"He is the one who taught me to have the courage to write the way I knew I had to write," said Gillan, professor of English and creative writing. "He taught me to say, 'Maybe people don't need another English romantic poet. Maybe it's OK to write as an Italian-American. Maybe it's OK to write as a wife, mother, daughter, granddaughter, a citizen of Paterson, N.J., a citizen of the United States, a child of immigrants who loved to hang out in the public library.'
"I've made it my mission to do that and try to get students to think about how honest they are being in their writing, how much the world needs that honesty and how we need to form through writing a bridge between ourselves and other people."
Gillan, the director of the University's Creative Writing Program, delivered the Harpur College Dean's Distinguished Lecture to a group of faculty members and students on Nov. 4, in the Casadesus Recital Hall.
"Maria's poetry is powerful, evocative and accessible," Harpur College Dean Donald Nieman said in his introduction. "It probes the beauty and complexity of everyday life and relationships in a way that makes this reader remember, reflect and feel very, very deeply."
Gillan is a prolific poet whose honors include the American Book Award for All That Lies Between Us and the Barnes & Noble Writers for Writers Award. She has published 11 books of poetry and her works have been featured on National Public Radio's All Things Considered and The Charles Osgood Show on CBS Radio. Gillan also is the founder and executive director of the Poetry Center at Passaic County Community College in Paterson, N.J.
Paterson served as the backdrop for Gillan's lecture, which focused on Ginsberg, William Carlos Williams and the importance of her hometown in their lives and writings.
Williams was a doctor from nearby Rutherford, N.J., whose income allowed him to work on his poetry and artwork.
"It gave me the freedom to develop a very wide circle of friends among artists and literary people," Gillan said, citing Williams' friendships with T.S. Eliot and Ezra Pound.
But Williams "felt there should be a place for the American voice in poetry," Gillan said, along with "American locales and American rhythms of speech." Williams did not see that in the European styles of Pound and Eliot, but was able to help younger writers develop his desired style.
One such writer was Paterson resident Allen Ginsberg, an Eastside High School graduate who went on to Columbia University.
"He sent his poems to Williams, who was always open to helping young writers," Gillan said. "He told Ginsberg that the poems were not really good, but his letters were wonderful! They were full of energy, electricity and brimming with ideas and a joy of life."
These letters struck Williams so much that he later incorporated them into his multi-book poem about the Silk City called "Paterson."
Williams asked Ginsberg why he wasn't writing about the place he knew, Gillan said, and urged him to emphasize "the echoes of the voices around you when you were growing up."
Ginsberg would go on to write such poems as "Howl," "Cottage" and "America."
"With those poems, he was able to change American literature," Gillan said. "I don't know that Williams thought that would happen, but he recognized in those letters that Allen was being constrained by his education rather than being broadened and opened up by his education."
Gillan, who also graduated from Eastside High, said she first met Ginsberg in the early 1980s. She convinced him to return to the city and read at the poetry center after a falling-out with Paterson officials.
"I got a letter from his agent saying Allen needed a modest bunch of flowers, a regal chair, a small table with imported honey and a certain kind of tea only purchased in a certain store," Gillan said.
She was surprised when Ginsberg arrived in a three-piece charcoal-colored suit and even more shocked when he complained about the chair and yelled about the tea Gillan was pouring. Gillan said her daughter then asked why she was letting this man talk this way, as she certainly wouldn't let "daddy talk like that."
"Daddy's not Allen Ginsberg!" Gillan said to laughter from the audience.
Ginsberg found a chair to his liking, became friends with Gillan and returned to the poetry center many times before his death in 1997 at age 70. His influence remains with Gillan.
"I always think that if the 50-cent word will do, you don't need the $5 word," she said. "I think that's what Allen did in his work."
Gillan concluded the lecture by reading some of her own poetry, including works about her father, son, her husband's death, growing up as an Italian-American and a tribute to her students.
"We are so lucky at Binghamton with our students," she said. "I think sometimes that they save our lives."Back to top
Correlation between online shopping and keeping up with Joneses
By Rachel Coker
Online retailers have long wondered if trumpeting consumer-behavior statistics on their websites could hurt business. New findings from Binghamton University should ease their fears, just in time for Cyber Monday.
Qi Wang, associate professor of marketing, studied the effects of user comments and sales statistics that accompany products offered on e-commerce sites. While the impact of positive and negative feedback has been well understood, much less was known about so-called "observational behavior" - in other words, a person's tendency to adopt the same habits as his or her peers. Wang's findings were published in the Journal of Marketing Research.
