President Harvey Stenger visited the College of Community and Public Affair’s Community Systems course recently to discuss his emerging take on collective impact, the university’s role in research within the community, and how Binghamton students can individuate their successes. The doctoral students in the Community Systems course are leaders on our campus and beyond, and a thought-provoking dynamic conversation emerged. President Stenger shared with CCPA doctoral students some of his initial leadership challenges, the rate of growth the university has achieved in a relatively short amount of time, and the related impacts on the local community as a result of two high profile projects, the School of Pharmacy and the Downtown Research Incubator and the benefits available to small business as the result of the Start Up NY initiative. Students in the course had a lot of questions regarding the trajectory of his career and how that has helped him rise to the challenge of leadership.
Some key take-aways from the visit for this author include President Stenger’s notion that Binghamton is human scale. Part of his vision for the role of the institution within the community is through pulling up the economy, you pull people up along with it. This is currently illustrated in the emerging market district in Downtown Binghamton, which began as a result of locating the College of Community and Public Affairs in the heart of downtown in 2007. Since then, a number of student residential developments house hundreds of students in the downtown area, and there has been a significant increase in small businesses that have opened. With the addition of a research facility in downtown, there exists additional opportunity for small business development and investments in existing infrastructure.
Another key take-away from President Stenger’s visit was the idea that as affiliates of the university, whether we are students, staff, or faculty, we have the ability to help people become successful. President Stenger discussed that it is important to listen to people, and attempt to uncover what it means for them to be successful. As a starting point, you can begin to identify challenges to success and develop strategies for improving them. What kind of response would you get if you went into a community and asked what the challenges are to those who inhabit it? What if you asked those same communities what it would take to ameliorate those challenges, and what success for them would look like? Through this, you can begin to uncover what your challenge as a researcher is, and incorporate the community into the action research so that it has the best chance of producing the desired impact.
Doctoral Student, College of Community and Public Affairs