escape into a different world for an hour at a time or however long I am rehearsing."
While Watrobski has played with the University Symphony Orchestra, in trios and quartets, and in off-campus shows at places such as No. 5 Restaurant in Binghamton, his musical ability is not limited to cello. He played the bass in the University Jazz Ensemble during his first semesters at Binghamton and also performs on the guitar and ukulele.
Watrobski would someday like to earn his doctorate and teach in academia. But first, he said, he needs industry experience.
"I want that real-world experience that I can share with any students I would have," he said.
Watrobski said he is thankful for all that he has been able to accomplish at Binghamton University.
"I've learned who I am and what I want to be," he said. "I want to help people – and that's something I learned from Binghamton University. All of the opportunities to help people on and off campus have given me a sense of who I am. I've also learned that it's never 'all or nothing.' I can do a mix of things while learning my limits."
Commencement 2014 profile: Edwin Torres
By Eric Coker
Edwin Torres admitted that he did not know anything about Binghamton University when he attended high school in New York City. Not even where Binghamton was located.
But when Torres saw a booklet that listed Binghamton University as the top SUNY school, he told his guidance counselor that he had found his school.
"She said: 'Edwin, that's a very good school, but I want to make sure you have some safety schools – community colleges,'" he said. "I said: 'I'm not going to a community college. If I don't get into Binghamton, I'm not going to college.'"
Torres, who was born and raised in the Dominican Republic and moved to New York at 13, applied to Binghamton University through the Educational Opportunity Program, entered in 2005 and received his undergraduate nursing degree in 2010. Last month, Torres earned his master's degree in community health nurse practitioner from the Decker School of Nursing and will begin pursuing his doctorate in Decker in the fall.
The past nine years at Binghamton have been a study in perseverance and determination for Torres. He applied to Decker's undergraduate program four times before being accepted.
"I think I still have some of the rejection letters at my house," the 27-year-old said. "You cannot let a single event deter you from what you want to do."
Torres' medical ambitions developed when as a teen he took his grandmother to the New York Presbyterian Hospital emergency room after she dislocated her shoulder.
"Not one of the providers spoke Spanish," Torres recalled. "New York Presbyterian is at 168th (Street), which is Washington Heights and is predominantly Latino. So I had to translate. I know there are providers who can speak Spanish, but there's not enough.
"This country has been built on immigrants, so the (population) of Latinos will keep increasing. If the (medical) population doesn't reflect the population it's serving, it can be a huge disadvantage for the entire system."
Torres learned about Decker and nursing during his summer EOP orientation from a fellow student named Orlando Harris, who is now receiving his nursing doctorate from the University of Rochester.
"(Harris) explained it to me and I thought: 'That's what I want to do.' I like the holistic approach of nursing. I don't regret going into nursing. If I had to do it all again, I would do it all over again."
When Torres arrived at Decker, he discovered a family-like atmosphere with strong faculty support.
"They want you to understand the material, but they really want to help you," he said. "Decker's open-door policy helps students a lot. If I had to rate Decker on a scale of 1-10, I'd say it is a 10."
Torres said he often turned to Sharon Bryant, associate professor in Decker, for support while pursuing his degrees.
"As the United States becomes more diverse, it is imperative that we have community health primary care nurse practitioners who are culturally competent to work with diverse communities," Bryant said. "Edwin is such an individual. His community health capstone project created a diabetes health education program for Latino clients."
Besides working on his diabetes research project, Torres has spent the past three years as a registered nurse at Lenox Hill Hospital on the Upper East Side of New York City.
"The experience there solidified my hunger to get the master's degree," he said. "I saw that we have a great healthcare system, but we can do better managing the patient and in prevention."
The Lenox Hill experience meant that Torres had to commute a couple times each week from New York City to Binghamton and back.
"I've driven and I've taken the bus. When I get my PhD, I want to bike from New York City to Binghamton," he said with a laugh.
A highlight of Torres' time at Binghamton was traveling to his native country for the Dominican Republic Community Health Program with Laura Terriquez-Kasey of Decker. Torres went as an undergraduate in 2010 and in 2013 as an instructor.
"Going to the Dominican Republic to provide care was special," he said. "When you return as a provider, you get another view of the healthcare system. It was an eye-opener because they are working with what they have. Just because they are doing things differently doesn't make it wrong – it is just different."
Torres also has reached out to youth and young men in New York City and Binghamton about nursing.
"Edwin is committed to giving back to his community to help others who are coming up behind him," Bryant said. "He came back to Binghamton (recently) to help the CSTEP program and the Men of Color Scholastic Society host fourth- and fifth-grade boys from Horace Mann Elementary School. When he told the students that he was a nurse, their eyes were as big as saucers, because they have never seen a male nurse before. He planted the seed that one of these boys might become a nurse in the future."
