Binghamton students team up with industry on data analytics projects
Students from the MS in Data Analytics graduate program work with real-world data
Given the ongoing challenges posed by the COVID pandemic, the fall 2021 semester has been very positive. The start of the semester saw an increase in COVID cases on campus, threatening to pull the campus off course just as classes were entering full swing. Fortunately, this uptick was brief, and the University was able to recover until we reached final exam week and were met with a significant increase in virus infections. We decided to keep final exams in person but with increased social distancing in the rooms we used for finals that, coupled with all students being masked, provided a safe environment — the same kind of environment we’ve lived in for the past three semesters now.
Fortunately, the semester leading up to final exams was mostly normal, and we were able to conduct many of the usual rituals of academic life, highlighted by a well-attended Homecoming that featured the long-awaited Commencement ceremonies for the Class of 2020. We also have seen our research and scholarship return to their normal productivity, which has resulted in several important grants for the campus, as well as significant accolades for our faculty. And serving as one of the strongest measures of a successful semester, the Health Sciences Campus in Johnson City held its official grand opening, with Gov. Kathy Hochul commending the University for bringing this years-long priority to fruition.
We are now working on a plan for the spring semester. We know that testing for the virus and booster vaccinations will be an important part of that plan, and guidance on these issues will be communicated to our community in the early part of January.
This was one of the more successful Homecomings in recent years, with more than 2,800 registrants coming from across New York and the Northeast — as well as from farther corners of the nation. Of course, last year’s Homecoming was held virtually, another casualty of the pandemic, so it was good to see so many people on campus and in person. We were especially pleased with the turnout for the Wenzel 5K race in memory of Gregg Wenzel. The course followed the campus roadway around the Brain and along the East Access and Connector roads behind College-in the Woods and Hinman College. Wenzel was a Binghamton alumnus and swimming and diving athlete who quit his job to join the CIA in the years following 9/11. He died while serving in Ethiopia and has earned a star on the CIA’s Memorial Wall. His sister and father were on hand, as were the entire swimming and diving teams, for the unveiling of a statue in Wenzel’s honor located in the West Gym lobby.
But the highlight of the weekend was the long-awaited, in-person Commencement celebration for the Class of 2020. Originally scheduled for May 2020, the pandemic forced us to postpone this event for more than a year, so we were delighted to have more than 400 graduates and their families on hand to celebrate. Members of the Class of 2020 are some of the most remarkable in the University’s history, having had to persevere in their studies through an unprecedented world-wide pandemic. We also were honored to have Binghamton alumnus The Honorable Hakeem Jeffries ’92, representative of New York’s 8th Congressional District as the Commencement speaker.
In his remarks, Jeffries praised the graduates for their resiliency and told them that when life “knocks you down, don’t give up, get up!, because the best is yet to come.”
We are now nearing the end of the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic. Addressing this challenge has been the University’s highest priority during this time, and while the effects of the pandemic have moderated over the past year, we continue to be vigilant regarding possible outbreaks on campus and in our community. This was the case when, in early September, the University experienced a significant spike in students and staff testing positive for COVID, with the number of positive cases nearing 200 during a rolling two-week period and more than 400 during our final exam week.
These upticks placed significant strain on the University’s COVID response arrangements, particularly regarding our testing capacity and our ability to house and provide academic support for isolated or quarantined students, despite having added six additional staff at the beginning of the semester to manage isolation housing. In the intervening months, the number of positive cases decreased dramatically, with only a handful of cases being reported for most of the semester. Unfortunately, the recent surge of Delta-variant cases nationally and locally has resulted in a second spike as the semester ends, with 153 positive test results on Dec. 14.
Required weekly surveillance testing of students with religious and medical exemptions and weekly testing of unvaccinated staff takes place every day at the Surveillance Testing Center in Old Union Hall in The Union. These are for asymptomatic students and staff only and utilize rapid antigen tests. If students are symptomatic, they are also being tested at the new Satellite Diagnostic Testing site at The Union — a tent with a walk-up window between the Engineering Building and The Union that is connected to our Surveillance Testing Center. Symptomatic students receive a rapid PCR or an antigen test depending on their symptoms.