"Households make decisions by following what they see their neighbors doing," Wang says. "People learn from their peers what to buy."
For online marketers, word-of-mouth recommendations are displayed in the form of customer reviews. If the site also reveals statistics on how many users purchased the product, the shopper also can be influenced by observational behavior.
Wang analyzed data on 90 brands of digital cameras from Amazon.com, which includes a section disclosing the percentage of people who bought the product after viewing it. She and her colleagues found that positive observational behavior data boosted sales, while negative observations had little influence.
The results dispel a myth in e-commerce that consumers are likely to be discouraged if they see a low percentage of peers following through with the purchase.
"It's good news for manufacturers who haven't had a lot of people buy their product," Wang says. "If it's a niche market just targeting a small group of consumers, they don't have to worry because there is no harm in releasing this type of information."
Wang also identified a synergy between the two concepts. "What's most surprising is the interactions of word-of-mouth and observational learning," Wang says. "They strengthen each other."
Previous market research indicated that consumers often dismiss highly positive product feedback, realizing that a person writing favorable comments may be biased. Highly critical product feedback is viewed as more reliable. For observational learning, the opposite is true.
"Negative word-of-mouth affects people more than positive word-of-mouth. This is not new," Wang says. "With our study, we are the first to show the influences of observational learning. This is very important to companies thinking about what types of information can be posted on their websites. Our study gives them the evidence."
Continuing education course for engineers to be offered
By Ashley Smith
The Watson School will host an "Engineering Design – Quality Control and Metrics" course on Wednesday, Dec. 7., at the new Engineering and Science Building at the Innovative Technologies Complex on Murray Hill Road.
Daryl Santos, professor and manager of SMART Lab for the department of Systems Science and Industrial Engineering, will present the 4-hour course. He has more than 20 years of experience implementing quality control and applying engineering economics within the field of industry. Participants will learn about the key elements of process quality such as the range of quality methods and the costs of quality, and the benefits and impact of process capability indices. Other topics to be covered include product quality metrology, the use of quality measures on the supply chain and attribute-based quality measurement systems.
This training complies with the New York State Office of Professions for continuing education requirements. In addition, the Broome Chapter of the New York State Society of Professional Engineers (NYSSPE) has approved the course for 4 professional development hours (PDH).
The course fee is $125 for NYSSPE members or $150 for non-members. Registration includes a continental breakfast, coffee breaks, parking and class materials.
Enrollment is limited and early registration is encouraged. See more details on this course and register online, or call the Office of Industrial Outreach at (607) 777-2154.
Health and Wellness Studies joins Decker
By Eric Coker
Having the Decker School of Nursing serve as the new academic home to the Department of Health and Wellness Studies makes "perfect sense" to Dean Joyce Ferrario.
"It's easy to see nursing as hospital-bound and taking care of sick people," she said. "But there is a huge component of nursing that has to do with promoting health and wellness."
Health and Wellness Studies officially became part of the Decker School of Nursing in July. Plans are now in the early stages for a health and wellness minor, along with a certificate program, said Lisa Hrehor, chair of the department.
"I was thrilled when I learned we would be coming to Decker," Hrehor said. "It's a nice fit."
Formerly known as the Division of Health and Physical Education, the department restructured its curriculum in 2006 to provide an academic focus as opposed to a traditional sport-based program, Hrehor said. Wellness content was added to activity-based courses.
The department then received a new name, reported to the Provost's Office and offered courses that help Binghamton University students fulfill their general education requirements. The nearly 50 courses serve about 4,000 students a year and examine a wide range of topics from nutrition and physical fitness to stress management and self-defense.
"We found that students are taking many more of our courses depending on which school they are from," Hrehor said. "They are coming to us because they like what we have to offer.
"My vision for the program is not to be a teacher prep. I'm looking at a health promotion-type program. Students are wanting this and there is a need for this."
Being under the Decker umbrella is beneficial to Health and Wellness Studies, she added.
"We've always known that we deliver quality content, but having a direct line of approval for our courses and additional colleagues who are closely related to our area brings a sense of credibility," she said. "The fact that Decker is willing to develop some kind of joint minor with our courses and some of their courses speaks a lot about how they feel about us."
Creating a minor is one short-term goal for the Decker-Health and Wellness Studies union. Both Hrehor and Ferrario said it could be in place by fall 2012. Another is incorporating health and wellness faculty – some of whom are Binghamton University alumni – into curriculum committees.
Long-term goals include a certificate program and graduate-level courses.
