Faculty

Sarah Crawford

Sarah Crawford, a professor of biology who has an expertise in virology, recently had an article published regarding the latest developments with vaccines and therapeutics in the journal, “Medical Research Archives.” The piece is titled, “Defeating the COVID-19 Pandemic by Targeting the Critical Interface between SARS-CoV-2 Virus Infection and Its Destructive Immune System Effects.”

Crawford discusses why younger people are at lower risk for severe reactions to COVID-19 infections; the role of interferon — both natural and in drug form — and of hydroxychloroquine on the disease; the keys to effective therapeutics; and whether it is possible to prevent the “cytokine storm,” the cascade of reactions causing serious complications in the second week after an infection begins.

She also addresses the topic of whether previous exposure to other coronaviruses can generate immunity.

And Crawford’s article points out that previous vaccines for SARS and other coronaviruses showed serious after effects in some patients in clinical trials. “We are beginning to see that now with the new vaccines,” she said.

After having her paper published, she was interviewed on Channel 3 (WFSB) and on WTIC radio (1080 AM).

The following is a question-and-answer with Crawford that offers a summary of the highlights of the article:

*Why are younger people at lower risk for severe reactions to COVID infections?

I believe one of the reasons is that people 50 years and older tend to produce less interferon than younger folks. Interferon inhibits the reproduction of the virus in the early stages.

*Can interferon as a drug help those who don’t produce enough of it naturally?

Studies have shown that it does help. But it has a wide range of effects in drug form, and the pros and cons would have to be weighed.

*Are there other reasons for young people having much milder symptoms?

This may be related to the various vaccines given to children. There is evidence to suggest they create a broad enhancement of the immune system during a person’s youth. This seems especially linked to a type of tuberculosis vaccine.

*What are keys to effective therapeutics?

The most effective therapeutics attack the spike attachment protein, replication of the RNA genome, and assembly of virus particles in infected cells.

*Is it possible to prevent the “cytokine storm,” the chain reaction in the body that spurs inflammation and sometimes blood clots and other complications, in a person who already has been infected?

Drugs, such as Remdesivir and Favipiravir decrease the duration of the disease, and seem to have the greatest effect in limiting the cytokine storm if given early in the infection. Dexamethasone, a glucosteroid, has been shown to decrease mortality rates.

*What about hydroxychloroquine? Is this an effective treatment or not?

There is conflicting evidence. But a study in Henry Ford Hospital included 2,500 patients in which there was a significant reduction in mortality rates when used by itself or with the antibiotic azithromycin, compared with those who used neither. This contradicted an earlier Oxford study.

*Can previous exposure to other coronaviruses generate some immunity from COVID-19?

Other coronavirus may produce long-lasting cross-reactive immune system responses.

 

 

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

Vivian Shipley

English Professor Vivian Shipley, a Connecticut State University Distinguished Professor, has won the grand prize in The MacGuffin’s 25th Annual Poet Hunt Contest with her poem “No Rehearsal.” The MacGuffin is a national literary journal established in 1984 at Schoolcraft College in Livonia, Mich. The winning three poems, selected by this year’s guest judge, poet Matthew Olzmann, will be published in a short feature appearing in Vol. 37.1 due out in early 2021.

Shipley, who earned her bachelor of arts and master of arts degrees in English from the University of Kentucky and her doctorate in Victorian literature from Vanderbilt University, has taught at Southern since 1969 and has published 16 books of poetry. She teaches undergraduate and graduate poetry writing workshops in the English Department. She says that her winning poem is about the coronavirus.

Shipley’s work has received many accolades. Her book All of Your Messages Have Been Erased (Louisiana Literature Press, 2010) was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize and won both the 2011 Paterson Award for Sustained Literary Achievement and the Sheila Motton Book Prize for Poetry from New England Poetry Club. It was also recognized as Best Creative Work by the Connecticut Press Club and was a finalist for both the Connecticut Book Prize and the Milton Kessler Poetry Prize from SUNY-Binghamton. Shipley has received many other awards and recognitions as well, including being chosen as SCSU Faculty Scholar three times and named to the University of Kentucky Hall of Distinguished Alumni.

Susan Burger
Susan Burger

The proliferation of COVID-19 has sparked a major increase in the use of telehealth appointments in an effort to reduce the chances of spreading the disease.

Some in-person medical visits are necessary even during times when the number of coronavirus infections is high. Other appointments can safely be postponed. But many of those important, non-emergency needs have been met through the use of telemedicine.

Susan Burger, associate professor of nursing who had done considerable research on telehealth before the pandemic, recently discussed the pros and cons of telehealth during an interview on Channel 30 (NBC Connecticut).

 

David Pettigrew with Bakira Hasečić outside of the Pionirska Street House in Višegrad, where nearly 60 civilians (women, children, and elderly) were burned alive in 1992.