Through much of the semester we had significant capacity at both sites, only running at 20-30% capacity approximately each week. However, as the semester ended, we reached capacity for all PCR tests for symptomatic students; the Surveillance Testing Center was running at about 50-60% capacity. We also continue to work with the Broome County Health Department and UHS across from the University to provide tests for symptomatic students.
We took steps to increase social distancing for finals as the number of students in isolation had increased as well. By mid-December, we are unable to determine whether the uptick in cases was caused by the emergent Omicron variant. The recent spike at nearby Cornell University was attributed to Omicron. Still, we worked to stabilize this spike and hoped that students would be healthy during the winter break.
Fortunately, almost all the cases of COVID on campus have been among individuals who had received the vaccine, and the effects were mostly mild. I have been impressed by the campus’s commitment to getting vaccinated. In fact, roughly 99% of all students are fully vaccinated, as are 94% of the faculty and 85% of the staff. This has been crucial in allowing the campus to continue to hold in-person classes and, more importantly, to keep our campus community safe.
Vaccines were the major topic of discussion in October when Gov. Kathy Hochul visited the University’s new Health Sciences Campus, where she received a vaccine booster as part of the “Boost Up, New York” campaign to encourage people to receive a third dose of the vaccine. During her visit, she congratulated the University on the opening of our new home for the Decker College of Nursing and Health Sciences and noted the transformational impact that the Health Sciences Campus is having in Johnson City. The governor played a key role in the early development of the entire Health Sciences Campus, which also includes the School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, as she served as the head of the state’s Regional Economic Development Councils, which shepherded more than $133 million in state funding for the campus.
Decker College is poised for growth in the coming years, with close to 350 additional students anticipated to enroll in our new programs in physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech and language pathology. In anticipation of these new programs, Decker College has increased its teaching and support personnel, adding 25 new faculty and staff. All told, we expect that there will be around 450 additional faculty, students and staff adding to the foot traffic around the campus when these programs are brought online, bringing the total number of people associated with the campus to around 1,500.
We also are nearing the start of construction for the pharmacy research and development facility that will be located adjacent to the School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences. During the 2019-20 academic year, campus facilities personnel worked with School of Pharmacy faculty and administrators to design the building; however, when the project went to bid, all bids came in at over cost. Much of the past year has been spent revising these designs, resulting in a smaller facility with an estimated cost of over $17 million. The new design has gone to bid and a contractor has been identified; the state of New York is currently reviewing the contract. Staging for the project has begun with construction to begin this winter.
Although the semester has been very successful, we are concerned about the lingering effects of COVID on our ability to attract students for the next academic year, particularly regarding our international and out-of-state students. This year we saw a continuing decline in admissions for these students, with 729 fewer international students than we saw in 2013. Similarly, our out-of-state undergraduate student numbers have fallen from 1,242 in 2012 to 885 this current year. These declines mean that we did not meet our revenue targets for the year. We anticipate a deficit of approximately $8.9 million for next year that we will address with our reserves. Our hope is that there will be a resolution to the COVID crisis in the next year or two, and that our recruiting efforts will bring more students to campus.
Binghamton’s faculty continue to receive accolades for their research and work on behalf of their disciplines. During the past three months, several faculty members have been awarded significant grants from federal and other funding agencies and have received recognition by their disciplines. These include:
Binghamton University faculty and administrators have also attracted the attention of their peers in the SUNY system. Faculty have been selected for leadership roles within SUNY, while our student support programs have been highlighted. Binghamton received three Outstanding Student Affairs Program Awards for the University’s success in dealing with different aspects of student life and well-being.
In addition to the pending construction of the new pharmaceutical research and development facility in Johnson City, the campus is currently engaged in several projects that will strengthen our research and teaching while contributing to our sustainability goals by making our facilities more efficient.
Work is nearing completion on our Science 2 Tower and Science 4 facilities. Upper floors in the Science 2 Tower have been gutted and new walls and electric are in place. Plumbing work for labs is now underway and should be completed next semester. Similarly, Science 4 has had the HVAC, electrical, mechanical and plumbing replaced, and exterior cladding work and landscaping will be completed in spring 2022.
The West Gym and Events Center have a new boiler facility that will be completed this winter. This project will provide more efficient heat and hot water for these buildings and will be completed next fall.
