Faculty

An ecologically minded health director turns to solar power to keep local waters clean — and sets an example for the nation.

Long Island Sound is a little greener, a little cleaner, and a little quieter, thanks to Michael Pascucilla, ’92, who oversaw the development of the world’s first full-size solar- and electric-powered pump-out boat. The utility craft, which removes sewage from other boats, finished its first season in the Branford River and Branford Harbor last summer.

Christened the Solar Shark, the boat is being heralded as a model response to the climate crisis. Its carbon footprint is one-tenth that of gasoline-powered counterparts, prompting Rosa DeLauro, U.S. Representative for Connecticut’s third district, to call the Solar Shark “a great achievement” — and it’s an idea unlikely to have seen the light of day if Pascucilla hadn’t taken Professor Emeritus of Public Health Gary Gesmonde’s “Diet and Nutrition” course as a college sophomore.

Fascinated to learn how food could be considered medicine and changing eating habits could cure illnesses, Pascucilla registered for more nutrition and public health courses. He ditched his plans to become an accountant, majored in public health, and went on to complete a master’s degree in public health at the University of Connecticut. After stints with state and federal government offices, he has been the chief executive officer/health director of the East Shore District Health Department since 2010, serving the communities of Branford, East Haven, and North Branford. “It’s not just a job or a career,” he says. “It’s a calling.”

Several Southern professors were influential in encouraging Pascucilla to answer that call. The beloved late faculty members Danny Gonsalves and A. Kay Keiser both provided the structure he needed as an under- graduate. Professor of Public Health William Faraclas gave counsel, discussing various career options and connecting him with his first internship with the public health office in West Haven.

“He was the voice of reason,” Pascucilla says of Faraclas. “He gave me that direction.”

Pascucilla pays it forward by teaching courses in wellness and environmental health at Southern and serving on the advisory board for the university’s Department of Public Health. He also lectures on epidemiology at Yale University.

The solar/electric pump-out boat began with an epiphany almost five years ago. Pascucilla’s office had been looking for ways to save taxpayer money and be more environmentally friendly at a time when one of its two pump-out boats needed to be replaced. Having just received a grant for an electric-hybrid vehicle, he thought, “Why not use the same technology for a pump-out boat?”

 

Pascucilla takes the wheel. The team recently applied for a U.S. intellectual patent for the project.

 

A boater himself — he lives by the water with his wife and their two young sons — Pascucilla had witnessed firsthand the effects of climate change in his neighborhood, with roads flooded by rising tides. He’d also seen the global impact on the news: fires, floods, and storms. The pump-out boat project gave him the opportunity to do his part in response.

He pitched the idea to state officials, wrote some grants, and secured $150,000 in funding through the Federal Clean Vessel Act through the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (CDEEP). Pascucilla credits the CDEEP’s Kathryn Brown for championing the idea. He raised an additional $50,000 through fundraising efforts, assisted, in part, by his Southern students. Yale University students assisted with research.

Pascucilla admits to being intimidated by the responsibility of developing the new concept. “It was a little scary given the amount of money at stake,” he says.

It got scarier when the initial bid for a solar/electric boat that could perform like a conventional gas- powered design — able to reach speeds of 40 miles per hour — came in at over half a million dollars, more than double the budget. Forced back to the drawing board, Pascucilla and his team realized they could aim for less power since the boat would travel primarily on rivers or no-wake areas. They also swapped out the fiberglass hull for an aluminum one. It took two years, but they eventually came up with a viable design that had a 400-gallon holding tank and two four-horsepower Torqeedo engines powered by rechargeable batteries and a canopy of solar panels. With the batteries providing the main source of power and the solar panels a trickle charge, the boat is able to run for up to 10-12 hours at zero emissions.

From May through September 2019, the boat serviced five communities in the Long Island Sound, which is a no-discharge area, meaning boaters must have the waste on their boats pumped out, similar to the way a truck empties a residential septic tank. Boaters can schedule appointments at one of two marinas where the pump-out boat docks.

The electric/solar boat costs less to operate and maintain than a traditional gas-powered pump-out boat. Pascucilla and Sean Grace, chairman of Southern’s Department of Biology and co-director of the university’s Werth Center for Coastal and Marine Studies, are studying the benefits to aquamarine life of reduced noise from the quieter pump-out boat. [Read more on Grace’s other research projects.]

Pascucilla has been presenting data on the boat’s features at national and international conferences. “We’re hoping to see [that] the boat not only helps with air and water pollutions, but also with noise pollution for humans and marine life,” Pascucilla says.

He and his team are working on the problems of how to dispose of the batteries and reduce development costs. Pascucilla is optimistic about finding solutions for both. In time, he believes the operational savings of electric/solar boats will offset higher production costs, especially if they are manufactured in volume,  which he sees as the future of recreational and commercial boats. “In time, you’re going to see boats like this everywhere,” he says.

That will be an important step toward addressing the climate crisis — with the Solar Shark leading the way in reducing carbon emissions, keeping coastal waters clean, and lowering noise. “We need to be better stewards of our planet,” Pascucilla says. “It all connects back to the environment. What affects the environment affects our health.” ■

Cover of SCSU Southern Alumni Magazine Summer 2020Read more stories in the Summer ’20 issue of Southern Alumni Magazine.

