Monthly Archives: March 2020

Southern is committed to net-carbon neutrality by 2050. The university's growing reliance on solar energy is part of that effort.

Solar power provides approximately eight percent of the electricity used at Southern — thanks to two multifaceted solar installations on opposite sides of campus. Combined they produce almost 2 megawatts of energy.

The newest solar project, located on the east side of campus off of Fitch St., went online in early 2020 and almost doubled Southern’s solar-generation capacity. It includes two large canopy arrays located above both the Fitch Street parking garage and the adjacent graduate parking lot near Davis Hall.

The initial solar project, installed on the west side of campus and operational since mid-2019, includes more than 3,000 photovoltaic panels. They are installed in three arrays located on: the roof of Wintergreen Garage, a ground mount near Brownell Hall, and a carport in the main parking lot. Click here for a bird’s eye view courtesy of Southern’s new Drone Academy Program.

There were no capital investment or up-front costs to Connecticut taxpayers for either of the projects thanks to a partnership between the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities (CSCU) system, Distributed Solar Development (a GE Renewable Energy venture), and the Connecticut Green Bank. Southern purchases the electricity generated by the panels at significant discount compared to previous utility rates.

How eco-friendly is the rest of Southern’s electricity use? It’s 100 percent green! In 2018, Southern entered a 3-4 year contract for green-e certified electricity with Engie, an energy company, and now pays the same rate as previously contracted for conventional-generation electricity. Southern has lowered its carbon footprint for buildings by more than 50 percent since 2008.

Sally Sizer, who works as a secretary for the Department of Recreation, Tourism and Sport Management at Southern and a professional dog trainer, offers five quick tips on pet care during the coronavirus pandemic. She teaches dog training classes at Metro Pooch in North Branford.

“While pets don’t understand pandemics, they DO understand stress in their human family,” Sizer says. “They do this by being able to smell that their family (or individual person) is stressed. Our pets can smell perspiration and they can sense anxiety. Emotional support dogs are known for being able to do this.”

Sizer also said that pets, especially dogs, are creatures of habit. “Dogs thrive on things being as consistent as possible.” She said that her own dogs look out the door for at least 10 minutes before she arrives home. But when their human family members are home all the time, it can actually upset their sense of consistency.

She recommends the following tips to help ease your pets’ stress levels:

  • Try to keep your pet on as much of a routine as possible. For example, if you have a dog, please continue to walk them at the same time each day.
  • Play with your pet! Whether you have a cat or dog, please make sure you spend some time to play with them. For a cat, maybe toss a catnip ball. For a dog, play the “find it” game with a yummy treat (put the dog in one room, hide the treat in another. Once the treat is hidden, ask your dog to “find it!”)
  • Make sure you feed your pet the EXACT same food for them. Please don’t switch their dog or cat food in this middle of this pandemic. This could cause digestive upsets for them.
  • BREATHE! This may sound silly, but pets understand body language. If you learn to breathe slowly while in the company of your pet, this will help them to calm down as well.
  • Ear Slides — One of the most important things you can do for your pet is to do something called “ear slides.” Many dogs and cats LOVE their ears rubbed; but most people don’t know why! The answer is because you are accessing many of your pets acupressure points that are located in their ears! By gently stroking your pets’ ears you are accessing their acupressure points that include areas in their entire bodies for behaviors like stress, along with other behaviors.

Journalism Professor Frank Harris III

Journalism Professor Frank Harris III, an award-winning columnist for the Hartford Courant, speculated about the impact of the coronavirus pandemic in a recent op-ed, “We don’t know where the coronavirus is taking us, but off we go nonetheless” (Hartford Courant, March 17, 2020). As Harris writes, “I will adjust and adapt, just as we all must in this journey along the road of our oh-so-exciting lives.”

In addition to teaching journalism and writing a column for the Courant, Harris formerly served as chair of the Journalism Department. He also makes documentary films.

 

 

Andrew Toce, ’14, LPC, ADS, works in his own private counseling practice, with a focus on sports psychology. Read our interview with him and learn how he is continuing his work amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

SCSU: Can you briefly describe your current employment?

AT: I am the owner and operator of my own private practice named Deep Breaths Counseling, LLC which is based out of South Windsor, Conn. Here I focus my work on sport psychology and co-occurring disorders. I have had the privilege of working with athletes of all ages and levels, from professional to youth athletes pursuing their dreams of playing at the next level.

SCSU: How has your job changed in the past few weeks with the COVID-19 outbreak?

AT: My job has changed drastically in the past few weeks. I normally am open 3 days a week and see all clients face-to-face. Since the COVID-19 outbreak, things have changed from shaking hands to keeping 6 feet from my clients at all times and spraying everything down with disinfectant in between clients.

SCSU: Have you had to move any services or parts of your job online to support social distancing? How has this been?

