School of Arts and Sciences

Elm Shakespeare Company returns to New Haven’s Edgerton Park this summer with one of the Bard’s less performed plays, Love’s Labour’s Lost. Celebrating its 23rd season, Elm Shakespeare is Southern’s theater company in residence and provides world-class theater, free of charge, to audiences of approximately 30,000 people from throughout greater New Haven and statewide. This year will mark the company directorial debut of Producing Artistic Director Rebecca Goodheart and will also feature the return of Elm Shakespeare Company Founding Artistic Director James Andreassi in the role of Don Armado.

This year’s production will also feature acclaimed professional actors and theater professionals with ties to Southern, including SCSU faculty and sound designer Mike Skinner, Theatre Department Chair Kaia Monroe-Rarick, and lecturer Benjamin Curns. The company also employs a number of current and former Southern students as actors and production staff for the summer, including senior Matt Iannantuoni as company manager and recent graduates Kevin Redline as wardrobe supervisor, Ashley Sweet as second assistant stage manager, and Cailey Harwood Smith as property master. The Love’s Labour’s Lost cast also features several SCSU alumni, including Betzabeth Castro as Katherine (pictured above), Brianna Bauch as Moth, and Gracy Brown as Boyet, as well as senior Sasha Mahmoud as Maria.

The powerful longstanding partnership between Elm Shakespeare and Southern, begun in 1997, became official in 2016 with the signing of an official Memo of Understanding designating Elm Shakespeare as the Theater-in-Residence at Southern. Elm Shakespeare now has offices on campus, offers a variety of its educational programs to youth ages 7-18 at Southern, and is fully integrated into the SCSU Theatre Department activities and facilities.

The 2018 production of Love’s Labour’s Lost is a whimsical jazz-age tale chock full of witty wordplay, music, dance, and riotous mishaps. Love’s Labour’s Lost marks the start of Shakespeare’s most lyrical comedies. With live music before and throughout the performance, Elm’s production promises to be as luscious in language and look as Edgerton Park itself, while posing questions about consent, class, and a woman’s role in the political arena. Love’s Labour’s Lost is a tale of love — for big ideas, for delicious words, and for that special someone. The King of Navarre has sworn to give up the pleasures of the world for serious study and contemplation. But when the Princess of France arrives, exuberant frivolity triumphs over studious drudgery, and the whole town erupts in pursuit of what (and who) they love!

Goodheart says “Love’s Labour’s Lost is indeed a romp and yet it’s also a timely story of what happens when, too enraptured by our own desires, we fail to listen. Love can still win, but there is a price to be paid.”

Summer performances will run Thursday, August 16 through Sunday, September 2, Tuesday-Sunday at 8 p.m. (with live music beginning at 7:30 p.m.) in Edgerton Park in New Haven, located at 75 Cliff Street. The performances will be free to the public with a suggested donation of $20, $10 for students and $5 for children 12 and under. Picnicking prior to the performance is encouraged. Visit the Elm Shakespeare website for more information on cast and production staff bios, play synopsis, directions, news on New Haven food vendors in the park, Tree Talks, and protocol for cancellations due to inclement weather.

Photo: Peter Hvizdak / Hearst Connecticut Media

Dana Casetti, an adjunct faculty member in the Physics Department, was featured on the front page of the New Haven Register (July 15, 2018) for her participation in two global projects in astrophysics. Casetti taught last month in the summer school program at the Vatican Observatory, one of only a handful of astronomy experts selected to teach Ph.D. students, post-doctoral researchers and other outstanding astrophysics students from around the world. She also recently had been part of a team of experts who used NASA’s Hubble Telescope to help provide an answer to an astronomical mystery pertaining to two satellite dwarf galaxies. Astronomers believe that project is providing additional insight into how stars are “born.”

The following is a link to the Register story:

https://www.nhregister.com/news/article/SCSU-adjunct-Yale-researcher-looks-to-the-stars-13076625.php 

A group of students, accompanied by Assistant Professor of French Luke Eilderts and Professor of Art History Camille Serchuk, recently returned from this summer’s International Field Study in Paris, France. Eilderts and Serchuk provided the following account of the students’ experiences. 

Dear Friends of the Southern in Paris Program:

With the close of the program only a few short days ago, Dr. Camille Serchuk and I would like share with you some of the highlights of this year’s trip to the French capital and its region.

