Monthly Archives: August 2017

Collage of new SCSU students

New students moved in today and we asked them how they were feeling.


Haley Adams

Haley AdamsHometown: Trumbull, CT
“I’m excited to move into Southern today!”


Rachel Bernabe

Rachel Bernabe

Hometown: Suffield, CT
“I’m excited and a little nervous to be moving in, but am also looking forward to meeting new people.”


Emily Balasco

Emily Balasco

Hometown: Seekonk, MA
“I’m excited to be moving in today and to be part of the gymnastics team.”


Dominic Maccini

Dominic Maccini

Hometown: Enfield, CT
“This is the start of a new era!”


Sean Ancheta

Sean Ancheta

Hometown: Milford, CT
“This is the beginning of a brand new journey!”


Gene Footman

Gene Footman

Hometown: Meriden and transfer from Springfield College
“New year, new school”


Christina Prevot

Christina Prevot

Hometown: Stamford
“Wondering if I’ll have room for everything! And I’m excited about meeting new people and learning about the school and nursing department.”


Jacqui Locher

Jacqui Locher

Hometown: Wilton, CT
“Am excited to decorate my room and meet my new roommate!”


Megan Mahon

Megan Mahon

Hometown: Southington
“I’m looking forward to majoring in business administration.”


Kira Flynn

Kira Flynn

Hometown: Sandy Hook, CT
“I’m excited to start this journey on the path to the rest of my life.”


Christian Perez-Cameron

Christian Perez-Cameron

Hometown: Wallingford
“I’d like to be wealthy and this is the start!”


Jack Dalfonso and Milan Spisek

Jack Dalfonso and Milan Spisek

Jack Dalfonso
Hometown: New Britain
“Am excited for new opportunities and will be studying nursing.”

Milan Spisek
Hometown: Easton
“I’m excited to be here on the track team — I’m a pole vaulter, and will be majoring in exercise science.”


Nikolas Strickland

Nikolas Strickland and Kiah

Nikolas Strickland (photographed with his sister, Kiah, SCSU ‘19)
Hometown: Montville, CT


Jordan Lembo-Frey

Jordan Lembo-Frey

Hometown: Guilford
“I’m excited to be here on the track team – I’m a sprinter.”


Spencer Berty

Spencer Berty

Hometown: Branford
“Looking forward to a new beginning!”


Ashton Reina

Ashton Reina

Hometown: Old Saybrook
“Excited to start my life here and be in a new environment.


Sebastien Julien

Sebastien Julien

Hometown: Stamford
“Looking forward to a fresh start!”


Amber Drobnak

Amber Drobnak

Hometown: Naugatuck
“Hoping the freshman 15 isn’t true, and excited to be studying social work!”


Herman Winston IV

Herman Winston IV

Hometown: Ledyard, CT
“Strive for greatness! Am happy to be a sprinter on the track team!”


Ivey Collins

Ivey Collins

Hometown: New Milford, CT
“Excited to meet new people and study psychology!”


Miranda Tranquillo

Miranda Tranquillo

Hometown: Barkhamsted, CT
“I’m excited to live on campus and meet new friends!”


Taylor Beckham and Brian Petrucci

Taylor Beckham and Brian Petrucci

Taylor Beckham
Hometown: Southington, CT
“A mind needs books like a sword needs a whetstone, if it is to keep its edge. That is why I read so much.” George R.R. Martin

Brian Petrucci
Hometown: Southington, CT
“Excited to start the journey of my life!”


Emmanuella Henebeng, Gifty Asante, and Justine McInerney

Emmanuella Henebeng and Gifty Asante and Justine McInerney

Emmanuella Henebeng
Hometown: East Hartford, but originally from Ghana
“Everything happens for a reason, and I’m excited to be here and meet new people.”

Gifty Asante
Hometown: Manchester, CT
“I’m ready to achieve my goals!”

Justine McInerney
Hometown: Wallingford, CT
“I’m excited to start college and get a nursing degree!”


Brittany Post, Lorette Feivelson, Emily Petersen, and Camryn Arpino-Brown

Brittany Post and Lorette Feivelson and Emily Petersen and Camryn Arpino-Brown

Brittany Post
Hometown: Canterbury, CT
“I can’t wait to start classes and will study athletic training.  Am also on the cross country and track teams.”

Lorette Feivelson
Hometown: Bristol, CT
“I’m excited to be part of the honors college and hope to study secondary education and history.”