Siobhan Carter-David

Associate Professor of History Siobhan Carter-David recently published her essay, “Essence as Archive on the Occasion of its Golden Anniversary,” in Black Perspectives, the award-winning blog of the African American Intellectual History Society (AAIHS). First published in 1970, Essence is a monthly lifestyle magazine covering fashion, beauty, entertainment, and culture. Its target audience is African American women.

In what Carter-David refers to as her “ode to Essence,” she discusses “the work carried out by Essence in documenting the collective lives of Black women” over the past 50 years. She has used the magazine in her research and writing.

Carter-David, who is also an affiliate faculty member in Women’s and Gender Studies, teaches in the areas of fashion studies and African American/African Diasporic and contemporary United States histories. Her research focuses are dress and racial uplift as presented in black print media and migration and public housing in New York City. She has worked with museum and special collection curators on projects involving various facets of African American and broad-based United States cultural histories. She is author of several journal articles, and chapters in edited volumes and exhibition catalogues. She is completing her book manuscript, Issuing the Black Wardrobe: Fashion, Magazines, and Uplift Post-Soul.

 

 

The water is just fine in New England, where research on coral and kelp is providing a crash course on the potential influence of climate change. Sean Grace, professor of biology, dives in to investigate

On November 22, Sean Grace (left), professor of biology, and Gabriella DiPreta, ’16, M.S. ’19, a researcher at the U.S Environmental Protection Agency, wade into Long Island Sound to conduct research.
On November 22, Sean Grace (left), professor of biology, and Gabriella DiPreta, ’16, M.S. ’19, a researcher at the U.S Environmental Protection Agency, wade into Long Island Sound to conduct research.

It’s a chilly February day in New England, and Sean Grace can’t wait to get back in the water. A dive is scheduled for later in the week in Rhode Island, and despite the frigid temperatures, the professor of biology is primed to continue his research on temperate coral and kelp systems.

Say “coral” and the average person thinks Aruba, St. Thomas, or Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. But Grace has a different research paradise in mind: Long Island Sound, Rhode Island Sound, the waters off Cape Cod. All offer a wealth of opportunity for the scientist who typically has several studies in progress. When it comes to marine research, much like real estate, it’s all about location — and Grace considers southern New England to be ideal. “We’re at the northern-most [habitat] range of many southern species. And we’re at the southern-most range of many northern species. They all come together — living and competing in a very interesting way,” says Grace, chairman of the Department of Biology and co-director of the Werth Center for Coastal and Marine Studies at Southern.

He’s particularly interested in how environmental factors, specifically global warming, are influencing this melting pot of northern and southern species. One example: the decline of kelp and the increase of bushy turf algae in Narragansett Bay in Rhode Island between 1980 and 2018. This study — conducted by Grace and two other researchers and published in Scientific Reports — points to increasing water temperatures as the primary reason for the shift.

Grace continues to collaborate with other scientists on kelp research: they’re compiling video records; conducting transect studies; and studying the attachment strength of kelp growing on rocks versus kelp growing on the aforementioned turf algae. The kelp attached to the latter “pops right off,” notes Grace, despite attachment points that extend out — seemingly looking for a firm footing. This kelp is smaller. Less healthy.  “Every time an organism expends energy in one area, they lose it in another,” says Grace.

In southern New England, the shift is in full swing — and the kelp is losing ground. “If I was a young person interested in climate change, I’d want to be where it was going to be demonstrated really quickly — which is what we’re seeing here,” says Grace.

Such research is important on a global perspective: kelp is a vital home for marine life and similar shifts are being seen in many locations. But research is also significant from an educational standpoint — and it has been greatly forwarded by the Werth Family Foundation. In 2014, the foundation pledged $3 million to Southern, to be awarded over 10 years, for several initiatives, including $1,500,000 to endow Southern’s Center for Coastal and Marine Studies,  and an additional $750,000 to cover operating costs. The center was named in honor of the Werth family. The remaining funds were earmarked for two initiatives that combine science education and real-world experience through seminars, internships, and research opportunities. “If it wasn’t for the foundation’s support, we would be having a completely different conversation — and it would not be about research,” says Grace.

A Scientist is Born

Portrait of SCSU Professor of Biology Sean GraceRaised in Fall River, Mass., several blocks from the Rhode Island border, Grace has been pulled by the tides since boyhood. His father, a high school graduate who served in the military, was a dock worker for Shell Oil with a shift-worker schedule. When his afternoons were free, he’d take Grace and his brother fishing at a nearby dock.

Grace loved the outings. “But I could have cared less about the fish,” he says, instead recalling a deep fascination with the barnacles and mussels growing on the dock. Grace, a first-generation college student, followed his passion to the University of Maryland, where he earned an undergraduate degree and was hired as a research assistant. “We went all over the Caribbean to study how corals feed,” says Grace, who lived in the underwater Aquarius laboratory for two science missions. He was set to begin graduate school on the West Coast, but changed plans to be closer to his parents, who were dealing with medical issues.

