Monthly Archives: March 2021

A Southern MBA graduate turns to genetic testing and discovers the sister she didn’t know she had.

Sisters Ruby Hunter, MBA '19, (right) and Leah Boedigheimer

Ruby Hunter, MBA ’19, always knew she was adopted from China. “My mom was very open and honest about it. As I grew up, she answered any questions I had and always encouraged me to learn more about my Chinese background,” says Hunter, who was raised as an only child in Connecticut, primarily in Branford.

Hunter has a tattoo that playfully nods to her heritage with the text: “Made in China.” But she was never certain of her lineage. “I have always wondered if I was mixed … because being adopted from China doesn’t necessarily mean my parents were Chinese,” she says. Looking for answers, in November 2019, she completed genetic testing through 23 and Me. A month later, the results came in: Hunter is 100 percent Chinese — and she also has a sister, Leah Boedigheimer, who lives in Minnesota, some 1,350 miles away.

“It was surreal. You always hear about these kinds of stories, but I never thought it would happen to me,” says Hunter of the discovery. Initially skeptical, the two women communicated by text and online, and uncovered uncanny similarities. “Once I had connected with her and talked for a bit, I knew she was my sister. We are so alike,” says Hunter.

Like many siblings, the two share mannerism and physical traits. They also sound alike, despite being raised in different parts of the country. Hunter says both are night owls; love shopping, food, and dogs; and are “very straight forward and blunt.” Another tattoo also figures prominently in the sisters’ story. Each has a tattoo of the quote, “Veni, Vidi, Vici,” a Latin phrase popularly attributed to Julius Caesar, which translates as, “I came, I saw, I conquered.”

Clearly, the two women are motivated. “I work as a data analyst, and she is getting her master’s in health care analytics. I have my MBA from Southern. We are both driven and hard working,” says Hunter, who works in the Windsor Locks, Conn., office of Collins Aerospace, a unit of Raytheon Technologies Corp.

The sisters later learned they were adopted from the same orphanage. Hunter’s adoption story began in Hangzhou, China, where she was born in September 1994. Found at a bus stop, she was wrapped in a blanket, a note listing her birthdate attached. At the age of nine months, she was adopted by Mary Hunter of Seattle, a single mother who moved with her child to Connecticut.

Across the country in Minnesota, Leah Boedigheimer’s adoption story had similar twists. Born in 1995, she was discovered in a government building in China, her birthdate also pinned to her blanket.

On July 1, the sisters met in person for the first time at the airport in Detroit en route to a July 4 holiday visit to Hunter’s relatives. (Her mother had moved to Michigan in 2018.)

“We hugged and then went to grab a drink and catch up,” says Hunter of the sisters’ first meeting. She recalls feeling nervous but also a sense of comfort, a sort of homecoming, “like seeing someone you just haven’t seen in a while if that makes sense.”

 

RUBY HUNTER, MBA ’19, ON WHY SHE CHOSE SOUTHERN

WORKING WHILE LEARNING: “I liked that Southern was local and offered an MBA program that was accelerated that I could do while working.”

ON THE JOB: “My MBA definitely opened the door for me to work at Collins Aerospace. . . . Going to Southern while working helped me build my skills and learn while applying the school lessons to on- the-job training,” she says.

STUDYING WITH A COHORT: “It allowed us to really get to know each other and become friends. The class discussions were particularly helpful.”

BOTH WORLDS: “I liked how the classes were in person and online. I wouldn’t have been able to go back to school if it was all in person. I also didn’t want to do it all online, because I felt the social interaction was key. This was the perfect option.”
 

Cover image, Southern Alumni Magazine, Spring '21Read more stories in the Spring ’21 issue of Southern Alumni Magazine.

 

clockwise from top left: SCSU President Joe Bertolino; UConn President Thomas Katsouleas; Shantè Hanks, Deputy Commissioner to the Connecticut
Speakers at Connecticut's Solve Climate by 2030 event: clockwise from top left: SCSU President Joe Bertolino; UConn President Thomas Katsouleas; Shantè Hanks, Deputy Commissioner to the Connecticut Department of Housing; Bryan Garcia, president and CEO of the Connecticut Green Bank; Katie Dykes, Commissioner of Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (CT DEEP)

As the world begins a recovery from COVID-19, Southern Connecticut State University is joining more than 100 universities around the world to focus the world on a critical question. What can we do this year in Connecticut to help solve climate change while supporting struggling communities that have faced joblessness, sickness and loss?

On April 7 from 9:30-11 a.m., Southern will host a public webinar on the topic of “Green Recovery, Climate Solutions and a Just Transition”. This will be one of 125 similar events held across the planet in early April, as part of a global project called Solve Climate By 2030, sponsored by Bard College in New York. Worldwide, from Australia to Alabama, Kyrgyzstan to Kentucky, Colombia to Colorado, and Malaysia to Minnesota, students and community members will hear from local climate experts about concrete steps that can really move the needle on climate change, while creating much-needed jobs and income for all.

