As stage manager of shows such as Henry V and Streetcar Named Desire, Aaron Rubinstein was an integral part of the Theatre Department for the past four years.
"I like being involved in live productions and having control over something that people need to be ready to perform," he said. "It's stressful. That draws me to it. I like working under pressure."
That pressure multiplied this spring, as Rubinstein has taken his support skills to a stage just a little larger than the one at Watters Theater: The 22-year-old is working as a production assistant on one of television's highest-rated shows, Dancing With the Stars.
"It's a non-stop operation," he said of the live show that airs Monday and Tuesday nights on ABC.
The technical theatre major from Long Island isn't afraid to make a big leap into something. After all, he liked Binghamton University's size and reputation and decided to attend without even making a campus visit.
"I saw some pictures and thought, 'This is nice,'" he said. "The first time I saw the campus was during orientation."
Rubinstein attended a Theatre Department "meet-and-greet" early in his freshman year and immediately got involved with productions. He decided to major in theatre that year after serving as assistant stage manager in a production of Urinetown.
He would go on to serve in a variety of design, technical and directing roles, including acting in Julius Caesar, directing True West and Ashes to Ashes, and working as production manager in Little Shop of Horrors and as fight manager in The Crucible.
Theatre Professor Anne Brady called Rubinstein "one of the best, if not the best, student stage managers that I have ever worked with in my career as a director."
As a stage manager, Rubinstein was a gifted communicator who was organized and always able to provide feedback, she said.
"What is also unique about Aaron is his knowledge and curiosity about not only the technical aspects of theatre but also the performance aspects." Brady said. "He has an excellent eye for what works onstage. Another quality that makes Aaron special is his extreme generosity to jump in and help out with any aspect of a production that needs it. During all his years at Binghamton, if there was a mainstage or studio production that needed technical assistance, fight choreography or stage management help, Aaron never hesitated to lend a hand."
The Theatre Department – and faculty members such as Brady and lecturer Kevin Oakes – provides students with the opportunity to develop a broad set of skills, Rubinstein said.
"The faculty is fantastic," he said. "If you want to learn, the opportunities are there. It's a good environment to work in because we have a little of bit of everything and anyone who comes through the program learns a little bit about everything, too. That really helped me get to where I am now."
On Dancing With the Stars, celebrities are paired with professional dancers and compete weekly for viewers' votes until a champion is crowned. Rubinstein and his mother know two of the dancers − Maksim and Valentin Chmerkovskiy – and asked if there would be any available work on the show. A production assistant position was available for the season starting in March. Rubinstein, who had nearly fulfilled all of his academic requirements by the end of the fall semester, headed to California.
"It's not glamorous stuff," he said with a laugh about being one of 10 production assistants. "We make sure the dance floor and stage are clear. We make sure the water cooler is stocked. We go out and pick up costumes and props. We do what they need us to do. It could be research; it could be talking to a visiting artist to find out what they need.
"It's like the assistants you see in the movies," he added, referring to the Meryl Streep/Anne Hathaway movie The Devil Wears Prada. "Sometimes the coffee is not hot enough!"
Highlights for Rubinstein include working with musical artists such as KISS and Chris Brown and helping the celebrities and dancers in the rehearsal rooms during the week.
"It's cool to see them work on their routines before they are stage-ready," he said.
Rubinstein has been impressed with how much work the dancers and celebrities do to prepare for a show. That preparation makes the shows even more competitive.
"Look at Donald Driver," Rubinstein said of the Green Bay Packers wide receiver and Dancing With the Stars contestant. "He's a Super Bowl-winning wide receiver, but he wants to win here. Everyone on the show really wants to win. You don't see it as much on camera, but when they are rehearsing, they really want to do a great job and get it right. They get frustrated sometimes."
The experience has been rewarding for Rubinstein, whose career goal is to work as a producer or production manager.
"My time here has shown me that I don't know enough yet to move up," he said. "I need to work on this show or a couple of others before I try to move up in the world. This is much different than theater."
After graduation and the Dancing conclusion, Rubinstein will come to New York City for the summer to work as a stage-management intern on Sleep No More, an interactive, off-Broadway show based on Macbeth.
Rubinstein hopes to return to Dancing With the Stars and is thankful to Binghamton University and the Theatre Department for helping him acquire the skills to succeed in the entertainment business.
"The Theatre Department was my home for four years," he said. "I barely left the Fine Arts Building! You have faculty, but when you spend so much time with them, they become your friends. The department provided me a solid foundation to learn. I didn't come into this (television) world with nothing."
