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 BA '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 BS ’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 BS '81, MBA '84, coordinator of the Liberal Arts to Careers 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 knowledgable and resourceful, and it’s good to see that people that 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.
Last Updated: 6/3/15