Out and About

a doctor in a white coat administers a vaccine in the arm of a patient

The CARE (Community Alliance for Research and Engagement) program, based at both the SCSU College of Health and Human Services and the Yale School of Public Health, is using a major CDC grant to advance several community-based initiatives, including promoting the importance of flu vaccinations as a way to ease the burden on health care systems during the COVID-19 pandemic. Alycia Santilli is the Director of CARE.

According to CARE’s data, during the 2019-20 flu season in New Haven, more people of color than whites were hospitalized due to the flu: 35 percent of Black and 31 percent of Hispanic residents, compared to 22 percent of white people. This year, with COVID threatening to overwhelm health care facilities, keeping people safe from the flu seems more crucial than ever. So CARE is engaging in outreach within city neighborhoods, with seven newly hired community workers visiting places like food pantries, senior housing, barber shops and hair salons, to talk to residents about the flu vaccine and encourage them to get vaccinated. The New Haven Register recently published an article about CARE’s efforts to calm residents’ fears about vaccines and encourage them to get vaccinated:

“Flu Fighters Combat Vaccination Fears in New Haven”
By Sujata Srinivasan December 16, 2020

 

Santa greets a young fan at the 29th annual "Friends of Rudolph" event, held at Lighthouse Point Park, New Haven.

Every December, Southern and the New Haven Police Department co-sponsor a “Friends of Rudolph” program that collects new, unwrapped toys to give to local New Haven families in need. The event typically begins with an arts and craft session and then a gift-giving assembly in Lyman Center. The day’s events are run by volunteers, including SCSU faculty and staff members, students from various campus clubs and organizations, New Haven police officers, and New Haven area high school students.

This year, because of safety precautions around COVID-19, the 29th annual university-sponsored Friends of Rudolph program was a drive-up event held at New Haven’s Lighthouse Point Park. Santa and his elves were on hand to distribute coats, toys, books, and more to members of the community. Southern and the New Haven Police Department were joined as sponsors by 94.3 WYBC, The City of New Haven, The Youth & Recreation Department, and the university’s community partners.

View a gallery of photos from the event

Santa’s helpers sort through toys and coats inside the Lighthouse Point carousel building.

 

BioPath – an SCSU-led partnership of industry, academic and government leaders — has announced several new programs designed to meet the workforce needs of Connecticut’s growing bioscience industry.

The BioPath Skills Academy initiative will include a series of workshops for teachers and school administrators on how they can meet the emerging needs of the bioscience industry. The program will include equipment and software training, as well as a loan program enabling educators to use those materials within their schools and classrooms.

BioPath Skills Academy is being funded through a variety of sources, including two new grants from CTNext via the New Haven Innovation Collaborative (NHIC). The allocations will enable the program to expand its efforts to reach out to underrepresented and underserved populations in the Greater New Haven region.

“We are excited to broaden and deepen BioPath’s impact with the launch of the BioPath Skills Academy for both educators and students,” said SCSU Executive Director for Research and Innovation Christine Broadbridge.

“The BioPath Skills Institute (an umbrella entity that includes the academy) has been identified by the state as a model for workforce development that advances educational and career outcomes while providing targeted support for students from underserved communities,” she said.

“We are thrilled to be partnering with organizations including BioCT and New Haven Works,” Broadbridge added. “The timing could not be better for a partnership that is focused on getting the word out about bioscience opportunities, especially for those who might not have access to this information otherwise. We thank CT Next NHIC for its continued support.”

Established in 2015, BioPath addresses training needs identified by area life science businesses. From its inception, it formed an industry advisory board and conducted an industry-wide needs assessment to guide its growth and development.

Bioscience industry representatives have consistently rated access to a talent pool as a major factor of such companies when considering where to establish themselves and grow, according to Rong Fan, a professor at Yale University and co-founder of IsoPlexis and Singleron. Fan also is founder of AtlasXomics and founding chairman of the BioPath Advisory Board.

“SCSU BioPath is an indispensable program in our biotech industry ecosystem,” Fan said. “How to develop the next-generation workforce with a forward-looking training program is one of the most critical factors to the success of our biotech companies. BioPath was uniquely designed to meet this pressing need.

“As the greater New Haven area is becoming a major bioscience hub in our country, the continued support (and advancement) of BioPath is essential to the long-term success of the industry in this area and across the state of Connecticut,” he said.

