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Seminar offers new view of Binghamton

Planners of the University Downtown Center envisioned the community serving as a classroom as well as the classrooms there becoming communities. For proof that it’s working, look no further than Diane Crews’ weekly seminar on Community Leadership and Development.

Last week, for example, four students in the human development course organized a panel presentation on academic-private sector partnerships for entrepreneurship and innovation.

John Hayek, executive director of the Southern Tier Opportunity Coalition (STOC), and David Gdovin, president and founding partner of Diamond Visionics, were among the Greater Binghamton residents who took the time not only to give brief speeches but also to answer a variety of questions from students. From the University side, Kenneth McLeod, professor and chair of the Department of Bioengineering, and Merwyn Jones, director of the Linux Technology Center, were on hand.

Hayek said speaking to the class fit neatly into the mission of STOC, a nonprofit whose members include private companies and academic partners. “STOC is about the network

David Gdovin, president and founding partner of Diamond Visionics, speaks to students
and trying to build quality jobs in the community,” he said.

Gdovin’s 12-year-old company was created when Link left the area, and several employees decided not to go with it. Diamond Visionics has grown from three partners to 30 people, he said, including several Binghamton graduates. Gdovin gave a demonstration of the company’s simulation software.

McLeod talked about the challenges facing entrepreneurs as well as his desire to help students take risks and think creatively. “The best definition of an entrepreneur,” he said, “is someone who does something differently.”

Heliana Tavarez, a senior from Peekskill, said the class is unlike any other she has taken as a human development major. “You get to communicate with the community,” she said. “You learn about resources you didn’t even know existed.”

Hillary Gotham, a senior human development major from Syracuse, worked with Tavarez and others to organize the panel discussion. “I had no idea that a lot of these businesses existed,” she said. &ldquo

John Hayek, executive director of the Southern Tier Opportunity Coalition, joins in a panel discussion in a class held at the University Downtown Center.
;It’s a great way to learn more about the community.”

Crews, an adjunct lecturer in the Department of Human Development, calls her method of teaching Learning by Engagement and Participation, or LEAP, and feels that it enables students to “make the ‘leap’ from theory to reality.”

Her objectives for the course include examining the effects of leadership on political processes and political action in the community context; exploring civic and organizational infrastructure; and learning how cooperation among stakeholders leads to effective decision-making and problem solving. Future community case studies will focus on topics such as neighborhood development and municipal consolidation.

“The insights shared by these business, college and community leaders enabled the students to understand how through effective collaboration, the intellectual capacity of the University is instrumental in growing a knowledge-based economy,” Crews said after last week’s class. “It also let them see how students are directly involved as stakeholders.”

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Last Updated: 10/14/08