How Do You Practice Self Care?

It’s the end of the semester. We’ve gotten through Thanksgiving and the December holidays are ahead of us. It should be an exciting time of year, right? Right, except for the pressure that comes from all of these things.

As I walk through the University Downtown Center and greet colleagues and students alike, there are a few common denominators, the look of exhaustion and the answers you get when you ask them how they are it’s “busy”, “stressed”, “overwhelmed”. Tis the season, right? In the MSW and HDEV classes that I am teaching this semester I have done my best to periodically check in with the students and ask what they are doing for their own self-care. Some of them are incorporating it nicely, others give me the understandable, “what self care, I am too busy”.

In the College of Community and Public Affairs we are training students to help others through Human Development, Social Work, Student Affairs, Public Administration and Doctoral Students who will one day teach. I fear that for many students though, helping themselves gets lost in the vision of helping others. I speak from experience as I suggest this.

As I have shared in my previous blog, I am a graduate of HDEV and the MSW programs at Binghamton University, I can speak to the rigor that I encountered as I went through both programs. They both took up a lot of time with classes, practicums and field placements. While I was a student I was not great at self care- I like some of the students I teach now would give the pat answer of “ I have no time!” That having no time and not making myself a priority translated into the field of social work for me.

Upon graduation I was hired as a Medical Social Worker where I worked with terminal illness, death, grief and bereavement. I worked ten years full time in this particular field. As I left that job this past summer and joined BU’s MSW department full time, I realized just how burnt out I had become and how I was not practicing what I was preaching.

Between working full time, being married, having two young children and a house to keep up with, my self care was on the bottom of my to do list. This made me irritable, exhausted and not the best version of myself, personally or professionally. I needed to make a change.

During the last year in the medical field I started to make a change. I went to a spiritual retreat sponsored by my workplace, during which we participated in making soul collages. What came out of my soul collage is how burnt out I was taking care of everyone else, personally and professionally, it was time for a change.

Over the last year I have started incorporating self-care into my life as a daily practice, it has been work. I have learned that self-care for me is time alone- meditating, running or practicing Baptiste Yoga. My journey into self care has been a challenging one, as everyone around me was used to me putting myself last, so making time for myself has not always been welcomed or even understood. I have been called selfish and even a bad mom because of it. Due to the self-care that I have incorporated into my life I feel that I am better both personally and professionally- I feel that I have more to give.

I am still just as busy, a husband, 2 young children, 2 dogs, teaching 2 MSW and 1 HDEV class, and facilitating bereavement groups part time. The difference though now is that I schedule my self-care in just like I do everything else. This may mean that I don’t have time to go out to lunch with friends, or catch up on TV shows, it means eating my lunch at my desk as I work, because I squeeze a run in during lunch or get up at 5 am to practice yoga at 6am.

While teaching my children and students about self-care, I also want to role model it for them. I love to see my students when I am out running, I love when my family comes to watch races, or when my daughter sees me dressed she will say have fun at yoga mom. I am now finally practicing what I preach.

As for those who have called me selfish and a bad mom, they need to do some self reflection and re-prioritize and make self care a priority for themselves. All it takes is 15 minutes a day- wake up 15 minutes earlier, stay up 15 minutes later. For me self-care is physical, but it does not have to be physical for you. How do you nurture your soul? What makes you feel at peace? Many people can not answer these questions, do a self inventory what do you need? Then try something new; journaling, meditating (try the Honest Guys guided meditations on Youtube, paint, walk the dog, take a bubble bath, read a book (not one that is assigned or that you will be assigning), make plans with a friend who you keep putting off, just pick something and try….

Through the holiday season and winter break, as you look for the perfect gift for everyone else, give yourself the gift of self care. In order to help others you need to start by helping yourself. My favorite line of thinking is what is told to us on the airplane- put the oxygen mask on yourself before you help someone else. Treat yourself how you treat others! Happy Holidays!

*Editor’s note: Binghamton University’s Dean of Students office offers some unique de-stressing events for students in the month of December. Find out more about it here.

