Monthly Archives: February 2013

*The Danbury News-Times ran a column, written by education reporter Eileen FitzGerald, about the phenomenon of “helicopter parents.” The column, which ran Feb. 28, included insight from Suzanne Carroll, professor of marriage and family therapy, and Phyllis Gordon, manager of Southern’s Family Therapy Clinic. The column also referred to Southern’s new blog, “Wise Words,” where Suzanne and Phyllis shared their expertise on the subject.

The following is a link to the News-Times column:

*Elliott Horch, associate professor of physics, and Jim Fullmer, associate professor of earth science, were both quoted in a front page story Feb. 15 in the Connecticut Post about the asteroid that was a near miss to the Earth. The asteroid is known officially as 2012 DA14.

The following is a link to the Post article:

Near-miss asteroid a wake-up call, experts say

*Kim Crone, associate vice president for academic student services, shared her suggestions on how to write an effective college admissions essay during a Feb. 5 interview on the Channel 61Morning Show. The interview was generated via a recent post on the new blog, “Wise Words.” The segment ran for more than 4 minutes.

The following is a link to the Channel 61 interview:

*An article that previews a talk by former NBA and college basketball player Chris Herren ran in the Feb. 4 edition of the New Haven Register. He shared his story the next day at the Lyman Center about how drugs ruined his promising basketball career.

The following is a link to the Register story:

    Joe Manzella has been hugged thousands of times in his life. But never did he have to wait in line for several hours before receiving a warm embrace. And when it was all over – with the hug lasting perhaps 30 seconds or so — he described the experience as a feeling he will never forget.

    Manzella, a professor of anthropology, traveled last summer to New York’s Jacob Javits Center to learn first-hand about the legend that is Mata Amritanandamayi. The Indian woman – known affectionately as “Amma,” an Indian word for mother – travels around the world to hug people from all walks of life. Many have claimed that her hugs brought them to tears with a peaceful radiance emanating from her embrace. A former journalist, Manzella was in the process of researching alternative spiritual groups for a book he plans to write on the subject.

    “My wife, myself and a friend went and people were lined up for a half mile,” he says. “There must have been at least 2,000 people there that day. When it was finally our turn, we were kneeling and they smeared something on my face that smelled like rose water. Amma then embraced me, and then my wife and I together. It was an almost a trance-like experience. All I could hear was her voice. She whispered something in my ear that sounded like it might have been ‘madonna,’ but I’m not sure.”

    Manzella says Amma has an extensive charitable network and her following is worldwide. She is based in India, but she has a U.S. headquarters in San Ramon, Calif. Amma, 59, claims to have hugged more than 32 million people in her life, beginning in her youth.

    The Amma experience is just one of many encountered by Manzella during the last few years as part of his research. The impetus for the book stems from the trend in which a growing number of Americans consider themselves “spiritual, but not religious.” He pointed to a Pew Research poll last year that shows nearly 20 percent of Americans now consider themselves to be religiously unaffiliated – up from 15 percent just five years earlier. Among those under 30 years of age, about a third consider themselves to be religiously unaffiliated, according to the poll. And in Western Europe, those percentages are dramatically higher.

    Manzella says that among those who have moved away from traditional religious organizations, there is still a yearning among many toward some type of spirituality. And during his research, he visited a variety of movements in the United States and Europe.

    One spiritual community that he says stood out was the Federation of Damanhur, located in the foothills of the Italian Alps. “The community features nine interconnected temples that extend into the bowels of the earth,” says Manzella, who adds that it is carved out of a mountain. The temples are filled with statues that pay tribute to the gods and goddesses highlighted in Roman, Greek, Egyptian and Norse mythology, as well as others. “They believe in all of those gods and goddesses collectively and also incorporate elements of modern religions,” he says.

    The temple has become a tourist attraction and is often referred in Italy as the “eighth wonder of the world.”

