Out and About

Jesse Manning, '18, and Heidi Reinprecht, '17

Recent graduate Jesse Manning, ’18, and his girlfriend, Heidi Reinprecht, class of ’17, are already using their communications expertise to change lives 7,000 miles away in Uganda.

Manning, 22, and Reinprecht, 25, who have started their own film production company, will fly to Uganda July 12-25 to film a documentary on a primary school built from donations that has positively changed life outcomes for more than 550 children from nursery school to 7th grade.

Their hope is that by telling the poignant stories about the value of education through the eyes of the children, parents, and educators, more people will want to donate money and/or time to the cause.

“Making the film will make them grow in ways you can’t imagine,” Reinprecht said of the documentary. “It’s a small, grassroots organization and I don’t know how they do it.”

The school was established through HELP International Uganda, a partnership between HELP International and the Ugandan people in Eastern Africa. The mission focuses on breaking the cycle of poverty, illiteracy, and hunger in the small, poverty-stricken Ugandan village of Masese.

Manning, who hails from Trumbull, majored in communication and became enthralled with the cause after a friend, Christopher Martin, who attends Molloy College in New York, returned from an internship in Uganda.

Martin couldn’t stop raving about the beauty of the school’s impact through educating, feeding, and delivering medical care to 550 impoverished children who wouldn’t otherwise be able to attend school. Primary school in the village normally is not free and so many don’t automatically receive an education. When Martin shared his experiences, Manning felt an instant connection.

“$1 there can help feed a family for a week, $30 can change someone’s life,” Manning said. “I felt I wanted to do my part.”

The couple already has a film company — Little Tree Farm Productions — and the farm in the name is intended to convey that people can “grow their ideas,” Reinprecht said.

Promoting the school through film “felt natural,” said Reinprecht, who noted, “I’ve always wanted to help people,” she said.

The couple has raised $5,000 toward the trip — enough to get them there — but are fundraising about $10,000 more to pay the rest, including insurance, medical expenses such as vaccinations, and production costs.

They are donating their time to make the film.

The pair met in their first film class at Southern and were always paired after that in class.

Reinprecht, originally from Watertown, graduated in 2017 with a bachelor’s degree in communication with a concentration in film and television.

Reinprecht says she has sensitive ears and is an audio production specialist, while Manning is a natural with the camera.

“He’s my extra set of eyes and I’m his ears,” she said.

Their approximately 40-minute documentary will highlight the climate of the village before the school was built, what it has become, and an expansion planned for the future.

“We want people to take away from it that they can really help,” Manning said.

Reinprecht added, “The children love this school.”

Martin became involved during his sophomore year of college when he interned with a global justice NGO aligned with the United Nations. Martin’s area of expertise was micro-finance, which included giving small business loans to people in developing nations.

His professor was involved in the school in Uganda.

“We decided to team up to give small business loans to people in the village,” Martin said.

But he fell in love with the school as well, and this summer Martin will make his fourth trip to Uganda in three years, volunteering in the school, tutoring the children, and helping in any other way needed.

“The people there are just so amazing,” Martin said. “They are extremely poor – they live on about $1 per day, but they’re so friendly and excited we’re there.”

Martin is excited about the impact of his friends’ documentary.

“The biggest thing for people who have not seen the project – film might make them want to help,” he said.

graphic for Mary and Max film

ReelAbilities is the largest disability film festival in North America dedicated to promoting awareness and appreciation of the lives, stories and artistic expressions of people with different abilities. This spring, Southern is joining venues in New York, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Boston, Chicago, Portland, and San Francisco, among others, to feature films selected from over 1000 competitive submissions from an international community and reviewed by the screening committee in New York City, where the festival premieres each year in March.

Southern’s contribution to the 2018 festival — the first time the festival has been in Connecticut — is a screening of Mary and Max, a tale of friendship between two unlikely penpals: Mary, a lonely eight-year-old girl living in the suburbs of Melbourne, Australia, and Max, an obese, middle-aged Jewish man with Asperger’s, living in New York. “This film will be the first time ReelAbilities has been in Connecticut,” says Fran Prezant, of the Department of Communication Disorders, “and it will be here at SCSU.”

