President's Report Masthead
December 31, 2013

Sustainable Communities TAE conference sets stage for collaborations

You can’t get any more interdisciplinary than an economist and a historian discussing research on fracking. Creating new interdisciplinary research efforts by identifying and communicating what researchers and community members are already doing in terms of sustainable communities was the major goal of the Sustainable Communities Transdisciplinary Area of Excellence (TAE) Conference. Held Nov. 2, the conference brought together more than 75 people, including faculty, students and members of the community, to learn from each other and possibly find common research interests.

Organized by the Sustainable Communities TAE committee, the conference included panel presentations and posters across disciplines and interests, and, instead of a keynote at lunch, plenty of time for networking. The committee originally planned to run one session at a time, but instead ran concurrent sessions due to the number of proposals it received.

“We knew that there was interest in the topic, but we underestimated how much,” TAE chair Pamela Mischen said.

“We hope to find out who is doing what at the University and in the community,” said Mischen in her welcoming remarks. “We hope to form some interdisciplinary research groups and encourage these groups to seek external funding.”

“It’s great to see so many turning out for this conference,” said Donald Nieman, executive vice president for academic affairs and provost. “This is a really significant event because it’s the first major event of a transformative initiative for Binghamton University — the TAEs. There have been other workshops and speaker series, but this is the first major event for one of the TAEs to bring people together.

“As a public university, we have a responsibility to try and find answers to the most important questions facing our society and the TAEs are really focused on that,” Nieman said. “The way we think about scholarship and enhance our reputation as a research University increases scholarly activity and output and marks us as a University that’s pursuing discovery in bold new ways that are important.”

Nieman said he was impressed with the breadth of issues being covered at the conference that really speak to “what we’re trying to accomplish with sustainable communities.” Eight panels covered topics including the Binghamton Neighborhood Project, sustainable food and water resources, the power of partnerships, climate change impacts, socio-economic sustainability, community engagement in natural and cultural heritage, and the impact of energy extraction on the local community.

“I hope this conference will bring people together to learn about others on campus, to get some insights into their research and the substance and methodologies they bring to the table,” Nieman said. “Only by getting to know people can you really forge collaboration and it is events like these that will help forge those collaborations.”

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