Monthly Archives: May 2018

Sterling White speaks at the Graduate Student Research and Creative Activity Conference

“It’s all for Lotus,” says Sterling White, referring to his young daughter. White graduates this month with his M.S. in sociology and says his daughter has been his main motivator behind his academic success. Of Lotus, he says, “she is going to have a better life due to my time in grad school.”

White has made the most of his time in graduate school. In addition to his scholarship, he has been an active member of the Southern community, as well as a driving force for students on campus. He wants to help undergraduate students not make the same mistakes he says he made during his college years, and his passion for guiding students to make good decisions is what has informed his work in student affairs. White served as a graduate intern in New Student & Sophomore Programs (NSSP) this year and prevously had worked as a graduate writing tutor in the Academic Success Center. “It was an awesome experience, helping students,” White says, adding that he has increased the scope of his interactions with students over his three years at Southern, and “it’s been a great progression of experience.”

As a NSSP graduate intern, White managed enrollment for orientation and transfer orientation. He also served as adviser to the sophomore class and did some success coaching with students. Cassi Meyerhoffer, assistant professor of sociology, who worked closely with White when he was her graduate assistant, says he made a real contribution to students’ success. “I think Sterling benefited from working closely with students as he clearly has a passion for teaching,” she says. “His work in the student success center was incredibly beneficial for our students—I consistently had students from my classes comment on his help with their writing.”

As a sociologist, White’s research interests include sociological theory; race and ethnicity; urban sociology; gender; and race and class. Yet his involvement in the Southern community characterized his graduate school experience as much as his academic work. Among his significant activities on campus were his roles as president of the Graduate Student Affairs Committee (GSAC), co-chair of the Graduate Student Research and Creative Activity Conference Organizing Committee; chair of the Social Functions Sub-Committee of GSAC, and a member of the Presidential Inauguration Committee, the Newtown Screening Planning Committee, the Provost Search Committee, and the President Inauguration Celebration Committee.

“It’s been phenomenal here,” White says. “I’m so grateful for all the opportunities I’ve had at Southern. GSAC opened a lot of doors to me.” One significant legacy White leaves at the university is the Graduate Student Research and Creative Activity Conference. He and Graduate School Dean Christine Broadbridge came up with the idea of letting students showcase their work, and thus was born the conference, which was held for the second time this spring.

Sterling White with members of the conference organizing committee at the Graduate Student Research and Creative Activity Conference

White gave a number of campus and conference presentations, both on student success and on his research interests. His work with Meyerhoffer resulted in a presentation he gave with her at the 2016 Annual Meeting of the Eastern Sociological Society in 2016: “Colorblind Racism, Social Desirability and Neighborhood Preferences.”

Color-blind racism, he explains, is when people say they don’t see color in others of different races. “They’re ignoring systemic racism,” he says. Meyerhoffer’s and White’s research looks at the idea that people want to live around people who look like them and are like them. That’s not always true, White says. Their research seeks to understand why people live in certain areas.

White’s undergraduate research also explored race: during his senior year at CCSU, his thesis was “African-American Masculinity – A Health Crisis,” which looked at food behaviors within African American men’s households. As an undergraduate at CCSU, White majored in sociology with a minor in psychology. But, he says, he wasn’t always the kind of student he has been at Southern. He played soccer and “came into the university as a student athlete, so I only knew other athletes. I didn’t have a friendship network to support me academically. It’s why I wanted to work with sophomores – I want to help students not make the same mistakes I’ve made.”

In addition to working in NSSP at Southern, White gave a talk entitled “A Tale of Perseverence – Creating Support Systems and Self-Efficacy” at the 2017 Annual Meeting of the Eastern Sociological Society, at a session geared to undergraduates. “I wrote a paper on how I created my own support systems,” White says. “But it also has helped me to believe in myself and believe that I’m able to do graduate work.” He wants to go on to earn a Ph.D. in sociology.

White grew up in Middletown and still lives there with his wife and daughter. “My wife has been awesome in helping support me during my school,” he says. He counts himself lucky to have an amazing family to support him in his academic achievements and goals. “I never thought I’d be doing the things I’ve been doing,” he says.