Here in Connecticut, the discussion will feature Katie Dykes, Commissioner, CT Department of Energy and Environmental Protection; Brian Garcia, CEO, Connecticut Green Bank; and Shanté T. Hanks, Deputy Commissioner, CT Department of Housing. Students Michaela Garland (Ph.D. student, UConn), Sabit Nasir  (master’s student, UConn), and Leana Mauricette (junior, SCSU) will serve as moderators.

Miriah Kelly, assistant professor of environment, geography and marine sciences, one of the Connecticut event’s coordinators, said, “This collaborative effort between Southern Connecticut State University and University of Connecticut is an example of how working together to tackle climate issues is the best path forward. Together our two institutions have the ability to make a difference in educating future climate leaders, supporting bold and just climate related research, and engaging with broader public audiences in the implementation of the myriad of climate solutions needed to address this massive problem.”

Moderators for Connecticut’s Solve Climate by 2030, clockwise from top right: Richard A. Miller, J.D., director, UConn Office of Sustainability, Institute of the Environment; Michaela Garland, a first-year Ph.D. student in the Department of Geography at the University of Connecticut; Sabit Nasir, a graduate student at the University of Connecticut in the master’s of energy and environmental management program; Leana Mauricette, a junior at Southern pursuing her bachelor’s in environmental systems and sustainability with a concentration in sustainable science and environmental policy and a minor in business administration

Eban Goodstein, economist and director of the Solve Climate project at Bard College, urges climate-concerned teachers at the college, university and high school level to kick off Earth Month by assigning the SCSU webinar as homework– either live or recorded– and then engage students in this critical dialog.

“You don’t have to be an expert on climate to talk with your students,” said Goodstein. ”Every subject contributes to understanding climate solutions. Whether you are teaching art, literature, business, philosophy or any other discipline, you can access easy-to-use teaching guides to Make Climate A Class at Southern Connecticut State University.”

To learn more or to register, visit Solve Climate by 2030.

Submit a question for the panel

 

graphic of Yi-Chun Tricia Lin, director of the Women's and Gender Studies Program, being honored by the National Women's Studies Association's/NWSA as part of its
Yi-Chun Tricia Lin, professor and director of the Women's and Gender Studies Program, is honored by the National Women's Studies Association (NWSA) as part of its "31 Days of Women's History Month."

Yi-Chun Tricia Lin, director and professor of Southern’s Women’s & Gender Studies Program, has been honored by the National Women’s Studies Association (NWSA) as part of its “31 Days of Women’s History Month.” Lin was featured on the NWSA’s Facebook and Twitter.

A 17th-generation daughter of Taiwan, Lin traveled from her native island to pursue a doctoral degree in continental philosophy and theory. In the process, she found herself home in ethnic studies and women’s studies. Her dissertation, a study of Asian American women’s cultural and literary productions, was her first step away from her Euro-American-centered education. Since her doctoral days, her research and teaching have gone intensely ethnic, feminist, and post-colonial. Among her recent projects is a comparative cultural studies of Indigenous and diasporic women’s writing from the Caribbean and Pacific islands. Before joining the Women’s Studies faculty at Southern in 2004, Lin taught writing and literature and Asian American literature at City University of New York/Borough of Manhattan Community College from 1994-2004, where she discovered her passion for teaching for liberation of all minds and found her calling in struggle for peace and justice.

Commenting on the NWSA recognition, Lin said, “It’s a tremendous honor, to be in the company of incredible feminists/warriors such as Grace Lee Boggs, Madonna Thunder Hawk, Angela Davis, Beverly Guy-Sheftall, Kimberlé Crenshaw, and Barbara Smith.”

Kevin McNamara, clinical director emeritus of the Department of Communication Disorders, has devoted decades to his clients, peers, and profession. Post-retirement, he continues the tradition by establishing a scholarship to support graduate students in the field.

photo of Kevin McNamara, clinical director emertius of SCSU Department of Communication Disorders

Kevin McNamara was still figuring out what he wanted to do with his life when he arrived at Montclair State College in New Jersey as a freshman in the early 1970s. But he always knew that whatever career he chose, it would be a helping profession. “I knew I wanted to do something that served a greater cause — that wasn’t mercenary but could maybe someday make the world a better place,” he says.

McNamara has lived out that aspiration with a long and distinguished career in the field of speech and language pathology, retiring in September after 20 years leading Southern’s Center for Communication Disorders. He’s spent the better part of three decades helping people fulfill one of the most basic and powerful human desires: the ability to communicate and be understood.

Now, he is helping Southern students carry on his legacy. In the fall of 2020, McNamara established the Kevin M. McNamara Endowed Scholarship at Southern, which provides financial support to a promising second-year student in the speech and language pathology graduate program.

But he also has a larger goal in mind: chipping away at a national shortage of qualified speech and language pathologists, who are needed to meet rising demand in hospitals, rehabilitation centers, private practices, and especially schools. The employment outlook for speech and language pathologists is expected to increase by 25 percent from 2019 to 2029, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. In comparison, the average growth rate for all occupations is 4 percent.

Despite the outstanding job outlook, for students intent on entering the field, “it’s a tremendous amount of work and a tremendous amount of debt in a lot of cases,” says McNamara. “The scholarship is one little thing to help make it easier for a hardworking, committed student to make it through the program,” he says.

