Monthly Archives: August 2018

The sky’s the limit for Gabriel Geist, ’17, and Jack Dowe, ’17, co-founders of FlyReal, a full-service drone marketing and consulting company.

The FlyReal team includes [from left] two alumni of Southern’s School of Business — Gabriel Geist,’17, and Jack Dowe, ’17 — and fellow partners Justin Kegley and José Alvarez de Lugo [missing from photo].

You know your college business course is a standout when it inspires you to launch an actual business. So it was for Jack Dowe, ’17, and Gabriel Geist, ’17, who on April 12, 2017, exited Management 450 — Business Policy and Strategy — and headed to a study room in Buley Library to incorporate their new company.

“How’s that for a founders’ story?” asks Dowe of the resulting enterprise — FlyReal, a marketing and consulting company that specializes in drone video and photography. Based in New Haven, the company works primarily with the real estate industry, but has expanded into general marketing. Soon after taking to the skies, the FlyReal team has completed projects in 12 states for clients that include the KeyBank Foundation and commercial real estate leaders Marcus and Millichap, Cushman and Wakefield, Northside Development, and the NNN Pro Group. “The biggest kick for me is that we are helping to define an entire industry,” says Dowe.

A partnership forms
The FlyReal story began in a classroom — a Saturday session of the aforementioned Management 450, taught by Linda Ferraro, assistant professor of management. All business majors are required to complete the capstone course, which challenges teams of students to “run” a simulated business — a sensor company with about $100 million in initial hypothetical sales. Working online and in the classroom, each team draws on everything learned in previous business courses: accounting, economics, management, marketing, and more to operate their “sensor company” as successfully as possible.

The business-strategy simulation — called Capstone™ — is fittingly challenging. It was originally developed by Capsim for corporate management training, used by companies like Microsoft, General Electric, PwC, and Samsung. “It’s used in quite a few MBA programs,” says Ferraro. “It definitely requires students to up their game.”

Dowe and Geist were placed on the same Management 450 team. The senior business majors hadn’t previously met but had a lot in common — specifically a commitment to their studies. Dowe transferred to Southern from George Washington University in Washington, D.C., where he received a scholarship after graduating summa cum laude from Hamden Hall Country Day School. It had seemed a dream scenario. But the fit wasn’t right, and he made the difficult decision to leave for New Haven.

At Southern, everything fell into place. Dowe was named one of eight School of Business Ambassadors — a leadership-development program — and was invited to Tokyo, Japan, to explore international business through a program led by alumnus Austin Auger, ’78. Dowe ultimately graduated summa cum laude.

Gabriel Geist was a transfer student as well, enrolling at Southern after taking classes at Middlesex Community College. He also studied abroad, spending a semester at the highly regarded EDHEC Business School in Lille, France. As a Southern student, he tutored classmates at the Academic Success Center, completed two tax internships, and served as treasurer of SUMA Marketing (Southern’s chapter of the American Marketing Association) as well as the Accounting Society. He also worked part-time as a ballroom dance instructor —managing his busy schedule and graduating cum laude.

The two dedicated students took Management 450 in their final semester — and they gave it 110 percent. They each worked near the New Haven green, and would sometimes meet for lunch to discuss the project. One day, Geist shared an idea he’d had while studying abroad in France: a drone marketing company.

“The most important thing I learned in Management 450 was to view my learning outside of the context of the classroom,” says Gabriel Geist, ’17, (right) with Jack Dowe, ’17, (center) and Justin Kegley.

Dowe was intrigued and the student teammates soon became real-life business partners. They found an initial investor, purchased the required equipment, and within months FlyReal was open for business.

“The most important thing I learned in Management 450 was to view my learning outside of the context of the classroom,” notes Geist. “I give credit to Linda Ferraro and her discussion-based learning style for our success in developing our business idea.”