We departed New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport on May 31, 2018, shortly after 11 p.m. After picking up baggage and making our way through passport control and customs, Dr. Serchuk, who had departed a few days earlier, met us at arrivals bearing croissants and water to the great excitement of the students. After a short ride on the RER—the regional train system that serves the Paris region—we arrived at our lodging for the month. Built to house students from Belgium and Luxembourg, the Fondation Biermans-Lapôtre also welcomes guests for short stays during the summer months. This is our third time staying with them, and we continue to be impressed with their dedication to the students’ comfort and wellbeing.

That evening we began our culinary tour of the city; we try to introduce students to regional French cuisines and International foods that they might not find at home. Our first meal together was a dinner at the Crêperie Plougastel, a restaurant specializing in the cuisine of the western region of Bretagne (often called “Brittany” in English). Students feasted on savory galettes and sweet crêpes until they could eat no more. Tired from travel, we headed back to our rooms and turned in for the evening.

As a part of their introduction to the city, students familiarized themselves with the neighborhood by visiting the local grocery store, bakery, and banking locations. Since it is vitally important that students become proficient users of the city’s many transportation options, one of the orientation activities included a race to see which three-person group could reach the Louvre the fastest. Not only entertaining, this activity turned out to be a very useful exercise since the transportation workers had announced multiple strikes throughout the month. With this early training in problem solving, students were well prepared to tackle a variety of challenges.

Since we use Paris as our classroom, every day brought a new adventure and a new piece of French art, architecture, history and culture to study. From the remains of the Gallo-Roman Arènes de Lutèce, an amphitheater that could hold up to 15,000 people, to the Centre Pompidou, the modern art museum; from the Basilica of Saint Denis, the first example of Gothic architecture, to the Art Nouveau architecture of the Métro system. While Paris offers a nearly inexhaustible list of objects to study, we also traveled outside the city to important sites such as the castle of Vaux-le-Vicomte, the Palace of Versailles, the medieval town of Provins, and Monet’s gardens at Giverny. With each visit, students were asked to consider several probing questions and/or exercise their linguistic and cultural competencies.

Throughout our stay, Dr. Serchuk and I asked the students to reflect upon their time in France. Here are a few of the impressions they gathered as well as some of the lasting memories they made:

“I think one of the amazing qualities I took away from studying abroad was patience, with myself, others, with the RER B. Paris has stolen my heart, and if I ever have the opportunity to return I will do it in a heart beat.” – Kulsoom Farid

“I have grown through this program tremendously and not just through my school work but as a person. I’m more independent, confident, resourceful and mature and these are just a few things that have changed.” – Lauren DeNomme

“It’s my last day here studying abroad and I’m actually really nervous. It feels strange that I won’t be in Paris anymore. I’m not sure if I’ll get an opportunity like this again. […] I’ve actually considered moving here.” – Joseph Warzel

“One of my goals this trip was to improve my French speaking & use it whenever I could! Since I decided to make my own food every now and then, I’ve met some French speakers in the shared kitchen we have. They’re all so nice and help me with my French if I get stumped. I got invited to attend some events with them on campus & they made sure I was going to be able to attend the floor family dinner & photo op near the end of the month.” – Jessica Hartwell

“We’ve seen many things in France, but my favorite would have to be the Louvre. I loved the gothic chapels as well, but the stories told within their stained glass cannot match the stories told within the endless works of art at the museum. One night, we had class in one display room of the Louvre, and spent a long time analyzing each painting in the [Marie de Médicis] sequence. It was so interesting, I didn’t even feel the discomfort from standing in virtually the same spot for an hour! I look forwards to Louvre classes the most, because there is just so much the museum holds that I know the class material will always be interesting.” – Madelon Morin-Viall

“I cannot thank my two professors enough for their generous effort throughout this trip. Reflecting back, I can see how much time and energy they put into showing us the ins and outs of Paris. I do not know how they do it, but they have created a fantastic program that I am blessed to be a part of not only once, but twice. MERCI BEAUCOUP!!” – Alexandra Takacs

“Though I have only been in Paris for [a short while], I feel at home. The room where I stay I have made my own, I see familiar faces in the hall each day such as my friend Katherine from Luxembourg, and whenever I want, I can hop on the RER (across the street) and take it to whichever place I choose. One thing can be guaranteed- no matter where I go, it will be beautiful and there will be really good food.” – Ally Morin-Viall

“A month seems like a long time but it’s not. Every single day I spend in Paris is precious and I’m not gonna waste a second. The only great thing about coming home after my trip in Paris is I get to brag to all my friends about my new experiences!!!!” – Trevon Homeward-Bennett

Finally, we would like to thank the Office of International Education for all the work that they do before, during, and after the trip.