Jonathan Gonzalez-Cruz is beating the odds. “Graduating college as an undocumented student is the exception — not the norm,” he says.

Statistics verify his words. About 65,000 undocumented students graduate from U.S. high schools every year — and just 5 to 10 percent go on to college, according to the College Board’s 2009 report, Young Lives on Hold. But on May 18, Gonzalez-Cruz will cross the stage of the Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport. Conn., to accept a degree in mathematics and economics from Southern Connecticut State University — with departmental honors in the latter.

Gonzalez-Cruz was born in Mexico City and came to the U.S. with his family when he was 4 years old. Today, the 22-year old is in the U.S. through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. It’s an increasingly precarious position, and as a result, he’s spent his college years juggling — balancing the demands of intensive Honors College courses, two challenging majors, and political activism at the local, state, and federal levels.

He says the undeniable pull toward political activism began the day after Donald Trump was elected president. “I remember that night — realizing that not only my future as an undocumented immigrant was threatened, but also the futures of my brother, my mother, and many of the kids I worked with as a catechism teacher and during summer camps,” he says.

Gonzalez-Cruz [second row, second from right] joins others in support of undocumented students.
Gonzalez-Cruz has felt the anguish of family separation personally. He was only a sophomore in high school when his father was deported to Mexico after a minor traffic stop led to his arrest. He clearly recalls being unable to say goodbye, watching the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) van drive away, and realizing that his father wouldn’t return home.

Despite the heartbreak and turmoil, Gonzalez-Cruz excelled at school, even tackling challenging advanced-placement courses. In 2014, he enrolled at Southern where he was accepted into the competitive Honors College and was awarded a prestigious Presidential Merit Scholarship, which covered full tuition and fees. He immersed himself in the Southern community, mentoring high-achieving, low-income students from New Haven Public Schools through the Gear Up program and serving as an undergraduate teaching assistant.

Then, as threats to DACA became widespread, he made a decision. “I knew there were two pathways in front of me: remain silent and let whatever happens happen, or take an active role fighting for the fate of undocumented immigrants and their families,” he says.

Jonathan Gonzalez-Cruz, ’18, appearing on Fox 61.

Gonzalez-Cruz chose the latter. He joined Connecticut Students for a Dream, an undocumented-youth-led organization. With the group’s help, he led events for undocumented immigrants in the community and also held presentations for educators who worked with this population. Eventually, Gonzalez-Cruz decided to take a more public role, sharing his story with the media to draw attention to the plight of immigrant families. “My involvement centers on immigration because I understand the pain of coming home every night to an empty plate at the dinner table,” he says.

He’s seen numerous triumphs. Lobbying efforts in Washington, D.C., secured the support of U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy, both of Connecticut. In December, he was elected vice president of the Greater New Haven Young Democrats. More recently, the Southern senior helped lobby successfully for passage of a Connecticut bill that allows undocumented students to apply for institutional aid.

“I am so proud that we were able to help get this legislation passed,” says Gonzalez-Cruz, who received the university’s Economics Honors Award in 2017 and 2018. He continues: “As citizens, we should work to make it possible for all students — regardless of their immigration status — to achieve their goals and realize their dreams. When they do, we all win. These students are our future. They are going to change the world.”

Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy signs legislation that allows immigrant students without legal status to be eligible for institutional financial aid at state-run colleges and universities. “I am so proud that we were able to help get this legislation passed,” says Gonzalez-Cruz witnessing the signing, seventh from right.

Gonzalez-Cruz will be among them. He was an immigration law intern with the firm, Krasnogor & Krasnogor, and plans to attend law school — with a goal of working toward immigration reform. In the meantime, he is a top applicant for the highly competitive Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute’s Public Policy Fellowship Program. The final selections will be announced later this spring.

For now, graduation is on the horizon. “It’s not just for me,” he says. “It’s a way to honor my parents and all of the sacrifices they made when they decided to come to the U.S. They gave up their families. They knew they wouldn’t see their mothers, their fathers, their siblings. . . . I can never repay them, but I know this is what they wanted. And I know that none of this would be possible without them.”