Their former professor is thrilled but not surprised to learn about FlyReal. Dowe and Geist did well in the class, ending the business simulation with more than $400 million in hypothetical sales over eight simulated years — a 300 percent increase. “Both are extremely intelligent and exceedingly professional,” she says. “Jack [Dowe] has the ability to unite people around a common purpose. He has great energy and enthusiasm — and a level of curiosity that inspires him to ask questions without fear,” says Ferraro.

Her opinion of Geist is equally telling. “Gabe is extremely thoughtful and analytical. He integrates information so well and is also curious, but in a less extroverted way.” They are, she notes, a good team.

Which leads us to today. Challenges remain — including balancing the demands of holding traditional corporate positions while running their own business. Dowe is a multi-family analyst at M&T Realty Capital Corporation and Geist is an international tax associate with RSM US, where he previously interned.

They are also entrepreneurs. As managing partners at FlyReal, they work alongside partners José Alvarez de Lugo, director of business development, and Justin Kegley, creative director, who pilots the drones.

Dowe and Geist say the opportunity for future success is their ultimate inspiration. They hope to expand FlyReal’s focus and work with hotels, resorts, golf courses, and more. They also would like to segue into industrial applications such as mapping, zoning, and surveying.

“Right now, drones are largely for hobbyists,” says Dowe. “But in 10 years, every industry is going to have an application for a drone.” He pauses, then asks a hypothetical question: “When that time comes, who is going to have a platform of FAA- [Federal Aviation Administration] certified, experienced drone operators — one that is large enough to meet that huge need? There will be very few. And if you can be one of the top 10, you’re all set.”

Southern’s Honors College brings the best of both worlds to academically proficient students: the challenging curriculum and small class sizes found at elite private colleges — and the countless opportunities and comparatively low cost of a major public university.

First-year and sophomore members of the Honors College gathered to present their research at an on-campus student conference in spring 2018.

Julia Rotella, ’17, excelled in honors-level courses at Masuk High School in Monroe, Conn., and had her pick of potential colleges. Drawing on her long-held interest in business — Rotella sold items on eBay as a child — she looked into Bentley University, a regionally top-ranked private college specializing in business where annual tuition/fees totaled more than $41,000 at the time (2013-14).

At Jonathan Law High School in Milford, Conn., Cody Edson, ’16, M.S. ’17, also earned top grades but planned to postpone college. The oldest of five siblings, he knew tuition costs would be challenging for himself and his parents, both police officers. So he thought he’d enlist in the U.S. Navy and attend college later.

In contrast, Kara Jones, ’18, the oldest of four, says postponing college was never an option. A talented student at Stonington High School, Jones intended to become an educator — and a well-respected teacher recommended Southern, citing its historically excellent education program. “But to be honest, it was at the bottom of my list,” says Jones. “I had my eye on a number of other places. I didn’t even know about the Honors College.”

School of Business and Honors College graduate Julia Rotella, ’17

Ah, the twists and turns of the college search process — the oft-demanding quest for the perfect mix of access, affordability, comfort, and aspirational goals. Months later, when Jones happily enrolled at Southern, she was one of about 40 first-year students in Southern’s Honors College — a program for students who excelled in high school and show a strong desire to continue their outstanding academic success.

Her experience was echoed by Rotella and Edson. All received Presidential Merit Scholarships covering full in-state tuition and fees — and, in hindsight, all say their decision to join Southern’s Honors College was the right one. Their academic success is certainly telling — reflecting the program’s historical student-retention rate of well-over 90 percent. In 2017, Rotella graduated summa cum laude — after being named the runner-up in the American Marketing Association’s national “Student Member of the Year” competition.

As for Jones and Edson? Both moved on to graduate school at nationally top-ranked universities. This fall, Jones will pursue a master’s degree in the reading specialist program at Teachers College, Columbia University — aided by a scholarship covering full tuition and fees. Meanwhile, Edson — who earned undergraduate and graduate degrees in chemistry in five years through an accelerated program at Southern — is pursuing a doctorate at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) in Troy, N.Y. “Applying to a Ph.D. program is very competitive,” says Edson. “But because of the research I did at Southern and all of the extracurricular activities, RPI said, ‘We want you.’ It was a very humbling experience to be wanted by such a prestigious university.”

