Author Archives: Andrew Dauphinee

About Andrew Dauphinee

Education and learning are passions of mine. Lifelong learning is a core part of who I am and I strive to pass that desire for information on to everyone I meet. As the Instruction and Outreach Librarian, it is my goal to provide quality, informative, and relevant programming to meet the diverse needs of our patrons. Please contact me regarding programming at adauphinee@njstatelib.org.

Picturing Your Research: Finding, Procuring, and Preserving Images

There is an old saying that pictures are worth a thousand words.  While this may be up for debate, what is true is that a photo is worth nothing if it is destroyed.  Many of us have family photos that we consider precious and want to pass down, but we must first preserve those images.  Michelle Novak, a professional genealogist, shared some of her secrets for not only preserving family photos, but also ways to find and procure photos that have genealogical relevance.

Photos bring life and reality to one’s genealogy.  They not only show us how an individual or location appeared at a given period of time, but also tell us more about the life they lived.  Most of the time, photos are passed down within the family, but there are other sources from which one can find personal or relevant photos to augment one’s collection or inform their research.  National repositories such as the Library of Congress, National Archives II, or Historic Aerials as great places to check, as well as local organizations such as the NJ State Archives or local historical societies.  While they may not have named individuals associated with a picture, they may have location-specific pictures that can include former properties, places of employment, or public gatherings in which a family member may appear.  Additionally, photo sharing sites such as FamilySearch or Facebook Groups are a great way to exchange photos that extended family or unknown familial connections may have.

Before we discuss how to preserve images, it is important to point out that all photos are copyrighted material.  The copyright holder of a photograph is the individual who took the picture, not the subject of the photograph.  According to U.S. copyright law, a photograph becomes public domain 70 years after the death of the copyright holder.  However, this only applies if you plan on using the images for any commercial or reproduction purposes, which includes sharing it on public sites such as Facebook.  Additionally, it is important to think about the wishes of the subject/subjects of the photograph before sharing it; is this something that they would want others to see?  One tool to help track down the origin of an image, such as one that was used as a feature image on a genealogy blog, is Google Reverse Image Search.  You can upload the file and Google will attempt to track down all of the sources where the image is found online.

So now that we have all of our photographs, how do we keep them safe?  First and foremost, all photographs will age and degrade, regardless of how we store them or try to preserve them.  However, limiting their exposure to light and storing them in archival sleeves will certainly help slow any degradation.  Sleeves that have a PAT Passed designation are certified to be of the highest archival quality.  Additionally, storing certain photos in a freezer will help slow down any degradation.

The easiest and best way to “preserve” a photograph is to make a digital scan.  Scanners are considerably cheaper than 10 years ago and have such high resolution capabilities that you can make very good copies of your photos.  Additionally, scanning photographs will allow you to enlarge small photographs to see in greater detail.  Standard flatbed scanners are the best when dealing with photographs and you should avoid All-in-One machines as their scanning software and capabilities are much worse when dealing with the details of a photograph.  Michelle’s mantra is “do it once and do it well”, which means scan your photographs using the highest resolution you can.  The minimum recommended resolution is 600 ppi (pixels per inch), with most modern scanners being able to capture images in 2,400 or 3,600 ppi.  Additionally, you can purchase flatbed scanners that will also create positive images of slides and negatives.

Once you have your photos scanned, it is important to come up with a file-naming convention that will allow you to easily identify any photograph.  Having a photo named grandma.jpg tells you very little about the photo; please see page 5 of the handout for examples of how to name your files in more detail.  Also, you can use photo-editing programs, such as Adobe Photoshop, to extend the canvas of the photo to include important information, including image location, date, subject of the photo, or whatever else you feel is important to know about the image.

For more information about finding and preserving your photos, please take a look at the handout, https://www.njstatelib.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/Picturing-Your-Research.pdf, or contact Michelle Novak at mnovakdesign@me.com.

Investment Basics Program Recap

Thank you to Britany Enelow, Financial Advisor from the Credit Union of New Jersey, for discussing the basics of investing from which anyone can start planning for their future.  While all investing carries some risk for the potential of some or all loss of money, being able to understand the different investment types, will help you to minimize your risks and work more effectively with a financial advisor.

So why should you invest?  Investing allows you to grow your money to meet your financial goals, such as retirement or college.  Money has purchasing power, both actual and potential.  Investing allows you to potentially increase the potential purchasing power by growing a set amount of money into more money that hopefully surprises the rate of inflation, netting you more actual purchasing power in the future.