The film, to be screened in the Adanti Student Center Theater on March 19 from 5-7:30 p.m., has some adult content and is not appropriate for young children. A panelist talkback will follow the screening of the film, and light refreshments will be served. Admission is free. The theater is physically accessible and the film is captioned.

Initiated in New York in 2007, the ReelAbilities Film Festival presents award-winning films by and about people with disabilities in multiple locations throughout each hosting city. Post-screening discussions and other engaging programs bring together the community to explore, discuss, embrace, and celebrate the diversity of our shared human experience.

“At a time when discussions about differences and inclusion are so important in this country,” Prezant says, “recognizing the strength in diversity and challenging stereotypic notions is important.” The festival offers a great opportunity, she says, “to discuss differences rather than ‘deficits,’ bust stereotypes, and challenge long-held and often erroneous assumptions.”

ReelAbilities events have been held in over a dozen cities in North America and have expanded from the United States to Canada and soon, Latin America. Since its start, ReelAbilities has been consistently receiving an increasing number of outstanding film submissions from across the globe.

The campus screening is sponsored by Judaic Studies with contributions from Deans’ Offices: Arts & Sciences, Health and Human Services, and Education; and the Department of Communication Disorders.

With support of the SCSU National Student Speech-Language-Hearing Association and the Autism Awareness and Advocacy Club

Learn more about this screening.

 

Four CARE leaders in front of SCSU Buley Library

This fall, The Community Alliance for Research and Engagement (CARE), based at Southern’s School of Health and Human Services, launched its “New Haven Neighborhood Health Leaders” program, a leadership program for SCSU students, faculty, and New Haven residents to work together on solutions to pressing social and health issues identified by the community.

Alycia Santilli, CARE director, explains, “The program is based on CARE’s work in New Haven – organizing around health issues at the grassroots level. This program helps to put a framework on and build upon several years of work.” Examples of past CARE projects have been community gardens, creating urban walking trails, bringing mobile farmers’ markets and food pantries to underserved neighborhoods, nutrition education and exercise programs, and supporting neighborhood antiviolence initiatives.

The Health Leaders program is open to faculty and graduate students in the School of Health and Human Services, as well as to residents of the Dixwell, Newhallville, West Rock, Beaver Hills, and West Hills neighborhoods. Two cohorts are being funded in the 2017-18 academic year, with the opportunity to implement a community-based participatory research (CBPR) project. The health leaders that started this fall include two city residents — Jacqui Pheanious, a resident of the Beaver Hills neighborhood and Makia Richardson, a resident of the West Rock neighborhood – and two MPH students, Cerella Craig and Meadeshia Mitchell. The graduate students are GAs, paid through a grant. The neighborhood health leaders are asked to commit about five hours a week to the program in return for a monthly $200 stipend.

The same four people will be continuing through the spring semester and are working on project planning now. In West Rock, they are focusing on transportation and safety issues, and in Beaver Hills/Whalley, they are focusing on health promotion in barber shops.

To find health leaders from the community, Santilli says, “We got the word out through neighborhood networks and through our community connections at CARE.”

The intent of CBPR is for researchers to work side by side with community members to define questions and methods, develop interventions, implement research and evaluation, and disseminate the findings. The two cohorts are focusing their work in two geographic areas — Dixwell/Newhallville/Beaver Hills and West Rock/West Hills — as a means to better engage with neighborhoods immediately adjacent to Southern. The health leaders work closely with residents of these neighborhood to identify an issue to tackle together.

The responsibilities of the health leaders include working in collaboration with CARE’s community coordinator and SCSU faculty and students to build relationships with leaders, other residents, and organizations in the New Haven community. Part of the work they do is to develop health activities and initiatives in collaboration with neighborhood groups and SCSU faculty and students; conduct outreach about neighborhood level projects and other CARE-related projects; and work with leaders and residents through neighborhood associations and groups to develop and implement projects that meet their priorities and needs.

So far, Santilli says, “The program is going great! We provided three initial co-learning workshops, in which we focused on CARE’s New Haven Health Survey data, social determinants of health, community organizing, and community based participatory research/planning.”

The mission of CARE is to improve health in New Haven. CARE seeks to build bridges and share resources between Southern and the community to improve the quality of life for all residents. It is developing neighborhood-level health interventions with local neighborhood groups.

