When the 22-year-old from Tomkins Cove, N.Y., heard about Fields of Growth, an international group that uses lacrosse to help promote positive social impact, he knew that he had discovered his summer work. Fields of Growth would travel to Uganda in the summer of 2012 – and the captain of the Binghamton University men's lacrosse team was determined to take part.
"The way I looked at it was: 'I may never be able to do this again,'" Warner says. "So I committed to it. Some people second-guessed it, but I knew I wouldn't be able to go there anytime soon. ... It was a perfect match. I was able to travel and keep a lacrosse stick in my hands."
Warner and about a dozen other college and high school students and adults conducted lacrosse clinics in the capital city of Kampala, visited an orphanage and a juvenile center, and even helped build a school (The Hopeful School) in rural Masaka, Uganda.
"Kids walk 5 kilometers to this school, sometimes without shoes on their feet," he says. "It is amazing."
Traveling to the homes of Hopeful School students and handing out necessities such as soap, bread, rice and cooking oil was an eye-opening experience for Warner and his fellow U.S. visitors.
"When you go into the country, it's worse than what you see on TV or in magazines," he says. "Some of the homes we saw were mud huts with dirt floors. Maybe there was a mattress on the ground.
"We have no right to complain about 'the little things' here," he adds. "The U.S. has problems, but when you look at the big picture, what's out there is scary. I got a chance to see it in Uganda − and I'm lucky."
The Fields of Growth members also helped to train Uganda's national lacrosse team – the only men's lacrosse national team in Africa. Warner was impressed by the players and their desire to absorb the coaching and advice.
"I wasn't expecting too much lacrosse skill," he says. "But these guys were great athletes and great teammates. They will do anything to make their team better. They listened to everything we had to say."
Even after the 17-day trip ended and Warner returned to Binghamton University, he still had the urge to help Uganda. So he asked his lacrosse teammates to help raise money for The Hopeful School.
"It was impossible to just leave the trip in the past," he says. "It has to remain with you."
Warner and his teammates raised $600, which was used to raise teacher salaries at The Hopeful School before it went on holiday break in the winter.
During the school year, the double major in history and comparative literature took part in the Student-Athlete Success Center's College for Every Student Program. Warner was among a group of student-athletes who traveled to West Middle School in Binghamton to mentor and work with pupils.
"We try to give them something to work toward," Warner says. "We may say: 'Get an 80 on the next test instead of a 75.' If hearing it from us makes them want to get that 80, we're doing our job."
Warner, who has played lacrosse since he was a second-grader in a league of sixth-graders, says he takes pride in being an exemplary student-athlete.
"I had goals coming in as a freshman, but I never thought I'd be able to maintain a 3.8 over four years, especially as a double major," says Warner, who is a midfielder on the lacrosse team. "I do my best to influence other students. Teammates come to me for help and advice. I take pride in maintaining high academic standards while being a team captain."
Men's lacrosse coach Scott Nelson notes that Warner was not only a team captain, but also the team's most valuable player in 2013.
"Shane epitomizes the true student-athlete. He is as dedicated to his studies as he is to being an excellent lacrosse player," Nelson says. "Shane does everything to the best of his ability and with a great attitude. He always seems to enjoy himself, always has a smile on his face. Shane plays a position that gets little glory, however, it is as important as any on the field."
Warner's contributions on and off the field are now receiving national attention, as well. He was recently named a finalist for the Yeardley Reynolds Love ("YRL") Unsung Hero Award. The award honors a male and female lacrosse player who are "hard-working, humble, honest, kind, and enthusiastic; this individual serves as an inspiration to her/his team both on the field and off'." The award is given in honor of former University of Virginia student-athlete Yeardley Love, who was killed in 2010. The four other male finalists come from the University of North Carolina, The Ohio State University, Loyola University and Cornell University.
Warner plans to get a master's degree in education and eventually teach high school social studies while coaching lacrosse and football.
Coming to Binghamton University to play Division 1 lacrosse and study the liberal arts was "the best decision I've ever made," Warner says.