Enrolling instead at the University of Rhode Island’s graduate program, he shifted his research focus to the coral found along the New England coastline. Grace was certified to SCUBA dive in Rhode Island — and had long known about this local coral. Still, he remembers the early warnings: “The best coral people would say, ‘You might find five or six here. Maybe 20 over there. You’re never going to find a lot. So be careful what you want to study, because you might not have enough for a sample size.’”

His first dives as a graduate student were deeply disappointing. Then he changed his search pattern. “And I saw what I was looking for — and it’s everywhere,” he says. Called Astrangia poculata, it’s also known as northern star coral, and like all corals, it’s an animal, an invertebrate related to jellyfish and anemone. Far less showy than its tropical relatives, Astrangia, is a hard, small (typically smaller than a fist) non-reef-building coral, ranging in color from white to brown.

Despite its more subdued appearance, Astrangia has its own superpowers. Many corals have a symbiotic relationship with algae called zooxanthellae that live in its tissue. “They photosynthesize and give the host some benefits, and they get a home,” says Grace. Tropical coral gets much of its vivid color from zooxanthellae, which produces oxygen, helps the coral remove waste, and provides vital nutrients. If there’s not enough zooxanthellae, the tropical coral bleaches, turns white, and usually dies.

But Astrangia is another story. Healthy Astrangia sometimes has zooxanthellae in its tissue: the coral appears brown. But it also lives successfully with little or no algae: it’s white but doing just fine. And successful Astrangia colonies can include multiple polyps living side by side, ranging in color from white to brown (presumably with and without zooxanthellae).

Astrangia is hardy in other ways. Reef-building corals cannot tolerate temperatures below 64° Fahrenheit, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. In contrast, Astrangia withstands the extremes of New England — blazing-hot summers, frigid winters, and everything in between. “This coral is kind of a model system,” sums Grace.

Other scientists agree. The Astrangia Research Working Group unites researchers from more than 15 institutions. Their goal: to establish temperate corals, including Astrangia, as a model system for investigating how coral responds to environmental change. Grace and faculty members Koty Sharp from Roger Williams University and Randi Rotjan from Boston University are co-organizers of the group.

coral species Astrangia poculata could help tropical corals threatened by climate change.
Research on the hardy coral species Astrangia poculata could help tropical corals threatened by climate change. Patrick Skahill/Connecticut Public photo

Grace is currently conducting several Astrangia studies — all of which have implications for exotic tropical corals as well. In one study, he is looking at the competition between Astrangia and Cliona celata, commonly known as the red boring sponge. The sponge settles near the coral, burrowing beneath it. “It literally produces a chemical that wears away the coral’s ability to hold on. And it pulls the coral off the substrate,” explains Grace. The study will be among the first to examine the attachment strength of coral in a natural setting. “You can’t go to the Caribbean and pull coral off the reef. But there are billions of this organism out there. So, we get to ask and answer more questions,” says Grace, noting that sponges also are becoming more dominant in tropical reefs.

A separate study, conducted in collaboration with the NOAH (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) Northeast Fisheries Science Center in Milford, Conn., looks at the influence of ocean acidification on Astrangia coral. The research team includes two of Grace’s former Southern students: David Veilleux, ’99, M.S. ’06, the biological science laboratory technician and shellfish hatchery manager at the Milford center, and Gabriella DiPreta, ’16, M.S. ’19, a researcher at the U.S Environmental Protection Agency in the Office of Water. During the first phase of the study conducted at NOAH over a three-month period, pre-weighed Astrangia was kept in ocean water at three separate pH levels: 8 (similar to the ocean currently); 7 ½ (moving toward more acidic); and  7 (pH neutral). The pH scale is logarithmic, so a one-unit change on the scale means a tenfold change in concentration.

During the next phases, Grace is examining how the various pH levels affect the corals’ weight, structural strength, and ultimately, its chemical composition. A lot is at stake — particularly as temperate coral also has implications for reef-building coral, which can’t be studied in the same way. Consider just some of the benefits coral brings to the planet: preventing coastal erosion, spurring tourism/recreation opportunities, and creating critical habitats for marine life. Coral is home to more than 1 million diverse aquatic species, including thousands of fish species, according to the International Coral Reef Initiative.

So, the research continues. “Our oceans won’t hit 7 for — who knows — a very, very long time, if ever,” says Grace. “But we know the direction we are going. This will help us see how organisms with calcium carbonate skeletons or makeups might fare — if the oceans ever did get to that point.” ♦

The World’s Oceans are Big Business

giant kelp; Project Blue photo

The global ocean economy could double in size by 2030, reaching approximately $3 trillion, according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Looked at locally, in Long Island Sound, the “Blue Economy” — defined by the World Bank as sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods, and ocean ecosystem health — is projected to grow by 67 percent during that same period to an estimated $13.3 billion, according to a team of Southern researchers.