"We educate a large number of nurse practitioners," Ferrario said. "Health promotion and wellness is a big component of what they need to be doing. To have some courses in specific techniques would be fantastic for nurse practitioner students. They are always asking for that kind of thing."
Hrehor said health and wellness faculty members are "thrilled" with the transition and have even had a joint luncheon with their new colleagues in Decker.
The impact of being a part of Decker struck Hrehor when she worked with nursing faculty and students at the Red Cross evacuation shelter at the Events Center during the September flooding.
"It was a tremendous experience for me and my faculty to work side by side with some wonderful professionals," she said. "They are top-notch. I was amazed to see students step up to the plate. It says a lot about the nursing faculty and the leadership of the school to have students willing to come in. They chose to be there, work with their faculty and give back to the community."
Public administration expert tracks 9/11 nonprofits
By Eric Coker
Drawing from his own experiences after 9/11 when he served as vice president for programs with Community Service Society, one of the oldest nonprofit organizations in New York City, David Campbell, an associate professor of public administration, has studied and written papers on the formation of disaster-response agencies. His research tapped into his own experience with one of these organizations, the Windows of Hope family Relief Fund, which was established to support the families of hospitality-industry workers who died in the disaster.
"At first, I didn't understand it," Campbell says. "Why do people need to start new organizations? For instance, why didn't the Window of Hope fund founders come first to Community Service Society or to an existing organization that had a track record? That piqued my interest for the research agenda."
Campbell's examination and findings, titled "Stand by Me: Organization Founding in the Aftermath of Disaster," was published by The American Review of Public Administration.
In "Stand by Me," Campbell studies the motivations of the people who created nonprofit organizations and the roles they played after 9/11. He read tax-exemption applications the groups submitted to the IRS and identified the "defining characteristics" of each. For example, some groups may be geographically based, while others might be affiliated with a fire company or, like Windows of Hope, an employer of 9/11 victims.
"All of the categories represent where people's passions lie in making a difference in the community," he says.
But some organizations lacked direction. Campbell pointed to an application from two people in the Midwest who planned to start a nonprofit that would provide foster care for orphans.
"They had no connection to New York City," he says. "They had no funding source. I think people have a lot of positive energy and they are not sure where to direct it."
Campbell found that most of the new post-9/11 organizations ceased operation within two years. Once the money was raised and distributed, the group disbanded. Those that endured past two years likely had stronger ties to the families of victims.
Campbell's second research project, "Organic and Sustainable: The Emergence, Formalization and Performance of a September 11th Disaster Relief Organization," focused specifically on Windows of Hope. The case study was published in Nonprofit Management and Leadership last year.
Windows of Hope Family Relief Fund was established by Windows on the World restaurant owner David Emil and chef Waldy Malouf, who joined with Quest restaurant owner and chef Tom Valenti, and others in the hospitality industry, to provide financial aid, health insurance and educational help to the families of hospitality-industry workers killed in the World Trade Center attack.
Campbell's study, which was a logical extension of his first research project, offered an opportunity to reflect on the factors that contributed to the group's success.
"There was a shared sense of identity among this group of hospitality-industry workers," he says. "The Windows on the World founders told me, 'We have to take care of our own.' That's what brought them together. But it wouldn't have mattered if they hadn't been able to bring in resources. If you look at the hospitality industry, it has resources and knows how to leverage them."
Windows of Hope leaders also understood the need for collaboration and knew when to ask for help, Campbell says. Having raised more than $22 million, Windows founders sought out guidance from the Community Service Society to make sure that they were able to fairly distribute the funds to the victims' families.
"Their willingness to acknowledge what they did not know and to use Community Service Society allowed them to be responsive quickly," he says.
Both "Stand by Me" and "Organic and Sustainable" offer lessons to post-disaster organization founders and advisors, Campbell says. The projects, in particular, can help a new organization get off of — or even stay on — the ground by providing some key questions to address.
"What is the life cycle of an organization founded in response to a disaster?" Campbell says. "Are you looking to go out of business after a year, which is fine but unusual? What is it you are trying to accomplish?"
Perhaps most important, Campbell would like to see closer coordination between new groups and the nonprofit infrastructure. The IRS can help make that happen when nonprofit applications are approved, Campbell says, and produce more success stories.
"These organizations need a connection to the existing service-delivery infrastructure," he says. "I want to make sure these people talk to each other."
Campbell will next turn his research attention to a second U.S. disaster: Hurricane Katrina. More than 400 new nonprofit organizations received approval for charitable activities in response to the 2005 storm, which devastated New Orleans and other parts of the Gulf coast. Campbell will analyze the groups and see how their life cycles compare to the 9/11 organizations.
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