Monthly Archives: January 2015

Godspell at Lyman Center

Update!

Well done, Theatre Department! After a week at the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival, the SCSU Theatre Department walked away with a number of awards.

Senior Elizabeth Beale was given a Special Mention in Costume Design. Junior Olivia Cintron was cast in a show that was produced as a part of the One Act Play Festival. And seniors Teddy Hall and Cecilia Curachi both made it to the final round of the Irene Ryan Acting Competition, with Teddy ultimately snagging first alternate — he came in second, in other words. Both students were coached by Kaia Monroe Rarick.

In addition, not only was the SCSU production of “Godspell” invited to perform at the Festival, but Theatre Professor Larry Nye’s work on “Urinetown” was given a merit award for Outstanding Choreography, and Rarick’s production of “Circle Mirror Transformation” was given a merit award for Outstanding Ensemble – Cast and Crew.

A small department competing with much larger BFA programs and MFA programs, the SCSU Theatre Department did very well — congratulations to all who took part!

The SCSU Theatre Department was invited to take its production of “Godspell” to the regional Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival at Cape Cod, Mass. The regional festival — encompassing all of New England and upstate New York — represents the very best of college theater in all aspects. “It’s equivalent to making it to the regional tournament in a sport,” says Theatre Department Chair Kaia Monroe Rarick, “except there are no cheerleaders.”

Out of nearly 200 productions considered for inclusion in this year’s festival, only six were chosen. The Theatre Department’s fall musical, co-produced with The Crescent Players, “Godspell” was the only show from Connecticut to be invited. Directed and choreographed by Associate Theatre Professor Larry Nye, this well-known musical takes the gospel according to St. Mark and brings it into modern times. Nye took the modernization one step further by setting the show in a construction zone — ostensibly a new performing arts center — and utilized props and costumes from previous Crescent Players’ shows for a deconstructed effect.

It was both the innovative production concept and powerful ensemble singing that attracted the Kennedy Center respondent’s attention. The cast of 19 — made up of theater majors and non-majors — belted out such classics as “Day by Day” and “By My Side” for the festival audience on January 29.

    The avoidance of eye contact is a well-known characteristic of those who have an autism spectrum disorder. But does that avoidance result in the common speech difficulties and other language development problems generally seen in those with the disorder?

    Southern – in a partnership with Haskins Laboratories, which is affiliated with both Yale University and the University of Connecticut – hopes to find out the answer to that question as part of a three-year study that recently began. The research is being funded through a $500,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health. SCSU is receiving about $300,000 of the grant.

    “This study could be transformative in terms of what we learn about autism spectrum disorders and for intervention for speech language programs,” said Julia Irwin, associate professor of psychology and the lead investigator for the project. “We hope it will enable us to better understand the roots of language difficulties, which in turn, will help us to treat children at an earlier age.”

    Irwin said that most research and clinical practice involving forms of autism emphasize the auditory perception component, but the visual aspect (exposure to mouth movements in face-to-face communication) receives relatively little attention.

    “Yet, reduced gaze to the face may have cascading effects on language learning in two important ways,” Irwin said. “First, it limits a child’s experience with the movements of a speaker’s face — movements that can help the listener understand what is said, especially in a noisy environment. Second, it can make it less likely that children will imitate the speaking faces of others, which is a powerful way to learn words.”

    The non-invasive study has children watching videos of people speaking and using an eye tracker to see where they are gazing during the video. The children will wear a specially designed cap that will enable researchers to look at the electrical activity of their brains with EEG and determine if there is an underlying problem integrating the auditory and visual information.

    Later, the children participate in a therapeutic training game called “Listening to Faces” with the use of an iPad. The game encourages the participants to look at the faces of individuals speaking. They will then be tested to see if there an improvement in their ability to hear and understand people speaking.

    “Our preliminary indication is that they do show improvement,” Irwin said. “But we need to expand the pool of participants before we can reach any conclusion.”

