In the News

Ryan Leigh Dostie, BA, '11, MFA, '16

A 21-year-old soldier is raped in her barracks by a fellow soldier, and she reports the assault right away. But Army commanders don’t trust her story, and instead of trying to bring the rapist to justice, they look for ways to delegitimize the woman. It’s a familiar narrative in today’s #MeToo environment, and in alumna Ryan Leigh Dostie’s memoir, Formation: A Woman’s Memoir of Stepping Out of Line, published on June 4, the reader accompanies Dostie – who was raped at 21 while serving in the U.S. Army – on her journey of pain, outrage, trauma, and survival, as she navigates the military and life beyond its hierarchy as a rape survivor.

Dostie, who holds an MFA in fiction writing and a bachelor’s degree in history from Southern, has been receiving a lot of attention for her book, even well before its publication. Last November, Formation was selected as Shelf Awareness’ “Gallery Love of the Week,” in an industry newsletter that reviews books not yet published. More recently, Formation was chosen by Amazon editors as June’s top debut, and it is listed as #2 in Esquire’s “Best Books of Summer 2019.” BookRiot named Formation one of its “50 of the Best Books to Read This Summer”; Patch named Formation one of “The 10 Best Books To Read In June”; and PureWow listed it as one of “9 Books We Can’t Wait to Read in June.” The book has also been reviewed on Publishers Weekly, Amazon, and Goodreads.

When Dostie joined the Army in 2000, she did so as a linguist. By now, she has studied six languages, and she had spent a year of high school studying in Japan. When she joined the Army, she intended to become a Japanese interrogator. However, the Army had other plans for her and sent her to the prestigious Defense Language Institute of Monterey for an intensive program in Persian Farsi, the language spoken in Iran.

In 2001, an enlisted man in her unit raped her, and she immediately reported the assault to her superiors, who were at best skeptical and unsympathetic. Even after reporting, Dostie was forced to continue working with her rapist. The commanders who questioned her about what happened pressed her on whether or not she had told her rapist “no,” and they tried to paint her as promiscuous, or to portray her as trying to protect her reputation by accusing her attacker of rape. In the end, the Army dropped the case, and Dostie was left with PTSD, which would eventually take a toll on her mental health and ability to function.

“The book is about rape and how the Army handles it,” Dostie says. But it also is a devastating account of what happens to a rape victim when she reports and is not believed. Dostie stayed in the Army after her attack, and in April 2003, when the Iraq War was well under way, she was sent to Iraq. She had been told that her PTSD “could be a problem if she was deployed,” and it was: she says of that time, “I was not mentally sound.” She did spend 15 months there, however, and her presence in a war zone, compounded by her PTSD, essentially added one trauma to another.

In April 2004, when the uprising in Sadr City occurred, after Saddam Hussein was caught, Dostie says, “We were all packed to go home, and then they said we had to stay.” She did return to the United States eventually, and says at first she felt fine but then started showing signs of PTSD. She got out of active duty in 2005 and eventually returned home to Connecticut, which helped her PTSD. She began to attend Southern and date the man who would become her husband.

An Honors College student and history major at Southern, Dostie wrote two honors theses: one was in history and one, a creative writing thesis, was the beginnings of Formation. She says the manuscript that would eventually become Formation had actually started in an introductory fiction writing class as a “sci-fi futuristic Civil War-type story about a woman in the infantry – a woman working with all men in this masculine military environment.” When she told English Professor Tim Parrish, who taught that course, that she had been in the military, he advised that the story should be about her own experience. She rewrote it into a story about a woman in the military in Iraq, and it became her honors thesis.

She graduated with her B.A. in 2011, and when she joined the MFA program in creative writing a few years later, she rewrote the honors thesis into her MFA thesis. Parrish says, “Having worked with Ryan on this material from the time she took her first Intro to Fiction class through her MFA thesis, I’ve seen how she earned this book, not only in terms of her incredible work ethic and steadfast growth as a writer, but maybe moreso as a person with the courage and steadfastness to confront and process so much awful history, to survive, and to make great art from her experience. This book is not only outstanding, it’s important.”

