Communitarian Spotlight: The Memory Maker Project

The first thing that comes across when you meet Kim Evanoski and Christina Muscatello is their chemistry. Kim and Christina are the co-founders of The Memory Maker Project, a new grassroots non-profit that provides cultural access programs for people living with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of memory loss within the 607-area-code region. Professional collaboration is often making the best of a given situation, but these collaborators seem to have a language of their own, communicating seamlessly as they bounce between each other. Their enthusiasm, for what they do and whom they do it for, makes for a true communitarian team!

I recently had the pleasure of meeting with the team behind the Memory Maker Project to discuss the program’s evolution and future goals. This dynamic duo began working together as a result of the Care Management Summit at Binghamton University in 2014. Evanoski worked on the development of the summit, a collaborative project with CCPA Dean Laura Bronstein and hosted by the University. At the Summit, community members and healthcare professionals worked together to identify both areas of high need and local assets to develop innovative, high impact quality care. Muscatello was among the attendees and the two hit it off.

After discussing their individual passions and ways they envisioned making an impact on the community where they were both born and raised, the pair would soon collaborate to develop The Memory Maker Project. The Memory Maker was warmly received by our large community region as well as was recently accepted as a project of the Center for Transformative Action, an affiliate of Cornell University, giving them now non-profit status.

They make culture accessible to those with memory loss by collaborating with local cultural organizations, care communities and families to offer experiences that everyone can enjoy.  Programs are especially designed for people living with memory loss but inclusive and fun for all. Some collaborating organizations include Anthony Brunelli Fine Arts, KAPOW! Art Now!  The Kitchen Theatre, Vestal Museum, West End Gallery (in Corning), WSKG, Roberson Museum, River Read Books, The Art Mission, Opera Ithaca and others. This is a fast growing list as they progress and develop.
We all crave fun down time and creative expression, regardless of what stage we are at in life. Instead of focusing on a diagnosis, The Memory Maker Project focuses on the experience. If you attend a Memory Maker Project event, you will notice that they never talk about their organization or memory loss. That is because the experience–whether a visit to the theater, making art, or a gallery tour–focuses on having an enjoyable cultural experience that is in a comfortable and safe environment designed for all participants.   Any funding opportunities, partnerships, or discussions about memory loss are cultivated behind the scenes.

Muscatello is an art teacher by trade. She has an undergraduate degree in cultural history from Binghamton University and Masters of Education from Lesley University in Integrated Teaching Through the Arts, which brings together art therapy, community arts, and modern approaches to art education. She was a one-on-one care partner for a family friend living with Alzheimer’s throughout college and worked for ARTZ: Artists for Alzheimer’s in Boston after graduating from Lesley. Much of her inspiration comes from her experiences working for ARTZ.  The Memory Maker Project is a collision of her passions, background and strengths.

Evanoski is a Dementia Certified Social Worker and the owner of Care Manage for All LLC, a local care management company that serves 7-counties across the Central Region and has supported the development of The Memory Maker Project. Evanoski is Adjunct Faculty at Binghamton University and Keuka College with specializations in gerontology, palliative and disability care.  During her earlier years, she participated in the arts as a college student and has always encouraged families to consider art for their self-care as a natural part of care management plans. In the past, she also was a museum educator, an experience that has impacted her understanding of cultural access and inspires her work with The Memory Maker Project.

Kim and Christina are excited to see how the regional community will embrace The Memory Maker Project through its collaborative partnership design and inclusiveness for every community member and visitor alike!  As a truly interdisciplinary program, it has the capability of bringing a high impact service learning opportunity to Binghamton University students as interns and researchers from the School of Education, Human Development, Nursing, Psychology, Public Administration, and Social Work Departments, just to name a few. If you would like to learn more about The Memory Maker Project, visit the website at http://www.memorymakerproject.org or contact us at 607-240-6204.To help fund The Project, send checks to The Memory Maker Project, 213 N. Tioga St #312 Ithaca NY 14851. Checks can be made payable to the Center for Transformative Action with “fbo The Memory Maker Project” in the memo line.

To contact Christina e-mail her at Christina@memorymakerproject.org.
To contact Kim, e-mail her at Kim@memorymakerproject.org.

March is National Social Work Month!

March is National Social Work Month!

This month, social workers around the country are celebrating the history and the future of their profession.

This year, social workers have extra cause for excitement: the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) turns 60 in 2015.

Founded in 1955 through the merger of seven organizations, the NASW is now the largest membership organization of social workers in the world.

But what do all of these social workers do?