Before investing, it is important to determine what your financial goals are and what your risk tolerance is.  All investing comes with some amount of risk so being able to determine how aggressive you want to be with your money will determine how you should invest it.  Generally, as we get older, we become more conservative in our risk tolerance because it becomes more difficult to replace any lost money.  This transition will affect your portfolio and the makeup of your investments.  It is also important to diversify your investments to help mitigate any potential losses.  By putting your money in a variety of investment types, you are better able to withstand market fluctuations and rebound quicker from downturns in the economy.

There are many different investments you can put your money into and each one will have a different level of risk as well as return.  Generally, the greater the return, the higher the risk so it is important to understand the different investment types on how they can best serve your financial goals.

One of the most popular investment choices are stocks.  When you buy stocks, you are buying into some ownership of that company.  When the company does well, you do well, but the reverse is true.  Stocks tend to have higher returns, thus more risk.  However, over the long-term, stocks tend to provide a positive return on your investment.  There are different types of stocks:

  • Income stocks – these stocks pay dividends to their shareholders and tend to be in less volatile industries, such as energy, finance, and natural resources.
  • Growth stocks – these stocks tend to invest all of their profits back into the business so you are relying on the success of the company to deliver a higher stock price which you can then sell to make money.  These stocks tend to have a higher risk than income stocks.
  • Value stocks – these stocks tend to be undervalued by the market even though the company’s performance may indicate otherwise.  These are bought low and then sold when the market positively adjusts to the success of the company.

Another type of investment are bonds.  Bonds are issued by a company or government entity to raise money for a project or activity.  When you buy a bond, you are essentially becoming a creditor to the bond issuer and they promise to may you interest on your bond for the life of the loan.  Generally, there is a minimum amount you must commit in order to purchase a bond.  These are generally safer than stocks because the borrowing entity agrees to pay back the amount with interest, but also have lower rates of return.  There are different types of bonds:

  • Corporate bond – issued by private and public corporations and generally issued in blocks of $1,000.  You are paid interest as the bond matures.  If the company declares bankruptcy, bondholder claims may be given preference over other creditors.
  • Municipal bond – issued by state, city, or other local governmental entity, but you do not receive any interest payments until the bond has matured.  However, oftentimes the interest earned is exempt from federal, state, and local taxes.
  • Treasury bond – issued by the U.S. Department of Treasury on behalf of the federal government.  These are generally seen as risk-free, but often have the lowest yield of any bonds.

Mutual funds are a great way to diversify your money within a single investment.  When you invest in a mutual fund, your money is pooled with other investors that is managed by a professional money manager who will charge of fee for managing that fund, generally 1%.  Each mutual fund has a stated purpose and goal, which the money manager is required to follow.  These funds can be spread out across one or more investment types, essentially trying to hedge as many bets as possible to maximize returns while mitigating risk.  However, depending on the fees, they may lower or eliminate your rate of return and if other investors in the fund decide to sell and pull their money out, the entire fund will suffer, including yourself.

When investing, please remember DAD:

  • D – Determine your financial goals and risk tolerance
  • A – Allocate your money to best meet those goals and in your risk comfort zone
  • D – Diversify your assets to help mitigate the risks inherent is all forms of investments

If you have any questions, please reach out to Britany Eneloy at 609-538-4061 ext. 2056 or benelow@cunj.org  For a copy of the handout, please visit https://www.njstatelib.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/Investment-Basics.pdf.

Using Online Polish Archives for Genealogical Research Program Recap

Researching Polish ancestry can be a difficult endeavor that requires patience and knowing where to look.  Dr. Elana Broch, Assistant Population Research Librarian and amateur genealogist, has done years of research on her Polish lineage, even visiting Poland to try and find primary documents to answer her family history.

One of the most important things to recognize about Polish ancestry is Polish history.  Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, Poland as a country often did not exist.  Parts were under the control of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Ukraine, Germany, and Russia.  Therefore, depending on the time period, document languages and location names may have changed depending on who was in power.  Additionally, if you are looking for Jewish ancestry, family and town names may be Jewish or Yiddish, adding yet another layer to deciphering someone’s lineage.  JewishGen has a wonderful Communities Database that is worth looking at even if you did not have Jewish Ancestry.  The database maps the location names over time so you can better understand where records may be and in what languages.  Additionally, Poland was a crossroads of conflict in World War 1 and 2 so many records were destroyed, leaving gaps in civil registration collections and vital records.

On the bright side, the Mormon Church, responsible for Ancestry.com (subscription) and FamilySearch (free) have digitized countless Polish related records during their mission trips so some (but not all) records are available through those sites.  It is highly recommended to check Ancestry and FamilySearch first to see what information and records you can find on your Polish ancestors before moving forward.  The best place to find information would be the United States and specific state censuses, which during the later half of the 19th century and forward, list places of birth and all of the names within a household, rather than just the head of household.  This information can be critical in tracing a relative back in Poland, but remember, that if the place of birth was listed as Russia or Germany, they may have actually been living within the borders of present-day Poland.

