Monthly Archives: December 2013

*The New Haven Register ran a Dec. 26 article in which Southern was mentioned as part of a farewell article about outgoing New Haven Mayor John DeStefano Jr. He plans to teach a class here next fall.

*On Dec. 19, The New Haven Register published two photos from Southern’s first-ever December commencement ceremony, held on Dec. 18. Additional photos are posted on the Register website.

*Sousan Arafeh, assistant professor of educational leadership, was featured in a Dec. 15 articlein the New London Day. She co-created a multimedia program, called SayitSees, in which English-speaking children can learn other languages.

*A photo from the fall semester groundbreaking of the academic and laboratory science building ran in the Dec. 10 edition of the New Haven Register.

*Jeff Slomba, professor of art, and Patrick Heidkamp, chairman of the Geography Department, were mentioned in a Dec. 6 story in the New Haven Register that previewed the Connecticut at Work conference. They participated in the conference during a discussion about income disparities. The two have created a 3-D map that displays those disparities in Connecticut.

*A front page story about the cancer research of Sarah Crawford, professor of biology, appeared in the Dec. 1 edition of the New Haven Register. The story includes a look at her latest research, which includes a Christmas fern extract that is part of a three-component cocktail designed to combat a deadly form of brain cancer. She and former student Erin Boisvert recently received a patent for it.

*A column by Randall Beach about Frank Tavares, professor of communication, ran in the Dec. 1 edition of the New Haven Register. Until recently, Frank had been a longtime announcer on National Public Radio. He also recently wrote a book on short stories, “The Man Who Built Boxes.”

Don’t be arrogant. Don’t settle for less. And don’t ever give up.

Those were the recommendations of outgoing New Haven Mayor John DeStefano Jr. in his commencement address to about 275 undergraduates who received diplomas Dec. 18, 2013 at Southern’s Lyman Center for the Performing Arts.

The ceremony marked Southern’s first winter commencement in its history. A total of about 450 students are expected to receive diplomas during the next few weeks.

DeStefano, in one of his final addresses as New Haven’s chief

executive, told the graduates that they can often make their own luck in life through hard work and commitment. He also outlined three suggestions for the students:

“Don’t think you did this by yourself.” He said that family, faculty, coaches and others have played a part in their success, as have the taxpayers of the state of Connecticut for paying to “keep the lights on” at Southern.

“Don’t settle for less.” DeStefano said that students should expect excellence, especially from themselves, and that working a little longer, a little harder or being a little more tolerant toward someone can make a big difference in their lives.

“Don’t give up.” He said that no matter how bad things may be on a given day, God probably loves them enough to give them another day. Persistence pays off, he said.

Southern President Mary A. Papazian also provided some encouraging words to the graduates.

“I have to say that during my presidency, I have been highly impressed by the quality of our students and the self-sacrifice, determination and sheer hard work that they have put in to achieve their goals,” she said. “And today, for you, our fall graduates, all that effort comes to a happy fruition.

“At Southern, we helped you study the deepest thoughts, the most compelling language, the most beautiful art and the most historic events,” the president added. “We helped you unravel the intricacies of science and math and the latest technologies. But now, the rest is up to you.”

Other speakers included: Merle Harris, a member of the state Board of Regents for Higher Education; Chelsea Schillizzi, president of the Class of 2014; and Teresa Sirico, president of the Alumni Association Board of Directors. Marianne Kennedy, interim provost and vice president for academic affairs, presented the candidates for degrees.

An evening ceremony also was held at the Lyman Center for graduate students who are receiving diplomas in December.

Mythical creatures – the unicorn, the Loch Ness monster, dragons – fascinate us because a part of us wants to believe they are real. Who wouldn’t love to catch a glimpse of a winged horse soaring across the sky?

One animal — the saola, or “Asian unicorn” – recently came to international attention when a few blurry photographs of the once-thought mythical creature came to light. Scientists have known about the saola for many years, and minority peoples in Laos and Vietnam, where the animal lives, have known about it for centuries. Michele Thompson, Professor of History, studies the saola, having first learned of it 20 years ago. She says it is of real interest to biologists because it is so rare. “No scientist has seen one in the wild,” she says. “They have only seen saola that have been captured by local peoples.”

The saola is said to have been “recently discovered,” but that is only by scientists. Archaeological evidence of it exists, Thompson says, dating from the first centuries. For instance, images of horned animals engraved on bronze Dong Son drums — produced from about 600 B.C. or earlier until the third century A.D. — were once thought to portray mythical animals, but those animals are now believed to be saola.

