The informal teaching style of Jeffrey L. Tanenbaum '73 wouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who knows him.
Yes, he was a high-powered New York City attorney. Yes, he was involved in the representation of General Motors as it moved through Chapter 11. And yes, he was named Dealmaker of the Year in 2010 by The American Lawyer magazine.
But, as president of Hinman College in the early ’70s, he argued for a closer working relationship between students and faculty, writing in a letter published in the Hinman Halitosis: "[Students] need a system where they can make friends more readily, interact with people more on a personal level, faculty and administration included. The acquisition of the faculty into the collegiate structure is not going to accomplish anything if the formal separation of the two groups remains."
After 32 years in private practice, Tanenbaum had a chance to implement that philosophy this semester when he returned to Harpur College to teach World of Corporate Reorganization, a one-credit course on the current financial crisis and how corporations in trouble can restructure themselves and work their way through bankruptcy.
“It’s almost a crash course on what has happened to us over the last five years,” Tanenbaum said. “It’s something I always wanted to do. I enjoy it a lot and it gives me an opportunity to give something back to the school as well. It’s been quite rewarding.”
Boiling down such complex material and fitting it into an abbreviated format — the class met five times in three-hour sessions — was a challenge. One tactic was to skip the usual lecture format and convene the class around a conference table — a typical business-meeting setting — and engage students in discussion. The informal atmosphere allowed students to ask questions as they occurred and learn at the same pace.
“His teaching style was a little bit unconventional,” said Diego A. Restrepo, an economics PhD student who was Tanenbaum’s teaching assistant. “He hadn’t been trained in teaching because he was working in the private sector. It was interesting to see someone with his experience working with a bunch of kids and getting them engaged. It was very impressive to me because he was able to approach these kids very naturally.”
Senior Jennifer Rosen took the class because she plans to go to law school and specialize in finance. She loved it, saying Tanenbaum bridged incredibly complicated subjects with his real-life war stories. For instance, during a discussion about Chapter 11, Tanenbaum would paint pictures of being in executive board meetings with GM, working the company through the bankruptcy process.
“It made the class extremely enlightening and I guess ‘fun’ would be the word because he had these stories of the deals he has been involved with,” Rosen said. “We are able to see what we are learning in class in action. It solidified what I want to do because I found it so interesting.”
Tanenbaum loves that students got so much out of it. He had taught similar material at his law school alma mater and worried that it might be too much for undergrads, especially in such a compacted time frame.
“I think it has been challenging for them,” he said. “The material is sophisticated and I didn’t really modify the content for the Binghamton students. I kept it the same as I did for the law students. It’s challenging stuff. My challenge is bringing it to a level where they can absorb it. If they can pick up a newspaper — The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times — and look at the business section and understand what they’re reading and say, ‘gee, we just talked about that,’ that, to me, is it. That’s a home run. And I think I’ve done that.”
Both Rosen and Restrepo say he did that and more; he inspired students with material that many think is boring and dry. In fact, Restrepo, who is in his third PhD year of studying finance, is considering changing his career track.
“Before his class, I was thinking of setting up a business,” he said. “But seeing how the real world works everyday was illuminating. I realized even the big companies are in need of outside professionals to conduct their business. Now, I picture myself doing something like that.”
With such results, it seems that Tanenbaum was onto something 40 years ago when he argued for a new, more personal relationship between students and professors.
Student leader gains local, international experience
By Steve Seepersaud
Edward Calderone won’t have much of a chance to rest after graduating from the School of Management. He’ll pack his bags and move into a New York University residence hall, where he’ll live during the summer while interning in the assurance division of PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC).
This will actually be his second internship for the Big Four accounting firm. Last summer, he served in the internal firm services online marketing group. In the fall, he’ll bring his newly-gained experience back to campus when he returns to pursue a master’s degree in accounting.
PwC has been a significant part of Calderone’s Binghamton University experience. The 22-year-old from Staten Island spent the past academic year as president of PwC Scholars, an honors program within the School of Management, which has about 140 members who excel in academics, leadership and professionalism.
Each year, the group engages in a community service project in the Binghamton area. Calderone oversaw construction of a native animal exhibit in the woods of the Binghamton Zoo at Ross Park, an area where children can view a variety of objects including animal skulls.
“The project cost $9,000, but we were able to raise more than $10,000, so that gives us a reserve account, and we can do things like work on the [Discovery Center] playground that we built last year,” he said.
