Monthly Archives: August 2017

Chapel Haven students and SCSU students in Communication Disorders class

Taking your first college class can be daunting, but really, any kind of new social experience might be enough to make even the most seasoned of students pull inside their shell. Barbara Cook, assistant professor of communication disorders, says that everyone faces challenges with communication, and with this thought in mind, she and Deborah Weiss, professor and chair of communication disorders, created a course called “Fundamentals of Social Communication,” which they taught for the third time this summer. Three communication disorders graduate students – Aideen Hanion, Hailey Jacobs, and Katerina Marlin — assisted with the class.

The course is unique in that it represents a partnership between Southern and Chapel Haven’s Asperger Syndrome Adult Transition Program. While the course is open to anyone, the class comprises university students interested in communication disorders and adults with disabilities who live at or take day programs at Chapel Haven, an award-winning, nationally accredited school and transition program in New Haven that serves over 250 adults with a variety of abilities and needs.

“The course title is reflective of its content,” says Cook. “We named it strategically.” The course is based on a theory of how people use their cognitive ability to be good at social communication. For the students from Chapel Haven, Cook and Weiss thought it would be helpful to take a class with students who have cognitive ability and to have the content of that class teach about social communication. Cook said the course covers social cognition and brain processes involved in social communication.

Weiss added that she and Cook worked to develop a course that would be academically challenging for all students while also taking into consideration the needs of students who are having their first taste of college. The course really has something for everyone: the advantages of the course to communication disorders students, say Cook and Weiss, are that it is an elective introductory course in social cognition and communication that is useful personally and professionally, and that it provides a greater depth of knowledge in social cognition and communication.

Advantages of the course to Chapel Haven students are that it’s a first college or university experience and the first time on the SCSU campus for most, and they are learning on an academic level about content that poses personal challenges.

In the course, all students have the opportunity to expand personal and group communication skills through daily interaction with classmates during planned team-based activities. Students also gain a broader perspective on social interaction strengths and challenges faced by their peers.

The response from communication disorders students who have taken it has been overwhelmingly positive, says Weiss. Chapel Haven students are also pleased with their experience in the class. One of these students, a young woman named Bethany, said this was her first college class and she was “happy about getting some college experience.” She added that she liked learning about the ways people with special needs communicate and how they learn to communicate.

In one class session, discussion focused on using one’s body to establish a physical presence. The students talked about respecting personal space, how to enter a group, approach a group, or pop into a group for brief conversation. They discussed eye contact and why it’s important when communicating with another person. These elements of social interaction might come naturally to some people but not others, and the class analyzed the behaviors to understand their role in communicating.

The students agreed that they can use what they learn in the course not only in their college careers but also in work settings, because becoming a better communicator is a skill from which everyone can benefit.

 

In the picture, from left to right: Dean Hegedus, Christina Esposito (English), Tai Olasanoye (Special Education), Mirka Dominguez (Curriculum and Learning), Marisol Rivera (Curriculum and Learning), Thomas Mitchell (Educational Leadership), Lori Donovan (Curriculum and Learning), Laura Obringer (English), Olivia Loughlin (Special Education), Malcolm Welfare (Information and Library Science), Meghan Weller (Educational Leadership), Justin Hitchcock (English), Andres Reyes (History), Hannah O’Hazo (Curriculum and Learning), Alex Audet (Math), and Dr. Angela Lopez-Velasquez. Missing from photo: Rebecca Harmon.

The School of Education is proud to have a new Dean’s Student Leadership Group (SLG) cohort this year. Faculty across the university involved in educator preparation nominated a large pool of students for their strong leadership potential in all aspects of PreK-12 education. After an interview process, the current SLG was selected for their outstanding personal and academic qualities, as well as for demonstrating their leadership in school and community contexts. In addition to undergraduate students, the Dean’s SLG includes master’s and doctoral students. Under the guidance of Dr. Stephen Hegedus, Dean of the School of Education and Dr. Angela Lopez-Velasquez, faculty liaison from the Department of Special Education and Reading, the SLG are involved in activities at the School of Education, the university, and the larger community including advocacy efforts with the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE) both nationally and at the state level, to further develop their leadership skills.

Presenters and attendees of the Material Science and Manufacturing in front of SCSU's science building

Science and mathematics educators from various communities in southern Connecticut revved up their engines during the recent fifth annual Materials & Manufacturing Summer Teachers Institute.

One of the highlights of the institute was when the teachers manufactured their own stirling engines, which they placed on top of their coffee mugs. A stirling engine is a closed-cycle heat engine that uses cyclic compression and expansion of air to produce energy.