AT: In the last week, I have had to move my entire practice to an online platform. This has been a challenge and very new. In our field, you need to be very particular as HIPAA rights for clients need to be followed at all times. I had to create special consent forms and documents that could be electronically filled out. I needed to find ways to send secure HIPAA-compliant emails. I also needed to find a platform that was HIPAA-compliant to do video and audio sessions, as everyday software like Facetime, Skype and Zoom do not have the correct level of security to qualify. On top of that, getting insurance companies to cover online services, named telehealth in my field, was a challenge and barrier up until the second week of March. Thankfully, as I write this, most major insurance companies have enacted special circumstances to meet the needs of their customers and the providers that give these services.

SCSU: From your professional perspective, what is the local impact COVID-19, so far?

AT: From my perspective, the impact has been vast and unwavering. Companies are closing, there are more layoffs happening every day, families are struggling, and small businesses are desperate for anything to keep them afloat. It is a reminder to me of how fast everyday life can change and how we take things for granted without even realizing it. People are scared of COVID-19, as am I, but I truly believe in the phrase, “Educate to Regulate.” I started using this phrase when giving talks on substance use to local high schools, but it works in this context as well. We need to educate ourselves on COVID-19 and the facts about it. Only then will we regulate the way we do things and make it possible to flatten the curve. I have the utmost respect for doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists, lab technicians, paramedics, and so many others who don’t have the option to work from home and are daily putting their own well-being on the line to help those struggling from COVID-19 and all other situations.

SCSU: What are your suggestions, personally/professionally, for getting through this pandemic?

AT: I think we are unprepared for the vast amount of ICU beds and ventilators that we will need, and I believe the answer is that companies who supply these need to recognize this is bigger than economics. In order to save lives, we need to come together as a human species and forget about any future profits and focus on the here and now. I think we need to listen to those that are on the front lines, we need to follow the advice given and recognize that if we all think, “This won’t affect me,” then it will affect all of us. Social distancing and self-isolation are the answer. We need to learn from China’s experience and also Italy’s struggles. Their government asked that everyone self-isolate and many didn’t. They now find themselves ill-prepared to handle the vast amount of cases.

SCSU: What is the impact of moving to telehealth for patients and your practice?

AT: My goal is to make this transition as low impact as possible on my clients. We are all scared and the unknown is anxiety-provoking. The last thing I want to do is add to that and create more barriers for them. I did a lot of research and found a system that is user-friendly and compatible with any device. My client simply has to go to a specific URL and enter their name at the time of their session; once that happens I see them in my virtual waiting room and I initiate the session. All copays are collected through an online processing format and the rest is normal.

A scene from the film "Outbreak"
You’ve probably said it to yourself more than once during the past few weeks: “I feel like I’m living in a movie.” The coronavirus pandemic has turned people’s lives upside down, and the daily news reporting is unnerving, and even frightening. Images in the newspaper and on TV can seem unreal, like something we’ve only seen in films. Troy Rondinone, professor of history, is a scholar of American culture, and in a recent blog he published in Psychology Today, he discusses the portrayal of pandemics in film. In the blog, he addresses the question, “What has Hollywood taught us about pandemics?”
Rondinone is also the author of Nightmare Factories: The Asylum in the American Imagination.
Troy Rondinone

How's this for true grit? Alumnus and former track star Collin Walsh, ’08, learned to walk again after being diagnosed with a severe form of multiple sclerosis. What's next for the stellar scholar? A highly selective fellowship that will prepare him for a career in the Foreign Service.

Collin Walsh, '08, and his wife, Amika
Collin Walsh, '08, and his wife Amika

Congratulations to Collin Walsh, ’08, who was awarded a highly prestigious Thomas R. Pickering Foreign Affairs Fellowship for 2020. Designed to prepare outstanding young people for Foreign Service careers, the fellowship is funded by the U.S. Department of State and administered by Howard University. We recently caught up with Walsh, who had just completed a course at the Foreign Service Institute. Here’s what we learned.

The award: Each Pickering Fellow receives $75,000 to complete a master’s degree; two internships with the State Department (one in the U.S., the other overseas); and mentoring and other professional development.

A standout: Only 3.5 percent of applicants were successful — with the program receiving 844 applications for 30 spots. “My emotions were a mix of elation and peacefulness, as if years of dedication realized their purpose in that instant,” says Walsh of receiving the acceptance letter.

At Southern: As a student-athlete majoring in political science, he served as a White House intern and vice-president of the Pre-Law Society. An NCAA All-American athlete, he was captain of the cross country, and indoor and outdoor track and field teams — and graduated magna cum laude. “Collin’s academic talent is unparalleled,” notes Patricia Olney, professor of political science.