She explains that the saola is not only its own species and its own genus, it is also its own tribe, which means that genetically it is very rare. Until recently, only the local people in Laos and Vietnam had seen the animal, which is unable to survive for long in captivity. “The issue of property rights in Vietnam got me fascinated with the saola,” Thompson says, explaining that the saola has been co-opted on a national level: the governments of Laos and Vietnam are claiming it, conservationists are claiming it and the minority peoples who know the animal best are claiming it. “There’s a tug-of-war over this animal,” Thompson says. “Who does it ‘belong’ to?” Thompson has applied for a grant to go to Laos and Vietnam next summer to study the situation with the saola.

Thompson refers to “transnational peoples” – groups that inhabit a particular area but do not recognize national boundaries. She says the transnational peoples in Laos and Vietnam had been disenfranchised but knew more about the saola than anyone else and had seen them. These peoples are being brought into the conservation effort, Thompson says, as their knowledge about the animal is recognized.

Three photos of the saola, taken at night with infrared camera, were recently released, and one of the photos appeared on CNN last month. Thompson says these images were the first such photos to appear in 15 years. Only one of the three photos really shows what the saola looks like: an antelope-like creature with two horns positioned close together on the front of its head. In profile, the two horns can appear to be one, hence the comparison with the unicorn.

Thompson says that, as with many rare animals, the saola have been poached via snares set in regions where they live. The minority peoples in the area who are now being brought into the conservation effort are being appointed as guards to remove snares put out by poachers, among other conservation measures being taken. “Snares are having a terribly detrimental effect on wildlife in Southeast Asia, not just on the saola,” says Thompson. “Hopefully the local peoples have been more empowered in their own areas by their inclusion in the conservation efforts.” Thompson credits Bill Robichaud, a saola conservationist, as having done more than anyone to bring minority people into the conservation effort.

Conservation groups are hoping to make the saola a “poster child” animal like the panda in China, Thompson says. “Everyone loves pandas, so people want to help them.” To preserve any animal you have to preserve habitat, which is good for the other wildlife and the people in the area.

Thompson’s areas of interest include Southeast Asia and the history of science and medicine. Before she became interested in the saola, she studied medicinal plants and the practice of big drug companies coming into an area and appropriating plants with ingredients needed for drugs.

To support the cause of saola protection, donations may be sent to Global Wildlife Conservation, P.O. Box 129, Austin, TX   78767-0129. Write “Saola” on the memo line of the check.

Looking at photos of the Eiffel Tower is one thing; actually standing beneath it and gazing up at its immensity, with the musical sound of the French language filling your ears, is quite another. Such a moment – and others like it – is common for students who choose to study abroad. Yet not only does international study enable a student to visit and learn about another culture, it also “challenges you to rethink and question beliefs you have had all your life,” says Erin Heidkamp, interim director of the Office of International Education (OIE). “It changes everyone in a different way.”

When Heidkamp first came to Southern about four years ago, OIE dealt strictly with study abroad. In most cases, Heidkamp explains, international program offices serve all members of the campus community and manage multiple programs and services, including individual study abroad, faculty-led programs abroad, risk management for study abroad, internships, scholarships, international insurance, immigration advising and much more. But at Southern, these programs and services developed over more than two decades in three different offices: International Programs, Sponsored Programs and Research, and International Student Services.

In January 2012, OIE was formed, merging the former Office of International Programs and the Office of International Student Services. Following Heidkamp’s appointment as interim director of OIE, she began to transition all international programs and services into a single office — the OIE.

She also took on the additional responsibility of handling H-1B visas for Southern’s full-time international non-immigrant faculty.  Thus, over a short period of time, and with no increase in staff, the landscape of the OIE changed dramatically while managing to maintain a student-centered approach. OIE’s efforts seem to be paying off: during the past year, the office sent more students abroad and welcomed more exchange students and J-1 visiting scholars than ever before, while expanding its programming to suit the needs of a much broader range of students.

Most notably, Heidkamp says, OIE has seen a 25-percent increase in study abroad participation, with even greater participation anticipated for 2014, based on long-term study abroad applications submitted for spring and fall and summer program abroad sign-up lists. Southern’s faculty-led spring break and summer program offerings for 2014 have

seen a 40-percent increase, with Jamaica, Brazil, Armenia and a re-envisioned China program joining the seven existing programs (Bermuda, Guatemala, Iceland, Paris, Rome, Spain and Tuscany), as well as a 40-percent increase in reciprocal exchange partner universities. OIE has also established National Student Exchange (NSE) as a “study away” experience for students unable or not yet prepared to study abroad.  Finally, the office reinvigorated the university’s J-1 Visa Visiting Scholar Program, with 15 international J-1 visiting scholars having visited Southern during the 2012-2013 academic year.