    Not too far from Damanhur, in the nearby Burgundy region of France, is the Taize Community – a Christian ecumenical group that has developed a significant following among younger adults, according to Manzella. The services entail people sitting on the floor of a huge, arena-like chapel and repeating a series of very short chants. Each chant is repeated continuously for 5 to 10 minutes, followed by about 10 minutes of meditation, he said. Chanting is conducted in various languages. “It has a hypnotic quality to it,” Manzella says. “The monks lead the chants, but when I was there, the chanting continued even after they left.”

    Manzella says the services remind him of a cross between the simplicity of a Quaker meeting and a high Catholic Mass. The community was founded in the 1940s, but has really gained popularity in recent decades, he adds.

    A much smaller community – consisting of several dozen people – is the Earthaven Ecovillage, located in the western North Carolina community of Black Mountain. Manzella described the members as hard-core environmentalists. The community does not practice a single religious belief, but it does have a special reverence for the Earth. He notes that the group has an initiation rite that involves the community members huddling and lifting up the inductee.

    Other spiritual communities he has visited include a Hare Krishna group in rural West Virginia; the Lake Shrine Retreat of the Self-Realization Fellowship, which sits atop a hill not far from California’s Pacific Palisades and blends various Hindu traditions with Western religious traditions; and the Findhorn Community, which some have called the “Vatican” of the New Age Movement and is located in Scotland.

    “What I found is that while some of the alternative spiritual communities are quite familiar – such as Scientology and Wicca – others are much less known,” Manzella says. “Some of these communities have roots in the 1960s counterculture.”

    The Findhorn and Earthaven communities were discussed in Manzella’s 2010 book, “Common Purse, Uncommon Future: The Long, Strange Trip of Communes and Other Intentional Communities.” In his new book, Manzella intends to include those two communities, as well as Damanhur, Taize, Amma and others.

    NEWS NOTE: The New Haven Register ran a story about Joe Manzella’s research into alternative spirituality communities in its April 7 edition. The following is a link to the article:

    Southern has joined a small but select group of schools in New England – and is one of only about six dozen internationally – which have established a university chapter of the Materials Research Society (MRS), an organization that seeks to foster discussion and interest among students and faculty in the various materials disciplines.

    Carol Jenkins and Melissa Cruz, who are seniors pursuing a Bachelor of Science degree in physics recently received a certificate to mark Southern’s participation within MRS. Both students are in the university’s new engineering concentration within the Physics Department. Jenkins serves as president of the chapter, which currently has 10 members. Cruz is the vice president.

    Southern joins six other colleges and universities in New England — University of Connecticut; Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Boston University; Northeastern University; University of Massachusetts, Lowell; and the Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering. It was among eight schools to have added a chapter worldwide within the last year.

    “This unique network provides a chance to compare notes on recent activities and brainstorm with other students on new projects and issues of common concern,” says Lorri Smiley, MRS professional services and awards coordinator. “As a recently added chapter, Southern now has the opportunity to connect with different regions from around the globe to maximize positive impact for materials research worldwide.”

    Materials science is a discipline that includes the creation of technologically-advanced items, ranging from computer chips to biological implants. Southern established a joint materials science center with Yale University about seven years ago. The center is designed to offer more advanced research opportunities for students seeking to enter the scientific research field, as well as to enhance the education of future science teachers.

    The university also hosts the Connecticut State University Center for Nanotechnology. The center includes specialized equipment, including a state-of-the-art Scanning Electron Microscope, which uses electrons to image materials on the atomic scale.

    Christine Broadbridge, chairwoman of the Physics Department, says that participation in the MRS will open even more doors to students wishing to pursue materials science. As an example, both Cruz and Jenkins also were among a group of Southern physics students who presented a poster at a recent MRS conference. The poster focused on carbon nanotubes.

    “It is certainly not the norm to have undergraduate students presenting at conferences at the international level,” Broadbridge says. “That is a quite a feather in the cap of these students, as well as for Southern. Being able to put that on their resume is going to give them an edge when it comes time to apply to graduate school or for a job in the materials science field.”