Julia Harrison, who graduated from SCSU in 2018 with a Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry and completed a BioPath-NHIC supported internship at IsoPlexis (a single-cell technology company), exemplifies the opportunities offered through BioPath. She now works at Potentiometric Probes in Farmington.

“My internship experience with IsoPlexis provided me with invaluable knowledge regarding the applications of science in industry,” Harrison said. “I was able to participate in nearly every aspect of the company’s operations and biological components of their research and development.”

The city of New Haven, SCSU and the SCSU Foundation provided program funding to the launch BioPath. That support has been augmented by NHIC, federal grants and private gifts, which have been used to implement programs aligned to help our student body and community residents prepare to support and lead in the bioscience industry. BioPath also has built a partnership with statewide entities, such as BioCT and AdvanceCT.

Peter Dimoulas, who has 10 years of experience in teaching and administration (including in the New Haven School District), will manage the new grant-funded programs.

“Our efforts will be driven by two questions — what are the workforce needs of the bioscience industry, and what must we do to help students and community residents meet those needs?” Dimoulas said.

Three new programs that provide direct support to students and residents are also in the works:

*BioPath Skills Academy for Students will consist of six non-credit, bioscience bootcamps to prepare students for research and internship opportunities (followed by direct hire) and afford opportunities for mid-career professionals to learn new skills.

*BioPath Research Experiences (REU) and Internship programs will offer students experiential learning integral to developing requisite skills and knowledge. These opportunities markedly improve student readiness to make meaningful contributions among Connecticut’s fast-growing bioscience companies.

*A partnership with New Haven Works that will provide on-going academic support and mentoring for New Haven students and residents.

Melissa Mason, executive director at New Haven Works, said her organization is excited to partner with BioPath on the development of innovative pathways for New Haven residents to access careers in the region’s growing bioscience sector. “We are especially energized by the prospect of developing candidates for roles outside of the traditional Ph.D. track,” she said.

NHIC Executive Director Michael Harris highlighted the importance of the BioPath program for the bioscience sector’s growth.

“With several successful IPO’s in recent years and the upcoming development of additional laboratory capacity, New Haven is gaining momentum as a national leader in bioscience,” Harris said.

“By adding bioscience exposure to our public school classrooms, real-world lab experience for undergraduate students, and bootcamp experience for adult learners, CTNext’s investment in new BioPath components fuel that growth and provide pathways for more New Haven residents to access the jobs of this fast-growing sector.”

 

 

Dr. Samuel Andoh

Dr. Samuel Andoh, professor of economics, has been appointed as the next AP Macroeconomics Chief Reader for the College Board’s Advanced Placement Program. The position, known colloquially known as the Chief Reader, is responsible for overseeing the scoring of over 145,000 AP Macroeconomics exams at the annual AP Reading. Chief Readers are college faculty and considered experts in their field. Andoh has been involved with the AP Reading for 14 years and has served in Reading leadership positions for 8 years.

James Thorson, chair of the Economics Department, said “Dr. Samuel Andoh has served for years in the AP economics program. His promotion to Chief Reader is the result of his tireless devotion to improving the learning experience of our students. It is a real honor that the AP program has recognized his outstanding work in this area. His appointment brings great honor to the department, school and university.”

Andoh began his term as Chief Reader in July and he will serve in this vital role through June 2024.
The AP Program enables willing and academically prepared students to pursue college-level studies – with the opportunity to earn college credit, advanced placement or both – while still in high school. In 2020, over 2.6 million students took more than 4.7 million AP exams.

Held each June, the AP Reading brings together AP teachers and college faculty members from around the world to evaluate and score the free-response sections of the AP Exams. It is a unique forum in which an academic dialogue between educators is both fostered and encouraged. Andoh is one of just 32 Chief Readers, who are responsible for directing scoring activities for over 18,000 AP Readers across 38 different subjects.

During the Reading, Andoh will oversee more than 170 readers as they score student responses from the AP Macroeconomics exam, ensuring students receive fair and valid scores. Students’ scores on this exam help to determine credit and placement into college courses in economics on close to 2,300 college campuses each fall. Additionally, as Chief Reader, Andoh will serve in a leadership capacity on his subject’s Development Committee, where new tasks and questions are developed for future exams.

The AP Program has expressed its gratitude for the immeasurable ways Andoh, and Southern Connecticut State University, have positively impacted the lives of so many students, teachers, and college faculty over his years of service with AP.

