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HARPUR COLLEGE OF ARTS AND SCIENCES

Herbert Bix reflects on academic career
By Ethan Day

Binghamton University is the final teaching post for Pulitzer Prize-winning author Herbert P. Bix. The professor of history and sociology, 74, retired at the end of the fall 2012 semester, following a remarkable career studying 19th- and 20th-century Japan, and Japan-U.S. relations.

Bix's career accomplishments include winning the National Book Critics Circle Award in 2001; receiving the United States-Japan Educational Commission Research award – a Fulbright grant – to conduct research in Japan from December 1992 through July 1993; and winning the Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction in 2001 for his book "Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan."

His interest in Japan and East Asian history began early in life, well before the longtime professor began his undergraduate work.

"Before I left for college at University of Massachusetts-Amherst, I had read a book in my local school library about Japanese soldiers and Chinese comfort women that was of great interest to me," he says. "Also, I think a person born in 1938, growing up in a working class community, would naturally be interested in World War II and Japan."

After attending the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, Bix joined the U.S. Naval Reserve and served a tour of duty aboard ships stationed in Japan. He then attended Harvard University at the height of the Vietnam War.

"I remember the summer of 1965 at Columbia, taking part in anti-war demonstrations where we were pelted with things," Bix says. "Later in Fall 1966, we got on the buses and headed off to Washington for the protests. I remember going with a friend to the airport in Washington to greet a famous Japanese writer, and we were so surprised because he got off the plane carrying a gas mask, so he knew what was about to happen!"

While in graduate school, Bix became a founding member of The Committee of Concerned Asian Scholars (CCAS) - which was created by a group of graduate students and younger faculty opposed to the American war in Vietnam. During this time he was influenced by Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn.

"Both men lent us direct support. Zinn's words at teach-ins and as the keynote speaker at the AAS (Association for Asian Studies) Convention in Boston in 1969 stayed with me, and Noam Chomsky gave me and many others encouragement in the summer of 1968 when we stood up against the Vietnam War," Bix says. "The summer of 1968 was also when a graduate student, who later had a distinguished career in the BU Sociology Department, came to Harvard and helped organize our own CCAS seminar on imperialism."

Bix notes that Zinn and Chomsky spoke to large audiences at CCAS meetings held the same time as the AAS Convention in Boston in 1969. The ferment of that period shaped his entire academic career. Yet even with his involved studies and activism at home, Bix still attributes truly becoming a scholar of Japanese history to his extensive travels in the region.

"During my longest period in Japan, I traveled to many prefectures and met many local historians, and I think that experience is when I really became a Japan scholar," Bix says. "It was the experience of visiting the sites of peasant uprisings that lasted over a span of nearly three centuries, and going to different parts of the country and seeing the statues erected to their memories."

Bix wrote "Peasant Protest in Japan, 1590-1884," on just this subject, examining Japan's rural and urban uprisings during the country's transition from a late feudal to an early capitalist society. Many academic journals praised the work as one of the best books ever written on the subject of peasant rebellion in a pre-modern society.

His most notable work came in August 2000, when he published "Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan," which won both the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Critics Circle Award. A biography of the Japanese emperor Hirohito, the book was received by the academic community as groundbreaking, and the most complete account of the controversial leader and his 63-year reign to date.

"Because he died in 1989, and I was working on the book over the course of the next decade, all this material was being published by people who worked with him and knew him," Bix says. "I had that advantage because it was dangerous, before his death, to write about the emperor. I was concerned with war responsibility, human agency, institutions and structures so in the book I set out to clarify Hirohito's role."

Though Bix knew he was in a unique position to publish a book on Hirohito that offered more clarity and depth than had ever been done, he was still surprised by the enthusiasm the biography produced.

"I was very surprised by how it was received; I never imagined that it would generate so much attention," he says. "Here was a book that was going to overturn the old stereotypes and offer a full explanation and reinterpretation of key moments in the war, including a reinterpretation of the dropping of the atomic bomb, so I think that's why it garnered attention right from the beginning."

"Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan" and its author earned praise from scholars, glowing editorials such as the one featured in the LA Times and a successful book tour following its release. However, Bix was caught completely off-guard when he first heard he was to receive the Pulitzer Prize.

"I was in my house in Winthrop, Massachusetts, and I had a bad cold. I was making lentil soup when I got a call from an Associated Press journalist who wanted my comments on winning the Pulitzer Prize," he says. "The media attention doesn't last, but while it does, every venue opens up to you – you can speak, you can write, you become globalized."

Bix first arrived on the Binghamton campus in 1988 as a visiting associate professor in the History Department. After this year-long engagement ended, Bix wouldn't return until 2001, when he became a permanent faculty member. It was here that he hoped to find a progressive university center with students working as activists on large issues. And while he would always like to see more involvement, Bix says he has worked with many great Binghamton students in his 13 years here.

"There were student groups on campus that raised important political questions, and I tried to work with them," Bix says. "Students are good. Each generation finds its own way to express a humanitarian concern – a desire to improve the world, no question about that."

He has taught Japanese history at American and Japanese universities, including the Graduate School of Social Sciences at Hitotsubashi University in Tokyo, and he's traveled the world, spending time in places like Sheffield, South Yorkshire, England, but Bix ultimately chose Binghamton to be the final destination of his academic career.

"He is a public intellectual, not simply a resident in the "Ivory Tower" of academia," says Nancy Appelbaum, associate professor and chair of Binghamton's History Department. "His prominence has helped the University build its growing reputation in East Asian history and in Asian studies more generally."

Sitting in his office in the library tower, Bix finds himself surrounded by piles of books, soon to be donated to Binghamton's library. When he moves back to the Boston area – near his hometown of Winthrop – in January, he will redirect his energies to a new book project about empire building in America and Japan and the breakdown of constitutional order; many chapters are already written. Bix's mood, by all appearances, seems to be nothing but enthusiastic as he anticipates what's next.

"I'll be living in Cambridge; I'll be close to the Harvard libraries and the Japan Institute where I have associate status, so I'll be working on my project, taking walks and spending time with many friends." 

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SCHOOL OF MANAGEMENT

MBA case competition explores retail challenges, opportunities
By Steve Seepersaud

As long as a business is operating in the black, an outside observer might say there is little cause for alarm. Concerned stakeholders, investors and shareholders will have a different opinion if the company isn't in a secure competitive position, making enough money and leading its industry.

This conundrum was at the root of the School of Management's MBA case competition, which took place in December. Eight teams of final-year MBA students analyzed the challenges facing well-known retail chains and recommended strategies that would maximize profits and shareholder value. The competition was part of the required capstone course, Management 540 (Strategic Management).

Patrick Burnett, Mallory Lawes, Joshua Ludzki and Xinting Mu won the competition for their comprehensive analysis of Best Buy. Although the electronics chain has been making a profit, the students pointed out that revenue growth has dwindled and stock price has declined over the past five years. As new stores have opened, same-store sales have decreased.

"Revenue is going to competitors Amazon and Wal-Mart as they compete on price," Ludzki said. "Wal-Mart spent years and piles of money building a world-class supply chain to reduce costs to the consumer. Apple is known for service; they have a trendy vibe and a unique product line."

The team recommended that Best Buy take a page from Apple's book by attaching itself to the next hot product. A "store within a store" selling the Google line of phones and tablets could, the team argued, become a viable competitor to Apple and Microsoft. This would, in particular, help Google penetrate an emerging market such as China, where Apple only has five stores. If this doesn't help Best Buy, shareholders should pay attention to founder Richard Schulze's offer to take the company private, the team suggested.

Jaemin Chang, Kevin Hannon, Melissa Leonard and Lisa Rufer finished second in the competition with their analysis of home-improvement retailer Lowe's. They recommended that Lowe's expand with stores in the downtown areas of major cities, a market largely untapped by Home Depot. The team said the contractor segment was another opportunity for growth, pointing out that Home Depot consistently outperforms Lowe's in this area.