Sarah E. Hopkins, LMSW

Full Time Lecturer

Department of Social Work

College of Community and Public Affairs

Grandparents raising grandchildren in Broome County

Grandparents raising grandchildren is a population that is growing fast. They are important in sustaining healthy family systems, but the caregiving is demanding and requires that the older adults make significant shifts in the roles that they hold in their families. Grandparents struggle with high stress and they tend to be depressed than non-caregiving older adults. Furthermore, the upheaval from unexpectedly taking on parenting responsibilities may hinder positive aging. Unfortunately, however, grandparent-headed families’ access to and utilization of professional services are limited, and current social services do not meet their needs. For example, grandparents need information on grandparent rights, programs for their grandchildren, legal advocacy, and respite care. These services are often unavailable or, when they exist, the custodial grandparent may be unaware of their eligibility for these services.

To explore needs and experiences of grandparent-headed families, I talked to twenty two grandmothers and one grandfather in Broome County from 2012 to 2013. Of the 23 grandparents, twelve were White, ten were African American, and one was Hispanic. The mean age of the sample was 60 years old (range: 44-76), and the mean age of their grandchildren was 11 years old (range: 5-17). The median annual income of the grandparent-headed families was $40,560, but varied greatly, ranging from $12,500 to $150,000. Economic hardship was prevalent. Of the 23 grandparents, 15 reported family incomes below 150% of the poverty line.

While the stressors impacting grandparent headed families were wide ranging and often unique to a particular family situation, they tended to cluster into four areas: (a) grandparents’ health problems, (b) financial stress of the grandparent-headed families, (c) social isolation, and (d) fragmented support systems. In addition, in all but two cases, the grandparent gained custody of the grandchildren following highly stressful, and frequently, traumatic crises in the family. Circumstances under which the grandparents gained custody included the brutal murder of a grandchild’s mother (the daughter of the grandmother), profound abuse and neglect of the grandchildren by their biological parents, and severe domestic violence that was witnessed by the grandchildren. There were also indications that some families had endured years of highly stressful situations that culminated in the biological parents either losing custody through court order, or voluntarily surrendering the children when they realized they were not capable of parenting. Others stated that they took custody when the adult children’s mental illness interfered with their ability to adequately parent their children. In many cases, the children showed signs of emotional problems that the grandparents attributed to trauma related to the circumstances with the biological parents.

Despite the traumatic events the intergenerational families have experienced, the grandparents show signs of family resiliency that can promote health and growth. Grandparenting gave them the ability to learn from past child-rearing mistakes and improve parenting skills. The grandparents also enjoy loving, rewarding relationships with the grandchildren. For example, one stated, “You learn with your children what not to do with your grandchildren. You become more educated and have more wisdom about what you did as parents.” Another grandmother said, “I’m learning more now and I am finding out the mistakes I made with my daughter and I’m not making those mistakes again. The grandparents shared that raising their grandchildren positive influence their life. One said, “I’m healthier because of him, I have to get up and do stuff because of him, and I walk to school to pick him up so it’s a positive impact.” Another stated, “At my age I am healthier than I was before, I run up and down the stairs, I’m taking them to the movies, putting up the pool, doing things that keep me fit.”

From the interviews, I learned that the multigenerational impact of the trauma is clear and impacts each generation differently. Understanding the physiological nature of trauma and toxic stress reactions and focusing on strengths and resiliency factors are important in working with the grandparent-headed families. Moreover, in spite of the family trauma, the grandparents whom I talked worked hard to protect their grandchildren, nurture them, and provide the stable home life they need. Interventions for the older adults should include efforts to access resources and help custodial grandparents build a coherent support network. While the children may need care to ensure their stability and social emotional development, attention to the older adult’s development is important as well. Linking the normal development process of all generations to the process of healing from trauma can help reinforce positive growth and the development of healthy family systems.