Dostie sold the book several days before the #MeToo movement broke, and she says now #MeTooMilitary is gaining traction. There has been a spike in the number of reporting sexual assaults in the military, she says, adding, “They’ve changed how you report it, but if you report, it can still affect your career.”

The Army is now doing SHARP (Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention) briefings to teach soldiers about sexual assault and harassment. The briefings can be effective, Dostie says, “but people have to take it seriously. They are learning about consent and what is sexual harassment. It’s about trying to change the culture.”

Learn more about Ryan Leigh Dostie

Dostie will be a featured reader at the SCSU MFA Program’s 10 anniversary celebration in fall 2019. Find out more about her upcoming local events (readings, book signings, etc.).

Sean Grace with students

Sean Grace, associate professor of biology, was interviewed recently by WSHU radio about a study he participated in regarding the loss of kelp in the northern Atlantic Ocean. Grace was one of three researchers who conducted the study, which pointed to increasing water temperatures as the primary reason for the declining levels of kelp in Narragansett Bay in Rhode Island.

Kelp is a brown algae found in underwater forests. They have a variety of uses, and serve as important nutrients for fish and other sea life.

Listen to the WSHU interview.

Read the original article about the study by Grace, Colette J. Feehan, and Carla A. Narvaez that appeared in the journal “Scientific Reports.”

The Criscuolo family, with Athletics Director Jay Moran (far left) and Head Baseball Coach Tim Shea (second from left) at Senior Day for the SCSU baseball team

It’s been a rough year for senior baseball captain Tyler Criscuolo and his family. Both Tyler and his mom endured serious accidents within the past six months, but both have made remarkable recoveries, and they were able to celebrate their progress and their family’s strength at Senior Day for the SCSU baseball team on May 1, 2019. The New Haven Register ran a May 1 story about Tyler, his mom, and their family that chronicles the obstacles they’ve overcome.

“On Senior Day at SCSU, a resilient mother and son celebrate” by Jeff Jacobs

Tyler was also recently named to the 2019 Division II Conference Commissioners Association (D2CCA) All-East Region Team, as announced on Tuesday, May 15, 2019. He was previously named to the Northeast 10 Conference First team. Read more about Tyler’s successes in SCSU baseball.

Tyler Criscuolo at bat on Senior Day, May 1, 2019 (Photo credit: Julie Golebiewski)

 

West Haven Mayor Nancy Rossi with Tony Fusco, recently named the city’s first poet laureate (Photo credit: Michael Walsh/New Haven Register)

SCSU creative writing alumnus Tony Fusco, a West Haven, Conn., resident, was recently named that city’s poet laureate. Fusco is co-president and past-president of the Connecticut Poetry Society and has a master’s degree in creative writing from Southern. He was the editor of Caduceus, the anthology of the Yale Medical Group Art Place, and past editor of The Connecticut River Review, Long River Run, the Southern News, High Tide, and Sounds and Waves of West Haven. His work has appeared in many publications including the Connecticut Review, Louisiana Literature, the Red Rock Review, The South Carolina Review, Lips, and The Paterson Review.

His most recent book is Extinction, published in 2018.

His book Java Scripture was published in 2014 by Flying Horse Press. Previous books include Droplines (Grayson Press) and Jessie’s Garden (Negative Capability Press), which feature poems about his youth in West Haven, Savin Rock, and Allingtown. His poetry has won prizes in many contests, including The Sunken Garden Poetry Prize. His poem “Harvest” was nominated for a Pushcart Award. He is a member of the New England Poetry Club, past literary chair for the West Haven Council of the Arts and the Milford Fine Arts Council. Fusco produced West Shore Poets, a television poetry series at CTV, and served on its board of directors and the Cable Advisory Council.

The New Haven Register published an article about Fusco being named West Haven’s poet laureate, which is available here.

