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Alumni attorneys lead the Winter Session classroom

By Amanda Glodowski

Nine successful Harpur alumni attorneys shared their perspectives with prospective law students during Winter Session.

The course, "Current Issues in Legal Practice," was held over the span of three January days in Times Square, where students were able to sample several areas of the field, ranging from immigration to employment to finance.

"We wanted to offer the students a unique insight into the practice and allow them to reach a level of understanding that undergrads are typically not privy to," said Nolana Quince, Harpur pre-law advisor. "The prestige of the alumni who have agreed to come speak with the students has caused this course to surpass all of my expectations."

Jessica Lorden '83 studied political science at Harpur College before advancing to Duke University School of Law. Lorden is employed at IBM Corp., where her main focus is human resources and employment law, but she also works on aspects of intellectual property ownership. She spoke to the students about her pursuit in balancing her professional career with her family life, as well as the importance of personal growth in one's career.

"What I recommend to all of you is that you think about 'T shaped' skills," Lorden said. "Think about the top of the T: that's the breadth of the skills. Make sure that with every job you take, you broaden your skillset. You also have to pay attention to the vertical part of the T: that's the depth of your skills. Every single job that you do should reinforce those two things. Those things are the best recipe for a comprehensive you in lawyering."

Lorden also serves as vice chair of the Harpur College Advocacy Council, and is a mentor to Harpur students in the Liberal Arts to Careers Externship (LACE) program.

Bobby Liu '93 graduated summa cum laude from Harpur College with a double major in economics and history before attending New York University School of Law. Currently chief operating officer and general counsel of M.D. Sass Securities, Liu spoke about a financial approach to law, specifically talking to the students about hedge funds. Liu also stressed the importance of grades and keeping an open mind during one's undergraduate career.

"You don't know what the future is going to be, so keep your eyes open," Liu said. "The most important thing right now is to learn about as many areas as you can, while getting the best grades possible. Law is all about pedigree."

Michael Garcia '83 (pictured at top) graduated with honors from Harpur College with an English degree. He then went on to earn his J.D. (summa cum laude and valedictorian) from Albany Law School. Garcia is a partner at the New York and Washington D.C. offices of Kirkland & Ellis LLP. Garcia formed an open discussion with the students with topics ranging from immigration law to stop-and-frisk policies, while maintaining honesty in describing the field.

"It's the best job in the world," Garcia said. "You can do whatever you want. You can do a white-collar security case, terrorism case, gangs or work on major narcotics trafficking. Your office will give you anything, and there will be headlines in the paper with your name and the only thing your office asks from you in return will be everything."

The students were eager to take advantage of this unique opportunity and get a more realistic sense of the field they plan on pursuing.

"I'm trying to get a broader sense of the field, and figure out what kind of law I want to pursue," said Tara Dennington, a junior double majoring in politics, philosophy and law, and history. "All the speakers have had interesting experiences in their fields and have a lot of great advice to offer us. They were in my shoes at one point and show you how to get from here to there. I'm getting such great insight of what lies ahead for me."

Sohil Sharedalal, a senior majoring in political science, was also thankful for the perspective gained through the Winter Session. "It's very encouraging; we are now where they used to be, and the fact that they're so successful shows us that the possibilities for us are endless."

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PwC Scholars and partners to revitalize Rec Park

From staff reports

On April 25, the OurSpace Project held its Phase I – Work Day – the culmination of a nine-month planning process to revitalize areas of Recreation Park in Binghamton. Phase I brought more than $140,000 of improvements to the park's baseball fields to create a more accessible and inviting baseball facility for residents. Planning for Phase II to improve the playground areas continues with a projected budget of approximately $350,000 and a summer 2015 completion date.

OurSpace at RecPark is a collaboration between the City of Binghamton, Life Is Washable, Inc. and Binghamton University's PwC Scholars to revitalize areas of Recreation Park to create an accessible facility for individuals with special needs, their families and the community. OurSpace will focus on improvements to ball fields in 2014 and playground areas in 2015, creating accessible and appealing spaces for individuals of all ages, abilities and needs from children with developmental disabilities to war veterans looking for a quiet space, from families with young children to the elderly. OurSpace at Rec Park will provide something for everyone in the community.