Mick Powell is a poet who, she says, “likes revolutionary acts of resistance.” Resistance and revolution can take many forms, and Powell weaves both into her writing through poetic form, language, subject matter, and imagery. “I like that poetry can challenge what we typically think of as poetry,” she says, and indeed her own poems – often provocative and experimental – can push the reader out of familiar territory.

Powell, who graduates this spring with her MFA in creative writing, has just won two major prizes for her work, so her powerful writing is garnering significant attention. Her chapbook, chronicle the body, won the 2017 Chapbook Contest held by Yemassee, the official journal of the University of South Carolina, and her poem “last night I dreamed KJ undead” was a winner in the Winter Writing Contest sponsored by Columbia Journal, based in the Graduate Writing Program at Columbia University School of the Arts. The chapbook is based on the thesis she wrote for the MFA, and the poem she wrote for her friend KJ, who was murdered in the Pulse nightclub massacre in Orlando.

Powell says of her work, “My tendency is to write about bodies and how we use them. Sometimes when we experience violence or hear about it, we forget that both parties are human beings. My call to remember the body is to show that we’re all human.” She shares the stories of people whose stories don’t usually get shared, she says, “sometimes my own stories and sometimes other people’s stories.”

English Professor Vivian Shipley, who was Powell’s thesis adviser, says Powell’s poems are “memorable because they are physical and remind us to think of people who might otherwise be forgotten. What unites her intense and compelling poetry is her knowledge that in spite of the complexity of being human, we cannot allow a world that threatens to drown out song to swallow passion and laughter. Mick Powell’s poems contain a deep understanding of what it is to be human because she has cored them from the heart.”

Like many writers, Powell began writing when she was a child. She grew up in Bridgeport and attended an art high school in Trumbull, where she focused on creative writing, writing mostly fiction while also “dabbling in poetry.” She started a literary magazine at her high school and was the fiction editor. “I definitely thought of myself as a fiction writer then,” she says, but when she went off to college at the University of Connecticut, a poetry survey course she took in her first semester intrigued her. “I became interested in how poets tell stories as opposed to how fiction writers tell stories, “ she says. “Poetry allowed me to explore different forms of narrative.”

With the rise of spoken word and slam poetry, and their accessibility through such online platforms as YouTube, Powell says she became more familiar with these forms. She shifted from writing fiction to writing poetry as an undergrad, but “always knew I wanted to go to grad school. I was especially interested in women’s studies and poetry and found myself wanting to talk about poetry through a women’s studies lens.” She was attracted to Southern because of both the Women’s Studies Program and the MFA program and started at the university in 2016.

Of her prize-winning work, Powell says that the chapbook is a collection of experiences, “a lot dealing with my family, but also asking, how do we navigate in the world, how does the Internet facilitate our interactions with each other? Relationships are very important to me – familial relationships, relationships with ourselves and with the community, as well as love relationships.”

Chapbook judge Aaron Coleman, a poet whose work Powell admires, said of Powell’s collection: “Urgent music and breathtaking self-reflection spill from chronicle the body. …I’m also reminded of all the ways we must work to remember the simple miracle of our bodies, their wounds and healing, in a world that so often refuses to see the body’s – in particular: black women’s bodies’ – trials and complexities. But chronicle the body lives and sings in the midst of our American mess, crafting its own rituals and music. . . Especially in our current moment of unmasking dangerous facades of masculinity, I’m grateful for the brilliant courage we witness here. chronicle the body is a collage of the sacred, mundane, familial, and existential; together, these images, emotions, and stories thrive as one ecstatic whole….chronicle the body’s time has come — as both testament and challenge, this is a book we need.”

As the winner of the chapbook contest, Powell will receive $1000 and 25 copies of her published chapbook. For the Columbia contest, her poem will be published in the journal and she will receive $500.

