As a student-athlete Byron Knox, ’82, helped Southern build a gymnastics dynasty. Today, his Southern story continues as the new head coach.

Southern alumnus Byron Knox is the new head gymnastics coach.

Byron Knox, ’82, is the new head coach of Southern’s gymnastics team, bringing 40 years of experience to his alma mater. He comes to Southern after 16 seasons at the University of Bridgeport, having guided his teams to six-straight USA Gymnastics/NCAA Division II National Championships from 2009 through 2014. A four-time USA Gymnastics National Coach of the Year, Knox has received numerous regional and conference coaching honors. He has coached 70 USA Gymnastics/Individual All Americans and 150 scholar athletes during his career.

Commenting on his return to Southern, Knox says: “My mission is to help student-athletes achieve their academic and athletic goals, one individual at a time. Then, championships will follow. This is a ‘2020-360’ moment for me. Everything has come 360 degrees in 2020! I began my college career at Southern Connecticut over 43 years ago and now I’m coming home.”

As a student-athlete competing for storied Southern Hall of Fame Coach Abie Grossfeld, Knox helped the Owls win four-consecutive Eastern Intercollegiate Gymnastic League (EIGL) Championships and the 1979 NCAA Men’s Eastern Region Gymnastics Championship, following a NCAA National Championship Bronze Medal finish in 1978. In 1982, Knox was a member of the USA Men’s Gymnastics National Team and also won the all-around and high-bar events at the EIGL championships.

Members of Southern’s 20-21 gymnastics team.


The university is sponsoring a virtual International Conference on the Blue Economy from November 4-7. The conference will feature about 70 speakers, and people from 13 countries will attend.

The conference — Coastal Transitions 2020 – will focus on examining the Blue Economy from a transdisciplinary perspective. Sub-themes include:

  • Conceptualizing of the Blue Economy in economic geography
  • The interconnection between climate change impacts and the Blue Economy
  • Smart shipping, ports, transportation, and global connectivity
  • Employment, job creation, and poverty eradication
  • The role of ocean/maritime clusters in fostering a sustainable Blue Economy
  • Innovation in the Blue Economy
  • Cities, tourism, resilient coasts, and infrastructure
  • Sustainable energy, mineral resources and innovative industries
  • Managing and sustaining marine life, conservation and sustainable economic activities
  • Securing food supplies and promoting good health and sustainable fisheries
  • Climate action, agriculture and fisheries, waste management, and pollution-free oceans
  • Maritime security, safety and regulatory enforcement
  • Participatory governance and community driven Blue Economies
  • Synergies between the scientific research community and coastal stakeholders
  • Blue Economy and climate adaptation, resilience, disruption
  • Just transitions and the Blue Economy
  • Blue growth industries
  • Marine spatial planning and the Blue Economy
  • Critical engagement with Blue Economy
  • Towards a Blue New Deal
  • Learning from the challenges encountered when trying to implement sustainable development on land, to avoid repeating the same mistakes when implementing blue economy agendas in the coastal zone

For more information and registration please visit:

Learn more about Project Blue at Southern.

A dedicated scholar of the poetry and art of William Blake and a researcher studying medieval cartography will be presented with the 2019-20 SCSU Faculty Scholar awards at a Virtual Celebration of Excellence that will premiere on Nov. 5 at noon on Facebook Live. Anthony Rosso and Camille Serchuk, respectively, were chosen for their academic and creative work of exceptional merit and will each receive a cash prize of $2,500.

Anthony Rosso, professor of English, teaches courses in the British Eighteenth Century, the Romantic Era, the English Epic, the English Novel to 1900, Literature of the Hebrew Bible and New Testament, a Seminar in William Blake, an Introduction to British Literature 1800-Present, and all levels of Composition. An avid scholar of Blake, Rosso has published numerous lectures and conference papers, reviews, and essays, as well as three books, Blake’s Prophetic Workshop: A Study of ‘The Four Zoas’ (1993); Blake, Politics, and History, co-edited with Christopher Z. Hobson and Jackie DiSalvo (1998); and The Religion of Empire: Political Theology in Blake’s Prophetic Symbolism (2016).

Rosso’s newest book, The Religion of Empire, specifically was recognized by the Faculty Scholar Award committee for its “precision of writing,” “thorough and comprehensive quality of research,” and “important contribution the book makes to the study of Blake’s later works.” The book, which is the first monograph in the history of Blake criticism to analyze three major poems in one study, has been enthusiastically received within and beyond Rosso’s field of Blake studies. Aimed at reaching audiences in contemporary biblical, gender, and empire/post-colonial studies, the book draws on Rosso’s writings about Blake published over the last 30 years, in essence, a culmination of a lifetime of research.

In Sibylle Erle’s review in the British Association of Romantic Studies, she noted that Rosso has achieved a “beautifully written, very confident and accessible book.” Other reviewers called the book “an unparalleled ability to communicate complex readings and meanings lucidly” and “a significant, indeed landmark, contribution to Blake studies in particular and the evolution of political theology.”

