Monthly Archives: January 2018

January 25, 2018

Dear Members of the 115th Congress,

Once again, we here in higher education are watching as the lives and futures of some of our hardest working students are put on hold in a partisan political fight. This is having a devastating impact on our campus communities, and the ability of these undocumented students to pursue their educations.

At the Connecticut State Colleges & Universities, we have hundreds of DACA and undocumented students who are striving to earn their degree and achieve a piece of the American dream. While most of these students are from Connecticut, we also host DACA students from all over the country who are on academic scholarship funded by the private The Dream.US. Many of these students work to help support their families and are active members in their local communities, while juggling the responsibilities necessary to excel in their studies. They do all of this while living with the constant fear that their families could be deported at any moment. They are watching DACA’s March 5th expiration date fast approaching, with still no action from Congress.

This is not a Democrat or Republican issue. This is about supporting young Americans who are doing everything we ask our young people to do. They simply want to continue to live safely in the only country they have called home. A recent CBS News poll found that 87% of Americans support legal protections for undocumented immigrants brought here as children.

The fundamental responsibility of a public education institution is to foster learning, innovation, and strong communities for any student willing to put in the work to learn and achieve. We have and will continue to fight for DACA students because they are an essential part of our CSCU community, our neighbors, our friends, and our family.

Fortunately, the members of our Connecticut delegation have been strong supporters of our DACA students. We urge them to continue fighting for what is right, and what the majority of the American people support. On behalf of our students, I hope others have the courage to do the same.

Respectfully,

Mark E. Ojakian
President, Connecticut State Colleges & Universities

(Above:  Lewis J. DeLuca, Jr., coordinator of Student Financial Literacy and Advising, advises students on financial literacy.)

What if your college education included learning how to manage your finances, including student loan debt? At Southern, students are able to take advantage of the Student Financial Literacy and Advising program, which helps them do just that. Financial literacy initiatives have become popular on college campuses in large part because of the inflated expenses required to attend these institutions. Like Southern, many schools now offer workshops, courses, one-on-one consultations, and incentivizing programs to teach  students to become fiscally responsible.

The website LendEDU has released its annual Top 50 Financial Literacy Programs report, and Southern made the list for the second year in a row. After analyzing more than a thousand colleges and universities based on LendEDU’s unique scoring system, LendEDU placed Southern in the top 50, at #29.

LendEDU is a marketplace for private student loans, student loan refinancing, credit cards, and personal loans, among other financial products. LendEDU’s goal is to create transparency in these markets to help consumers make educated decisions and better manage their money. It annually compiles a ranking of the 50 best financial literacy programs offered at colleges throughout the United States, looking at hundreds of colleges and universities that are known to have a financial literacy program.

According to LendEDU’s assessment of Southern’s financial literacy program, the university’s financial literacy website “has an impressive collection of financial literacy resources and tools. Besides offering one-on-one financial literacy consultations and presentations, Southern Connecticut State University offers customized financial planning sessions with individual students. Individual financial plans can be created for each student according to their financial situation and academic goals.” To date, over 2039 individual financial plans for Southern students have been created and aligned with academic goals for timely degree completion.

Read LendEDU’s full report.

Learn more about Southern’s Financial Literacy and Advising Program.

Three Top Owl Awards recipients with presenters and Vice President of Student Involvement Tracy Tyree, November 2017

(Above, left to right: Tracy Tyree, vice president for student affairs; Daphney Alston; Barbara Cook; Sean Wilder; Jessie Holman; Maria Krol; and Dian Brown-Albert)

The Top Owl Social Justice Award is given to recognize contributions in helping the university achieve its mission of creating and sustaining an inclusive community that appreciates, celebrates and advances student and campus. This award, selected by the President’s Commission on Social Justice, will be awarded each month from September-March to recognize the contributions, leadership, and service of a worthy faculty, staff, part-time and full-time student. Each award recipient is nominated by another member of the Southern community or is self-nominated. Individuals are nominated based on their work in addressing issues of diversity, inclusion and social justice through:

  • education of self and others;
  • participation in events, programs, and activities addressing diversity and social justice issues;
  • advocacy with and on behalf of targeted communities; and
  • organizing around diversity, inclusion, and social justice issues for sustainable change at Southern

Southern’s very first recipients of The Top Owl Award – the November Top Owls — were honored at the Social Justice Month closing event in November. Those recognized were Barbara Cook, assistant professor of communication disorders; Daphney Alston, assistant director of clubs and organizations; student Sean Wilder, and student Jessie Holman.

Deborah Weiss, professor of communication disorders, nominated Cook, writing that Cook “has run numerous educational sessions for students, faculty, and staff on autism and other disabilities in order to facilitate the inclusion and acceptance of individuals with disabilities on our campus. She continuously seeks new information and research that will improve the lives of those with disabilities in order to incorporate this knowledge in her teaching and her clinical work in the Center for Communication Disorders.

“She has been very active in social justice committees and activities on campus. She initiated and chaired a committee on campus that was convened by the Provost to explore campus services for individuals with autism. This was later expanded to include all disabilities. She continues to work for implementation of the organization and accessibility of these services and as a tireless advocate on behalf of this community.”

Mandi Kuster, associate director of residence life, who nominated Alston, wrote that Alston “Alston carries out the social justice mission every day. . . She was a part of the Student Affairs Cultural Competency Committee and has been an integral part of the planning and training team for the Student Affairs division. She has done numerous training around the topic of Social Justice for Peer Mentors, RAs and staff members. Her work in Student Involvement/Leadership Development is daily around Social Justice and educating our students.”