Currently the dean of students at a social justice high school in New Haven, Powell says that after she graduates she’d like to teach. “I like to talk about poetry, and I like to support people on their journey.”

Read a sampling of Powell’s writing:

“i am thinking of fire forgiveness my mother (and fire)” – published in Apogee, 31 May 2017

Four poems by Mick Powell – published in Crabfat Magazine, April 2018

 

 

SCSU Respiratory Therapy Student John Priest, Class of 2018, at work at Boston Children's Hospital

The first time John Priest went to Southern, he dropped out to chase a baseball trainer’s job in New Hampshire.

“Being young and foolish, I did OK in school, but not great,” said the 38-year-old Cheshire native, who was majoring in exercise science at the time. “Then in 2002, I just kind of stopped going.”

In the years that followed, Priest got married, became a dad, and eventually earned an associate degree in respiratory therapy, trading the baseball gig for a hospital job.

Later this month – 20 years after he first enrolled − he will don a cap and gown and finally earn his bachelor’s degree as the first graduate of Southern’s Associate of Science to Bachelor of Science in Respiratory Therapy (A.S. to B.S.R.T.) program.

“It’s a long time coming,” said Priest, who now lives in Stow, Mass. with his wife and two children, a daughter, 8, and son, 5.“It’s even more of an honor to be the first one.”

Southern launched the program in the fall of 2015 in response to a national push for respiratory therapists to earn bachelor’s degrees, said Joan Kreiger, respiratory care program coordinator at Southern. Eligible students must be certified respiratory therapists and hold an associate degree in respiratory care.

Leaders at three Connecticut community colleges – Manchester, Norwalk and Naugatuck Valley — approached the university about starting a program for students who wished to continue their studies, Kreiger said.

Those community colleges offered two-year programs in respiratory therapy, but at the time there were no public bachelor’s degree programs anywhere in New England, Kreiger explained.

Priest, who completed the bachelor’s program online, said he hoped a bachelor’s degree would propel him into a research or management role at Boston Children’s Hospital, where he works full time as an ECMO specialist. (ECMO is a form of respiratory therapy that uses a heart and lung machine to oxygenate the blood. (It technically stands for Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation.)

So far, he’s off to a good start. Priest’s capstone project at Southern has piqued the interest of the surgical staff at Boston Children’s and could lead to changes in hospital protocol if his findings stand up to further study, he said.

“It was quite an impressive presentation,” said Kreiger, who traveled to Boston Children’s for the presentation along with Sandra Bulmer, dean of the School of Health and Human Services. “It was extremely professional and he’s obviously well-regarded by his colleagues.”

Priest’s project evaluated the way blood clotting is monitored in infants undergoing ECMO therapy. Since blood clots are a major risk factor in ECMO, patients, including newborns, are given the blood-thinner Heparin during therapy, he explained. But too much can lead to a brain bleed, another potentially deadly complication.

At Boston Children’s, newborns on Heparin are checked hourly using the Activated Clotting Time (ACT) blood test, which measures the time it takes for the blood to form clots. If the numbers are out of range, the Heparin dose is adjusted.

Priest said the ACT is already known for having a high margin of error, but his research found the test and others like it are even less reliable in newborns, whose clotting factors haven’t fully developed. As a result, changing the dose based on hourly readings could lead to over- or under-medicating the baby.

“My idea was instead of treating the actual number (every hour), we start treating the trend,” he said. “If we do see an upward trend after three hours, that’s when we’d start decreasing the dose.”

Priest’s next step is to expand the study to more patients and if the data holds up, he will present it to a committee of surgical and ICU attending physicians, some of whom have already indicated their openness to changing the protocol.

He is also co-authoring an article about the study for AARC Times, the monthly magazine of the American Association of Respiratory Care, a challenge he said he feels especially prepared for thanks to his courses at Southern.

“Getting better at scientific writing and being able to speak the language of (academic research) was probably the best thing to come out of it,” he said of enrolling in the program.

Kreiger said she was thrilled Southern would be graduating its first respiratory therapy student, and even more excited it is someone like Priest “who really embraced the whole experience.”  She said she hopes his story will inspire other adult learners, who make up a majority of the program.