Mrs. Mildred Madison

When 94-year-old Mildred Madison’s absentee ballot was late arriving, she wanted to make sure her vote was counted. So her son, History Professor Julian Madison — drove her 350 miles each way, from Chicago to Detroit, so that she could cast her ballot. Mrs. Madison was featured in a news segment on CBS 17, a local CBS affiliate in North Carolina, as well as on CNN Politics.

Mrs. Madison is quoted in the CNN article as saying, “I’ve been voting in every election, whether it was city, state, county or national for the last 72 years.” She has a long history in activism and politics and was the first black president of the League of Women Voters in Cleveland, Ohio, where she raised her children. In that role she worked to bring the final presidential debate between Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter to Cleveland.

In the video, Mrs. Madison emphasizes the importance of voting, “not only for your children, but for their children.”

Professor Madison says, “While growing up, my mother insisted on two things: First, respect women. Second, vote in every election. Her explanations were simple. By voting, I take part in shaping my future as well as those who come after me. Second, it sets an example for others. Finally, by NOT voting, not only will my voice not be heard, but I will have no right to complain when things go wrong.”

From the CBS 17 video: History Professor Julian Madison waits for his mother as she casts her ballot.

Mrs. Madison’s story has caught the attention of many and has now gone viral. Professor Madison reports that news outlets in Vietnam, England, and France have picked up this story as have outlets in most states. The Daily Show covered her story on October 20, and she has been interviewed by phone by someone on the Oprah Winfrey Channel. She was also featured on the CBS Morning News on Election Day, November 3.

As Professor Madison says, “this is certainly an opportunity for my mother who has run for political office on several occasions and won, to continue to push people to vote.”

Julian Madison

As one of only four students in Connecticut to receive the Bob Eddy Scholarship, Jason Edwards is being recognized for talent and promise.

Spring 2020 will be one to remember for Southern rising senior Jason Edwards — and he has the photos to prove it.

In addition to completing online courses, working as a student photographer for Southern’s communications and marketing department, and serving as photo editor of the student-run Crescent magazine, the talented journalism major is turning his camera lens on his neighbors to visually capture the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in the Connecticut Naugatuck Valley.

Edwards is one of only four recipients of the Connecticut Society of Professional Journalists Foundation’s Bob Eddy Scholarship, which recognizes excellence and promise in the field. The award is open to rising college juniors and seniors attending Connecticut universities as well as state residents who are studying elsewhere.

In related news, numerous Southern student journalists were recognized for their work in Crescent magazine and the Southern News from the Society of Professional Journalists in its Mark of Excellence competition.

Just Bagels President Cliff Nordquist, '90

When Cliff Nordquist, ’90, and James O’Connell, ’90, founded Just Bagels in 1992, philanthropy wasn’t their No. 1 priority — growing the business and paying the bills was. But now that the company has established roots in its Bronx neighborhood, supporting the neighbors has become a part of daily operations, even though business is down 60 to 70 percent.

Until COVID-19 hit, Just Bagels sold their distinctive line of water-bath bagels nationally and internationally to large retailers such as Fresh Direct, Whole Foods, and Starbucks; airlines such as United Airlines; college campuses; Marriott and Hilton properties; and Barnes & Noble cafes in all 50 states. Now, with the market upended by the pandemic, Just Bagels President Nordquist said his biggest revenue generator is QVC.

“We are non-stop with QVC,” he said. “We started with them last May, and it’s what’s keeping us alive.”

The market may be uncertain, but Just Bagels’ continued commitment to the neighborhood isn’t. The company has started donating bagels to frontline workers and nurses in nine local hospitals in the Bronx.

“Being here so long, as you grow, you want to give back, so we love giving back and supporting the local community,” he said. “We have donated to churches, homeless shelters, the local police station, and food pantries, and I thought that would be a nice thing to do, to give something to our frontline workers, so we started. We can’t do it forever, but the neighborhood knows they can come in and we will be there, supplying the bagels.”

Andrew Toce, ’14, LPC, ADS, works in his own private counseling practice, with a focus on sports psychology. Read our interview with him and learn how he is continuing his work amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

SCSU: Can you briefly describe your current employment?

AT: I am the owner and operator of my own private practice named Deep Breaths Counseling, LLC which is based out of South Windsor, Conn. Here I focus my work on sport psychology and co-occurring disorders. I have had the privilege of working with athletes of all ages and levels, from professional to youth athletes pursuing their dreams of playing at the next level.

