The SCSU President’s Recognition Committee proudly presents our eleventh group of SouthernStrong awardees. These awards shine a light on faculty, staff, and students who are lending a helping hand, with acts of kindness large and small, not only for their fellow Owls, but also for friends, neighbors, and strangers.
We recognize and celebrate Evalisa Alvarez, Taylor Bird, Oscar Clark, Ludmyr Merlain, and Karen Musmanno for their commitment to making a difference and stepping up during the pandemic crisis. Their acts of kindness are making a positive impact during this difficult time.
Do you know an unsung hero who’s been making a difference during the pandemic? Please nominate them so their kindness can be celebrated!
Nominated by a colleague, Evalisa Alvarez is a secretary in the Registrar’s Office. Her nominator wrote that Alvarez took on a project to digitize the department’s academic record archives during this pandemic, and that it was no small task. “She understands how important this was to help our office continue to work from a safe remote location,” her nominator wrote, “while still striving to provide the same level of excellent service for our students and alumni needing access to their records. Evalisa prepared, indexed, and boxed 250,000 records last week, that’s huge! These are now shipped off to our vendor to become digitized, this was a great service to the University, and our entire office is truly grateful to her for taking this on!”
Nominated by a faculty member, Taylor Bird is a graduate student in the Department of Communication Disorders. Her nominator wrote that she has been a positive force for change within the department by providing open and honest communication with faculty and leadership about her experience and perspective as one of the few Black female students within the department. She organized and produced a powerful video in support of the Black Lives Matter movement featuring a message from every graduate student in her cohort. “Her open letter, along with the video, has deeply affected all of us,” her nominator wrote. In her letter, Bird said that she hoped her actions might “spark some positive change within the department.” “However,” her nominator wrote, “her actions have gone beyond a spark and have provided the fuel to ignite significant change. Her bravery, honesty, and leadership have inspired our department to take direct action that will result in diversification and inclusion, today, tomorrow and in the months and years ahead.”
During these past four months, Bird has skillfully navigated her school practicum placement which transitioned to remote learning during her final semester. She has been working effectively as a graduate clinician providing speech and language treatment services for children with communication disorders via remote learning. The transition to remote education has been a daunting task for experienced clinicians, and yet Bird navigated this uncharted territory with skill and grace. She will graduate in August 2020 and enter the profession as a speech-language pathology clinical fellow.
Music Department Secretary Oscar Clark was nominated by a member of the community. Clark not only works full time at Southern and serves as a religious resource for his community, but is also the agent of VetFuel, Inc., a (501-C3) nonprofit agency based in New Haven. The directive of VetFuel, according to its website, is to “Offer all of Connecticut’s Veterans seamless assistance with mobility, health access, & means tested advocacy for the purpose of reintegration into civilian life.” Clark, as VetFuel’s agent, is responsible for all risks associated with the agency, the direction of the agency to some degree, and calculated growth within its mission. According to his nominator, Clark “came up with this great idea to market VetFuel as a brand and we are working toward that goal right now with very powerful attorneys who are working pro-bono. Under Oscar, we have had three successful presidents assist the organization, we have grown exponentially in our mission, and our grant awards, and have always had a keen eye on social justice.”
Clark’s nominator added that it was Clark who suggested “we run a neighbor to neighbor program in the Connecticut Valley Area to ensure people of Muslim faiths, affected by the war, and former soldiers could sit down in a space of peace and talk about how war has affected them. And it was Oscar Clark, that helped an ailing veteran in his final hours of hospice care, holding his hand, singing ‘Amazing Grace,’ as the man passed.” Clark is much more than just an SCSU employee, his nominator wrote, adding, “He is a community anchor and a recognizable figure of social justice at the local, state, and federal level, since we are now working with federal agencies as potential grantors.”
A graduate student in Marriage and Family Therapy, Ludmyr Merlain was nominated by a member of the community, who wrote that she “has been lending a helping hand by helping youths in her community get through these difficult times. She been having Zoom meeting with children from her church where they talk about any issues they maybe having in these difficult times. I know she’s been a great help to . . . families in the church.”
Merlain’s nominator wrote that her weekly Zoom meetings with the teenagers’ class at church helps to “uplift them through all the unforeseen circumstances happening in this world right now. In these unfortunate times parents are trying to find ways to keep things as normal as possible for their children and Ludmyr is doing what she can to help the teenagers process and understand what’s going on. I wanted to highlight her efforts because sometimes i feel like they go unnoticed and i want to appreciate her for all that she does.”
Nominated by a faculty member, IT Systems Manager Karen Musmanno is, her nominator wrote, “truly one of those people the community relies upon to support individuals and University-wide initiatives, such as in May the Faculty Senate elections and most recently the Digital Evaluation project. She is consistently a thought partner in driving technological advances to enable greater learning outcomes as well as building enhanced efficiency and capability in faculty. There are a few who see the future and act on it. Karen has been on the forefront of providing support and driving innovation through generous sharing of her knowledge, time and unwavering belief that we can also always be better.”