In a room full of researchers, community service leaders and Binghamton University students and faculty, the Let Us Dream Conference aimed to provide insight into initiatives and research centering around the betterment of the Binghamton community.
The conference, hosted at the University Downtown Center on Friday, was inspired by Desire, Readiness, Empowerment, Action and Mastery for Success (DREAMS) program founder, Father Lijo Thomas, according to Laura Bronstein, one of the organizers of the conference, dean of the College of Communications and Public Affairs (CCPA) and director of the Institute for Justice and Well-Being. The DREAMS program, which began in Kerala, India, focuses on an intervention and development program to aid adolescents with school and life.
The conference had 19 speakers in three different panel discussions. The panels discussed upcoming research and initiatives revolving around social, educational and health-related topics. Keynote speakers included Myra Sabir, an associate professor of human development, and Amelia LoDolce, executive director of Volunteers Improving Neighborhood Environments (VINES).
Sabir gave a presentation on her work with attachment-focused integrative reminiscence (AFIR) and life writing. She said AFIR is a cost-effective, efficient form of intervention with a focus on attachment experiences that may reduce perceived stress. Life writing is a method of AFIR where patients self-document impactful memories.
Sabir concluded that AFIR and life writing reduces stress and said this is an example of what the Let Us Dream Conference can lead to.
“With reduced stress, we have a new baseline for physical and psychological health,” Sabir said. “To me, that’s huge.”
LoDolce said VINES helps young people access healthy foods and improves neighborhoods while giving residents an opportunity to learn farming skills. By doing so, VINES hopes to empower residents and improve their quality of life. The group is currently expanding by building new community gardens and increasing the size of an urban farm at Tudor Street in Downtown Binghamton by nearly two acres.
When Bronstein heard about Thomas’ work with DREAMS, she said she wanted the University to collaborate with him.
“Father Lijo talked to me about this conference that he does in different parts of the world, and it sounded just like the work that we do here in the College of Community and Public Affairs,” Bronstein said. “He asked if we could have the conference here and I thought it was a perfect match for who we are.”
Senegal Mabry, a first-year graduate student studying public administration, worked closely with Bronstein to make the conference happen and said the event aimed to show attendees the impact their scholarly work can have on the real world.
“We want research and community service to be tied together,” Mabry said. “It’s okay to be small. It’s okay to be a local organization working on local problems.”
Angel Morales, an attendee at the conference and a first-year graduate student studying social work, said the BU campus offers a surprising amount of service programs.
“It’s very interesting to see how many programs are offered and it’s amazing to see how everything’s conjunctive,” Morales said.