Youjung Lee, Ph.D, LMSW
Assistant Professor, Department of Social Work
Director, Center for Family, School, and Community Partnerships
College of Community and Public Affairs
Binghamton University

Struggling with Sustainability, Some Small Cities Shine

Flush a toilet in South Daytona, Florida (pop. 12,252) and the waste comes back to you to water your lawn. The small city, only three square miles in size, acts big in terms of sustainability as it faces a major challenge – providing safe drinking water to a rapidly growing population. Water conservation is increasingly commonplace in many American cities, but South Daytona goes a step further. Every day, the city buys millions of gallons of reclaimed sewage water from a neighboring municipality. Formerly, the sewage was just dumped into the ocean. Now, after being highly treated, the water is pumped through a second network of water pipes that snakes back around the city. The water is not for drinking, but can be used by residential and business customers for landscape irrigation. Property owners pay for the service just as they would any utility.

This and other sustainability efforts by places such as South Daytona often go unnoticed by the mainstream media and most Americans. The attention is often focused on the sustainability successes of the biggest American cities. While important, these do not tell the whole story. More than half of Americans live in smaller cities, suburban towns, or rural communities, which face enormous political, fiscal, and technical challenges when they seek to protect the environment. Many of those, such as South Daytona, Florida, are defying the odds and finding that sustainability can be both environmentally and economically successful.

Another aggressive community is Columbus, Wisconsin (pop 4,991). In 2007, when Boyd Kraemer (now retired) came on board as city administrator, he was charged with turning around a largely moribund local economy. The city applied for and received a $40,000 sustainability grant, which Kraemer used to fund a new sustainability director position; the new person was charged with boosting both economic development and environmental protection. Columbus wanted to create for itself a marketing persona as a sustainable place. Now, with every policy and purchase, the city considers its green reputation. Columbus received grants to convert all of the street lights to high-efficiency LED fixtures – one of the first in the nation to do so. When it came time to repave the municipal parking lots, they added electric car plug-in stations. The city made extensive energy efficiency renovations in all of its municipal buildings and provides subsidies to homeowners for energy audits, air conditioner tune-ups, and the purchase of high efficiency washing machines. City residents can also receive a $50 grant towards the purchase and planting of deciduous trees to shade buildings and reduce air conditioning costs during the summer.

From an economic development perspective, the green marketing is working. Articles about these programs have appeared in statewide economic development and construction magazines. In just twelve months starting at the end of 2011, the city saw about $30 million dollars in capital investment including a new housing development, an assisted living center, and the expansion of a packaging operation. An arts incubator chose Columbus over Madison, the state capital, and a local pump manufacturer has broken ground on a larger facility that will anchor a new business park. Kraemer estimates that 50 percent of his community’s recent success is attributable to its sustainability image. People are impressed, Kraemer reports, when they hear that the city has all high-efficiency LED street lights. “We can turn them on with a laptop and we can change them in high crime areas.” He says it gives them a media and attitude edge over other communities.

All these efforts save money for Columbus city coffers, as well. The city’s 2013 Economic Development – Sustainability Report finds that the city has reduced electricity usage by 15.4 percent from 2007-2012. Much of this was due to the 2011 conversion of streetlights to LEDs, which cut energy usage 49 percent. Efficiency upgrades to the wastewater treatment plan, scheduled for spring of 2014, will save an estimated $18,000 a year in electricity costs.

The sustainability actions in South Daytona and Columbus demonstrate that environmental protection and economic development are not in conflict. Small cities, suburban towns, and rural communities can make important contributions to sustainability – and do it in a way that fits their local circumstance. Indeed, Boyd Kraemer of Columbus believes smaller places may have an advantage. He points to the nearby state capital of Madison, which has more eco-friendly students and many more resources, but they do not get as much done because of their bureaucracy. “You’ve got to make it easy to get things done. If you get tied up in committees and studies and consultants, it doesn’t last.” So while big cities boast of their green successes, there are many unlikely innovators taking advantage of their agility.

 

This post is based on an issue brief co-authored by CCPA assistant professor George Homsy for the ICMA Center for Sustainable Communities. Titled “Defying the Odds: Sustainability in Small and Rural Places,” Homsy and co-author Mildred Warner of Cornell University are conducting research into the sustainability practices of small cities and rural communities with funding from the US Department of Agriculture.