A staging area is in place for construction work on Bartle Library and work will begin soon. This project entails gutting the entire third floor of the library and replacing air and energy systems, as well as connecting the third floor to the stairwell facing West Drive. This project is expected to be completed in 2024. Also in the library is our new Innovation Hub that houses the Innovation Scholars program. The Innovation Lab also has space for the Zurack Family High Technology Collaboration Center, a scholars lab, a group study room, the library instructional lab and several small break-out rooms along with a large, open study space.
Renovations have been completed to the Science Library. This work serves as a companion project with the Bartle Library renovation as the Science Library will provide a temporary home for the books being removed from the third floor of the Bartle Library. It will also provide a compact storage facility for the Libraries in the future.
The most visible construction on campus is the new baseball stadium complex, which is nearing the completion of its first phase. This facility includes locker rooms, strength and conditioning rooms, batting tunnels, VIP areas, a team meeting room, concession stands, and expanded seating, with the exterior landscaping adding a new berm and a second scoreboard. This work will be completed in time for the baseball team’s home opener against Maine on March 18.
We also will begin work soon on the new Charlene and Roger Kramer Welcome Center to be located on Bartle Drive. This facility will include a facelift for the existing information booth and entrance and a new building that will include a lounge space and restrooms for campus visitors. This new facility has long been a strategic priority for the campus.
Last summer, Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost Donald Nieman announced that he would be stepping down from his position to return to the classroom at the end of the upcoming semester. We are currently conducting a national search for his replacement and have hired the higher education consulting firm WittKieffer to assist in the search. Professor of Economics Barry Jones and Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Karen Jones are serving as co-chairs for the search committee, which includes three distinguished professors; the directors of the Institute for Genocide and Mass Atrocity Prevention and the Harriett Tubman Center; representatives from the faculty and Faculty Senate; our Educational Opportunity Program director; and administration representatives. Two members of the Binghamton University Council, including our student representative, are also serving on the committee, which will be working quickly. We expect to make a decision during the spring semester, with a new provost on board by summer.
Finally, as the semester ended, we learned that the Chancellor of the SUNY System, Jim Malatras, will leave his position in January, and that an interim chancellor would soon be appointed. We are looking forward to working with the new interim chancellor Deborah Stanley, who stepped down in December after serving as president of SUNY Oswego for 25 years. I expect that a national search will be conducted for the new chancellor and that the search committee will find an excellent candidate for what is a very challenging job.
The Road Map Steering Committee hears an in-depth report from Strategic Priority 3.
After more than one COVID-related postponement and a virtual ceremony, the Class of 2020 celebrated with an in-person Commencement a year and a half after completing their degrees.
Students from the MS in Data Analytics graduate program work with real-world data
During the past several years, digital humanities has taken root at Binghamton University, thanks to collaborative efforts that include Harpur College of Arts and Sciences and the University Libraries.
In spring 2021, Decker College of Nursing and Health Sciences launched a uniform loan program for undergraduate nursing students.
The idea came from discussions in a Road Map Strategic Priority 2 (Learning Community) meeting about how to know which students were struggling academically early enough in the semester to provide support.
Born to mothers who used alcohol during their pregnancy, these individuals were apparently primed to be anxious. They fretted about leaving the safe confines of home and were more likely to turn to alcohol themselves to ease the pressures of life.
Since its founding in 1971 by the late Distinguished Service Professor Marilyn Gaddis Rose, Binghamton University’s Translation Research and Instruction Program (TRIP) has built a truly global reputation.
In Assistant Professor of Psychology Florence Varodayan’s lab, the drinkers are mice and the road home is through an actual maze.
If you’ve noticed an increase in protest movements around the world, you’re not alone. David Clark, professor of political science and associate dean for undergraduate studies in Harpur College, has noticed it too and he has the data to back it up.
Claire Choi, a Harpur Fellow, initiated an in-person summer school program for children in kindergarten through fourth grade in Palisades Park, N.J.
Robert Ji-Song Ku, chair and associate professor in the Department of Asian and Asian American Studies, weighs in on Squid Game phenomenon and what it means for the spread of Korean culture.
Assistant Professor Yuan Wan’s funding is through the NIH’s prestigious MERIT Award program.
To help predict our world’s climate future, a multinational team led by Binghamton and Colgate University scientists will drill into the ocean floor below Antarctica’s Ross Ice Shelf.
