Monthly Archives: September 2017

Southern has been awarded a $10,000 Seeds of Hope grant – an allocation that will enable the university to develop a support program for students already in recovery from substance abuse disorders.

The grant emanates from the non-profit organization “Transforming Youth in Recovery,” which focuses on the creation of campus collegiate recovery programs across the nation. It has been awarded at a time of a growing opioid abuse problem throughout the country.

Sarah Keiser, SCSU’s coordinator of alcohol and other drug services, said the three-year grant will enable Southern to provide the social, academic and in some cases, residential support systems for these students.

“The idea is to create a community for these students to engage with others who have similar interests and who want to live a healthy, sober lifestyle,” Keiser said. “In higher education, we are seeing students who not only faced an addiction problem in high school, but who received recovery treatments at that age. That is a big change from 20 years ago.”

Keiser said the focus of the first year of the grant will be to identify the students who are in recovery and need assistance. “We want to know how many students are in need of help, who they are, and how Southern can help them.”

She said that in the second year, the university will seek to establish programs and means of support. Keiser said among the possibilities are the creation of a lounge area for the students; connecting them with the Academic Success Center and peer-mentoring programs; and the development of a living, learning community and roommate pairing.

The third year of the grant would be focused on maintaining programs after the funding ends. “The good news is that the costs associated with these kinds of support are relatively small,” Keiser said. “And we may even be able to tap into other grants and sources of funding.”

Keiser said that in addition to the primary objective of helping students maintain a clean living style in recovery, the programs that will be funded through the grant also can have a positive effect on student retention and graduation rates.

She applied for the grant in April, and received word that Southern would be a recipient at around the time fall classes began a few weeks ago.


















Dr. William Faraclas and his students prepare to cross Lake Atitlán to visit a comadrona—a traditional birth attendant—in San Juan La Laguna.

This summer, two groups of Southern students — one studying special education, and the other, public health — traveled extensively in rural Guatemala during a two-week short-course abroad. Journeying together, while learning in two separate courses, participants from both groups explored the colonial town of Antigua, Guatemala, and its surrounding pueblos; Mayan villages in the country’s central highlands, including breathtaking Lake Atitlán, the caldera of an ancient volcano; and the lush jungle rainforest at Tikal National Park, site of vast archaeological ruins.

Students enjoyed a walk through the village of San Juan La Laguna following the Public Health group’s meeting with Ana Toc Cobax, a traditional birth attendant (far right), and the Special Education group’s tour of Casa Maya School for students with disabilities. Students enrolled in the special education course, led by Dr. Kara Faraclas of the Department of Special Education and Reading, visited a variety of schools and programs for persons with disabilities, and met their inspiring founders and directors. Public health students, led by Dr. William Faraclas of the Department of Public Health, explored health program and facilities and engaged other providers of health services in Guatemala, including shamans and traditional birth attendants. The use of field guides developed especially for the two programs — the Quest for Understanding for public health students, and the Field Guide for the Journey for the special education group — fostered the interaction of students with people in the communities they visited, as students sought and analyzed information provided by cultural informants, used to compose essays for their field guides and perform community assessments.

Education students in Guatemala

During their time abroad, participants in both courses distributed greatly needed supplies they had carried from the United States. Students in the special education course provided materials to support the work of teachers of students with disabilities, and those in the public health course presented greatly needed medical supplies to health clinics. Accentuating and complementing the academic experience, students in both courses spent a day with an indigenous Mayan family, hiked to outlying villages, climbed ancient pyramids, sighted monkeys and toucans in the wild, and observed smoke and fire from an active volcano.


Both courses focused on an underlying theme of culture as a way to prepare teachers, health practitioners and participating students from other disciplines to work effectively with an increasingly diverse population in the United States and for opportunities in other countries. Several past enrollees were accepted into the Peace Corps and AmeriCorps, and this year’s students in both courses reported gaining from their experiences in Guatemala a new understanding of how their studies at Southern would enable them to work globally or at home to help alleviate suffering and promote social justice.

Education students in GuatemalaPlanning for next summer’s trip is underway, and graduate and undergraduate students in all majors are welcome to participate. For information, contact:

Exercise may actually be the best medicine.

And Southern has a contingent of exercise science students who have prescribed a healthy dose of questions designed to get the campus community thinking more about their own exercise program. For their efforts, the American College of Sports Medicine recently awarded SCSU a gold-level recognition for its Exercise is Medicine (EIM) program.

EIM is designed to create a culture of wellness on college campuses across the country. Southern was one of about two dozen schools throughout the nation – and only two in Connecticut — to earn gold-level status.

Robert Axtell, SCSU associate professor of exercise science, said he was excited for the exercise science students to earn the award. It was largely based on the Exercise Physiology Club students working with Dr. Diane Morgenthaler, director of student health services, to add questions to a survey that students fill out when accessing health care at the Student Health Center.

“It’s an honor for the students to be recognized for their efforts,” Axtell said. “Exercise is undoubtedly an important factor in the health of individuals, and our students are trying to attain information that can help people better understand that concept.”

The questions included:

  • How many days per week do you do moderate-to-strenuous exercise?
  • How many minutes do you exercise at this level?
  • What is the total number of minutes per week?

“The main goal of the Student Health Survey was to understand the physical activity and exercise habits of Southern students,” said Ted DeConne, a student in the Exercise Physiology Club who helped lead the push to become recognized by EIM. “We hope that we can use this information to further educate the on-campus community.”

DeConne said other steps were taken in addition to the questionnaire. He said the students spoke about the EIM initiative during the Week of Welcome; informed students and faculty about the benefits of exercise; and encouraged students to join the Exercise Physiology Club.

CSU Professor of Art David Levine

David Levine, chairman of Southern’s Art Department and an expert on art history, has been selected for one of the most prestigious faculty awards within the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities system.