James Kearns, assistant professor of chemistry, works with Honors College graduate Cody Edson, ’16, M.S. ’17.

Southern’s Honor College has a history of such success stories, says Terese Gemme, who’s led the program since 2002. A commitment to excellence is a hallmark of the Honors College, which offers small, seminar-style classes (under 20 students) and a focus on interdisciplinary study, faculty-student collaboration, research, and writing. “Those who apply are looking for a challenge. They want to be part of a community of scholars — and they believe that education should provide room for in-depth exploration and creative learning,” says Gemme.

At some universities, honors programs have come under fire for being isolationist, in effect creating a multi-tiered approach to education. In contrast, Southern’s Honors College is highly inclusive. Students may choose any major — and also take many regular courses. In 2016-17, honors theses were completed by 35 students representing 15 different majors, including art, communication, economics and finance, nursing, and physics.

The program was recently restructured to offer two levels of study. Most students continue to participate in the program over four years, completing honors courses in place of most university liberal arts requirements. In addition, a new Honors College minor also has been introduced, requiring a minimum of 18 honors course credits, including a capstone experience.

This capstone experience — required of all traditional Honors College participants as well as those electing the minor — has become more flexible as well. As in the past, students may complete a departmental honors thesis or creative project. But they may also conduct community-engaged research or study abroad.

The depth and diversity of their work are impressive — particularly for students at the undergraduate level. For his honors thesis, Joshua Cohn, ’17, an art major in the Honors College, held a solo exhibit of stunning sculptures he created from “repurposed earthly materials”— granite, ceramic, and metal. In contrast, Edson worked with James Kearns, assistant professor of chemistry, to develop a field test to determine arsenic levels in soil. And Rotella developed a business plan that incorporated social responsibility.

Recent Honors College graduate Joshua Cohn, ’17, mounted a solo art exhibit for his senior honors thesis.

This added flexibility is a boon to students who are dedicated to making the most of their education. “If you ask most students in the Honors College what they like to do, they can’t keep quiet. There are just too many things they’re interested in,” says J. Philip Smith, professor emeritus of mathematics and former interim president of Southern. Smith was the founding director of the Honors College and continues to teach Honors College courses, including “Ambiguity and Uncertainty in the Arts and Sciences,” an interdisciplinary course he leads alongside Michael Shea, professor of English.

Jones, who double majored in education and psychology, says the course was one of her favorites. She comments: “I love English but wasn’t able to pursue it as a major in college, so I liked having that time to explore literature — or even to talk about math because it’s not a subject I would normally approach.

“From an educational standpoint, that is something I value,” Jones continues. “I don’t think you should be going to college just for a degree. I think you should go to learn . . . to become well-rounded and a critical thinker.”

There are significant financial incentives as well — particularly relevant since college students from all four-year institutions of higher learning in Connecticut graduated with an average debt level of more than $35,490 in 2016. Beginning with the Class of 2020, all first-year students admitted to Southern’s Honors College receive a merit-based scholarship. Currently, the top 20 percent are awarded a Presidential Merit Scholarship covering full in-state tuition costs and fees. For the remainder, the scholarship covers a minimum of one-half of these costs. All are renewable for four years.

Francisco Salinas, an Honors College student who graduated in May with a degree in computer science and a minor in mathematics, says that the financial support allows students to focus more fully on their studies — as well as meaningful internships, research opportunities, and community outreach. A native of Quito, Ecuador, he immigrated to the U.S. with his family in 2001 — and went on to graduate seventh in his class at Platt Technical High School. He applied to the Honors College at his father’s urging — and says he was somewhat overwhelmed to receive the acceptance letter and learn he’d received a full Presidential Merit Scholarship. “We were immediately celebrating. That was one of the best days of my life,” he says.