"The people I've met, the professors I've worked with, the classes I've taken – they have all made me a better leader. But they've also made me set goals, attack those goals and achieve the goals to the best of my abilities."
Commencement 2013 Profile: Kaitlyn Orr
By Steve Seepersaud
The Port Washington, N.Y. native will spend much of the summer traveling before starting work at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) in audit and assurance. By the time she begins her job with PwC, Orr will also have completed the four sections of the Uniform CPA exam which are required for her become a certified public accountant.
As an undergraduate accounting student at Binghamton, Orr was a member of the PwC Scholars program, through which she formed close bonds with fellow students. Each year, the Scholars raised money for and completed a service project in the Binghamton community, and had opportunities to receive mentoring from alumni working within the firm.
"I feel the Scholars program gives you opportunities that you'd never get otherwise," Orr said. "I've been on four international trips. I love to travel. I'd work so hard over the summer to pay for the trips. It's a great to experience other cultures."
During the past academic year, Orr worked in the school's Career Services office, critiquing students' cover letters and resumes, and giving feedback on their performance in mock interviews.
"What I value the most is learning about different students," Orr said. "We have students who come from all over the world. They talk about where they come from, where they've been and where they want to go. The best feeling is when someone comes back, gives you a hug and says they got the job and they appreciate your help."
Orr says her Binghamton University experience is a shining example of the axiom, "You get out of something what you put into it." In her meetings with students seeking career advice, she often tried to get that point across.
"You have to make the most of what's available — use advising, Career Services, go to a professor's office hours," Orr said. "There is a sense of wanting to help, whether it's talking to friends, or staff or faculty. They want everyone to succeed."
Christina Whitney, director of SOM Career Services, says Orr exemplifies what a student can make of his or her experience in the School of Management.
"She never let an opportunity pass her by," Whitney said. "She has traveled, mentored, learned, interned, coached, networked and been a leader. The friends who surround her every day tell me that she has had some fun along the way as well. She shares her knowledge and experience with others in hopes of helping them to make the most of their experiences, as she did."
Commencement 2013 profile: Victoria Tagarelli
By Eric Coker
The talent on display ranges from singing to break-dancing to ukulele playing, says Victoria Tagarelli, who will graduate with a degree in electrical engineering and address her classmates at Commencement.
"Usually a professor will give a lecture that they think is 'talent,'" she says with a laugh. "But it's a good time."
At the most recent talent show, Tagarelli was accompanied on guitar by Mark Fowler, professor of electrical and computer engineering, when she sang "Home" by Michael Bublé.
It was an appropriate vocal from the 21-year-old from Hawthorne, N.Y., as Binghamton University has been her home since transferring from Stony Brook during her freshman year. Tagarelli will remain in the Binghamton area after graduation, when she begins a job at Lockheed Martin in Owego.
"I would tell people this: 'Your college becomes your second home,'" she says. "This class saw Binghamton go through the (2012) flood. It was a big moment when we turned around and said, 'This is our community.' It hit us hard. And when Sandy hit (New York City and Long Island), this community donated so much back to the students. It's a second home – and a second family."
For Tagarelli, that family feeling extends to Watson, where students learn from one another and rely on one another.
"There's an immediate comfort I feel when someone tells me they are an engineer," she says. "The students work hard and don't take things for granted. They love to learn and love to be challenged. That's what makes the field so interesting. When I take a class, it's new and challenging. I'm not going to find the answer written in a textbook. There isn't a yes-no answer. It's hands-on."
There is a perception, though, that some Watson students spend all of their time sitting and working at a computer, Tagarelli says. Not true.
"We can actually have a social conversation!" she says with a laugh. "We really do enjoy interacting and having a good time."
Working as a Watson peer advisor gives Tagarelli the chance to assist other students.
"You must be insanely smart if you aren't struggling a bit," she says. "Everyone goes through a phase in which they struggle. ... I enjoy helping people and making someone's day a little easier."
Sharon Santobuono, associate director of Watson Advising, says that Tagarelli has been an "invaluable asset" to the office.