Students in Southern’s master’s program complete between 67 and 72 credits, comprising both academic courses and clinical experience. McNamara notes that many are paying their own way through school. “Ultimately, if they’re successful, they go out into the community and people with disabilities are served better,” he explains. “It [funding the scholarship] becomes a social justice issue.”

McNamara grew up “down the shore” in Atlantic Heights, N.J, and “stumbled into” his life’s passion by accident, while casually browsing through a college course catalog. “I really wasn’t familiar with the field,” he recalls.

“But I read a description [of the communication disorders program], and it talked about language and linguistics and psychology and service.” It meshed perfectly with his interests, checking all the boxes for his ideal job. “So I signed up for it, and the journey began,” says McNamara.

After graduating from Montclair, a school that was similar in size  and mission to Southern, he moved to Connecticut to enroll in the University of Connecticut’s graduate program in speech and language pathology, and never looked back.

He landed his first full-time job with the state after grad school with what is now the Department of Developmental Services, where he served as a therapist and clinical coordinator in residential programs for people with severe developmental disabilities. The job wasn’t solely about helping his clients be able to communicate, he says, but also “helping the world around those folks understand their potential and worth.”

Today, he lives with his husband, Michael Sayers, in the Beaver Hills section of New Haven, right next to Southern’s campus. “I used to walk to work, and still view the campus as part of my neighborhood,” he says.

McNamara’s Southern story began in 1992, when the late Sandra Holley, then-chairperson of Southern’s Department of Communication Disorders, recruited him as an adjunct professor and to help run the department’s diagnostic clinic. Her recognition of McNamara’s talent was telling. Holley, who later became Southern’s dean of graduate studies, was an expert in the field. During her lifetime, she served as president of the American Speech- Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) and received the Excellence in Communications Award from Howard University in 1987 and the Distinguished Alumnus Award from George Washington University the following year.

McNamara seized the opportunity to come to Southern. He worked for six years in those initial roles while continuing in his state job until being elevated to full-time clinical director for the department in 1998. The clinic served about 130 clients per week prior to the COVID-19 outbreak. It remains open, but is operating at a reduced capacity due to the pandemic.

Jennifer McCullagh, the current chair of the Department of Communication Disorders, says she “can’t even begin to talk about all that [McNamara] did for our program. Because he’s managed to do so much. There are only 24 hours in a day,” she continues.

She says her colleague was known for being generous with his time, whether it was for his clients, his students, or the faculty members he’s mentored over the years. “He’s skillful at empowering people to maximize their own potential — or even to see their own potential,” she says.

McNamara also left his imprint beyond Southern’s borders through his leadership in national and international professional organizations. He chairs a committee of the Council of Academic Programs in Communication Sciences and Disorders that’s developing a series of online courses for clinical supervisors and educators.

He was also part of an ASHA team that led a successful push to add enhanced clinical educator training to national speech and language pathology program-accrediting standards. In 2019, the organization recognized his significant contributions to the profession by naming him an ASHA Fellow, one of its highest honors.

But he says his proudest moments are the victories, big and small, that he achieved with his clients. There was the young man whose family was told he’d never be able to speak. “Yeah, you can’t shut me up now,” he told McNamara on the day of his discharge. There was the client with a progressive neurological disorder, who’s gone on to become a public speaker and fierce advocate for residents with disabilities in the state. There was the man who suffered brain damage from a massive heart attack, who was thrilled to go back to work after regaining his ability to speak. “My life’s been full of those kinds of stories,” he says.

Through the scholarship, he hopes to continue to have an impact on the lives of the speech impaired, and to inspire others to be generous in their support of Southern students. “I think sometimes people are reluctant to do things because they know it won’t solve the big problems,” he says.
“But if you do a small positive thing and enough people around you do as well, then momentum starts to grow.”

Cover image, Southern Alumni Magazine, Spring '21Read more stories in the Spring ’21 issue of Southern Alumni Magazine.

 

Portraits of former New Haven mayors (clockwise from top left) John Daniels, Biagio DiLieto, John DeStefano, and Toni Harp
Portraits of former New Haven mayors (clockwise from top left) John Daniels, Biagio DiLieto, John DeStefano Jr., and Toni Harp

Imagine an archive that chronicles much of New Haven’s modern history through the eyes of the last four mayors spanning four decades. This repository would include correspondence, proclamations, newspaper articles, photographs and campaign literature dating back to 1980 – the same year Ronald Reagan was first elected president, and Ella Grasso stepped down as governor of Connecticut because of illness.

Much has happened on the local scene during this era – economic development projects; school reform; the launch of the New Haven Promise program designed to give more New Haven students an opportunity to attend college; a U.S. Supreme Court case involving the city; and of course, many town-gown partnerships with Southern and other area colleges and universities.

Although not quite complete, the New Haven Mayoral Archive is being housed here at Southern near the Special Collections section in Buley Library. It is also accessible online. The collection will include material from former New Haven mayors Biagio DiLieto (1980-1990), John Daniels (1990-1994), John DeStefano (1994-2014) and Toni Harp (2014-2020).

A fall exhibition of the archive is currently being planned.

DeStefano – whose papers were the first of the mayors to be housed at Buley – said his collection includes nearly 100,000 documents and a wide variety of other artifacts.