If you have exhausted these resources and are looking to find records in Poland, be aware that there are multiple archival institutions and locations, depending on what you are looking to find.  Also, you will need to write to the specific archive or employ a professional genealogist in Poland to obtain the records as a vast majority of their records (outside of those digitized on Ancestry.com or FamilySearch) are not digitized.  The Central Archives of Historical Records (AGAD), are the official repository for materials that are no longer under Polish privacy restrictions.  This includes birth records that are over 100 years old and marriage and death records over 80 years old.  Additionally, the AGAD contains information from Ukraine.  The Civil Registry Office (Urząd Stanu Cywilnego) contains vital records that are still protected under their privacy laws.  There are many regional archives where most records are currently housed, which is why it is critical to determine the location an ancestor lived to accurately determine which region or district archives to contact.  Lastly, there are local parish or archdiocesan archives that will contain important genealogical records such as baptism and marriage records.

The Polish Archives does have a searchable website that comprises of 4 different databases, however all of the information is in Polish, which means you will need to use a translation service such as Google Translate or a browser extension that can translate the page for you.  While some of the filters and headings are in English, all of the collection titles, descriptions, and notes are all in Polish.

It is highly recommended to check out the FamilySearch Wiki on Poland Genealogy to help determine what records to look for and where to find those records.  For more information on the presentation or help with Polish genealogy, please contact Elana Broch at ebroch@princeton.edu.  For a copy of the presentation, please visit https://www.njstatelib.org/assets/PolishArchivesPresentation.pdf.

Lifelong Financial Education Program Recap

Our financial situations are constantly changing, whether we get a new job or raise, pay off a debt, or adjust how much we are putting away in savings.  Additionally, the financial environment, such as interest rates or stock values are constantly in flux.  As a result, it is important to continually evaluate and manage our finances.  Dayana Moya from Lifelong Investments LLC shared information and tips related to 3 important areas of personal finances: cash flow management, investment strategies, and life insurance.

Cash flow management takes a look at your entire financial picture to help you better understand where your money is coming from and invested so you can make sound financial decisions, such as monthly payments for a car or mortgage or how to save your money, such as a savings account, bonds, or stocks.  The Financial Formula provides a visual guide to different places money can be stored or taken from in terms of risk vs. potential returns.  Cash alternatives like CDs or savings accounts are at the bottom because they have very little risk but also very little potential return.  Determining where you are comfortable putting your money will determine what type of future incomes you can expect, helping you better understand your current and future financial situation.

Additionally, everyone should have some amount of money put away in savings, which can be as simple as putting away $20 a paycheck into a separate account.  It is recommended you have enough in your savings to replace 3-6 months of income, a portion for emergency situations such as unexpected medical bills, and any planned expenses such as a vacation or a down payment on a car.  By continuously evaluating your finances, you can better estimate how much money you should have saved and use any extra to contribute to a retirement account or life insurance premiums.

Investing can be very complicated and it is going to be different for every person based on their financial goals as well as their risk tolerance.  Below are 5 smart investment strategies to consider:

  1. Don’t time the market – In an ideal world, everyone would buy stocks when the price is low and sell when it is high,  but more often than not, people do the opposite as they try to figure out where the market is going.  It is very difficult to predict what will happen in the market so do not rush into decisions to try and make a quick buck.
  2. Asset Allocation – 91.5% of financial performance rests with asset allocation.  By strategically placing your money in different assets, you can better ensure profitable investments and insulate yourself from financial losses during financial crises.
  3. Investment Selection – It is important when selecting investments to look at the long-term performance for all options you are considering.  Depending on the year, some investments (stocks, bonds, cash alternatives) may perform better, but not as well as others over the long term.  By focusing on long-term performance and calculations, you can better determine which investments will bring you the best returns with the right amount of risk.
  4. Dollar-Cost Averaging – It is important to track your investments over time to determine if you are making money, especially in relation to stocks.  If you buy a stock over a certain period and the price rises, you will own less shares, but the average price per share will be greater than the average cost you spent on each share.  The opposite is true if the price falls, even slightly so averaging the dollar-cost will help you better understand when to sell in order to ensure you do not loose any money.
  5. Rebalance Your Portfolio – Essentially, you are repeating strategies 2 – 4 at regular intervals to ensure that your money is being allocated effectively with the maximum amount of return.  Whether it is your investments or your personal budget, it is important to reevaluate your financial situation to make sure you are in a comfortable place and are able to achieve your goals.

