Monthly Archives: October 2018

On November 15, English adjunct instructor Shelley Stoehr-McCarthy and her family will open up their lives to the university community when a documentary film, Little Miss Westie, is screened on campus. Stoehr-McCarthy, an MFA fiction writing student who teaches composition and won the university’s prestigious Outstanding Teacher Award last year, is the mother of two transgender teenagers, and the family’s journey over the past few years has been captured in Little Miss Westie. Stoehr-McCarthy’s husband and the teens’ father, Christian McCarthy, is a doctoral student in Southern’s Educational Leadership program. The film is named after an annual beauty pageant that takes place in West Haven, where the family lives. In the film, the McCarthys’ daughter, Ren, a trans girl, competes in the Little Miss Westie Pageant, and her older brother, Luca, a trans boy, coaches her on posing, make-up, and talent. Luca competed six years ago when he was living as a girl, so he’s an experienced adviser.

When Luca came out in 2015, Stoehr-McCarthy wrote an article about his transition, and someone who works with filmmaker Dan Hunt saw the article and connected him with Stoehr-McCarthy. Hunt, with over 25 years of filmmaking experience focusing on gender, sexuality, aging, and prison reform, teamed up with documentary filmmaker Joy E. Reed and they “just started filming” the family’s day-to-day life, Stoehr-McCarthy says. Filming began during Stoehr-McCarthy’s first year at Southern, in the fall of 2016. Hunt and Reed secured grant funding and became able to hire a crew, and the film crew “followed us around for a year,” says Stoehr-McCarthy. Eventually they began to figure out the “spine” of the story, which was the beauty pageant.

In West Haven, where the family lives, local girls are invited each spring to participate in the Little Miss Westie Pageant, held in the West Haven High School auditorium. The pageant, which usually draws about 40 participants each year, started as a fundraiser for Project Graduation, a post-graduation celebration provided for free to WHHS graduates in June.

“The 2016 presidential election changed our experience and then changed the film,” Stoehr-McCarthy says, explaining that “Trump’s election was devastating within the trans community.” A trio of groups In New Haven serves trans kids and their families, and people come from all over Connecticut to take part in these groups. Stoehr-McCarthy says that the groups’ coordinator reported that after the 2016 election, his phone line “turned into something like a suicide hotline,” as he talked to parents of trans kids to help them so that their kids weren’t terrified.

“No one knew if the federal government would suddenly turn around and say you couldn’t change your name and gender markers,” Stoehr-McCarthy says. “Everyone was trying to get documents changed as quickly as possible after the election.” The documents pertain to name-changing, Social Security, passports, and other materials related to personal identity. The family rushed to legally change the kids’ names and genders on their documents, a process that involved a court hearing. Dr. Adrian Demidont, a doctor in New Haven who specializes in the care of adolescent and adult trans- and gender-diverse individuals, ran a free document-changing clinic for trans kids in the period following the election.

Stoehr-McCarthy says that her family managed to get all their documents done by the end of 2016, “and our kids are now the same as cis children in terms of how they appear on paper.” The term “cis” refers to a person whose gender identity corresponds with the sex the person had or was identified as having at birth.

Luca, a senior at Common Ground High School in New Haven, is taking two courses at Southern in the English and political science departments and wants to be an art teacher. Ren is almost 13 and started this fall at a therapeutic school in New Haven. Both Luca and Ren have suffered with anxiety and depression. They attend the Yale Gender Program, staffed by a team of doctors and mental health professionals that provides family-centered care for children, teens, and young adults who are questioning their assigned gender and/or seeking gender-affirming consultation and treatment.

Stoehr-McCarthy started teaching as a GTA with English Professor Charles Baraw as her mentor. Both won the university’s Outstanding Teacher Award in 2018. Stoehr-McCarthy has had a couple of trans students in her classes, one of whom “was really struggling. I mentioned my kids, and this student was so happy I did. He wasn’t out yet and was a freshman and kind of scared.” She says her experience of Southern has been one of “an open, tolerant, accepting community.” The English Department, she says, has been “especially encouraging of faculty and students to be their best selves.”