    Irwin said the researchers are asking for child volunteers, between the ages of 6 and 12, who will be paid $10 an hour for about six hours. The testing is conducted over two visits with about three hours per visit.

    Parents wishing to have their children tested should contact project coordinator Jacqueline Turcios, an SCSU graduate student, at listeningtofaces@haskins.yale.edu to see if they are eligible.

    Several SCSU departments and individuals are involved in the project, including Larry Brancazio, chairman of the Psychology Department; Ruth Eren, director of the SCSU Center of Excellence on Autism Spectrum Disorders; Barbara Cook, assistant professor of communication disorders; the Center for Communication Disorders; Jonathan Preston, a former assistant professor of communication disorders; and graduate student Jacqueline Turcios.

    To learn more about the study, check out a recent article in the New Haven Register and the text version of a story on Channel 8.

      The Tourism, Hospitality, & Event Management students went to Germany! Follow their adventures in the new blog.

      Southern students soon will test their hotel management skills in a global competition with their peers from Germany, Belgium, China and Turkey.

      The 10 students will compete from Feb. 2 to 6 in a virtual, Internet-based simulation game called the “Emerald Forest Global Competition” at Karlshochschule International University in Karlruhe, Germany. The event models the management of a hotel business and is designed to develop entrepreneurial collaboration and communication skills, according to Jan Jones, associate professor of recreation and leisure studies. Jones is organizing the trip and will accompany the students, who are recreation and leisure studies majors with a concentration in tourism, hospitality and event management.

      “Our students are actually the first Americans ever to participate in the Emerald Forest competition,” she said. “It’s very exciting and I’m confident this will be a rewarding experience for them. Besides honing their skills, they will have an opportunity to network with their peers from several countries.”

      The participants will be divided among 10 teams, and the format requires the students to interact and cooperate with those from other countries. The event is conducted in English.

      The teams will seek to maximize profits for the hotel by developing a business/operational strategy that includes the generation of press releases and promotional materials; advertising; preparation of a trade fair; analysis of their competition; and development of responses to crises. Jones has been selected to coach one of the teams. The Southern group includes eight undergraduate and two graduate students.

      Jones says she was invited by a German professor who she met at a program in Portugal last year to participate as a coach.

      “This opportunity is really a dream come true for me,” she adds. “I have always wanted to take my students abroad for an educational experience.”

      The students attending are: Kristen Leigh, Lorette O’Connor, Jessee Keirsread, Eric Larson, Brendan Donovan, Julianne Prusinski, Brianne Horn, Valerie Kaoud, Kaitlyn Wetzel, and Jessica Teixeira.

      *David Pettigrew, professor of philosophy, was quoted in a recent column written by Randy Beach in the New Haven Register. Randy interviewed some patrons at Lulu’s coffeehouse in the East Rock section of neighborhood during the Jan. 27 snowstorm.

      *Shirley Jackson, professor of sociology, was interviewed by the Valley Independent Sentinelabout the racial divide over the handling of high-profile incidents in New York and Ferguson, Mo. The publication printed her responses on Jan. 20 to questions about race relations.

      *Both the New Haven Register and Channel 8 ran stories Jan. 19 about an autism study led by associate professor of psychology Julia Irwin. The study is funded through a $500,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health and includes Haskins Laboratories. It examines whether the avoidance of eye contact by children with an autism spectrum disorder is the primary cause of the speech and language difficulties that typically accompany the disorder. Children between the ages of 6 and 12 are being tested with the hope that the results will lead to better treatments.

      The Register ran a Page 4 story written by Jennifer Swift, while Channel 8 aired a segment by health reporter Jocelyn Maminta on its 5:30 p.m. newscast.

      *Lesley Wolk, assistant professor of communication disorders, was interviewed Jan. 16 on theWTIC radio (1080) show, “Mornings with Ray Dunaway” about the cultural trend of “vocal fry,” which is a creaky, gravelly tone of voice. Her research shows that this trend is particularly prevalent among high school girls and young women, who often use this inflection at the end of sentences. The phenomenon also has affected other segments of the population to a lesser degree.