"I am very excited to be working with the SOM PwC Scholars, Life is Washable, Inc. and the Binghamton City Parks and Recreation Department as we embark on this transformational project for the community," said Matt Singer '96, partner at PwC. "I have the utmost confidence in the PwC Scholars that they will leverage their past successes to bring OurSpace at Rec Park to a reality. Giving back to the community they belong to during their college years is very important and demonstrates the core values of PwC."

In determining the need for this community project, students considered that there are approximately 29,000 individuals with disabilities in Broome County, ranging from infants to senior citizens, who are underserved by public recreational facilities. Public facilities exclude this underserved population by not offering enough support or accommodations for special needs, discouraging use by individuals with disabilities. In addition to these families, many in our community need a fully accessible facility due to their health status.

A comprehensive study of public parks conducted by The Trust for Public Land also affirmed that recreational open space increases public health and happiness by encouraging exercise and social interaction. In response, the Binghamton University SOM PwC Scholars and Life Is Washable, Inc. joined with the City of Binghamton to create OurSpace at Rec Park, a public recreational area for those with disabilities and in support our community's health that will encourage social and physical activity while providing a safe space for play and interaction. The goal of the project is to significantly increase access to these benefits for people with a variety of special needs in our community.

"Think about it as a new way to plan for park spaces," said David Schwartz, PWC Scholars president. "With a focus on total accessibility, we are facilitating the planning with a wide spectrum of imaginative ideas, yet with the appeal of a growing space that fits the diverse needs of the surrounding community and park. We are going to be as cutting edge and innovative as we can while still respecting the rich history and atmosphere you feel when in the park."

Visions Federal Credit Union has generously donated $23,000 to Phase I to support the cost of new fences. The SOM PwC Scholars have raised an additional $20,000 to support the cost of new dugouts and other accessible features.

Phase II has garnered pledges from UHS and community members. OurSpace is also a 2015 Wendy's Walk for Kid's beneficiary.

The OurSpace at Rec Park Team is actively looking for input and ideas. Residents are encouraged to send comments, concerns and/or questions to info@ourspacepark.org and visit http://www.ourspacepark.org.

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HackBU Hackathon

By John Brhel

A smartwatch app that provides real-time information on Off Campus College Transport. A combination of the Xbox Kinect and the Oculus Rift headset that lets users tinker with mechanical systems in virtual reality. These aren't concepts dreamed up by business bigwigs or well-funded tech startups. They're some of the many creative, out-of-the-box ideas developed by Binghamton University students at the first-ever HackBU Hackathon on April 25.

"The goal is to build something cool and have fun," said Daniel O'Connor '14, computer science major and event organizer.

More than 250 students converged on Academic A for the event which had teams of up to four racking their brains and pooling their talents to develop the best program (e.g. website, iPhone app) or hardware in under 24 hours. Some students used the time to start new projects; others pursued existing ideas. O'Connor didn't care what students worked on, as long as they were engaged.

"We just want people to build stuff,"O'Connor said. "At the end, to generally just be interested in what they're learning."

Tyler Constance '14, a computer engineering major, had never participated in a hackathon before and wasn't sure what he would work on before going in, but that only made the experience more thrilling.

"I think not knowing is exhilarating," he said.

Not only was the Hackathon fun and a way to "create something meaningful and useful," said Constance, it was a career-building opportunity.

"A lot of employers, especially in technical fields, don't care too much about schooling or anything like that, or even experience," said Constance. "A lot of it's just what you're capable of, what you can build and what you've built before."

According to O'Connor, hackathons are quickly replacing career fairs for computer science majors, with companies investing money in them to recruit the brightest students. The HackBU Hackathon was an attempt to create what O'Connor refers to as a "maker mentality" at Binghamton University and give students an opportunity to add to their portfolios.

"I think it's something that Binghamton needs," O'Connor said. "Academically, we're a really strong school, and hackathons are a way to encourage students to work on and have people building things.

O'Connor was inspired to start the hackathon after attending three others and being taken aback by the intelligence and innovation on display.

"It's neat being in a place where people are way smarter than you," said O'Connor. "You kind of walk around in awe, and you realize you'll never be as smart as them. I think it's cool being in the venue and seeing tons of smart people working on tons of cool things. A lot of those people are going to be the future CEOs."