In an article in the Fall 2020 issue of VQR (The Virginia Quarterly Review), journalist Jack Hitt recounts a trip to Bosnia he took in August 2019, accompanied by Philosophy Professor David Pettigrew, upon whose research Hitt’s article is generally based. As Hitt explains the purpose of his trip, “Theoretically, I traveled to the Balkans to look at statues, memorials, even plaques on buildings because I’d heard how new sculpture and construction were rewriting a violent history right on top of the land where it happened.” The violent history he refers to is the genocide that began in the Balkans in 1992 when Serb nationalists in Bosnia attacked the country’s Muslims, the Bosniaks. Pettigrew has extensively researched, written, and spoken about this period in Balkans’ history and its aftermath.

In the article, “More Lasting than Bronze: Touring the Architecture of Revisionism,” Hitt writes of Pettigrew, “For the last several years, Pettigrew has campaigned inside Bosnia and from his desk in New Haven for the implementation of a law forbidding the authorities to engage in genocide denial, which has been met with delays and postponements and promises of further study. But Pettigrew pushes on. I have a file folder of letters he’s sent, op-eds he’s written, videos of appearances on Bosnian television.”

David Pettigrew and Bakira Hasečić at the memorial to Bosnian Muslims who were victims of genocide in Višegrad. In his article, Hitt refers to this moment when Pettigrew and Hasečić hold up the word “genocide” on the memorial. A stonecutter had scratched out the word from the memorial after the Višegrad municipality deemed the use of the word to be offensive.

As the 2020 Mensa Foundation Distinguished Teacher of the Year, Kenneth Walters, associate professor of psychology, shares a commitment to education, research, and mentorship.

Since its inception, the Mensa Foundation Distinguished Teacher Award has been presented to only three college professors, including Southern's Ken Walters (left). He was nominated by senior and Mensa member Paul McKee (right), who one day plans to work as a college professor.

Having served with the United States Marine Corps Infantry from 2013 – 2018, senior psychology major Paul McKee brought extensive life experience to Southern. But as a first-generation college student starting college classes mere weeks after completing active duty, McKee was also a higher education novice. A common thread of advice — “Get involved in faculty-directed research!” — led him to the office of Kenneth S. Walters, associate professor of psychology.

It was a wise move. Walters, a licensed clinical and forensic psychologist, joined Southern in 2009, relaunching his higher education career after focusing on his clinical practice for about 10 years. His research focuses include psychopathology as well as substance use and abuse among college students. In recent years, he and his students have studied depression, traumatic stress, suicidality (thoughts about taking one’s life,  suicide plans and attempts), and the non-medical use of stimulants and opioids among college students.

At Southern, Walters has mentored 45 students on his research team with impressive results. They’ve published nine papers in scientific and professional journals, delivered 12 oral presentations, and presented 76 posters at scientific conferences. Thirty-nine of Walters’ former student researchers have graduated to date — and all have been admitted to competitive graduate training programs.

The professor recruits six to nine research assistants a year, typically academically strong upperclassmen. So, it was unexpected when McKee, then a first-year Southern student, asked to join Walters’ research team. McKee’s nontraditional student background complicated matters. He did not have SAT scores or a college transcript showcasing past grades. “He did present me with a Mensa [high IQ society] membership card and an excellent writing sample. . . . I found him to be intelligent, personable, and highly determined to succeed,” says Walters.

About 300 Southern students with connections to the military are attending Southern during the fall 2020 semester, including 245 veterans, 35 National Guard/Reservists, and 20 dependents.  As a fellow veteran, Walters understands some of the challenges these students might face.

From 1987 to 1991, Walters served with the U.S. Armed Forces as an Army Ranger in the 82nd Airborne Division, and was part of the initial Operation Desert Shield campaign to liberate Kuwait. He started college in 1991 — like McKee, just weeks after his active duty ended. “To make that transition in such a short time can be challenging,” says Walters.

Kenneth Walters

Walters also knew what it was like to be a first-generation college student. “I came from a background in which higher education was neither expected nor the norm. . . . Overcoming disadvantage and humble beginnings is a commonly shared theme between me and my students,” says the professor.

Walters gave McKee a chance — and has never looked back. “He is now the lab manager for my research team, putting to good use his notable leadership skills,” he says of McKee, who is on track to graduate this spring and is applying to doctoral programs in behavioral neuroscience. “He is an extraordinarily talented young man. I have only the highest hopes for his future,” says his professor.

McKee has equally high regard for Walters — and nominated him for the Mensa Foundation 2020 Distinguished Teacher Award. The award recognizes a teacher, professor, or instructor at any educational level who has had an especially positive influence on the education or life of a Mensa member. Walters won the national honor — and is one of only three higher education faculty members to receive the award since its inception.

