Arts & Sciences Blog: January 29, 2016

Arts & Sciences Blog: January 29, 2016

January 29, 2016

As I begin my sixth semester as Dean of Arts & Sciences at Southern, I am struck by the escalating pace of change on our campus as well as the many successful initiatives and accomplishments that have helped move the School and University forward.  Witness the Buley Library expansion (and opening of the Buley Art Gallery), the new Science Building, the Student Success Task Force (and creation of the new Academic Success Center), the University’s 10-year Strategic Plan, the President’s Commission on Campus Climate and Inclusion, the first annual Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity Conference—and much, much more. Arts & Sciences played an important role in all of these endeavors and will always have a significant impact on our campus.

I have also learned that because A&S is so large and diverse, it is difficult to find ways to adequately communicate the many accomplishments of our students, faculty and staff. We have a lot to be proud of in Arts & Sciences and I think it is important that the School creates a space to share the work we are doing together, the many faculty achievements, departmental initiatives, curricular advancements, and student successes that define us. This blog is dedicated to spreading this important news. Additionally, the blog will bring attention to key academic, scholarly and artistic events that may be of interest to you and to your A&S colleagues. So, if you have items that you would like to share, please email them to my office at


The University has entered into an exciting partnership with Elm Shakespeare Company that promises to bring new energy to our Theatre Department and the entire University community.  Southern and Elm Shakespeare recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that brings Elm Shakespeare onto our campus and integrates it into the Theatre Department’s activities and facilities. Under the MOU, the Elm Shakespeare Company officially is “in residence” at Southern and the University will provide rehearsal, production, and office space for the company. In turn, Elm Shakespeare will bring its expertise into the Theatre Department’s programming. More details can be found in the President’s January 21st Blog post.


In an effort to highlight some of the important new scholarship Southern faculty are doing in the Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences, an interdisciplinary group of nearly 20 faculty led by Joel Dodson and Christine Dombrowski, are spearheading a “Humanities and Social Science Scholarship Forum.” This new faculty speaker series will be held the first Thursday of each month beginning in February.  These First Thursday talks, will feature a 25–30 minute scholarly talk/presentation on a new or recently completed project by a faculty member. There will be plenty of time left for questions and conversation.  The first scheduled speaker this spring is Dr. Charles Baraw (English), “It is strange how these familiar places are haunted: Posthumous Hawthorne, Literary Tourism, and Uncanny Authorship” on Thursday, February 2nd at 4:45-6:00 PM, ASC Theatre.  For more information about First Thursdays please contact Joel Dodson (dodsonj2). Also, updates and featured presentations will soon be available on the A&S Dean’s website.


Congratulations to the Department of Music and to Therese Gemme for another very successful international tour –this time to Athens, Greece!  This tour was made possible by generous donations from the Stutzman Family Foundation. Check out the many pictures and comments on the dedicated Greece Blog.


The Honors College has just successfully undergone a dramatic curricular overhaul.  Beginning Fall of 2016, the Honors curriculum will be two-tiered.  Honors Foundations represents 16 credits from the HON curriculum taken freshman and sophomore years.  HON 150 remains a team-taught course, as will some other HON courses.

A new freshman and sophomore seminar/ plenary will use a disbursed-teaching model and involve students engaging with faculty and peer mentors.  This model will provide increased opportunities to explore a variety of team-taught and other interdisciplinary teaching methods.  Students will complete six credits of this Honors Seminar over the course of the freshman and sophomore years.  In addition, all first- and second-year students will participate in the Honors Plenary, a 1-credit course with most programming over the weekend.  Service-learning and leadership training will play a greater and more formalized role in the program as well.

Qualified students may elect to continue in the program during their junior and senior years in an Interdisciplinary Honors Minor. Finally, students now have a greater variety of capstone experiences from which to choose.  In addition to the traditional Honors Thesis, options include: Service-Learning, Study Abroad, Problem-Based Small Group Projects, or an Honors Travel Semester with faculty.


The A&S Strategic Planning Committee has been hard at work since October working on a five-year school-wide plan.  The department chairpersons selected full-time faculty representing every department in Arts & Sciences.  There are four major goals in the current draft: one each on Scholarship, Student Success, the Development of Sustainable Physical & Academic Resources, and Making Connections.  Co-chaired by Christine Broadbridge, Terri Bennett, Craig Hlavac, and Bruce Kalk, the committee anticipates releasing its final plan by April 2016!


For 32 years the Journalism Department has hosted high school students and teachers across the state for a professional development conference on journalism. On October 30th Dennis House from WFSB gave the keynote address to an audience of over 350 participants. Ten workshops on a variety of topics ranging from traditional reporting to photojournalism to broadcast news were led by full-time and part-time faculty.

In an effort to support this professional development, the Journalism Department offers a monthly workshop called CTTeens where students from various public and private high schools come together in the department to work on story and photo packages and to design a web platform to display their work. This program, in its 17th year is under direction of Chair Cindy Simoneau. 


Professors Christine Dombrowski, Luke Eilderts, Luisa Pietmontese, and Lisa Vitale have successfully proposed the reinstatement of the World Languages Olympics Day to be held here at Southern on Friday, May 6th. Over forty teams applied for the Olympics Day and twenty teams from all over the state have been accepted to participate in this unique event. This May competition will offer four languages, French, German, Italian, and Spanish, with plans to expand in future Olympics. The event will bring high school world language student teams and their coaches to campus to participate in an all-day event centered on world languages and cultures. The twenty teams will compete in various games created and proctored by the World Languages faculty along with graduate and undergraduate student volunteers.


For the second year the Research and Scholarship Advisory Committee (RSAC) hosted an afternoon Tapas event. On November 23rd twenty-six faculty presented four-minute presentations of their new or on-going research. Nearly two-thirds of the presenters were A&S faculty members including four members from the Psychology Department: Julia Irwin, Ken Walters, Kelly Stiver, and Larry BrancazioGerry Lesley and Jim Kearns from the Chemistry Department, and Troy Paddock from the History Department. This event proves to be such a great hit with all participants that Tapas is likely to be enjoyed for years to come.


Sean Grace, chair of the Biology Department, was invited to become a Co-PI on the KEEN (Kelp Ecosystem Ecology Network), which is a world-wide network of researchers examining the effects of global climate change on kelp beds.

Sheila Garvey, Professor of Theatre, directed the Theatre Department’s production of Almost, Maine in early December. At the recent American College Theatre Festival (ACTF), this production won a merit award for Outstanding Ensemble Acting.

Vivian Shipley, CSU Professor in the English Department, will do a benefit poetry reading on March 3rd at the Hill-Stead Museum in Farmington, CT. She will join Richard Blanco, who read at President Obama’s inauguration and used to teach at CCSU, in this benefit to help fund the Sunken Garden Poetry Festival. The Festival, held every summer, “connects poetry and people,” provides workshops for budding poets and experienced poets alike, as well as the opportunity for poets and their audiences to gather and enjoy the creative process. Vivian sits on the Advisory Committee for this annual event.