Camille Serchuk, professor of Art History and assistant director of the Honors College at Southern Connecticut State University, teaches courses that focus on the art of the Middle Ages, gender and Art, and the methodology and historiography of art history. Her exhibition/catalogue “Quand les artistes dessinaient les cartes: vues et figures de l’espace français, Moyen Âge et Renaissance” was recognized by the Faculty Scholar Award committee for its interdisciplinary nature, academic merit, and public impact. Serchuk further was lauded for the project’s “colossal effort” and “prestigious setting.” Even more, the language in the exhibition texts was “evocative yet precise” and “very fun to read.”

Serchuk is the recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment of the Humanities, the National Humanities Center and the Newberry and Huntington Libraries. In addition to being an impassioned researcher of art and cartography in France, 1400-1600, Serchuk has published several journal articles, book chapters and reviews; she’s also been the recipient or more than a dozen scholarly grants.

Additional awardees who will be recognized at the Virtual Celebration of Excellence are:

· Joan Finn Jr. Faculty Research Fellowship: Steven Bray (Biology), Rachel Furey (English)

· Mid-Level Faculty Research Fellowship: Kelly Stiver (Psychology)

· Senior-Level Faculty Research Fellowship: Armen Marsoobian (Philosophy)

· Robert Jirsa Service Award: Susan Cusato (Environment, Geography and Marine Sciences)

· Outstanding Faculty Adviser Award: Carrie Michalski (Nursing)

· J. Philip Smith Award for Outstanding Teaching (F/T): Elliott Horch (Physics)

· J. Philip Smith Award for Outstanding Teaching (P/T): Carolyn Thompson (Environment, Geography and Marine Sciences)

· BOR Teaching Award: Thomas Radice (History)

· BOR Adjunct Faculty Teaching Award: Shelley Stoehr-McCarthy (English)

· BOR Research Award: Steven Brady (Biology)

· Million Dollar Club: Kathleen De Oliveira (Academic Success Center)

· Undergraduate Research Assistants – Faculty Award Grant: Amy Smoyer (Social Work)

· Mensa – Distinguished Teaching Award: Kenneth Walters (Psychology)

· CSU Professor: Elliott Horch (Physics)

Artist's rendering of the new College of Health and Human Services building, scheduled to be completed by fall 2021

The College of Health & Human Services welcomes our nine new tenure-track faculty members! Read about them below:

Susan Burger, PhD, RN, CNE, is an associate professor in the Department of Nursing with more than 30 years of nursing experience. Her clinical expertise is in Community-Public Health Nursing and Maternal-Child Health Nursing. Dr. Burger is an active researcher and presenter. Her program of research focuses on reducing re-hospitalization among chronically ill individuals through more effective self-management.

Susan Burger

Anuli Njoku, PhD, is an associate professor in the Department of Public Health. Her research and teaching specialties include cultural competency in higher education, health disparities, health promotion and education, rural health, and environmental health equity. She has extensive experience developing and teaching university courses and publishing about health disparities.

Anuli Njoku

Karen D’Angelo, PhD, is an assistant professor in the Department of Social Work, specializing in community practice and community-engaged research. Her scholarship focuses on community-driven solutions to health inequities. Previously on the faculty at the University of Illinois Chicago, Dr. D’Angelo is excited to return to Connecticut in order to be closer to her long-term research partners, her family, and the world’s best pizza.

Karen D’Angelo

Jillian McNiff Villemaire, Ed.D., is an associate professor of sport management in the Department of Recreation, Tourism, and Sport Management. Dr. McNiff Villemaire has been teaching sports management full-time since 2011 and before that worked in marketing for Boston University’s Fitness and Recreation Center and in marketing and corporate sponsorships for the New England Patriots, New England Revolution, and Gillette Stadium. Her research primarily focuses on sports management graduates’ career outcomes and sport management education. She presented in September 2020 to the European Sport Management Association on creating opportunities where everyone can succeed in a sports management classroom.

Jillian McNiff Villemaire

Joshua Knickerbocker, PhD, earned his bachelor’s degree in nursing at SCSU in 2006. Dr. Knickerbocker worked as a registered nurse in pediatric emergency, adult emergency, and flight nursing. He obtained his MBA from SCSU in 2011 and worked at Yale-New Haven Children’s Hospital, Quality and Safety Department. In 2018, he graduated from Quinnipiac University with a doctoral degree in nursing and has been practicing in emergency medicine as a nurse practitioner ever since.

Joshua Knickerbocker

Michele Griswold, PhD, MPH, RN, IBCLC, has a background in maternal-child and pediatric nursing and is an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant. She has led statewide and global policy and advocacy efforts targeting equitable access to breastfeeding and lactation care as well as family-friendly policies. Dr. Griswold’s research interests involve the identification of unjust social barriers to breastfeeding and understanding how implicit biases of health care professionals contribute to poor health outcomes for marginalized populations.