SCSU: How has your job changed in the past few weeks with the COVID-19 outbreak?

AT: My job has changed drastically in the past few weeks. I normally am open 3 days a week and see all clients face-to-face. Since the COVID-19 outbreak, things have changed from shaking hands to keeping 6 feet from my clients at all times and spraying everything down with disinfectant in between clients.

SCSU: Have you had to move any services or parts of your job online to support social distancing? How has this been?

AT: In the last week, I have had to move my entire practice to an online platform. This has been a challenge and very new. In our field, you need to be very particular as HIPAA rights for clients need to be followed at all times. I had to create special consent forms and documents that could be electronically filled out. I needed to find ways to send secure HIPAA-compliant emails. I also needed to find a platform that was HIPAA-compliant to do video and audio sessions, as everyday software like Facetime, Skype and Zoom do not have the correct level of security to qualify. On top of that, getting insurance companies to cover online services, named telehealth in my field, was a challenge and barrier up until the second week of March. Thankfully, as I write this, most major insurance companies have enacted special circumstances to meet the needs of their customers and the providers that give these services.

SCSU: From your professional perspective, what is the local impact COVID-19, so far?

AT: From my perspective, the impact has been vast and unwavering. Companies are closing, there are more layoffs happening every day, families are struggling, and small businesses are desperate for anything to keep them afloat. It is a reminder to me of how fast everyday life can change and how we take things for granted without even realizing it. People are scared of COVID-19, as am I, but I truly believe in the phrase, “Educate to Regulate.” I started using this phrase when giving talks on substance use to local high schools, but it works in this context as well. We need to educate ourselves on COVID-19 and the facts about it. Only then will we regulate the way we do things and make it possible to flatten the curve. I have the utmost respect for doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists, lab technicians, paramedics, and so many others who don’t have the option to work from home and are daily putting their own well-being on the line to help those struggling from COVID-19 and all other situations.

SCSU: What are your suggestions, personally/professionally, for getting through this pandemic?

AT: I think we are unprepared for the vast amount of ICU beds and ventilators that we will need, and I believe the answer is that companies who supply these need to recognize this is bigger than economics. In order to save lives, we need to come together as a human species and forget about any future profits and focus on the here and now. I think we need to listen to those that are on the front lines, we need to follow the advice given and recognize that if we all think, “This won’t affect me,” then it will affect all of us. Social distancing and self-isolation are the answer. We need to learn from China’s experience and also Italy’s struggles. Their government asked that everyone self-isolate and many didn’t. They now find themselves ill-prepared to handle the vast amount of cases.

SCSU: What is the impact of moving to telehealth for patients and your practice?

AT: My goal is to make this transition as low impact as possible on my clients. We are all scared and the unknown is anxiety-provoking. The last thing I want to do is add to that and create more barriers for them. I did a lot of research and found a system that is user-friendly and compatible with any device. My client simply has to go to a specific URL and enter their name at the time of their session; once that happens I see them in my virtual waiting room and I initiate the session. All copays are collected through an online processing format and the rest is normal.

Looking for some safe and healthy fun outdoors? Here’s some advice from Joe Milone assistant professor of recreation management, Recreation, Tourism, and Sport Management Department, on spending time outside during a time when many of us are studying or working from home and practicing self-distancing to avoid the spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus).

Joe Milone

Q: Is it okay to go to a park and take a hike?

A: Hiking is excellent for one’s physical and mental health, which is important in times like this. I just got back from a hike in West Rock Ridge State Park in Hamden with my dog. There were actually quite a few people with their canine companions out on the trail today.

If someone decides to go out for hike, it is absolutely important to minimize exposure to others. As with all the other warnings from local, state, and federal officials, practicing good hygiene and social distancing are key. Parks and trails provide plenty of open space and allow us to keep our distance from others. Do not congregate with a large group of people – that defeats the purpose of social distancing.

Of course, if you are showing symptoms or think you have been exposed to the virus then you should stay home and follow CDC and local public health agency guidelines. In addition, there is a lot we don’t know about the virus or impact on our specific community, so continue monitoring announcements because information is always changing.

Q: How can people prepare for their outing?

A: Research nearby parks. Some parks can be extremely busy, so finding a lesser-visited park could be a good option, but either way do some research before you go. Go during off-hours, if possible, to avoid large groups of people – this also lessens the environmental impact of the trails.