Zanzibar has a complex history that includes a sultanate and a 1964 revolution. It’s the research focus of Assistant Professor of Africana Studies Nathaniel Mathews, who recently received a grant from the Oman Studies Centre in Berlin.
The Health Sciences Building in Johnson City, N.Y., that was renovated to house the Decker College of Nursing and Health Sciences was a popular place Monday as Binghamton University President Harvey Stenger was joined by Gov. Kathy Hochul and others.
Kelsey Hennig married her love of science and math with a career that would help others.
A senior majoring in philosophy, politics and law (PPL), Daniel Donnelly received $500 for his Harpur Fellows project: creating an oral history of Staten Island veterans of the Vietnam War.
A quintessential author from 19th century New England is the subject of Binghamton University English Professor Liz Rosenberg’s latest book, “Scribbles, Sorrows and Russet Leather Boots: The Life of Louisa May Alcott.”
Binghamton University Community Schools (BUCS) has received a five-year New York State Education Department (NYSED) contract to operate the Nita M. Lowey 21st Century Community Learning Centers (CCLC) Technical Assistance Resource Centers (TARC).
Acquisitions include paintings, photographs from 1920s
The Stephen A. Lisman Annual Lecture in Clinical Psychology, established in 2015 to bring a renowned clinical psychologist to Binghamton each year, recognizes Lisman’s 43 years of service to the University and his contributions to clinical psychology.
Baique - who is the assistant dean for academic diversity and inclusive excellence for Watson College - will be among 10 faculty and staff members from six SUNY campuses for the HLI class.
Altabef warns that biometric systems bring both opportunities and risks
Bioethicist Michele Bratcher Goodwin is guided by a simple principle: “The best thing that we can possibly do is to be able to sit in conversation with each other,” she said during Binghamton University’s fifth annual Bonzani Memorial Law Lecture.
Nearly 3,000 people attended Homecoming events on campus Oct. 8-10, the largest of which was the make-up Commencement ceremony for the Class of 2020.
Binghamton University supporters continue to advance student success with their charitable giving to fund scholarships, innovative programs, learning opportunities and more.
In a ceremony held Oct. 9, at Homecoming, the Alumni Association recognized 10 accomplished people who graduated from Binghamton University within the past 10 years.
The Alumni Association continues to offer virtual programs to reach Binghamton graduates wherever they are.
In the fall, the Alumni Association introduced an online movie club, open to the entire University community.
Kimberly Faber retired in December from her position as executive director of alumni engagement.
Plenty of activities and initiatives keep Athletics Department busy
Student-athletes earn academic accolades
Family at heart ... and more
Covering our sports in video
The Division of Communications and Marketing wrapped up the final quarter of 2021 with a flurry of activities.
The MRC had numerous successes this quarter
New hires get to work in the Division of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
New staff hit the ground running
The UDiversity Educational Institute trains students, faculty and staff through its workshop portfolio
The Binghamton University Forum held a gala Oct. 16 in the Mountainview Collegiate Center at Binghamton University that featured performances by student a cappella groups.
The Binghamton University Foundation Impact Report 2020-21 is now online.
Binghamton University alumni and friends now have new resources and tools at their fingertips to help them navigate their planned giving options in support of the University.
The Binghamton University Foundation announces changes to its board of directors.
After a hiatus last academic year due to the pandemic, the University Police returned to in-person community policing activities this semester.
Work has begun or continues on a number of projects
Information Technology Services reflects productivity and successful projects for final quarter of 2021
A Binghamton graduate student received a nomination in October to apply for the national level of the National Science Foundation’s Innovation Corps.
Binghamton senior Julian Cubeiro’s “Kolymbithres” premiered Nov. 18, performed by the Harpur Jazz Ensemble in the Anderson Center on campus.
Binghamton University’s New Energy NY Project was selected in December as one of the nation’s first awardees for Phase 1 of the American Rescue Plan’s Build Back Better Regional Challenge.
Binghamton University students now have access to a new, comprehensive resource guide that can direct them to help on campus and in the local community.
The Division of Student Affairs appointed two diversity officers.
A donor provides 1,000 doses of flu vaccine to the University for student flu clinics
Casey Wall worked in Residential Life at Binghamton University years ago, and has returned as director.
The Campus Food Pantry supports students who are facing hard times.
Campus provides many activities for students as they prep for finals
Binghamton University students worked on a sustainability project at a local elementary school