Michele Griswold

Joanne F. Roy, PhD, RN-BC CNL, has been a nursing professional for over 39 years, earning a PhD in nursing from the University of Rhode Island, an MSN from the University of Connecticut, and a BSN from Western Connecticut State University.  Dr. Roy holds two specialty certifications as a Nursing Professional Development Specialist (RN-BC) and Clinical Nurse Leader (CNL), and has held numerous nurse educator/leader positions in practice and academic settings. Dr. Roy’s expertise resides in evidence-based practice, nursing leadership; and theoretical foundations and transitions within professional nursing practice roles.

Joanne F. Roy

Svenja Gusewski, PhD, is an assistant professor in the Communication Disorders Department. Dr. Gusewki’s research focuses on bilingual language and literacy development. As a multilingual speech-language-pathologist, she has provided clinical services in Germany, Spain, and the U.S. She is excited about connecting teaching, research, and clinical training at Southern. In her free time, she enjoys hiking with her husband, Dylan, and their two dogs, Archie and Samson.

Svenja Gusewski

Kelly Coleman, PhD, is a nationally certified athletic trainer and a licensed athletic trainer in Connecticut, with over 10 years of clinical experience providing athletic training services at the NCAA Division I, II, and III levels. She is active in professional organizations at the national, regional, and local levels, with teaching experience at both the graduate and undergraduate levels. Dr. Coleman’s research interests include academic and clinical leadership of athletic trainers as well as promoting access to appropriate medical care for athletes of all ages.

Kelly Coleman

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.

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.”


Southern’s state-of-the-art Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) degree program earned full accreditation this spring by the American Library Association (ALA), earning it notoriety as the only accredited program of its kind in Connecticut and one of just three in New England. With an emphasis on technology, the program is designed not only to prepare professionals to implement and manage library and information services, but with COVID-19 shaping the way people interact with physical spaces, like libraries, it also will help future librarians steer the changing landscape.

“This is a significant achievement for Southern following seven years of hard work, planning, and new decisions,” Stephen J. Hegedus, dean of Southern’s College of Education said. “The work and planning are aligned with our commitment to social justice and meeting the needs of our regional and state partners through an affordable and accessible degree program. This is the product of a shared commitment and dedication to the library communities and our students by the faculty and senior administration at Southern.”

Southern’s former Master of Library Science (MLS) program was accredited for 45 years, from 1970 to 2015. True to its name, the new online MLIS program, which launched in fall 2016, builds upon the expertise of the former program but features a curriculum that teaches students to “embrace, utilize and critically assess both current and emerging information technologies.” It consists of six core courses, including a field-based internship, five courses focused on specializations of a student’s choice, and one concluding capstone experience, which enables students to showcase and apply their knowledge and skills.

“This accreditation is very important,” Hak Joon Kim, chairperson of the Department of Information and Library Science, said. “All librarian jobs in the United States and Canada require an ALA-accredited degree to even apply. Southern’s program truly is unique.”

Kim noted that while the program has been a success so far, the journey was not without its obstacles — most notably building a program from the ground up and attaining accreditation during a pandemic.

“It takes years to even develop a new course — and we developed 20 of them to launch this program,” Kim said.

The department had prepared for an on-site visit from ALA this spring to conclude the accreditation process but quickly switched gears because of the pandemic.

“We had prepared everything for their visit,” Kim said. “ALA had never had to deal with this — Corona — and so we had to prepare for a virtual 3-day site visit instead. Everyone needed to meet online — faculty, administrators — and we shot videos instead. For the first time ever, ALA did a virtual, onsite visit, even lunch. We were caught in the middle of the pandemic, but they accommodated us and vice versa. ALA believed in us, and we had 45 years of history with them.”

In addition to its status as one of a kind in Connecticut, Kim said the MLIS program is set apart by the fact that it “closes the loop” — meaning it continually improves as the department compares learning outcomes with data sets, each semester.

“And we always ask faculty, ‘How can the program can be better?’” Kim said.

Students’ opinions also factor in. MLIS student Tanner Mroz, ‘20, sat on the Department Curriculum Committee (DCC) and has served as a graduate assistant; as such, he’s contributed student input and curriculum feedback.

“I did my undergrad at Southern,” Mroz said. “I worked at Wallingford Public Library and knew people who went to Southern, and they said [the MLIS program] was a great experience.”

An avid lifelong reader, Mroz’s ultimate goal is to work in a public library, but acknowledges that at least for now, in light of COVID-19, libraries must move away from “brick and mortar and just books.” The digital component of Southern’s MLIS program, which offers courses such as Digital Librarianship, the study of and practice in designing, constructing and evaluating digital libraries for today’s digital media curation, can help future librarians guide libraries in this process.