Kopernik receives award as part of Manley's Service Learning Project
From staff reports
The Kopernik Observatory and Science Center (KOSC) received $2,000 thanks to a partnership with Binghamton University's Organizational and Strategic Leadership and Consulting class, Manley's Mighty Marts and Big Al's Pizza.
Each year, the Manley's Service Learning Project partners teams of SOM students with not-for-profit organizations in a range of activities. The project wrapped up in May when five teams presented recommendations and reports to their respective executive directors and boards. The projects were then evaluated by two judges who selected the winner.
The Zenith Consulting team earned top honors for the appropriateness and implementable nature of its recommendations. Team members Kaitlyn Orr, Daniel Saber, Loren Rispoli, Matthew Austin and Rachel Tu, spent 12 weeks and more than 1,000 hours working with KOSC, a non-profit hands-on science, technology, engineering and math center for students of all ages.
"We are very lucky to have worked with such a hard-working and insightful team of Binghamton University students," said Andrew J. Deskur, KOSC executive director. "The work they did on this project will be the invaluable to the board of directors as we set out to chart a new course for Kopernik. We are also extremely grateful to Manley's for sponsoring this project. All the non-profit organizations working with the Binghamton University students have benefited greatly from this project."
"It has been an honor to work with Andrew Deskur and everyone involved with KOSC," said Rispoli. "Kopernik is an incredible organization and we hope our recommendations and the reward will assist in their expansion."
This was the eleventh year that the course has been offered in the capstone class for leadership and consulting majors, which is led by Kimberly Jaussi, associate professor of organizational behavior. This is also the sixth year Manley's has sponsored the class, donating more than $150,000 to date to the University for projects that benefit the community.
Class of 2012 profile: Sarah Mikulski
By Ashley Smith
"She first caught my attention sophomore year when she came to pick up her midterm exam. She got a 100 and I didn't know who she was," said James Pitarresi, chair of mechanical engineering and SUNY Distinguished Teaching Professor. "But it wasn't just one test. She continued to get 100s on every test I gave and it started to be a joke."
While soft-spoken and extraordinarily humble, Mikulski makes an impression. She'll tell you that she got an internship "by luck" and that she's a member of "a few of the honor societies." In reality, "She's a powerhouse academically," Pitarresi said.
The summer after her sophomore year, she was accepted to one of the nationally competitive NSF Research Experiences for Undergraduates at the Chicago Illinois Institute for Technology. She worked alongside a professor who was creating and testing a new prototype engine for a hybrid electric vehicle.
As a junior, Mikulski received the Watson School's National Science Foundation S-Stem Scholarship and planned to continue on at Binghamton University to complete her master's degree. That same year she interned at High Tech Industries, a metal fabrication company in Binghamton. "They would give me the metal sheets or the parts that they were making and I'd draw them on the computer," she said.
Her "lucky" internship came the summer after her junior year when she landed a position as a cold box engineer at Praxiar in her hometown, Buffalo.
The company manufactures industrial gases and Mikulski was tasked to help build the large towers that take in air, cool it down and separate it into components — nitrogen, argon, oxygen — to be sold. "I looked at the pipes, put them under stress to see what failed, and then redesigned them," she said. She also did calculations of components like lifting lugs. "When they're building these cold boxes they have to lift them to place them on top of each other," she explained. "You have to design the bolts to make sure they can carry the load."
At the end of her 12 weeks at Praxiar, she was offered a job — which she started earlier this month.
Mikulski is also a McFarland Johnson Scholar and the top graduating senior in the undergraduate mechanical engineering program, earning her the department award for Outstanding Academic Achievement in Baccalaureate Studies.
It's hard to believe, but Mikulski claims she actually bombed her first physics test. "I had a big project due the next day and I was up until 4 a.m. working on it. I didn't manage my time well in the beginning," she said. "Then I started to understand the professors and get a better idea of what the big topics were and what they were going to test us on. And once I got into junior year, I figured out that your friends were there to support you and help you out so it got easier to manage everything."
She admits to being unsure about engineering when she first came to the Watson School, not really knowing what it entailed. But get her talking about her favorite class now, the Science of Engineering Materials, and you can tell that this path is exactly where she belongs.
"You look at the chemistry behind the materials, like the crystalline structure of plastics and how stresses on it will cause it to react and how the atoms shift," Mikulski explained, paused, and then laughed lightly. "I know, it sounds boring." When she talks about it though, it doesn't. And that tempered passion could lead almost anyone to sign up to be an engineer after spending a mere half hour with her. Even before starting her first real job, she was thinking graduate school.
"I feel like I have the potential to do a lot more," she said.
