Monthly Archives: August 2020

Daisha Brabham

Daisha Brabham, who graduated from Southern in 2017 with a degree in history, was awarded a prestigious U.S. Fulbright – U.K. Partnership Award for the the 2019-2020 academic year that allowed her to complete a Master’s of Public History degree at Royal Holloway University of London. There is only one slot for the U.K. Partnership Award to Royal Holloway University, and it is highly competitive.

The U.K. Fulbright Commission recently posted a profile on its website about Brabham, “A Journey in Defining Blackness.” In the profile, Brabham discusses how her Fulbright project plans evolved with the onset of the global pandemic.

Brabham’s Fulbright project involved a play she wrote for an independent study in the Women’s and Gender Studies Program in her senior year. During her senior spring at Southern and the summer following, the play — Homegoing: A Herstory of the Black Woman — was performed on campus. Homegoing reflects the history of Black womanhood in America, beginning with the Yoruba tradition of West Africa and going on to travel with a number of different African American women, such as Venus Hottentot, Billie Holiday, and Mammie.

When the coronavirus pandemic forced Brabham to return to the United States before her Fulbright year was over, her plans for her play changed, but she found new avenues for her creativity and thought.

As Brabham writes in the profile, “As a Fulbrighter, you act as a bridge. A way of connecting two countries. We live in a world in which so many voices are speaking, but few are speaking to each other. . . . As we move forward, it is important that we each create spaces in our own respective fields to be a bridge, to act as agents of accessibility, community and connectivity.”

Read “A Journey in Defining Blackness”

A scene from Daisha Brabham’s play, “Homegoing,” as performed on Southern’s campus

 

 

 

Whether viewed by students online or in-person while practicing social distancing (masks and 6-feet of separation!), Southern's campus includes numerous landmarks that nod to the university's rich history and commitment to educational excellence. Here are 11 — all found in the great outdoors.

Founder's Gate
Founder's Gate

An important link to Southern’s past, Founders Gate was previously located on the Howe Street campus and now stands between Lyman Center and Engleman Hall.

Geological Rock Garden
Geological Rock Garden

Located outside of the Academic Science and Laboratory Building, the Geological Rock Garden includes 52 rocks that are indigenous to Connecticut. Numerous quarry operators in the area donated boulders for the display, which was created with the aid of Thomas Fleming, professor of earth science. Some of the boulders are from Stony Creek Quarry, which provided stone for many iconic buildings and monuments — including the base of the Statue of Liberty, Grand Central Station, and the Smithsonian Institution.

H2O: Liquid Zone
H2O: Liquid Zone

Set along a path outside of Engleman Hall, the stainless steel sculpture, “H20: Liquid Zone,” was designed by award-winning international landscape architect Mikyoung Kim. Rain, snow, and ice collect on the sculpture, changing the view on an ongoing basis. The artist’s stunning portfolio also includes the Crown Sky Garden in Chicago, the roof garden of the John Hancock Tower in Boston, and the ChonGae Canal Restoration Project in Seoul, Korea.
Commissioned through Connecticut’s Art in Public Spaces Program

End of the Line/West Rock
End of the Line/West Rock

West Rock can be viewed in a whole new light courtesy of the environmental sculpture, “End of the Line/West Rock,” which was installed in 1985 on the Farnham Avenue-side of Brownell Hall. The sculpture was designed by the late Nancy Holt, a pioneer of the land-art movement, which began in the late 1960s in response to growing awareness of environmental issues and debates about what constituted “real” art. In this work, two rings frame views of West Rock, showcasing the geological formation as an art object.
Commissioned through Connecticut’s Art in Public Spaces Program

Sculpture on top of Engleman Hall
Sculpture on top of Engleman Hall

Is it an owl’s outstretched wings, an open book evoking the quest for knowledge, or, perhaps, both? Perched on top of Engleman Hall, this sculpture can be seen throughout much of Southern’s campus.

Rain Harvester
Rain Harvester

Every cloud has a silver lining, and, on campus, it’s the rain harvester located outside of the Academic Science and Laboratory Building. Named in recognition of the South Central Connecticut Regional Water Authority for the organization’s leadership-level support, the rain harvester is ecologically sound as well as beautiful. Water drains into a 40,000-gallon underground collection system that is used to water surrounding greenery — reducing the need for irrigation of the area by 50 percent. An ultraviolet-purification system eliminates bacteria.