Helping to drive this growth, Southern has launched Project Blue Hub, with a goal of creating a Blue Economy center for research, tech transfer, and innovation in New Haven. Created by a team of dedicated researchers and uniting academia, business, and the government sector, Project Blue Hub was spearheaded by Colleen Bielitz, associate vice president for Strategic Initiatives & Outreach, and Patrick Heidkamp, professor in the Department of the Environment, Geography, and Marine Sciences.

Among the first focuses: expansion of the locally grown kelp industry by finding alternative channels and niche markets for kelp to grow local businesses. Through partnerships with Gateway Community College and CT Next, Southern is prepared to provide up to 300 students with practical research and learning experiences in the burgeoning kelp industry in the next two years. ■

More at:  projectblue.SouthernCT.edu

Cover of SCSU Southern Alumni Magazine Summer 2020Read more stories in the Summer ’20 issue of Southern Alumni Magazine.

Jonathan Wharton

Jonathan Wharton, associate professor of political science and urban affairs, recently published an op-ed on CT News Junkie: “The Sudden Interest In Race In America…And Our Backyards” (July 3, 2020). In the op-ed, Wharton expresses his curiosity “as a Black American . . . why it took so long for many white Americans to understand race in our country.” He discusses racism in New England in particular, and questions how long the deepened interest in race and racism will last.

Read Wharton’s op-ed

 

 

Tim Parrish

English Professor Tim Parrish, coordinator of the creative writing program and author of the memoir Fear and What Follows: The Violent Education of a Christian Racist, recently published an op-ed in the New York Daily News, “Our work cut out: What whites need to try to learn and change when it comes to race and racism” (July 1, 2020).

In the op-ed, Parrish looks at the antiracism protests that have been taking place across the country, and considers the work that white people must engage in for real systemic change to occur. He writes, “Will we justice-and-equity-leaning white people, especially middle-and-upper-class whites, continue to make a difference? Only if we do the hard work personally and politically. We have to listen to people of color and educate ourselves about black Americans’ reality through books, articles, documentaries and even movies by black people. We have to look into our own heads and hearts and root out racist indoctrination from privilege and institutions.”

 

 

 

#SouthernStrong graphic with photo collage of SCSU students, faculty, staff, and alumni
As the university prepares to reopen, here’s a look at how the Southern community responded to the early phases of the COVID-19 pandemic — and upheld its commitment to education.

First, the good news. Southern’s physical campus is slated to reopen for fall 2020, with classes beginning on Aug. 26, following a staggered move-in for residence hall students. Courses will be offered in a HyFlex model, a combination of on-ground and online courses. Public health guidelines will be followed (face coverings, class size, etc.) and, if the need arises, the university is prepared to pivot to an all online schedule. The goal is to complete the entire fall semester as scheduled, with one caveat – on-ground classes will end at the Thanksgiving break. After Thanksgiving, all remaining classes and final exams will be held online and all student services will be offered remotely.

The plan is a promising return to normalcy for the campus community.

The first campus-wide warning came in January: an email with tips for fighting seasonal influenza included a sentence about the outbreak of a respiratory illness caused by a novel coronavirus identified in Wuhan, China. The news became increasingly dire in the following weeks, and, on Feb. 26, U.S. officials reported the first non-travel-related case of the illness now officially known as COVID-19.

On campus, the disease’s rapid-fire spread came to light on March 10, after a Southern student attended an event where another participant later tested positive for the virus. Southern’s physical campus was closed (initially for five days) for a deep cleaning, a process that included licensed professionals in HAZMAT suits.Southern’s campus has remained shuttered through spring and summer to date, following the Office of the Governor’s directives for statewide closures and the decision of the Connecticut State Universities and Colleges system.

At the macro-level, the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic is unprecedented: in early June when the university magazine in which this article first appeared went to press, there were more than 1,800,000 cases and 106,000 deaths in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — figures that have been tragically surpassed today. Like the nation and, indeed, much of the world, Southern is mourning profound losses. Students, university employees, and alumni have become ill from the virus, some seriously. While impossible to track all cases, Southern graduates have died from COVID-19.  No student has died from the virus as of June 24. The university is also navigating a new world order, driven by an overarching directive: ensuring the health and welfare of the Southern community and the community-at-large.

To be clear, the university was never closed. Instead, over a 10-day period that corresponded with students’ spring break, faculty prepared to adopt remote/online learning for the remainder of the spring 2020 semester. On March 23, all Southern courses began being offered remotely /online, with summer sessions soon following suit. With fall’s campus opening in sight, here’s a look at some of Southern’s initial responses to the early phases of the pandemic.

More at:  go.SouthernCT.edu/strong    inside.SouthernCT.edu/coronavirus

Demographic of SCSU students, Grad assistants/interns/faculty/staff, with collage images
The People:

Piloting Southern through the COVID-19 pandemic is complex. The university is a home-away-from-home for 11,072 people — more residents than 44 percent of cities/towns in Connecticut. In spring 2020, the Southern community included 9,212 students (1), a figure that comprises 7,456 undergraduates and 1,756 graduate students, both full- and part-time. There are also 2,050 faculty and staff, including some 190 students working as graduate assistants/interns.