"It's nice to help people," Torres said. "You are passing on what's been given to you. I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for the great people I've met."
Torres said he will likely work at Albert Einstein Medical Center in the Bronx as he pursues his doctorate in nursing science. He also will continue to work on diabetes research with Dr. Joel Zonszein, director of the Clinical Diabetes Center at Einstein.
Torres' career goals include teaching, research and practicing at a clinic.
"I want to stay in practice because I want to serve the population," he said. "I want to do research because what you learn in practice, you can implement in research. And I want to teach to pass it on to a new generation."
Commencement 2014 profile: Stephanie Malmberg
By John Brhel
Stephanie Malmberg was tired of being a night owl. Waiting tables at Lost Dog Café paid the bills, but it kept her from spending quality time with her three sons – a 7-year-old and 15-year-old twins. So she hatched a plan: to finish her undergraduate degree and earn her master's degree in five years, and leave late nights behind for good.
"I wanted to be home with my kids, and ultimately, that was my number one goal," said Malmberg. "I had to piece together a plan that would lead me to that goal. I had the vision first."
Less than five years later, Malmberg's vision is becoming reality. She graduated with a Master of Science in Student Affairs Administration from the College of Community and Public Affairs and will retire from the Lost Dog in August. Asked how she was able to realize her vision, Malmberg chalked it up to strategic planning and a "hyper-regimented" lifestyle.
"I set an alarm on Saturday," she said. "I set an alarm on Sunday. I set an alarm pretty much every day. And I use little pieces of time that present themselves well. If I'm sitting in my car waiting for my son to come out of school, I have a book with me. I'm making use of my time, because there's not a lot of downtime."
On top of her waitressing job, Malmberg serves as an adjunct professor at SUNY Broome, works as a graduate assistant in Student Support Services, and holds various part-time positions just to make ends meet. She works hard, but refuses to take all the credit herself. Without her family, which works together like a "well-oiled machine," none of her success would have been possible, she said.
"We all have expectations," said Malmberg. "We work together. We're very complimentary in that way. If I have a giant paper due, my older boys are very good at keeping my younger son occupied. Honestly, I wouldn't have been able to do what I've done if I didn't have their support."
Along with her sons, Malmberg gives credit to various faculty and staff, who believed in her even when she didn't.
"I don't have a family, per se, other than my own children, so I don't have a lot of people in my corner," she said. "To have people in your corner when you're not used to that is empowering."
One person in Malmberg's corner is Associate Professor of Human Development Denise Yull, who taught her in a class called Poverty and Discrimination. Yull was continually impressed by Malmberg's ability to remain positive despite having "a lot on her plate."
"Although there are times when she is stretched beyond what most of us could handle, she is always ready to lend an ear or give a hand to someone in need," said Yull. "I have an enormous amount of respect for all she has accomplished and I feel fortunate that our life paths have crossed. Look in the dictionary under awesome and I am sure you will see a picture of Stephanie Malmberg."
This "awesome" student is sure to cross paths with Yull again – Malmberg started pursuing a doctoral degree in community and public affairs at CCPA in the spring. She just hopes that she can maintain the same level of discipline that got her this far.
"Now that I've tacked on another three or four years, I'm hoping that I can be just as time-effective and manage things in such a way that I can finish right on time," said Malmberg. "I should be defending my dissertation right when my older kids graduate from high school."
Whatever Malmberg ends up doing after school – at the moment, she is interested in prison education – she wants to help others realize their goals just as she was able to realize her own. As the Lost Dog's unofficial "academic advisor," she's already helped a few of her coworkers map out their future plans.
"How can I give back?" asked Malmberg. "How can I take all of this investment in time, energy and effort and make this make sense, not for me but for other people?"
Malmberg has some advice for single parents who don't think that they have the time or energy to pursue a college degree.
"Stay true to your vision, however rudimentary it is," said Malmberg. "Mine was to be home at night, and I never deviated from that. If you have a good support network, anything is possible. If you don't have a good support network, you learn to become your own support network."
Commencement 2014 profile: Jacob Hammond
From staff reports
Jacob Hammond, a native of Cortland, N.Y., was the Graduate School of Education's student speaker at the Spring Commencement ceremony. He studied geography at SUNY Geneseo and Queen's University in Canada before beginning work toward a degree in secondary education at the University of Vienna in Austria.
He returned to New York, and in 2010 enrolled in Binghamton University's MAT program for social studies education, graduating in December 2011. Since then, he has worked as a teacher aide for students with disabilities in Cortland while pursuing his Master of Science in Education in Adolescence Special Education. He recently completed his in-service practicum at Dryden High School.
He credits his 4-year-old daughter Elsie as being his inspiration while working toward his MSEd. Though he is applying for teaching positions in special education, he is also interested in pursuing a Doctor of Education degree in the future.Back to top
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