      Bruce Klunder is not likely to appear with the likes of Rosa Parks, Ruby Bridges and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in black history lessons or on the pages of grade-school social studies textbooks. Nor is his a household name when it comes to the Civil Rights Movement.

      In fact, while Klunder gave his life in the struggle for blacks to receive a quality education, there has never been a book written about him. Until now.

      Klunder was a 27-year-old white pastor who fought to integrate Cleveland schools in the 1960s. He was crushed by a bulldozer on April 7, 1964 while trying to stop construction of a segregated school in a black neighborhood.

      Julian Madison, associate professor of history, has chronicled Klunder’s untimely death in his new book “A Death and Life Matter: Bruce Klunder and the Fight to Integrate Cleveland’s Schools, 1930-1964.”

      Klunder is one of 40 civil rights leaders included in a Montgomery, Ala. memorial established by the Southern Poverty Law Center, but today his story is not widely known outside of Cleveland and his hometown of Baker City, Ore.

      Madison, who specializes in black history and spent 10 years researching and writing the book, says he hopes that telling the largely forgotten story will inspire young African Americans to pursue their education.

      “I find it very irritating – infuriating even – when I see so many black kids who do not value education, especially black males,” Madison says. “People like Klunder. . . fought to give them this opportunity to learn, but they don’t know the history and they don’t understand how difficult it was.”

      Klunder’s death came after years of increasing racial tension in Cleveland over education. By the 1950s, Cleveland’s black population had grown while the white population declined, resulting in crowded schools in the city’s black neighborhoods and schools with empty classrooms in white neighborhoods, according to Madison.

      Instead of integrating the schools to balance the enrollments, the school board’s solution was to educate black students in half-day shifts, while students in the white schools attended class full time, Madison explains.

      Responding to pressure from black parents and activists, the school board eventually agreed to bus some black children to the emptier white schools. But to appease white parents, they were taught in separate classrooms and could not play on the playground or eat in the cafeteria, says Madison.

      “They had to eat in their classrooms and take their garbage back with them to their own schools. They couldn’t use the garbage cans in these schools,” he says.

      By 1963, the school board finally agreed to integrate the classrooms, but it never happened. Instead, a plan was announced to build three new elementary schools in the black community, Madison says.

      “The schools themselves, for the most part, were not located in very good places,” says Madison, who notes that one was planned near a three-lane highway and another in a tight location where the only space for a playground was the roof — three stories up.

      Klunder died while protesting construction of one of those schools, the Stephen E. Howe Elementary School.

      In an act of civil disobedience, Klunder lay down behind a bulldozer while three other protestors positioned themselves in front. The driver, not seeing Klunder, backed up and ran him over while trying to avoid the protesters ahead of him. Klunder died instantly, leaving behind a wife and two children. The death was ruled an accident.

      Madison, who grew up in Cleveland and whose activist parents had befriended Klunder, attended Klunder’s funeral as a 12-year-old.

      Madison recalls that the arrangements were handled by a black funeral home and there was no hearse because people insisted on carrying the casket. During the four-mile procession from the funeral home to the church through the city’s mostly black Glenville area, people came out of their homes and crowded the streets to pay their respects.

      “Some joined the march with the casket; others just watched,” he says. Malcolm X and civil rights’ leader James Farmer spoke at the service. “It was standing room only.”

      Madison says the substandard education that black children received in the 1950s and ’60s continues to cause damage today, and points to it as one reason for the achievement gap that persists between African American and white students.

      “You have generations of blacks who in essence were told that it’s not important to get an education,” Madison says. “Somehow psychologically that message has been passed on to future generations.”



        The words “census” and “data” do not usually conjure up images of art. But two faculty members – Patrick Heidkamp, assistant professor of geography, and Jeffrey Slomba, associate professor of art – are joining sculpture and 2010 census data in an innovative project called “Sculpting the Census: Integrating Geographic Information Science, Sculpture and Social Engagement.”