I would choose a trail that will not be crowded. This can be difficult to determine ahead of time, so you might have to change plans when arriving at the park. If a trail looks crowded, find another option. That’s why it is good to bring a map. Close to the SCSU campus, the loop around Lake Wintergreen in West Rock Ridge State Park or the Sleeping Giant State Park tower trail are both very popular hiking spots. However, there are plenty of other trail options at each park to get away from the large crowds.

As always have extra food, water, and, of course, hand sanitizer. Check the weather. Know your skill level and that of the people you are with to determine how long to be out and trail difficulty.

Q: Do you recommend any resources to help people plan their outing?

A: The internet is full of great resources but here are a few to get you going.

Hiking For Beginners

Connecticut Chapter of the Appalachian Mountain Trail Club

Connecticut State Parks

Connecticut Forest and Parks Association

REI – Best Hikes in CT

Southern Connecticut State University’s Blue Economy project in Long Island Sound is gearing up to have a profound green impact.

The Project Blue Hub, created by a team of dedicated researchers and 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 at SCSU, is the initial step towards creating a Blue Economy research, tech transfer and innovation hub in New Haven. By expanding the market for locally grown kelp and developing potential innovations aimed at the processing and marketing of kelp, the project will focus on the sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved lives, and ocean ecosystem health.

Rich in biodiversity, kelp can be grown and harvested year round. It doesn’t need chemicals, fertilizers or pesticides, so its production is low impact. Kelp forests are home to a wide array of species, from invertebrates and fish to marine mammals and birds. Perhaps most importantly, kelp helps improve water quality by ‘fixing’ the nitrogen content of the surrounding water, reducing ocean acidification.

The world’s oceans are big business: The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) reports the global ocean economy could double in size by 2030, reaching approximately $3 trillion. Based on information from a Southern Connecticut State University research team, the Long Island Sound Blue Economy is projected to grow by 67% during that same time frame to an estimated $13.3 billion.

Colleen Bielitz and Patrick Heidkamp

“Project Blue is so important is because it will allow for continuous economic growth and the advancement of our local community,” Bielitz said. “Through our hub, we will resolve social problems in a sustainable and efficient way. We will develop new technologies, products and services to meet the needs of our community and beyond while continuously improving our capabilities through better use of our resources and assets, particularly the Long Island Sound.”

By using the emerging Long Island Sound kelp/seaweed industry as a catalyst for subsequent Blue Economy initiatives, Project Blue Hub aims to find alternative channels and develop niche markets for kelp through a concerted effort of research and development, innovation, and tech transfer to incubate local businesses.

These business will play a key role in the expansion of the kelp market, such as designing kelp-based cosmetic products; the creation of animal feed from seaweed; the development of bioplastics from Kelp/Seaweed; the utilization of kelp-based bioyarn and biotextiles; and assessing the potential for kelp use in the pharmaceutical industry. Rich in vitamins and minerals such as vitamin K, vitamin A, calcium, iron, and magnesium, expansion opportunities are ripe for kelp-based food products for consumers (for example, Fresh Kelp, Kelp Jerky, Kelp Beer, etc.). Kelp also is high in antioxidants, including carotenoids, flavonoids, and alkaloids, which help to fight against disease-causing free radicals.

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, creating an infrastructure for ocean farming innovation.

“Our students will form research innovation teams and create proof-of-concept products and innovations in the Blue Economy,” Bielitz said. “This will eliminate or shorten the learning curve to enter the blue innovation workforce. With our hub specifically designed for Blue Economy ideas to be hatched, we will provide students with the hard and soft skills needed to operate in this space.”

Southern’s Werth Center for Coastal and Marine Studies and the Department of the Environment, Geography and Marine Sciences have long served as advocates for and experts in Connecticut’s oceanic health; now, partnering with government agencies, relevant local NGOs and business partners, Southern’s Blue Economy Project is leading the charge to create an infrastructure for ocean farming innovation — the economy of which encompasses renewable off-shore energy development, tourism, fisheries, maritime transport, waste management, climate change, coastal resilience, and more.

“Our work will highlight the close linkages between ocean health, climate change, and the well-being of the state,” Bielitz said. “This goes beyond viewing the ocean economy solely as a mechanism for economic growth. We want to create sustainable models based on the circular economy. Similar to the Green Economy, our Blue Economy hub will focus on being inclusive while acting as good stewards of our earth with a focus on social equity, while also meaningfully reducing environmental threats and ecological scarcities.”