FEMA setting up cots in response to Covid-19 at SCSU Moore Fieldhouse
Changing Places:

On March 31, 2020, the National Guard began assembling a 300-bed “Connecticut Medical Station” inside Southern’s Moore Fieldhouse [above]. (2) Designed as “overflow” space for Yale New Haven-Hospital in anticipation of a surge of COVID-10 patients, the facility fortunately had not been needed as of early June. The university also made available 2,500 rooms in nine residence halls, which were used minimally to house some National Guard staff.

A New Way of Working:

Following the governor’s mandate for statewide closures, about 1,662 faculty and staff began working remotely. They are responsible for most university operations — from admissions and teaching to information technology and health services. Those designated essential employees — 34 unsung heroes as of press time — continue to regularly report to campus. Among them: the police chief and officers, and the facilities team, including grounds crew, custodians, receiving staff, mailroom workers, supervisors, dispatchers, and building tradesmen.  An additional 116 employees are on-campus on an interim basis.

Chart showing pre- and post-Covid remote learning accounts, participants, and sessions

Teaching Remotely:

Between mid-March and the end of the month, the Office of Online Learning held more than 70 webinars — including individual and group support sessions. The focus was on teaching/learning through the use of several platforms: WebEx (web conferencing), Teams (an online communication and collaboration platform), Kaltura (video), and Blackboard (educational technology). In April, the office also held a three-day online Teaching Academy, with all sessions filled to capacity. In addition to the staff from the Office of Online Learning, faculty volunteers have helped with training.

SCSU Academic Success Center has Coach Team Meeting online

Academic Support:

The Academic Success Center is working virtually to help students succeed. The center’s hours have stayed the same and its tutors, 100 PALS (Peer Academic Leaders who focus on gateway and foundational courses), Academic Success Coaches, and more than 200 student workers all mobilized online through Microsoft Teams. “The short answer is we’re here,” says Kathleen De Oliveira, director of the ASC. “We want them to succeed. Just like before, all they have to do is come and ask.”

Buley Library:

The building is closed, but the library is open for business, with 100 percent of staff working remotely. They’re a busy group. Between the shutdown and mid-May, they redesigned their web page to promote online resources and services (100,000 visitors), answered 180 questions from students, hosted numerous online events (including an online exhibit for National Poetry Month), and even used 3D printing to create mask components for health care workers at UConn Health. Since the shutdown, they’ve also activated 3,500-plus online resources, including thousands of ebooks and streaming videos.

A Global Issue:

The pandemic has been particularly challenging for students who were far from home. There were 13 Southern students studying abroad during the spring 2020 semester: 10 returned home in mid-March and three signed waivers after deciding to remain in their host countries. International students studying at Southern — both exchange students and those who are matriculated at SCSU — were helped by the Office of International Studies (OIS) and, when needed, Residence Life. (They coordinated flights and airport shuttles, ensured access to food and housing, and much more.) The 26 international exchange students studying at Southern this spring returned home by early April. But many of the 65 matriculated international students remained in the U.S., staying with extended family or in campus-sponsored accommodations at an extended stay hotel with other students.
Looking forward, Southern is holding strong to its long-term commitment to international education. Intercultural engagement and global diversity in the classroom “are the antidote to the isolationism and nationalism that the pandemic has fueled in some parts of the world,” says Erin Heidkamp, director of the Office of International Education.

SCSU student and Army National Guard member Renee Villarreal with baby
Renee Villarreal — parent, student, Army National Guard member
The Ties that Bind:

“The current situation is hard for students,” says Sal Rizza, director of New and Sophomore Programs, reflecting on the spring 2020 semester. “We’re trying to bring a little life and enjoyment. There are a ton of activities happening.” Among them: SCSU Music Trivia, The Dan Baronski Hour (peer mentor and orientation ambassador Baronski talks fashion and music), Cooking with Kyra, Coffee Chat with Student Involvement, and more.

Campus Recreation and Fitness held programs to get students moving, including a live-stream workout with President Joe Bertolino and his trainer, Hunter Fluegel, that drew about 300 viewers. Similarly, more than 200 students and 100 faculty and staff signed up for A Southern Strong Step Challenge. Many student clubs also met online, with Daphney Alston assistant director of Student Involvement, noting that the university is “really proud of how clubs and organizations have tried to figure out this new normal.”

SCSU President Joe Bertolino and volunteers deliver lawn signs to 2020 future graduates

Celebration:

With large gatherings prohibited, Southern is holding a virtual commencement ceremony for undergraduate and graduate students on Aug. 15 — and also found ways to immediately honor students safely. More than 1,000 celebratory yard signs were delivered to graduates; an emotional virtual pinning ceremony was held for graduating nursing majors; and seniors submitted photos and memories for a virtual yearbook and social media spotlights.

Helping Hands:

When the Southern campus closed suddenly in mid-March, Chartwells was left with an abundance of food. That’s when an existing food recovery program run by Southern’s Office of Sustainability and Chartwells sprang into action. Several students and Chartwells staff packaged more than 300 pounds of food for delivery to St. Anne’s Soup Kitchen in Hamden, Park Ridge Tower Affordable Senior Living in New Haven, and Monterey Place Senior Living in New Haven.
There were countless other outreach efforts. Southern police collected equipment from university labs/clinics to assist in relieving the PPE shortage, numerous community members made and donated face coverings, Buley Library staff 3D printed components for face masks, and more.