Rachael A. Vaters-Carr, professor of art, and Jeremy Chandler, associate professor of art, are participating in Further On, an art exhibition at the Hans Weiss Newspace Gallery on the campus of Manchester Community College (MCC). The gallery’s curator, Susan Classen-Sullivan, professor of visual fine art at MCC, invited Vaters-Carr and Chandler to take part in the exhibition of works by nine artists who are professors at institutional neighbors to MCC. The institutions being represented are: ECSU, CCSU, SCSU, UConn, and Hartford School of Art, all popular transfer destinations for MCC students. The exhibit, intended as an opportunity for MCC students to connect with faculty from those programs, runs through December 6.

Classen-Sullivan explains, “We have a vibration Fine Art Program at MCC, with over 100 fine art majors. Though many go on to specifically fine art institutions, some transfer to Connecticut four-year schools. The exhibition, along with bringing strong relevant contemporary art to the college and community, serves to acquaint MCC fine art students with the work of professors they may have as instructors in the future. Additionally the exhibition verifies that fine arts professors also have rigorous art making practices.”

snow-cave-mergedJeremy Chandler – “Snow Cave Merged”

Chandler, who teaches photography, says of his work, “My art practice continues to grow out of a desire to express my personal history, experiences and relationships, through a prolonged engagement with place and a process that emphasizes structured improvisation with those I photograph. I primarily engage with my audience through rich, open-ended narrative imagery, which subverts ritualized expressions of masculinity, while creating altered perceptions of space and place.”

vaters-carr_18_document_2017Rachael Vaters-Carr

Vaters-Carr says that her work “is intimately connected to survivorship. Themes of healing, destruction, protection and defense have consistently resonated throughout my work and have always served as the primary catalyst for my art practice. The forms and shapes found in this body of work are inspired by objects that have been altered to include reference points that hint at medical intervention, altercation, and trespass. Over the past few years, I have been obsessively reworking these forms into drawings, paintings, and sculptures that explore personal narrative with more universal implications.”

Learn more about the gallery and the exhibition.

 

Paris Diaries 2017

Dear Friends of the Southern in Paris Program,

It is almost cliché to say, but time has flown by. Today marks our eleventh day in Paris, and the students have already experienced so much. I’d like to take a moment and reflect on our activities, as well as showcase some of the students’ work so far.

We departed New York’s JFK airport on May 31st on an overnight flight to Paris. Students settled in and enjoyed the in-seat entertainment, food, and service provided by our carrier, Air France. Although airline food does not have the best reputation, some students remarked that they were surprised by the quality. Arriving in Paris at 8 o’clock in the morning, we were greeted by one of the longest immigration control lines the program has ever had to endure. Luckily, the agents were quick and efficient, and we were picking up our bags and getting into the shuttle in no time.

Our residence, the Foundation Biermans-Lapôtre, welcomed us with open arms, clean rooms, and recently installed Wi-Fi. Built to house students from Belgium and Luxembourg, the foundation allows groups hailing from other countries to stay for short visits, and we are very grateful for their continued hospitality and professionalism.

After settling into our rooms, students headed to the local grocery store to pick up essentials. Now a bit more familiar with the neighborhood, the group returned to the foundation for a well-deserved rest. Student intern Andrew “André” Janz and I took advantage of this moment to visit the nearest transportation office to purchase our Navigo cards. These magic items allow us to use every facet of Parisian public transportation, even including the regional train system! For many of the students, it is quite a change from relying solely on a personal vehicle to get around. That evening, we took a walk to a neighborhood known as “Montparnasse,” which is anchored by one of the only skyscrapers inside the city limits. There we enjoyed some refreshments at a local café while enjoying one of the most popular Parisian pastimes: people watching! Once we had had our fill, we enjoyed a dinner of galettes and crêpes at Crêperie Plougastel, an event that has become a bit of a tradition for the program on the night of arrival. Filled with cheese, chocolate, and a variety of other tasty ingredients, it was time to turn in for the night.