The entire issue brief can be found at: http://icma.org/en/icma/knowledge_network/documents/kn/Document/305454/Defying_the_Odds_Sustainability_in_Small_and_Rural_Places

 

Binghamton in 5: BU + community = success

The Binghamton University College of Community and Public Affairs (CCPA) at the University Downtown Center is committed to the growth and vitality of downtown Binghamton, including being partners in making that a reality. With an investment in social entrepreneurship, CCPA faculty, staff and students are contributing to the public and nonprofit sector through applied research and best practices.

In five years, we hope that the efforts of CCPA’s growing students, faculty and staff contribute to making Binghamton a place where increasing numbers of people choose to live and work.

CCPA makes significant investments in our local community through hundreds of thousands of internship and volunteer hours a year. This, combined with faculty’s applied research, contributes to our local schools, health care, government organizations, nonprofits, and colleges and universities.

For example, faculty and students are involved in the Broome County Promise Zone initiative in collaboration with Broome-Tioga BOCES and the Broome County Department of Mental Health, geared to supporting all public schools in the county in becoming community schools. Binghamton city schools have been actively involved with this effort to make schools the hubs of their communities, where children, families and communities gather beyond school hours to take advantage of needed health and social services, enrichment, recreation and arts programs. In five years, we expect schools will be seen in this light.

In addition to providing programming and services for existing community members, this initiative has the potential to draw professionals and families and to keep Binghamton University alumni in our community. With cutting-edge educational systems, professionals will want to work here, and families will want to send their children to our schools.

The same can be said about our local health care settings. Many students and faculty in CCPA and across the university are involved in developing, implementing and evaluating innovative practices and programs at local hospitals, nursing homes and outpatient settings.

If an alumnus can graduate from Binghamton University and work here implementing state-of-the-art, evidence-based practices, then why would they move to a major metropolitan city for similar opportunities but with twice the pricetag? And if our services are among the best in the country, then as these young professionals age, they have fewer reasons to leave our community — and more reasons to stay.

So, a vision for “Binghamton in 5” consists of our community as a magnet for professionals of all ages and as a place where increasing numbers of the university’s graduates choose to stay and make their home. It’s a place that is known for increasing innovations in business, social entrepreneurship, programs, practices and services. This effort drives up home values (although still keeping them vastly lower than larger cities), and promotes more successful retail endeavors downtown. In summary, “Binghamton in 5” is a go-to place for people to live, raise families, age and engage in innovative career opportunities. Let’s make this so, together.

Dr. Laura Bronstein

Dean of the Binghamton University College of Community and Public Affairs

Note: this post appeared originally September 17, 2014 in the Press and Sun Bulletin

From theory to practice, from CCPA to Colgate!

When I started the MSAA program at the CCPA at Binghamton University during the fall of 2012, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Sure, undergraduate studies were difficult at times, but graduate school? I was a first generation Master’s student in the dark and to make matters worse, it was 2 weeks before school was starting and I didn’t have a graduate assistantship. Like any 20 something would do, I went to social media. Sure enough, the hashtag “studentaffairs” sparked some interesting threads on twitter. It wasn’t long that I connected with a former MSAA CCPA graduate for some advice. As fate would have it, she knew of an opening at the Career Development Center of Binghamton University. I quickly jumped on this opportunity and interviewed with who would soon become my two (amazing) supervisors, Laura O’Neill and Wendy Neuberger. I was now ready to take on graduate school with a graduate assistantship in hand.

Starting the coursework as a first year in the MSAA program while juggling a graduate assistantship was challenging at times but with an amazing cohort at hand, we all soon became a support group. Study sessions, group work, and evening socials become our norm and we all quickly fell into our student affairs departments. Some of us started to focus on admissions work, res life, and for me, well; I found my calling in career advising. The coursework throughout the MSAA program was just the beginning for my personal and professional career. Whether it was Law of Higher Education, Counseling Methods, or Advising, I was quickly applying the theory of the coursework to my graduate assistantship. It was only after a couple of months when I was promoted from a part-time graduate assistant to full-time (and some additional work over the breaks). If it wasn’t for the amazing faculty, staff, peers, and CDC (now the Fleishman Center for Career and Professional Development) family, I wouldn’t be where I am today: a career and pre-law advisor for Colgate University.