Forensic Health Essentials course to start July 9
From staff reports
To provide continuing education for registered nurses and other healthcare professionals, the Decker School of Nursing and Continuing Education and Outreach formed Binghamton University Lifelong Enrichment and Advancement for Registered Nurses (BU-LEARN). This program will offer an online course in forensic health essentials July 9-Aug. 10. The course comprises Module 1 of the Forensic Health Certificate Program.
This module introduces nurses and other healthcare professionals to the exciting world of forensic careers, both those related to the healthcare fields and other disciplines, such as the sciences, law and law enforcement. Content includes: an introduction to forensics; violence as a health problem; forensics today: clients and settings; forensic roles and interdisciplinary collaboration; violence and diversity; mechanisms of injury; forensic assessment and documentation (including interviewing, physical assessment, narrative writing, diagrams and forensic photography); collection and reservation of evidence; medicolegal death investigation; an introduction to the criminal aspects of forensics: offenders and victims; an introduction to the civil aspects of forensics: malpractice/negligence, personal injury, child custody and elder issues; terrorism; promoting your forensic practice; and consultation and collaboration.Binghamton University alumni get a 10 percent discount on tuition, so the cost is $900 instead of the regular cost of $1,000. See more information on this course and register online.
Student Philanthropy Program Awards $10,000
From staff reports
Philanthropy students from Binghamton University's Learning by Giving Program announced this year's grant recipients.
Through Associate Professor David Campbell's undergraduate philanthropy class, funded by the Learning by Giving Foundation, students learned about community needs, philanthropy and leadership in nonprofit organizations to help select the grant recipients. Agencies were selected for funding based upon student research and were expected to meet various qualifications for the grant.
This year the Incubator has awarded over $10,000 to the following local nonprofit agencies:
- Oasis After School Program - $1,000. The Oasis After School Program of Endicott provides teens with after-school activities, including academic support and civic engagement opportunities.
- United Health Services Foundation - $4,000. The program provides school-based health clinics, nutritional programming, mentorship and youth development support to students at Benjamin Franklin Elementary School and Roosevelt Elementary School in Binghamton.
- Boys and Girls Club of Binghamton - $5,000. The grant will support the organization's basketball program and assist with the purchase of a van that will be used to transport students on trips and throughout the community.
Funding for these grants is provided by the Learning by Giving Foundation, created in summer 2011 through the generosity of Doris Buffett, following the success of the program by the same name through her Sunshine Lady Foundation. Under Campbell's direction, students at Binghamton University have a hands-on philanthropy experience by being fully engaged in the grant-making process.
Demographer calls for country to recommit to education
By Katie Ellis
Maris Vinovskis, a demographer who has worked extensively in government, including for Bush and Clinton administrations, is the Bentley Professor of History and ISR Research Professor at the University of Michigan's Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy. He brought his expertise to bear for the 20th Annual Edgar W. Couper Lecture during spring semester, when he spoke about "Federal Involvement in Education Since World War II." The Couper Lecture and related events are funded by the Edgar W. Couper Endowment Fund for Educational Excellence.
"This is a particular honor because Couper was a leader in education in New York and elsewhere, and in sponsoring education for the next generation," Vinovskis said.
"It's appropriate to take a look back at what and how we have accomplished over a period of time when federal influence greatly expanded," he said. "The educational challenges for the future are very great and when we put education into a historical context, there is a better sense of what we can expect from the next set of leaders in Washington."
Since World War II, the population of the United States has more than doubled, there is more diversity, and the proportion of low-income households is smaller. Yet, Vinovskis said, one out of five children still live below the poverty level.
He then delved into a few programs that were created to support the disadvantaged: Head Start and Title I, Improving the Academic Achievement of the Disadvantaged.
With Head Start, he said, there was an immense expansion of nursery school and kindergarten programs which expanded opportunities to work with students longer as they started school earlier and remained in school longer. Yet, significant numbers of students still drop out of high school and Hispanics continue to trail both blacks and whites in graduation rates.
While numbers of students have increased, so has spending on K-12 education, he said. "Total federal, state and local expenditures rose by more than 150 percent from $1,700 per student in 1945 to $4,200 per student in 1965 − a huge increase in real dollars spent."
But where are those dollars coming from? Back in 1945, almost all support for public schools came from local or state revenues, with the federal government kicking in only 1 percent, Vinovskis said. "In 2008, federal expenditures have risen to 8 percent, state to 48 percent and local to 44 percent. The take-away lesson is that throughout this entire period, more than 90 percent of the monies for K-12 education have come from local communities and states and the federal government contribution has been relatively modest, but guidelines have consistently expanded Washington's role."