Membership in Mensa is highly selective. To join, you must score in the top two percent of the general population on an accepted standardized intelligence test. In the U.S., members range in age from 2 to 106 years, and include engineers, homemakers, chief executive officers, students, and more  — an almost infinite array of people all sharing one trait: high intelligence.

“The Mensa Foundation is honored to recognize Dr. Walters, whose research and instructional approach exemplifies the foundation’s mission to use intelligence to benefit humanity,” says Marie Mayer, president of the Mensa Foundation.

The organization’s commitment to the community is not lost on McKee.  Looking forward, he plans to follow in his mentor’s footsteps and become a university faculty member, inspired, he says, by Walters and others in the Department of Psychology.  “Although this list is not exhaustive, Dr. Michael Nizhnikov, Dr. Christopher Budnick, and Dr. W. Jerome Hauselt are among the most committed, stimulating, and integrous people that I have ever had the pleasure of meeting,” says McKee.

He continues: “Of course, the nomination was for Dr. Walters, who embodies all that is desired in a mentor, educator, and friend. There is none more deserving of this recognition than him. He has spent his life in service of others, first in the United States Army, then as clinical psychologist, and now as a professor. It was fantastic news to hear about his winning. Dr. Walters deserves every second of this.”

Robert McEachern

In this strange era through which we are all navigating new territories every day, it’s easy to feel a little lost at times. In an essay he published recently on Inside Higher Ed, entitled “Directionless,” English Professor Robert McEachern “contemplates the first time in many years that he didn’t spend the first day of classes roaming the halls of his university helping students who couldn’t find their way.”

Read “Directionless”

Inside Higher Ed is a leading source of news, analysis, and services for the entire higher education community.

 

Barbara Aronson

A grant award recently secured by Nursing Professor Barbara Aronson will support nursing students by authorizing cancellation of a percentage of educational loans in exchange for full-time post-graduation employment as nurse faculty.

The federal funds, totaling almost $1 million, are welcome assistance, given the critical nursing educator needs in Connecticut and nationwide.

“There’s a huge nursing faculty shortage nationally,” Aronson said. “First, nurses can make more money in a clinical area. Second, faculty are aging.”

Aronson, the director of the Ed.D. program in the Department of Nursing at Southern Connecticut State University, has secured substantial grant funding over the years from the Health Resources & Services Administration (HRSA). The most recent award, $891,374 from the Nurse Faculty Loan Program (NFLP), is the largest the department has ever received and brings Aronson’s total to more than $3 million.

“The first grant I wrote was in 2012,” Aronson said. “That first year, we only got a minimal amount, but we didn’t have as many students as we do today.” (The program has since grown to about 50 students.)

The Ed.D. in Nursing Education is a collaborative program between Southern and Western Connecticut State University (WCSU). Designed for individuals with clinical expertise and a master’s degree in nursing, it is an innovative doctoral program that prepares nurses for faculty roles by focusing on the content and skills required to be effective faculty members, advance the science of nursing education, and transform the education of future nurses. Current students in the program are family, pediatric, geriatric nurse practitioners, nurse midwives and faculty who plan to teach in undergraduate, graduate, or doctoral-level programs. Students at Western will receive a share of the funds.

According to HRSA, “Aging and population growth are projected to account for the 81% of the change in demand for primary care services between 2010 and 2020.” And a Special Survey on Vacant Faculty Positions released by American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN) reported that in 2018, a total of 1,715 faculty vacancies were identified in a survey of 872 nursing schools with baccalaureate and/or graduate programs across the country. Most of the vacancies (90.7 percent) were faculty positions preferring a doctoral degree.

“It is hoped that our program will have a lasting impact on the faculty shortage by preparing the next generation of nurse educators,” Aronson said. “They will fill faculty positions in Connecticut, the northeast and nationwide and will also contribute to the advancement of the science of nursing education.”

Aronson was a staff nurse for many years before she decided she wanted to teach. After earning advanced degrees in nursing education, she began working at Southern; she has worked in the Nursing Department for 20 years, has run the undergraduate program for seven years and directed the Ed.D. program since 2012.

“I have a lot of experience in nursing and nursing education,” she said. “Technology, the push for student-centered learning strategies, and COVID-19 have changed the way we teach, and we are preparing our students to meet these challenges. At Southern, nurses love the program because they interact with other students who share the same interests.”

Aronson earned her Ph.D. from the University of Massachusetts, her MSN from the University of Hartford, her BSN from Saint Joseph College, and her diploma from Hartford Hospital School of Nursing. She has more than 30 years of experience in nursing education in the acute care and academic settings.

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

Jason Smith

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Federico Fiondella

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

About the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History

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

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

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