“At the end of the Digital Librarianship course, we picked something we were passionate about,” Mroz said. “I picked music, because I have a lot of cassettes, and then I chose to create an inserts library for the cassettes. We were developing a virtual library experience, which is especially relevant because of COVID. I think there’s a lot of creative opportunity now to help brick and mortar libraries so we can supplement them, not replace them.”

Hegedus concurred: “Libraries play a critical role in our society both in the academic communities and at the municipal level. Their identities continue to evolve with the needs of society. We are proud to offer a new library science accredited master’s program — the only one in Connecticut — that will benefit all library organizations.”

The Department would like to express its sincere thanks for the support of the University President, the Provost, the Dean of the College of Education, the ILS Advisory Board, and the Connecticut Library Community.  ILS looks forward to the future growth of the program and its continuous updating in line with the needs of the profession.

The SCSU President’s Commission on Social Justice Recognition Committee proudly presents our fifteenth and final group of SouthernStrong awardees. During the months that the university has been operating virtually because of the COVID-19 pandemic, these awards have shined a light on faculty, staff, and students who have been 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 now recognize and celebrate the staff of the Information Technology Department for their commitment to making a difference and stepping up during the pandemic crisis. Their acts of kindness have been making a positive impact during this difficult time.

A staff member nominated the entire IT Support Services Department, writing, “Since mid-March they have worked above and beyond at accommodating all of us with the ability to work remotely and providing us online training and guidance on how to navigate technological platforms many of us were unfamiliar with. This was not an easy feat as they were transitioning all members of the campus community at the same time and troubleshooting hardware, software, authorization approvals and other unique situations. To this day, many of us have had the occasional hiccup that something technology related has happened and we have to reach out to the IT Help Desk/Support Services Department. Sometimes we are in a panic or frustrated at our own inability and ineptness to understand what they are all so tech-savvy and understanding of. All IT responders — from student workers to professional staff members — each has responded with patience, kindness, respect, encouragement and help. And if one person doesn’t have the answer they work as a team to help the person in need until the issue is resolved. I feel IT needs to be nominated because without them none of us would’ve been able to continue to work from home and they are unrecognized examples of always displaying a Southern Strong can do attitude of support, community and care! Thank you.”

The members of the Information Technology staff are:

  • John Bergevin – Technical Support Engineer
  • Nicholas Brenckle – Director, Edge Computing
  • Charles (Trever) Brolliar – Director, Academic Technologies
  • Phil Bryant – Coordinator, High-Tech Classrooms
  • Ralph Buonocore – Telecom Manager
  • Robert Carpentier – Technical Support Engineer
  • Steve Collison – Enterprise Infrastructure Specialist
  • Kenneth Cook – Enterprise Cloud Infrastructure Manager
  • Robert (Bob) Cuddihee – Media Instructional Services Specialist
  • Jon Garbutt – Enterprise Infrastructure Manager Network
  • Adam Gerstein – Technical Support Engineer
  • Ciara Houghton – ERP/Academic Applications Manager
  • Kurt Jagielow – Voice and Video Network Manager
  • John Jaser – Director, Systems and Applications
  • Raymond Kellogg – Director, Computing Infrastructure
  • John (Ivan) Kozin – Technical Support Engineer
  • Jisong Li – Programmer Specialist
  • Edward (Rusty) May, Jr. – Director, Technology Administration
  • Ali Mohseni – Programmer Specialist
  • Amanda Mojica – Director, Strategic Initiatives and Special Projects
  • William Moroz – Enterprise Cloud Infrastructure Manager
  • Andrew Mortensen – Programmer Specialist
  • Karen Musmanno – System Manager
  • Jeffrey Otis – Director – Cloud Computing
  • Jill Pelletier – Secretary 2
  • Chris Perugini – Web Application Development Specialist
  • Dennis Reiman – VP, Technology and CIO
  • Chamis Reinhart – Instructional Support Specialist
  • Mary Robinson – Lead Telephone Operator
  • Charlene Rocanelli Leichter – Data Base Manager
  • Vinnie Rubano – Network Administrator
  • Chester Sample – Customer Support Center Manager
  • Marvin Thomas – Director, Systems Integration
  • Vu Trieu – Director – User Services
  • Lindsay Wargo – Customer Support Center Lead




The SCSU President’s Commission on Social Justice Recognition Committee proudly presents our fourteenth group of SouthernStrong awardees. These awards shine a light on faculty, staff, and students who have been 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 Melisa Beecher, Mikayla Bruton, Phil Bryant, Dee Dee Dahlman, Shermaine Edmonds, Adam Gerstein, Erin Heidkamp, Lisa Kortfelt, Cassi Meyerhoffer, Chelsea Ortiz, Barbara Paris, Robin Peters, Angela Ruggiero, Stanley Seligas, Cynthia Shea-Luzik, Cindy Simoneau, Alisa St.Georges, Jacqueline Toce, and Vu Trieu for their commitment to making a difference and stepping up during the pandemic crisis. Their acts of kindness have been making a positive impact during this difficult time.