“Nothing was held back and together the collections represent a rich source of research opportunities,” DeStefano said. “What better location than New Haven’s premier education institution for these documents, which ultimately belong to the public?”

He added that Southern’s commitment to digitalize the collection, which provides the public with online access, convinced him it would be the right decision.

The New Haven Mayoral Archive is becoming a veritable treasure trove for professors, students and history buffs who wish to delve into modern New Haven history.

“Our political science and history students have already been using it,” said Jacqueline Toce, head of technical services at Buley and has played an integral role in setting up the archive.

“We’ve supervised interns from those departments and we have had one student use the papers for his thesis,” she said. “Since there are so many different aspects of city government covered in the archive: economics, education, arts, etc., it could be used across more disciplines, too. We’ve also had quite a few non-Southern students and researchers use the digital archive.”

Bruce Kalk, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, pointed out that after DeStefano donated his papers to Buley a few years ago, SCSU alumnus and author Neil Proto endowed a fund for a mayoral archive.

“Neil’s vision has been to make Southern a destination of choice for the exploration of New Haven’s recent past,” Kalk said. “The collections cover the full range of mayoral activities, from community policing to economic development to the city’s enormous school rebuilding program.”

Patrick Crowley, metadata librarian for cataloging and digital projects at Buley, said the papers are part of an “uncommonly interesting archive.”

“They bring together official and personal papers across multiple administrations,” Crowley said. “The strong core of official mayoral papers has attracted (other) papers that are more personal and are outside of what state archives are legally required to retain.”

He pointed out that in addition to paperwork representing the day-to-day operations of local government, the archive also includes “more personal insights into the individuals governing, including aides, who defined New Haven public policy.”

DeStefano said the archive will include the successes, failures, controversial decisions, points of pride and background of the various administrations.

He said the creation of the New Haven Resident Card for undocumented immigrants, public school reform and New Haven Promise were among the highlights of his administration.

On the other hand, he said the decision to demolish the New Haven Coliseum was one of the least popular of his tenure.

“It was not a popular decision – but one which the public finds interesting, probably because we imploded the building and the fact that so many folks in Connecticut went to their first concert or circus in the building,” as well as attending hockey games at that venue.

But DeStefano believes it is important to include his entire record, and those of his fellow former mayors.  “Southern has committed to transparency and staff resources to support academic research from which everyone can draw their own conclusions,” he said.

DiLieto was a former chief of police in New Haven before entering into politics. Daniels was the first Black mayor of the city. DeStefano served for 20 years, the longest mayoral tenure in city history. And Harp became the first female mayor of the Elm City.

 

Southern is joining the nationwide effort to help the U.S. Department of Defense bolster cybersecurity in its supply chain amid concerns over the recent hack into federal agencies – including American nuclear weapons agencies.

Software produced by Solar Winds, a Texas-based company that has contracts with Fortune 500 companies and government agencies such as the Defense Department, was reported late last year to have been breached by Russian hackers. It enabled the perpetrators to “see into” the networks of clients of Solar Winds.

And just this month, a group of Switzerland-based hackers accessed footage from an estimated 150,000 surveillance cameras operated by Silicon Valley’s Verkada, Inc. The cameras operated inside of police departments, hospitals, schools, prisons and various companies, including car manufacturer Tesla.

Southern’s School of Graduate and Professional Studies has partnered with Data Intelligence Technologies of Virginia to launch a certification program this summer that will help defense contractors and subcontractors protect sensitive information.

“Security breaches occur every day, but not at the magnitude of the Solar Winds and Verkada incidents,” said Lisa Lancor, chair of the SCSU Computer Science Department. “These are huge and underscore the need to build a strong, cybersecurity workforce.”

Last year, the U.S. Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment introduced the Cyber Maturity Model Certification (CMMC), a new standard for suppliers to operate within the Defense Department’s acquisition and procurement process. All companies that provide supplies for the department’s projects operations – such as defense contractors – will need to be certified. The requirements are being phased in by Oct. 1, 2025.

Contractors have been able to merely attest they were in compliance with safety standards by conducting self-assessments. But under the new system, third-party trained professionals will assess whether those standards are being met. Southern will help Data Intelligence Technologies teach those who seek to become certified assessors and professionals.

“The Defense Department has perhaps the largest global supply chain, which means it deals with a wide array of organizations,” Lancor said. “These organizations are constantly under hacker attacks. In fact, the malicious cyber activity cost to the U.S. economy in 2016 was estimated at more than $100 billion.”

She noted that cybersecurity is an increasingly lucrative field, and this certification program should prove valuable to those pursuing a career in cybersecurity. The CMMC Accreditation Body specifies a clearly defined path through its certifications with each certificate building on the next. For example, before becoming a Certified CMMC Assessor – Level 1, (CCA-1), a person would have to become a Certified CMMC Professional (CCP).

“Currently, there are no CMMC-certified assessors who can do the assessment of companies that have defense contracts, such as Sikorsky Aircraft and Pratt & Whitney,” Lancor said. “This opens up a huge market for anyone who wants to get into CMMC as a career, helping to secure organizations from external hackers. The CCP certificate is also of interest to companies that have contracts, or sub-contracts, or sub-sub-contracts, with the Defense Department so they can better prepare for their CMMC assessments.”