Friday included a few program set-up activities, lunch at a student-favorite bakery called Paul, and a walk through the courtyards of the Louvre. Students had the evening free to themselves, and many took advantage of the mild weather to explore more. On Saturday, we made our first visit to the Louvre, where we saw the three ladies: the Mona Lisa, the Venus di Milo, and the Victory Angel of Samothrace. These pieces of art alone draw an amazing number of tourists each day, and many students were surprised at how much activity buzzed around them.

On Sunday, we made our first program visit ever to the village of Provins, a UNESCO World Heritage site about eighty kilometers outside of Paris (http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/873). Known for its medieval architecture and underground tunnel system, the city was one of the most important economic centers of the European world during the 12th, 13th, and 14th centuries. The next day, we continued our exploration of the medieval world with a visit to the Basilica of Saint-Denis, often considered one of the first examples of “French Work,” as it was known at the time, and that we have come to know as Gothic Architecture. Students marveled at the stained glass, arched ceilings, and funerary statuary since Saint-Denis is the traditional resting place of the French monarchy. Following this early example, Sainte-Chapelle did not disappoint during our visit the following day. An example of later gothic style, Sainte-Chapelle was built to house the relics that king Louis IX, later Saint-Louis, brought back from the crusades. With walls appearing to be made of only stained-glass, this favorite stop on the trip continues to marvel visitors nearly 770 years after its consecration. Finally, we ended that day’s visit with a stop at the Conciergerie, formerly part of the royal palace and often used as a prison.

On Wednesday, students met at the Musée de Cluny, a museum dedicated to medieval life and art. Built upon Roman baths, the museum houses a very impressive collection of tapestries, the most notable of which is probably the series known as “La Dame à la licorne,” or “The Lady and the Unicorn.” After leaving the museum, we took a detour and stopped in at Angelina’s, a famous tea room specializing in hot chocolate and delicious pastries. Students marveled at the consistency of the drink, remarking that it was indeed like drinking melted chocolate. They all agreed that it was like nothing they had had before! After enjoying our short rest at Angelina’s, we made our way to the Louvre to explore the medieval foundations discovered during the renovations of the 1980s, followed by a short tour through the French small-format paintings. We then walked along the rue de Rivoli and the Seine to get to our dinner reservation at the Trumilou. Offering traditional French fare, the restaurant did not disappoint. Hesitant to try them on their own, students eagerly split a plate of a dozen escargots. Savoring the buttery, garlicky, and earthy flavors, many of the students were surprised at how much they enjoyed the typically French dish.

Thursday and Friday were free days for the students, while Saturday we left the city for an all-day visit to the 17th-century castle Vaux-le-Vicomte. A highlight of the trip, the property offered up all it had to offer to the students, who explored the property for nearly six hours. As spectacular as the building itself is, the gardens are indeed the highpoint. Designed by famed landscape artist André Le Nôtre, the gardens play tricks on the visitor’s perspective and uncover surprises as s/he walks further into the grounds.

Interested in reading what the students have to say? Take a look at our program’s Tumblr page at https://scsu2017paris.tumblr.com.

Some highlights include:

“What caught my attention were the stained glass windows all around the church. The usually dark colors like the red and the blues shone exceptionally well. I enjoyed the light pouring out into the church.”

“One of my fondest memories from my first visit to France is my first visit to the chateau Vaux-le-Vicomte. I was born and raised in a small town (around 5,000 people) and find it somewhat difficult to adjust to the pace of city life. While Paris is a fantastically unique city, the Vaux has always offered me a welcome respite from the hustle and bustle of metro trains and pedestrian laden streets.”

“After our brief visit [to the Louvre], we were desperately hungry […]. We went to a nice cafe called Cafe Joli and I had a fantastic Croque Monsieur. I was in heaven after eating that.”

“I can only wonder how the Mona Lisa feels. Launching into the spotlight is difficult for anyone, but she didn’t ask for this. Why, of all da Vinci’s breathtaking works, why her? Why this piece? Bulletproof glass, a wooden rail, two bodyguards, and a fabric rope barring the spectators from getting too close. She sees thousands of people a day, and I can only imagine she’s lonely on her private wall. I wonder if she feels guilty about drawing people away from the other pieces in the room, either by sucking the public in like a fly to her web, or repelling visitors completely from the room as a whole to avoid the buzz in the middle.”