The SCSU Sandy Hook Alumnae Remembrance Garden — located behind Jennings Hall — honors four educators and Southern alumni who were killed during the tragedy at the Connecticut elementary school on Dec. 14, 2012: Principal Dawn Lafferty Hochsprung, M.S. ’97, 6th Yr. ’98; Teacher Anne Marie Murphy, M.S. ’08; School Counselor Mary J. Sherlach, M.S. ’90, 6th Yr. ’92; and Teacher Victoria “Vicki” Leigh Soto, M.S.’13, who was pursuing a master’s degree at the time of the shooting and was awarded her degree posthumously. The sculpture reflects the vision of Carlene Barnes, ’13, who won a design competition while attending Southern. Rita A. Landino, ’64, provided significant philanthropic support for the project, building on her 35-year legacy at the university, first as an English professor and later as a counselor. Many others also helped make this project possible through pro bono service, contribution of materials, and philanthropic support.


Among the newest additions to campus is this five-foot wide bronze sculpture installed outside of Engleman Hall in 2018.

50-foot-tower sundial
50-foot-tower sundial

Rising nearly 50 feet, the Engleman Hall tower sundial built in 2005 is an award winner. The Connecticut chapter of the American Institute of Architects named it the top design in the art/architecture category in 2006. The project’s architects are Howard Hebel (Herbert Newman & Partners) and Frederick Sawyer, who is a co-founder of the North American Sundial Society.

Hilton C. Buley Library clock
Hilton C. Buley Library clock
Those who haven’t mastered Southern’s sundial turn to the Hilton C. Buley clock. The bars light up in blue to show the hour, while the dots glow a golden hue for minutes. The clock was installed in 2015 as part of the library renovation.

Serie Metafisica XVIII (photographed prior to the Covid outbreak)

Set on a hill overlooking the campus pond, the bronze sculpture, “Serie Metafisica XVIII,” was created by Herk Van Tongeren and installed on campus in 1983. In 1987 the New York Times fittingly described the late sculptor’s work: “The walls, columns, and steps of the theaters were mysterious and incomplete. They suggested Greek and Roman theaters, but it was unclear who would take their place on stage and what roles they would assume.”
Commissioned through Connecticut’s Art in Public Spaces Program

From videos produced by History Department faculty, clockwise, from upper right: "Attica! Race, Incarceration, and Radicalism" by Troy Rondinone; Steve Judd; "Militarization and Its Consequences in the Time of COVID" by Jason Smith; Julian Madison

History provides the much-needed context for how we got to the present moment, says Jason Smith, an assistant professor of history at Southern. George Floyd’s death in March 2020 and the Black Lives Matter Movement only strengthened his belief that now, more than ever, “thinking historically” can help students model what it means to be historians and humanists. To make connections to the movement, racism, police brutality, the pandemic, and other related issues, Smith and fellow history faculty created a teach-in lecture series; it’s been widely received — and not just by history majors.

“The project originated from a number of questions that emerged at the beginning of the summer,” Smith said. “I wondered how I might personally respond to the death of George Floyd and all of the history that lay beneath it, especially given the health risks associated with participating in mass protests.” He noted that he wanted to respond to current events from a historian’s perspective, modeling for students how we see historical evidence bearing on the present.

“We’re in a moment when we feel so disconnected from our students, and this also was a way to address these questions coming up on social media,” Smith said. “It was a collective effort, to show how in this moment histories and humanities are so important.”

Jason Smith

The series features Smith’s “Militarization and Its Consequences in the Time of COVID”; Professor of History Troy Rondinone’s “Attica! Race, Incarceration, and Radicalism”; Associate Professor of History Julian Madison’s “The Psychology of Racism”; Professor of History Steve Amerman’s “Listening to Indigenous Peoples”; Professor of History Steve Judd’s “Are the BLM Protests America’s Arab Spring”; and Associate Professor of History Marie McDaniel’s “History and Statues in 2020.”

An historian of war and American society, Smith’s lecture addresses the ways in which militarizing the encounter with COVID-19 may have certain lessons to teach us about the expansion of executive power, new rituals surrounding death, the scape-goating and brutalizing of an enemy, and more.

“It struck me as interesting and significant that in March-April, similar tropes were being used to confront COVID-19,” Smith said. “We were fighting a ‘war’ and ‘an invisible enemy.’”

The response to the series has been enthusiastic, and the lectures have been viewed hundreds of times, particularly Madison’s “The Psychology of Racism,” which Madison attributes to curiosity about “how all of this got started.”

“There has always been prejudice, even back to the Roman Empire,” Madison said. “It used to be illegal to marry people with blond hair! [William] Shakespeare actually had a relationship with a Black woman, and he wrote about prejudice and racism, but there hadn’t been laws mandating discrimation. Racism isn’t that old. It’s been prevalent since the 1600s, but it wasn’t always so.”

As for whether the series may continue through the fall, Smith is uncertain. What he does know is that the opportunity for everyone — student and non-student alike — to learn about history and how it intersects with the present is too important to pass by.