Manohar Singh, dean of the SCSU School of Graduate and Professional Studies, said this initiative will benefit students, as well as the local and state economy, and the national interest.

“Southern is committed to offering innovative programs in the areas critical to national interests and community service,” he said.

Lancor said the CCP, CCA-1 and CCA-3 (Certified CMMC Assessor – Level 3) will be available at SCSU, and others will roll out as the CMMC Accreditation Body defines the standards for future assessor certificates.

CCPs and CCAs must be trained by a CMMC-approved Licensed Training Provider (such as Data Intelligence Technologies), and CMMC-Accrediting Body Certified Instructors, and then tested by the CMMC Accreditation Body. When an individual passes that test, they become certified at the level of their testing and can work for a Certified 3rd Party Assessment Organization (C3PAO) that would go out and assess contractors and all of their subcontractors, according to Lancor.

She said the partnership with Data Intelligence Technologies will enable SCSU students pursuing a Master of Science degree in computer science with a cybersecurity concentration to receive the training for free.

SCSU plans to offer the following courses:

*A primer, 8-hour, online course, “Certified Professionals Essentials,” which will describe the CMMC program in detail. This is appropriate for those wishing to learn the new requirements and is designed for a varied audience from manufacturing executives who have Defense Department contracts to compliance lawyers and IT consultants who provide support for the defense industrial base.

*A CCP course that will provide 40 hours of instruction preparing someone to take the CCP exam.

*A CCA-1 course that is a three-day hybrid (mixture of in-class and online instruction) offering.

*A CCA-3 course that is a five-day hybrid offering.

For further information, go to:  https://www.southernct.edu/cmmc

A $500,000 gift establishes the School of Business Endowment for Leadership Development at Southern.

From left: Lindy Lee Gold, president of the Amour Propre Fund, presents a $500,000 ceremonial check to Ellen Durnin, dean emeritus of the School of Business.

Lindy Lee Gold’s commitment to Southern is inspired by a core belief. “Public education is the vehicle for breaking the cycle of poverty,” says Gold, who has dedicated her life, both professionally and personally, to serving the community. In February, a $500,000 gift made through the Amour Propre Fund furthered Gold’s commitment by establishing the School of Business Endowment for Leadership Development at Southern. It is the largest contribution ever made in support of business students at the university.

Gold, who is president of Amour Propre, made the gift to enhance and expand programs offered through the Leadership Center in the School of Business. These include the Women’s Leadership and Mentoring Program and IMPACT Greater New Haven, which places Southern business majors as interns at nonprofit organizations, with the university covering the cost of students’ stipends. Looking forward, the fund will support other leadership initiatives, such as a Peer-to-Peer Mentoring Program; a Student Leadership Council, uniting business majors with community and business leaders; and global experience programming.

In recognition of this visionary donation, Southern will establish the Lindy Lee Gold Business Leadership Suite, generously supported by the Amour Propre Fund, within the new planned home for the School of Business. The 60,000-sq. ft. building is slated to open in 2023, with a ground-breaking ceremony set for the spring. Southern hopes to inspire others to contribute to the fund, ultimately raising an endowment of up to $2.5 million to support future leadership programs.

The impact of Gold’s support is far-reaching. More than 1,100 undergraduates and nearly 125 master’s degree candidates are enrolled in the School of Business. In the past 30 years, 8,000 alumni have completed their degrees through the business school — with about 85 percent remaining in Connecticut to live and work after graduation.

The gift also comes at a pivotal time. Southern’s School of Business is in the candidacy stage for initial accreditation by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB). Accreditation is a premier level of distinction held by only five percent of business schools worldwide.

Change for Good

In step with Southern’s commitment to social justice, the School of Business curriculum focuses on sustainability and a commitment to “doing good while doing well.”  The goal: to encourage students to give back to their communities as they become well-rounded professionals.

Gold’s beliefs match this commitment. “Education is a great equalizer,” she says, referencing the importance of early childhood development and the advantage to children who enter preschool knowing thousands of words compared to those who know hundreds. “The same thing happens when you look at social and leadership skills, mentorship, and even family connections,” says Gold, who serves on both the SCSU Foundation Board of Directors and the Business Advisory Council of the School of Business. “When our students graduate, I want to make sure they are on a more level playing field. . . . Education doesn’t just change the career trajectory and life of the person involved. It alters the paradigm for generations to come.”

Gold, one of four sisters, was raised in the Elm City. The family’s home was on Ellsworth Avenue, around the corner from Southern, and Gold attended Hamden Hall Country Day School before enrolling at Emerson College. Both of her parents were prominent attorneys; her father, Marvin Gold, was also a real estate developer. “He did a lot to bring people with low incomes into home ownership,” says Gold of the man who served on numerous community boards, sometimes alongside her.

“It’s in my DNA,” she says of her parents’ commitment to social justice. She recalls a family road trip; the four “Gold girls” and their parents driving from Connecticut to Florida. “In a sedan. Not a wagon. It’s amazing we were still talking to each other at the end,” she jokes of the journey to look at colleges for her eldest sister. Even then, she knew the family’s trek had a deeper meaning. “It was to bear witness to the segregation and the pain. The further we went, the more you saw that hatred, which was not only vetted against Blacks but against Jews as well,” says Gold, who remains active in the Jewish community.

