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Alumni return to meet with Harpur students

By Kelly Hyde, Erik Bacharach, Carly Dawkins and Jessie Kalish

Each Homecoming weekend since 1996, Richard Alpern has been one of many alumni returning to Harpur College to network with students. Every time, he has been delighted to find Harpur just the way it was when he graduated in 1969: the "intellectual heartbeat" of Binghamton University.

Alpern, of Frederic W. Cook & Co., Inc., was one of 10 alumni to take part in the Career Development Center's Harpur Alumni-Student Networking event, hosted in the University Union on Oct. 11. Other participants included Adam Flint '88, MA '97, Lawrence Fong '04, Heidi Goldstein '81, Wayne Greenfeder '77, Edgar Levy '85 and Donald Mones '85. Open to all Binghamton University students, the event allowed for small-group informal conversations between students and alumni. Students filtered in and out between 3:30 and 5 p.m., hoping to learn from those who know what it's like to be a Harpur College student — and what comes afterward.

"When you talk to someone who is working as a lawyer (or any other job), what does that job entail? Most students don't know," Alpern said. "When someone tells you where they are, and how they got there, then you know."

Alpern said he believes the event is meaningful for the alumni as well.

"It's important for alumni to give something back," he said. "(Binghamton was) a terrific educational opportunity, and a springboard for our careers."

Alpern, who studied psychology as an undergraduate, found even more at Binghamton University than a path to his career as a lawyer. He also found his "Harpur sweetheart" — wife Sandra Alpern '70.

Also an attending alumna, Sandra Alpern highlighted another interesting aspect of alumni and students networking: the differences between then and now.

"Social media is such a huge field (today)," she said. "It's unbelievable. You can do a lot of networking online."

Sandra Alpern studied sociology and started working at a daycare center after graduation, from which she went on to become a children's librarian.

"Your first job isn't where you're stuck," she said.

Danielle Furey Britton '06, MAT '08, told students a similar story. After obtaining a master's degree in biology adolescence education, Furey Britton took a job at the front desk at the Roberson Museum and Science Center. When the director of education went on maternity leave, Furey Britton filled her position, and when she decided not to come back, Furey Britton took on the directorship full time. Although she doesn't work with biology too often, she said her liberal arts background helps her learn new things on the job.

"At Harpur, I learned research and study techniques," she said. "I learned what to look for and how to look for it."

Furey Britton also stressed taking advantage of experiences, such as internships or research assistantships that Harpur offers.

"When I look at applicants, I look for experience," she said. "I love that they taught; I love that they interned at a place relevant to this position. You can take those experiences and showcase them on cover letters."

Christopher Strub '07, social media director at Ad Elements, LLC, who studied economics and English rhetoric, also told students to focus on experiences. As a student, he wrote for Pipe Dream and formed a close relationship with English lecturer Mary Haupt, who he said helped get him a job at the Press & Sun Bulletin – his first job in the field of journalism.

"Journalism is a tough industry right now," he said. "My experience at Pipe Dream is what drove me to stay in it. Your classes are important, but what you do when you're not in class is just as important."

Strub also highlighted the importance of the networking event's purpose.

"Connections are important moving forward," he said. "All of the jobs that I've had came through a referral from a Binghamton alum. This campus gives you the opportunity to interact with and get to know a variety of people. Embrace it."

Wendy Neuberger '81, MBA '84, coordinator of the Liberal Arts to Career Externship and organizer of the event, said she was pleased with the event turnout, but wants to expand it.

"It's not all about numbers, but we love to provide as many resources as possible," she said. "(The Career Development Center) hopes to develop even more career exploration and networking events moving forward."

Maria Ortiz, a junior political science and Spanish double major, said the event was motivating.

"It gave me some new ideas," she said. "(The alumni) are very knowledgeable and resourceful, and it's good to see that people who went to Binghamton still care about Binghamton students."

Similarly, Daniel Cimino, a freshman, said the experience was eye-opening.

"It's a good starting point for me," he said.

