Sharpening skills, expanding horizons: Harpur Edge gives students an edge on academic, career development
Gillian Kenah ’20 is an example of what Harpur Edge wants to accomplish: providing students in Harpur College of Arts and Sciences with a jumpstart on their future by connecting them with alumni and sponsoring services for their personal, professional and academic development.
Kenah, who received bachelor’s degrees in English and Spanish, participated in initiatives such as Alumni Lunch and Learn programs and the Liberal Arts to Careers Externship (LACE) job shadowing program. Both helped her develop a career plan, she says.
The Port Jefferson, N.Y., native also received the Ellyn Uram Kaschak ’65 Summer Research Grant, supported by the internationally recognized and award-winning academic researcher, psychologist and professor. The grant supported Kenah’s work on her honors thesis, which focused on women’s online self-representation relating to social justice for women and girls. She was also able to network with Kaschak.
“To connect with her is an honor and I hope to learn more about academia and research through her insight, perhaps leading to my pursuit of a PhD in sociology after completing my master’s in English at Binghamton,” Kenah says. “Harpur Edge works tirelessly so students can have plenty of career and mentor opportunities and I really appreciate it.”
Since Harpur Edge launched in 2014, it has engaged nearly 5,000 students, “helping them dream big and take risks,” according to Erin Cody, who became director in January. New initiatives will focus on deepening students’ professional development, and expanding its reach throughout Binghamton University’s largest college.
In the next decade, Cody would like to reach every undergraduate and graduate student in Harpur College — a lofty 10,000-plus goal. That number is within reach, she says, because of the solid foundation she inherited from Wendy Neuberger ’81, MBA ’84, the previous director of Harpur Edge who has moved into the associate director role.
“We cannot do it without the support of Harpur alumni. They keep us operating and growing with financial investment and volunteer engagement,” Cody says. “We’re grateful every day for all they add to the Harpur student experience.”
Harpur Edge signature offerings include the Harpur High-Impact Student Learning Endowment, LACE, the Physician Mentor Program, Public Interest Law summer internship, the Bonzani Memorial Law Lecture, crash courses on skills such as Python coding and Tableau data visualization, and the Kaschak grant.
“As I came into the director role, I heard from across campus that Harpur Edge has a great foundation but needs to expand,” Cody says. “So, right away, I started collaborating to offer a new Harpur College Graduate Professional Development Series for graduate students in the college whom we hadn’t yet served. The feedback and engagement from our graduate students reinforced our decision when we saw the hunger they have for our support.”
Prior to Harpur Edge, Cody spent more than 13 years in the University’s Fleishman Center for Career and Professional Development. As associate director of employer and alumni engagement, she worked with employers who wanted to hire new Harpur alumni, and she counseled students on what recruiters were seeking and how to find high-impact learning experiences to support their success.
Harpur Edge will more deeply collaborate with the Fleishman Center, the Office of Alumni Engagement, School of Management Career Services and Watson Career and Alumni Connections through initiatives such as the CONNECT programs in New York City, Washington, D.C., and California’s Silicon Valley that Harpur Edge co-hosts. Cody also plans to deepen relationships across campus to more seamlessly serve Harpur students.
“Harpur students don’t often see a direct correlation between their major and a career. There doesn’t always have to be one,” says Cody, noting that internships, campus jobs, leadership roles and other experiences can offer unexpected connections to the skills that students are learning about in the classroom. “We’re a space where Harpur students can feel at home in the college and find themselves by going outside their comfort zones.”