The late Rabbi Robert E. Goldburg, who led Congregation Miskan Israel in Hamden until 1986, was also a guiding light. A vocal supporter of civil rights, Rabbi Goldburg was arrested in 1961 alongside Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. at a civil rights protest in Georgia — and he welcomed Rev. King and Stokely Carmichael as guest speakers at the synagogue. “Justice was the basic tenet of everything he spoke about or taught. I don’t know any other way,” says Gold of his influence. She also points to a driving Jewish principle as shaping her actions. “It’s called tikkun olam, which means repair your world,” she says.

An early entrepreneur, Gold owned a wholesale and retail travel business in addition to a construction company, all of which she eventually sold. Her second career drew on this business experience — as well as leadership skills honed working with numerous philanthropic organizations, including some she established in New Haven. Since 1998, Gold has worked at the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development. A senior development specialist, she is responsible for business retention, recruitment, development, and expansion, and sits on all work-related boards connected with job training, workforce investment, and education as well.

Gold’s philanthropic leadership efforts also are extensive — too numerous to cite in this article. Her commitment is heartfelt and hands-on. In New Haven, she’s recently worked with the nonprofit organization ’r Kids on a program for teenage girls in foster care; joined forces with Christian Community Action to renovate and help furnish 18 apartments for families in need of transitional housing; and provided critical support to Y2Y, a student-led organization for homeless youth, age 18 to 24.

At Southern, she previously provided a pivotal $150,000 grant to support the Women’s Leadership and Mentoring Program in the School of Business. The program was conceived by Judite Vamvakides, ’98, M.A. ’18, associate vice president of alumni and donor engagement, who developed it as a thesis project while completing a master’s degree in women’s studies at Southern. Ellen Durnin, dean of the School of Business at the time, served as Vamvakides’ thesis adviser and collaborator on the program.

Gold’s funding took the pilot program to the next level. It includes guest speakers, workshops, and seminars; informational sessions on topics ranging for salary negotiation to networking; and even the creation of a virtual tool kit, equipped with webinars and more. The latter was so successful it was shared with all School of Business majors who graduated in May 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Additionally, an optional one-semester course is offered each spring semester, led by Yue (Christine) Liu, assistant professor of marketing. Liu, a first-generation immigrant from China, notes the transforming nature of the program. “This opportunity helped me explore my potential as well,” says Liu of her heightened role as a mentor. “It’s the same for our students, who have found their confidence, a support network, and even a new job. Often, they are surprised by their potential and capabilities. It’s the first time they see themselves as future leaders.”

That was certainly the case for Mariam Noorzad, a senior majoring in business administration with a concentration in accounting. “I literally had no confidence in myself. My biggest fear was not being able to find a job because I couldn’t get past the interview stage,” says Noorzad, who had left the workforce for several years to care for her two young daughters. She signed on to the Women’s Leadership and Mentoring Program looking for guidance and support — both of which she found in abundance.  “I learned how to interview, how to negotiate my salary, and how to network and create long-lasting connections,” she says. She also mastered LinkedIn, and inspired by successful women guest speakers, started a job search before graduating. She received about a dozen job offers — and, while still a junior, was hired to work for Big 4 accounting firm Ernst & Young after graduation in May 2021. “This is surely something I didn’t realize I would ever be able to do,” says Noorzad.

“She represents my goals for the program,” sums Gold.

Dean Emeritus Durnin has repeatedly witnessed similar transformations.  “Our students are smart, hardworking, and resourceful. They also usually have multiple responsibilities and complicated lives — and they are putting it together and managing it all,” she says.  According to data from the 2019-2020 academic year, about 30 percent of Southern’s undergraduate population is considered “non-traditional,” or 25 years or older, and 41 percent identifies as an underrepresented minority.

Financial obstacles are among the hardships facing students. Approximately 55 percent of Southern undergraduates receive need-based Pell grants for those with high levels of financial need.

“Often times they are the first in their family to go to university. Many do not have an educational or professional role model. That’s why building these leadership experiences is critical for our students to compete. The academic component is vital. But this piece is just as important,” says Durnin.

Others agree with Durnin’s assessment on the importance of leadership training. At the national level, only 47 percent of human resource professionals believe their organization has the leaders needed to fill critical roles, according to the 2021 Global Leadership Forecast, conducted by DDI, a business consultancy.

Clearly, something is missing. But where some note a lack, Lindy Lee Gold sees an opportunity. “We are responsible for making sure that people have a chance to reach their full potential,” says Gold, who is both an optimist and a pragmatist. “When I see a problem,  I look for possible solutions — and figure out the best way I can to assist and help fix them.”

