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Harpur Alumni Return to serve as Faculty Members

by Amanda Gurock and Molly McGrath

Jeff PietrasJeffrey Pietras '96 says his time as an undergraduate student prepared him for his current position as assistant professor of geology in Harpur College.

"It's a diverse population here," he says. "Working with, playing with and hanging out with people of diverse backgrounds is very important."

Pietras is one of several alumni who have returned to Harpur College to serve on the faculty.

"I never stopped liking this campus," he says. "I felt comfortable coming back."

For Pietras, professor of geology Tim Lowenstein has played a significant role in the way that he teaches.

"[Lowenstein] always told me to stay grounded and do things at a high-performance level," Pietras says.

Pietras, who started in the fall of 2013, also speaks about his past Binghamton University experiences with his current students.

"We talk about social aspects on campus and about the faculty members who were once my professors and are now theirs," he says. Now that he has returned to the University as an assistant professor, Pietras has the ability to work on a program from the ground up.

"I've been given the space to get myself up and running with the program," he says. "It's been nice to have support from the department and from Harpur."

Similarly, GIS Core Facility Assistant Director Kevin Heard, MA '02, has returned to Binghamton University to install computer software and teach geography all in one.

"I went to [graduate] school in this department, so it was an easy transition to come back," he says.

Heard teaches geographic information systems, which means he does demographic and elevation mapping on the computer. His program in Harpur College is constantly growing.

"Our undergraduate director is really good and the number of majors is the highest ever," he says. "The numbers are constantly going up, more and more are picking geography."

Heard credits Mark Reisinger, associate professor and director of undergraduate studies in the Geography Department, with allowing him to connect to students on campus through the faculty master program.

"It's a good experience going to lunches and interacting with students whom I wouldn't normally teach," he says. "I like working on campus. I'm always standing around young people."

The Harpur College atmosphere brought associate professor of psychology Richard Mattson, MA '04, PhD '06, back to where he earned his graduate degrees.

"The breadth and depth of the course work and practicum experiences on offer here was — and is still — fertile ground for professional and personal growth," he says.

Beyond the course work, the faculty members in Harpur influenced Mattson's career and intellectual development.

"I've come to realize that a person's professional or scientific contributions come not only from what is attained individually, but potentially more so through their efforts to foster subsequent generations of professionals and academics in and out of the classroom," he says.

He follows this idea in his classroom today, keeping the educational needs of his students as his top priority.

In fact, the students make Harpur College a special place to work and grow, he says.

"Working with the quality, aptitude and diversity of the undergraduate and graduate population is an entirely rewarding experience," Mattson says

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Last Updated: 3/1/17