Wishing you all the best from Paris,

Luke L. Eilderts, Ph.D.
Director, Southern in Paris program 2017
Assistant Professor of French
World Languages & Literatures

Lisa Tedesco, film student

For anyone in the film industry – or anyone interested in film, for that matter — the renowned Cannes Film Festival in France is considered one of the most prestigious festivals in the world. Each year in May, producers, directors, screenwriters, actors, and many others involved in the process of filmmaking, from all over the world, flock to Cannes to see others’ films, show their own films, and network.

This year, Southern student and screenwriter Lisa Tedesco will be among the crowds at Cannes, but not as one of the paparazzi or a mere film fan. Tedesco will be screening her short film, August in The City, one of about 200 short films chosen from among about 10 thousand submissions for the festival’s “Short Film Corner.”

Tedesco wrote the screenplay for the film and is executive producer. She teamed up with Los Angeles-based director Christie Conochalla (Once Upon a Zipper, Forever Not Maybe) to produce August in the City. Shot in Brooklyn and Oceanside, N.Y., last November, the production team has now begun its run on the film festival circuit.

August in the City has already screened at the ClexaCon Film Festival in Las Vegas, Nev. Local audiences can see August in the City on Friday, May 5, at 6:15 p.m., when it is shown in the New Haven International Film Festival.

A visionary project in lesbian filmmaking, August in the City deals with the theme of love, loss, and attempting to persevere throughout life without feeling quite whole. August (Daniela Mastropietro) is a woman who has always seen the world through her parents’ eye. They had stability and a loving relationship that August grew from and wanted. August’s husband Salvatore (John Solo) is an old-school Italian man who loves family values and the simple life. Together they have raised two daughters, Ana and Marie (Stacey Raymond and Amanda Tudor). Upon hearing of Ana’s impending return home from college with Nick (Raquel Powell), a new love, August prepares to meet him. When August sees that Nick is a young woman, not the young man she had expected, the film flashes back to 1978, the night when August let her true happiness slip away from her.

Tedesco attributes her vision for the screenplay to a story her mother wrote about her when she was off at film school, about 12 years ago. Her mother, Southern alumna Nancy Guthrie Manzi, ’76, had been an English major with a concentration in journalism while at Southern and says she has always loved to write.

“My mom had called me one night and said that she has written a little something about me,” said Tedesco. “It was about my very first love that I had in college – her name was Nick – and she was expecting to see a young man when I brought her home.” Her mother had been surprised when Nick turned out to be female. Manzi’s story sparked Tedesco’s imagination, and she began thinking about the perspective of the mother in the story.
Lisa Tedesco, film student

Tedesco asked her mom for permission to use the story. “I wanted to do more with it,” she says. She decided to do a “time hop” about the mother’s side of the story — which she adds doesn’t reflect Manzi’s experience — and delve into the fictional mother’s past. Tedesco’s screenplay for August In the City took that element from her mother’s original short story and combined it with her own dramatic touches to make something new.

Tedesco explains that her film is 16 minutes long, and within the short film genre, films can range from one minute to 30 minutes in length. “Starting out, you don’t have access to a lot of the resources you’d have with a Hollywood budget,” she explains. “Short films are good when you have a low budget. “

At film festivals, short films can help filmmakers network and sell their work. At Cannes, for instance, Tesdesco says, “the hope is that you’ll get noticed and get more money to build upon the short” and possibly produce it as a feature film. She explains that distributors from all over the world come to the Cannes Short Film Corner to see the films, and “high production value increases your chance of getting someone’s attention.”

In addition to attending Southern part time and working on her film career, Tedesco works the second shift at Sikorsky as an electrical aerospace technician. A native of West Haven, Tedesco now lives in New Haven and worked on August in the City mostly within the New York City film community.

A media studies major, Tedesco credits her professors in that department with motivating her to “go for it” and make the movie. She says that Associate Professor Charlene Dellinger-Pate “gave me a sense of stability in knowing I could overcome the stigma of women being underrepresented in the film industry.” Associate Professor Rosemarie Conforti, Tedesco says, is supportive and “just wants you to succeed at everything.” Chairperson and Professor Wesley O’Brien says he and the entire department are proud of Tedesco, adding that she is “a self-directed young woman who knows what she wants and is wise enough to pursue it.”