Life insurance is often thought of as an obligation, but in reality, it can be an opportunity to provide your loved ones with financial security, at a financial advantage.  First and foremost, you should conduct a Detailed Needs Analysis to determine the benefit payout of a policy.  By assessing and quantifying your short and long term financial needs and obligations and deducting any liquid assets, you can figure out how much money would be needed for financial security after your passing.  This will help you determine what type of life insurance would be best for your unique situation.

Term life insurance has a designated time-frame, 10 years for example, in which any benefit will be paid out.  Generally, the premiums are lower and the benefit payout is less than permanent life insurance.  There are different types of permanent life insurance, all remain in effect until your deaths as long as the premiums are paid:

  • Whole – The policy has a cash value from which you can withdraw that is tax-deferred
  • Universal – Allows for flexible premiums which creates adjustable benefits based off those premiums.  This still has a cash value that is tax-deferred
  • Variable – Allows for flexible premiums and additionally premiums above a set minimum can be designated into investment subaccounts.  The benefits, however, are variable.

If you have any questions on the information covered in the presentation, please contact Dayana Moya at 973-317-2831 or dayana@lifelonginvestments.com.  For a copy of the presentation, please visit https://www.njstatelib.org/assets/LifelongFinacialEducation.pdf.  For a copy of the handouts, please visit https://www.njstatelib.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/Lifelong-Financial-Education-Handout.pdf.

Financial Aid Information Session Program Recap

Thank you to Samantha Benson from the Higher Education Student Assistance Authority (HESAA) for her presentation on essential financial aid information for students and parents as they prepare for college.  Paying for college, especially the financial aid process, can be a complex and daunting aspect of the college admission process.  However, Samantha broke down many aspects of the different sources of funding as well as the process to apply for aid into manageable and easily digestible nuggets of information.

Sources of financial aid include the federal government, state of New Jersey, the individual college or university, or other outside organizations such as churches or community organizations.  Any of these sources may make available one of more of the following types of financial aid – grants (free money), scholarships (free money), loans (must be repaid, often with interest), or employment opportunities.

At the federal level, there are grants and loans available to students and their parents.  Pell, SEOG, and TEACH grants are available in differing amounts and are generally awarded based on need.  The federal government also provides all students with loan options, called the Federal Direct Loan Program.  Split between subsidized (no interest accrual while in school and need based) and unsubsidized, undergraduate students can borrow up to a specified maximum amount each year, which increases based on your current year in school.  The maximum for a freshman student is $3,500 subsidized and $2,000 unsubsidized. Graduate students can borrow up to and exceed the entire cost of a school years expenses.  Interest rates will change from year to year, but the current interest rate for 2019 is 4.53% and a 1.062% origination fee.

The state offers a wide variety of grants, scholarships and loans, most of which are administered by HESAA.  TAG is a need-based grant for NJ residents who attend an institution in New Jersey and are enrolled full-time in a qualifying degree program.  Additionally, there is a part-time TAG grant that is specifically for students enrolled in a community college.  There is also the Educational Opportunity Fund that is designed for educationally and economically disadvantaged students as well as the Governor’s Urban Scholarship, designed for disadvantaged students living in 1 of 13 designated areas and attending an institution in New Jersey.

The NJ STARS scholarship is designed for students who ranked in the top 15% of their high school class and are attending community college full time.  NJ STARS II is designed for those students in NJ STARS who move on to a 4-year state or private institution in New Jersey as a full-time student and have a family taxable income of less than $250,000.  Another state scholarship is NJ GIVS, specifically for women and minorities who enroll in a community college or technical school while pursuing a certificate or degree in a construction-related field.  Lastly, the Community College Opportunity Grant offers free tuition and fees at a community college for a student who’s household Adjusted Gross Income is less than $65,000.

If you are looking for additional funding after all grants and scholarships,  New Jersey does offer NJCLASS loans, designed to cover the rest of the costs of college not covered by other means.  Your interest rate is based off of the term of the loan, which can be 10, 15 or 20 years.  Each option has a 3% origination fee and interest rates ranging from 3.99 – 6.50% as of 2019.

In order to be eligible for most of these, as well as all institutional financial aid, the student must complete the FASFA each year.  The FASFA is free and designed to take a snapshot of the student and their household’s financial status in order to better determine eligibility for financial aid, mainly need-based aid.  Available October 1st of every year for the following school year, the FASFA does allow you to import your tax information from the IRS as long as you have filed for that year, your return has not been amended, and you did not file “married, filing separately”.   In addition to the FASFA, the student and a parent will need to register for a FSA ID in order to electronically sign the FASFA.  The earlier you fill out the FASFA, the better and it is a good rule to complete all of your forms and documentation by the earliest date based on the dates listed by each school the student wishes to attend.