I cannot explain the compassion, generosity, and comradery that my CCPA family offered during my two years. Through the struggling comps, late night lectures, and endless presentations, we all pulled together and found who we wanted to become. I am thankful that I was able to bring with me my passions of women’s rights, race, and social justice into the CCPA Master’s program through courses such as Student Development Theory, Student Addictions, and Race. My background of Sociology and Educational Psychology was not placed on the back burner during my time at CCPA; instead, it was enhanced. The classroom conversations flourished and, at times, seemed intense, but it was a learning experience for everyone involved. I believe I not only found my true professional calling, but I grew as an individual as well. I have my two years at the CCPA and the Masters of Student Affairs program to thank for that. I am excited for my future as a higher education professional and I wouldn’t be here today without the support and experiences Binghamton provided me.

Kelly Brant, Master of Science in Student Affairs Administration ’14

Career and Pre-law Advisor at Colgate University, kbrant@colgate.edu

 

Reflections on 5 Months in Colombia

Earlier this year, I had the honor of being a Fulbright Scholar to Colombia. From January through May of 2014, while on sabbatical from Binghamton University, I worked at Pontificia Univeridad Javeriana in Bogotá, where I taught a graduate Seminar in Public Management to municipal leaders from all regions of the country and conducted research on the recent evolution of graduate level public affairs education in Colombia. The experience was rewarding on so many levels and can be measured in terms of the new friendships I established, my personal research productivity during the period, vast improvements in my Spanish language abilities, a pending formal agreement between the two universities, and the multitude of subsequent professional collaborations that have arisen as a result. There are many opportunities and motivations to build on the professional relations and activities and thus they have understandably received the bulk of my attention since my return. What has been less incentivized and thus easier for me to neglect is deliberate reflection on the experience and how it affected me on a more personal level.

International travel is not new to me, evolving from family vacations as a child, the tourist excursions as an adult, and international conference presentations and consulting activities as an adult. I have had opportunities to visit countries throughout the Americas (North, Central and South), Central and Eastern Europe, Asia, and Africa, for periods of a few days to a month. The Fulbright experience was the first time I lived for an extended period outside of the United States. Living there and having the benefit of the professional networks afforded by my Fulbright scholarship and my host institution in Colombia afforded me a very different experience than any prior travels. To be sure, I was still a foreigner (even though I could pass for Colombian in many contexts and when people pegged me as being a foreigner, they more often guessed I was from Brazil than the United States!). A foreigner yes, but not a tourist or a visitor just passing through.

I had the good fortune of being in Colombia at a fascinating point in the country’s history, with progress being made in peace negotiations that have the real potential to put an end to more than 50 years of armed conflict, and campaigns and elections for both the national legislature and the presidency for which peace was understandably a central issue. I took advantage of every opportunity to talk with people about these issues; I asked questions of my students, other professors, taxi drivers, neighbors, store clerks, and people I met in the park while walking my dog (yes, I took my dog with me). Beyond what I learned from these casual conversations, two experiences profoundly influenced my thinking about these issues.

During my first week at Javeriana, as part of the orientation for the College of Political Science and International Relations, I learned that one professor had recently secured approval for a new program to teach classes to ex-combatants of the National Liberation Army or Ejército de Liberación Nacional (ELN) guerrilla group in a prison in Medellin as a way to improve their chances for constructive re-integration in society upon their release. I expressed interest in learning more about the program. Rather than merely providing me documents about the program, the Dean offered me the opportunity to co-teach a day-long course on local government as part of the program. Meeting these men in the prison and spending a day teaching them, learning from them and sharing meals with them challenged many of my preconceived images. Were it not for the multiple levels of security through which we had to pass in order to enter the designated area for the ELN prisoners, I could have been in a classroom in any university anywhere in the world. Were it not for the knowledge of the types of offenses committed by ELN guerillas, I could have been with any small group of highly engaged and dedicated students (they did the assigned readings and were prepared to discuss them critically and apply them to their experiences). Were it not for environment in which me met and the formal nature of our class meeting, I could have been at a gathering of friends and family. These were individuals who, under different circumstances, could have been my students, colleagues, friends or relatives. They were thoughtful and reflective; they were neither apologetic nor dogmatic; they were committed to bettering their communities and their country; they chose methods that I and the standards of society deem unacceptable, but they were not bad people. I left the prison that day feeling more conflicted and having a better sense of the complexity of the issues.