FINDING THE PERFECT MATCH
There are 180 students in the Honors College, including those who applied to the program after their first-year or as transfer students. (The latter groups do not receive scholarships.)

Honors College students are a talented group: the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) scores of last year’s entering class averaged 1250. (The 2018 application suggested a minimum combined SAT score of approximately 1080, or the ACT equivalent.) That said, admissions is based on far more than test scores, including letters of recommendation; a review of past leadership and community service; and several essays. “I can tell you that 100 percent of our students are involved in leadership or community service in high school,” says Gemme.

Finalists are invited to an Honors College Essay Day to learn more about the program, complete a writing prompt, and join an Honors College-style class. The review process is rigorous and time-consuming, particularly in comparison to some colleges that rely solely on standardized test scores. “We only have 40 spots per year — and not only do we want the 40 best students, but we want the 40 students who we think will be most successful and thrive in the program,” says Gemme.

Honors College students share their research at an on-campus conference.

Interest in the Honors College has grown significantly, fueled, in part, by rising tuition costs at private colleges and the comparatively low cost of attending Southern. In recent years, the New York Times, U.S. News, USA Today, the Washington Post, and countless others have lauded the benefits of honors programs offered at state universities.

At Southern, there were more than 200 applicants for the Honors College’s 40 spots for first-year students in 2017 — an increase of more than 122 percent from four years prior. “The Honors College now attracts students from across the country – which it didn’t do initially,” says Smith.

Regardless of where students hail from, once at Southern, the Honors College is home. Building that sense of community, in recent years, about 74 percent of students opted to live with peers in the on-campus Honors College Living and Learning Community, located in West Residence Campus Hall.

Kara Jones chose that option her first and sophomore years — and continued to live with three Honors College students when she moved as an upper-classman. “We built lifelong friendships. . . . We worked on group assignments and helped each other edit papers. Some of the Honors College classes are very challenging, so it was good for morale to live together,” says Jones.

Students also often gather at the Honors College Library, which in March 2010 was dedicated in memory of Daniel Ort, professor emeritus of English and the Honors College co-founder. (The program began in 1982 and was initially the brainchild of Ort; Martin Anisman, then dean of the School of Arts and Sciences; and Kenneth Gatzke, professor of philosophy, according to Smith, who became the program’s first director.)

Looking forward, the program’s recent changes — including the aforementioned adoption of the new minor, enhanced capstone options, an increased focus on community outreach, and scholarship dollars for all — offer expanded opportunities for future scholars. Yet, challenges remain. Gemme notes that based on interest, the Honors College could easily double in size while still keeping its small community feel. But additional funding is needed to provide more merit scholarships. “There are so many students who we think would be great in the program that we just don’t have the scholarships to support,” says Gemme.

In the meantime, she is committed to making the experience as rich as possible for today’s Honors College students. She concedes that at least initially some of these “star students” do not see themselves as Southern candidates. “Not all of them choose to go here,” she says. “But many, once they see what we are and what we do, realize Southern is exactly what they want. . . . They find it’s like being in a liberal arts college with peers who are as excited about learning as they are. And they also have all the resources of a large university — the football team, the campus-wide service learning opportunities, the theater, student government, clubs, and student life. It’s the best of both worlds.” ■

Elm Shakespeare Company returns to New Haven’s Edgerton Park this summer with one of the Bard’s less performed plays, Love’s Labour’s Lost. Celebrating its 23rd season, Elm Shakespeare is Southern’s theater company in residence and provides world-class theater, free of charge, to audiences of approximately 30,000 people from throughout greater New Haven and statewide. This year will mark the company directorial debut of Producing Artistic Director Rebecca Goodheart and will also feature the return of Elm Shakespeare Company Founding Artistic Director James Andreassi in the role of Don Armado.