      *Polly Beals, associate professor of history, and Charles Baraw, assistant professor of English, were quoted in a story that was published Jan. 5 in the online magazine Inside Higher Ed. The article focused on a recent meeting of the American Historical Association in New York City.

        Students who are learning music theory are eager to write their songs immediately, but first they have to learn how writing music works, say Music Professor Mark Kuss and Jesse Raccio, an adjunct faculty member in the Music Department. Kuss and Raccio, who both teach music theory, wanted to come up with a way to teach the subject so that students could grasp it quickly. An app made sense, they say: students expect to download an app and just be able to use it intuitively. With his background as a computer programmer, Raccio teamed up with Kuss to develop ScaleNet, a “mobile music theory learning environment.” They launched their new tool on Google Play in October, and within the first 1-1/2 weeks it was eighth from the top of the music theory listings. By Oct. 30, it was sixth from the top, and as of Jan. 4, it was the third most downloaded music theory app in the Google Play store, after being launched only 2-1/2 months earlier.

        Raccio and Kuss first developed ScaleNet 1.0 for Android, then introduced a version for Apple’s iPads and iPhones. They say that this is only the first version of ScaleNet, and that a desktop version and online versions will be developed down the road. Version 1.1 should be available soon, and includes an expanded sample library as well as two new clefs.

        ScaleNet, they say, is a music theory training device that incorporates the idea of connectivity in its visual elements. The Google Play store says the app employs “network modeling to help clarify how many of the basic concepts in music are connected by simple, interrelated patterns. ScaleNet’s melody-game incorporates a large library of diverse melodic phrases which provide a constantly changing ‘real world’ note-ID environment. The skill sets developed through the use of ScaleNet are applicable to Traditional, Popular, EDM, Hip-Hop, Jazz, and Classical music.”

        Kuss explains that music theory has been taught for centuries with a model called the circle of fifths. “In almost three centuries, it has never been adjusted,” he says, adding that ScaleNet is the same model but with more connectivity. It allows students to create chord progressions, and the relationship between majors and minors is more clear than in the traditional circle of fifths model.

        ScaleNet also has an ear training component, as well as a gaming component, which Kuss and Raccio point out is a familiar environment for most students. “It’s timed, it has a keypad (like texting), and it shows how you did at the end,” much like gaming, says Raccio. The professors say that ScaleNet offers a different way of teaching this material, based on the kind of decision-making that is found in gaming. Kuss adds that they have encountered “absolutely no resistance” from students in using the tool in their classes. “Students took right to it and actually helped us refine the beta version.”

        Using ScaleNet to learn music theory is about having technology presented in a way that’s intuitive and familiar and accessible, say Kuss and Raccio. Students have choices about the kinds of music they can make, which helps them feel successful. And the app works both for students who know nothing about reading music and students who are able to sight read.

        Both Raccio and Kuss now use ScaleNet in their classes, and they can provide devices to students who don’t have them. “We are finding ways to be inclusive rather than exclusive,” they say. “We want to make things easier and more accessible.” Even for those users whom they refer to as “pre-digital divide people” — those who didn’t grow up with technology — Raccio and Kuss have provided a help section in the app, with text instructions. “These folks tend to want more instructions,” they say, although they point out that the app’s navigation is very stripped down and intuitive.

        A short video showing how ScaleNet works is available on YouTube.

        blogmoney
        Dollar bills are loaded with bacteria, viruses and other microbes.

        It shouldn’t cause you to worry about catching the flu. But at the very least, it may make you want to wash your hands every time you go for your wallet.

        A study conducted by a class taught by Elizabeth Lewis Roberts, assistant professor of biology at Southern, showed that dollar bills are chock full of germs – including the presence of fecal coliforms, such as E.coli, the microbe known for causing digestive distress. It also showed an abundance of Penicillium fungi, which is a type of mold that you might see on old bread or other foods.ur hands every time you go for your wallet.