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State regulator addresses accountability gap in Briloff Lecture speech
By Steve Seepersaud

Added to the angst that many people feel about the financial crisis is a sense of outrage that the parties responsible will never face any consequences. This condition is what New York state's superintendent of financial services refers to as the accountability gap. Prosecution is reactive and only part of the solution, he says, and there needs to be an emphasis on changing the regulatory environment. Having served as both a federal prosecutor and state regulator, he has experience from each perspective.

Benjamin M. Lawsky was the featured speaker at the 27th Annual Abraham J. Briloff Lecture on Accountability and Society, held Oct. 30 at the Anderson Center Chamber Hall. Lawsky's office regulates the operation of all insurance companies in New York, all state-chartered depository institutions and most U.S.-based branches and agencies of foreign banking institutions.

The annual lecture series, sponsored by the School of Management, brings the accounting, business and campus communities together to contemplate topics of business ethics and corporate social responsibility. Briloff is Presidential Professor Emeritus of Accounting and Ethics at Binghamton University, and has been long recognized as an ethical voice in the accounting profession. He was awarded the University Medal earlier in 2012. He is also professor emeritus of accounting at Baruch College, City University of New York.

In his remarks to a crowd of more than 400 – which included students, faculty and alumni – Lawsky said criminal prosecutions have been extremely difficult in cases of financial malfeasance because defendants need to be found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Even so, he believes prosecutors, overall, have not tried hard enough to pursue convictions.

"The firms themselves are enormous, diffuse and incredibly complicated," he says. "Assigning blame to individuals is exceedingly hard when talking about complex firms. [Sadly], we're unlikely to see many criminal prosecutions coming out of the recent financial crisis."

Lawsky believes the approach to achieving a more ethical business environment should be forward-looking and that regulators can play a prominent role in closing the accountability gap.

"When you right the wrongs of the past in a way that deters future bad conduct, you create a system that leads to improvement," Lawsky says. "We need to actually hold individuals to account and we need to expose in a detailed and significant way what the bad conduct was."

Donald Nieman, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs, says the Briloff Lecture is a rich intellectual event that epitomizes the values of a premier public university.

"For Professor Briloff, the bottom line is as much about ethics and transparency as it is about profit," Nieman says. "This lecture is special because it focuses on his passion and touches on issues that are at the heart of the free enterprise system. No system can operate effectively without trust."

The namesake of the lecture series echoed Nieman's comments while commending Lawsky for his work on behalf of the state's citizens.

"[What he does] is meant to insure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and prosperity," Briloff says.

Upinder Dhillon, dean and Koffman Scholar, says a focus on accountability has become increasingly necessary in today's business climate.

"We are continually reminded of the importance of this lecture as businesses continue to struggle with ethical failures," he says.

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Health systems masters program takes off in Manhattan

By Katie Ellis

Back in 2001, the need for a master's program with a concentration in healthcare systems was virtually unheard of. Why would industrial engineers be needed in hospital or healthcare settings? The Watson Institute for Systems Excellence (WISE) broke through that barrier a dozen years ago, taking on its very first project in healthcare to improve operations for UHS hospitals, and that research now extends to the classroom.

"That was the start," said Mohammad Khasawneh, professor of systems science and industrial engineering, and WISE assistant director for health systems. "With a couple of graduate students and faculty in WISE, working with UHS hospitals to improve operations, we established credibility with UHS, and at that time it was a very unique initiative for our group. In general, there was a huge reluctance from clinicians in the healthcare industry to accept industrial engineers. But UHS brought WISE into a second contract and we've now had many years running of a very successful partnership with two to four graduate students fully funded with these projects."

The projects enabled WISE and its affiliated faculty to develop extensive knowledge in healthcare systems, resulting in technical reports, journal and conference papers, theses and dissertations, said Khasawneh. "Back then, there were a very few at national and international conferences talking about industrial engineering in healthcare, but we saw a trend as academia picked up on this."

Establishing a master's program in health systems was a natural extension of the successes WISE had, Khasawneh said. "For instance, one of our first graduates became the first management engineer at Virtua Health, a comprehensive healthcare system in New Jersey, and helped us establish a partnership with them a few years later. Even though UHS and Virtua are different hospital systems in different geographical regions, the types of problems we were solving for them were very similar. That's when we started to build on those successes to go beyond UHS and Virtua.