You helped, too:

Responding to students’ heightened need, more than 1,000 donors contributed over $500,000 during Southern’s Day of Caring, held on April 22.

SCSU Alumni collage during Covid-19 pandemic

Alumni Pride:

Thoughts are also with our alumni, many of whom are in the frontlines of fighting the pandemic. Among them are more than 11,000 graduates of the College of Health and Human Services. Similarly, as the largest educator of teachers and educational administrators in the state, Southern salutes its graduates of the College of Education — who have turned to technology to educate their young charges.

Through it all, our 93,500-plus alumni have remained a source of pride, strength, and optimism. Consider Fairfield, Conn., couple Maureen and Dan Rosa (3), both graduates of the Class of 2010, who met as Southern students in 2006. Tragically, Maureen’s father Gary Mazzone was among those killed in the crash of a World War II-era B-17 bomber plane on Oct. 2, 2019, at Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks, Conn. A year later, the couple faced the fear of welcoming their first child during the epicenter of the pandemic. And, yet, they persevered and triumphed — and the media heralded their joy on April 2 when they welcomed their new daughter: Cecilia Hope Rosa.

Cover of SCSU Southern Alumni Magazine Summer 2020Read more stories in the Summer ’20 issue of Southern Alumni Magazine.

On June 16, English adjunct instructor Shelley Stoehr-McCarthy and her family will share their lives on a national stage when a documentary film about the family, Little Miss Westie, is screened on several TV channels. Stoehr-McCarthy, a graduate of Southern’s MFA in creative writing program who teaches composition at Southern, won the university’s prestigious J. Philip Smith Outstanding Teacher Award for 2017-18 and, more recently, the CSUS Board of Regents Adjunct Faculty System-Wide Teaching Award. She and her husband Chris McCarthy are the parents of two transgender teenagers, and the family’s journey over the past few years has been captured in Little Miss Westie. The film is named after an annual beauty pageant that takes place in West Haven, where the family lives. In the film, the McCarthys’ daughter, Ren, a trans girl, competes in the Little Miss Westie Pageant, and her older brother, Luca, a trans boy, coaches her on posing, make-up, and talent. Luca competed several years ago when he was living as a girl, so he’s an experienced adviser.

The film was made four years ago when son Luca (19 now) was 15 and daughter Ren (now 14) was 10.

“Little Miss Westie” premieres on WORLD Channel Tuesday, June 16, at 8 p.m. during his LGBTQ+ Pride Month and on worldchannel.org as part of its “America ReFramed” series. (It’s also on certain PBS stations Tuesday, namely WGBY in Springfield, Mass., and streaming platforms such as amdoc.org and PBS.org.)

The New Haven Register recently ran a feature about the McCarthy family and Little Miss Westie. Read “‘Little Miss Westie’ tells of West Haven family with 2 transgender kids,” by Joe Amarante, June 12, 2020

Download the PDF: ‘Little Miss Westie’ tells of West Haven family with 2 transgender kids

Shelley Stoehr-McCarthy

 

 

In recent days, the senseless, brutal killing of George Floyd and its ripple effects have placed the issues of racial inequality and injustice under an intense spotlight across the state, the nation, and around the world. To promote campus-wide dialogue, Southern is hosting a virtual panel discussion with Southern faculty, students and community members. Please join us.

Wednesday, June 17 (12 – 1:30 p.m.)

A community online forum streaming live on Southern’s Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SouthernCT/

A community online forum moderated by Jonathan L. Wharton, associate professor of political science and urban affairs, Southern Connecticut State University.

This event is open to the public, and a Facebook account is not required to attend.

Submit questions for the panelists here.

Panelists:

Shanté Hanks, ’97, M.S. ’99, 6th Yr. ’05, is the deputy commissioner of the State of Connecticut Department of Housing, with professional experience spanning government affairs, public policy, affordable housing development and education. She holds two Southern degrees and an advanced certificate.

Solomon James, ’22, a rising junior at Southern, is a community activist and the co-organizer of a recent racial justice march held in Danbury, Conn., in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.

Julian Madison is an associate professor of history at Southern with a scholarly focus on race and ethnicity, civil rights, culture and the Jazz Age. His books and manuscripts cover a wide range of topics, including desegregation of sports and the fight to end school segregation.

Cassi Meyerhoffer is an associate professor of sociology at Southern. Her research and teaching interests focus on systemic racism, racial residential segregation, and the role of race in American policing. She is working on a book proposal: From the Old Jim Crow to the New: Tracing the Roots of Reconstruction to Residential Segregation, Police Brutality, and the Mass Incarceration of Black Bodies.

Orisha Ala Nzambi Ochumare is one of the co-founders of Black Lives Matter New Haven. She is an anti-racism organizer and has done work with youth in local schools. She is currently the LGBTQ+ youth program officer at the New Haven Pride Center.