Melisa Beecher

Student Melisa Beecher has not missed a beat when it comes to updating the True Blue Owls social media platforms, her nominator wrote, adding that “She has demonstrated that even when times get tough, you persevere and push through. Some of her posts on Instagram during the beginning of the pandemic and campus closing received the most traction on their page. This is because she tried to use uplifting stories and pictures of her baby Otus to bring the morale of the Southern Community back to campus. She continued to update the Southern community and keep everyone happy while staying safe as well as Southern Strong, throughout the entire campus closing. Even today she continues to post and use baby Otus as a tool to bring happiness and joy to all of her fellow Owls. After all, we are all connected to our ONE Southern, Owl Nation of Owls Helping Owls.”

Melisa Beecher

Mikayla Bruton

Mikayla Bruton was nominated by a fellow student, who wrote that Bruton is SouthernStrong because she has been taking two summer classes while still battling COVID-19 at her job as a PCA. Her nominator wrote that Bruton “radiates the utmost positivity and loves to ensure her patients are receiving the best care possible. She always makes sure to check in with you even though her schedule is always packed with things to do. Being such a busy person, Mikayla still continues to care for those around her and is genuinely such a kind person to all.”

Mikayla Bruton

Phil Bryant

Coordinator of High-Tech Classrooms Phil Bryant was nominated by a campus administrator, who wrote that Bryant “has been instrumental in getting 20 Hy-Flex (Hybrid-Flexible) classrooms configured with new technology needs while under critical time constraints and with minimal resources. The rooms are designed to enable simultaneous teaching of students in the room as well as online.”

The first 12 classrooms were completed last week and the last eight will be done by August 14, according to Bryant’s nominator. Bryant, he wrote, was “very responsive and did a tremendous job coordinating efforts with Facilities, other IT Staff and multiple vendors including HB Communications (AudioVisual), Mercury Communications (network wiring), Purchasing, and Receiving” and did all this within an eight-week window, while still handling normal operations.

Phil Bryant

Dee Dee Dahlman

Nominated by a colleague, Dee Dee Dahlman, IT Coordinator for Residence Life, has been working tirelessly to support the housing assignment needs for Southern students. Dahlman’s nominator wrote that she “has operationalized all housing adjustments in billing, configured rooms to meet current occupancy guidelines, and is now working diligently to get students assigned to housing and fill residence hall beds. Dee is remarkably dedicated to our students and our program!”

Dee Dee Dahlman

Shermaine Edmonds

Nominated by a member of the university administration, Shermaine Edmonds, administrative assistant in the School of Graduate and Professional Studies, “has shown an exemplary dedication to students’ academic success and personal wellbeing.” Her nominator wrote that Edmonds’ “work ethic and effectiveness to complete projects and tasks support the School of Graduate and Professional Studies in achieving new successes in terms of building enrollments and moving convincingly in new strategic directions. She is knowledgeable and the go-to person for all of us. Her professionalism, positive personality, and great sense of humor helps the SGPS team feel like a family working together to make positive change in the lives of our students. During Covid times she was at the forefront of our campus office transition to virtual office and led the multidimensional coordination from IT to Budget to student services, and to outreach activities very successfully. She has very deservingly earned respect and affection of everyone in our team. She is an inspiration and defines our strength!”

Shermaine Edmonds

Adam Gerstein

Adam Gerstein, Technical Support Engineer in IT, was nominated by a faculty member, who wrote that, “During the COVID-19, Adam has offered the WLL department for various technological consultations. When the department decided to distribute the Ipad pro to the full-time faculty members for teaching preparation. Adam helps the lab director to check in the supervision account and try out the devices and prepare to provide the solutions for us. Adam is very proactive and responsible. He always explains how he is going to solve the problems, which gives us a whole picture to understand problem-solving progress. We appreciate Adam and his effort should be recognized.”

Adam Gerstein

Erin Heidkamp

Erin Heidkamp, the director of the Office of International Education, was nominated by a colleague, who wrote, “The pandemic has disrupted our campus community in dramatic and difficult ways including the loss of our sense of international community. Our international students have suffered a great deal as a result of the pandemic and the Presidential proclamation in recent weeks, they have faced great uncertainty about their futures and Erin has been a fierce advocate and compassionate source of stability as we navigated this situation. Additionally, our Southern students have lost the opportunity to study abroad but through Erin’s vision for a virtual ‘Owls in Flight’ international exchange, students have had the opportunity to connect with students at our partner institutions all over the world from the safety of their homes. In the face of uncertainty, disappointment, and disruption, Erin has remained committed to fostering international community and connection. At a time when International Education as a sector is being challenged like never before, Erin has found innovative ways to continue to provide our international and domestic students not only with the support they need, but with new and exciting opportunities to develop global connections and cultural exchange. It is through her guidance and leadership that the Office of International Education has remained a steadfast resource for our international and domestic students.”