President Joe Bertolino and Otus with Housatonic Community College students and their school's mascot

A growing partnership between Southern and two area community colleges was formally announced recently at both Gateway (GCC) and Housatonic (HCC) community colleges. The partnership — called SCSU @ GCC and SCSU @ HCC — was created to support higher levels of degree attainment by increasing support for transfer students, removing the barriers of location, and reducing the financial impact for students while continuing their associate degree program requirements.

Students at those community colleges have been engaged in a pilot program in which they can take two Southern courses on their own campus for free. President Joe Bertolino and Paul Broadie II, president of Gateway and Housatonic, announced that the program will continue this fall with the intent to expand upon it in the future. The courses will be transferable to Southern and other colleges and universities.

The partnership also includes an “A to B” (Associate to Bachelor’s degree) program, in which students who are not accepted into Southern initially can receive support to make it easier to do so after earning an associate degree at Housatonic or Gateway.

Learn more about SCSU @ GCC

Learn more about SCSU @ HCC

The Connecticut Post and New Haven Independent ran stories on the program. Channel 8 also aired a piece in advance of the announcement.

The following are links to the stories:

Southern to lay groundwork for four-year degree at Housatonic and Gateway

Higher Ed Collab Brings Free SCSU Courses To GCC

SCSU, Housatonic Community College expand partnership

 

 

 

Daisha Brabham, '17

To meet Daisha Brabham is to be immediately swept up in her infectious enthusiasm for history. Brabham graduated from Southern in 2017 with a degree in history, and her passion for her discipline, along with her scholarship and creative activity, are taking her far. She has just been awarded a prestigious U.S. Fulbright – U.K. Partnership Award that will allow her to receive full funding to complete a Master’s of Public History degree at Royal Holloway University of London during the 2019-2020 academic year.

Brabham currently teaches U.S. history and an advanced placement course in human geography at the Engineering and Science University Magnet School, based at the University of New Haven. Previously, she taught for a year at Wilbur Cross High School in New Haven.

Her Fulbright project will involve a play she wrote for an independent study in the Women’s Studies Program in her senior year. During her senior spring and the summer following, the play — Homegoing: A Herstory of the Black Woman — was performed on campus, but Brabham has reworked the script and says it is now “an entirely new play.” Homegoing reflects the history of Black womanhood in America, beginning with the Yoruba tradition of West Africa and going on to travel with a number of different African American women, such as Venus Hottentot, Billie Holiday, and Mammie.

Brabham says that originally, the play “was like a physical manifestation of my search for myself.” During her junior year, she studied at the University of Plymouth, U.K., where she became interested in researching the lives of women in Elizabethan England. But then, she says, she realized she was studying women who had already been studied extensively and she was “leaving out women who looked like me.”

She changed her focus to African American women and decided to write Homegoing, but as the play has evolved, it has come to be more about women in the African diaspora around the world. “I am drawing all of these narratives together about what it means to be black,” she says. She sees the play as a celebration of resistance and as bringing to the public “those stories we don’t talk about.”

The play features 10 actresses, the majority of whom are high school students from the Greater New Haven area. Brabham herself is also in the play. A teacher to her core, Brabham wants her students to learn the history of the women they are portraying in the play.

Being a teacher can be confining, she says, due to curriculum requirements, adding that she works in a school where more than half of the students are African American, and she “really wants African American people to know about their own history.” In the play, she uses traditional African modes of communication, such as song, dance, and movement.

Homegoing is now Brabham’s bridge to her future, as she’ll be incorporating voices from black Britain in the play as part of her Fulbright project. As a student at Royal Holloway, she will have access to the National Archives, the London Records Office, the Black Cultural Archives. She also plans to interview some of the women she meets.

“I’m a public historian,” Brabham says, explaining that public history is about bringing historical knowledge to the public in engaging ways, such as museums, exhibitions, documentaries, and theater. This means of presenting history is important, she says, because it makes history accessible. “It lets people learn about themselves,” she says.