        “We also tested for Salmonella, but the good news is that we didn’t find that type of bacteria on the bills,” Roberts says. “Nevertheless, money is contaminated with microbes. While it shouldn’t come as a surprise, the study reinforced the need for people to wash their hands after touching it. When you think about how many people have touched the money, it only makes sense.”

        The research was conducted nearly two years ago and was overseen by Roberts. She says the students studied $1 bills from a bank, a store and one other place. The bills were printed in 2003, 2006 and 2009, and the hypothesis was that the oldest bills would be covered with the most bacteria since they have been in circulation for a longer period of time.

        “That turned out to be true, but the majority of fecal coliforms were actually found on the newest bills,” Roberts says. “So, don’t think fresher dollar bills are free from these microbes.”

        Nevertheless, Roberts says the results are no reason for panic.

        Various studies similarly have shown many bacteria, viruses and other microorganisms live on dollar bills. Yet, their presence on our currency has not created an epidemic, even though it theoretically could do so.

        “The truth is we live in a microbial world,” she says. “They are all around us, on us and in us. Touching money covered in microbes is no more harmful than touching anything else. But it should send us a message that we probably need to wash our hands more often than we do, especially after handling money and before eating.”

        And, of course, if a wash room is not available, using a hand sanitizer may be the next best thing.

        The Wright Patterson Medical Center in Dayton, Ohio, produced a study last year that might be of interest. It also shows that microbes are present on dollar bills in abundant numbers.

        A study by New York University shows similar findings.

        Still love money?

          Dr. Troy Paddock, chair of the History Department, has been named as the recipient of the 2014 Faculty Scholar Award.

          Paddock, who is an expert on German history, was chosen by a committee of his peers for his book, Creating the Russian Peril: Education, the Public Sphere and National Identity in Imperial Germany, 1890-1914.
          Rex Gilliland, chair of the Faculty Scholar Award Committee, said committee members were impressed by Paddock’s “breadth of scholarship and the innovative methodology that he developed and employed.

          “We also noted the fact that he addressed a neglected issue in historical research and questioned widely-held assumptions about the development of public attitudes in Imperial Germany,” Gilliland wrote. “The importance of his work for the field was evidenced by several detailed and fascinating reviews of his book.”

          Paddock’s book — published in March 2010 by Camden House of Rochester, N.Y. — explores the German perception of Russia in the years before World War I, which is a topic of some debate. Drawing on extensive scholarly research conducted in several German cities, his work explores how Russia was presented in various books, newspapers, and academic writings.

          Several reviewers praised Paddock’s contribution to an important topic that has been little-discussed in the English-speaking world.

          As Andrew Donson, a University of Massachusetts Amherst scholar, wrote in The American Historical Review: “The book’s main argument – that the image of Russia created by German historians and journalists was largely a foil for their own concerns about Germany, their reflection in a panoptic mirror – is sharp and illuminating. It is commendable that, rather than writing a purely intellectual history, Paddock traces the transmission of this image from experts to school textbooks and the press.”

          As a result of his book, Paddock has been invited to participate in a multivolume project, Russia in the Great War and Revolution. He also edited World War I and Propaganda, published by Brill in 2014, and the 2004 book, A Call to Arms: Propaganda, Public Opinion and Newspapers in the Great War, published by Praeger.

          Paddock, who has taught at Southern since 1998 and was promoted to full professor in 2008, was the recipient of that year’s Connecticut State University System Board of Trustees Research Award.

          This year there were 13 applicants for the 2014 Faculty Scholar Award, the largest applicant pool in several years, reflecting the breadth and quality of scholarly endeavors by Southern faculty.

          Dear Colleagues,

          I am very pleased to announce that Dr. Troy Paddock, chair of the History Department, has been named as the recipient of the 2014 Faculty Scholar Award.