In addition to serving the community, some of Calderone’s most significant experiences as a PwC Scholar have come from the group’s annual week-long international trips. Previous destinations have included Vienna and Prague. Earlier this year, the scholars traveled to Australia, which gave them the opportunity to visit a rain forest as well as the offices of Macquarie Bank, one of PwC’s largest clients.
“We get a flavor for international culture, and see how accounting is done in other countries,” Calderone said. “In Australia, they don’t use American general accounting principles, but what they do is fairly similar otherwise.
“The best thing that people get out of [the trips] is the experience. That’s what brings us together as PwC Scholars. And, each time we come back from a trip, the friendships are even stronger.”
Calderone was also vice president of the business fraternity Alpha Kappa Psi, and worked in the school’s newly-formed career services office. He looks forward to the challenges of graduate school and hopes to eventually parlay his experiences into a coveted job at PwC or another Big Four firm.
Haiti native uses engineering skills in Central America
By Ashley Smith
At the age of 17, Marie Coralie Brutus and her twin brother came from Haiti to the United States, just prior to their senior year of high school, to join their two older brothers who were studying engineering at Stony Brook University. Her parents and younger brother stayed behind in Haiti though, so Brutus and her brother were cared for by their grandmother.
While her twin joined their brothers at Stony Brook, Brutus came to Binghamton University to study industrial and systems engineering. A fan of math and science her whole life, she said Binghamton’s engineering program sounded interesting and fit her personality perfectly.
Brutus plans to go back to Haiti someday but, for now, she’s working hard to pull together every experience and skill she can to prepare her to make an impact when she does return.
“We have so many problems in Haiti,” Brutus said, including systems engineering issues such as decentralization. “Everything is happening in the capital and there aren’t many facilities in other parts of the country.”
“I still need to figure out how to help them,” she said, so during her four years at Binghamton she has taken advantage of every opportunity to learn. She participated in the first-year engineering community and served as treasurer of the Society of Women Engineers, president of the Alpha Pi Mu (APM) Industrial Engineering Honor Society and vice president of the Orchesis Dance Club. She also worked in Harpur Advising during her first two years, and then as a Watson School peer advisor for the last two, helping with orientation, giving tours to potential students and advising current students.
“When I was younger, I was shy and speaking with new people was difficult for me,” she said. “Working as a peer advisor gave me the opportunity to express myself and forced me to interact with new people all the time, and I’ve realized that I really enjoy helping people.”
Brutus also loves learning about new cultures and is extremely interested in the international facets of engineering. “I hope to apply the experience of improving other Third World countries to the issues in Haiti,” she said.
The summer after her junior year, Brutus participated in the Nicaragua service-learning project, and loved it. “It was an opportunity to help a Third World country and broaden my horizons,” she said. The group raised money to help fund construction of a family home in rural Nicaragua and also to give scholarships to children in the area. They also collected clothes and shoes to distribute in the rural areas, and were able to send shoes to Haiti after the earthquakes as well.
Her senior project has given her yet another invaluable experience. With a team of three other Watson School seniors, Brutus is designing and building a clean water system for a small community of 100 people in Rio Hondo, San Marcos Ocotepeque, Honduras. The current system of pipes is improperly constructed and damaged, exposing the water supply to contamination. Brutus traveled to Honduras last January for the initial planning meeting and again in April to finalize crews and plans for the build, set for after Commencement.
Her success in and out of the classroom is a testament to her drive. “I learned at an early age how to prioritize and set time for studying — how to decide what was important in the near future and get that done before anything else,” she said.
And her achievements don’t go unnoticed. “Coralie is attentive, highly motivated, well-spoken and intelligent,” said Sarah Lam, associate professor of SSIE and faculty advisor of APM. “Her academic excellence, her accomplishments in scholarly activities, her involvement in campus and community service, and her leadership make her an outstanding individual.”
Brutus is going “step by step to see where the path leads” and will attend Pennsylvania State University in the fall to study industrial engineering and operations research. She credits Watson School faculty and staff for pushing her to find what she really thinks and wants in life.
“Sharon Santobuono, Lorna Wells and everyone else in the Watson School have always been there for me,” Brutus said. “All of the faculty members, whether they were ISE or not, have been willing to talk. Having that support is what I’ll sincerely miss the most.”
A 'role model' to his fellow Decker students
By Eric Coker
The family-like environment at the Decker School of Nursing played an integral role in Birant Akbay’s success at Binghamton University.