"But it's not just research experience that's important," Khasawneh added. "It was time to bring those experiences into the classroom. [Dean and Distinguished Professor Krishnaswami "Hari" Srihari], who started this new area of research in WISE in 2001, introduced the first healthcare systems engineering course in 2006, and that opened up more opportunities for students not funded by WISE to have some of the same experiences in healthcare. In 2008, we developed a healthcare systems concentration."

Binghamton was an early adopter of this new concentration as only the fourth university in the nation to offer one, after Georgia Tech, Wisconsin-Madison and Purdue. "We're very proud of this because in 2005, a report by the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies titled 'Building a Better Delivery System: A New Engineering/Health Care Partnership' talked about how, if we want to improve efficiency, effectiveness, quality, safety and timeliness, we need partnerships, and the discipline that was highlighted in that report was systems engineering."

There was a lot of interest from hospital systems and students, said Khasawneh, so WISE expanded beyond UHS and Virtua to partnerships with the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., Montefiore Medical Center and its Care Management Organization in New York City, Mount Sinai, the New York Organ Donor Network and others for the research side of the program. "Given the unique nature of what WISE does on continuous improvement processes, operational excellence and analytics in healthcare, the research experience got us to this academic program."

"It's a lot of work, but it's fun work," said Khasawneh. "I learned healthcare through WISE and I'm very passionate about improving the efficiency and effectiveness of healthcare delivery. It's a very rewarding experience for me − very demanding and very challenging − but very rewarding. I get to work on all kinds of projects with my colleagues and students through WISE, in emergency rooms, pharmacies, inpatient units, operating rooms, outpatient clinics, looking at the big picture of large systems. Every day there's something new and that keeps us going and gives us something to take back to the classroom."

After a successful launch on campus, the Watson School saw additional demand for the health systems concentration, with New York City being a logical expansion location. "New York City has lots of hospitals and the concept of systems engineering in healthcare is still fairly new there," said Khasawneh. "So why not take our program down to Manhattan in an executive format on Saturdays?"

The Executive Master of Science in Health Systems program, taught at the SUNY Global Center, aimed for 25 students when it started in April 2013. Khasawneh said demand was overwhelming and 31 students were enrolled in the first cohort of the year-long program – about 90 percent of them are Binghamton alumni. "Courses are taught with healthcare in mind and things are going really well so far. We had orientation here on campus, and got excellent feedback. We also do teaching evaluations and the feedback has been excellent."

Students in the one-year program can earn either a Master of Science in Systems Science with a Health Systems Concentration or, if they hold a bachelor's degree in engineering or a related field, a Master of Science in Industrial and Systems Engineering with a Health Systems Concentration.

The field is growing and there seems to be no problem placing students, said Khasawneh. "Our graduates are in demand. In fact, I'm running out of resumes to send to hospitals," he said. "Students who work with us through WISE in the healthcare industry get jobs almost right away – for example, one student just finished his master's degree with a health systems concentration and immediately started at Montefiore Medical Center as a Management Engineer. There is so much demand in the city for industrial engineers who understand the challenges and complexities of the healthcare industry, so we hope to place these students well."

Current students are helping recruit for the next cohort, which will begin in August 2014. "We're already talking to about 25 prospective students," Khasawneh said. "Binghamton is indeed well-positioned to continue to deliver high quality education in this area."

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LGBT family service group moves to Binghamton University
By Rachel Coker

A new $600,000 state grant will provide five years of funding for a community agency that supports same-sex parents and their families. The Lesbian and Gay Family Building Project, founded in 2000, has relocated to Binghamton University.

The organization provides support, advocacy, information and access to healthcare and services across upstate New York. The project director and faculty members say their collaboration will help families, lead to better pre-professional training and provide new avenues for research.

"Now the program will have a scholarly advisory team who can advise us on our programs and help us evaluate them and improve them," says Claudia Stallman, project director. "The New York State Department of Health is requiring increased rigor in our approach to program planning and evaluation. Our collaboration with social scientists will ensure that we keep up."