          Troy, who is an expert on German history, was chosen by a committee of his peers for his book, “Creating the Russian Peril: Education, the Public Sphere and National Identity in Imperial Germany, 1890-1914.”

          Rex Gilliland, Chair of the Faculty Scholar Award Committee, said committee members were impressed by Troy’s “breadth of scholarship and the innovative methodology that he developed and employed.

          “We also noted the fact that he addressed a neglected issue in historical research and questioned widely-held assumptions about the development of public attitudes in Imperial Germany,” Rex wrote. “The importance of his work for the field was evidenced by several detailed and fascinating reviews of his book.”

          Troy’s book — published in March 2010 by Camden House of Rochester, N.Y. — explores the German perception of Russia in the years before World War I, which is a topic of some debate. Drawing on extensive scholarly research conducted in several German cities, his work explores how Russia was presented in various books, newspapers, and academic writings.

          Several reviewers praised Troy’s contribution to an important topic that has been little-discussed in the English-speaking world.

          As Andrew Donson, a University of Massachusetts Amherst scholar, wrote in The American Historical Review: “The book’s main argument – that the image of Russia created by German historians and journalists was largely a foil for their own concerns about Germany, their reflection in a panoptic mirror – is sharp and illuminating. It is commendable that, rather than writing a purely intellectual history, Paddock traces the transmission of this image from experts to school textbooks and the press.”

          As a result of his book, Troy has been invited to participate in a multi-volume project, “Russia in the Great War and Revolution.” He also edited “World War I and Propaganda,” published by Brill in 2014 and the 2004 book, “A Call to Arms: Propaganda, Public Opinion and Newspapers in the Great War,” published by Praeger.

          Troy, who has taught at Southern since 1998 and was promoted to full professor in 2008, was the recipient of that year’s Connecticut State University System Board of Trustees Research Award.

          On behalf of the university community, I congratulate him on this latest accolade, which is a fitting recognition of the depth and impact of his scholarly work. I thank the committee for their successful deliberations, and am also pleased to note that there were 13 applicants for the 2014 Faculty Scholar Award. This was the largest applicant pool in several years, reflecting the breadth and quality of scholarly endeavors by our Southern faculty.

          Sincerely yours,
          Mary A. Papazian, Ph.D.
          President

          blogdoctorpatient
          Millennials and GenXers are changing the dynamics of the doctor-patient relationship.

          The Millennial Generation – known for its disdain of hierarchical structures and preference for collegiality – is becoming a catalyst for changes in the doctor-patient relationship, as well.

          So says Kimberly Petrovic, assistant professor of nursing at Southern, who also has 14 years of clinical experience in the nursing field. She has been a registered nurse in three states – Tennessee, Oregon and for the last 11 years, in Connecticut.

          For those of you of a younger vintage, peppering your doctor or nurse with questions may seem like second nature. But to your parents or grandparents, such questioning was more the exception than the rule

          “Traditionally, most patients did not ask a lot of questions of their doctors, and rarely challenged a diagnosis or medical advice,” Petrovic says. “In general, we still see that with the older generations – the Baby Boomers and especially the pre-Baby Boomers (Traditionalists).
          “But times are changing, and I’ve seen significant changes over the last 14 years. The Millennials (adults in their early 30s and younger) are more questioning than the older generations and seek more interpersonal collaborations with their health care providers – whether it be doctors, nurses or nurse practitioners. Gen Xers (those generally in their mid-30s to 50) also grew up questioning everything, so the combination is leading to a different dynamic in those relationships.”

          Petrovic notes that she has seen more people – especially Millennials and Generation Xers (the generation between the Baby Boomers and the Millennials) – checking out their symptoms or diagnoses online, often before they talk with their health care provider.

          “Some doctors and nurses fear that a little information can be a dangerous thing in the hands of those who are not medical experts,” she says. “And you do have to be careful not to put a lot of credence in questionable websites. But there are some very reputable websites that can be helpful for patients when understood in the right context.”

          She points to: www.webmd.com and www.mayoclinic.org as two examples of valuable medical websites.