“Because it’s a smaller program, I not only know all of the students in my class, but all of the professors, too,” said Akbay, a 22-year-old nursing major from Niskayuna, N.Y., near Albany. “It’s beneficial to students because you get that one-to-one experience.”
As president of the school’s Nursing Student Association, Akbay has worked to enhance the family-like atmosphere and get nursing students more active in the community. Akbay has led students in events such as the Heart Walk, Coaches vs. Cancer and Relay for Life.
“We try to get involved in other ways, as well,” he said. “We’ve gone to elementary schools to teach children about proper hand hygiene. We want to give back to the community. A big part of nursing is education. It’s not just hands-on skills.”
Akbay’s leadership skills have not gone unnoticed at Decker.
“I can honestly say that he is one of the best presidents we have ever had,” said Fran Srnka Debnar, clinical assistant professor and student services director of undergraduate student advising at Decker. “He is a born leader. He is phenomenal at motivating his classmates and his e-board.”
Akbay has also served as a campus tour guide since his junior year. He not only has led large groups, but has helped prospective nursing students learn about Decker and its facilities.
“If you are enthusiastic about your program, why not let other students know about it?” said Akbay, who also is a member of the Student Health Advisory Committee. “You could inspire someone to go into nursing. If you enjoy being a student at Binghamton, [leading tours] is a good way to pass that on to others.”
Akbay’s work outside of the classroom and hospitals has taught him about leadership, communication skills and – perhaps most importantly – time management.
“There is a lot of material crammed into this program,” he said. “If you can’t manage your time, you are in big trouble.”
Akbay became attracted to nursing while taking a “New Visions” healthcare course as a senior in high school. One of 10 students accepted into the program, Akbay spent the first half of the day taking classes, while the rest of the day was spent job shadowing at St. Peter’s Hospital in Albany.
Those clinical rotations gave Akbay a taste of the healthcare industry – and the “people-oriented” nature of nursing proved appealing.
“I really liked the role of the nurse in the healthcare system,” he said. “They are the backbone of the system.”
Akbay chose Binghamton University because of its strong science and nursing programs. But before becoming active in Decker, Akbay made a trip that would foreshadow the importance of the family atmosphere.
“I’ve always been drawn to my Turkish side and Turkish culture,” said Akbay, whose father came to the United States from Turkey to pursue his doctorate. “Ever since I was young, we would go to Turkey and spend time with my grandparents. In Turkish culture, family is very important. So I really wanted to spend extra time with my grandparents while I was there.”
Akbay decided to spend a semester during his sophomore year studying at the Turkish school his father attended, Bogazici University in Istanbul. But, after the semester, Akbay felt he had not learned all he needed. So he decided to take a year off from Binghamton University and enroll in a Turkish language program, while also traveling through Europe.
After eight months at the Istanbul language school, Akbay was able to read, write and speak Turkish. He said he would love to live there someday.
“It’s a challenging experience to learn culture and language,” he said. “I’m so connected to the Turkish people and culture. I’m so happy there.”
Akbay is still deciding which nursing path to take after he graduates this month. He has spent much of the semester in the emergency department of Wilson Memorial Regional Medical Center in Johnson City and is considering critical care. Other options include teaching or management.
“There are so many paths and options in nursing,” said Akbay, who is also considering job offers from hospitals in the Albany area. “The paths are endless.”
As a school leader and a tour guide with a full clinical and classroom schedule, Akbay is a role model for his Decker peers, said clinical lecturer Alison Dura.
“He cares deeply about real learning, and works to apply his knowledge to benefit real people in clinical care,” Dura said. “He will be greatly missed as a vital and proactive student leader in our school. If I could write a ‘recipe’ for the committed and passionate student, he would be the example.”
Being part of Decker helped Akbay develop a stronger relationship with Binghamton University, he said.
“I felt like I belonged somewhere,” he said of his decision to pursue a nursing degree. “It all goes back to that relationship between faculty and students. They care about students and want them to be successful. They want to prepare students to be the best they can be because they know the nursing profession can be so overwhelming at times.
“Binghamton has given me a good opportunity and a good base to take the next step.”
Triple major finds time to give back to community
By Oulimata Ba
Looking back on his four years in college, Davon Harris is proud of the work he has done to help provide a better future for local and state youth. Among many other involvements, he has spent the last three years as treasurer of the Juvenile Urban Multicultural Program (JUMP Nation).