 

a student rides a bike across the Fitch St footbridge

Southern Connecticut State University is one of only 153 universities and colleges around the world to be honored by Exercise is Medicine® for its efforts to create a culture of wellness on campus, achieving the initiative’s gold-level designation. To achieve this recognition, students in Southern’s Exercise Physiology Club teamed with the campus Fitness Center and Health Services to track student physical activity via questionnaires. Health professionals followed up with each student for physical activity and nutrition recommendations. Further, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, all questionnaires and interaction were moved to an online format, allowing the club to continue promoting physical activity engagement. These steps garnered SCSU an additional accolade from EIM, the “COVID Conqueror” badge. The Conqueror Badge is a new honor given to campuses that demonstrated creative adaptations to physical activity programming during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Exercise is Medicine® (EIM), an initiative of the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), is committed to the belief that physical activity promotes optimal health, is integral in the prevention and treatment of many medical conditions, and should be regularly assessed and included as part of health care. The Exercise is Medicine-On Campus (EIM-OC) recognition describes university campuses that provide movement and physical activity opportunities as part of the daily campus culture for students, faculty, and staff. The “gold” level of recognition means that SCSU has achieved the highest possible level of campus engagement.

“We are thrilled to recognize these campuses’ commitment to make movement a part of daily campus culture and equip students with tools to cultivate lifelong physical activity habits, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Robyn Stuhr, vice president of Exercise is Medicine. “These campus programs are nurturing future leaders who will advance a key tenet of Exercise is Medicine: making physical activity assessment and promotion a standard in health care.”

William Lunn, professor of exercise and sport physiology and nutrition and coordinator of the undergraduate program in exercise and sport science, said, “None of this recognition would be possible without the hard work of our Exercise Physiology student club officers: President Adrian Haughton, Vice President Jane Sherman, Secretary Aysia Comins-Sporbert, and Treasurer Jason Sawicki. Also, I must recognize the collaborative effort of Jessica Scibek, Assistant Director of the Fitness Center, and the guidance of the club faculty advisor, Dr. Robert Axtell. Dr. Axtell shepherded the club through the challenge of a pandemic, yet was still able to promote the initiative of EIM on Southern’s campus.”

Exercise is Medicine gold certification badge

Of the 153 campuses recognized this year, 73 received gold, 59 silver and 21 bronze. All gold, silver, and bronze universities and colleges will be officially recognized in June as part of the 2021 virtual Exercise is Medicine World Congress, held in conjunction with the American College of Sports Medicine’s Annual Meeting.

EIM-OC launched its recognition program in 2014 to honor campuses for their efforts to create a culture of wellness. Schools earn gold, silver or bronze status based on their activities. Gold-level campuses have created a referral system where campus health care providers assess students’ physical activity and refer students as necessary to a certified fitness professional as part of medical treatment. Silver campuses engage students, faculty and staff in education initiatives and make movement part of the daily campus culture, while bronze-level campuses promote and generate awareness of the health benefits of physical activity. View a complete list of recognized schools and learn more about the EIM-OC program.

About Exercise Is Medicine

The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) co-launched Exercise is Medicine® (EIM) in 2007 with the American Medical Association. ACSM continues to manage the global health initiative, which seeks to make physical activity assessment and promotion a standard in clinical care, connecting health care with evidence-based physical activity resources for people everywhere of all abilities. Visit www.ExerciseisMedicine.org for additional information.

About the American College of Sports Medicine

The American College of Sports Medicine is the largest sports medicine and exercise science organization in the world. More than 50,000 international, national and regional members and certified professionals are dedicated to advancing and integrating scientific research to provide educational and practical applications of exercise science and sports medicine. More details at www.acsm.org.

 

A photo of Sharon Misasi beside an image of a hand being bandaged by another hand
Sharon Misasi

Recognizing Sharon Misasi’s Contributions During National Athletic Training Month

by Dr. Gary Morin, chair, Health and Movement Sciences Department; and Diane Nowak, secretary, Health and Movement Sciences Department

As we celebrate athletic training at Southern during this National Athletic Training Month, we would like to recognize Dr. Sharon Misasi and our program advancements under her leadership.

Dr. Misasi is currently a professor in Southern’s Department of Health and Movement Sciences. She returned to her alma mater in 1988 to propel the athletic training program into what was then called a National Athletic Trainers Association (NATA) Approved Program. Prior to that date, Southern’s program was considered an internship program but there was an interest in moving toward an accredited program. “Back then there were two routes to become an athletic trainer: an internship program or a NATA Approved Program. We were going from internship to NATA Approval,” remarked Misasi.

At the time, athletic training was still a relatively new profession for women, and the selection of Misasi as the program director was somewhat unique. “There were not many women program directors or Athletic Trainers. My certification number is 497 after becoming certified in 1984.” Misasi elaborated, “In fact, back then Southern still had separate women’s and men’s physical education programs.”

At the time, female athletic trainers were looked at differently. “My journey was interesting as job interviews are often done by athletic directors and coaches who were men. They would include questions about why I wanted to work with male athletes and go into the locker rooms. They didn’t ‘see’ women athletic trainers as medical professionals,” furthered Misasi. “I would educate them and stand firm stating I was a medical professional and treated all athletes regardless of gender identity.”

Misasi and her colleagues, including then Head Athletic Trainer Linda Holbrook, worked tirelessly through the Women’s Physical Education Department to get the courses approved through the process, becoming the first in Connecticut to gain NATA approval in 1990. Since gaining that first NATA approval, the Athletic Training Education Program went through many changes to become the prestigious program it is today.