Components of the FASFA include:

  • student demographics
  • student income and assets
  • student dependency status
  • parent demographics
  • parent(s) income and assets
  • household size
  • federal means tested benefits

If you are applying for any state-based grants, scholarships, or loans, you will need to file a New Jersey Alternative Financial Aid Application through NJFAMS.

For more information on any of the financial aid options listed above or help navigating the process, please contact Samantha Benson at sbenson@hesaa.org or 609-588-3300 ext. 1403.  For a copy of the presentation, please visit https://www.njstatelib.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/FInancial-Aid-Information-Session.pdf.

Time Management Program Recap

Many of us struggle to effectively manage our time at work or at home.  From family commitments, to errands, to project deadlines, time slowly takes over everything we do.  But how much of our time is being spent effectively?  We all have been guilty of procrastination, yet being able to manage our time efficiently, will help make sure we have enough time for our needs and wants, while also promoting a healthier you, both mentally and physically.

Some general tips for better time management include:

  • 7-8 hours of sleep – getting adequate sleep will help ensure your mind remains focused and you are less likely to have bouts of tiredness during the day
  • Keep a daily planner – this will help ensure you set aside the right amount of time for your tasks and even help you plan in advance.  It is also a written record of your commitments and will help hold yourself accountable for finishing them
  • Tackle difficult tasks when you are fresh and alert – if you are not 100% focused on the task at hand, you are more likely to make mistakes or miss things, that can cause you to spend more time correcting things later
  • Take breaks when beginning to fade – attention spans vary, so it is important to take appropriate breaks to give you mind some time to recharge
  • Physical exercise – by staying physical, you are training your body to endure longer periods of activity
  • Delegate – you do not have to do everything yourself and learning how to delegate can help free up time to complete important tasks
  • Set aside me time – it is important to take time for yourself and engage in activities you enjoy

Prioritizing your time is a great way for you to better manage your time and help visualize what you should concentrate your efforts on.  When prioritizing, be aware of deadlines and prioritize each day, week, and month in terms of projects, task difficulty, and importance.  Additionally, set goals, meet them, and then reward yourself to help get yourself motivated.

Being disciplined is also a great way to manage to your time.  Discipline involves overcoming procrastination, setting a schedule and sticking to it, and learning when to say “No”.  Oftentimes, we put others’ needs before our own, allowing them to take up more and more of our time.  Learning how to say “No” to others, whether it is a sign on a cubicle, shutting your office door, or scheduling a set time for communication with others can help you remained focused on your own tasks and limit outside distractions.

Project management is essentially based around time management and ensuring all elements of the project are completed as scheduled.  Here are some tips for project management from the time management perspective:

  • Define scope – make sure the project scope is well defined to ensure appropriate tasks and deadlines
  • Determine all available resources – spending time to identify and research all of the resources you need in the beginning will prevent you from stalling and wasting more time to obtain other resources that were not properly planned for
  • Timeline – make sure you create a timeline to hold others and yourself accountable.  Gantt charts are a great way to assign tasks and responsibilities, enshrine deadlines, and hold everyone in the project accountable
  • Document everything – Make sure to document everything so that if something needs to be revisited or there is a problem, it is easier to backtrack and spend less time trying to figure out who or what was responsible
  • Keep communication open – By having open and constant communication, it is easier to identify and solve current or potential problems, saving time in the long-run while also ensuring everyone is on the same page, preventing you from having to spend time repeating yourself or spending more time trying to correct issues related to misunderstandings of goals or responsibilities

Lastly, it is important to create goals as an essential part of effective time management.  Having goals forces you to budget your time appropriately to meet those goals.  However, just having goals is not enough.  Make sure your goals are SMART:

Specific – broad goals can be overwhelming and may allow for more distractions while you try to complete many different aspects of the goal without ever fully completing anything
Measurable – Goals that have some quantitative aspect that you can pinpoint are much easier to achieve and allow you to track progress and work towards an ultimate end
Attainable – Your goals should have have some aspect that is actually attainable and you can take away once you have completed your goal
Relevant – Make sure your goals are relevant to your wants and needs, which helps serve as intrinsic motivation

Shining a Light on Fraud, Waste, and Abuse in All Levels of New Jersey Government Program Recap

A big thanks to Nicole Acchione and Rich O’Brien from the Office of the State Comptroller, Investigations Division, for speaking about the mission of the agency and how it works tirelessly to ensure public funds are spent properly and public figures act ethically.  The Office of the State Comptroller is a relatively new state agency, created under Governor Corzine in 2007 and expanded in 2010 under Governor Christie, replacing the Office of Inspector General and Office of the Medicaid Inspector General.  The State Comptroller is appointed by the Governor for a 6 year term and reports directly to the Governor, even though the agency is in the Department of Treasury.