Emily Petersen
Hometown: Niantic, CT
“I’m excited to be pursuing higher education and will study special education.

Camryn Arpino-Brown
Hometown: West Haven
“I can’t wait for track and to get involved in clubs and different organizations. On the track team, I run the hurdles and short sprints, and I hope to major in political science.”


Maggie Yeh and Kevin Vazquez

Maggie Yeh and Kevin Vazquez

Maggie Yeh
Hometown: West Haven
“I’m excited to study nursing and contribute to my community.”

Kevin Vazquez
Hometown: New Haven
“I’m excited to start a new chapter of my life.”


Trevor Nguyen

Trevor Nguyen

Hometown: Enfield
“I’m looking forward to studying nursing and am excited to experience new things!”


Sarah Carroll

Sarah Carroll

Hometown: Enfield
“I’m excited to be part of such a welcoming community!”


Jalitza Mathews and Jenna Boccio

Jalitza Mathews and Jenna Boccio

Jalitza Mathews
Hometown: East Hartford
“Looking forward to being part of the honors college!”

Jenna Boccio
Hometown: Southington
“I’m excited to start classes and also be part of the honors college!”



Garden class with CARE at SCSU Community Garden

“Eat your vegetables” is time-honored advice for anyone looking to improve the quality of their diet. But for some people who don’t have easy access to fresh produce, preparing and eating healthy meals can be a challenge.

This summer, area residents who wanted to learn about growing fresh fruits and vegetables, nutrition, and healthy cooking were able to take part in a campus outreach program developed and run by the Sustainability Office and CARE (Community Alliance for Research and Engagement), assisted by New Haven Farms (NHF). The program involved improving the university’s organic garden, located near Davis Hall, while teaching participants about growing and preparing produce from the garden. Sessions took place on six Tuesday evenings, from early July through mid-August.


Suzanne Huminski, coordinator of the Sustainability Office, and Alycia Santilli, director of CARE, teamed up with a few of their interns to establish the community garden education program. Santilli says that CARE “dedicated some limited grant funds to consult with New Haven Farms and expand the growing capacity of the garden.” Two public health interns planned and piloted the garden-based nutrition education program, which was based on New Haven Farms’ more extensive health education curriculum. Two Sustainability Office interns cared for the garden and worked with participants on growing and harvesting vegetables. Families from low-income communities that surround Southern were invited to take part in the program.

New Haven Farms’ 16-week garden program is open to people who are referred through a health center, Santilli explains. For instance, individuals at risk for diabetes might be referred to the program so they can learn healthier eating habits. “We’ve adapted their program to ours,” Santilli says, “but ours is not connected to health centers or prescriptions.” Sustainability intern Kaelyn Audette visited New Haven Farms to learn about the garden program and bring back what she learned to Southern’s garden. Abby Putzer and Meadeshia Mitchell, both graduate students in public health, went to NHF once a week starting in May to help with NHF’s health education program, so they could understand how it works.

CARE cooking class at SCSU community garden
While CARE sponsored the health education component of the program, with the help of interns Putzer and Mitchell, sustainability interns Audette and Megan McNivens gave the participants a weekly garden tour, answered their questions, and did some cooking demonstrations. Guest chefs also visited the program to do cooking demonstrations. Huminski says it was “very impressive to watch how Kaelyn and Megan stepped up and went above and beyond.”

A core group of about seven participants came every week. The program was an opportunity for the interns to work with community members and to learn how to manage a project themselves.

In addition to nutrition education, garden tours, and cooking demonstrations, participants received free produce from the garden. And the garden is now so productive, thanks to Audette and McNivens, that the Sustainability Office is also able to continue making donations to the St. Ann’s soup kitchen, which it has done for years. “Our goal was to double the produce in the garden so we could continue donating to the soup kitchens but also give a bag of produce to each of the participants,” says Huminski, and the goal was met. She says 363 lb. of produce was harvested from mid-July through early August, and the yield is expected to increase through September.

The weekly garden tour was exciting, says Audette. Many of the participants don’t have a yard, so they can’t have a garden, and they enjoyed watching the vegetables grow. Teaching people to eat more healthily – how to use different vegetables and make healthy food choices – was gratifying, the interns say. Participants got to see vegetables go from farm to plate, and they enjoyed taking home what they learned and sharing it with their families. “It was fun to see them come excitedly each week to show what they’d learned,” says McNivens.