"Victoria is always happy and her smile contagious," Santobuono says. "Victoria was also an undergraduate course assistant for one of the freshman classes − she was a wonderful role model and mentor to other female students. She is always reliable, insightful and conscientious."
Tagarelli also made the days of prospective students a little easier, as she served as a campus tour guide for the past two years.
"A tour is an opportunity to tell people how much you love the school," says Tagarelli, who adds that it was particularly exciting to run into President Harvey Stenger once on a tour and have him speak to students and parents.
Keys to a memorable tour include smiling a lot and knowing how to poke fun at yourself, she says.
"You can explain office hours – and they may not find it entertaining," she says. "But they may find it entertaining to know that I once had a breakdown and started crying in front of my professor. They'll remember that story and remember that there are professors who will be there for you."
Besides her peer-advising and tour-guide positions, Tagarelli serves as a community assistant at University Plaza and as treasurer of the Orchesis Dance Explosion.
"I come from a family that likes to sing and dance – whether we are good at it or not!" she says.
Tagarelli, who has conducted security-engineering research at programs at the University of Maryland and the University of Connecticut, will take her engineering talents to Lockheed Martin. She will be part of the Owego facility's Engineering Leadership Development Program, which features rotations in areas such as circuit, design and systems engineering. The program also enables Tagarelli to pursue a master's degree at Cornell University after a year.
"Lockheed Martin is a great company," she says. "Doing security engineering gave me a patriotic feeling. At Lockheed Martin, I'll get to do work that benefits the country and that the Defense Department uses. You can save lives with that. What Lockheed Martin stands for is great."
Commencement 2013 profile: Fred Hilliker
By Eric Coker
In a month, Hilliker will ensure the well-being of patients at Robert Packer Hospital in Sayre, Pa.
"People who know me aren't often surprised by anything I do," Hilliker says. "They know that I like caring for people and helping people. I'm just doing it in a different way now."
Hilliker, a 35-year-old from Waverly, will receive his bachelor's in nursing as part of the Decker School of Nursing's Baccalaureate Accelerated Track (BAT) Program for college graduates from fields other than nursing.
The journey to Decker's BAT program began in 2001, when Hilliker was pursuing his master's degree in education/counseling at SUNY Oneonta. In need of a place to live for the upcoming semester, Hilliker was urged by a professor to consider becoming a resident director.
"I just laughed and said 'Sure I should!'" Hilliker recalls. He eventually applied for a position at Hartwick College and was hired.
"I needed a place to stay – that was my sole motivation," he says. "But I got the job and absolutely fell in love with it. I stayed there for two years and finished my master's."
In August 2003, Hilliker returned to SUNY Albany, where he had received his bachelor's degree in philosophy in 1999, to work as a resident director. After a year at Albany, Hilliker heard that another school in the Albany area – Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) – was looking for an assistant director of residence life. At RPI, Hilliker oversaw a staff of 35 and worked with 700 freshmen.
Hilliker later became assistant dean of residence life at the school – but things had changed by 2009.
"I loved it, but I ended up working more with vice presidents and deans than with my students," he says. "So I was on the fence about what I really wanted to do."
Hilliker's wife Shannon received an offer to teach at Binghamton University, so the couple returned to Waverly. Hilliker was working as a substitute teacher when he discovered Decker's BAT program.
"Counseling and nursing aren't too terribly different," he says. "It seemed like a good fit for my skill set."
Hilliker started in May 2012 and was immediately impressed with his classmates.
"I love the people in the program," he says. "There's a great deal of diversity in terms of backgrounds and ages. We have people who are fresh out of undergrad. There are people who have had extensive careers before this. We have people who haven't gone to college since the 1980s. It is an interesting group of people. We all have different struggles going on, but there is a camaraderie that emerges."
Besides taking classes, Hilliker took part in clinical rotations that included working at Waverly High School for community health. He praised the Decker faculty members for always being able to showcase different areas that a nursing degree can be used in.
"There are extraordinary faculty who go above and beyond in terms of availability and accessibility," he says. "They make sure that you understand the content."
Alison Dura, a clinical lecturer in Decker, said Hilliker is a "warm, confident, and caring person with a razor sharp wit who keeps his peers and faculty in stitches.