“It does take quite a leap of faith and a big support system sometimes to come back to school in the middle of life,” Kreiger said. “John just exemplified how it could be done, not only well, but expertly.”

SCSU Student John Priest with Dean Sandra Bulmer and Professor Joan Kreiger

Photos courtesy of Boston Children’s Hospital

Jerry Angelica Photography

Graduating senior Terri Lane is ready to sing, to raise her voice — a soulful, mighty four-octaves — to the rafters for the latest in a lifelong series of standout performances.

Lane has opened for Foreigner and the late Johnny Winter; won WPLR’s Battle of the Bands; and sung backup for Michael and Orrin Bolton, Harry Connick Jr., Eddie Money, and a host of others. But May 18 marks a special milestone for the self-described “bluesy rocker chick,” who will sing the alma mater at Southern’s undergraduate commencement exercises — minutes after crossing the stage to receive a bachelor’s degree in music.

Commencement is a celebration of beginnings, but this will be a culmination of sorts for Lane, the final of three performances packed into an emotional two days. Southern also will hold two graduate commencement ceremonies on May 17, and Lane will sing several songs at both, including a personal selection, “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” by Simon and Garfunkel. She’ll preface each with a short recollection. “About my journey and how there is always hope — and a helping hand to get us through,” she says.

After completing several classes during Southern’s summer session, Lane moves on to Columbia University, Teachers College to begin its prestigious graduate program in music and music education. Making her achievement all the more inspiring, she’s overcome years of horrendous childhood abuse at the hands of her mother, who suffered from severe alcohol and drug addiction.

“We lived in an upper-middle class part of Trumbull, and no one knew what was happening inside of our house,” says Lane, who recalls wearing pants and long sleeves to hide bruises — and missing school when her injuries were too severe to cover. “I was bullied because I was so thin and withdrawn,” says Lane, who still managed to earn top grades.

She suffered through years of abuse before a guidance counselor stepped in. “The types of stories I was telling . . . they just couldn’t believe it at first. It sounded preposterous. What mother would starve her own child,” says Lane. She was placed with a loving foster family for a time. But her mother refused to relinquish custody. Eventually, after being forced to return to her original home, Lane was emancipated as a minor at the age of 15.

She eventually found peace with her mother — and, says that today, she holds love and forgiveness in her heart. Later, when both her mother and a half-brother died in separate drug overdoses, she says the sense of loss “put her into a tailspin.”

Music major Terri Lane, ’18, performing at a sold-out concert at Toad’s Place in 2007. Photo: Andrew Wallach Photography

Through it all music was a saving grace. At the age of three, Lane sat at her grandmother’s piano, “pinging” out melodies heard on the radio. When she was 11, she began classical voice training — and received her first standing ovation at the age of 14 at a school concert. “School and music were my only outlets. They kept my alive,” she says.

Plans to attend college on scholarship to major in music were put on hold. But music remained a touchstone — a source of income and solace. “I never said no to a gig,” says Lane, with a smile. “I was in the studio and performing musical theater at a professional level. . . . I studied acting and got into my first band. I wrote songs.”

She also began working in the energy sector, taking classes at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute at Hartford and moving up the corporate ladder. She was working in management, when she had an epiphany and finally resigned. “It was time to change my lot — to go after my dreams completely, ” she says. In 2010, drawing exclusively on her extensive industry experience, Lane became an instructor of voice at the University of New Haven. The work united her love of music and teaching — and ultimately confirmed the importance of earning an undergraduate degree to further her career.

Lane’s path led to Southern, where she started undergraduate classes in spring 2014. “When I researched the schools, Southern was it,” she says. “I’d researched the professors, the degree plan, and everything offered. I was so amazed by the experience of some of the professors — especially their musicianship. . . . It was very important to me that they be actively involved in music.”