Thank you for supporting Summer study abroad programs!

Drs. Camille Serchuk and Luke Eilderts
Co-Directors, Southern in Paris 2018

Allegra Itsoga with the children of the village of Koar, to whom Le Korsa provides school supplies

Like most college students after graduation, women’s studies graduate student Allegra Itsoga wasn’t sure what she wanted to do for a career. Her inspiration came from one of her economics professors, who was from Ghana and talked positively about being taught by Peace Corps volunteers. With a B.A. in French and development economics from the University of San Francisco, as well as an interest in Francophone countries, Itsoga’s transition to Peace Corps volunteer made sense. The Peace Corps is a service opportunity for driven innovators to immerse themselves in a community abroad, working side-by-side with locals to address challenges of today.

In 2003, Itsoga, a native of Watertown, Conn., joined the Corps and was sent to Gabon, located in Central Africa, where she spent 27 months living with a host family. During those months she developed and implemented English as a Second Language curriculum for children, ages 11 to 19, and organized and implemented an AIDS Awareness March with 5,000 students, as well as increasing levels of AIDS education and awareness. “Because of my fluency in French, I was able to immerse myself in the culture really well,” Itsoga says. She loved the experience so much, she decided to stay an additional 14 months.

Living abroad for Itsoga was easy; the harder part was coming back to the States. Her time in the Peace Corps ignited her passion for social justice and made her realize that interacting with communities and individuals was a must for her future employment. “After an experience like the Peace Corps, I knew I couldn’t work for a for-profit company,” she says. She found her next opportunity at the Connecticut Public Broadcasting Network, where she started as a customer service representative and worked her way up to events management. Itsoga believed in the mission of public broadcasting, which is dedicated to providing diverse communities with a mix of entertainment programs and services.

After CPBN, Itsoga worked at Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF), which is focused on funding Type I diabetes research. Itsoga’s focus at JDRF was event fundraising with families who had a member with Type I diabetes and were passionate about funding research. Both at CPBN and JDRF, Itsoga enjoyed the development more than the fundraising, but was skilled at both. “It’s all people skills, “ she says. “It’s all identifying the right people and working with them to make them feel passionate about the cause that you’re working for.”

Currently, Itsoga is director of Le Korsa, a nonprofit organization devoted to improving human lives in Senegal, Africa. Korsa translated from Pulaar, a Fula language spoken mainly by the Fula and Toucouleur peoples in the Senegal River valley area, to English means, “love from respect,” and it shows in the work Le Korsa does. Le Korsa is unique because it works directly with the population to determine what the people want, and then designs projects around those wants.

“Most NGOs do a cookie-cutter project and keep repeating it over and over in other areas,” Itsoga says. These fly-by-night organizations might build a hospital and be gone the next day, leaving the population with no knowledge or funding to run such an operation. “Community-centered development is the only development that is sustainable,” she says.

One such project Itsoga led was the Women’s Health Initiative, which resulted in the Keur
Djiguene Yi Women’s Health Center in Dakar, the first free, government-sanctioned women’s health care facility in Senegal. Itsoga thinks of herself as a facilitator; the real heroes, as far as she’s concerned, are the people she’s working with: The doctors that choose to stay in Senegal and work for practically nothing, the teachers that go into these tiny villages and live without power to help children, the farmers who are growing food and then giving it to the community, and the women who are getting together to do outreach.

Itsoga with Dr. Juliette Faye, the director of the Keur Djiguene Yi Women’s Health Center in Dakar

With the creation of the women’s center, Itsoga realized she needed to further her education to learn more about why, precisely, projects like the women’s center are so vital. “I knew I wanted to get my master’s, I just wasn’t sure in what,” she explains. Knowing that Itsoga wanted to pursue women’s studies, a friend of hers recommended Southern’s master’s program, where one of the most highly regarded professors in the field, Yi-Chun Tricia Lin, teaches.

Itsoga joined Southern’s women’s studies graduate program in fall 2017. While it’s challenging balancing work with her master’s program, Itsoga says, “the unique thing about the women’s studies department is that they get what it’s like for working women.” Her work at Le Korsa and the curriculum of her master’s program don’t always intersect, although her most recent thesis, on how the patriarchal funding structure of NGO’s disenfranchises small, women-led organizations, is inspired by her nonprofit work.