Erin Heidkamp

Lisa Kortfelt

Nominated by a university administrator, Lisa Kortfelt, the director of environmental health and safety for the University, has played the lead role in developing all safety measures in compliance with Centers for Disease Control (CDC). According to her nominator, she has worked tirelessly with faculty, staff and facilities personnel to prepare the campus for opening and has gone so far as to meet with vendors at 4 a.m. to review facilities and necessary campus installations.

Lisa Kortfelt

Cassi Meyerhoffer

Nominated by a faculty colleague, Cassi Meyerhoffer, associate professor of sociology, has “completely immersed herself in racial justice work over the past few months.” Her nominator wrote that Meyerhoffer has worked to support antiracist organizing in Hamden and New Haven, particularly around ending police brutality, and has also “helped organize white accountability and learning spaces to further help challenge fellow white people to deeply understand and then undo racism.” Meyerhoffer’s research and teaching interests are in the areas of systemic racism, racial residential segregation, and the role of race in American policing.

Cassi Meyerhoffer

Chelsea Ortiz

Chelsea Ortiz, the Department of Nursing‘s information and admissions coordinator, was nominated by a faculty colleague. However, wrote Ortiz’s nominator, “she is more than her title. Chelsea is one of the most invaluable members of our department. Chelsea takes on projects, and streamlines processes without being asked. She is helpful to all of us in whatever role we hold in the department. She has an open door policy with the students. Always ready to help them. They know they can contact her and she will be there. During the pandemic she has continued to not only do her job but continued to look for new ways to support the students during these very uncertain times. She’s not only supportive of our current students, but also all the incoming students who have a multitude of concerns as they start their education in nursing and reach out to her to get answers.”

Chelsea Ortiz

Barbara Paris

Nominated by a student, Rabbi Barbara Paris is the advisor to Southern’s Hillel, the Jewish student organization on campus. Throughout COVID-19, her nominator wrote, “Rabbi Barbara has continued to be a mentor, educator, and ally. She has not let this global pandemic dim her spirit or her passion for connecting with students. She adapted without hesitation to our new online format and not only continued to be involved in campus life but spread her impact even further.”

As the Hillel advisor, Paris has been offering opportunities for students to learn about Judaism and take part in Jewish customs virtually. Beginning in April, and still occurring every Friday afternoon, Paris hosts Hebrew classes over Zoom, and later in the evening, she hosts a Shabbat candle lighting service. “Because of her,” Paris’ nominator wrote, “I (and several other students) can now read Hebrew and am learning about my culture.”

Every week for Shabbat, her nominator wrote, Paris has one student take the weekly Parsha (a weekly portion of the Torah) and deliver a commentary. “I have found this to be tremendously interesting and also inspiring,” her nominator wrote. “She is challenging me to delve into the Torah, offer my own interpretations, and engage in conversation with others. She has been such a light in the exceptionally trying times and has given me an outlet to not only learn but to express myself.”

Paris also hosted a virtual Passover Seder in April. Hillel club members joined her and her family as they learned about and celebrated Passover. Paris also assembled and delivered Passover baskets filled with traditional foods for senior citizens and those in need in her community.

Paris’ nominator wrote that “Rabbi Barbara has responded to this pandemic with such kindness, compassion, and perseverance. I am so grateful that I have had her throughout all of this. She has truly been an ally and I know I can reach out to her whenever I need to. She is not letting this pandemic deter her from helping others, whether that be through Zoom calls or by delivering a challah from 6 feet away. She truly epitomizes ‘SouthernStrong’ and is keeping her spirit high while raising the spirits of those around her.”

Barbara Paris

Robin Peters

Nominated by a staff member, Purchasing Assistant Robin Peters “has helped to keep purchasing moving smoothly during this chaotic time in our lives. She has been patient in explaining what docs are needed for each specific process while at the same time getting everything handled in a timely manner,” her nominator wrote, adding, “Things would be a mess if [Peters] wasn’t there to help keep things organized and moving along with all the vendors and contracts that come across her desk.”

Robin Peters

Angela Ruggiero

Angela Ruggiero was nominated by a university administrator, who called her “one of the most dedicated and enthusiastic academic advisors on our campus.” In her new role as associate director of Healthcare Studies, her nominator wrote, Ruggiero “works tirelessly to guide new and continuing students through this degree program or prepare to submit applications to our nursing program. She provides outstanding training and mentoring to her staff. She does her job quietly and with great humility. She encourages, inspires, and celebrates our students’ successes.”