Tricia Lin, who served as the faculty adviser/sponsor for Brabham’s senior independent study, wrote in her Fulbright recommendation for Brabham that her project “will be of tremendous contribution to the literature/scholarship on Black womanhood . . . The complex untold stories of Black women is . . . Daisha’s intellectual project—which is truly her calling.”

Darcy Kern, assistant professor of history, who was Brabham’s adviser at Southern, wrote in her letter of support for Brabham’s Fulbright application that Brabham was “the most enthusiastic student I have had at SCSU” and that Brabham “offers a unique, refreshing perspective on women’s history, in part because of her own background.”

Assistant Director of the Office of International Education Michael Schindel, the Fulbright Program Advisor, says that, “Those who have worked with Daisha know that she is incredibly persistent. She is receiving this award after her third attempt at applying for a Fulbright grant. There is only one slot for the U.K. Partnership Award to Royal Holloway University and it is highly competitive.”

Brabham credits the people she worked with at Southern over the years with helping her realize her goals. “The History Department really changed not only my view of the world but also of myself,” she says. “I received such loving, caring feedback, advice on life, etc. – they gave me great advice not only on how to be a historian but also on how to be a good human.”

And the Women’s Studies Program “taught me how to be a good person and not to give up and be persistent and keep going. The confidence they had in me helped me keep going,” she says.

Homegoing: A Herstory of the Black Woman will be presented twice on May 5, 2019: at 12 p.m. and at 6 p.m., in the Garner Recital Hall (Engleman C112). Tickets are $10 with an SCSU I.D. and $15 for general public. Purchase tickets online.

Digital Content Editor Jeff Nowak working at computer in the New Orleans Advocate newsroom as Investigations Editor Gordon Russell walks behind. Russell was a leader in the reporting effort for the non-unanimous juries project that won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for local reporting. Photo credit: The Advocate (Side note: Mural behind Jeff he says is one of the coolest features of our newsroom. It's a collage of front pages from New Orleans-area newspapers through the years. Picture taken in September 2017 amid the long news-gathering process for the series that debuted in April 2018).

April 2019 was a great month for journalism at Southern. Student journalists won six awards at the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), Region 1 Conference in Boston and a recent alumnus was part of a New Orleans-based newspaper team that won the Pulitzer Prize for local reporting.

As part of The Advocate team that won the nation’s most prestigious journalism award, Jeffrey Nowak, a 2012 journalism graduate, prepared the digital presentation, compiled a massive splash page, created an interactive timeline, and led social promotion for a series that helped change Louisiana’s controversial split-jury law.

Nowak, a native of Windham, Conn., and graduate of Windham High School, joined The Advocate digital content staff in April 2106. He leads many efforts in New Orleans while also working remotely with Baton Rouge and Lafayette, La., newsrooms. His team consists of four digital content editors and a digital general manager.

Before relocating to New Orleans, Nowak worked as a digital editor, production desk chief and sports producer at The Sun in Myrtle Beach, S.C. Previously he had been a reporter at The Daily Voice in Westborough, Mass., and a freelance sports writer for the Hartford Courant. While a student at Southern, Nowak was editor-in-chief of the Southern News. And in 2102 he received the Outstanding Journalist of the Year award from the Journalism Department.

Meanwhile, at the regional SPJ conference, journalists from Southern’s new student-published Crescent magazine won four awards, including the Finalist Award for Best Student Magazine for its fall 2018 edition, the second publication in its young start.

Alumna and journalism minor Jefferine Jean-Jacques was the winner in the Feature Photography category for her series of photos, “Through the lens,” published in Crescent’s inaugural edition in spring 2018. Jean-Jacques’ photo package was culled from various trips she took with her three children to countries including Haiti, India, Ghana and Ethiopia. Her photos will move on to the national SPJ college competition.

Other regional winners for Crescent included managing editor Jacob Waring, who won a Finalist award for the non-fiction magazine article, “A lot to juggle,” about SCSU students who are also parents in the fall 2018 edition. Photo editor Meghan Olson, a Studio Art-Photography major, won a Finalist award for Feature Photography, for “Funky hair,” the fall 2018 cover package.