"Throughout the year he's demonstrated a real thirst for understanding − and not just for knowledge and facts," Dura says. "Since last May, it's been a real treat to watch him fully take on the nursing role, and incorporate his principles and personality into the process. One year later, I see an insightful, perceptive and very smart nurse who's sure to provide leadership wherever he goes."
Hilliker will begin working in June at Robert Packer Hospital's multi-systems trauma floor. He hopes to return to Binghamton University after a year for the nurse practitioner program and eventually could get into teaching.
"I've got to cut my teeth on some real-world experience first," he says. "I want to go out first and do nursing, rather than learn nursing. But I'll be back."
A year in the BAT program has left Hilliker with a great respect for the amount of knowledge that nurses must have.
"I've had a year of knowledge crammed into my head and I think I'm a rank novice in terms of what I need to know," he says. "There is a great deal of technical know-how and responsibility that nurses have. The knowledge of the drugs, the anatomy, the biophysics – it's impressive what's out there to learn. What can you learn in a year that isn't just a brief overview? There is so much more to learn – and that is exciting to me."
Commencement 2013 profile: Delmar Dualeh
By Anika Michel
"I think all of the involvement I've had on campus has really shaped what I want to do in the future. Through working with students, I know I want to have an active career in social work," he said. "In addition, I think it has prepared me professionally. Campus jobs and student groups have showed me how to work with different people, how to be a part of a staff, and has really improved my professional build."
A human development major from Harlem, Dualeh said that he came to Binghamton University because it was affordable and among his top choices. He had been accepted through the University's Educational Opportunity Program, a program that provides academic and financial support to underprivileged, low-income students who demonstrate the potential to succeed.
"EOP not only gave me the opportunity to be a student here, but also the resources to thrive," Dualeh said. "The program is a support system that is unique and I can't imagine my college experience without it."
Ever since his freshman year, his goal has been to be involved on campus.
"I was a part of the Binghamton Association for Mixed Students. I had been a general body member during my freshman year, as well as the educational coordinator for the organization during my sophomore year," Dualeh said.
While being involved with BAMS, Dualeh also found time to start the Binghamton University chapter of SHADES, a student group that supports students of color who are homosexual, bisexual or transgender.
"There are SHADES on other campuses, and I wanted to charter it here. The group caters to students of color who are LGBT," he said. "The reason I created the organization is because I feel that was an underserved population on the Binghamton campus."
In addition to his participation in student organizations, Dualeh has also engaged in other aspects of campus life. He has been a resident assistant for three years in Newing College; a member of Chi Alpha Epsilon, an honor society that acknowledges the continued success of students who were admitted through non-traditional academic programs; and he has also been active in health education programs.
"I was a REACH Peer for health services − Real Education About College Health. So we did a lot of outreach to students about health topics," he said.
Dualeh has continued to explore his interest in health education through his internship at the Southern Tier AIDS Program (STAP), which held its annual AIDS Walk on April 21.
When he is not working at his internship, Dualeh works as a tour guide, a job that he said is a good opportunity to advise prospective students on how they can become involved during their four years at Binghamton.
"Being a tour guide is a great job," Dualeh said. "With all of the student involvement that I have, I can use the knowledge and share it with prospective students and families. I can also show them the University, talk about my experience and answer any questions they may have about the school."
Dualeh has also studied abroad, and spent the fall 2012 semester in Cape Town, South Africa.
"I wanted to go to a place where, for one, the people spoke English," Dualeh said with a laugh. "And I wanted to have a different cultural experience, so I decided to go to Africa. I thought: 'That's going to be different than what I'm used to.' I chose to go to South Africa, just because it has such a rich history, and I wanted to see what the country is like today."
While studying in South Africa, Dualeh volunteered to work in one of the low-income communities, which are referred to as townships. "We helped kids with their computer and literacy skills," he said.
Dualeh said he "definitely recommends" that students study abroad because it will be a life-changing experience. He cites his decision to study in South Africa as "one of the best things" that he has done during his college career.