For Eileen Head, undergraduate director of the computer science department, the hackathon is an invaluable experience for students.

"It gives the students an opportunity, outside of class without any adults watching them, to work in teams to solve a problem," said Head. "I think that's really incredible."

Students at Binghamton will soon have more opportunities to solve problems with technology. Their first hackathon a success, O'Connor and the other technophiles of HackBU plan on hosting another event in the fall.

"Looking around a packed Lecture Hall 2 at the opening kickoff and seeing over 250 students was incredible," said O'Connor. "It validated months of hard work and makes us excited about the future of computer science and engineering at Binghamton University."

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Spotlight: Kate Toporowski

From staff reports

As the first resident assistant in the Mountainview Nursing Community, Kate Toporowski has worked for almost two years to ease the transition of students entering the Decker School of Nursing.

"Our goals have been to bridge the gap between freshman and sophomore nursing students and junior and senior nursing students," Toporowski said. "We help with tutoring. We have seniors come and talk to the students about clinical hours and we make sure they are set up with an older contact if they want to talk about anything."

Toporowski, a 22-year-old senior from Saugerties, N.Y., said building a community helps new students adapt to Decker's demands.

"You don't know what to expect," she said, recalling her early classes in Decker with a laugh. "Our first lesson was making beds! We thought: 'Why are we learning this first?'"

Besides her efforts in the Mountainview Nursing Community, Toporowski has served as an executive board member of the Nursing Student Association; volunteered with St. Baldrick's Foundation; and worked as a transfer mentor and tutor. She also spent a summer as a volunteer for A Horse Connection, a Hudson Valley organization that provides equine-assisted therapy to those with special needs.

Volunteer work and offering community lessons have always been important to Toporowski.

"I grew up in a close-knit community where I knew everybody," she said. "We did a lot of community service there and that was important for all of the kids in my high school.

"When I came to Binghamton and was a stranger for the first time, it became obvious to me (to volunteer). I don't think people get engaged enough in our community, so I've tried to print out bus schedules or (promote) other restaurants all the way down Main Street in Binghamton. Students want that information, they just don't know where to go for it."

Toporowski's commitments outside of the classroom have not affected her work in classes and clinical settings. She is a fixture on the Dean's List and recently received the Chancellor's Award for Student Excellence.

The Decker School of Nursing provides the foundation for student success, she said.

"Because it's a small program, Decker is able to invest in everyone," said Toporowski, who chose Binghamton University and Decker over schools such as McGill University in Montreal, Hartwick College and St. John Fisher. "Every student has at least one professor who is their go-to person or mentor. They have built a connection, whether it is clinical or classes. That person will be there for them. That's a huge strength of the program."

Toporowski cited Alison Dura, Rosa Darling and Fran Srnka-Debnar as Decker faculty members who have made a difference in her time at Binghamton University.

"I have found Kate to be a student who approaches every opportunity and experience with the same energy and level of commitment," Dura said. "While she has been a very strong student, a mentor and tutor to other students, and a leader across campus, her focus on excellence in nursing has been her foremost goal. It is rare to be able to do all things well."

The size of the nursing program also allows students to become close, Toporowski said.

"When we were freshmen and sophomores, it was competitive because you don't know everybody," she said. "But by the time you are juniors, you very much become a family. For example, going to the geriatric home for the first time is terrifying, but you do it together."

Toporowski hopes to someday work in pediatric oncology. She first expects to take part in travel nursing, which consists of short stints in different cities.

"It's a huge learning curve," she said of nursing. "You need a couple of years to get confident in what you are doing."

With Commencement approaching, Toporowski said her time at Binghamton University has been "above and beyond my expectations of a college experience."

"I will leave here with memories of a great job as an RA," she said. "I had a perfect experience as far as gaining friends from Decker. My nursing college was wonderful and all of the clinicals were great. I am walking away with much more than I thought I would leave college with. I feel incredibly lucky and blessed."

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Have friend, will travel

By John Brhel

Nicole Zulu '14 and Harlee Pratt '14 will never forget the day they visited the townships of Soweto, South Africa, and met the children there, kids who live in tiny tin shacks called huthouses. After watching the children dance and talking to them about life in their township, it was difficult to say goodbye.