This year’s production will also feature acclaimed professional actors and theater professionals with ties to Southern, including SCSU faculty and sound designer Mike Skinner, Theatre Department Chair Kaia Monroe-Rarick, and lecturer Benjamin Curns. The company also employs a number of current and former Southern students as actors and production staff for the summer, including senior Matt Iannantuoni as company manager and recent graduates Kevin Redline as wardrobe supervisor, Ashley Sweet as second assistant stage manager, and Cailey Harwood Smith as property master. The Love’s Labour’s Lost cast also features several SCSU alumni, including Betzabeth Castro as Katherine (pictured above), Brianna Bauch as Moth, and Gracy Brown as Boyet, as well as senior Sasha Mahmoud as Maria.

The powerful longstanding partnership between Elm Shakespeare and Southern, begun in 1997, became official in 2016 with the signing of an official Memo of Understanding designating Elm Shakespeare as the Theater-in-Residence at Southern. Elm Shakespeare now has offices on campus, offers a variety of its educational programs to youth ages 7-18 at Southern, and is fully integrated into the SCSU Theatre Department activities and facilities.

The 2018 production of Love’s Labour’s Lost is a whimsical jazz-age tale chock full of witty wordplay, music, dance, and riotous mishaps. Love’s Labour’s Lost marks the start of Shakespeare’s most lyrical comedies. With live music before and throughout the performance, Elm’s production promises to be as luscious in language and look as Edgerton Park itself, while posing questions about consent, class, and a woman’s role in the political arena. Love’s Labour’s Lost is a tale of love — for big ideas, for delicious words, and for that special someone. The King of Navarre has sworn to give up the pleasures of the world for serious study and contemplation. But when the Princess of France arrives, exuberant frivolity triumphs over studious drudgery, and the whole town erupts in pursuit of what (and who) they love!

Goodheart says “Love’s Labour’s Lost is indeed a romp and yet it’s also a timely story of what happens when, too enraptured by our own desires, we fail to listen. Love can still win, but there is a price to be paid.”

Summer performances will run Thursday, August 16 through Sunday, September 2, Tuesday-Sunday at 8 p.m. (with live music beginning at 7:30 p.m.) in Edgerton Park in New Haven, located at 75 Cliff Street. The performances will be free to the public with a suggested donation of $20, $10 for students and $5 for children 12 and under. Picnicking prior to the performance is encouraged. Visit the Elm Shakespeare website for more information on cast and production staff bios, play synopsis, directions, news on New Haven food vendors in the park, Tree Talks, and protocol for cancellations due to inclement weather.

Twenty-seven STEM teachers were on campus recently for the sixth annual Materials and Manufacturers Summer Teachers’ Institute, a school-to-career initiative that targets STEM skills instruction in the New Haven and Bridgeport Public Schools, grades 7-12. The teachers’ professional development is the institute’s strategy for engaging 7th – 12th grade students in the practical uses of STEM skills in manufacturing and materials science.

This outreach effort — a strategic partnership among SouthernCRISP, the Southern Connecticut Chapter of the American Society for Materials InternationalCT Technical High School System and the New Haven Manufacturers Association — focuses on teacher education. It immerses teachers in the needs, rigors, skill sets, applications, and training that the manufacturing community need and employ.

To date the program has impacted over 150 teachers from across the State. Christine Broadbridge, dean of the School of Graduate Studies, Research, & Innovation (GSRI) and co-director of the institute, is pleased with the program’s success. “We are looking into expanding and also offering specialized programs for school administrators and school guidance counselors,” she said. Broadbridge also acknowledged the many contributions to the institute made by Robert Klancko, partner, Klancko & Klancko, LLC, and co-director of the institute, who is moving out of state later this year. “Bob has worked tirelessly to champion industry-academic partnerships, and the impact of his efforts are significant and far reaching. This program would not have happened without his hard work and dedication.” Mr. Klancko is the recipient of the 2018 Leadership Award from the American Manufacturing Hall of Fame.