These social workers serve individuals, families, groups, organizations, and communities through public, non-profit, and private agencies. They work with children and with older adults. They help students at schools and workers through employee assistance programs. They provide care in hospitals, at nursing facilities, and through hospice. They work with those who have survived traumas, including domestic violence, armed conflict, and natural disasters. They work with those who seek to empower neighborhoods, to fight discrimination, and to advance human rights. They advocate with, and for, marginalized groups. They are service providers and researchers. They are policy makers and community organizers.

In the last six decades, social workers in the NASW have advocated with, and for, all Americans, including women; children; older adults; individuals of different abilities and racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic backgrounds; and individuals who identify themselves as members of the LGBT community. They’ve been involved in campaigns that have led to voting rights, access to physical and mental healthcare, and funding for social services. They’ve responded to the needs of military personnel and their families; individuals with HIV/AIDS; and survivors of tragedies like the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 and Hurricane Katrina.

The NASW provides for the advancement of social work professionals through opportunities for networking; support for licensure and continuing education; and the operation of various specialty divisions like the NASW Press, the NASW Legal Defense Fund, and the NASW Social Work Ethics and Law Institute. The organization also raises awareness about the social work profession, through efforts like the creation of National Social Work Month and the development of www.SocialWorkersSpeak.org, which explores how the news and entertainment industries portray social workers and the issues social workers address.

To learn more about the history of the NASW and of social work, visit the interactive timeline on the NASW website. To learn more about the future of social work, check out the work of the students, faculty, and staff here in the Department of Social Work at the College of Community and Public Affairs (CCPA) at Binghamton University.

I came to CCPA after earning a bachelor’s degree in integrative neuroscience through the Harpur College of Arts and Sciences at Binghamton University. I’m now finishing the second year of the Master of Social Work (MSW)-Master of Public Administration (MPA) dual-degree program in CCPA. I’m often asked exactly what I’m going to do with this combination of educational experiences. I think I’ve got a lot of options.

By the time I graduate in the spring of 2016, I will have completed more than 25 courses in social work and public administration; three years in a graduate assistantship with Dr. Victoria Rizzo, Associate Professor and Department Chair in the Department of Social Work; and two field placements that will have afforded me more than 1,000 hours of professional experience. I spent last year with the Youth and Outreach Services team at Family & Children’s Service of Ithaca. In the fall, I’ll start working at United Health Services Wilson Medical Center in Johnson City, under the Manager of Social Work.

My classmates are providing clinical mental health services through agencies like the Binghamton University Counseling Center, the Lourdes Memorial Hospital Center for Mental Health, and the Samaritan Counseling Center of the Southern Tier. They’re working to help develop a system of community schools through the Broome County Promise Zone. They’re providing for older adults through the Hartford Partnership Program for Aging Education, which includes field placements with agencies like the Broome County Office for the Aging and the Rural Health Network. They’re working with those who have struggled with substance abuse at the Addiction Center of Broome County and with those who have survived domestic violence through RISE. They’re serving the community through organizations like Catholic Charities, Family & Children’s Society, and the United Way. The MSW program has field placement partnerships with more than 200 organizations, offices, and agencies across the Southern Tier and throughout the surrounding counties.

We learn from an incredible team of faculty and staff. Find out more about their research and service – in areas like trauma-informed practice, sexual assault prevention on college campuses, community-engaged schools, and healthcare – by checking out the Faculty and Staff section of the Department of Social Work website.

But, regardless of our past experiences, our current work, and our future plans, the students, faculty, and staff in the Department of Social Work are all united through the core values of the NASW: we believe in service, social justice, the dignity and worth of the person, the importance of human relationships, integrity, and competence. We all want to “pave the way for change. “

Emily Tier
Bachelor of Science, Integrative Neuroscience, 2011
Master of Public Administration, expected 2016
Master of Social Work, expected 2016

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Dr. Denise Yull, CCPA Faculty Member and Community Engaged Scholar

I spoke with Dr. Denise Yull, Assistant Professor of Human Development and newer CCPA faculty member, about how she approached her dissertation and about the wealth of data she collected, along with a sneak peek as to what she is working on now. A graduate of the School of Education, Dr. Yull was one of the professors I had as an undergraduate student whose curriculum and teaching philosophy opened up a new world of critical engagement and understanding for me. In speaking with Dr. Yull about the process of formulating research questions and determining research methodologies she would use in her work, she outlined to me a process where there would be many opportunities to present and aggregate the data collected into post-doctoral publications.