I was also able to accompany a group of student volunteers from Javeriana and their faculty leader for a two-day visit to Barrancabermeja, the site of a 1998 massacre of innocent civilians in the clash between guerrilla and para-military groups, and then up the Magdalena River to the village of San Pablo, another community that was the site of extensive violence in recent years. In both communities, I was able to learn about their tragic histories and see the wonderful work that volunteers from Javeriana University are doing as they engage in community projects through the Jesuit Refugee Services organization. Much more than reading statistics, visiting these sites makes their histories come alive.

There is not space in this post to delve into how these experiences have shaped my thinking as a teacher, scholar or human being. Suffice it to say for the purposes of this blog entry that the influences were profound. I have a great appreciation for value of being in another country as more than a tourist or short-term visitor. I have a strong desire to experience this again in other parts of Colombia or in other parts of the world. I also hope that many of my students and colleagues have similar opportunities and I look forward to hearing about their experiences when they do.

Nadia Rubaii, ’85, MA ’87, PhD ’91 (Political Science)

Associate Professor, Public Administration

Researching and writing about children in the context of the armed conflict in Swat Valley, Pakistan

Researching/writing children in the context of the armed conflict in Swat Valley, Pakistan

I have collected data in the form of focus groups and one-on-one interviews with children aged 9-17 in Swat Valley, Pakistan, who lived through a phase of intense armed conflict and violence when the Pakistani Taliban basically set up a counter-regime in Swat from 2007-2009. My initial funding for the project came through CCPA travel funds and then I received both a Binghamton Universal internal grant and an external grant to continue my work. The data was collected in the 2009-2012 time frame, and currently I am writing an article based on that data.

While I was collecting my data I worked from the premise that children can actively shape their realities, although the extent to which they can do so is constrained by factors in their environment. Even then I was surprised by the eloquence of the interviews, especially the oral histories, the interviews where children narrated their life stories with minimal questioning on my part. Mainstream work on children has usually cast children as unable to speak for themselves: the thrust of most writing on children has been based on observations by adults or quantitative measures that render children as experimental subjects. More recently, what is called the “new sociology of childhood” has cautioned against the use of methodologies that make children “mute” and “invisible.” My research with children in the Swat Valley context centers around children’s voices: children in my writing are represented as social actors who can make meaning of the various facets of their lives.

At this point in time I am grappling with various theoretical lenses to analyze my data. Historically, research on children in armed conflict was heavily imbued by a biomedical paradigm that did not take into account sociological dimensions of conflict and its impact. In the last decade or so, a shift has occurred where more in-depth qualitative or mixed-methods designs have been used to study children’s experiences in armed conflict from what is called a “social ecological” perspective. The focus in this perspective is heavily on children’s capacity for resilience and the specific sociocultural context and mechanisms for the support of that resilience. While I do find this theoretical framework useful as I try to situate individual children in the various dimensions of the their life-worlds, I have also found social ecological models limited in their scope when it comes to trying make sense of how children locate themselves in historical and social processes.

Children’s accounts of their experiences of the armed conflict do tell individual stories, but what is striking is the degree to which children speak of themselves in terms of collective identities. While speaking of the manner in which evacuation processes during the chief military strike against the Taliban were bungled, most children spoke of the hardships that were inflicted on the Swatis as a group, framing the thoughtlessness of the higher-ups as a sign of disregard towards Swatis in general. Also remarkable is the manner in which children positioned themselves as historical subjects: the inability of the Pakistan government to intervene in a timely manner during the heyday of Taliban violence was seen as an indicator of the colonial relationship between the Pakistani state and Swat: Swatis were just not important enough and were really not Pakistani citizens.   They seemed very cognizant of their histories as Swatis: Swat was annexed by Pakistan in 1969 and relegated to the “tribal belt” the residents of which are seen by other Pakistanis as uncivilized and prone to violence. The children were acutely aware of these constructions, and spoke bitterly against them.

