The SCSU President’s Recognition Committee proudly presents our eighth 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 Jennifer Botwick, Alexander Grant, Rebecca Hedreen, Jamie Malaterra, and Deborah Weiss 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 staff member, Jennifer Botwick is an adjunct faculty member who teaches in the Department of Public Health. Her nominator wrote that they initially met when Botwick asked to borrow some yoga mats to teach yoga to her Wellness class. When COVID hit, and Botwick was unable to practice yoga with her students in person, her nominator reached out to ask if Botwick would be able to host a live meditation, and, hr nominator wrote, “she contributed so much more! Not only did Dr. Jenn host several Instagram live meditations and other Q&A sessions focusing on different areas of student health, she also contributed recipes and tips and resources for our Recreation and Fitness team to share with our community to inspire continued well being at home. She made herself available at all times, while seeing her patients via telehealth and still teaching her Southern students online. As an adjunct faculty member, she didn’t have to contribute anything, but as a health practitioner and genuinely caring member of our community, she said ‘yes’ to all of our requests because of her genuine care for health, safety, and well being of our students. Dr. Jenn absolutely went above and beyond and we are so grateful for her talents and positivity to help our community.”
Nominated by a fellow student, Alexander Grant is a sophomore, majoring in political science, from Woodbury, Conn. He is also a Presidential Student Ambassador at Southern. His nominator reports that Grant has worked at his local grocery store, LaBonne’s, since high school and often talks about how great his co-workers are and how he has always enjoyed working there. His intentions to return to work there were only for the duration of spring break. However, due to the sudden shutdown of the campus, he was quick to return to work and start helping his community. “Now that he’s a part of one of the smaller populace of workers still working during this time,” wrote Grant’s nominator, “he’s been doing as much as possible to help those in need all while trying to balance coursework from classes. Alex recently has been making grocery runs for friends and family to help them and ensure that they continue to stay safe and get all the essentials they’ll need to remain at home.”
Grant’s nominator added that Grant is also actively involved with managing and controlling the long lines often seen at the grocery store, yet again ensuring that those coming to shop are staying sanitary and having a smooth experience. His nominator continued, “He underestimates the amount he’s contributing to his community and still is by continuing to work during these tough times.”
Nominated by a faculty colleague, Rebecca Hedreen has been carrying out a multitude of tasks in Buley library as the Distance Librarian in charge of all of the library’s virtual services during the pandemic. Her nominator wrote that Hedreen “has been an exceptional colleague this time and the go-to person for students and faculty in anything related to library online resources and services. What is most admirable about Rebecca is her willingness to drop everything she is doing to help anyone who approaches her online anytime any day.”
Hedreen created the initial Virtual Library page, which was used as a template for the new Buley Library homepage, and participated actively in the decision making and design of the new page as a member of the Library Technology Committee. She has been a tremendous help to her colleagues in using the SpringShare suite of products library uses for remote services. Hedreen continues to participate actively in the university-wide Online Learning Team’s planning sessions, trainings, and drop-in times including a host of other committees. In addition, she manages the library’s social media presence (Instagram, Facebook, Twitter) with over 500 posts. She continues to participate in virtual desk services and online library instruction providing assistance to many students and faculty in her liaison subjects in biology, nursing, and psychology including distance learning assistance in all areas. “She is a remarkable and outstanding librarian and we want to appreciate her expertise and professionalism,” added her nominator.
Nominated by a fellow student, Jamie Malaterra is a communication disorders major from Trumbull, Conn. Her nominator wrote, “I can’t think of a student more worthy of recognition than my good friend, Jamie Malaterra. Throughout this time of crisis, Jamie has been a shining light. There are so many examples of how she has been there for her community.”
In the very beginning of quarantine, her nominator wrote, Malaterra noticed her elderly neighbors were afraid to leave their homes and wanted to do something to brighten up her neighborhood. She wrote and delivered letters challenging all of the neighborhood children to decorate the neighborhood with colorful chalk messages of hope, and even supplied the chalk. That same day, the children filled the street with drawings and hopeful words.
Malaterra is also an essential healthcare worker. At the Kennedy Center, she works one-on-one with several adults with special needs. Her nominator said that one of Malaterra’s clients has been making incredible progress with her. Together they practice communication skills, occupational skills, and exercise. Currently, Malaterra is working with this client on learning to write his name, and he is making great strides.
Also, her nominator wrote, Malaterra is the older sister of a high school senior, and is planning a driveby graduation celebration for her sister, recruiting all of her friends to decorate their cars and drive by their house to celebrate her sister’s graduation. Her nominator added, “I couldn’t be more proud of Jamie. Southern is so lucky to have her as a part of our community.”
Nominated by a faculty colleague, Deborah Weiss is a professor in the Department of Communication Disorders, co-director of the Judaic Studies Program, and president of the SCSU Faculty Senate. Her nominator wrote, “Since the moment it was understood that our semester would be disrupted in an unprecedented way, Dr. Deborah Weiss, in her role as President of the Faculty Senate, bounded into action and has been at the center of developing and getting approval for policies that have been vital to enabling
students to succeed. At the same time, she has been instrumental in finding ways to ensure vital processes (e.g., faculty evaluation) would go forward in an orderly way, and has masterfully applied crisis-communication techniques to bring clarity to new options, revised procedures and altered expectations.
Under enormous pressure to “get it right the first time,” her nominator wrote, Weiss has been able to work harmoniously and productively with, and foster consensus among, key faculty, administration and staff leaders. Her accomplishments have served the university well, he writes, adding “in fact, they are awe inspiring, and worthy of a presidential medal of valor, were such a thing to exist. All of this was done at a tremendous personal cost of time and sleep, and in spite of the most difficult of family demands that were happening at the same time — which, of course, attests to Deb’s heroic dedication to Southern Connecticut State University and the members of our campus community. During times of crisis, clear thinking, full engagement with all affected parties, willingness to act, selflessness, compassion and smarts carry the day. Deb Weiss embodies all of those characteristics and has used every available ounce of energy to make Southern shine brightly during a dark period.”