By Elisabeth Costanzo Stewart

The College devoted Tuesday, April 18, 2023 to celebrating the largest academic event of the year – 2023 Convocation Day. 

In this time-honored SUNY Broome tradition, the campus community reserves a special day where students, faculty, staff, and alumni can gather to collectively learn about a thought-provoking and applicable topic through a featured lecture, a time for questions and answers, and follow-up workshops. With a combined in-person and virtual attendance of over 400 people, the 2023 Convocation Day was deemed a great success by all involved. 

The Campus-Wide Convocation Day Committee, led by Professor Irene Byrnes, elected to focus this year’s theme on mental health, human psychology, and neuroscience in an attempt to explore the science behind how our brains truly function. 

After brief opening remarks from Engineering Science A.S. student, Alejandro Chavarria Gonzalez, and SUNY Broome’s President, Dr. Kevin E. Drumm, the keynote speaker took to the stage. 

“Dr. Lisa Feldman Barrett is a Distinguished Professor of Psychology at Northeastern University. She also holds appointments at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital, where she is Chief Science Officer for the Center for Law, Brain & Behavior. Dr. Barrett is the acclaimed author of over 260 peer-reviewed, scientific papers appearing in Science, Nature Neuroscience, and other top journals in psychology and cognitive neuroscience, as well as six academic volumes published by Guilford Press. She has also given a popular TED talk with over 6.5 million views,”  shared Dr. Drumm

Dr. Barrett offered her lecture attendees some “nuggets of neuroscience” as she answered the questions, “What does it mean to be a human being?” and “How to progress through life one meaningful day at a time?” She then delineated seven suggestions on how to understand your brain and support its function in a healthy and meaningful way. 

1. Take care of your container! 

The brain’s most important job is to regulate the systems of the incredibly complicated body. If you take care of your body budget, everything else in your life, including the hard stuff, will improve. Basic ways to take care of your container include getting quality sleep, staying properly hydrated, eating well, and getting regular exercise. 

2. Choose to spend time with people who are good for your body budget!

We regulate and are caretakers for each other’s nervous systems. Outside bodies add or detract savings, taxes, and withdrawals to our systems. You will live longer if you have close, trusting relationships, because friends and loved ones build up your brain’s body budget.  

3. Consider the impact that you have on others! 

What you put into the world through your actions and words shape the world in which you live. The World Health Organization has deemed depression to be the main cause of disability and death globally. Depression, a metabolic illness, is the bankruptcy of body budgeting. Be aware of your impact on your body budgeting and the body budgeting of others. 

4. Don’t blame your emotions! 

Contrary to popular belief, thoughts and feelings don’t have dedicated parts of your brain. Thinking and feeling are whole brain events. 

5. You are the architect of your experiences!

Every experience that you have and every action that you do are a combination of the sensory present and signals of your remembered past. 

6. You have more control over your experiences than you think! 

Your brain assembles every piece of knowledge from bits and pieces of the past that you have personally experienced or through things that you have read or watched on TV or in movies. If you spend a little time and energy cultivating new experiences, you will be investing in your future. 

7. You have the power to construct reality! 

“Social Reality” is a special kind of reality that is constructed by us. Examples include: money, mortgages, college degrees, and even memes! 

Following Dr. Lisa Feldman Barrett’s engaging lecture, students were invited to participate in a question and answer session. The remainder of the day was devoted to workshops across campus facilitated by over 70 members of SUNY Broome’s faculty and staff. Specialty workshops and film screenings included: 

  • The Mental Health Crisis in America: How Is It Affecting International College Students?
  • Brain Break: How to Give Your Brain a Break Before It Breaks!
  • Student Pride and Achievement Workshop
  • How to Succeed in Online Learning
  • ASK!
  • The Psychology of Ethics in the Engineering Domain
  • Film 1 – The Mind Explained: HOW TO FOCUS\
  • Film 2 – The Mind Explained: TEENAGE BRAIN

Campus-Wide Convocation Day Committee Members

  • Professor Irene Byrnes (Chair)
  • Dr. Robert Congdon, Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics Division
  • Librarian Dr. Amanda Hollister, Library
  • Professor Gian Roma, Business and Public Services Division
  • Professor Diane O’Heron, Liberal Arts Division
  • Dr. Virginia Shirley, Liberal Arts Division
  • Alejandro Chavarria, Student Assembly