Binghamton University

Sunday, December 14, 2014

mock trial


My mock trial team has 20 kids, and it’s taken the semester so far to prepare for the most important competition of the year: Regionals. It’s not only a learning experience (in terms of the court room procedures and some aspects of the law), but some of these kids are my best friends, and that’s something I never would have expected coming into Binghamton. We’ve had two competitions so far this semester, one at Drexel and one at UPenn. The really neat thing about these tournaments is that you get to construct your case theory, and that you get to see how other teams present the case. These types of tournaments are super important and really weigh in on our performance at Regionals.
This year, I’m captain of one of the teams competing, which is pretty exciting because this is my last year. It’s been pretty tough though to meet with the team because after Thanksgiving break, everyone had finals to prepare for. It’s challenging to manage an organization when it’s not a top priority with the people involved. The same is an issue with Habitat, except I’m willing to be more flexible with Habitat because there are no “competitions” that we have to prepare for. Regionals is set for the end of February. When we get back from winter break we have about 4 weeks until the actual competition. The last time a Binghamton Mock Trial team advanced to Nationals was in 2011, the semester before I joined the team. My friends and I all really want to have a team advance this year because we’ve worked really hard the past two years to have a team advance. The talent is there. What, to me, seems to continue to be an issue is consistency, in terms of scoring well in every trial. The only way to overcome that obstacle is to be prepared to compete against the best teams possible. At our last tournament, our team won five out of eight trial ballots, which was pretty impressive because we finished somewhere around 8th place out of over 20 teams.

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Get Involved, Get Involved, Get Involved!

Hey, fellow Bearcats!

This one goes out to all you freshmen and transfer students (even some returning students, too). In my not-so-humble opinion, getting involved on campus is one of, if not the, most important factor to success while in college. Luckily, at Binghamton, there are a countless number of ways to get involved. When I say countless, I actually mean…countless. If you have an interest in a club that Binghamton doesn’t offer, all you have to do is get 9 other signatures and talk to the SA (Student Association) and…BOOM… you have a club. However, Binghamton offers students over 300 different clubs and organizations on campus to get involved in. We have everything from Imagination Craft Works (an arts and crafts club) to the American Red Cross Club and Habitat for Humanity.  In addition to our plethora of clubs on campus, we also have many club and intramural sports. We also offer both professional and social fraternities and sororities on campus (however, freshmen are not allowed to join these first semester).

How do you get involved, you say?
When you see a sign for a club GIM (General Interest Meeting) that entices you (even if its just a little), GO! No one says you have to join every club that you attend a GIM for. GIMs are a great way to find out what certain clubs are all about.  Also, if you do have an interest in a club or organization, you can either reach out to them in an email, or even on Facebook, as well.

Good luck to all, on your involvement search!

Until next time,
- Mark

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Perfectly prepared

Twelve hours. Twelve hours till graduation. Right now it seems unreal. I think it’ll hit me tomorrow. It hit me last night, too, at Dickinson commencement.

Each learning community has a ceremony to recognize graduating seniors who have lived there. Not everyone goes, but at Dickinson’s there was a pretty high turnout. More striking than the number of people present, though, was the intensity of the feelings everyone expressed. The speakers all did a great job summing up our community’s special ethos of inclusion, weirdness, and caring. Then, as is Dickinson tradition, each senior was given a certificate and the chance to share their favorite memory of Dickinson. It was really, really difficult for me to pick just one memory, because here’s the thing: what I’ve loved about Dickinson—and about Binghamton University as a whole—is the way that the choices I make and experiences I have every day add up to a huge process of growth.

At the ceremony I talked about RA Appreciation Day my freshman year, when my friend Nick and I made a card for our RA and got everyone on the floor to sign it. That day is in April, but it was the first time I worked up enough courage to talk to most of my floormates. Getting positive responses that day and other times very slowly made me less shy, and then I went to Italy and learned to really want to be outgoing, and then I was hired as an RA and had to make it my business to talk to everyone. Meanwhile, I had joined High Hopes, which helped me be better at taking care of myself and others. Those were really important skills for me to have last spring, when I started as an RA and also had a teaching internship. The classes I took for my English major and global studies and Italian minors reaffirmed and refined the love I’d always had for literature and its potential to help us understand ourselves and each other. My internship gave me the chance to combine that love with the emotional and interpersonal skills I’d developed and to decide on a career path: I’m going to be an English teacher.