Home Depot also holds a sizable advantage in international markets, and the team recommended that Lowe's expand overseas by purchasing the Canadian retail chain Rona. The acquisition would enable Lowe's to quickly become the No. 1 home improvement retailer in Canada, the team said.

"Home Depot has a tremendous advantage over Lowe's in international markets," Chang said. "Lowe's began their expansion in 2007, while Home Depot did in 1994. Being a second mover can have advantages in foreign markets, and Lowe's can avoid the pitfalls that Home Depot fell into. This can be an especially attractive option when a company's home market begins to mature. By going international, Lowe's can create a buffer against a slumping U.S. economy."

Judges were Marsha Coulton '94, founder, Curl Junkie; James Franz, partner, Hinman, Howard & Kattell; Scott Hotalen '95, partner, Vieira & Associates; Jeffrey Lake, regional president, NBT Bank; Cliff Olin, principal, Olin Capital; and Chuck Pascarelli, president of sales and marketing, Raymond Corporation.

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THOMAS J. WATSON SCHOOL OF ENGINEERING AND APPLIED SCIENCE

Engineer seizes potential of lab-on-a-chip
By Jim H. Smith

Suppose you are sick enough to go to an emergency room. A physician examines you and decides that some blood tests are warranted. A phlebotomist draws the blood and sends it to a lab for testing. The results won't be known for some time, however, so all the ER staff can do is try to make you comfortable while you are feeling progressively worse.

David Klotzkin, an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at Binghamton, says that's not good enough. He and a colleague, Ian Papautsky, director of the University of Cincinnati's BioMicrosystems Lab and its Micro/Nano Fabrication Engineering Research Center, have developed a technology to accelerate testing and enhance it in a number of other ways.

Klotzkin is an expert on the properties of light. Much of his research has focused intensely on photonics — the science of photons, elementary light particles — since he earned his PhD in electrical engineering at the University of Michigan.

As a senior engineer at Lasertron Inc., a manufacturer of photonics components, he developed high-speed laser modulation equipment used in multiplexing — the combining of multiple message signals or data streams, such as many television channels or telephone conversations that share a single cable to maximize the use of an expensive resource.

As an American Society for Engineering Education summer faculty fellow at the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C., he designed circuits that are essential for free-space optical communications. This low-power, high-data-volume alternative to conventional radio frequency communications, with military and civilian applications, is quickly evolving thanks to improved laser technology and compact optical systems.

Klotzkin began collaborating with Papautsky while he was on the faculty at the University of Cincinnati. At the time, Klotzkin was involved in research on organic light emitters, thin films of organic matter on glass that emit light when exposed to an energy source to excite their electrons.

Papautsky, a fellow faculty member, was studying microfluidics, the science of how fluids behave when they are manipulated in tiny spaces. He is a leader in development of what's called "lab-on-a-chip," which integrates several laboratory tests on a tiny chip.

With a single inexpensive, disposable lab-on-a-chip, it may be possible to conduct — in the field — tests that, not so long ago, had to be conducted individually in a laboratory remote from where the sample was acquired. It's also possible to perform those tests simultaneously and quickly, using samples as small as a millionth of a liter.

"In the microfluidics community, we've had this idea of small, disposable platforms that could be used for many different tests for a long time," Papautsky says.

Klotzkin helped him find the way. Since different materials emit different light waves, it is possible to use light to detect the presence of disease-causing micro-organisms such as viruses and bacteria.

"Fluorescence is one of the most commonly used analytic techniques in the biosciences," Klotzkin explains. Here's how it works in the typical microfluidic immunoassay: Whatever is being tested — bacteria, viruses or some other type of organic molecules — is tagged with fluorescently labeled antibodies. An excitation light stimulates the dye to fluoresce. The wavelength of the fluorescence — essentially the "fingerprint" of the disease-causing agent — is observed through a filter that suppresses the excitation light.