Her advice to students considering nonprofit work? Do an internship. “You will get so much more as an intern at a nonprofit than doing an internship at a for-profit because nonprofits need interns to breathe,” she says. “We cannot survive without interns/volunteers. So much more responsibility, more interesting projects.” Itsoga also wants to fight negative stereotypes about nonprofits, explaining, “The stigma about no money in nonprofits isn’t true. You won’t be a millionaire, but you can live comfortably. “Plus,” she adds, “you go to bed feeling like you’ve made a difference. Can’t put a price tag on that.”

Allegra Itsoga

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.

Richard Zipoli, Associate Professor, Communication Disorders, and Chelsea Harry, Associate Professor, Philosophy

The Board of Regents for Higher Education — which governs the 17 Connecticut State Colleges and Universities (CSCU) — has recognized 18 CSCU faculty as recipients of the 2017–18 Board of Regents Teaching, Research, Scholarly Excellence Awards and Adjunct Faculty Teaching Awards. The awards were presented at the Fourth Annual CSCU Conference on Student Success and Shared Governance.

The awards are campus-wide recognitions of excellence in teaching or research, as well as creative and scholarly work by CSCU full-time, junior faculty and part-time faculty members. Six system-wide awards are granted to campus award winners in teaching, research, scholarly excellence and adjunct faculty teaching.

Board of Regents Teaching Awards are presented to faculty from each of the state universities and community colleges. Two system-wide teaching awards are given to faculty who best exemplify high quality teaching, one each from the community colleges and universities. The recipient of this year’s Board of Regents System-Wide Teaching Award for the universities is Dr. Richard Zipoli, Associate Professor of Communication Disorders.

Board of Regents Research Awards are granted to faculty among Central, Eastern, Southern and Western Connecticut State Universities. A single system-wide research award is given to the individual who best exemplifies high quality research among the four universities. This year’s Board of Regents System-Wide Research Award was given to Dr. Chelsea Harry, Associate Professor of Philosophy.

Zipoli has been described by a colleague as “one of the most talented and dedicated teachers in the School of Health and Human Services” — one who never seeks to lower his teaching load, who takes on extra assignments, is a scholar, is always available to students and truly shines in the classroom.

One colleague put it this way: “He reminds me of a talented music conductor in the way he interprets content, delivers that information to his students and inspires them to perform in exceptional ways. He is patient, creative, passionate, and encouraging to students.”

Zipoli’s area of expertise focuses on communication disorders and reading difficulties in school-based settings. He uses technology in creative and effective ways and blends lecture with discussion and other best practices for student learning and engagement.

In addition to his dedication and talent in teaching, Zipoli is a scholar. His area of expertise focuses on communication disorders and reading difficulties in school-based settings.

“During his tenure at our institution he has produced an impressive range of peer-reviewed products that include journal publications, national conference presentations, and regional conference presentations,” a colleague wrote in nominating Zipoli.

Zipoli’s research efforts are never done to garner personal recognition, but rather to produce knowledge that has immediate value for practitioners and children, a colleague wrote.

Zipoli advises student researchers “in the same thoughtful manner that he teaches students in his courses. He displays tremendous humility, takes on a graceful, yet firm supporting role, elevates students and builds their confidence,” the colleague wrote.

Zipoli, in reflecting on the honor of his nomination, wrote first of his love of teaching, calling it “easily . . . the most rewarding of my varied roles within higher education.”

He says that many of his students’ lives have been impacted by a communication disorder involving a sibling on the autism spectrum, or a grandparent with impaired speech and language following a stroke. “Their dedication to serving persons with disabilities has made the long hours of preparation, teaching, clinical supervision, informal advisement, and research mentoring well worth the effort,” he wrote.

Zipoli earned a Ph.D. in educational psychology – special education at the University of Connecticut, and both a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in communication disorders from Southern.

 

Although Chelsea Harry arrived at Southern only five years ago, “she has been a remarkably productive scholar in disparate fields, showing an intellectual rigor and ingenuity that merits recognition,” a colleague wrote.

Harry has one book already, two others under advanced contract, and nine articles that have appeared in books or journals, with a tenth under revision.

But it is the quality of Harry’s work and the prestigious publications in which it has appeared that outshine the impressive quantity, colleagues say.

Her fields of specialization are the philosophy of nature, ancient Greek philosophy, and Post­ Kantian German philosophy.