His early career: Shortly after graduating Southern, Walsh enrolled at the Indiana University Maurer School of Law, where he studied abroad in India. (He’s proficient in Bengali.) Building on a commitment to public service, he next became a police officer in Milford, Conn., and taught law courses at the Connecticut Police Academy. His tenure with the U.S. Department of State began with an appointment to the Foreign Service as a Diplomatic Security Special Agent.

Challenging times: “Three days after achieving my career dream of being appointed a Special Agent in the U.S. Department of State’s Foreign Service, I became suddenly and unexpectedly paralyzed with a disease I did not know I had,” says Walsh. The disease: a severe form of Multiple Sclerosis (M.S.)

Fighting spirit: Told he’d unlikely walk again, Walsh began extensive medical treatment in the U.S. and India. “I was aimless and hopeless until my wife [Amika] shook me back to reality and taught me what it meant to believe and to fight. And those two things we did — all day long, every day — until I was back on my feet,” says Walsh.

On Nov. 11, 2017, Walsh participated in the James Barber/Wilton Wright SCSU Alumni Track and Field Meet, completing the 55 meters as the Southern community cheered on.

Returning to campus: On Nov. 11, 2017, he participated in the James Barber/Wilton Wright SCSU Alumni Track and Field Meet, completing the 55 meters as the Southern community cheered on. Walsh now serves as a Foreign Affairs Officer in the Bureau of Diplomatic Security, where his work spans the fields of national security, intelligence, and counterterrorism.

What’s next: Supported by the Pickering Fellowship, he’s pursuing a Master of Public Affairs from Indiana University’s O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs.

On Southern:  He gives special thanks to Patricia Olney, professor of political science, and Jack Maloney, Southern’s former long-time head coach of cross country and indoor/outdoor track and field.

“Professor Olney’s student-focused enthusiasm convinced me to pursue political science as a major and to dedicate my life to public service. From that point, there was no looking back,” says Walsh.

“Coach Maloney welcomed me into the SCSU athletic family and steadfastly supported both my athletic ambitions and personal development from my first practice. . . . I owe an immeasurable portion of my success to ‘Coach.’”

On sharing his diagnosis: “I believe in the power of story. Anyone with a disability understands the impact of stigma, but I am here to change the conversation: the community of the disabled is powerful,” says Walsh.

Future plans: “It is difficult to imagine literally where I will be in five to ten years, because, by definition, I will be ‘worldwide available.’ However, I can say with certainty that I will be working hard every day in support of our foreign policy objectives,” says Walsh.

Colin Walsh, wedding
“With each step I take, however, I know that it will be better than the last, so I invite the struggle to come. That level of perseverance is attributable entirely to my wife, Amika, for her uncompromising faith and her unwavering support,” says Walsh. The couple is pictured during their wedding.

 

 

 

 

Thuan Vu, Meredith Miller, and Terrence Lavin (Meredith Miller photo credit: Tanya Marcuse)

Three members of the Art Department faculty have received grants to support their work through the Artist Fellowship Program of the Connecticut Office of the Arts (COA). Art Professor Thuan Vu, a painter, received one of seven Artistic Excellence Awards, while Art Professor Terrence Lavin, Art Department chairman and a jewelry maker and metalsmith, and photographer Meredith Miller, an adjunct faculty member in the Art Department, won Artist Fellowship grants.

The Artist Fellowship Program provides competitive grants to encourage the continuing development of Connecticut artists. These grants provide support for artists to pursue new work and achieve specific creative and career goals.

There are three types of grant designations awarded under this program based on reviewer assessment. The Artistic Excellence grants are $5,000 each, while the Artist Fellowship grants are $3,000 each.
Emerging Recognition grants are $1,000.

The awards covers all arts disciplines including the visual arts (drawing, painting, sculpture, photography, crafts, installation, illustration); music (music production, music composition, and opera); writing (fiction, creative nonfiction, poetry, and Young Adult fiction); dance and choreography; and theater (playwriting, film, and writing).

Of the top seven recipients of Artistic Excellence grants, Vu is one of only two visual artists to receive this grant. Of the paintings he entered in the awards competition, Vu says, “The black and white painting of flowers are a meditation on creating meaning and beauty in a world of conflict, division, and loss. Conceptually, the flowers were painted in a grisaille palette to convey how joy and beauty feel tempered during this time in my life and in our nation’s history.”

Thuan Vu, “Kintsugi no. 2″/ Oil on linen/ 18” x 18”/ 2019; and “Kintsugi no. 1″/ Oil on canvas/ 60” x 40”/2019

Lavin, who teaches jewelry and metals, writes of his work, “My current research is focused on looking toward the creation of a body of creative work that will adapt emergent digital tools and industrial manufacturing processes to the traditional forms, materials and practices of metalsmithing & sculpture. I’ll be working with 3D modelling software and rapid prototyping to explore 3D-printed output in two specific areas:

  • direct casting of 3D printed forms into metal and glass (via lost-wax and/or sandcasting processes)
  • electrolytic deposition (electroforming) of copper on 3D printed models”

Lavin is one of 35 artists in the state who were chosen to receive a $3,000 award from the COA. The funding provides an opportunity for these artists to continue their artistic development and creation of new work.