Sal Rizza, director of new student and sophomore programs, nominated Wilder, and wrote that, “As the President of Phi Beta Sigma’s Omicron Theta Chapter, Sean has been working hard to incorporate social justice in everything the chapter works on. Most specifically, Sean provided leadership in coordinating the Chapter’s program for Social Justice Month “All American: A Panel on Sports & Politics” in which a panel including the Director of Athletics, a student Veteran, and several students discussed the ongoing conversation regarding sports and politics. Additionally, Sean carries the mission of social justice in all of his positions including in his role as a SEOP Peer Mentor, Resident Advisor and Orientation Coordinator by creating inclusive and welcoming environments which align with our university mission.”

Julia Irwin, professor of psychology, nominated Holman. Irwin wrote that Holman had “just presented her Honors Thesis, which is a Bystander Intervention Training to prevent sexual assault on campus. Jessie trained over 300 SCSU students in INQ with this program, making the campus a safer place. She will leave this program, a self-contained peer intervention to the University, when she graduates in May. Jessie is a co-founder of PEACE (Peer Educators Advocating for Campus Empowerment) and has worked to assist victims of human trafficking.”

 

The December Top Owls included Anna Rivera-Alfaro, academic and career advising; student Haroon Chaudhry; and Jessica Powell, assistant professor of education and co-director of the Urban Education Fellows Program.

Alfaro was nominated by both Christine Barrett, associate director of academic advisement, and Jordan Jones, adviser in interdisciplinary studies. Barrett wrote in her nomination that Rivera-Alfaro “exemplifies cores values of social justice in her work as the advisor to the Organization of Latin American students since 2008.” Beyond the university, Barrett wrote, Rivera-Alfaro’s community involvement includes providing free tax preparation and Spanish translation services to low-income families through a School of Business program; representing Southern at local Latino college fairs; doing college outreach to Latino communities in Meriden and New Haven; and currently researching the possibility of SCSU hosting the annual New England Latinx Student Leadership Conference, among other activities.

Jones wrote that Rivera-Alfaro “has long been committed to Southern’s core values of access, diversity, student success, life-long learning, and community involvement, long before those values were formally established/recognized at Southern.” Jones referred to her work with OLAS and with the free tax preparation service and added that she “has actively engaged in recruitment of underrepresented students and employees, representing the university at numerous evening and weekend events, including Hispanic-focused events. . . [and] spends countless hours per week giving back to our students, to our community and building important bridges for the University. She’s often tapped to provide representation for the university at various community and regional events.”

Dian Brown-Albert nominated Chaudhry, calling him “a remarkable young man who has inspired his peers, faculty, staff and the Southern community to live up to the SCSU core values around social justice.” Brown-Albert wrote that “Haroon’s participation in the SCSU 2017 Social Justice Retreat where he dialogued with students around issues of race, class, faith, and sexual orientation was amazing. As a Muslim student, Haroon travels to classes where he does presentations on Islam. This is free of charge and out of his commitment to teaching people about the beauty of Islam. Due to his passion and commitment to his faith, he advocates for the Muslim community through his everyday life by being respectful, compassionate and coordinating activities around these issues.”

Albert added that Chaudhry is part of the Muslim Student Association where he works with them to promote and produce programs for the university, such as National Hijab Day. “He is dedicated to maintaining the culture, heritage, and practices of Islam and Muslims,” Brown-Albert wrote, “as well as combating common stereotypes and misunderstandings about Islam and Muslim . . . Haroon is truly an asset to our institution as he dedicates his life to promoting human dignity and inclusivity at SCSU.”

Jessica Powell was nominated by Laura Bower-Phipps, associate professor of elementary education, who wrote that “The foundation for Dr. Powell’s teaching and her scholarship is social justice. She is a true scholar activist. Her scholarship addresses the need for white individuals to join in the Black Lives Matter movement not only as activists, but also as accomplices who take risks to support marginalized groups and individuals. Other scholarship calls for early childhood teachers to queer their practices to create spaces for children who are transgender and gender creative. Within her teaching, Dr. Powell encourages her students to critique educational systems that do not treat children equitably. I teach many of the same students as Dr. Powell, and I can say with certainty that they are changed as a result of her classes. Not only does Dr. Powell embrace social justice, she inspires her students to do the same.”

To nominate a member of the Southern community for a Top Owl Award, visit the Social Justice website.

    Three SCSU nursing students working together in nursing lab

    A new agreement between Southern and the state’s community colleges will make it easier for those with an associate degree in nursing to earn a bachelor’s degree in that field.

    Students who are accepted into the nursing program at one of the community colleges will automatically be offered admission into SCSU’s R.N. to B.S.N. program.

    This agreement – which was launched during the fall — comes at a time when hospitals and other health-care providers are placing increasing emphasis on bachelor’s degrees when hiring nurses. It also is designed to address a national push for 80 percent of all registered nurses to have a bachelor’s degree.

    “We have 75 students who accepted this invitation this fall,” said Lisa Rebeschi, chairwoman of the SCSU Nursing Department. “These students started this semester at one of the community colleges. Upon completion of their associate degree and passing the test to gain a license as a registered nurse, they can begin taking classes at Southern. In the meantime, they are welcome – even encouraged – to use our facilities and resources, such as use of the library.”

    While credits earned at the community colleges already were accepted at SCSU, there had been no guarantee the students would be admitted into the nursing program at SCSU. And although students always could apply to SCSU after obtaining an associate degree, relatively few did.

    Rebeschi also said studies show that patients who are treated by nurses with a bachelor’s degree tend to have better treatment outcomes.

    In addition, the new program will increase the number of nursing students at SCSU. In turn, that will help boost SCSU’s enrollment, as well as address the national nursing shortage.

    SCSU – a statewide leader in the field of training nurses – offers a variety of programs at both the undergraduate and graduate level.