The mission statement of the OSC is:

To promote integrity and transparency at all levels of New Jersey government by auditing government finances, examining the efficiency of government programs, investigating misconduct by government officers, scrutinizing the legality of government contracts and recovering improperly expended Medicaid funds.

The OSC has authority to investigate the state executive branch, private organizations who receive state or federal funding (if being administered by a state agency), local and municipal governments, public institutions of higher education, and school districts; this is roughly 12,000 different entities throughout the state.  Among it’s responsibilities are:

  • Audit and assess expenditures and performance of any of the above groups or individuals in those groups
  • Review pending and current government contracts for financial and legal compliance
  • Investigate and uncover misconduct, waste and abuse
  • Investigate fraud,waste and abuse in the Medicaid program

In order to carry out it’s mandates, the OSC is divided into 4 Divisions:

  • Audit Division – responsible for conducting audits and reviewing the performance of the executive branch of state government, public institutions of higher education, independent state authorities, local governments and school districts. In addition to performing audits, the Audit Division is tasked with performing follow up reviews to track the implementation of recommendations made by the office.
  • Investigations Division – works to detect and uncover fraud, waste and misconduct involving the management of public funds and the performance of government officers, employees and programs
  • Procurement Division – reviews the legality of public contracts involving school districts, counties, municipalities, state agencies, state authorities, local authorities and public institutions of higher education
  • Medicaid Fraud Division – works to improve both the efficiency and integrity of the New Jersey Medicaid, FamilyCare, and Charity Care programs by investigating, detecting and preventing Medicaid fraud, waste and abuse.

The Investigations Division several tools it can use that mirror the Judiciary, including:

  • Conduct interviews, surveillance, and site inspections
  • Subpoena for testimony or document requests
  • Use government databases

While the OSC cannot take any legal action to bring a criminal or civil case against any individual or organization, it can use it’s finding to recommend to state and federal prosecutors that there is actionable evidence of wrongdoing that may warrant further investigation by the judicial branch.  Furthermore, OSC findings can also recommend that state or local lawmakers revisit existing laws or policies to correct any issues uncovered during an OSC investigation.

There are multiple ways the OSC can receive complaints that may eventually turn into an investigation.  First and foremost, the OSC relies on tips and information from the public.  Additionally, news media or public reports can prompt the OSC to conduct an investigation or an inquiry into the matter.  The OSC also takes referrals from other government units.  Lastly, the OSC also conducts proactive investigations, such as monitoring the Federal Disaster Relief Appropriations Act funds for Hurricane Sandy.

If you would like a copy of the presentation, please visit https://www.njstatelib.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/State-Comptroller-Presentation.pdf.

If you suspect any waste, fraud, or abuse, please call the Government Waste and Mismanagement Hotline at 1-855-OSC-TIPS (672-8477) or file an online complaint at https://www.nj.gov/comptroller/divisions/investigations/complaint.html.  All information is completely confidential.  If you would like to read any of the Reports from the Investigations Division, please visit https://nj.gov/comptroller/divisions/investigations/reports/approved/investigation_archives.html.  If you would like to contact Nicole or Rich, you can reach them at 609-789-5001 or 609-292-4782 respectively.

Cancer in Families: A Look at Genetic Risks Program Recap

Thank you to Dorothy Lewis, Licensed and Certified Genetic Counsel from Capital Health, for explaining how genetics can impact a person’s decisions when coming to grips with a cancer diagnosis.  While a majority of cancer is considered sporadic, there is a sizable portion that can be linked to inherited genetic mutations.  Testing for these mutated genes, of which a single gene can have thousands of documented mutations, can provide more knowledge about potential cancer, impact screening recommendations, potential familial risks, and treatment options.

There are many different genetic cancer syndromes, but the 2 most common are BRCA-1 & 2 (Hereditary Breast/Ovarian Cancer) and HNPCC or Lynch (Hereditary Non-Polyposis Colon Cancer).  The genetic mutations associated with these syndromes can potentially indicate other types of cancer risks, such as prostate or pancreatic cancer for BRCA-1 & 2 or uterine, stomach, or small intestine for Lynch.

