Transdisciplinary Areas of ExcellenceSustainable Communities

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Sustainable Communities collaboration grant awards from prior years


The following projects were awarded, provided by the Binghamton University Road Map through the Provost's Office and the Division of Research with the goal of encouraging faculty to develop collaborative projects that stimulate the advancement of new ideas that can build Binghamton University's expertise toward a national reputation in the area of sustainable communities. This competitive, peer-reviewed program is providing initial support for proposed long-term programs of collaborative research that have strong potential to attract external funding.

  • From Vulnerability to Resilience: Developing an Evidence-Based Partnership Model for Transforming Rural Schools

    Rural schools struggle with disproportionately negative outcomes for financially disadvantaged students. Financially poor families often struggle with toxic stress where children grow up facing hardship that impacts their learning (Szanton, Gill, & Allen, 2005). Damage is caused by prolonged adversity without a supportive network of adults who teach coping (Shonkoff & Garner, 2012), but school personnel may not know how to respond to the physiological and behavioral impact of stress. Parental involvement in their children's education is crucial to academic success (Douglass, 2008) and strengthens relationships with school personnel, contributing to a supportive school culture (O'Donnell, Kirkner, Meyer-Adams, 2008). Poverty and the associated stressors, however, contribute to barriers for parents' engagement with their children's education (Rebell & Wolff, 2012).

    This research, conducted in a rural school district, will (1) design and evaluate innovative adaptations of (a) a trauma-informed model and (b) a parent mentor program; and (2) examine the process of school integration of trauma-informed practices through a community-school-university partnership conducting community-based participatory research. Social research design and development methods will include formative and summative evaluation using quantitative and qualitative methods to assess impact, effectiveness, and inform development.

    Principal investigators/departments: Lisa Blitz, Department of Social Work; Elizabeth Anderson, Graduate School of Education; Luann Kida, Department of Social Work; Youjung Lee, Department of Social Work; Marguerite Wilson, Department of Human Development; and Denise Yull, Department of Human Development

  • Mobile-Based Smart Service Platform for Personalized and Adaptive Learning

    This research seeks to investigate and develop a mobile-based, educational, "smart service" platform to address the myriad of issues facing K-12 today, including challenges related to teaching to the common core standards, lack of coordination among teachers and service providers, behavioral and mental health issues, and lack of family engagement. An interdisciplinary team of researchers from computer engineering, education, and social work, will partner with Urban Tech, a non-profit educational technology firm, to conduct a needs assessment and focus groups, and also develop a prototype of the smart education platform. The project will be conducted in two phases; the first phase will involve unidisciplinary meetings between each of the social science investigators (education and social work) and their respective graduate students to identify teaching and learning gaps in academics, social and emotional learning, and mental health and behavioral issues, followed by interdisciplinary focus groups. In the second phase of the project, the computing engineer will convert an Internet-based Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) module to a mobile-based, dynamic service platform for personalized and adaptive learning. This project has the potential to transport the current educational system into the 21st century.

    Principal investigators/departments: Zhanpeng Jin, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering; Candace Mulcahy, Graduate School of Education; Elizabeth Anderson, Graduate School of Education; and Cassandra Bransford, Department of Social Work

  • Healthy Multigenerational Families: Building the Knowledge Base for Grandparents Raising Grandchildren

Empirical data that informs policies and practices targeting health outcomes for custodial grandparents and academic and health outcomes for the grandchildren they are raising is limited. Typically formed following a life-altering crisis, grandparent-headed families have complex needs, shelter vulnerable children and represent a growing demographic nationwide. This project will develop and test the effectiveness of a transdisciplinary community-based model that will:

1) conduct a county-wide assessment of the range of needs of custodial grandparents and compare the findings with a national sample;

2) use the data to develop and implement a psychosocial and educational model of support for multigenerational families;

3) evaluate the model's effectiveness in Broome County, and generate data to support a grant for a national study; and

4) provide policy, practice and research recommendations for decision makers.

The evidence-based transdisciplinary model we will develop not only strengthens and sustains healthy, multigenerational communities today but also lays the foundation for strong communities for future generations. Furthermore, this study will provide a deeper understanding of the multifaceted needs of these families and present a cost-effective, evidence-based, transdisciplinary practice model. It will also provide transformative strategies which will inform a national policy agenda.

Principal investigators/departments: Youjung Lee, assistant professor of social work; Elizabeth Anderson, assistant professor of education; Lisa Blitz, assistant professor of social work; Laura Bronstein, director of the Institute for Intergenerational Studies, College of Community and Public Affairs; Shawn Berkowitz, Upstate Medical University and United Health Services; and Marion Martinez, Binghamton City School District

  • Local Capacity, State Policy, and the Geology of Natural Gas Drilling

What makes a geographic area desirable for drilling is a combination of geological, infrastructure and government (both state and local) capacity. Therefore, identifying these areas cannot be accomplished without combining the perspectives of multiple disciplines and by using the various methods that these disciplines rely upon. We seek to develop a proposal for external funding to study how municipalities in states that currently permit hydraulic fracturing of the Marcellus shale differ in terms of their capacity to either encourage or restrict drilling. By investigating state regulations, local government capacity, the existing infrastructure and their relation to geological sweet spots, we will be able to group municipalities into one of four categories, those that:

1) lack the capacity to restrict drilling;

2) lack the capacity to encourage drilling;

3) have the capacity to restrict drilling; and

4) have the capacity to encourage drilling. We will then be able to explore the concept of what constitutes a "sustainable community" within these categories.

Principal investigators/departments: Pam Mischen, associate professor of public administration; Tom Sinclair, associate professor of public administration; Rob Holahan, assistant professor of environmental studies; Joe Graney, associate professor of geological sciences and environmental studies; Mark Blumler, associate professor of geography and biological sciences; and Chengbin Deng, associate professor of geography

Last Updated: 12/8/14