          The key is to understand the context of what you are reading. For example, you may have a pain in your left arm. And a heart attack may be one of the possibilities, but it’s also a symptom of a sore muscle or tendon. If in doubt, checking with a medical professional is usually wise.

          “I believe patients should play an active role in their health care,” Petrovic adds. “Medical experts should be respected for their knowledge and experience. But patients shouldn’t be discouraged from educating themselves, or discussing what they found with their doctors.”

          Petrovic says she also is seeing somewhat of a change from the professional side, as well. As the younger generations become medical professionals themselves, there is a greater propensity for them to be more comfortable with a “circle dynamic,” rather than the traditional, semi-authoritarian approach.

          “These are generalizations, of course, based on generations,” she says. “Certainly, there are many exceptions. Some older medical workers are very adaptable and willing to approach their patients in a more collegial manner. And some younger people in the medical field may be less tolerant. But as a whole, the generational differences that we see in society – at school, at work, at home – are gradually influencing the medical field, as well.”

          Petrovic adds that these societal changes coincide with easier accessibility to one’s medical records in recent years. While a person’s medical records have always been available, the greater use of electronic records has made the process of checking one’s medical history easier for many patients.

          Each week, students in Koehler’s Secondary Science Methods course visit the Beecher Magnet Museum Middle School to assist with an after-school program called the Beecher Future Scientists Club.

          Catherine Koehler and her science education students have “adopted” a New Haven middle school – an effort that enables Southern to help bolster local STEM education, while also providing the university’s future teachers with valuable classroom training.

          Each week, students in Koehler’s Secondary Science Methods course visit the Beecher Magnet Museum Middle School to assist with an after-school program called the Beecher Future Scientists Club. The middle school kids participate in various science projects, such as those exploring static electricity, pulling DNA from strawberries and building towers with cards.

          On a rotating basis, one SCSU student develops and teaches a lesson each week. The other university students work with small groups of students to assist with the lesson.

          Kaitlin LaFrance, a graduate student who was one of the participants during the fall semester, said the Beecher students have really responded.  “The kids will ask us questions about science,” she said. “But because we are there every week and we have developed a solid relationship with them, they aren’t afraid to ask us questions about school, in general, or even about life.”

          LaFrance added that while middle school students can be rambunctious, it makes this program even more rewarding. “They are at a fun age and you can still help mold them.”

          Koehler said that SCSU students also benefit from the program because of the hands-on, classroom experience. It is above and beyond the student-teaching requirements of the program.

          “It’s a supervised, clinical experience, which is one of the criteria our teaching program is evaluated on during the accreditation process,” she said. “Our students are getting considerable feedback from the classroom teacher (alumnus Michael Kuszpa) and me before they start their student-teaching.”

          She said the partnership with Beecher – now in its third year – has been mutually beneficial. “Our students are loving it, and their students are loving it.”

          In fact, she said that some students – who were not apt to teach at the middle school level – now say they would consider it after graduating. LaFrance is one such student.

          “I’m hoping to become a high school biology teacher, but I’m not opposed to teaching science at the seventh- and eighth-grade level,” LaFrance said.

          The partnership is one of many between SCSU and area school systems, especially involving New Haven.

          Susan Cusato, chairwoman of the Science Education and Environmental Studies Department, said the partnership is an example of how Southern is a leader in the STEM fields.

          “This opportunity for young people to be engaged in hands-on learning in science is critical for establishing a solid base for understanding principles and processes in science,” Cusato said. “The integration of engineering concepts and activities provides students with the chance to apply what they have learned. I believe this makes science exciting and rewarding for students.”

          Kuszpa said the program has been beneficial for his students, as well as the Southern students. “My students get exciting lessons by motivated, soon-to-be science teachers while raising their understanding of scientific concepts and grades on both district and state assessments,” he said. “SCSU students are exposed to teaching in an urban, racially diverse middle school classroom, a type of classroom that usually has the most teacher vacancies.”