“The exercise enabled the teachers to gain a better understanding of the real-world value of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), as well as the many career opportunities available in manufacturing. Both are primary purposes of the program,” said Christine Broadbridge, co-director of the institute. She serves as dean of the School of Graduate Studies, Research and Innovation at Southern.

“By demonstrating the practical side of STEM, the teachers are better able to take that knowledge and awareness and develop innovative teaching methods to help inspire and prepare middle and high school students for STEM-related fields,” Broadbridge said.

Faculty listening to presentation at Southern's science center

The four-day workshop included general discussions on education and manufacturing topics; the development of lesson plans in small groups with other teachers, hands-on scientific experiences, and tours of schools and area manufacturing firms. It was co-sponsored by Southern, the New Haven Manufacturers Association (NHMA), the Center for Research on Interface Structures and Phenomena (CRISP) at Yale and Southern (which is a materials research science and engineering center that receives funding from the National Science Foundation), and an array of community partners throughout the region and state.

The institute was coordinated by SCSU, and included hands-on sessions at Platt Tech of Milford, as well as tours at Leed Himmel Industries of Hamden and Assa Abloy Door Security Solutions in New Haven.

Nearly 30 teachers participated, including those from school districts such as New Haven, Bridgeport, Milford, Stratford and Hartford.

Teachers at the Manufacturing and Material Science workshop

Speakers included SCSU President Joe Bertolino; Robert Prezant, SCSU provost and vice president for academic affairs; Jim Gildea, director of manufacturing at Bigelow Tea; Kris Lorch, president of Alloy Engineering Company Inc. of Bridgeport; Robert Klancko, partner, Klancko & Klancko, LLC, and co-director of the institute; Dave Tuttle, chairman of manufacturing technologies at Platt Tech; Greg AmEnde, instructor of manufacturing technologies; Drew Most, chairman of manufacturing technologies at Bullard-Havens Tech in Bridgeport; Carol Jenkins, CRISP education and outreach coordinator, and institute coordinator; and various state officials.

 

As a child idolizing the men and women of the Japanese TV show “Ninja Warrior,” Derek Mathews never imagined he’d grow up to be one of them.

“I just thought that was the coolest thing,” Mathews said. “Being a kid at the time, I thought that I could do everything that was on TV.”

Flash forward to 2017 and Mathews is training with American Ninja Warrior legend Drew Drechsel at New Era Ninja Gym in Hamden, preparing for the show’s city finals in Cleveland.

“I just went into this to have fun,” Mathews said. “I didn’t expect to do as well as I did. Never in a million years did I think I would be training at a Ninja gym or competing on TV.”

Drechsel encouraged Mathews to send in a submission video for the show after he tested high on an assessment at the gym. He was selected to compete in the Cleveland City Qualifiers in May, an event that aired in July. Contestants that make city qualifiers go on to compete in city finals, then several more rounds before a national champion is crowned.

Mathews describes training for the show as one of the most intense times of his life. When he found out he would be able to compete, he increased his training from a moderate workout twice a week to three days of intense training.

bugman2The morning of the Cleveland City qualifiers, Mathews went on a run to prepare for the outdoor obstacle course. It was 34 degrees outside. Despite the unseasonable cold weather in early May, Mathews said he felt prepared because “discipline” is his strongest asset.

“You can get so far with being the strongest person or the most durable, but if you don’t have a strong mindset going into it, you won’t go far,” Mathews said.

Mathew’s most challenging obstacle came in the form of the “I-Beam,” a course of construction-like beams that require contestants to hang at a horizontal position while using their feet and fingers to make their way above a pool of water. Starting with 4 inches of spacing and ending with two, the test is to defy gravity.

“My hands [were] so cold that I couldn’t grip. I was just burning myself out trying to just power through it and then I quickly made my descent into the water,” Mathews said.

Having never practiced the obstacle, he didn’t realize his error until it was too late.

Nonetheless, Mathews moved on to the Cleveland City Finals because of his speed and number of obstacles completed. The show airs on Monday, August 14 at 9 p.m. on NBC.

While the opportunity to train with veterans and elites was a gift, after workouts Mathews was “wrecked.”

Not to mention he was simultaneously working toward a feat that he describes as equally challenging: earning his bachelor’s degree. Despite being exhausted at the end of each day, Mathews became the first person in his family to graduate in May.

“I never let Ninja get in the way of my academics,” Mathews said. “But I did let Ninja influence and enhance my academics. I knew what needed to be done. I wasn’t going to let anything get in the way of that.”

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