Southern News Editor-in-chief Kevin Crompton won a finalist award in the Sports Writing category for a profile on Owls linebacker Jhaaron Wallace, “Wallace joins elite company in record books.” The story highlights the journey from high school to college for one of the top defensive players to come through the Owls football program.

The student newspaper’s second award went to former Managing Editor Joshua LaBella, alumnus, and former Op Ed/Features editor August Pelliccio: a finalist award for Breaking News Reporting.

Each category included one winner and one finalist. SPJ Region 1 encompasses universities from Maine through New England to New York, New Jersey to Philadelphia.

Photo credit for home page image: The Advocate (Digital Content Editor Jeff Nowak working at computer in the New Orleans Advocate newsroom as Investigations Editor Gordon Russell walks behind. Russell was a leader in the reporting effort for the non-unanimous juries project that won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for local reporting.)

Alumna's debut young adult novel is among the most eagerly anticipated.

Erin Jones, ’10, majored in journalism at Southern -- and has made her mark in the red-hot young adult book market with her debut novel, Tinfoil Crowns.

Barnes & Noble (B&N) stocks more than 1 million titles for immediate delivery — so it’s a particular thrill for authors to find their work among the mega-retailer’s most eagerly awaited. So it was for author Erin Jones, ’10, whose debut young-adult novel, Tinfoil Crowns, (Flux Books) was included on B&N’s “10 Most Anticipated Indie YA Books for 2019.”

“This of-the-minute narrative is accessible and authentic, layered with diverse, flawed, and immensely likable characters.” -Kirkus Reviews

Coming to readers on May 7, Tinfoil Crowns is about a 17-year-old YouTube star named Fit and her mission to become famous. But there’s one thing her fans don’t know: when Fit was 3 years old, her mother, who was suffering from postpartum psychosis, tried to kill her and her sibling. The book is also noted as a rainbow read (LGBTQ) and for including an adult point of view. It’s a portrayal Kirkus Reviews calls “an empathetic glimpse into the rise of tomorrow’s celebrity du jour.”

Jones graduated magna cum laude from Southern with a degree in journalism and went on to earn a graduate degree from Emerson College, where she’s now an affiliated faculty member. She’s also editor-in-chief of the Platform Review, a literary journal focused on publishing quality literature from emerging and established writers. The former head of marketing at Ploughshares, Jones regularly contributes to the Ploughshares Blog.

Front row — Karen DuBois-Walton, Executive Director of the Elm City Communities; Dr. Carol Birks, Superintendent, New Haven Public Schools; Dr. Joe Bertolino, President, Southern Connecticut State University; and back row — Ciara Ortiz, junior at The Sound School; Daniela Flores, junior at Wilbur Cross High School; Hannah Providence, a senior at Wilbur Cross High School; Dayana Lituma, 2017 Wilbur Cross High School graduate and current SCSU student

A greater number of outstanding New Haven high school students will have access to college-level classes, thanks to an agreement announced today between Southern and the New Haven Public Schools.

The university already offers tuition-free college classes to a small group of excellent high school students willing to come to the SCSU campus. Most of the 60 or so such students are from New Haven and the immediate surrounding communities.

But for the first time, Southern is offering the option of taking those college classes at the city’s various high school campuses. Those classes will be taught by SCSU faculty or high school teachers who meet specific criteria and are hired as SCSU adjunct faculty members.

“Part of our mission is to improve access to a college education,” said SCSU President Joe Bertolino at a recent signing ceremony with New Haven Schools Superintendent Carol Birks. “By expanding this program, we will provide greater access to local students. It is an example of what we mean when we say Southern is not only in the community, but of the community.”

Terricita Sass, SCSU associate vice president for enrollment management, agreed.

“Some students are well-prepared to take college classes, but may be reluctant or unable to travel to a college campus,” Sass said. “We want to remove the transportation barrier if we can. This will give some students an option to take classes at their own school.”