For more information about August in the City, visit:

Teaser: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-2Pb7P_Izj8

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt6388694/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1

https://www.facebook.com/AugustintheCity/

https://twitter.com/AugustCity_Film

 

Students from the Department of Communication Disorders presented three research papers at the 2017 National Black Association for Speech Language and Hearing Conference on April 8. Two of the papers earned the distinction of highlighted posters, and were recognized among “the best research posters presented by faculty, students and clinicians.”

Undergraduates Coral Jiménez, Jacqueline Hernández-Flores, Teresa Wirtemburg, Shea Keeley, and Giovanna Diana presented “Cultural Competence Club–Join-Up!”  The paper examined the development of Southern’s trailblazing student-led organization Cultural Competence Club, which invites cross-disciplinary involvement in learning about and engaging across cultures.

commdisorders
Pictured Left to Right: Shea Keeley, Glenda DeJarnette (Mentor), Jacquelin Hernández-Flores, Coral Jiménez, Teresa, Wirtemburg.

Graduating senior Taylor Bird presented “Systematic Review of African American English (AAE) Narrative Discourse: Impact on Literacy.” The paper was an extension of research Taylor conducted as a recipient of the 2016 SCSU Undergraduate Research and Creativity Grant to determine AAE narrative skills across disciplines.

taylorbird
Pictured: Taylor Bird

Graduate students Caroline Berkovich and Peyton Moss presented “Gauging Institutional Commitment to Cultural Competence for CLD Populations.” The research examined policies from national organizations in health-related fields regarding professional workforce preparation to address cultural diversity.

commdis2
Pictured Left to Right: Peyton Moss and Caroline Berkovich

“Numerous faculty colleagues approached me to share how impressed they were with the caliber of research and professionalism demonstrated by our students,” said Glenda DeJarnette, faculty mentor to the projects. “I watched as each student fielded questions and engaged attendees in very thoughtful conversations about their research. As a mentor for these projects, I extend kudos first to the students who worked diligently on the research and secondly to colleagues at Southern whose efforts have helped to shape these promising scholars.”

 

 

Earlier this month, Philosophy Professor David Pettigrew traveled to Paris to make an important presentation: on behalf of SCSU President Joe Bertolino, CSCU President Mark Ojakian, and the CSCU Board of Regents, Pettigrew presided over a ceremony to present Dr. Juan-David Nasio with an honorary doctoral degree. Nasio, a medical doctor and trained psychiatrist from Argentina who emigrated to Paris in 1969 to pursue a career in Lacanian psychoanalysis, has made an exceptional contribution to society and to academic culture. He has been working as a psychoanalyst for more than 50 years and is also widely recognized as a distinguished intellectual and author, having published more than 30 books that have been translated into more than 13 languages. In addition to his private practice, Nasio gives professional development workshops and so-called “closed seminars” for psychoanalysts from throughout Europe. He also taught at University of Paris 7 for 31 years (1970-2001) and was the first psychoanalyst in history (1999) to be named a Chevalier (Knight) in the prestigious French Légion d’Honneur. His other distinctions include an honorary degree from the University of Buenos Aires in 2012, and an honorary degree from the Universidad Autónoma del Estado de México in November 2015.

diploma

Pettigrew was chosen to confer the degree on behalf of Southern, CSCU, and the Board of Regents because he nominated Nasio for the honor and has worked on his texts since around 1995: he presented three lectures for Nasio’s exclusive “closed seminars,” co-translated three of his books, and is finishing the translation of a fourth book on his own. Pettigrew’s co-translations of Nasio’s work have received various recognitions, including the SCSU Faculty Scholar Award in 2000, and recognition from the French Ministry of Culture, including the Hemingway Award. “I have had a unique opportunity to witness Dr. Nasio’s contribution to therapeutic and academic discourse,” Pettigrew said.

President Bertolino chose to send Pettigrew to Paris to confer the degree so that the ceremony could take place in the presence of Nasio’s family, friends, and colleagues. Nasio’s entire family was in attendance, including his wife Nelba, his four children, and three grandchildren, as well as many friends and colleagues.

Bertolino, who was unable to attend the ceremony, said that, “all of us at Southern Connecticut State University are honored and proud that Dr. Nasio will be receiving this well-deserved recognition.