The state Board of Regents for Higher Education on Tuesday bestowed Levine with the title of Connecticut State University Professor. Southern, Central, Western and Eastern Connecticut State universities each can have up to three such professors. It is awarded in recognition of excellence in the areas of creative activity (research), teaching and service, and includes a peer review process.

Levine fills an SCSU vacancy left by the recent retirement of Joseph Solodow, professor of world languages and literatures. He joins Vivian Shipley, professor of English, and Terrell Ward Bynum, professor of philosophy, as SCSU’s contingent of CSU Professors.

“During his long and distinguished career at Southern, (Levine) has received international acclaim as a scholar, in particular for his research on the Dutch and Flemish artists working in Rome during the Baroque era,” said SCSU President Joe Bertolino in his nomination letter. “His particular interest is in investigating the political dimensions of Dutch painting and the cultural competition with Italy.”

Troy Paddock, chairman of the CSU Professor Advisory Committee, said the committee concluded that Levine met or exceeded the standard of excellence required for consideration in each of the three criteria.

“Dr. Levine’s most significant research has been a new interpretation of the bambocciata, an anti-heroic genre painting style invented by Dutch artists in Rome,” Paddock wrote. “His work has been singularly responsible for a reassessment of the work of these figures.

“To redefine a field is no small achievement. He has co-edited or co-authored three books and written 17 articles, essays or book chapters. He has presented papers in North America and Europe.”

Paddock said Levine’s departmental colleagues and students hold him in high esteem. One former student, Laura Macaluso, wrote: “(Levine) changed my life when he opened his door to me 25 years ago. He was, I now realize, the first art historian I ever met, which means that my path might have been quite different if he had not been all the things he is: kind and warm, quietly brilliant yet at ease with laughter, humble, and genuinely interested in people.”

Paddock added that Levine’s service to the university has been exemplary. “Dr. Levine has served on every committee in the Art Department,” he said. “He played a leading role in establishing the Judaic Studies minor and has served as its coordinator on two different occasions. He is also a valued member of the Honors College and has served on numerous university-wide committees.”


He’s not a medical doctor. Nor does he play one on TV or at work. But Greg McVerry is passionate about improving the health of the Internet, and ensuring that the public has access to it – especially as cyberspace is becoming more and more critical in our daily lives.

McVerry, an associate professor of curriculum and learning at Southern, has been working over the last six years with the Mozilla Foundation to foster an open and secure Internet. Among their goals are to reduce criminal hacking; enable more open sources of information to be available, especially when it comes to education curricula; enhance Web literacy and bolster access to the Internet.

“There are about a billion people online at the moment,” McVerry said. “But what is the Internet going to be like as the next billion people go online?” He said that is a question he keeps in the back of his mind.

One of the major projects McVerry has been working on is testing an online code editor called Thimble, which seeks to make it easier for people to create their own Web pages. McVerry said he has asked students in his “New Literacies” education class to test the program, as well as offer their perspectives on it.

For all of his efforts, he was recently named by Mozilla as one of 50 individuals worldwide who made the Internet a better place in 2016 – called the “Network 50.”

“Greg drives the Internet health mission forward through his contributions as a participation lead, Mozilla Club Captain, curriculum tester, and Thimble champion,” said the Mozilla Network in an online announcement. “As a teacher, Greg naturally thinks about how our tools and curriculum will be received by learners. His thoughtful feedback about how Thimble is used in learning contexts helped us make important decisions about the user experience, the feature set, and the curricular content. He has been an active tester of our curriculum and has made valuable contributions, helping to increase the overall quality.”

McVerry earned the Joan Finn Junior Faculty Research Fellowship in 2014. One of the benefits of the award is to grant newer faculty members work time to pursue their research projects. “I was able to engage more thoroughly in creating open-source learning tools to help improve the learning curriculum,” he said.

He added that he is a staunch advocate of having more of the repository of knowledge available to all on the Internet for free. “As a state university, taxpayers pay for our salaries and other costs,” McVerry said. “In my view, all of the research we do should be published openly.”



U.S. Sen. Christopher Murphy (D-CT) met with nearly two dozen Southern students on Sept. 1 to discuss issues related to college affordability and other logistical hurdles toward getting a degree.

Murphy outlined his thoughts, as well as listened to the questions and concerns from the students and SCSU President Joe Bertolino. The hour-long roundtable discussion also attracted several staff members who work with students on a regular basis.

Murphy said the percentage of students nationwide who graduate from college in four years has declined in recent years. “Today, the traditional student is someone who is going to class for five to seven years, either full time or part time,” Murphy said. He also noted that the average age of a college graduate is moving closer to 30 years of age.

At the same time, “it is three times as expensive to get a bachelor’s degree today than it was in 1980, and that’s adjusted for inflation,” Murphy said.

Murphy expressed his support for the federal government to provide a free college education, at least for low- and middle-income families.

But he also suggested that it might be time to revamp how degrees are awarded – away from requiring a specific number of credits and toward a system that is based on competencies. In other words, if a student reaches a level of proficiency in a designated set of disciplines, they should be awarded a college diploma, whether it’s through a class or exam. He said that could reduce the time needed to spend in college. “The traditional four-year model is arbitrary based on what people had said it should be many years ago,” he said.

Students raised several issues during the meeting, ranging from frustration with the onerous financial aid forms to mounting costs to the challenges of working and going to school.

President Bertolino noted that the overwhelming majority of students work full time or part time. “(In many respects), we’re a working-class university,” he said.

One student praised the creation of the position of coordinator of student financial literacy and advising to help students navigate the financial challenges of college life. Lew DeLuca serves in that role.

Murphy praised Southern for being ahead of the curve in many respects.