My research then complicates the social-ecological paradigm by showing how broader sociopolitical processes shape children’s experiences and that it is not enough to focus on children’s everyday contexts to understand their conceptions of armed conflict and violence. We need to be cognizant of how larger historical forces impact children’s everyday lives. By listening carefully to Swati children’s words I have come to the conclusion that interventions to build children’s resilience should perhaps include measures whereby children can be involved in advocacy initiatives that fight for equal rights for Swatis as Pakistani citizens. At the least, my research indicates that efforts need to be made to dispel negative stereotypes of Swatis.

Dr. Lubna Chaudhry

Associate Professor of Human Development and Department Chair

E-mail: chaudhry@binghamton.edu

 

Learning about Social Media and Helping Local Nonprofits

fb twitSocial media is changing the way organizations operate. Public and nonprofit organizations are no exception. The use of social media presents both opportunities and challenges for public and nonprofit organizations. Students in my PAFF 526 course this fall have a chance to apply the lessons that they are learning in the classroom about how public and nonprofit organizations use social media to a real-life context by working with three nonprofit organizations and making suggestions about how these organizations can improve their Facebook pages.

In PAFF 526: Managing Information and Technology, students gain an understanding of the complexities of managing information in the public and nonprofit sectors and how technology can facilitate this process. They also discuss the challenges of using technology when accountability is paramount. The overall goal of the course is to increase student interest in the role of technology in public and nonprofit administration.

As part of their work for PAFF 526, students will be assigned to work with one of the three following nonprofit agencies: Family & Children’s Society, Action for Older Persons and Broome County Habitat for Humanity. All of these organizations are located in the Southern Tier and provide essential services to the community. Family & Children’s Society delivers a wide array of human services to individuals at all different stages of their lives, such as counseling, home care and afterschool programming. Action for Older Persons focuses on serving older adults and offers education, counseling and advocacy programming. Finally, Broome County Habitat for Humanity builds and renovates housing for low-income individuals and families. Each of these organizations is interesting in improving the way that their organizations use social media, especially Facebook, to better meet their respective missions. This where the PAFF 526 students come in!

Representatives from the nonprofits came to our class on September 30th. They provided background information on their organization, information about their organization’s current use of Facebook, and information about their organization’s goals for social media.  They also discussed what their goals for this project were.  Following the presentations by the agencies, students had an opportunity to ask the representatives questions.

Students are now working on critiquing the Facebook page of the organization to which they are assigned. As part of their critiques, students are assessing whether the primary audiences for their organization’s Facebook page and the primary reasons for using Facebook identified by their organization’s representative correspond with how the organization is actually using Facebook. They also are identifying strengths and weaknesses of how their organization is using Facebook and will be making specific recommendations about how their organization could better use Facebook in the future. Key things students will be considering when making their recommendations include: (1) the strategies their organization could use to increase the number of visitors their Facebook page; (2) the additional constituencies their organization could target and the specific information the organization could share with these constituents on their Facebook page, and (3) the additional goals their organization could try to achieve by using Facebook and the specific information they could add to their Facebook page to achieve these goals. Finally, students are identifying the next steps their organization should take to implement their recommendations. Each student needs to write a two page memo summarizing their critique and recommendations. I will then select the best written memo for each organization and forward it to the organization.

I am hoping that the project will be a win-win situation for everybody involved. It’s one thing to read about social media in a book or talk about it in class. It’s another to be able to assess the opportunities social media offers for public and nonprofit organizations in real life! By completing this project, students will hopefully have an opportunity to apply some of the key concepts we are discussing in class when they are critiquing their assigned organization’s Facebook page. This will help deepen their understanding of the course material. I am also hoping that the project will benefit the nonprofit organizations by giving them concrete ideas to consider in order to get gain more leverage from their use of social media in the future. I am looking forward to watching the project evolve and the students grow from their experiences.

Kristina Lambright
Associate Professor

Department of Public Administration
College of Community and Public Affairs
Binghamton University

We are almost ready!

We are looking forward to creating a dialogue between us, the College of Community and Public Affairs, and you, our community partners and current/future students. However, we need a few more days to get this site ready. We will start uploading innovative content beginning October 6. Thank you for your patience!