        The project is funded by a grant from the Arts Council of Greater New Haven, made possible by the state of Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development/Connecticut Office of the Arts.

        The grant program – called “REINTEGRATE: Enhancing Collaborations in the Arts and Sciences” — is an initiative meant to foster relationships and dialogue between the scientific and artistic communities in the region, according to the Reintegrate website. Heidkamp and Slomba are one of seven teams of artists and scientists who received Reintegrate grants of $10,000 each to complete their projects.

        Heidkamp and Slomba are creating three-dimensional representations – maps — of geospatial data from the state, gleaned from the last census. One piece might focus on displaying uneven economic development and poverty in greater New Haven or all of Connecticut through the sculptural rendering of census information about household income.

        The three-dimensionally mapped census data would show economic disparities between counties and even neighborhoods. Heidkamp and Slomba wanted to render the data as three-dimensional objects to encourage viewers’ engagement with each piece.

        As their grant proposal suggests, “Viewers may locate themselves within these topographical ranges, reach for and touch peaks of wealth, and peer into the dark depths of poverty — which might be less comfortable.”

        Heidkamp and Slomba say their project “links the sciences and art in a new fashion” and explain that science and art collaborations are growing in popularity. Slomba says that STEM education has expanded to include art, transforming the STEM ‘Sculpting the Census’: The Intersection of Art and Science acronym into STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics). Such an approach is “truly interdisciplinary and breaks out of the traditional boxes,” he says. Heidkamp adds, “Cross-disciplinary work is what will preserve liberal arts education. The truly innovative thought is where the two disciplines intersect.”

        Heidkamp says that creating three-dimensional maps to represent census data will catalyze discussion and public engagement on a greater scale than what is typically generated by, say, a journal article. Slomba and Heidkamp are also team-teaching an honors course – Meanings and Materials – and while planning the course they came upon the arts council grant. As with

        “Sculpting the Census,” the course ties geographic thought to creative production. Depending on how they use the census data – whether they show Connecticut at the county, city or neighborhood level — some of the maps might have gentle slopes and others sharp spikes. The maps will show uneven development in the state, and Slomba and Heidkamp’s hope is to open up conversation about spatial inequalities.

        “We are looking at data regarding populations’ achievements of economic rights, such as food, healthcare and housing,” says Heidkamp. “The maps we are building are showing the disparities among economic groups as physical three-dimensional forms.”

        Slomba says the models are now made of cut styrofoam and wood, but eventually the professors will use AutoCAD, a design software, and 3D printers to create the finished models. He and Heidkamp are both working on the art and science portions of the project.

        “Both of us have to understand what we’re really doing and do these things together,” says Heidkamp. Such collaboration is part of the Reintegrate philosophy. Slomba says he is getting a crash course in GIS (geographic information systems) and spatial analysis, and Heidkamp is getting a crash course in sculpture. They are planning to produce four models altogether: one that looks at Connecticut at the state level, and then others that break down the state by counties, towns and blocks, all based on 2010 census data.

        Mia Brownell’s sabbatical last fall was fruitful, to say the least.

        Brownell, an associate professor of art, was awarded a $25,000 commission from the University of Connecticut Health Center for the installation of her painting, “Still Life with Dendrite Dreams.” It is located in UConn’s Cell and Genome Sciences Building.

        The piece exhibits the captivating greens and subtle red undertones of pears and the plush blacks, purples and reds of sprawling grapes. This was her first major public art commission.

        “I was hugely complimented,” she says.

        The UConn Health Center scientists shared their cutting-edge genetic research with Brownell, who used it as inspiration. Brownell used her ability to meld highly scientific subjects with fruit to generate the painting.

        “I have been painting about food for a long time,” she says. “Science is a big part of food culture.”