"I remember when we drove away and the children were chasing us," Zulu said. "I was crying. That day will forever stay with me. It really hit me hard in my heart."

It's these kinds of unforgettable experiences that keep these classmates, roommates and long-time friends trotting around the world. As dual-degree students (both are graduating with a master's in public administration and master's in social work), Zulu and Pratt have participated in three international programs offered by CCPA, traveling together to South Africa, Peru and, most recently, China.

These trips have brought the two, who were "joined at the hip" before, even closer together.

"We're more family than just classmates at this point," Pratt said. "As a group, you're traveling together, you're experiencing these things together. You get really close and learn a lot of things about each other."

Pratt had never traveled abroad, except for Canada, before jetting off to South Africa. But the experience gave him something he'd always wanted: immersion.

"Before we left, we read [Nelson] Mandela's biography," Pratt said. "We were right in Soweto where the uprising took place, so it was really interesting to do the readings, then go see the place we were reading about."

Zulu, whose family lives in Costa Rica, had traveled a lot before coming to college, but she said that her experiences abroad — living with a host family in Peru and dancing (or, as she says, "attempting to dance") in China — have helped her grow.

"All three programs have further enhanced my abilities and contributed to me being a more culturally competent person," Zulu said. "I'm surprised each time I go how much I grow from each experience."

Pratt and Zulu have collected more than just experiences. Zulu has what she calls an "ethnic room," filled with paintings, masks, dolls and other souvenirs from her travels. If these diehard explorers have it their way (both want to travel to Greece and Italy someday, preferably together), they'll add even more souvenirs to their collections.

"We've already talked about doing more study abroad," Zulu said. "It's an investment in the future and in ourselves. Honestly, I will continue to travel at any opportunity that I have."

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Study Skills and Mentoring Program

From staff reports

"Being involved with this program has opened my eyes to a whole new world. Being a teacher, I am familiar with working with students with disabilities. However, I never considered how difficult it would be to leave a school where everyone was working to help me succeed and transition to a large university and suddenly be in charge of advocating for myself."

"It [working in the mentoring program] gives you a good idea of skills to work on with your high school students who are transitioning to college, so they can have strong study skills when they get into college."

These insights were shared by participants in the Study Skills and Mentoring Program, a collaborative project of the Graduate School of Education (GSE) and the Office of Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD) in which GSE graduate students work as mentors to undergraduate students with disabilities. The program provides support and structured time for coursework through two weekly study sessions and a weekly study skills workshop. While working with the undergraduates, the mentors gain knowledge that will assist them when they become high school special education teachers charged with helping students with disabilities prepare for college as part of federally mandated transition planning.

Launched in fall 2012, the program currently enrolls two graduate mentors and 10 undergraduates. Sue Atkinson, a GSE doctoral candidate, coordinates the program, supervises the work of the mentors, works with SSD to ensure appropriate support for the undergraduate students and teaches the accompanying course, Supporting the Transition of Students with Disabilities to Postsecondary Education, in which the mentors are enrolled. In addition, Atkinson is studying the experiences of the program participants as her dissertation research.

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B-CONNECTED with other graduates! B-connected is a secure virtual community only for Binghamton University alumni. Update your personal profile, search for alumni, and submit and read Class Notes. 


NEW SEASON, NEW JOB? To help you move ahead in your career, the Alumni Association offers two LinkedIn groups. Make new connections in our Professional Network group and search for jobs posted by alumni in our Job Forum group (and share postings if you have them).


SHARE YOUR EXPERTISE WITH US! The Alumni Relations office is asked to recommend alumni who are expert speakers. If you are well-versed, because of your education and professional experience, in subjects including national security, politics, technology, career networking, environmental studies or etiquette, please contact Melinda Holicky, associate director for volunteer engagement. Include your name, class year, and a brief description of your experience and expertise. Supporting material could include a c.v. or link to your website.


The Alumni Association and Uncommon Goods (founded by David Bolotsky '85) offer the opportunity to purchase banks made from mailboxes salvaged from Newing Dining Hall. This can be a great keepsake of your time as a student at Binghamton. Banks also make great gifts! Purchase a bank today.



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Last Updated: 9/26/16