“Our students like the faculty-led programs,” Heidkamp says, explaining that many Southern students have never left the United States before, so they appreciate the structure a professor adds to the experience. She points out that with so many Southern students having jobs and other outside obligations, taking a whole year or semester to go abroad is not always feasible, thus the popularity of the shorter-term programs. Heidkamp says she had expected that the longer-term programs would have a bigger impact on students but has found that students return from the four- to six-week programs “transformed.”

Strengthening the university’s program in international education was part of the university’s 2007-2012 Strategic Plan: “Preparing students and faculty for life and work in a global society” is one of the plan’s overarching goals and strategic initiatives, and such preparation includes expanding international opportunities for both students and faculty. Heidkamp says it remains to be seen how global education will fit into the university’s new strategic plan, as well as the ConnSCU plan, but both President Mary Papazian and interim Provost Marianne Kennedy have been very supportive of OIE and its efforts to grow the university’s international offerings.

“We must recognize that we are part of a global marketplace, and we must strive to give our students more international exposure at home and abroad,” Papazian said in her State of the University address earlier this semester. “We can achieve our goal of preparing our local students for a global world both by increasing opportunities for study abroad programs and by attracting more foreign — and out-of-state — students to attend Southern and further enrich the diverse tapestry of our campus.”

OIE holds an annual welcome back event in October, to acknowledge the significance of students’ study abroad experiences, and a scholarship ceremony in April. This year, Heidkamp says, her office is coordinating with GEAC to hold a spring international festival on campus with speakers, performances and foods from around the world.


    Art Professor Mia Brownell, a painter, will have two important solo shows opening in the same week in January. One show will be in a gallery in the heart of the art district in New York City, and the other is Brownell’s first museum show, in New Jersey.

    From Jan. 9-Feb. 8, J. Cacciola Gallery in New York will present Delightful, Delicious, Disgusting, an exhibition featuring new paintings by Brownell. All are welcome to attend the opening party on Jan. 9 from 6-8 p.m. Brownell also plans to be available to students at the gallery on Jan. 24 from 2-4 p.m. In addition, a traveling retrospective of her work will be at The Hunterdon Art Museum in Clinton, N.J. from Jan. 12-March 9. A reception and artist talk will take place at the museum on Jan. 12 from 2-4 p.m., and Brownell will offer a workshop on drawing still life at the museum on March 1 from 10:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m.

    Brownell’s paintings are inspired by molecular models and the history of still life painting and simultaneously draw on images retrieved from Protein Data Bank files (where the structures of proteins and nucleic acids are recorded) and the history of the painted food still life. She emulates the masters while introducing a crosscurrent of contemporary themes including the complexities of the industrialized food complex as well as the fundamental schemes of the natural universe.

    In the new series of work to be exhibited at J. Cacciola Gallery, Brownell adds to her vocabulary the connection of pollination and the industrialized food complex. She brings attention to the recent astronomical loss of honeybees in the United States, Canada, and Europe. The work focuses on primal questions about food – from how it is grown to how it functions as a signifier in society with a particular focus on pollination.

    Brownell studied painting at Carnegie Mellon University and Parsons School of Design in Paris before earning her M.F.A. at SUNY-Buffalo. Her work is included in several public and private collections, including the Addison Gallery of American Art, National Academy of Sciences, Fidelity Investments, and Wellington Management. She has exhibited extensively, and throughout 2014 her traveling retrospective will move from the Hunterdon Art Museum in New Jersey to the Juniata College Museum of Art in Pennsylvania and the Housatonic Museum of Art in Connecticut.

    For more information about the J. Cacciola Gallery show, call (212) 462-4646, email or visit the gallery’s website. For information about the Hunterdon Museum show, call (908) 735-8415 or visit the museum’s website.

    If you’re a college student, chances are you’re busy this week studying for final exams. In fact, some of you may have taken at least one exam already.

    And high school students, your first-semester (or second-marking period) is probably about to close after the first of the year. And you know what that means. It won’t be long after the holidays that the Exam Grinch comes knocking at your classroom door.

    High school and college students are preparing for their semester exams.
    High school and college students are preparing for their semester exams.

    Denise Zack, a counselor in Southern’s University Counseling Office, has plenty of good advice about how to keep your stress levels to a minimum during this time of year.

    There is no way, of course, to avoid some anxiety of exams. And frankly, a little bit of stress can actually enhance your success on the exams. But high school and college students run the risk of “stress overload,” which can detract from your optimal performance.

    For some suggestions on how to cope with pre-exam stress, check out our May 21 post.

    Good luck on your exams!