There was a problem, though. "There was no way to conveniently build filters into the micro system," Klotzkin says. Consequently, the detector signal emitted by the dye was inevitably overwhelmed by the excitation light.

That is, until he and Papautsky found a simple solution. Using polarizers, they were able to isolate the excitation light from the detector. While the excitation light is polarized, the fluorescence from the dye is emitted with random polarization. Then, when a second polarizer is positioned 90 degrees from the first, the intensity of the excitation light is dramatically reduced as it crosses the two polarizers.

"This solution works with any combination of excitation and emission light," Klotzkin says, "even if two signals overlap in wavelength."

Klotzkin and Papautsky published their first paper on their solution in 2007. The following year, Klotzkin joined Binghamton's faculty. Since then, they have continued to collaborate on lab-on-a-chip models that employ the polarized light approach. They've demonstrated the efficacy of this technique with what Papautsky calls "low-hanging fruit," miniature and portable oxygen sensors for firefighters. Labs-on-a-chip for blood analyses are next.

"We are working toward the goal of putting a 'lab' in everyone's office," Klotzkin says, "and putting fluorescence in a microchip is one step toward that. More than half of emergency room patients require at least one blood test. With this technology they can get results immediately, from a much smaller volume of blood. Rather than send a vial of blood out to a lab, the doctor can put a drop of blood into a microfluidic system and analyze it instantly."

Not only do labs-on-a-chip produce potentially life-saving results more quickly, they can perform several tests simultaneously. With patents pending, the engineers' work may be about to pay off.

"There was a lot of excitement about the lab-on-a-chip idea back in the early 2000s," Papautsky says, "but then a number of start-ups failed and investors pulled back. Things got even worse when the economy went into recession." Now that the economy is rebounding, the inventors' concept could result in a new product in the near future.

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DECKER SCHOOL OF NURSING

Spotlight on Doctorate in Nursing Practice
From staff reports

The Decker School's Doctorate in Nursing Practice (DNP) program provides graduates with the knowledge and ability to design, evaluate and continuously improve the context within which health care is delivered. Our DNP students also learn about the emerging health care needs of the future, and how to respond efficiently to changes in health care delivery today.

To learn more about this program, see a video on the University's YouTube channel and visit the Decker School's website.

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COLLEGE OF COMMUNITY AND PUBLIC AFFAIRS

Service learning in Peru
From staff reports

The Department of Public Administration and the College of Community and Public Affairs are pleased to announce a new three-week Service-Learning and Language Immersion Program in Peru in late May and early June.

Designed in collaboration with the Center for Civic Engagement and the Office of International Programs, this new program will offer Binghamton students an opportunity to combine academic studies on local development in the Andean region of South America with hands-on experience working with a nonprofit organization and local government in Peru.

Public Administration Assistant Professor Susan Appe will be the instructor for the academic portion of the course, and she and Associate Professor Nadia Rubaii will accompany students to Peru for the service-learning component. The course will examine local development practices and their relationship to "sustainable communities," emphasizing the connection between environmental issues, economic viability, social equity and cultural identity.

Participants will travel to the Cusco region of Peru. A large percentage of the native Mestizo population lives outside Cusco in the mountainous areas, working as farmers and textile makers. Their challenges include a lack of potable water, the lack of access to education and health services, unemployment and high rates of alcoholism and domestic violence.

Service-learning projects will address these challenges. For example students will provide community workshops in coordination with the local government in the region of Saylla (about a 45-minute bus ride from Cusco) and will volunteer at Corazon de Dahlia, a nonprofit organization based in Saylla that was founded by Dahlia Graham '06. Corazon de Dahlia is a community center that serves 40-plus children and their families, providing them with opportunities for social and economic enrichment. Additionally, Spanish-language classes will be available to make students more comfortable and able to adapt to their environment, as well as to provide the skills needed for the service-learning projects.