This year’s Institute’s theme was “Gearing Up For The Future,” and the teachers learned about gears — how they are designed and how they are made. On the first day of the institute, a morning session was held at Southern, and an afternoon session was held at Leed Himmel, where teachers toured the manufacturing plant and saw aluminum extrusion and fabrication, and heard from hiring professionals. The second and third days were held at Platt Technical High School in Milford. On these two days, the teachers not only learned about the manufacturing process and materials, but also gained hands-on experience on various machine shop equipment.

An optional fourth half day took place at Assa Abloy, where teachers toured the facilities and spoke to industry professionals. They saw how lock hardware was fabricated and how the extrusions from Leed Himmel were employed.

Overall, science faculty attending the institute learned from industry operations and technical professionals about the following:

  • Their firms and what they produce
  • STEM skill sets that are required
  • The raw materials used, how the product is made and what it is required to perform
  • Why certain materials are utilized and the critical properties of those materials
  • What goes into creating a product
  • Obstacles and limitations associated with creating a product

Want to succeed in life? “Stay curious,” says Rick Capozzi, ’83, who shares the secrets to surviving and thriving in today’s rapidly changing business world in his new book: “The Growth Mindset.”

Alumnus Rick Capozzi graduated from Southern Connecticut State University's School of Business in 1983. Today, he's a leader in the world of finance.

As a high school football star from northern New Jersey, Rick Capozzi, ’83, was being actively recruited by several NCAA Division I universities when he broke his back playing in an all-star game at Giants Stadium. He recovered from the injury, but was no longer a top Div. I prospect. Southern, however, was interested and Capozzi soon was playing in New Haven.

“The first year was tough,” says Capozzi, of his shift in plans. “But I came to love Southern.” Majoring in business administration, he played football for the Owls for three years. He also was a nationally ranked power lifter and served as a residence hall adviser. The latter, he says, provided a crash course in leadership and responsibility.

The skills honed on campus fueled Capozzi’s post-graduation success. He held senior management positions at TD Private Bank, Merrill Lynch, UBS, Wells Fargo, and other industry leaders. His tenure at Morgan Stanley helps illustrate the breadth of his experience. As national sales manager at the organization, he was responsible for the firm’s network of 8,000 financial advisers in nearly 500 offices across the U.S. — and as Morgan Stanley’s regional director, he oversaw more than $35 billion in assets.

Building on such experience, he founded Capozzi Advisory Group in December 2014. “After 30 years on Wall Street, I wanted to be a bit more entrepreneurial,” he says. Today, he’s a sought-after consultant and speaker, who’s made more than 1,200 keynote presentations throughout North America, Europe, the Middle East, and Asia. He’s also a successful author, whose most recent book, “The Growth Mindset: Leadership Makes a Difference in Wealth Management,” outlines strategies for success.

In November, Capozzi, who serves on the Business Advisory Council for Southern’s School of Business, returned to campus to meet with students. Following he shares a few of his thoughts on thriving in business today.

Tell us about the book’s title: “The Growth Mindset.”
Capozzi: Because of technology and innovation, we are facing arguably the greatest period of change in the business world in our lives. If you don’t have a growth mindset — meaning if you are not constantly thinking about ways to grow both professionally and personally — you will fall behind in this rapidly changing economy and world market.

Describe someone with a growth mindset.
Two words come to mind: responsibility and curiosity. Someone with a growth mindset wants to know more about the world around them and they take full responsibility for their lives. They always believe they can improve.

What are some of the changes shaping business?
In my world [economics and finance], the disruption comes from technology — algorithms and robo-advisers. You call in, basically talk to a computer, and based on your responses, it will, in essence, try to manage your money.

In other industries, some of the best examples of disrupters are Uber, Airbnb, Amazon, and Tesla, the electric-auto manufacturer. Think about how much disruption Uber has caused — and they are able to do so because of technology. Uber is basically a technology company. We have no idea where artificial intelligence will lead to in the future. But we know that technological innovation is not going away. It’s going to accelerate.