Terrence Lavin, “Core Fragment” and “Prototype C”

Miller was also one of the 35 artists to receive a $3,000 award. She received an Artist Fellowship from the COA with her photographic series, “On Trail: Portraits on the A.T.” She began this project in July 2019 during an artist residency at Monson Arts in Monson, Maine, an official Appalachian Trail Community. She explains, “My studio was conveniently located across the street from a hostel for thru-hikers. I plan to continue this project and am applying to other artist residencies situated along the A.T throughout New England.”

Meredith Miller, “Fireball,” “Barefoot,” “Earbuds,” “Wild Jay-Horsepower-Sparkle Machine – and Sister Bunny,” and “Twinkle Toes”

 

Jay Moran

Athletic Director and mayor of Manchester, Conn., Jay Moran talks about the challenges of dealing with the repercussions of the coronavirus pandemic.

A column about Athletic Director Jay Moran in the March 22, 2020, edition of the New Haven Register discusses in depth the challenges he and the SCSU Athletic Department face because of the coronavirus, and how he has adjusted to working online. As for having to cancel the spring athletics season at Southern, Moran is quoted as saying, “‘Our athletes were upset at first, but I think they are accepting now that it has affected all college athletics. I think people have a different perspective on life. You’ve seen what happened in Italy. As difficult as it was for the student-athletes, it was an easy decision in some ways for us. This must be about their safety and well-being.'”

In addition to heading up the University’s Athletic Department, Moran is mayor of Manchester, Conn.

Social distancing and the closing of typical meeting places are designed to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 (the novel coronavirus). Public health officials believe these steps can be effective tools in slowing down the impact of the virus.

And while necessary, these changes are often psychologically difficult for people, according to Julie Liefeld, associate professor of marriage and family therapy and director of the SCSU Family Therapy Clinic.

“Even if you identify as mostly introverted, a public health directive to distance yourself from others for safety causes our fight or flight impulses to kick in and try to take over,” Liefeld says.

“This is due, in part, because of the forced choice nature of the directive and because you are facing the unknown. So many of us will notice that we are more restless, anxious, worried, and/or unable to take advantage of the downtime during this phase of managing COVID-19. “

SCSU professor Jule Liefeld
Julie Liefeld

Liefeld offers 10 suggestions to help manage our feelings and our mental health:

  1. Be mindful of what you are going through. Even if you aren’t ill or in a difficult situation, you are experiencing stress. It’s important to acknowledge how you feel. Write them down and talk them out. Every morning write out what is weighing on your mind. Set a timer for 5 minutes and let it rip. Don’t stop writing until the timer goes off. Close the journal and leave it all right there. Don’t spend time re- reading what you wrote down.
  2. Establish a pattern or routine for your day and evening, and stick to it. Writing down a schedule or a plan for your day has been shown to make you feel grounded and safer. Even if you don’t do all the things on the schedule – writing them down is the calming factor). And keep your sleep schedule healthy.
  3. Make movement a part of your day. Find a way to move or exercise, even if it’s climbing your stairs a few times. Do some stretching, march in place, do some yoga. Investigate guided exercise or movement online. Lots of gyms and places that feature yoga are streaming free classes every day.  Don’t give into any internal cues that say, “why bother” or “I will do that tomorrow.”
  4. Open your windows or go outside. The CDC is recommending getting fresh air while complying with social distancing. Take a walk around your block, yard or patio.  Breathe in and practice mindfully noticing your surroundings.
  5. Minimize or avoid the use of alcohol and/sedatives as a coping mechanism to relax or de-stress. Instead, take a bath, drink tea or a similar non-alcoholic drink. Remember that the restlessness that accompanies worry only lasts for 90 seconds.
  6. Incorporate sound in your environment. That can include music and talking to a friend, partner, or family member by phone or video chat. Change up your hand washing song.
  7. Moderate your exposure to the news and people who are focused on increasing your worry. Once you have your daily information of the general situation and for what your role in the world is, turn it off. For those friends and family members who make you feel MORE anxious, limit your interactions to a polite check in and then move on to more constructive conversations.
  8. Manage your feelings of guilt, fear, blame, anger, and shame by noticing how you feel, and reminding yourself about what you can and can’t control. Focus on what you can control and being good at taking care of those things.
  9. Ask for help if you think you might need it. You can dial 211 to get more support for mental health support, financial support, or instrumental needs such as food or heat.
  10. Allow yourself to adjust to this new mode of being. Acknowledge how you are feeling and reacting to it, and then create a structure that supports healthy function.  We are learning as we go, and you are not alone.

Be well.