Dr. Yull had four specific research questions, and her dissertation was an undertaking of a significant amount of data collection. Her data collection included vast oral histories gathered in order to answer questions regarding the educational experiences of Black New York State residents across four generations. She collected oral histories from people living in Binghamton, Elmira, Syracuse, and Buffalo. One of the salient findings is that these participants valued education for themselves and their children, but one of the main differences are with regard to the level of education sought after. Those whose families were from the North were content to strive toward completion of the high school credential, whereas those families that emigrated from the South aspired to a higher level of education. Another theme was rural vs. urban sensibilities and differences in the salience of racism based on geographical locations, and that those who were from Binghamton and Elmira had a different sense of racism in the schooling experience than those from Syracuse and Buffalo, larger urban areas. She also discussed the notion of schools as reproducing racism, providing distinct criticisms of the institution of education and how it fails youth of color. A specific quote that stands out is that “black boys never get to be kids because they are always seen as men, who aren’t seen as humans.” Powerful.

This research project and the questions she asked are important because these stories are important. As a result of gathering this data, she has identified an opportunity to publish research on the Millennial generation of youth of color. Dr. Yull discusses her ideas on this as illuminating the experience and comparing it to the traditional discourse associated with the Millennial generation as a whole, noting the disparities among them. This has the potential to be very influential work, work that provides a representative voice and challenges commonly accepted ideas.

Dr. Yull had a strict deadline to finish writing, which was ultimately incredibly helpful, in addition to stressful and daunting. She had a job offer that was contingent upon her completion and successful defense of her dissertation. She had all of her data collected, and large pieces of her dissertation complete, however with vast amounts of qualitative data, she had a significant amount of coding left to do in order to arrive at some of her data driven conclusions, independent of assumptions and the output of essential critical thinking of the researcher. She defended in August of 2012 and then started in her current role with CCPA in September of 2012. Dr. Yull made it a point to tell me to use the data contained within the dissertation and immediately begin the work of extracting and publishing it.

Community engaged scholarship is demonstrated throughout the work undertaken by faculty in the College of Community and Public Affairs. Dr. Yull spoke briefly of the process of being tenure track and what that looks like at the level of collecting relevant experience and information that supports receiving tenure. Specifically, she outlined three key areas of excellence that must be demonstrated: teaching, scholarship, and service. In addition to providing students with a qualitative means of assessment that speaks to her capabilities as a teacher, she also sits on several boards locally, including the Broome County Urban League. These are just as important as maintaining an active research agenda.

Stephanie Malmberg

Doctoral Student, College of Community and Public Affairs at Binghamton University

 

Community Spotlight: Emily Jablon

Note from the editor: New to the blog this semester is a feature that is near and dear to me. I have lived in Binghamton for a long, long, LONG time and I have seen it grow and evolve into an area that is supportive of public art and small business in ways that didn’t exist even ten years ago. In addition, community initiatives in mental health, access and equity, and workforce development are changing the area in ways that I am only beginning to understand. As a result, I have developed a segment of the blog that highlights local initiatives that take community to heart. The “Communitarian Spotlight” feature will focus on community members and students that are doing something awesome. Not necessarily “bright lights, big budget” awesome, but the kind of work that is impacting the lives of people in positive ways and embodying CCPA values. I find out about these communitarians through an informal nomination process, because that grassroots method of collecting information is something that I believe is powerful. I hope you are as excited as I am to meet these communitarians, and as you read you may ponder ways to connect and support these initiatives as they continue to develop and impact our local area. For the greater good.

Communitarian Spotlight: Emily Jablon

Chances are if you have driven in downtown Binghamton, you have seen her work. Whether on the multi-colored giant flower pots on Water St., or that certain sparkle across from River Read books overlooking the Chenango River, to the beautiful flower boxes across from Burger Mondays, you have seen Emily Jablon’s artistic vision of a vibrant Binghamton. Jablon partners with her mother, Susan Jablon, at Susan Jablon Mosaics and Club Bling, in a 6000 sq. ft. facility on Binghamton’s east side, employing a local crew of artisans that assist in the creation of custom backsplashes (among other things) in what is the largest mosaic tile supply center in the country. Yes, this is happening right here in Binghamton. I recently spent some time over coffee discussing her vision, what motivates her to continuously donate time and materials, and what she wishes to accomplish moving forward.

Emily Jablon is an artist. Her focus is on making art. In conversation, however, you discover that it’s so much more than that. You can hear in her voice and in her words how much she cares about making art accessible. Having worked with the Regents Academy at the Columbus School in downtown Binghamton, partnering with David Sloan Wilson of EVOS at Binghamton University, she began to see the impact that working on these projects had on the students there. She saw the students engage in a way that inspired her to think about mechanisms to avail creative work to local students (her studio, Club Bling, was named by students she worked with at the Regents Academy). Her vision includes working with teams of students, involving them in the process of engaging with and caring for their environment. Jablon discusses that vandalism isn’t really a concern because so many hands are involved in the process, and those participants make sure that the pieces are looked after. The whole experience made her want to do more work with the public and specifically with high school students, building their confidence and their pride in their area, and harnessing youth energy to make a local impact.