What’s the effect on the personal level?
Everyone in the business world needs to ask: Can a robot or technology do my job? If the answer is, ‘Yes’ or ‘At some point soon,’ you are probably going to become less relevant unless you take steps.

You stress the importance of the human component as a way of maintaining a competitive edge.
Communication skills are paramount in this economy — and I stress this whether I am talking about leadership with college students or management directors. Seventy percent of our economy is service-based. If you don’t have the right interpersonal and soft skills, it will be hard for you to compete.

People generally do business with people they like. It’s best to form those relationships face to face. . . . If I look you in the eyes when negotiating, I can learn more in three seconds than through 25 email exchanges.

Any quick tips?
I am a big proponent of mentors. Based on the research I did for my book, you are never too old for mentors. I know CEOs who have run organizations with 50,000 employees — leaders who are 70 years old — who still have mentors. Being a mentor is also important. I consider myself a student teacher.

Did you have a mentor at Southern?
I had several. One was my philosophy professor Dr. Mohan [professor emeritus of philosophy]. He opened doors to a world that didn’t exist to me before. I’m from the Class of 1983 — but philosophy is still at the core of what I do today.

Rick Capozzi during a recent visit to Southern, where he is a member of the School of Business Advisory Council.

To what do you attribute your success?
It all started with a belief system. I was absolutely certain that if I wanted something badly enough, no one — no matter who they were — was going to tell me I wasn’t going to achieve it. That belief came from my parents and my siblings. They stressed a strong work ethic and the ability to persevere no matter what.

Also, if I didn’t know something, I was not afraid to ask. I wasn’t afraid of surrounding myself with people who were in some way smarter than me. In fact, my goal was to hire people who had a skill set or knowledge that I didn’t.

Finally, I never stopped learning — and I’m not just talking about the business world. It’s all about curiosity.

What’s something you’ve learned about recently?
My daughter wanted to go shark diving with great whites, so I went. Why? Because I was curious to see what great whites look like from a foot away.

Any final thoughts?
You never master it all. The best professionals, when they are in their 80s and 90s, will tell me, ‘Rick, I am excited about today, because I’m probably going to learn something new.’

World Languages and Literatures Professor Pina Palma and Associate Professor of Photography Jeremy Chandler recently returned from the rich cultural region of Tuscany in Italy with a group of students who were studying literature and photography as part of a Southern summer study-abroad program. The professors held classes in the picturesque village of Montepulciano and led students on excursions to Rome, Florence, Siena, Arezzo, and Cortona. To document their student’s work and the experiences of the group, Palma and Chandler created a Tumblr site : scsutuscanystudyabroad.tumblr.com/

Students were taking ART 369 – The Photographic Travel Journal or LIT 488 – Seminar in World Literature. Some were also enrolled in Italian language courses at the group’s host institution, Il Sasso Italian Language School. Each course considered the other with regard to thematic content, as the professors’ goal was to fuel creative output, whether through writing or visual art. The Tumblr blog was created to document the group’s travels and highlight student work. In addition to viewing iconic and historically important artworks in Rome, Siena, Florence and Arezzo, the group visited an international photography festival in Cortona.

ART 369 – The Photographic Travel Journal is a studio art course, which utilizes digital photography, written text and photographic collage, toward the creation of an illustrated travel journal. Students learn the technical fundamentals of digital photography, as well as creative strategies for incorporating their photographs into a journal format. They then document the places and people they encounter in order to gain a deeper understanding of their experiences.

LIT 488 – Seminar in World Literature focuses on Italian cities and culture as depicted in works by European and Italian authors. For this course students explore, analyze, and compare the authors’ perspectives while also juxtaposing and examining those perspectives with regard to their own as they journey through the cities — Rome, Florence, Siena, Arezzo/Perugia — that are included in the Montepulciano program.