“As a social worker, I can relate to his professional efforts in a caring practice, and as an academician, I am wholly impressed by his contributions to society as both an educator and a scholarly author.”

At the ceremony, after the presentation of the degree and Nasio’s hooding, Nasio delivered remarks, thanking President Bertolino and President Ojakian, as well as the Board of Regents. He also thanked Pettigrew, on behalf of himself and of all those gathered for the ceremony, “for bringing a message of friendship, culture, and passion for psychoanalysis,” and added that Pettigrew had “just added a new link to the golden chain that connects or bonds French psychoanalysis to American psychoanalysis and philosophy, French culture to American culture, and in a word, to the chain that links France to the United States.”

hooding

See more photos from the ceremony.

Students in Nicaragua

Winter break may feel like just a distant memory for most students by now, but for one group of Southern students, this year’s break created memories that will last a lifetime.

Members of a university club called Global Brigades traveled to Nicaragua from January 5-13 to work on a project to help improve water access and sanitation for a remote village. The students did all of the planning and fundraising for the trip and did not receive course credit for their work; their efforts were all volunteer. “I think this level of volunteerism abroad is a first for SCSU,” says Michael Schindel, assistant director of the Office of International Education and the club’s adviser.

The Southern group is a chapter of the national nonprofit organization Global Brigades, the largest student-led international community service group. Global Brigades operates in four countries — Ghana, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Panama — and provides ongoing support within the countries. Essentially, different college chapters fundraise to pay for airfare, accommodation, and funds to support the projects in these countries for periods of one week to 10 days, with the option of going for longer. One university chapter joins a project after another leaves, so that the projects can remain continuous. The projects focus on different community needs relating to public health, medical and dental needs, engineering, microfinance, water access, and human rights.

Nicaragua, students, Global Brigade

The Southern chapter has been on campus for two years, and this was the group’s first time conducting a “brigade” abroad. Students Sleman Hussein and Amanda Saslow and a core group of other students started the chapter; they drafted the constitution, made all the connections with the national organization, and recruited members. For the trip to Nicaragua, the executive board oversaw all of the travel arrangements, as well as fundraising, planning the “Charla” (a community public health lesson that was presented to a group of children, entirely in Spanish), and designing the t-shirts.

Hussain praises the dedication of the students who joined Global Brigades. “We went through many hurdles and obstacles to build the club,” he says. “We have 14 devoted people who spent the last couple years fundraising money, not for a vacation, or to donate to a church or soup kitchen. No, we have 14 devoted people who took time out of their busy college schedules to go to a third world country and break their backs for a week.”

Saslow agrees, adding, “I am so beyond proud of not only the 14 individuals joining us on the brigade but the entire Global Brigades family that we’ve established at Southern. It has been incredible seeing students support each other and stand by each other in an environment where it’s very easy to feel alone. Working with these 14 people has been a life-changing experience and I’m definitely walking out of here with a heck of a lot more than just a degree.”

Nicaragua, students, Global Brigade

Student Emily Gersz, a member of the club who went to Nicaragua, says she found the experience “life-changing.” She admits the trip “was a ton of hard work . . . but I’d do it 100 times over to see the gratitude in the eyes of the families we helped.”

According to Paul Nicholas, a member of the club’s e-board, the students did manual labor each day for five days, waking up at 6 a.m., taking a two-hour bus ride to Jinotega, the community where they worked, and then working side-by-side with the families they were helping. Together, they built concrete floors, sanitary stations, and septic tanks for homes that were typically made out of cinderblocks and wood branches, with dirt floors.

“The families were so welcoming and humble; letting us (complete strangers) work in and outside their homes,” Nicholas says. He explains that the group worked on building sanitary stations because many families don’t have toilets or showers at all. Because the women have back problems from always bending down to scrub clothes when doing laundry, the wash stations in the sanitary stations were raised to a higher level.

Nicaragua, students, Global Brigade

Nicholas says the conditions some of the families live in helped him realize that “there are so many more important things to worry about in this world . . . as opposed to all the small things we worry about here in the U.S.” He learned that the men in Jinotega make about two dollars a day, while the women have to walk miles carrying clean water from a clean source. Before Global Brigades became involved in helping Jinotega, the village’s water had a high concentration of fecal matter, causing parasites and disease. The solution Global Brigades is providing is to build an irrigation system directly connecting clean water from the mountains to many communities.