Along with more students and dollars have come more teachers, and a decrease in the student/teacher ratio. Smaller classes equal a better job, he said. "Critics often question the additional cost of small class sizes as really worth it, but I wonder if we took the money and increased teacher salaries instead, would it attract better teachers overall? Getting high-quality teachers today is a much bigger problem than in the 1960s.
"It's not clear whether traditional teaching certification or advanced degrees actually lead to improved education," he said. "If a history teacher gets a master's degree in English, he/she may not be as effective as if he/she got a master's in American history or in pedagogy."
Immigration has impacted our educational system as well, Vinovskis said. "Since World War II, immigration started increasing steadily and about one eighth of the population is now foreign-born and rising at a birth rate higher than our native population, so we have a different set of students in our classrooms than at the end of World War II. Many Hispanics, many poor, relatively unskilled and with poor English, so we face special challenges in school for job preparation and for civic education.
"We've neglected civic education and will be called on to prepare for reform," he added. "Policy makers will have strong views on that."
The changing nature of the global economy is also part of the educational picture. The United States thrived during the '50s and '60s relative to Europe and Asia. "One reason we did so well was nobody invaded us in World War II. Now, many former enemies and allies are recovered and compete successfully with us and our position is difficult to maintain. With higher paying jobs increasing and requiring an educated labor force, we're competing in a much larger market and not as prepared as we should be."
Overall, the United States has remained stable when measuring student achievement, Vinovskis said, but we need to improve. There's a large achievement gap between minority and white students, and between rich and poor.
"We were going to be No. 1 in math and science by the year 2000, but not many are talking about that now," he said.
Admitting his personal bias to help disadvantaged Americans, Vinovskis called Head Start one of the most innovative and important societal efforts to help disadvantaged children. With bipartisan support, the program grew rapidly, but advocates and experts built up expectations that the program could be inexpensive. The strides made at young ages quickly eroded when students moved beyond the early grades. "Good Head Start programs can work, but we have to fund them."
From 1967 to 1992, the U.S. spent $3 billion on Head Start, but follow-through projects were neither well designed nor properly evaluated, so "it's an important program we've failed to do well," Vinovskis said. "There was a Brookings panel on social experimentation that developed a report for developing and testing new education programs. It's a great framework that is being ignored."
Title 1, which was specifically designed to help the disadvantaged, has had little impact, Vinovskis said. "Money is spread out so broadly that there is no way the program can make much of a difference. Congress mandated evaluation, but it's not rigorous and most programs are an embarrassment."
According to Vinovskis, success in Title I schools now is measured only in part by measuring student academic outcomes. "That's a big step to look at outcomes, not how much money we spending. But what's it doing for the students? Money is essential, but it's not enough by itself to ensure high quality education. It's important that we invest in what is working for us."
NCLB suffers from overambitious goals, inadequate funding and failing to reach agreed upon objectives, Vinovskis said. "It's disappointing to see how little we've gained in terms of achievements and in terms of assembling these packages (Head Start, Title I and NCLB) that aren't the way to go. They're loosely relatable programs but they aren't even consistent with each other and we'll do it again. That's the one thing I do have confidence in."
Vinovskis believes poverty would be eliminated if we educated the disadvantaged, it hasn't happened and indeed economic equality has become worse. "This is not a record to run on in politics, it is a record that is hugely ignored," he said. "Family income has a substantial impact on student success and we need special programs, summer learning opportunities and longer school years to help disadvantaged students."
One thing Vinovskis said everyone can agree on is that the U.S. needs federally funded education research and development. "Is what we fund reliable or helpful? We don't look at that," he said. We have had fragmentary, short-term projects rather than rigorous, large-scale ones.
Americans care about education more than ever, according to Vinovskis, but the federal government doesn't have resources, nor do local communities and states. As a result, American interest in education is long lived but hasn't been able to stay the course.
So what will happen in this election year? "This is a different paradigm," he said. "How do you figure out a world that is different from what we've had? History doesn't tell us what will happen, but some people will have to think outside of the traditional box."
Past election years have come and gone with no changes and nobody holding anyone accountable, he said. "There's not outrage. No candidates said they made a mistake. The year 2000 came and not a single goal was met, but the news media didn't even notice it. We promised by 2014 everybody will be proficient, but nobody is.
"But by 2020 we're going to be No. 1 in education again? We need to think about how we will go about this. We need to resurrect a new type of educational practice," he said, of becoming realistic and setting standards the country can live up to and enforce.
"The past isn't exactly a joy ride, but one sense of history we've lost and can regain is the ideals of the 1960s when we were really, sincerely dedicated to improving things and that disadvantaged people matter. We have to recommit ourselves to helping the disadvantaged and to help those who need the most help," he said.