Angela Ruggiero

Stanley Seligas

A member of the Facilities Operations staff, Stanley Seligas was nominated by a campus administrator, who wrote that Seligas has helped to lead the preparation for classrooms for the return to campus. His nominator wrote that Seligas “has met with faculty and staff to determine location of plexiglass and other necessary preparations for the safety of students, faculty and staff. He has ordered PPE and supervised the installation of all safety measures related to the virus and a safe return to campus.”

Stanley Seligas

Cynthia Shea-Luzik

Manager of Procurement Services Cynthia Shea-Luzik was nominated by a colleague, who wrote, “I am strongly recommending Cynthia Shea-Luzik because since COVID19 hit she has been working tirelessly with facilities, residence life and other areas to secure PPE products to protect our students, faculty and staff. She has done extensive research to find quality products while paying close attention to the University’s bottom line all while continuing to do her job as the Manager of Procurement Services. During COVID she has become one of the ‘go to’ persons for all things related to dealing with preparations for COVID, answering phone calls and emails at all hours of the day and night.”

Cynthia Shea-Luzik

Cindy Simoneau

Cindy Simoneau, chair of the Journalism Department, was nominated by a faculty member, who wrote that  Simoneau “always goes above and beyond — but especially so in response to COVID-19. In her many roles as a campus leader, she has worked tirelessly since campus transitioned to remote learning.”

As Journalism Department chair, Simoneau has been in constant communication with full-time faculty and adjuncts, keeping all up-to-date on the return to campus in the fall. Her nominator wrote that Simoneau has held countless meetings, both one-on-one and as groups, to help answer questions and hear faculty concerns. She helped organize a virtual retirement party for Journalism Professor Jerry Dunklee, incorporating more than 50 people, including Journalism alumni, faculty, and his family members. She also planned and led a graduation celebration for the department’s seniors.

As chair of UCF, Simoneau helped the large committee finish out the semester without complication, completing important university business while faculty were still navigating the new normal. She continues to work behind the scenes to get UCF ready for business in the fall.

As adviser to two campus media outlets (The Southern News and Crescent magazine), Simoneau guided students through coverage of important campus issues, and pushed them to think of new ways to complete their work.

Cindy Simoneau

Alisa St.Georges

Nominated by a colleague, Alisa St.Georges is an administrative assistant in the Office of the Dean of the College of Health and Human Services. Her nominator wrote that “as soon as the university shut down, Alisa swung into action…coordinating with the Health & Human Services department secretaries to make sure we had access to everything we needed to successfully work from home. She has organized weekly meetings so that the secretaries feel connected to each other and to the university, giving us a ‘safe place’ to air our concerns and anxieties as well as share successes and workarounds. Alisa is constantly sharing updates regarding policies and procedures, the fall reopening, and everything else that may be relevant. She is always available to answer questions and never hesitates to lend a helping hand. As a new SCSU employee, it would have been very easy for me to feel completely overwhelmed when the university suddenly switched to remote operations – but knowing Alisa was there to help really lowered my stress level and enabled me to focus on learning and performing my duties. In addition, she has provided unlimited training and insight, all while remaining upbeat and positive about everything. Alisa has so many of her own responsibilities, but she has unselfishly taken on so much more in order to ensure the continued success of HHS and every single person who works with her!!”

Alisa St.Georges

Jackie Toce

Nominated by a colleague, Jackie Toce is the Head of Technical Services in Buley Library. While a lot of the work done in the Technical Services division is “behind the scenes,” her nominator wrote, its impact is not — the library added over 70,000 electronic resources to its collection since March. As the division head, Toce has worked with library faculty and staff colleagues to ensure that everyone in the Technical Services division had what they needed to get that work done while telecommuting.

Toce coordinated with the other supervisor in the division to make sure that staff had what they needed to complete their projects and to provide opportunities for staff professional development, especially as staff shifted toward more electronic resources and online services. Toce also personally cataloged thousands of those newly added resources to make them accessible in Southern Search. Her nominator wrote that Toce “has also repeatedly considered the good of the the division and the library in making decisions about her own schedule, professional development opportunities, and work.”

At the system level, Toce participated in the CSCU libraries’ response to the pandemic as the Expert Team leader for Resource Management for which, among other things, she quickly reviewed records for hundreds of temporarily added resources to facilitate their prompt inclusion in the libraries’ catalogs.

Jackie Toce

Vu Trieu

Vu Trieu, director of User Services in IT, was nominated by a campus administrator, who wrote that Trieu “has been instrumental in getting 20 Hy-Flex (Hybrid-Flexible) classrooms configured with new technology needs while under critical time constraints and with minimal resources. The rooms are designed to enable simultaneous teaching of students in the room as well as online.”

The first 12 classrooms were completed last week and the last eight will be done by August 14, according to Trieu’s nominator. Trieu, he wrote, was “very responsive and did a tremendous job coordinating efforts with Facilities, other IT Staff and multiple vendors including HB Communications (AudioVisual), Mercury Communications (network wiring), Purchasing, and Receiving” and did all this within an eight-week window, while still handling normal operations.