Her group has teamed up with Binghamton University faculty members in the past on conferences and training for healthcare providers. The move to campus will intensify their collaboration and provide new opportunities to work with Binghamton students.

"Many of our students and affiliated faculty want to connect our intellectual work with community engagement," says Dara Silberstein, executive director of the transdisciplinary Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies program, which shares office space with the group. "Having this relationship is a natural flow from that. There's a real connection between scholarship and civic engagement."

The Lesbian and Gay Family Building Project works with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people considering adoption, surrogacy and other ways to start a family. The group publishes a provider directory and offers training for educators and health and human service professionals.

It also provides programming for parents and children. "We try to empower parents to advocate for their kids and see themselves as educators," Stallman says.

Sean Massey, associate professor of women, gender and sexuality studies, says he sees the Lesbian and Gay Family Building Project as a resource for Binghamton's professional schools. One key challenge the collaboration might address is a lack of cultural competency among providers and practitioners, he notes. Pre-professional training for nurses, psychologists and others may improve outcomes for families headed by lesbians and gay men.

"A lack of cultural competency among healthcare providers puts stress on families, so having this training early in their education is a form of health intervention," says Massey, a social psychologist who has conducted research on modern prejudice and how it affects same-sex parents.

Susan Seibold-Simpson, an assistant professor of nursing with a background in public health, agrees. She says students working to become nurse practitioners receive training focused on race and ethnicity but often don't learn as much as they should about the needs of lesbian and gay patients.

The Lesbian and Gay Family Building Project's presence on campus may also help Binghamton build a research agenda related to LGBT parenting. Indeed, Stallman and several Binghamton faculty members are already developing a proposal for a National Institutes of Health grant that would support research related to minority stress and healthcare use.

"We can provide resources, and we can make sure the programs they offer are based on cutting-edge scholarship," Massey says. "We can also learn from the practice we're engaged in, and that can inform and stimulate our research."      

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No more revolving door: Can social workers reduce hospital readmissions?

By Todd R. McAdam

A baby boomer turns 65 every 11 seconds. By the time you finish this paragraph, one will have blown out the birthday candles and applied for Medicare.

As a huge generation of Americans age, they'll pack hospitals with a variety of gerontological ailments, from acute bronchial infections to broken hips. Big boon to a hospital's bottom line? No.

Under the Affordable Care Act, Medicare won't reimburse hospitals for the cost of treating an aging patient if that patient is readmitted within 30 days. The patient could be treated for pneumonia, go home and break a hip, but the rule remains. With hospitals spending between $10,000 and $31,000 (averaging about $18,000) for a typical stay, and readmissions hovering around 35 percent, that's a big loss.

So Binghamton University researchers from the College of Community and Public Affairs (CCPA) and the SUNY Upstate Medical University have teamed with a local hospital to seek new, low-cost ways to keep seniors from needing readmission while improving their quality of life.

The two-year study was designed to collect data from 100 or more patients at high risk for hospital readmission but able to live independently, says Laura Bronstein, interim dean of CCPA, professor and chair of the Department of Social Work, and director of the University's Institute for Intergenerational Studies.

Her task was to create an interdisciplinary training program so social workers understand the medical factors that can complicate recovery and so medical providers understand the everyday living issues that can cause hospital readmission.

Making contact

Social-work students were assigned to follow up with patients released from United Health Services' Wilson Medical Center in Johnson City, N.Y.

The monthlong follow-up begins with a phone call to make sure the patient is recuperating, says Kris Marks, LCSW, manager of clinical social work at UHS. A home visit follows, and the assessment starts outside: Are the sidewalk and driveway shoveled during a cold upstate New York winter? Are steps to the door difficult to navigate for someone who may have mobility problems? Is the garage door easily opened?

Inside, the examination continues. How does the patient feel? Are there any pain- or medication-related side effects? Is the patient making follow-up appointments? If not, why not? Does the patient have adequate support — friends and relatives who can help with everyday chores such as cooking or driving?

Gaps in the recovery process can lead to a complication that can require a hospital readmission.

