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Leadership institute focuses on Tier’s strengths

Developer Ari Meisel, right, gives a tour of one of his luxury lofts at The Depot in downtown Binghamton to Binghamton University students who are in the Catalysts for Intellectual Capital Leadership Institute.
A student-run economic development think tank recently launched a leadership institute designed to give students a new perspective on the Southern Tier.

Catalysts for Intellectual Capital 2020 (CIC2020) initially focused on creating better socioeconomic conditions to keep Binghamton graduates in the area. “We had a larger goal, but this year we’re focusing on retaining the brains,” said Brian Ross, a senior geography major.

The new initiative – a 10- session, non-credit course run with support from area businesses and nonprofit groups – will give students a look at the Tier’s strengths as well as the kinds of employment opportunities available locally.

Twenty students with a variety of majors will tour area companies and learn about topics ranging from health care and journalism to government and local history.

The first session, held in January, took place at Cornell University’s team-building facility. Each week’s class features three or four presentations, an activity or tour and a panel discussion. A reception is planned May 1 to mark the conclusion of the leadership institute, called CIC-LI.

“All of this is geared toward an employment perspective,” said Jason Bronowitz, a senior economics major. “We’re matching them up with mentors so they’ll have an ‘in’ in the community.”

Participant Stephen Gotz, 30, a junior biology major, said the program has already given him new insights about Greater Binghamton.

“Last week our session focused on the revitalization of downtown Binghamton and the local organizations that are putting forth various programs to bring about an economic renaissance in the community,” he said. “For me it was great to hear that there are organizations and community groups out there who have goals and are actually moving forward with programs to foster economic expansion and the entrepreneurial spirit. This fact certainly makes the prospect of staying in the area more appealing to me.”

Gotz, who came to this area from New Jersey, plans to apply to Cornell University’s MBA program and sees CIC-LI as a way to bridge the gap between the academic and local communities in the region. “Everything I knew about the area was based on surface-level assumptions and observations,” he said. “I figured that CIC-LI would give me the opportunity to get to know so many aspects of the surrounding area in a relatively short length of time.”

CIC-LI is modeled on the Broome Leadership Institute. It has a budget of slightly more than $5,000. The costs of the program will be covered by students in the class, community donations and the provost’s office, which is matching community donations.

The Broome Leadership Institute’s alumni board and the Southern Tier Opportunity Coalition offered critical support in lining up guest speakers and mentors.

Facilitators for CIC-LI this year are Diane Crews, who teaches in the Division of Human Development, and students Ross and Bronowitz. They hope the institute will be offered each spring and that students who participate as sophomores and juniors will lead CIC-LI during the following year.

“The campus is like a country club,” Ross said. “You can stay here and never leave. We’re trying to expose people to what’s available here.”

Crews pointed out that the program also gives community members an opportunity to meet University students.

Ross and Bronowitz noted that Greater Binghamton boasts some distinct advantages over other regions. It has a small-town atmosphere with the amenities of some larger cities, a reasonable cost of living and low housing prices.

“There’s no traffic here,” Ross added. “I can go from campus to my apartment in five minutes. That’s a big quality-oflife issue.”

Gotz, who worked in the technical field for AT&T Labs and a start-up company before returning to school, knows firsthand about the challenges of technology transfer.

“However,” he said, “I think the intellectual potential that’s locked up within the universities in the area needs to play a key role in the revitalization of the economy. And that is something I want to be part of.”
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Last Updated: 10/14/08