Audette graduated in May; she majored in public health and plans to go to graduate school. McNivens is a junior psychology major. Putzer and Mitchell are MPH students, and this project was part of their practicum.

CARE garden class, entrance to SCSU Community Garden

There is a demand in urban neighborhoods for fresh produce, Santilli says, and beyond the community garden program, participants can continue to eat healthily even if they don’t have a yard where they can grow vegetables. New Haven has a network of about 50 community gardens where residents can grow their own produce, and farmers markets and farmstands around the city, as well as a mobile pantry through Connecticut Food Bank, offer fresh produce.

Santilli says, “We are hopeful that this will be a successful pilot year – and then we hope to start fundraising to become a more institutionalized program. It’s a fantastic university-community partnership.”

Huminski agrees, adding, “this is just the start,” of using the campus garden for community-based projects. “That is a big hillside back there, and it can work harder for the community, the education of our students, and for the environment.”

See more photos from the campus garden and community garden program.

An assistant professor of public health at Southern will study the growing epidemic of opioid addiction – including heroin — in the New Haven-area suburbs.

The study is being funded by the National Institutes of Health, which awarded a three-year, $340,000 grant to SCSU’s Aukje Lamonica, as well as Miriam Boeri, an associate professor of sociology at Bentley University in Waltham, Mass. The two are working jointly on the project.

Lamonica, who specializes in social determinants of drug use and addiction, said the research in the area suburbs is one of three regions along the East Coast being examined as part of this study. The other regions are the suburbs of both Boston and Atlanta.

Opioids, including heroin, killed more than 33,000 people in 2015, more than any year on record, and nearly half of all opioid overdose deaths involve a prescription opioid, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“This is a growing societal problem in the suburbs with an increase of overdose events,” Lamonica said. “Most studies have looked at inner city drug use and that’s where a lot of the addiction services are located. But we are seeing an increase in opioid drug use in the suburbs, which is often devoid of these services. So, we wanted to see if we could help enhance knowledge and understanding of this societal problem.”

The grant was awarded last spring and work has almost been completed in the Atlanta suburbs, according to Lamonica. The research is set to begin next month in Connecticut and Massachusetts.

“What we are seeing in the Atlanta area is that opioid users are from all walks of life, cutting across all classes, races and ethnicities,” she said. “When you think of drug addicts, people sometimes think of those who are hanging out using drugs on street corners. While some opioid users do, most do not, based on our early work.”

Among the goals for the study are to find out how people began using opioids and heroin; what happens to them over time; risky behaviors associated with their drug use; how often opioid use leads to heroin use, and vice versa; and a comparison of opioid and heroin use by race, ethnicity and gender.

Lamonica hopes to talk with 60 people from the New Haven suburbs, which is likely to include those from suburban communities that border New Haven.

(Anyone who is a current opioid or heroin user living in the New Haven suburbs and who is interested in participating in the study is asked to email Aukje Lamonica at Those accepted into the study and who successfully complete the questionnaire and interview, may be paid $40 for their time.)





Excellence in Assessment award, students walking in front of Buley Library

Southern is among only five colleges and universities in the country to be selected for the Excellence in Assessment designation – a recognition for successfully using data about student learning to help improve student performance.

The designation was announced recently by the  Voluntary System of Accountability, a public college and university transparency initiative led by the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, and the American Association of State Colleges and Universities. They have teamed up with the American Colleges & Universities and the National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment (NILOA).

image001[2]The designation was created to acknowledge the work colleges and universities are doing through comprehensive assessment activities and to highlight those practices so that other institutions can benefit from that information, according to a press release about the recognition from the NILOA.

“Institutions receiving the designation have proved themselves to be truly excellent in their efforts to advance campus processes and use of evidence, serving as exemplars to others for engaging in comprehensive assessment leading to advanced student success,” said NILOA Director Natasha Jankowski in a press release from the organization.

Michael Ben-Avie, director of the SCSU Office of Assessment and Planning, said the designation is indicative that Southern is a leader in self-assessment. “The experts highlighted that we are using evidence of student learning from several different assessment methods to formulate a big picture of learning on our campus, as well as a picture of students. Involving students in survey development was also noted as a strength,” he said.

Assessment data is used to help bolster markers of student success, such as academic progress, graduation rates and retention.


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.”