Terri Lane, ’18, [third from left] was one of the first recipients of the Stutzman Family Foundation Music Scholarship, funded by the Stutzman Family Foundation. Highly accomplished as a Southern student,
Walter Stutzman, ’09, is an award-winning adjunct faculty member. From left: Stutzman and Stutzman Scholars Kristen Casale, ’17; Lane; Jaromy Green; Mary Rose Garych, ’17; and Brendan Donovan, ’18.

After successfully auditioning, Lane was named one of several recipients of the first Stutzman Family Music Scholarship, funded by the Stutzman Family Foundation. Like other music majors and minors, she also benefited from the Southern Applied Music Program, which provides free weekly voice or instrument lessons. The program is funded by the Stutzman Family Foundation as well.

“When I started, I could sing about 3¾ octaves. They have taken me a little over four octaves since I have been here. I am actually stronger than I have ever been as a singer,” says Lane, who worked with applied lesson instructor Rebecca Barko.

The faculty, in turn, are effusive in their praise of Lane. Craig Hlavac, interim associate dean of the School of Arts and Sciences, comments on her acceptance into Columbia University’s graduate program: “This is a testament not only to her perseverance and talents, but also [to] how Southern can prepare students from all backgrounds to thrive in both employment and at the graduate level.”

Lane, meanwhile, can’t wait to begin the next phase of her education. She plans to start performing again once settled into graduate work — and says she’ll keep sharing her story to help others hurt by abuse. She hopes her words of survival bring courage and solace.

“I know what it is like to play in front of thousands of screaming fans — to feel that extraordinary rush of love,” she says. “ I don’t hold anything back when I sing. I give everything — even the pain. It’s the only way I know. That’s how I healed myself over the years.”

SCSU students Eric Clinton, Tracy Tenesaca, and Alyssa Pearl Korzon
Scholarship support helps students make the most of their Southern experience. A new online application process makes it easy for them to apply.

Business major Eric T. Clinton doesn’t have much down time. Since arriving at Southern in 2014, he’s helped launch a mentoring group for men of color, served as a peer mentor to new students, and tackled numerous lead roles in campus theater productions.

Public Health major Tracy Tenesaca (center) is equally driven. In addition to being a peer mentor in the Honors College, she’s vice president of the Class of 2018, a member of OLAS (the organization of Latin American Students), and an extremely active volunteer.

Then there’s Alyssa Korzon, an Honors College student with a dual major in special education and theatre. Korzon has two jobs — she’s a certified yoga instructor and works in retail — and is president of Active Minds, a group dedicated to mental health awareness and advocacy.

Clinton, Tenesaca, and Korzon have unique backgrounds, accomplishments, and dreams. But their Southern success stories share a common thread. All are scholarship recipients, a distinction that recognizes their achievements — while lessening financial pressures so they can make the most of their Southern experience. (The specific scholarships each receives are included with their photos.)

More than 300 scholarships are overseen by the SCSU Foundation, with funds benefiting both undergraduate and graduate students. In 2017, the application process was simplified, making it possible for students to apply for all by completing a single online application. Applying takes as little as 10 minutes, but students may opt to earn extra points by completing an optional short essay.

“They are quite amazing,” says Heather Rowe, business manager of the SCSU Foundation. “Our students are very passionate about what they want to do with their lives. They are dedicated to helping their peers — and they want to pay it forward.”

Three out of every four Southern undergrads receive some form of financial aid — and in 2015-2016, almost 41 percent of undergraduates received a Federal Pell Grant, awarded to those with the most extreme need. Scholarship dollars, like grants, do not have to repaid. As such, scholarships play an extremely important role in a student’s financial aid package: helping them graduate with less debt.

At Southern, about 75 percent of the Class of 2016 graduated with student debt averaging about $28,000, according to a study by LendEDU. The SCSU Foundation hopes to sharply slash both statistics with the help of donations from alumni, faculty, staff, parents, and friends.

Among them is Rowe, who last year established the Grace Rowe International Travel Award to benefit students who want to enhance their education through travel. The award honors Rowe’s mother, who received a framed certificate announcing the fund’s creation on her 95th birthday. “It represents something she firmly believes in — the power of travel to broaden your horizons. I was raised on the road and international travel was part of my upbringing,” says Rowe.