Vu Trieu



The SCSU President’s Recognition Committee proudly presents our thirteenth 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 Shawneen Buckley, Resha Cardone, Katie DeOliveira, Afia Opoku, and Jose Zapata Cabrera 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!

Shawneen Buckley

Nominated by a colleague, Shawneen Buckley is the Clinical Field Placement Coordinator for the graduate program in Speech-Language Pathology in the Department of Communication Disorders. She is charged with ensuring that graduate students in the program are placed in and successfully complete a series of clinical externships they need to graduate and subsequently enter the workforce. Her nominator wrote that “This is a daunting task under typical circumstances, and became a seemingly impossible task in March when all medical and educational externship sites shut down and/or excluded student interns due to the pandemic. This left a cohort of 45 CMD graduate students potentially unable to complete their program, graduate, and enter the workforce. To say it simply, Shawneen worked miracles to explore and eventually establish clinical placement experiences that has allowed virtually every student in this group to complete their program. She invested endless hours tirelessly reaching out to professional colleagues across the state and the country, helping them to explore and establish mechanisms to accept and support our students. No one initially thought this could be done, and across the nation similar programs have failed to do so, but due to Shawneen’s creativity, commitment and tireless work, our students thrived and successfully completed their graduate program!”

Shawneen Buckley

Resha Cardone

Nominated by a colleague, Resha Cardone is chair of the World Languages and Literatures Department. Her nominator wrote that “Chair Cardone has acted proactively and timely to assist the WLL department to transform our course online smoothly. She initiated an online teaching committee and asked the language lab director, Elu Tu, to lead the committee. Her leadership creates transparent communication allowing faculty members to express challenges in pedagogy and technology. She has worked with the lab director closely to provide devices and technological resources to support the whole department. She also checks in on a regular basis to assure the colleagues’ health. I strongly recommend the Chair Cardone deserves the award.”

Resha Cardone

Katie DeOliveira

Nominated by a student, Katie DeOliveira is director of the Academic Success Center. Her nominator wrote that DeOliveira “has had her hands full ever since the transition to online classes in the Spring. Katie, along with the rest of the ASC staff, seamlessly facilitated the transition to online academic services including online PAL sessions, online tutoring, and online academic coaching sessions.”

This summer, DeOliveira has been working with the ASC staff and the coordinators to provide online training for new PALs, tutors, navigators, and coaches. She has even been planning to offer a new CRLA certification program for PALs and coaches, in addition to the existing tutor CRLA certification program.

Currently, she is hard at work preparing for the ASC to safely operate in the fall. She has facilitated the installation of Plexiglas to keep the students and success navigators safe, along with many other safety protocols. She is also planning to host as many in-person academic services as possible in accordance with social distancing and safety guidelines.

As DeOliveira’ nominator wrote, “With SCSU’s students’ success and safety as her highest priorities, Southern is lucky to have an ASC Director as competent and as caring as Katie!”

Katie De Oliveira

Afia Opoku

Afia Opoku, ’13, (B.S. in Sociology) is currently an M.A candidate in Women’s and Gender Studies and was nominated by a faculty member. Her nominator wrote, “As a mental health and social justice advocate, Afia centers her academic work and life purpose around Black feminism and the healing of historically oppressed and marginalized communities through art, storytelling and activism. In the last few weeks of combatting twin pandemics, COVID-19 and racial injustices, we have gotten to witness the power of Afia’s activist passion and dedication for #BlackLivesMatter and racial justice. During these intense and unprecedented times, she has stepped up and exercised her activism by giving back to her community.”

Currently she, along with two of her sister friends (Southern alums), has created safety kits for protestors on the front line in the New Haven and Hartford area. In addition, she is also fundraising for bail-out funds, grassroots organizations, and local therapists to provide free sessions for individuals who do not have access to therapy. Her nominator wrote, “No doubt, in our mind, Afia exemplifies the best of SouthernStrong spirit!”

Afia Opoku

Jose Zapata Cabrera

Recent graduate Jose Zapata Cabrera, ’20, is a former intern in the state Department of Children and Families. He has volunteered in countless nonprofit organizations, ranging from after-school programs to churches. Last year, he ended his volunteer service at Yale New Haven Bridgeport Hospital, where he was awarded a brief internship. He continues to advocate for oppressed and vulnerable populations, as he has done for more than 10 years. Since he is also a Youth Ministry Leader at a local Christian church in Bridgeport, he has made hundred of calls, has referred families in need to local community resources and has been in frequent talks with local politicians to enhance social justice. All in all, his nominator wrote, Zapata Cabrera “will continue to do everything that is in his power to lift his community now more than ever, that he has been awarded his BSW from Southern through his emblem of ‘good prayers translated to good actions.'”

Jose Zapata Cabrera