Before I go to that, though, I will be completing a term of service with City Year New York. City Year is an AmeriCorps program that places members, aged 17-24, in disadvantaged schools for the purpose of providing emotional and academic support to at-risk students. I first heard about it through an ad on a bus back when I was in high school. At the time, I checked out the program’s website, thought it looked awesome from the standpoint of social justice, and figured I’d never be able to actually help with it. So, Binghamton, thank you, thank you, thank you, for helping me grow to the point where I’m not just able but excited.

Thank you also, Binghamton, for giving me the chance to try out blogging. I’ve found it to be a lot of fun, so I’ve decided to continue next year. Follow me over to—once I have access to a computer next week, I’ll start posting there, so head over if you’re curious about my new adventures. I’m definitely anxious, but I know that Binghamton has prepared me well by helping me learn to spread my wings and fly.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Top ten

On this blog, I’ve shared a lot of things about my life at Binghamton over the past year and a half, but I’ve also had some great experiences that have never made it onto the blog. It’d be hard for me to even think of them all, but here, in no particular order, are ten of the best things about my time at Binghamton that never made it onto the blog:

1. Boys & Girls Club—The Binghamton chapter of the Boys & Girls Club is pretty active, and there are plenty of opportunities to get involved through the Bing U student chapter. For scheduling reasons, I was only able to participate for one semester, back in my sophomore year, but it was a fun opportunity to play with local kids.

2. Stars
—I’m from New York City, so when I first came to Binghamton, I was struck by how many stars you can see here and how bright they look. My friends from suburban and rural areas aren’t impressed by Binghamton’s night sky, but I know I’ll miss its sparkle next year when I’m back in NYC.

3. Crepe Heaven
—One of my favorite Binghamton restaurants. Go hungry or else share with a friend, because you’ll definitely want to try both a tasty dinner crepe and a sweet dessert one. Sooooooo delicious!

4. Being a Native Speaking Assistant—Like blogger emerita Sam, who wrote a little about this last year, I was an NSA for an English as a Second Language class. If your native language is English, I highly recommend this experience. You get to bond with international students, see the classroom environment from a different perspective, and gain a whole new appreciation for language acquisition.

5. Mid-day concerts
—Sometimes certain musical groups (mostly orchestra classes, I think) give short, low-key performances on campus during the day. If there happens to be one when you have a break, it’s a great way to escape without actually going anywhere.

6. Apple-picking
—To the shock and consternation of my friends from New York north of Westchester, I had never been apple-picking before college. Now I’ve gone a bunch of times and I think it’s a lot of fun, plus the fresh apples in this area are delicious.

7. Weirdly long winter breaks—I always seem to start second semester a week or two behind friends and family who attend other universities. It feels good getting extra time at home, and I’ve always had enough time to get excited about coming back.

8. Roberson Museum and Science Center
—The Roberson is a really cool museum on Binghamton’s Westside (the Westside bus goes right there). It’s got a mixture of art, history, and science, so it’s a good place to go with people who aren’t all interested in the same thing, and at Christmas they decorate the mansion part to look amazing. If you go, check out the model train in the room next to the gift shop—it goes around a tiny model of 1950s-era Binghamton!

9. Cram Jam
—Just when you’re about to collapse under the stress of finals week, the dining hall opens late to serve treats like pancakes and cheesecake.

10. The Fine Arts courtyard
—In my opinion, this is the prettiest place on campus, with a big tree on one side and benches scattered in the garden. Unfortunately, I forgot to take a photo to upload, so I guess you’re just going to have to visit Binghamton and see for yourself.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Passing the baton

I don’t feel like working on my independent study, but I feel guilty not being productive, so I’m putting together an instruction manual of sorts for next year’s High Hopes e-board. As I’ve mentioned before, I spent this year co-directing the organization, which functioned as an undergraduate-run hotline from the 1970s until spring 2013, and which is now focusing on mental health outreach while we reorganize the hotline. This reorganization has been much more complicated than anyone anticipated. Obviously I wish we could’ve had everything worked out by now. Still, if you’re going to run an all-purpose hotline, you want to do it right, and I’m sure that all the delays will pay off in terms of the quality of service we can provide our callers.