The ability to tailor a scholarship to reflect a donor’s specific desires is readily seen when browsing through the 300-plus funds. Some benefit students with certain majors or career aspirations. Others recognize specific talents like athletics success or community service. Students may browse through the various scholarships on the website — and learn about the donors.

At a time of great need, foundation scholarships were at an all-time high for fiscal year 2017 at just under $800,000. The goal, moving forward, is to encourage more students to apply and to establish additional funds to benefit them. Consider the words of David McHale, ’98, chairman of the SCSU Foundation Board, speaking at the inauguration of President Joe Bertolino: “It’s our aspiration, perhaps, in just a few short years to provide $1 million in scholarships to 1,000 students. That would be a real game changer for this university.”

NBC Connecticut morning co-anchors Heidi Voight, '10, and Ted Koppy

It was a trial by fire for up-and-coming journalist Heidi Voight, ’10. “My very first live shot on air was as breaking as it gets — just minutes after a deadly EF3 tornado tore through Springfield, Mass.,” says Voight, who was working as a photographer, shooting video in the south end of the city when the twister struck on June 1, 2011. With trees downed, buildings crumbled, and roads blocked, the main anchor couldn’t make it to the scene. “Suddenly, the live truck operator grabbed my camera from my hands, switched it out for a microphone, and told me, `Stand by. You’re going to be live on the air in 10 seconds,’” she recalls.

Voight’s report — and her one-year update on the storm — won Emmy Awards. She soon signed an on-air contract and, today, is the morning anchor for NBC Connecticut with a loyal following.

“I was the first in my immediate family to attend and finish college,” says Voight, who worked full-time while majoring in theatre at Southern. In 2006, while studying at Southern, she represented the state as Miss Connecticut. She also was recognized regionally and nationally as the recipient of the prestigious National Critics Institute Scholarship through the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival.

“I worked with some of the nation’s most respected journalists at the Kennedy Center and at the Eugene O’Neill American Theatre Conference as a Critic Fellow in 2004, which cemented my career path,” she says. “That door only opened for me because one professor, Sheila Garvey, [Department of Theatre], took notice of my interest in writing and encouraged me to enter a competition I otherwise would never have known about.”

Voight, who is celebrating her fourth anniversary with NBC Connecticut, says she’s grateful for personal blessings as well. She’s recently married, is a new home owner, and, is expecting twin girls in June. Following she talks about her journey from Southern to the NBC news desk.

You were named the NBC Connecticut Today morning anchor in June 2016. Was becoming a news anchor a long-term goal?
Yes! Growing up in Milford, Conn., I watched local news anchors like Joanne Nesti, Janet Peckinpaugh, Diane Smith, and Ann Nyberg, and dreamed of becoming like them someday. I always had a passion for storytelling and writing. When I was still in elementary school, our school librarian, Mrs. Williams, nicknamed me “reporter lady” because I was always there researching and writing book reports, always clutching my notebook. So I can truly say I’m living my dream today as a journalist.

What’s the best part of the job? What’s most challenging?
The best part of the job is being able to shine a light on the good that is happening in the world and here in my home state. I am a believer that journalism can and should make the world a better place. The most challenging part is not losing heart when we have to cover all the bad things that happen in between those bright spots. There are some stories that haunt me. There have been some difficult moments. But I always say: the day you stop feeling human emotions in response to the tough stories is the day you need to hang it up. Never lose your empathy. The journalists I most admire, like Steve Hartman, Lester Holt, and Savannah Guthrie, are not afraid to be real [when] relating to others.

Looking back, are there stories you worked on that stand out as pivotal to your career?
My career started with a bang: My very first live shot on air was as breaking as it gets — just minutes after a deadly EF3 tornado tore through Springfield, Mass. I was in the devastated south end of the city, roaming around with my camera shooting video as a photographer. Because of all the downed trees and crumbling buildings, many roads were blocked off and our main anchor couldn’t race to the scene in time for her live shot. Suddenly, the live truck operator grabbed my camera from my hands, switched it out for a microphone, and told me, “Stand by. You’re going to be live on the air in 10 seconds.”