Birks said she is excited about the potential academic and financial benefits to students.

“This program obviously offers our students an immediate financial benefit with tuition-free classes,” Birks said. “But the college credits also can either lessen the time it will take them to earn a degree, which reduces student debt, or provide them with more academic flexibility in college to take additional courses of their choice. Either way, it’s a win-win for the students.”

SCSU student Dayana Lituma, who graduated from Wilbur Cross High School in 2017, said taking college courses in high school helped her tremendously. She took five such courses, including three at Southern. As a result of the credits earned, she plans to graduate after the fall semester of 2020, a semester earlier than the traditional four-year college experience.

“Not only will I be able to save money on tuition, but the college classes helped me figure out early on what direction I wanted to pursue,” she said. She plans to seek a master’s degree in speech-language pathology, and eventually become a bilingual speech-language pathologist.

Bertolino said the tuition-free college classes comprise just one of several joint SCSU-New Haven programs being created, continued or expanded to benefit students and their families. He also announced:

*Southern has created a Residential Leadership Scholarship that provides a small group of students with free on-campus housing. The students must meet the criteria for the New Haven Promise Scholarship program, as well as write an additional essay and provide a letter of recommendation to be eligible. If selected, the students must complete activities in leadership development, community contribution/campus involvement, academic enhancement, mentoring and activism/civic engagement. Last fall, seven students were chosen for the one-year scholarship. Next fall, five of those seven students will be offered a continuation of the scholarship, while five additional New Haven graduates will receive the scholarship.

*Southern will set aside $100,000 in merit-based aid, and $100,000 in need-based aid, to incoming freshmen next fall who graduate from New Haven schools. The allocation is expected to continue each year.

*SCSU social work students will work with the New Haven Housing Authority (Elm City Communities) to assist students and their families with truancy, financial literacy, online applications and other matters. The housing authority has allocated $25,000 for the program, which calls for six students to collaborate with resident managers in the West Rock community. The program is scheduled to begin next fall.

*The university plans to increase its presence at local middle and high schools, particularly in the Newhallville section of the city. This will include workshops, participation in field days and other similar types of events. It is part of a community collaborative effort that also involves local businesses, clergy and other neighborhood leaders.

*Southern launched a Visiting Scholars program last semester, in which SCSU faculty members teach academic lessons to area K-12 students. Many of these visits are to New Haven schools. The program offers hands-on learning experiences, giving them deeper insight into various disciplines. The lessons are designed to align with the classroom curriculum.

*SCSU plans to host a career exposure day in May for Common Ground High School. The university will organize panel discussions on public health and recreation, tourism and sports management. In addition, CARE (Community Alliance for Research and Engagement), a program co-housed at SCSU, has been helping Common Ground redesign its 10th grade health curriculum.

 

Siobhan Carter-David, associate professor of history, and Frank Harris III, professor of journalism

This year marks the 400th anniversary of the first enslaved Africans’ arrival in the American colonies, and several Southern professors are marking the anniversary with discussion and commentary. In a recent article in the New Haven Register, Journalism Professor Frank Harris III and Associate History Professor Siobhan Carter-David shared their ideas about the beginnings of slavery in America and set the record straight on some commonly-held beliefs about this period in American history. The full article can be found here:

https://www.nhregister.com/news/article/400-years-ago-first-slaves-arrived-in-American-13635406.php?fbclid=IwAR0HyjJ638UfDEJMtK3bJfq6vOW-NUXvvixeGN7EKpzrEp_OcFEJn7EKUEE

On campus, Carter-David, along with Brandon Hutchinson, associate professor of English, has coordinated a lecture series, The 1619 Lecture Series, which features four distinguished SCSU faculty members presenting scholarship related to African American history, culture, and politics. Harris delivered the inaugural lecture in the series in early February; upcoming speakers will be Audrey Kerr, professor of English; Jonathan Wharton, assistant professor of political science, and Marian Evans, assistant professor of public health. Sponsored by the Minority Recruitment and Retention Committee, the lectures are free and open to the public.