More work still needs to be done before we get to that point, though, and I’m really happy with the students who will be leading the organization next year. I’m confident that they’ve got the skills and dedication to make this good, but one thing I’ve learned from this whole reopening project is that it’s important for everyone involved in the project to know exactly what’s going on at all times and exactly what’s already happened and either worked or not worked. So, I want to make sure the new e-board is up to speed by the time they start. We couldn’t get the hotline open this year, but we made a good amount of progress, and hopefully next year it will all pay off.

Sunday, May 04, 2014

Long-lasting rewards

The other day, the Office of International Programs held an end-of-year celebration for all the study abroad peer advisers. Unfortunately, I had to miss it because of my class schedule, but I still thought it was very nice that the staff had held it and that they had gotten each peer adviser a Barnes & Noble gift card as a thank-you.

I’m thankful to the OIP for the gift card, but the real reward for being a study abroad peer adviser is just being more involved with Binghamton’s study abroad community. It’s so cool to see people getting excited for a great big experience, and it feels good to be able to offer help, even if most of it is just reassurance that most people have a few hiccups with their pre-departure paperwork. Sometimes you can also make a difference on a bigger scale. The High Hopes-peer advising collaboration we’d been hoping for didn’t pan out, but the OIP staff listened to our concerns and will be shifting the peer advising program to be more helpful to students currently abroad. From the point of view of a High Hopes co-director, obviously I’m disappointed that things didn’t work out as planned, but the whole point was to provide better support for students abroad, and I’m happy that there will be more work next year to make sure that that goal is met.

I’ve also enjoyed being involved in study abroad peer advising because it’s helped me meet other Binghamton students who’ve spent time elsewhere, and it’s always fun and interesting for us to trade stories. Even if they’ve been back for ages, people are usually still brimming with enthusiasm about their experiences abroad. For me personally, it’s been nearly two years since I’ve returned, and my time in Milan is still a big part of my life. On my wall I have a poster of Francesco Hayez’s “Il bacio,” a painting I saw in the Pinacoteca di Brera and studied in my class on Italian national identity. In my refrigerator I have cheese from one of Binghamton’s farmers’ markets, which I probably wouldn’t have sought out if Italy hadn’t taught me the wonders of fresh cheese. In my ears right now I have an Italian parody of Frozen’s “Let It Go,” called “All’alba studierò.” That translates to “At Dawn I Will Study” and the parody is about the need to stop procrastinating and just sit down and do schoolwork. It’s about time for me to stop telling myself that the song is motivation and go back to actually working, but I did want to take a moment to reflect on the amazing experience and community given to me through the Office of International Programs. Grazie, OIP—mi mancherete!

Sunday, March 30, 2014


Today I hosted a meeting for High Hopes on the topic of self-care. Self-care, which means anything you do to improve or maintain your state of well-being, is one of the biggest things I’ve learned during my college experience. For a good portion of my freshman year, I was a bit of a mess—I didn’t get enough sleep and didn’t eat properly, I took on more than I could handle, and my default response to stress was to get upset about being stressed. (Shockingly, it was not very effective.)

Fortunately, I have much better habits now. I have plenty of factors to thank for that, but I have to admit, institutional support isn’t really one of them. While Binghamton has mental health resources like the Counseling Center and Health Services, the idea of cultivating habits to take care of oneself is not part of the general discussion on campus, and I think that that should change. Fortunately, I have hope that the university’s administration shares that belief. The other day, at a meeting about the reorganization of the High Hopes hotline, one of the deans talked about how important it is for the student body to be taught effective coping mechanisms, and also about the university president’s desire to “turn down the volume” of the pressures affecting our students. My hope is that when we finally reopen, High Hopes will be able to spread the word about self-care so that it becomes a bigger part of our campus culture.

In the meantime, I am going to continue to practice self-care myself. Right now, that means not blogging again for at least a week. Mutant Mania, Dickinson’s annual gigantic inter-building competition began this morning, and it will end on Saturday night. I’ll tell you all about Mutant Mania when it’s over, but in the meantime, I want to throw myself into supporting Johnson Hall. An important aspect of self-care is not getting overly stressed, and this week for me that means cutting out any non-Mania non-essential activity. So, catch you guys later—and take care!


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