“We have a weekend where we bring at-risk youth from the inner city up to the University,” the 22-year-old said. “We then pair them up with mentors. Our goal is to decrease the rate of high school dropouts and encourage them to pursue higher education.”
When Harris graduated from a high school in the Bronx, he applied to Binghamton through the Educational Opportunity Program (EOP), a University program that offers academic and financial support to students who may not have the opportunity to attend college.
This has led Harris to appreciate the value of giving back to the community. He graduated this month with a degree in Africana Studies and Latin American and Caribbean Studies (LACAS), as well as a degree in Human Development from CCPA.
Harris said his freshman year was instrumental to his becoming a triple major.
“I always heard that you can learn whatever you wanted in college, so my freshman year I took an array of classes including philosophy, Africana studies and LACAS,” Harris said. “The Africana studies and LACAS classes struck me the most. I always wanted to learn about my history as an African American, so that’s why I became an Africana Studies major. I got into Human Development when I took a couple of classes with Associate Professor Leo Wilton. His classes overlapped with a lot of LACAS and Africana studies classes.”
Harris’ career goal is to one day become a physician. He said the classes have helped him keep in touch with his desire to study medicine and aid people. In the meantime, he has chosen to keep his options open for post-graduation.
“I really want to join the Peace Corps somewhere in South America or the Caribbean so I can apply some of the concepts I have learned in class,” he said. “I have my whole life ahead of me; you can re-invent yourself whenever you like. I may want to go into the Peace Corps, but that won’t stop me from becoming a doctor.”
Harris has taken the open outlook he has on his future and extended it to world travel.
During the winter break, he studied abroad in China. He traveled all along China’s east coast, stopping in Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong and Shenzhen, where he studied at Shenzhen University.
“I had never been outside the country, so I wanted to make it a big experience,” Harris said. “I figured, why not China!”
The most valuable lessons Harris learned in China taught him what it means to adjust.
For instance, the dorms he stayed in had no heat, which meant he had to wake up each morning to heat up the water to take a hot shower.
“China was great. I had a lot of memorable moments, but we didn’t have it all. I learned not to take what I have here for granted,” he said.
Wilton said Harris “has distinguished himself as a serious young scholar who is committed to working in communities.”
“He reflects the heart and spirit of the Binghamton tradition of academic excellence with a strong commitment to social justice,” Wilton said.
Diane Crews, visiting assistant professor of human development, praised Harris’ “big heart” and emphasized his mentoring work in the Binghamton community.
“Davon gives a lot of himself to help other people and is especially mindful of the positive influence great mentors can have on a person’s life,” she said.
Harris’ community contributions also extend to his other classes.
“For another class, I am part of the Sunshine Lady Foundation,” said Harris, who hopes to start his own non-profit organization someday. “Doris Buffett gives the University $10,000 as one of 15 campuses that get to participate in the program. We split the money up and donate it to local non-profits.”
Feeling a mix of excitement, reflection and anticipation as Commencement nears, Harris plans to attend three ceremonies: the professional schools and Harpur College Commencement ceremonies and the EOP recognition ceremony.
“One thing I have learned by being in college is that four years can pass by really fast, and I’ve changed a lot within those four years,” he said. “I’ve also learned a lot about life, both good and bad.
“I’m proud of myself and I’m happy to be graduating. I’m an only child so my mother is proud of me, too. I just can’t wait to be an alumnus so that I can give back to the school that gave so much to me.”
GSE student has 'natural presence' in classroom
By Katie Ellis
Graduating with her master of science in education, Yahaira Rivera wants to teach second or third grade in any one of the New York City boroughs – an environment she knows well. From the Bronx, she came to Binghamton as an undergraduate student in the Educational Opportunity Program, following on the heels of two of her older brothers. She earned her undergraduate degree in Spanish literature in 2008, which made sense because she’s fluent in Spanish. In fact, English is her second language.
“I’m looking mainly to teach in the city,” Rivera said. “It’s very challenging and there’s a lot of competition for jobs, especially with the budget cuts, and teaching is tough there, but I’ve lived in the city my whole life.
“It’s also very important to be bilingual,” she said. “Knowing two languages is almost essential and understanding diversity will be an important aspect of my teaching.”