The divided women’s and men’s departments merged in 1990 and later became the Exercise Science Department. A little over two years ago, with the addition of the Health Science and Respiratory Therapy degree programs, it was renamed the Department of Health and Movement Sciences. The Athletic Training program became accredited first through the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) and later Commission on Accreditation of Athletic Training Education (CAATE), and just recently, the program became a master’s degree program offering admission through a traditional master’s degree or through an accelerated BS/MAT offering.

As far as gender equality is concerned, athletic training has changed greatly. After being a distinct minority among the profession, women now make up the majority of members in the National Athletic Trainer’s Association and have attained many of the national professional leadership positions. “Some of our female graduates have made a definite mark in our program either in the form of student leadership positions in the Eastern Athletic Trainers’ Association such as Meaghan Kelley and Dolci Wagner who became the leaders of the EATA’s Student Leadership. Others have gone on to very successful careers such as Janet Simon who is on the faculty at Ohio University and Hannah Berg who is on the staff at Boston College,” according to Dr. Gary Morin, the department chairperson of Health and Movement Sciences and former athletic training program director.

members of the play's cast sit on the stage in Lyman Center
The Crescent Players and Theatre Department present "Songs for a New World"

COVID-19 has drastically changed theater, but the Southern Theatre Department hopes this leads to a brighter future for student-performed plays.

During the winter, faculty and members of the Crescent Players, a student-run production organization, have been hard at work on Songs for a New World, a live production streaming March 4, 5, and 6 at 8 p.m., and March 6 at 2 p.m. It is the first virtual musical the department has ever produced. Reserve tickets to the production here.

The musical’s timely theme played a major role in its selection.

“It’s a show about making decisions and the power of choices,” said Larry Nye, show director and choreographer and professor of theatre. “It’s about a brighter future and has a positive message” – namely that people’s hopes and dreams will help light the way to a new world.

Nye has been a professor of theatre and dance at Southern for more than 20 years, directing and choreographing more than 20 musicals during his tenure, but said that navigating theater during a pandemic has been a learning experience for everyone.

“We did two productions in the fall,” Nye said. “First, Enemy of the People, as a radio drama. Then we did Sweat. That was recorded live then presented as video. This time it is all live streaming.”

According to Nye, the small cast in writer and composer Jason Robert Brown’s Songs for a New World made it easier to produce safely.

“We chose this musical because it’s more manageable with Covid,” Nye said. “The show is mostly solo work. A large ensemble to sing and dance isn’t needed. We want everyone to feel safe.”

Characters range from a married woman looking back on the path she chose to a man who dreams of becoming a famous basketball player. There’s even a lonely Mrs. Claus, who reflects on her marriage and wonders if being alone for Christmas is worth it.

Nye put four performers onstage – masked and 25 feet apart – and four offstage on microphones. The onstage actors are veterans and newcomers Samhain Perez, Aaron White, Leah Herde, and Kori Ligon.

“We wanted to put eight on stage,” Nye said. “Unfortunately [Covid-19] limitations have meant some talented people haven’t been in show.”

It’s also meant that support roles, such as costume and set designers, have to be reimagined. The sound designers have had extra challenges with people socially distanced on stage. Theatre major Kat Duffner, ’22, said as the costume crew head, “sitting still” feels totally foreign.

“This is not at all my first performance,” Duffner said. “But it’s a lot different because I’m usually more involved in the process. Now it’s more like we give the actors their costumes and they do the rest, but there are no quick changes or handing a costume piece off to the actor. I miss it. I miss being an integrated part to the performance. This production, at least, feels a little more normal.”

Another bright spot is that performing during a pandemic has taught the actors to reach outside their comfort zones. Leah Herd, ‘21, a biology major, said she gained valuable experience from 2020 and 2021’s productions.

“I was in the fall productions,” Herd said. “Both were different. [For the radio production] we weren’t next to each other, and it was hard to draw off the energy of others, so I had to trust they were reacting to what I was too.” Performing for the radio also taught Herd how to use her voice more as an actor. “It was actually cool to see how I could use my voice to portray emotion as a character.”

For Songs for a New World Herd said while it was sometimes difficult to hear her fellow performers because of the spacing on stage and masks “jet out like a duck bill and make it hard to breathe,” she was “so excited” to be on stage with other people.

“I’m so glad we were able to find something as close to traditional theater as possible,” she said.

Nye, too, acknowledged that while the live streamed performance is a far cry from Footloose, which he originally intended on doing, students really enjoy performing and that is what helps inspire their acting, singing, and dancing.

“The performers are live, the musicians are live, the show is live,” he said. “It is alive. The performers are ‘of the moment’ as we like to say. Artists are resilient, and we have an inner drive and luckily we’ve been able to adapt to things using our creative juices. The theater artists present a unique artform that can transport the audience to a different place and time. This production has all the aspects of a musical except for the live audience.”

Nye is optimistic they’ll soon return, too, bringing their energy, clapping, and laughing.

“Theater will come back,” he said. Indeed, as the musical’s message imparts, a new world may just be around the corner.

View a gallery of photos from the production.

Read a review of the production in Broadway World.