        During her fall sabbatical, Brownell also was nominated as a runner-up for the United Kingdom’s Young Master Art Prize. The award celebrates the skills and traditions of the past and honors young artists who demonstrate those talents.

        She also launched an exhibit called “The Legitimate Vagina” last October. She says she was disturbed by former U.S. Rep. Todd Akin’s comment about how women’s bodies can prevent a pregnancy in cases of “legitimate rape”— a comment he made in a media interview during his run for a U.S. Senate seat in Missouri. Brownell encouraged local artists to submit vagina-inspired imagery meant to encourage conversation about women’s issues in politics.

        She collaborated with Jennifer Hudson, an adjunct faculty member in the Women’s Studies program, and Rachael Vaters-Carr, associate professor of art.

        “We felt like we had to do something,” she says.

        In March, Brownell will be featured in two group shows in New York. And in April, she will have her first solo museum exhibition titled “Delightful, Delicious, Disgusting” at the Hunterdon Art Museum in Clinton, N.J.

        “The 2014 exhibit will represent the past 10 years of my life,” she says. “It’s a decadent moment to have a glimpse of objectivity and see it all together. And everyone is invited.”

        A native of New Rochelle, N.Y., Brownell says Southern has been a great place to work and that Connecticut is an important part of who she is as a person, teacher and artist.

        At the conclusion of each semester, Brownell says she likes to encourage her students to continue pursuing art and tells them to try and keep pace with the evolution of their imaginations.

        “I think that’s what I’m trying to do now,” she says.

        (For further information about Mia Brownell’s exhibits, visit )


        It is an unspoken right – and even social expectation — among those who have reached a certain age to express concern about the younger generations. You know the comments:

        • “Kids today just don’t have any respect for authority.”
        • “What’s going to happen when these kids start running the country? We are going to be in serious trouble.”
        • And a host of remarks that begin with something like…“When we were growing up, we didn’t have…”

        But today, perhaps more than at any other time since the height of the Baby Boom Generation, parenting styles also have taken the spotlight. We hear much of what happens if you raise your children without structure and rules, and what happens if you have too much structure and too many rules. We hear about raising your kids with too much self-esteem and not enough self-esteem. And you might remember all the media attention paid to the “Tiger Mom” and how it prompted a national discussion about parenting.

        Nevertheless, it is the phenomenon of Helicopter Parents that is the most discussed and analyzed by professional psychologists, family therapy experts, parents and educators. The consensus is that this type of parenting, while often well-intended, tends to do more harm than good.

        bloghelicopterparentsgraphicFor those who may not have heard of the term, it refers to parents who are overly involved in their children’s lives and who tend to “micromanage” their kids’ day. In many instances, this “hyper-involvement” continues into the college years and sometimes even beyond. The consequences of this type of parenting style can include hindering kids’ ability to gain a proper amount of age-appropriate independence and to solve their own problems.

        Suzanne Carroll, professor of marriage and family therapy at Southern, and Phyllis Gordon, manager of the university’s Family Therapy Clinic, are quite familiar with this trend. Both say that many people might not even be aware that they have fallen into the Helicopter Parents category. They offer four examples of how you know you are probably a Helicopter Parent:

        • You are doing homework assignments for your child or are frequently checking to make sure they’ve done them.
        • You are the one managing their responsibilities, such as doing their homework, waking up on time and attending athletic team practices.
        • You refer to your child’s team, club or organization as “we.” For example, saying that “we have a game today.”
        • You and your child are communicating too frequently, such as with multiple texts and/or phone calls each day.

        Carroll and Gordon are not in any way suggesting that parents should be oblivious to their children’s lives. On the contrary, they underscore the importance of showing concern for their children’s well-being. But being overly involved in their lives can create long-term problems. Here are some suggestions that Carroll and Gordon offer to strike that balance of being a responsible mom or dad without being a Helicopter Parent:

        • Set REALISTIC goals and expectations with your child, based on their age and abilities.
        • Work with your child to make a plan (if needed), on how to meet those goals/expectations.
        • Step back. Have your child take responsibility for meeting those goals/expectations.
        • Be prepared to renegotiate.
        • Let your child accept the natural consequences of their efforts.