Challenges aren’t new to Rivera, nor is rising to them. And though her teachers and mentors never doubted her skills in the classroom, she wasn’t too certain at first if the teaching path was the right one for her. “It’s different, hard, challenging,” said Rivera, who wants to teach special education students.
“But, after I started student teaching, I saw how much of a difference you can make in a child’s life and I decided then that’s where I want to be.”
Seeing one child in particular make progress reinforced her decision. “I wrote about this in one of my journals,” she said. “I worked with this one child in kindergarten who was very resistant to me and I always felt like I wasn’t going to bond with him. Then, on my last day, he hugged me for the first time and he told me I really helped him, but he had just wanted to give me a hard time.
“I used to worry about how I could help him, and it was a big thing for him. To know that he’s learning and progressing was beautiful,” she said. “It made my day.”
Rivera, who began classes in the Graduate School of Education as a non-matriculated student, credits three of the Graduate School of Education faculty with making a difference for her.
“All of my professors at Binghamton have been very helpful to me,” she said. “However, there are three who stick out as very influential: Jennifer Gordon, Elizabeth Anderson and Candace Mulcahy. I met Candace when I was a non-matriculated student. She was one of my first professors in graduate school and when I first met her, I was in the childhood education career path only.”
After taking Mulcahy’s course, Rivera decided that she was interested in special education and made the switch to Inclusive Childhood Education. “Soon
enough,” Rivera said, “I met Jenny and Liz. Although I have always been my own motivator, Liz, Jenny and Candace always supported me in all of my accomplishments, which was a great reminder that I was heading in the right path.”
An active member of the Kappa Delta Pi honor society, Rivera volunteered for the Literacy Alive program in the Johnson City School District during her master’s program. She also student-taught in both third grade at Homer Brink Elementary School for a semester and in early kindergarten, kindergarten, first- and fifth-grade special education classes.
She is an absolute natural in the classroom, according to Gordon, an associate professor of education.
“She’s amazing,” Gordon said. “She’s got that sparkle and an interesting perspective. Her work ethic is incredible as well. She works like a demon to get things done and follows all recommendations. Whatever she needed to do, she took care of.”
In many ways, Rivera was way ahead of the curve here, Gordon added. “She is just such a natural presence in a classroom with children - completely comfortable in a warm authority role.”
During her two semesters of student teaching, Rivera created labor-intensive projects, such as making books with students in an arts integration class.
“She had them create a book on the human life cycle from birth through adulthood, and I witnessed her as an absolute natural and saw her personality come through with the children,” Gordon said. “She has a fantastic sense of humor and warmth and the children were all excited about these books. She showed a wonderful sense of allowing children to be children, then stretching them beyond what might be seen as a limitation.”
What sets Rivera apart from many others, Gordon said, is her sophistication in the classroom. “Many young teachers feel the need to contain the excitement children bring to learning, and she is not one of those,” Gordon said. “She is very much a mature presence in the classroom and she understands the importance of education very deeply. Not everybody gets it, but she does.”
Respectful and open to feedback, Rivera makes the most out of every situation, Gordon said. “Every challenge spurs her to work harder,” Gordon said.
“Our program has offered her the knowledge base in terms of pedagogy so she can articulate what she intuitively knew anyway.”
Though she’s very adaptable, moving away from the comfort of her family for the first time when she enrolled at Binghamton as an undergraduate was hard. “I’m very flexible and try to adapt very quickly wherever I’m at,” Rivera said. ”My biggest struggle as a whole was getting used to being away from home. It was a big transition. I have three older brothers and I’m the youngest. It was tough. Everything was so structured and on your own, you have to learn to manage your own time and be responsible. It’s a whole different game plan.”
As an EOP student, Rivera took advantage of its summer program, which helped her adjust to the school environment in general. “It helped me become familiar with what college life was like,” she said. “It was nice to have that and it made my transition much smoother. It allowed me to meet people and when classes started in the fall, I was already familiar with people and where I was going.”
Rivera doesn’t want to graduate without giving credit where credit is due. In addition to the faculty at Binghamton, her family made the grade. “My greatest support throughout my entire college experience has been my family: my mom, dad and brothers,” she said. “They have been my guidance, my motivation and my unconditional support. When things seemed too hard for me to handle, I knew I could always turn to them for redirection.”
She brings tears to your eyes, she is such a self-made success story, said Gordon. “Internally she had everything to start with. She’s a standout −a star. She’s completely beloved where she student taught and she is going to have a real future in this field. I have no doubt about it.”