Wait. What?! And just like that, I was reporting live on the air for the first time. I wasn’t dressed for TV. I didn’t have a script. I didn’t even have time to collect my thoughts. I just said what I was seeing and hearing. I grabbed a man off the sidewalk and interviewed him live. He had hidden under a table when the windows in his apartment blew out. He said he felt lucky to be alive. That was truly the first day of the rest of my career. . . . I ended up signing an on-air contract shortly after. Our team coverage that day — and [our coverage] on the one year anniversary — won Emmy awards. Talk about baptism by fire!

What are some of the stories that your most proud of?
More recently, I was very proud to be recognized with six awards from the Connecticut Society of Professional Journalists for my reporting on a range of issues — including a series profiling fallen law enforcement officers, and an investigation into state and federal funding of Connecticut’s highway service patrol fleet.

I’m proud of stories that get results for our viewers and hold leaders accountable. And I’m proud of stories that delve deep into the human experience. I was the only TV reporter besides the Today Show’s Matt Lauer to exclusively interview Madonna Badger, the woman who lost her three beautiful children and both parents in a 2011 Christmas day fire in Stamford. Earning her trust and having the privilege of telling her unimaginable story of grief and healing was profoundly humbling.


What five adjectives describe you as a journalist?
Relentless. Competitive. Connected. Empathetic. Engaged.

Your on-air bio describes you as a “proud graduate of Southern Connecticut State University.” Tell us a bit about that pride. How did Southern help to prepare you for your career?
What really stands out in my mind is the sense of community I felt at Southern. I really felt like my professors took a vested interest in my success, not just as a student but as a person. I arrived at SCSU during a tumultuous time in my life. I needed support and direction, and I got it from so many special people on campus, from my professors to the staff at Student Affairs, the Women’s Center [now known as VPAS, the Violence Prevention, Victim Advocacy, and Support Center], and other departments. I still keep in touch with many of my professors to this day.

I was the first in my immediate family to attend and finish college. It took me a little longer than most, as I worked full-time all through college to support myself. I also took a nontraditional path into the journalism field as a theatre major, but at Southern I was always encouraged to explore my intellectual curiosities like journalism and philosophy, and taking those classes opened up new opportunities for me. I believe that multidisciplinary education made me a more well-rounded journalist.

“My second family,” says Voight,’10, of the NBC Connecticut morning team. Pictured at her wedding are [from left]: meteorologist Bob Maxon (he officiated), Voight, Ted Koppy, co-anchor, and Hanna Mordoh, traffic reporter.

Last but not least, we saw the emotional on-air announcement that you and husband, David, are expecting twins. Congratulations! What’s it like to share this journey with your viewers and fellow news team?
Thank you so much! I am expecting identical twin girls in late May/early June. (June 8 if we go full term but twins often like to make their grand entrance early!) I am so overwhelmed by all the kindness and support shown to me by our viewers and my colleagues. I’m coming up on my fourth anniversary here at NBC Connecticut, and it blows my mind to look back on how much my life has changed since I first walked through these doors. In that time, I’ve worked my way up to the anchor desk full-time, I’ve gotten engaged and married, am starting my own family, and becoming a first-time homeowner.

These are all the things I only dreamed of back when I was waiting tables full-time and riding my bike or the city bus to class at SCSU so many years ago. Now there are billboards for our morning team on those same city buses. It’s crazy. I am so grateful and I don’t take a second of it for granted. It’s all proof that if you work hard, let yourself be helped by your supportive SCSU community, and relentlessly pursue every opportunity made available to you, you WILL find your purpose and you CAN live your dream. GO OWLS!

Voight, who is expecting twins, poses with the news team’s “Snow Monster” weather vehicle and her two “snow babies.” In, perhaps, one of the most epic gender reveals in NBC history, Today anchors, Savannah Guthrie and Hoda Kotb, paused in their reporting from the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea, to share that Voight and husband, David, are expecting girls.