Timothy Parrish is a professor of English at Southern, an award-winning writer, and one of the architects of the university’s MFA program. He is the author of three books, including Fear and What Follows: The Violent Education of a Christian Racist, a Memoir (U Press of Mississippi).

 

The SCSU President’s Recognition Committee proudly presents our sixth 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 Parker Fruehan, Loida Reyes, Cara Richardson, Shuei Kozu, and Andrew Smyth 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!

Parker Fruehan

Parker Fruehan, systems librarian at Buley Library, was nominated by a colleague, who wrote that he “has been an instrumental part of Buley Library’s transition to being fully online and he’s making a difference beyond the Southern community during this pandemic.”

Fruehan’s nominator explains that as the systems librarian, Fruehan works with the technology needs of the library. When campus closed, he worked tirelessly to ensure all library faculty and staff had laptops and other any other technology needed to continue their services remotely. He worked with library employees to answer their questions and support them in any way needed. In addition to this, he updated the library website and catalog to highlight Buley’s virtual services and resources. These updates allow students, faculty, and the entire Southern community to find digital resources such as articles, e-books, and streaming videos, without sifting through physical items that are current inaccessible due to the building closure. All of this work has allowed the entire library to seamlessly switch to a virtual platform as it continues to provide support to all academic departments, students, faculty and more across the university’s now virtual campus.

Fruehan is also making a difference beyond Southern during the pandemic. His nominator wrote that he is working with UConn Health to print mask exoskeletons using the 3D printers from Buley Library’s Makerspace. The mask exoskeletons, which were highlighted on scsulibrary’s Instagram page on April 9, create a better seal for non-respirator masks. Fruehan and his student worker each brought home a 3D printer and the necessary filament before campus closed and have been printing the mask exoskeletons at home and sending the masks to Uconn Health.

His nominator continued, “I believe all of these reasons make Parker Fruehan an excellent candidate for the SouthernStrong Award. I’m proud to be able to call him my colleague and hope that his hard work can get recognized.”

Parker Fruehan

Shuei Kozu

Shuei Kozu, assistant professor of social work, was nominated by a graduate student, who wrote that she “has made the transition to online learning enjoyable rather than extremely stressful.” According to her nominator, Kozu was able to re-evaluate the course syllabus to adjust assignments and accommodate accordingly and “has reached out to the quiet students individually to address if they needed anything or if she can further support them in any way. She has went as far as to chat with her students on the phone.” Her nominator added that Kozu “has been extremely empathetic and accommodating to all students and had started a support group for social work staff. Her dissertation in crisis management has prepared her to handle situations like this in the most professional and supportive way. As a graduate student, I am extremely grateful and thankful to have had Dr. Shuei as a professor.”

Shuei Kozu

Loida Reyes

Loida Reyes, assistant professor of social work, was nominated by a student, who wrote that Reyes “has done a tremendous job of reminding her students that despite this difficult time, that we will get through this. Along with the rest of the SCSU class of 2020, my SWK 491 class expressed our feelings of sadness in regards to our graduation ceremony getting cancelled. Being the empathetic person that she is, she threw a graduation celebration for our class through Zoom. She played the graduation song, gave us each our own personalized speech about our achievements throughout the Social Work program, and recognized all of our hard work that we have put into this program. She also invited other faculty and their students in the program to join our Zoom session as well. Although this is not the graduation ceremony that we had all planned on having, she completely went out of her way to make sure that her students knew that their work would be recognized. This was the most thoughtful gift that she could have given us, and this act of kindness is something that I will always cherish, and never forget. Dr. Reyes is such a caring, compassionate, and inspiring teacher that deserves this recognition.”

Loida Reyes

Cara Richardson

Student Cara Richardson holds many leadership positions, both on and off campus. On campus, she is a Peer Mentor, a Presidential Student Ambassador, the Panhellenic Delegate of Alpha Sigma Alpha, the co-vice president of Psi Chi, and a Representative at Large for SGA and the class of 2021. Her nominator wrote that Richardson is “constantly reaching out to her peers to make sure they are okay during these trying times,” as well as making service efforts in her hometown. She is a volunteer for a local Girl Scout and Boy Scout troops, and she has been collecting food and clothing items to donate to her local shelter during the pandemic to help those who have been affected by this crisis.

Cara Richardson

Andrew Smyth

Andrew Smyth, chairman of the English Department, was nominated by four of his colleagues in the English Department, all of whom expressed deep gratitude for his exceptional leadership, kindness, and sensitivity during the pandemic and move to virtual classes.

One nominator wrote that Smyth has “juggled his many responsibilities with grace, skill, and — when needed — a sense of humor. His care for both students and colleagues is evident. He’s thorough and efficient in providing information, taking care to keep us up to date while also respecting our time. He’s responded to my questions with amazing speed and remarkable patience and thought, providing guidance that has allowed me to better serve my students.” Smyth has held regular office hours on Teams so faculty knew there was a time they could check in with questions, and he even started a weekly department happy hour via Teams to provide his colleagues “with much-needed time to chat and laugh together. He’s helped to lift the spirits of both students and colleagues.”