Shelley Stoehr-McCarthy

English Professor Tim Parrish, director of the MFA Program, says that Stoehr-McCarthy is “the ideal MFA student and teaching colleague. She’s smart, incredibly dedicated, talented, caring, a great community member and team player, and really funny and warm. She’s also a consummate pro in whatever she chooses to do, and she’s also a great mother. We’re all lucky in the English Department to know her.”

The screening of Little Miss Westie will take place at 8 p.m. on November 15 in the Adanti Student Center Theater and will be followed by a Q&A with Stoehr-McCarthy and her family, along with filmmakers Hunt and Reed. The SAGE Center and Residence Life will host a pre-screening reception from 7-8 p.m. The event, which is free and open to the public, is part of Transgender Awareness Week and Social Justice Month.

 

Photo credit of Ren McCarthy: Rob Featherstone

 

 

Clara Ogbaa was recently named the university’s new Director of Library Services. Ogbaa has been the Director of Library Services at Gateway Community College since 2008 and the Interim Director of Education Technology at Gateway since 2016. Under her leadership and management, the GCC Library experienced tremendous growth and a complete transformation of library services and resources for students. Ogbaa oversaw the successful consolidation of the GCC Long Wharf and North Haven campus libraries’ services and collections and moved them into the new state of-the-art downtown college facility. The consolidation improved services and facilities, increased students’ information literacy and increased the educational technology skills of students and faculty. As Gateway’s representative on the CSCU Council of Library Directors, she was highly involved in the 2017 implementation of the new system-wide library platform;  Ogbaa will remain on the Council, now as Southern’s representative.

Ogbaa has presented locally, nationally, and internationally on information literacy and emerging technologies. She is a member of the American Library Association, the Association for College and Research Libraries, and the Connecticut Library Association.

Prior to her work at Gateway, Ogbaa was Administrative Librarian at Texas State University (2004-2008), and Coordinator of Library Instruction here at Southern (1998-2004). Ogbaa holds her Ed.D. in Educational Leadership from University of Bridgeport, and her master’s in library and information science and bachelor’s in English from University of Texas at Austin.

Ogbaa, speaking about joining the Buley Library team, says that she is delighted to come back to Southern as library director and believes this opportunity at Buley will be an amazing experience. “I am excited about the myriad of opportunities created by extensive study areas, computer stations, makerspace — tools that can help our students think, create, explore, innovate, collaborate, and fulfill their dreams.

“With our beautiful newly renovated library, our library stands as a rich resource for learning, research, and scholarship on campus.  With a team of dedicated, knowledgeable library faculty and staff working well together the library will provide effective services and programs that will positively impact student achievement and success in a welcoming learning and social environment. Some of my goals are to maximize our new space, to effectively collaborate with all the shared resources in the building, and to provide effective access to information sources and services.”

 

Thanks to Rebecca Hedreen, Library Coordinator for Distance Learning, for contributing to this story.

Photo credit: Shirley Anderson

Global network graphic

A boot camp for individuals who would like to widen their computer programming skills to include Blockchain – a cutting-edge form of encryption technology – will be available next month at Southern Connecticut State University.

The SCSU Blockchain Academy will run from Nov. 5 to Dec. 19 and include sessions each Monday, Wednesday and Friday during that period from 6:15 to 8:15 p.m.

Blockchain refers to the technology behind the development of secure digital databases that are accessible to the public, but cannot be altered by anyone other than the person posting the data. It is a shared, distributed ledger that improves the process of tracking and recording a transaction.

Blockchain can be used for a variety of purposes, including financial transactions, supply chain management, luxury goods or anything of value. Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies use this technology.

Colleen Bielitz, SCSU associate vice president for strategic initiatives and outreach, said the academy is open to the public.

“Southern intends to become a leader in educating people about the ‘Internet of Value,’ which is the fastest growing market the world has ever seen,” Bielitz said. “Blockchain is going to be increasingly important to businesses, and during the next decade is expected to have a major impact on the economy and the world.

“The goal of this academy is to grow the community of decentralized application developers and to make New Haven a hub for Blockchain technology and innovation as companies look to take advantage of this growing market. That is why we have partnered with DappDevs to launch this program.”

She said the program also will provide SCSU computer science students and alumni with an opportunity to add to their portfolio of programming skills. “This will help them become highly employable as the demand for Blockchain programming grows,” she said.