Students interested in learning more about the course should contact Professor Appe. Students who wish to register should contact Kerry Cook in the Office of International Programs. Individuals who would like to support this or other international exchange relations in CCPA are encouraged to contact CCPA Dean Patricia Ingraham.

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GRADUATE SCHOOL OF EDUCATION

Q&A with Assistant Professor Nicole Fenty
From staff reports

Nicole Fenty is one of our newest faculty members. Her focus is special education and literacy. Fenty holds a bachelor's degree in psychology from the University of South Florida and both master's and doctoral degrees in special education from the University of Florida. She was an assistant professor at the University of Louisville before coming to Binghamton.

What was it about GSE that interested you?
I read the job ad for the faculty position here and they were looking for someone interested in literacy and behavior. I thought that was interesting because I'm a literacy person and I bring in some of the behavior aspects. One of the things I am interested in is how does struggling with behavior affect literacy or how does struggling with literacy affect behavior?

I did some research on the faculty members before I applied and saw folks like Erin [Washburn], Lucky [Mason-Williams] and Candi [Mulcahy], who have similar interests to mine. I thought, wow, this seems like an awesome place.

What are your areas of interest and what do you hope to accomplish at Binghamton?
With populations of students who have been classified with a disability, best practice shows that you want to make contexts and connections as explicit as possible for them. So, content literacy is where I am focused...making explicit connections between literacy, which is a foundational aspect of all other concepts, and content areas. I would love for the GSE to be known for having a center that focuses on professional development, pre-service teacher preparation and interventions in this area.

Tell us a little about your research - what you've done in the past and what you hope to do here at Binghamton.
I had a couple of grants at the University of Louisville that focused on professional development. My first grant focused on ELA [English language arts] teachers and helping them realize how they can help students, especially those who struggle with literacy. Let's say you're an ELA teacher and you want to focus on comprehension, the concept of cause and effect for example. You can use a narrative piece or a story piece to illustrate the concept, but you can also use a science piece.

The second grant, which I am still somewhat involved in, focuses on helping content area teachers incorporate literacy into their subjects.

At Binghamton, Erin, Candi and I are getting ready to submit a similar kind of proposal to the Spencer Foundation. The project we're proposing would help content area teachers incorporate requirements from the Common Core into their classrooms.

What do you believe is the greatest challenge facing new teachers today?
The heavy focus on standards and standards-based reform is the common answer you'll get to this question, and it's a complicated situation. I can't disagree with the importance of something like the Common Core Standards, but I think from the standards comes the pressure of assessment of student mastery of the standards.

Today, every student is expected to master the standards, so teachers not only have to work with the general population of students and make sure they're achieving benchmark standards, but also they have to make sure they're doing the same with students with disabilities.

How do you help your students prepare for this?
What we're trying to do across teacher education is to make sure that our curriculum requirements are structured in such a way that students are getting as much as they possibly can from us. I also think that schools of education are realizing that pre-service programs probably aren't enough, so we're going back out and providing professional development support to those teachers.

You started as a special education teacher. Tell us more about that.
I taught special education at the elementary level. I was a resource teacher, which means I pulled kids out of their general classroom to provide instruction. This was for kindergarten through fourth grade in a public school in Gainesville, Fla. Also, at the University of Florida's lab school, I was also an inclusive teacher, which means I went into first- and second-grade classes to work with students in their general education classrooms. When I was a resource teacher I taught every subject; when I was an inclusive teacher, I focused on working with students struggling in reading and writing.

What prompted you to go into the field of special education?
I was in my last year of high school when my brother, Kemuel, was born. At that time, my plan was to become a developmental psychologist. But, he was born at only 6 months and was in the hospital for 3 months and had a lot of complications. When he got into school he was diagnosed with an intellectual disability. I chose to go into some of his preschool classrooms and do observations there for some of my assignments. That experience led me to change my major to special education.

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Last Updated: 2/24/14