Not everyone should undergo genetic cancer screenings; however, the following are triggers that may indicate genetic testing is appropriate:

  • Early onset of cancer: under 45 for breast, 50 for colon
  • More than 1 primary cancer in the same patient
  • Cancer in multiple generations on same side of family
  • Constellations of cancer: breast/ovarian cancer, colon/endometrial cancer, pancreatic and melanoma
  • Unusual cancers: male breast cancer, ocular melanoma
  • Uncommon histology: medullary thyroid cancer
  • Geographic/ethnic considerations: Ashkenazi-Jewish heritage

The entire genetic counseling and testing process can take anywhere from 2-4 months and generally involves:

  • Family history and risk review
  • Patient education
  • Selecting the best testing option
  • Drawing blood and testing
  • Final disclosure

If you have any questions regarding genetic testing, please contact the Cancer Genetics Program at Capital Health at 609-537-7043.  If you would like a copy of the presentation, please visit https://www.njstatelib.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/Cancer-in-Families.pdf.

The History of Timbuctoo, NJ: First African American Enclave Program Recap

In honor of Juneteenth, Guy Weston gave us an insightful look into one of New Jersey’s greatest historical treasures: Timbuctoo.  Guy demonstrated how this community emerged in New Jersey in the 1820’s from the lasting influence of the Quaker’s as well as it’s continued existence throughout the years.  A brief summary of the history of slavery in NJ and Timbuctoo follows, but if you wish to view the entire presentation, you can access the PowerPoint at https://www.njstatelib.org/assets/HistoryofTimbuctoo.pdf.

New Jersey was the last Northern state to pass a gradual manumission law regarding slavery in 1804, thanks in large part to the Quaker community in the southern counties of the state.  At that time, roughly 82% of African Americans in the southern counties were considered free, while only 15% held that designation in the northern counties.  While some of this can be attributed to the need for skilled indentured laborer in the counties surrounding New York City and the coast, the largest contributing factor was the vast influence of the Quakers in the southern counties, who as a group outlawed slavery in 1776.

It is with the help of the Quakers that Timbuctoo was settled by former slaves and free African Americans in 1826.  Timbuctoo was one of several antebellum free black settlements in New Jersey, which were concentrated in the southern half of the state.  The first mention of Timbuctoo as a settlement was on a deed from 1830 and it continues to exist as an unincorporated community in Westampton Township.

Timbuctoo residents appeared in the Census beginning in 1830 and details such as the names of other household members and places of birth began to appear in 1850 when the census form was revised to include additional details.  In 1886,  roughly 600 individuals were living in Timbuctoo.

While there was support for the town and the status of its people, the people of Timbuctoo were not immune from the societal tensions in the mid-19th century.  The Battle of Pine Swamp, as reported by the newspaper The New Jersey Mirror, occurred in 1860 where a well-known slave catcher, George Alberti, sought to capture an escaped slave named Perry Simmons who was residing in Timbuctoo.  The story demonstrates how George Alberti and his posse of several others were run out of town by an uprising of the residents, determined to protect their own and the freedom for all blacks that their town represented.

There is also a cemetery at Timbuctoo where residents are buried.  The oldest is Eliza Parker, wife of church Trustee and one of the original purchasers of the land, David Parker; she died in 1847.  Additionally, there are also 8 members of the U.S. Colored Troops from the Civil War buried in that cemetery as well.

Timbuctoo is a unique piece of NJ history and an example of African American strength and accomplishment during a tumultuous time in our nation’s history.  If you would like to learn more about Timbuctoo, feel free to visit in person, go to their website https://timbuctoonj.com/, or check out the Timbuctoo Fact Sheet.  If you would like to learn more about slavery and New Jersey, please read Guy Weston’s piece from the Journal of the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society entitled New Jersey: A State Divided on Freedom and explore the links on our research guide to African-American History in New Jersey.

Home Buying Program Recap

Thank you to James Goodman, Home Finance Consultant for the Credit Union of New Jersey, for breaking down the complex process of buying a home.  James highlighted the entire home buying process step by step, including securing a mortgage and what to expect at closing, especially the different fees that will be factored in.  He also went through the entire mortgage process, explaining how to calculate how much you can afford, the documents needed when applying for a mortgage, as well as the timeline for the entire process.  When choosing a mortgage loan, and by extension buying a house, it is important to consider how much money you can afford as a down payment, what are your financial goals and how a home figures into them, and how the closing costs can affect the overall price of the home and how much money is required up front at closing.  Please visit the following links for more information:

Copy of the presentation

CUN’s Mortgage Center

NJ Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency Home Buyer Resources

You can contact James Goodman at (908)-860-7120 or jgoodman@mortgagedept.com with any questions or for further information on any part of the home buying process.

Active Listening and Active Inquiry: Effective Supervisory Tools for Managers Program Recap

Thanks to Aaron Chavis, Strategic Advisor from The EmPathic Institute for a powerful and interactive presentation on active listening and active inquiry.