Focusing specifically on the product can be challenging when you work with the mediums and canvasses that Jablon does. She discussed the supportive relationship she has with the administration in the City of Binghamton. “They’ve been really supportive. Permits, red tape, everything is handled and we get it done quickly. I am very lucky.” When I asked her what her dream project would be, she said without hesitation, “the flood wall. But I can’t. It’s a federal thing.”

A tour (bonus!) through Jablon Studios, where I meet Cookie the Bull Dog, is where Club Bling is housed, and offers and array of classes and workshops, including succulents, mosaics, yoga, and soap making. Building up the shop and making it into something where local artists and artisans can rent affordable studio space, as well as a place where the community can come in and make something fun and creative is a big piece of what Jablon is working on now. Jablon’s community vision moving forward includes opening up sponsorship for her idea of “adopt-a-spot,” which will give local businesses the opportunity to make a donation and sponsor a mosaic project in what Emily terms “forgotten areas.” As she discussed this initiative, and others, Emily’s focus on art as activism and community engagement became infectious, and I thought about ways I can connect her with different programs like Broome County Promise Zone and Upward Bound at Binghamton University, and other programs that work with local students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Jablon makes it clear that though the end result is gorgeous, it is a process that has its less glamorous moments. For one, it is a lot of squatting. You end up getting covered in mortar. I personally saw her outside over the summer working on Water St.; it was hot. She had mortar stuck to her. I thought “that is what commitment looks like.” After speaking with her, I now realize that that is what a communitarian looks like: sweaty, covered in mortar, with a pile of tiles and a vision of the greater good.

A Day in the Life of a Binghamton University MPA Alum

For the past year, I have been the Director of Recruitment and Internship Placement for the Department of Public Administration in the College of Community and Public Affairs. It’s a great job. On the recruitment side, I get to speak with bright, energetic young people who are interested in making a difference in the world. On the internship side, I help second year MPA students narrow their career interests and navigate internship options. From prospect to MPA student to intern to smartypants MPA grad. Seriously gratifying work.

When I am at a graduate school fair or other event, one of the most common questions I am asked is: What can I do with an MPA?

My usual answer is: you can use your career to make a positive difference in society. And that is true. But here’s the short of it: We get stuff done.

Our program specializes in local government management, nonprofit management, and sustainability. While 3% of our alumni go on to work in the federal service, many more work in regional nonprofit organizations and at the state or local levels of government. Often we look at local within a global perspective, and we now offer study abroad programs with China, Peru, Hungary, and Turkey.

Recently, I caught up with Heidi Kowalchyk, MPA ‘07 to find out more about her work.

Local Government: Where the Action Is

Heidi is a Contract Management Analyst in the Department of Economic Development and Planning for Suffolk County, New York. She had worked in the Greater Binghamton region before deciding to attend the college’s MPA program. After graduation she moved to Long Island when her husband, John (MPA ’05) was offered a position with the Town of Brookhaven. Heidi found out about the opening through a friend who also worked for the county.

I asked Heidi a series of questions about the nature of her work in local government. I was pleased to see that her experiences reinforced the advice we often give to students (“network, network, network!”) and that the program prepared her well for the challenging work that she does every day.

How would you describe a typical day?

My day includes managing the contract process for grants that Suffolk County gives to local non-profit organizations and municipalities.  I approve budgets for grants, insure contract agencies have submitted the proper documentation for contracts, and audit expenditures. I communicate via phone and email with contract agencies to help them go through the contract process.  I provide a training seminar every year in contracting with Suffolk County.  In addition, I develop and manage timelines and grant application processes; and act as staff support for advisory committees.

What skills or knowledge from the MPA program prepared you for your current position?

Skills and knowledge learned in the MPA program that help me in my current position include:  performance measurement, decision making, ethics, government budgeting, writing skills, and grants management.

What do you like most about your job?

The part of my job that I like the most is my interaction with community members.  I see my role as that of helping local community groups get the money they need to conduct programs that make Long Island a better place to live.  I always have a better day when I feel like I have helped someone.

 What advice would you give to students with an interest in working in local government?  

Take lots of civil service tests and keep taking them even after you get hired. During your time as a student, apply for internships in local government to give you a sample of what it is like.

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This fall, we graduated our 407th student. Next year the department will celebrate the 20th anniversary of the conferral of MPA degrees at Binghamton (we originated from the Political Science department). Keep an eye on The Greater Good as we make plans to celebrate the success of our alumni and our program (and watch for falling confetti!).

Joann Lindstrom, MPA ’07
Director of Recruitment & Internship Placement
Department of Public Administration
Binghamton University

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