"A big piece of making this work is making sure people follow up with their primary-care physician," Bronstein says. "There are so many conditions that people have, it's hard to tease out [what can lead to readmission]."

Sometimes all that's needed is a tweak of available services, Marks says, such as arranging for Meals on Wheels or a short-term home-health aide. "I think some people just benefit from the contact they get," she says.

The model works

Data collection will continue into the spring, says Dr. Shawn Berkowitz, medical director of the study, director of geriatrics at UHS and a clinical assistant professor at SUNY Upstate Medical University. Analysis will follow and publication in academic journals, with luck, will come by the end of the year. Preliminary analysis of the first 96 participants is promising.

UHS has a readmission rate of 18 percent, he says, about half the national average, and reflected in the control group. But only 7 percent of program participants have been readmitted to the hospital, compared with 15 percent of the control group.

If other hospitals can duplicate that, they would save hundreds of thousands, even millions of dollars a year. Berkowitz calculates that a social worker could create savings equal to his own salary and benefits by preventing just seven readmissions a year.

And it's a different approach than other studies have suggested, Berkowitz says. Health providers tend to adopt an education model — teach patients to care for themselves and they will. But this is a social empowerment model. "Social workers are trained to empower people," he says. "They encourage people to take ownership of their own care."

But Berkowitz would like to see another 1,300 participants in similar studies at other hospitals.

Also, Marks notes that participants were selected for a variety of reasons, including the ease with which a social worker could visit. Most participants were from the 125,000-resident urban core of Binghamton, N.Y., the rest from outlying areas. More urban hospitals could see greater savings, but rural hospitals may suffer because of increased travel times and distances.

Larger, urban hospitals serving poorer patients are a good target, according to several studies published in January's Journal of the American Medical Association. They, and large teaching hospitals, are the most likely to lose Medicare reimbursements, as are hospitals with poor coordination of post-release care — exactly the sort
of thing the Binghamton study is examining.

"It starts here at the hospital," Marks says. "There's a very strong sense of empowerment."

The power needs to come soon. In the time you spent reading this story, 20 more people became eligible for Medicare.

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Lyceum celebrates silver anniversary
From staff reports

This fall, Lyceum celebrates 25 years of delivering high-quality educational programming to lifelong learners. The program has grown tremendously from its very first class, held in the University president's home in 1988, to the full offerings of courses, trips, dinners and special events that make the program so vital to our community today.

The following Binghamton University faculty and staff members taught Lyceum courses recently:

* Bruce Lercher, professor emeritus, mathematics - "More Numbers: Imaginary, Complex, Transcendental"
* Alice Mitchell, Bartle professor emerita, music - "The Symphony"
* Dara Silberstein, executive director, women, gender, sexuality studies; Moulay-Ali Bouanani, lecturer, Africana studies; Seokyung Han, Philosophy, Interpretation and Culture Program - "Feminism, Gender and Nation"
* David Clark, associate professor, political science - "NATO: Crisis—What Crisis?"
* Barry E. Jones, associate professor, economics - "The Future of the Euro"
* Richard Boswell, professor emeritus, Romance languages - "So You're Going to Paris"
* Elliot Kamlet, lecturer, accounting - "Good Guys or Bad Guys"
* Albert Hamme, professor emeritus, music - "Music in Two Parts: Jazz and Big Band"
* Jonathan Cohen, photographer; Diane Butler, director, art museum - "Photography: Technique and Art"

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SUBMIT A NOMINATION by Dec. 31 for the Alumni Association board. We're looking for graduates who are eager to give back to the University and promote alumni volunteerism. Board members work with alumni relations staff on key projects, directly participating in committee work, events, and activities.


SHARE YOUR EXPERTISE WITH US! The Alumni Relations office is frequently called upon 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. Please 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.


Take home a piece of Newing College. The Alumni Association and Uncommon Goods (founded by David Bolotsky '85) offer alumni the opportunity to purchase banks made from mailboxes salvaged from the Newing Dining Hall. A Newing bank can be a great keepsake to remind you of your time as a student at Binghamton.  Banks also make great gifts! Find out more and purchase a bank today.


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Last Updated: 9/26/16