“The History Department took up the project enthusiastically, and I want to thank our faculty and staff for participating and really spearheading this project,” Smith said. “I think we view it as part of our department’s larger effort to reach students where they are, to make strides to build a sense of social and intellectual community among our students and alumni, in particular, as they must remain off campus and out of the classroom, as they confront very difficult and sometimes hopeful events often in isolation. We don’t stop being teachers when we’re kept out of the classroom. These times present new, challenging, problematic, but also exciting opportunities to teach.”

You can view the entire teach-in video archive on the Department of History YouTube channel. The faculty also compiled a list of recommended readings, which is posted on the department’s website.

Federico Fiondella

Federico Fiondella, M.S. ’03, 6th Yr. ’18, a teacher at North Haven High School, has been named the 2020 Connecticut History Teacher of the Year, an award presented annually by the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, the nation’s leading organization dedicated to K-12 American history education.

Inaugurated in 2004, the History Teacher of the Year Award highlights the crucial importance of history education by honoring exceptional American history teachers from elementary school through high school. The award honors one K-12 teacher from each state, the District of Columbia, Department of Defense schools and U.S. Territories. In fall 2020, the National History Teacher of the Year will be selected from the pool of state winners.

Fiondella earned a bachelor’s degree in secondary education (social studies) from Elizabethtown College and a master’s degree in political science from Southern, where he is currently an adjunct professor. He also completed a 6th year certificate in educational leadership at Southern and aspires to earn a doctorate in educational leadership in the near future.

Fiondella serves as board member of the Connecticut Council for the Social Studies (CCSS). He was selected as George Washington Education Scholar in 2002 and has received the North Haven High School Delio J. Rotundo Teacher of the Year Award (2007 and 2018), UNITAS Distinguished Service Award (2008), and John H. Stedman Passion of the Social Studies Award (2017). Fiondella was awarded a certificate of special Congressional recognition in teaching by Connecticut Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (2008) and Senator Richard Blumenthal (2017). In 2019 he was inducted into the North Haven High School Sports Hall of Fame, after a long career coaching the high school boys’ soccer team.

As a teacher, Fiondella emphasizes a classroom culture where students discover the importance of engagement and become more responsible for their own education and personal growth. He hopes that students see the short-term and long-term benefits of studying history and understand how topics of history connect to both their own personal lives and to the world around them. He cultivates a positive, safe learning environment that supports intellectual risk-taking, challenges students to think critically, encompasses historical investigation, and emphasizes mutual respect and welcoming of diverse ideas and points of view.

In addition to a $1,000 honorarium, Fiondella’s school will receive a core archive of American history books and Gilder Lehrman educational materials and recognition at a ceremony in Connecticut.

 

About the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History

Now celebrating its 25th year, the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History was founded in 1994 by Richard Gilder and Lewis E. Lehrman, visionaries and lifelong supporters of American history education. The Institute is the leading nonprofit organization dedicated to K–12 history education while also serving the general public. Its mission is to promote the knowledge and understanding of American history through educational programs and resources.

At the Institute’s core is the Gilder Lehrman Collection, one of the great archives in American history. Drawing on the 70,000 documents in the Gilder Lehrman Collection and an extensive network of eminent historians, the Institute provides teachers, students, and the general public with direct access to unique primary source materials.

As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit public charity the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History is supported through the generosity of individuals, corporations, and foundations. The Institute’s programs have been recognized by awards from the White House, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Organization of American Historians, and the Council of Independent Colleges.

Construction progresses on the new College of Health and Human Services building.

The future home for Southern’s College of Health and Human Services is progressing on schedule and construction should be completed by the end of 2021.

That is the word from Eric Lessne, associate vice president for capital budgeting and facilities operations.

“To someone walking or driving by the construction zone, it may not look like much has been done. But you have to remember that you can’t really see most of the site work, drainage pipe installation and things of that nature – yet this work comprises about 20 percent of the project,” Lessne said.

The challenges spurred by the coronavirus pandemic have not significantly affected the project, according to Lessne. He noted that workers are taking the proper safety precautions, such as wearing protective gear and hand washing/sanitizing.

Lessne anticipates the campus community will see the building begin to take shape during the upcoming fall semester.

“This is a project that will really impress people once it’s finished in less than a year and a half from now,” he said.

A groundbreaking ceremony took place in March for a four-story, 94,750 square-foot brick building that will house most departments within the College of Human and Health Services. These include the departments of Nursing; Communication Disorders; Health and Movement Sciences (formerly Exercise Science); Public Health; and Recreation, Tourism and Sport Management. The Social Work Department will remain in the historic Lang House, while the Marriage and Family Therapy program will stay in Davis Hall.