A second nominator added that Smyth has been “a model of thoughtful, helpful leadership, and our semester would have been much harder without his guidance.”

A third nominator wrote of Smyth, “In addition to answering any student and faculty questions and regularly addressing any concerns, I wanted to draw especial attention to his sincere and consistent efforts to provide resources and a voice of support for our part-time faculty colleagues. Andrew recognized the particularly vulnerable situations that many part-time faculty have found themselves in over the last couple of months, and has been outspoken in seeking to help them navigate this crisis. Somehow, he is able to offer this same level of support to full-time faculty, students, and staff both within and beyond the English department as well — I cannot see how he ever has time to sleep, given all that he does!”

His fourth nominator wrote that most of the many reasons for which she felt Smyth deserved to be recognized with a SouthernStrong Award “fall into two categories: advocating for students by modeling and urging empathy for what is actually happening in their lives right now; and communicating clearly and consistently with faculty and students in order to keep everyone as calm and focused as possible.” He was able to help a student who had become housing insecure and had her hours at work cut, and he supported his faculty even more than he usually does by responding quickly to emails, Teams chats, and phone calls, and doing all of this “with grace and good humor.”

She added, “The English Department is large, with over 60 full- and part-time faculty. What Andrew is doing for me, he is doing for all of us. He is definitely Southern Strong. I hope you will recognize his extraordinary efforts on behalf of our students.”

Andrew Smyth

CSU Professor Elliott Horch

He developed a super-powered device for telescopes that enabled astronomers to snap photos of celestial objects many times clearer than had ever been taken. He was tapped by NASA to assist with the Kepler Mission – a project to find potential “new Earths” in the Milky Way Galaxy. He has assembled a stellar teaching record and demonstrated a strong commitment to student success since he began teaching at Southern Connecticut State University in 2007.

And on Thursday, Elliott Horch was recognized for the sum of his professorial achievements by being named a Connecticut State University Professor by the state Board of Regents for Higher Education. The recommendation for this honor came from SCSU President Joe Bertolino.

The designation is one of the most prestigious within the Connecticut State Colleges and University System. Only three faculty members at each of the four CSU campuses can hold the title at any given time.

Horch, a professor of physics, joins Vivian Shipley, professor of English, and David Levine, professor of art history as the Southern contingent of CSU professors. A vacancy was created with the recent retirement of Terrell “Terry” Bynum, who had been a professor of philosophy.

“A full professor since 2013, Elliott has developed a remarkable record of teaching and service excellence and has, with little company in his scholarship stratum, a remarkable record of peer-reviewed publications and grant success,” wrote Robert Prezant, SCSU provost and vice president for academic affairs.

“Dr. Horch represents one of our most successful scholars in any field,” Prezant said. “Roll into the mix his strong teaching credentials, devotion to our students, and his high level of important service, and you have an individual who can easily serve as a model for newer faculty members who have high aspirations. (He) is recognized for high quality work at the international level, and that recognition, in concert with his strong global collaborations, makes him an exceptional representative of Southern across continents.”

The CSU Professorship Advisory Committee reviewed eight applications for the award this year, according to Adiel Coca, chairman of the CSU Professorship Advisory Committee.

“It is the committee’s opinion that Dr. Horch has a documented high level of effectiveness in all three categories of evaluation (creative activity, teaching, and service), including a record of outstanding performance in the area of creative activity,” Coca wrote.

Horch earned a Ph.D. in applied physics from Stanford University in 1994. He was a postdoctoral fellow at Yale University and the Rochester Institute of Technology and held teaching appointments at RIT and at UMass Dartmouth before coming to Southern.

His research interests are in astrophysics, binary stars, exoplanets, high-resolution imaging, and astronomical instrument building. He regularly collaborates with scientists from around the globe. During his time at Southern, Horch has co-authored 82 publications and has been awarded 10 external grants, most of which came from the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Department of Defense.

He developed the Differential Speckle Survey Instrument (DSSI) and the SCSU Interferometer and described the DSSI as being like “putting eyeglasses on a telescope.”

Horch earned the CSU System Research Award in 2011 and was the recipient of the 2012 SCSU Faculty Scholar Award. He has taught more than 20 physics courses, including four courses that were new at the time.

“It is clear from his student evaluations that students really enjoy having Dr. Horch as an instructor,” said Coca, who noted that Horch supervised 26 undergraduate and five graduate theses.

Horch was also instrumental in the development of the Master’s in Applied Physics program at Southern, and served on the LEP Committee from 2011 to 2015. He currently serves as chairman of the university’s Research and Scholarship Committee. Horch also chairs the Scientific Organizing Committee for the Gemini Science Meeting scheduled for June.

He thanked Physics Department Chairman Matthew Enjalran for nominating him, and thanked colleagues for their letters of support.

“This designation is a tremendous honor, and something I simply could not expect given the many excellent faculty we have at SCSU,” Horch said.

“I receive this during a very uncertain time,” he added. “But my hope is that as we find our way through the COVID-19 crisis and eventually reach better times, this position would allow me to be a stronger advocate for the value of science in our society and for the positive role that SCSU plays in that regard, both in teaching and research.”