Bielitz added it is possible that at least 10 percent of global economic infrastructure will be running on Blockchain-based systems by 2030.

The cost to enroll in the SCSU bootcamp, powered by DappDevs, is $1,500 a person. Those interested in the program should contact Ian Canning, associate dean of graduate and professional studies, at (203) 392-5345 or at canningi1@southernct.edu.

 

 

Southern sculpture students have collaborated on “Silence the Violence,” a three-dimensional work referencing the national debate about 3D printed guns. Their socially engaged work is being presented in the #Unload: Pick Up the Pieces exhibition at The Ely Center for Contemporary Art in New Haven.

The work encompasses a human-shaped target with circular vignettes representing the different viewpoints of each of the artists. Each vignette becomes a point on the target that can be interpreted as either a bullet hole or as a lens detailing the student’s personal thoughts, feelings, and opinions about guns.

The individual vignettes are constructed as 3D prints to serve as a formal reference to the 3D printed gun debate. Guided by Professor Art Rachael Vaters-Carr, Southern’s student collaborators include: Karen Daye, Evan DiGiovanni, Danielle Fleuriot, Tyãnna Garner, Sammi Huang, Tyler Kopeck, Isabelle Louime, Duke Pierre, Amber Pindulic, and Jenna Reeser.

#Unload: Pick Up the Pieces, which runs through November 11, is an unjuried, inclusive, community-driven exhibition that explores issues surrounding gun control laws and the impact of guns on society. The exhibition aims to raise questions regarding violence, safety, gender, equality, and the influence of media on violence and mental health stigmas.

Artists from diverse backgrounds and working across media have created material-driven and conceptually-charged works either from decommissioned gun parts from a Hartford buy-back program or works inspired by the theme. The artworks reflect society’s divided attitudes towards gun control, gun safety, gun reform, the Constitutional right to bear arms, as well as recent events relating to gun use, ownership, safety, and violence.

The exhibition is a highlight of Artspace New Haven’s 21st annual City-Wide Open Studios festival  complemented by artist talks, panel discussions, presentations by political candidates and other community notables, and a voters’ registration table leading up to November 6 mid-term elections.

 

Doris Kearns Goodwin is a world-renowned presidential historian, public speaker and Pulitzer Prize-winning, New York Times #1 best-selling author. She will talk about her newest book, Leadership in Turbulent Times, at the John Lyman Center for the Performing Arts on Saturday, November 3, at 7 p.m. Purchase tickets.

Her seventh book, Leadership in Turbulent Times, published in September 2018 by Simon & Schuster, is the culmination of Goodwin’s five-decade career of studying the American presidents. The book delivers an illuminating exploration into the early development, growth, and exercise of leadership as exemplified by Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Lyndon B. Johnson. It provides an accessible and essential road map for aspiring and established leaders in every field and for all of us in our everyday lives.

Goodwin’s career as a presidential historian and author was inspired when as a 24-year-old graduate student at Harvard she was selected to join the White House Fellows, one of America’s most prestigious programs for leadership and public service. At the White House celebration of the newly chosen Fellows, she found herself sharing the dance floor with President Johnson. He told her he wanted her to be assigned directly to him in the White House. But it was not to be that simple. For like many young people, she had been active in the anti-Vietnam War movement and had co-authored an article that called for the removal of LBJ, published in the New Republic several days after the White House dance. Despite this, LBJ said: “Bring her down here for a year and if I can’t win her over no one can.” Goodwin worked with Johnson in the White House and later assisted him in the writing of his memoirs.

She then wrote Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream, which became a national bestseller and achieved critical acclaim. It will be re-released in spring 2019, highlighting LBJ’s accomplishments in domestic affairs that have stood the test of time: The three historic Civil Rights bills that he steered through Congress—ending segregation in the South, providing the precious right to vote to African Americans, and Fair Housing—changed the face of our country, as did the host of bipartisan landmark bills that comprised the Great Society—including Medicare, Medicaid, Head Start, PBS, NPR, federal aid to education and immigration reform.

Goodwin followed with No Ordinary Time: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt: The Home Front in World War II, for which she was awarded the Pulitzer Prize. She also authored a bestselling memoir Wait Till Next Year and The Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys, which was adapted into an award-winning five-part TV miniseries.