Part of the Global Brigades model is to have the community receiving assistance also participate in the work and provide some funding, so that the community is helping itself and taking ownership of the improvement projects.

Student Annie Kaczmarczyk’s outlook on life was transformed by her experience on the trip. “My perspective on what I take for granted has been drastically changed after seeing people live without basic life necessities,” she says. “What impacted me most on the trip is truly how much compassion and joy the people of Nicaragua have, even in such a dire state.”

Schindel says, “I am so proud of and impressed by this group of students. They took all of this on, set a goal, and worked all year towards achieving it.” Schindel applauds the students for volunteering their winter breaks “to spend it digging trenches for water pipes, laying concrete foundations in people’s homes, building sanitation stations with access to potable water and waste removal, and teaching children about proper hygiene.”

See an album of students’ photos from the Global Brigades trip.
Nicaragua, students, Global Brigade

A new year always brings thoughts of self-improvement or changing one’s life course, but making life changes are not always as simple as they may seem.

This month, Creative Writing Professor Michele Merlo is making a fresh start in a familiar place. Merlo had a long career as an actor in New York City before she began teaching English at Southern in 2011, and because of her love for the stage, she is now returning to that career, marking a new chapter in her professional life.

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Michele Merlo (Photograph by Julia Gerace)

From January 25 to February 11, Merlo will appear in Schreiber Shorts, this year’s 10-minute play festival – an annual tradition — at the renowned T. Schreiber Studio in New York City. Established in 1969, the T. Schreiber Studio is recognized as one of the foremost professional theater studios in New York City.

Terry Schreiber himself is Merlo’s former acting coach; she was first a student of his over 20 years ago. “The studio has a great history,” Merlo says, adding that Schreiber has been in the business for 45 years.

Merlo, who grew up in New Haven, fell in love with the theater after high school, when she worked in the box office at Long Wharf Theatre. A friend had moved to New York to become an actress and encouraged Merlo to join her and give the stage a try. Merlo found success, and acted professionally in New York for 20 years, in off- and off-off-Broadway theater. Some favorite theater credits include La Ronde, The Miser, Miss Julie, and The Wild Duck. She also appeared on television, in principal roles on NBC’s Another World.

“I love the rehearsal, the process, the frustration, the discoveries” of acting, Merlo says.

Then around 1999, Merlo’s parents back in New Haven became ill. “I came home to look after them,” she says. She moved back to Connecticut, got a job at a New Haven law firm, and decided to pursue her second love – writing and English literature. She earned her B.A. in English at Albertus Magnus College, where she was valedictorian of her graduating class, and then came to Southern for the M.A. in English, with the creative writing concentration. She was accepted to become a graduate teaching assistant under the mentorship of English Professor Will Hochman, for whose guidance she is grateful, and she has been teaching composition and creative writing to Southern undergraduates ever since.

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Michele Merlo and Kevin O’Connor in Moliere’s “The Miser” (Photograph by Joseph Clementi)

Merlo says she took the M.A. program for her own enrichment and “didn’t ever think about teaching, but it presented itself to me,” and she found she loved it. “Teaching is something like acting,” she says: both require preparation and performance. Although she’s very happy teaching English at Southern, she decided over the past two years that her love for the stage had not left her and she wanted to get back into acting.

Although she missed acting “with every bone in [her] body,” she says she was “scared because I knew how hard it would be.”

She called Schreiber – “whom I hadn’t seen in 20 years” – and “he said ‘welcome back,’ like I’d never left.” To prepare herself to audition, she worked with SCSU theatre alumnus Raphael Massie, ‘99, resident artist and curriculum supervisor of Elm Shakespeare Company.

To cast Schreiber Shorts, the studio held three days of auditions for people who had studied there. Merlo auditioned, and a few days later, got a callback. She was thrilled to be cast in the show.

“I’m having so much fun,” she says, admitting that in this new chapter of her life, she’s lucky to have the best of both worlds: acting in New York and continuing to teach at Southern.

For more information about Schreiber Shorts and tickets, visit the T. Schreiber Studio website.