The building will provide students and faculty with additional classrooms, state-of-the-art teaching and training spaces, lecture halls, increased office space, collaborative spaces, a demonstration kitchen and modern human performance labs. It also will feature an abundance of natural light.

When completed, the cost is expected to total between $53 million and $56 million — paid for through state bond funds.

“The entire building has been designed to meet the needs of the workforce in Connecticut,” said Sandra Bulmer, dean of the College of Health and Human Services.

Nursing students will benefit from several upgrades in the new facility. In addition to a hospital floor setting, the building will include four standardized patient rooms and a home simulation apartment that will mimic real-life situations. The university currently has a small simulation center, but the new center will be larger and have videotaping capabilities that will allow nursing and other healthcare students to better see what they are doing correctly or incorrectly, and later discuss with faculty supervisors and peers.

The building will also expand facilities for the Communication Disorders Clinic and train more graduate speech-language clinicians who can fill critical workforce shortages.

Other building features will include:

  • a first floor “main street,” where many student experiences, such as classes and academic advising, will occur
  • a human performance facility that will house Southern’s Running Injury Clinic and include labs for training students and testing health and fitness, metabolism, neurophysiology and biomechanics. This includes a high-tech Bod Pod to measure body fat composition through air displacement, rather than having to be underwater. It also includes a biomechanics lab with motion capture technology, a high-tech treadmill and use of force plates for movement analysis.
  • an athletic training teaching lab
  • two 60-seat lecture halls that can be joined together to form a large auditorium
  • a demonstration kitchen classroom that seats 40 students and will be used by the Public Health Department for teaching nutrition, food safety and healthy food preparation
  • a business presentation and collaboration classroom that seats 25 students

 

SCSU 2020 Teachers of the Year
Carrie Michalski, Carolyn Thompson, and Elliott Horch

Elliott Horch, (right), an astrophysicist who was recently named as a CSUS Professor, and Carolyn Thompson, (center), who teaches geography as an adjunct faculty member, have been selected for the university’s J. Philip Smith Outstanding Teaching Award.

The award is given annually to a full-time faculty member, as well as a part-time faculty member, who have excelled in the classroom.

It is named after the former interim president and longtime vice president for academic affairs. Smith previously served in various capacities at Southern, including as dean of the School of Arts and Sciences, as well as professor of mathematics and the first director of the Honors College. He continues to serve as an adjunct faculty member.

In addition, Carrie Michalski, (left), a professor of nursing, has been chosen as the Academic Advisor Award.

During his career, Horch has developed a super-powered device for telescopes called a Differential Speckle Survey Instrument that he once described as being like “putting eyeglasses on a telescope.” It enabled astronomers to snap photos of celestial objects many times clearer than had ever been taken. He also was tapped by NASA to assist with the Kepler Mission – a project to find potential “new Earths” in the Milky Way Galaxy.

But Horch, who earned the CSU System Research Award in 2011 and the SCSU Faculty Scholar Award in 2012, also has enjoyed a stellar teaching record and demonstrated a strong commitment to student success since he began teaching at Southern in 2007.

“The direct feedback from students and comments on course evaluations indicate that he is effective at connecting with students and getting them interested in the topic,” writes Matthew Enjalran, chairman of the Physics Department.

“Elliott’s ability to motivate students to do better derives from his enthusiasm for physics, particularly astronomy, and a genuine concern for his students and the quality of their learning experience.”

Justin Rupert, a student of Horch, underscores that sentiment.

“In the classroom, Dr. Horch was always animated about the topic of discussion, a quality I’ve not come across very often in a lecturer,” Rupert wrote. “(He) never seemed to tire of teaching, even some of the more basic principles of optics and astronomy. As a student sitting in these multi-hour lectures, it was easy to be engaged and to want to learn more.”

Thompson began teaching in the fall of 2013, according to Patrick Heidkamp, chairman of the Environment, Geography and Marine Sciences Department. “She is an innovative teacher, thoughtful scholar and terrific human being,” Heidkamp said.

“Student comments were very positive and ranged from extremely knowledgeable of the subject matter and maintaining high academic standards, to extremely helpful and compassionate….I believe Dr. Thompson is more than deserving of this award.”

Lauren Thelen, a senior nursing student, agreed.

“She has provided me with immense amount of knowledge, wisdom, and support,” Thelen wrote. “During our advisement meetings, she went above and beyond the simple task of handing me a registration pin number. She would always ask me about how I was doing in my academic life and about how I was coping with the stress of nursing.”

Meanwhile, Michalski has demonstrated a strong commitment to her students and the department, according to Chelsea Ortiz, information and admissions coordinator for the Nursing Department.

“She not only makes herself available to her assigned advisees, but also devotes time for other students seeking support in our programs,” Ortiz said. “She is a great representation of who we are as educators and nurses both on and off-campus.”