Her last book was the critically acclaimed and The New York Times bestselling The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism (November 2013). Winner of the Carnegie Medal, The Bully Pulpit is a dynamic history of the first decade of the Progressive era, that tumultuous time when the nation was coming unseamed and reform was in the air. Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Partners has acquired the film and television rights to the book.

Spielberg and Goodwin previously worked together on Lincoln, based in part on Goodwin’s award-winning Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, an epic work that illuminates Lincoln’s political genius, as the one-term congressman and prairie lawyer rises from obscurity to prevail over three gifted rivals of national reputation to become president. Team of Rivals was awarded the prestigious Lincoln Prize, the inaugural Book Prize for American History, and Goodwin in 2016 was the first historian to receive the Lincoln Leadership Prize from the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Foundation.

The film Lincoln grossed $275 million at the box office and earned 12 Academy Award® nominations, including an Academy Award for actor Daniel Day-Lewis for his portrayal of President Abraham Lincoln.

Well known for her appearances and commentary on television, Goodwin is seen frequently on all the major television and cable networks and shows including Meet the Press and The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. Most recently she played herself as a teacher to Lisa Simpson on The Simpsons and a historian on American Horror Story.

Goodwin has served as a consultant and has been interviewed extensively for PBS and HISTORY’s documentaries on Presidents Johnson, Roosevelt and Lincoln, the Kennedy family, and on Ken Burns’ The History of Baseball and The Roosevelts: An Intimate History. She served as a consultant on HBO Films’ All the Way starring Bryan Cranston as President Johnson.

Goodwin graduated magna cum laude from Colby College. She earned a Doctor of Philosophy degree in government from Harvard University, where she taught government, including a course on the American Presidency.

Among her many honors and awards, Goodwin was awarded the Charles Frankel Prize, given by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Sarah Josepha Hale Medal, the New England Book Award, as well as the Carl Sandburg Literary Award.

Goodwin lives in Concord, Massachusetts. She was the first woman to enter the Boston Red Sox locker room, and is a devoted fan of the World Series-winning team.

Purchase Tickets 

In the heart of New Haven, two Southern graduates are lifting up their community through separate organizations — both dedicated to the greater good.

Once labeled a "difficult' high school student, Adam Christoferson, '10, now uses his talent to help others through Musical Intervention, the New Haven-based nonprofit organization he founded.

During the worst days of his childhood, Adam Christoferson, ’10, turned to music as both his anchor and escape hatch. As a kid, he recalls living with his mom, who had schizophrenia, in a rent-subsidized apartment on Rock Street in New Haven, on the edge of one of the city’s roughest neighborhoods. His father, a Vietnam veteran, struggled with post-traumatic stress disorder. When his mother’s illness progressed, Christoferson spent time in foster care and eventually moved in with his grandmother.

Music became a lifeline. Coming from a musical family — his uncle is New Haven-born singer-songwriter Michael Bolton — Christoferson learned to play drums as an 8 year old and later took up several other instruments. “It was my expression. It was the way I communicated in the world,” says Christoferson, now 34. “When there was absolute chaos all around, music kept me together and kept me healthy. It kept me, me.”

“I wanted my life to contribute more than a job.” — Erik Clemons, ’04, CEO and president of ConnCAT
Erik Clemons, ’04, grew up poor in Norwalk, Conn. By the time he was a teenager, his father had disappeared and his family moved to Stamford, where he shared a cramped, one-room apartment with his mother and three siblings. In the next few years, the family moved a lot. Clemons bounced from school to school — a different one for each year of high school — and the instability was reflected in his grades.

In spite of those experiences, both men persevered. Today they are each successful social justice entrepreneurs in the Elm City, running organizations that help people, including many facing extremely difficult life challenges. Clemons, 52, helms the Connecticut Center for Arts and Technology (ConnCAT), a nonprofit that provides after-school arts programming for at-risk youth and job training for unemployed and underemployed adults in the health and culinary fields.

Christoferson, meanwhile, shares the therapeutic power of music with New Haven’s homeless and recovery population through Musical Intervention, a drug and alcohol-free space in a downtown storefront on Temple Street, where people can write, record, and perform their own music. He is now working to expand the concept nationally.