Dualeh will pursue a master's degree in social work at Hunter College in the fall. His long-term career goal is to manage an organization that helps members of the LGBT community who are both underrepresented and underprivileged.
"I would want to be an executive director of a nonprofit organization that works for LGBT youth, maybe in the field of HIV/AIDS or homelessness because those are two things that affect that community," he said. "I can see myself managing one of those organizations, or hopefully even starting my own."
Dualeh said that he would advise students to "take part in everything" that they can.
"Don't just be so focused on your academics, or solely on your social life," he said. "Be engaged in everything because that's going to make you a well-rounded person in the future."
Commencement 2013 profile: Rachel Bachman
By Eric Coker
Rachel Bachman had three goals when she began pursuing her doctorate in the Graduate School of Education.
Help underprepared undergraduates. Continue to conduct research. Develop a curriculum to help solve the problems associated with teaching math.
Three checkmarks and four years later, Bachman's work is paying off. The 28-year-old from Ulysses, Pa., will begin work this summer as an assistant professor at Weber State University in Ogden, Utah, where she will prepare elementary and secondary educators to teach math.
"I can continue working on this very real problem we have of students attending college who are not prepared to take on the math that they're asked to," she says. "I've pursued a position in which I can help train teachers and say to them: 'We have to change our mindset. Everyone can do math if we teach it well.' But for so long, we have not taught it well. We've accepted the belief that some people can do math and others cannot."
Bachman, who addressed her Graduate School of Education classmates at the school's commencement ceremony on May 10, received her undergraduate degree from Penn State University and her master's in teaching from Binghamton University in 2009. At Binghamton, she taught remedial math classes to Educational Opportunity Program students that went back to the foundations of mathematical concepts instead of approaching problems procedurally.
"We often say to students: 'For this kind of problem, do this and this and this, and you will get the right answer,'" she says. "There's no real inclusion of why these steps make sense and why they ended up producing the right answer."
Students who are able to memorize procedures usually do well in math, Bachman says.
"For most people, memorizing for no particular reason is difficult," she says.
A teaching example is using algebra tiles for algebra instruction.
"Algebra came from geometry," Bachman says. "But throughout history, the two diverged away from each other. All of the meaning of algebra is over here in geometry, but we don't treat it that way. I attempted in my class to bring the two back together so we could understand where the real meaning of algebra comes from."
Students' reactions to the alternative teaching methods proved encouraging to Bachman.
"I'm much more confident in this approach now than I was four years ago because of the students and their ability to understand and learn," she says. 'It was their ability to grab ahold of these (methods) and encourage me to teach math this way and remediate this way."
Bachman also taught a Mathematics for Nursing class to Decker students. The course was developed by Jean Schmittau, professor in the Graduate School of Education, was also served as Bachman's mentor while leading the Teacher Leader Quality Partnership project to improve mathematics teaching in New York state.
"Rachel used many of the pedagogical practices we employed with the classes she taught at Binghamton University and eventually I was able to call upon her to also conduct sessions for the teachers in the project," Schmittau says. "I always shared with her the research underlying this work and I am delighted that she will now be advancing to prepare elementary math specialists in her new professorial appointment."
Bachman's path to her doctorate was inspired by her grandfather, Marion Alsdorf, who was once faced with the choice of going to college or saving the family farm in rural Pennsylvania. Alsdorf, who died in 2010, chose the farm.
"I always thought: 'Which one would I have chosen?' I'm glad I never had to decide," Bachman says. "When he heard that I was accepted into the (doctoral) program, he was in a nursing home. But he told all of the nurses about me. I went to see him one day and he said: 'I never thought someone in our family would get their doctorate.'"
The professors and students that Bachman worked with have helped to make that dream a reality.
"The professors in the Graduate School of Education are, hands down, the best teachers I've ever met," she says. "They are models of how to become good teachers.
"Students are why I started to teach and why I want to continue teaching. ... I just had an interest: 'It looks like people didn't learn math well. How can we teach it better?' I feel like the opportunities that opened at Binghamton University gave me the chance to do that. I think I'm on a good path to continue to grow as a good math teacher."