        Carroll and Gordon recognize that resisting the inclination of parents to “fix” their children’s every problem or task can be difficult – especially at first. After all, it is perfectly natural for parents not to want to see their children struggle. And, of course, there are times when swift parental intervention is necessary. But a consistent pattern of micromanaging can have significant consequences as a child gets older and enters the world of adulthood.

        “Remember, parenting is the illusion of control,” Carroll says.

        For additional reading about the phenomenon of Helicopter Parents, check out a recent column written by Anne Michaud, interactive editor at Newsday.

        As romantic vibes fill the air with the approach of Valentine’s Day, it is easy to assume that today’s customs — such as buying your significant other a token of affection or taking them out for a candle-lit dinner — have always existed in the American culture.

        blogphotovalentinesdayGranted, the chocolates that existed once upon a time probably didn’t come in as many forms or flavors. And a floral arrangement in the 1700s might not include one of those cute teddy bears. But the basic idea was pretty much the same, right?

        Not really. In fact, dating as we know it did not even exist in America until the Revolutionary War. And even courtship – a serious effort to woo a potential marriage partner – had been confined primarily to the elite class, according to Marie McDaniel, assistant professor of history at Southern.

        To be fair, the country was much more sparsely populated back then, and there were no cars to hop into for a quick drive. People either walked, or traveled on horseback, wagon or if you had money, by carriage.

        So, guys, if only you were alive in those days, you wouldn’t need to worry about trekking out late on Valentine’s Day eve to pick up a card, or get those chocolate truffles she has come to expect.

        But romance began to change in America after the birth of our nation.

        “The Revolutionary War served as a social revolution, even though it was an unintended consequence,” McDaniel says.

        She notes that during colonial times, marriages were based more on economic interests than romantic ones. And companionate love took precedence over passionate love when considering a spouse. “The emphasis on romantic love really doesn’t take off until after the Revolutionary War. The culture and customs in colonial America were in many ways a backlash against England,” says McDaniel, who notes that passionate love was alive and well in England during the 1700s.

        But societal mores began to change. The courting ritual began to take hold among what would later be known as the middle class after American independence.

        The change to a democratic form of government had a cascade effect that led to the proliferation of romantic literature, especially in the form of novels. McDaniel notes. America began to place a higher value on education after the war – first with boys — because it recognized the importance of an educated citizenry in a democracy. White male property owners had gained the right to vote to elect the nation’s leaders and with that right came an increased responsibility. But an increased emphasis on the need to educate girls would follow – not because women could vote back in the early 1800s, but because mothers needed to be better educated so that they could raise well-educated sons. This better education of girls enabled them to read more novels, which encouraged their publication.

        And by 1840, and the advent of the Victorian Era, the whole concept of romance in America had changed. Even many of the trappings of marriage that exist today, such as the wearing of white dresses and the exchange of vows and rings, began to flourish around that time.

        For all you astronomy buffs, a follow-up to our recent post about NASA’s Kepler mission. The goal of the project is to identify potential Earth-like planets in a small swath of the Milky Way Galaxy. To date, Kepler has confirmed 105 planets that orbit in a “sweet spot” distance from their sun and have the potential to be hospitable to life.

        A new study by the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics used the Kepler data and estimates that billions of such planets probably exist in the vastness of the Milky Way Galaxy. reports the story.

        Elliott Horch, an associate professor of physics at Southern who has developed a telescopic device that is being used in the Kepler mission, believes the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics study is legit.

        “It is an estimate, with some sizable uncertainty, but it is based on data we have from Kepler so far,” Horch says. “Kepler is great for getting statistics of planets because it’s looking at so many stars at the same time.”

        Who knows what else Kepler and related research will find in the months and years ahead?