There are common misconceptions about active listening and its role as an effective tool for managers.  First, there is very little validity in the use of active listening; its much easier and just as effective as telling someone what to do and leave it at that.  Second, active listening is not tangible and therefore cannot be demonstrated.  However, as you delve into the reasons behind the use of active listening and inquiry, as well as the practical applications for it, it is easy to see how and why these are myths.

So what is active listening?  According to Skillsyouneed.com, “active listening involves listening with all senses.  As well as giving full attention to the speaker, it is important that the ‘active listener’ is also ‘seen’ to be listening – otherwise the speaker may conclude that what they are talking about is uninteresting to the listener.  Interest can be conveyed to the speaker by using both verbal and non-verbal messages such as maintaining eye contact, nodding your head and smiling, agreeing by saying ‘Yes’ or simply ‘Mmm hmm’ to encourage them to continue. By providing this ‘feedback’ the person speaking will usually feel more at ease and therefore communicate more easily, openly and honestly.”

Active listening and inquiry is used across many fields, including counseling, training, and conflict resolution.  The use of active listening and inquiry can have a significant impact on yourself and others, including:

  • Earning the trust and respect of your peers
  • Understanding issues and formulating better solutions
  • Diffusing conflict
  • Developing better relationships with subordinates and supervisors at all levels
  • Enforcing a mission driven work approach
  • Managing change effectively

Active listening requires practice and a commitment to working with another party to solve problems, which can include job duties, job performance, work environment, or personal issues.  Active listening also requires us to leave behind our preconceptions or biases and work with the other party to find out what are the real issues, as well as potential solutions.  An easy way to demonstrate active listening is to periodically paraphrase or summarize what the other party is saying to ensure that everyone is on the same page and clearly define and understand the issue/issues at stake.  On the flip side, active inquiry requires the manager/supervisor to engage with the other party in terms of asking questions to solicit clear understanding of all topics being discussed and pave a pathway for improving relations, solving problems, or future follow-up.

Active listening is appropriate in the workplace when:

  • Opportunity to bring clarity to an issue
  • Relationships need improvement up, down, or across the organization
  • Teamwork or productivity needs improvement
  • Parties are open to learn from anyone and anything
  • An agreement of intent in the session

Active listening should not be used in the workplace when:

  • You are distracted or unable to pay attention, such as completing another task
  • You have already passed judgement on a person or situation
  • There is a simple answer to a question or something that needs a simple fix
  • You are stacking questions (more than 1) without giving the other party time to process and respond to each one
  • Checklisting – prior set of questions

Active listening and active inquiry is designed to be an open dialogue where both parties have equal footing to discuss ideas openly.   When it comes to active inquiry, there are 6 important questions to ask in order to keep the conversation productive and moving towards some form of closure:

  • What would be the most valuable outcome you can achieve in our session?
  • What are your ideas to find solutions?
  • What are your insights so far?
  • What would you like to discuss now?
  • What are the next steps?
  • What was most valuable for you today?

By taking the time and effort to become invested in the other party’s issues, concerns, or thoughts, and working through those together, positive outcomes or change will be achieved.  For more information on active listening, please download a copy of the presentation at https://www.njstatelib.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/Active-Listening-and-Inquiry.pdf.  Also, please review the Supervisor’s Meeting Prep Checklist for Success to ensure you have productive meetings and discussions by preparing your questions and your mindset ahead of time.  For questions, please contact Aaron Chavis at empathicinstituteinfo@gmail.com.

Career Connections Presents – Master the Art of Networking Program Recap

As the job market becomes more competitive, the old adage of “It’s not what you know, but who you know” is more relevant now than ever.  Networking is a major factor when it comes to job searching, as well as securing that crucial interview.  Master the Art of Networking, presented by Career Connections, highlighted several tips for building your network and maximizing the impact of those in your network, including:

  • Network can include anyone you come in contact with on a regular basis, including friends, co-workers, social/community groups, service providers (hair stylist, doctor, accountant)
  • Use informal interviews with people in the field or profession you are interested in to gain a better understanding of what is expected from people who work in that field
  • 4 types of network contacts: sources, recommenders, decision makers, and linkers
  • Ensure that your social media profiles are professional and clear of anything that could have a negative impact on your image, such as photos, opinions, and use of language
  • Create an Elevator Pitch that is short and sums up your major goals and competencies in case you have an opportunity to meet new contact for your network or potential hiring managers

For more information on networking, please visit the Master the Art of Networking webpage from Career Connections, available at http://careerconnections.nj.gov/careerconnections/prepare/networking/master_the_art_of_networking_index.shtml.