Both men say Southern played a big role in their success, citing mentors who recognized their potential and steered them toward life-changing internships. “What happened to me at Southern is that I found out I had some ability. I had some competence,” says Clemons. “There were just some incredible people who left an indelible mark on me.”

Erik Clemons, ’04, CEO and president of ConnCAT

Following the call
Clemons says his upbringing left him ill-prepared for college, so after high school, he worked various jobs to support himself before landing a position as a mail sorter at the U.S. Postal Service in Stamford. Married and raising four girls, he’d stay there for 16 years, but always had bigger dreams. “I wanted my life to contribute to something greater than a job,” says Clemons.

After 12 years at the post office, he decided to follow his calling. He enrolled at Southern as a full-time sociology major, driving to New Haven for classes after work and returning home at night so he could be back at the post office for his 6 a.m. shift.Knowing his desire to work with young people of color, Shirley Jackson, a former Southern sociology professor who was also Clemons’ adviser, recommended him for an internship at the youth-development organization LEAP (Leadership, Education, and Athletics in Partnership) — where he would eventually rise to become a board member and then Connecticut executive director.

In 2009, his work at LEAP caught the attention of Carlton Highsmith, a retired New Haven businessman who was trying to replicate an acclaimed New Hampshire job training program in the Elm City.Highsmith asked Clemons if he would help him build and run the program. Clemons said yes, and in 2011, he became ConnCAT’s founding chief executive officer. The nonprofit began with the after-school program and adult courses in phlebotomy and medical billing and coding, and has since added a culinary program, a student-run restaurant, and a high school entrepreneurship camp. Southern hosted the camp in July. In January, ConnCAT scored a $1 million grant from KeyBank to further grow the program.

Asked about his favorite success story, Clemons points to two of his adult students, one in phlebotomy and another in medical billing and coding, who now are teachers in the program.“It’s not just about job training. It’s about how can we get people to see that there are possibilities beyond the conditions they see. That’s kind of the story of my life as well,” he says. “I never thought about being a CEO or founding CEO of anything,”adds Clemons. “I was able to do some really amazing things because people noticed me. That’s it.”

Adam Christoferson, ’10, founder of Musical Intervention

‘He gave me a shot’
On paper, Christoferson says he didn’t appear to be “college material” either. Branded a difficult student” and channeled into special education, he knew his GPA and test scores couldn’t get him into Southern. So he pleaded his case to Richard Farricielli, then the interim vice president for student and university affairs. Christoferson told him about a teen center he was trying to launch in East Haven and how he wanted to one day do something that would change the world.”

“He gave me a shot,” recalls Christoferson, who was granted conditional admission. Once on campus Christoferson immersed himself in student life, becoming a resident adviser, joining student government, and starting an Ultimate Frisbee team. But a few years in, he lost his way. He took time off to live in Hawaii. He fell into depression. “I was reading Deepak Chopra and trying to get my life together. I really didn’t know what my path was,” he says.

Eventually he returned to Southern, still unsure about his future, until he accidentally stumbled on a link for information on recreation and leisure studies while registering for classes. (Today, it’s the Department of Recreation, Tourism, and Sport Management.) “I just clicked on it and it opened up all these key courses that were, basically, what I’m all about,” he says. He decided to pursue recreation therapy and began to excel academically.

His adviser, James MacGregor, now chair of the department, set him up with an internship at Yale New Haven Children’s Psychiatric Inpatient Service unit, where he was later hired as a recreation therapist, a job that sowed the seeds for Musical Intervention. His first week there, Christoferson noticed a girl drawing a picture of someone singing. “I asked her if she wanted to make music with me,” he recalls. His supervisor gave him permission to bring some recording equipment onto the unit.

“And it was a hit,” Christoferson says. “This girl completely transformed, being able to make music and record it.” His work was later featured in the World Congress of the International Association for Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, and Christoferson would be invited to speak at international symposiums. In 2015, he won a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to work with the homeless population.

The following year he opened Musical Intervention, where he continues to see miraculous transformations through music. “There are people who have been homeless for such a long time, they haven’t had a guitar to play. That’s what we provide. There are people who are in crisis with drugs or mental illness and they let [music] go years ago and missed it,” Christoferson says. “While they’re in treatment, they’re able to come to us and regain all of that passion and creativity that was lost.” ■