Harry has already established herself as an internationally recognized leading expert in the field of Aristotelian studies. Her book, Chronos in Aristotle’s Physics: On the Nature of Time, was published by Springer in 2015. The book was selected for a prestigious “Author-Meets-Critics” session at the American Philosophical Association Central Division meeting in Chicago in February.

Harry’s book on non-human animal flourishing has the potential to be a game-changer in her field and “It is easy to see that Dr. Harry’s work will have an impact on the field of philosophy and in the contemporary debate over animal rights,” a colleague wrote.

A second colleague wrote that in five years at Southern, Harry “has demonstrated an exceptionally high level of scholarship that has been recognized both by Southern and her peers in the discipline of Philosophy.”
Her work is already making an impact in her areas of research, and her scholarship has garnered research grants every year she has been at Southern.

In addition, she has been a recipient of the Joan Finn Junior Faculty Research Fellowship, which gave her the time to work on a translation and commentary on the writings of the important German philosopher F. W. J. Schelling.

Harry has become a speaker in demand, and keeps a busy conference schedule, having presented papers at 16 different national and international conferences.

“Last year a paper she authored was accepted into a highly competitive and prestigious workshop in Ancient Philosophy at Humboldt University, Berlin,” one colleague noted. “The pace of her conference presentations and invited talks is hard to match in our department.”

In addition to being successful in receiving grants, Harry is also known as a person who is always supportive of her colleagues’ research in the Philosophy Department and across the institution.

Dr. Harry “contributes immeasurably to the intellectual culture at our institution by organizing colloquia that are attended by students and faculty alike,” a colleague wrote.

She was awarded tenure in August 2017.

Harry received exceptional international recognition when she was an invited and fully funded participant in the 3rd Ancient Philosophy Workshop for Female Graduate Students and Early Career Researchers in 2016, at Humboldt University in Berlin.

Harry holds a Ph.D. in philosophy from Duquesne University; a master’s degree with distinction in comparative philosophy from University of Hawai’i at Manoa; and a bachelor’s degree in philosophy, magna cum laude, from The George Washington University.

 

 

 

Sterling White speaks at the Graduate Student Research and Creative Activity Conference

“It’s all for Lotus,” says Sterling White, referring to his young daughter. White graduates this month with his M.S. in sociology and says his daughter has been his main motivator behind his academic success. Of Lotus, he says, “she is going to have a better life due to my time in grad school.”

White has made the most of his time in graduate school. In addition to his scholarship, he has been an active member of the Southern community, as well as a driving force for students on campus. He wants to help undergraduate students not make the same mistakes he says he made during his college years, and his passion for guiding students to make good decisions is what has informed his work in student affairs. White served as a graduate intern in New Student & Sophomore Programs (NSSP) this year and prevously had worked as a graduate writing tutor in the Academic Success Center. “It was an awesome experience, helping students,” White says, adding that he has increased the scope of his interactions with students over his three years at Southern, and “it’s been a great progression of experience.”

As a NSSP graduate intern, White managed enrollment for orientation and transfer orientation. He also served as adviser to the sophomore class and did some success coaching with students. Cassi Meyerhoffer, assistant professor of sociology, who worked closely with White when he was her graduate assistant, says he made a real contribution to students’ success. “I think Sterling benefited from working closely with students as he clearly has a passion for teaching,” she says. “His work in the student success center was incredibly beneficial for our students—I consistently had students from my classes comment on his help with their writing.”

As a sociologist, White’s research interests include sociology of education; sociological theory; race and ethnicity; urban sociology; gender; and race and class. Yet his involvement in the Southern community characterized his graduate school experience as much as his academic work. Among his significant activities on campus were his roles as president of the Graduate Student Affairs Committee (GSAC), co-chair of the Graduate Student Research and Creative Activity Conference Organizing Committee; chair of the Social Functions Sub-Committee of GSAC, and a member of the Presidential Inauguration Committee, the Newtown Screening Planning Committee, the Provost Search Committee, and the President Inauguration Celebration Committee.

“It’s been phenomenal here,” White says. “I’m so grateful for all the opportunities I’ve had at Southern. GSAC opened a lot of doors to me.” One significant legacy White leaves at the university is the Graduate Student Research and Creative Activity Conference. He and Graduate School Dean Christine Broadbridge came up with the idea of letting students showcase their work, and thus was born the conference, which was held for the second time this spring.

Sterling White with members of the conference organizing committee at the Graduate Student Research and Creative Activity Conference

White gave a number of campus and conference presentations, both on student success and on his research interests. His work with Meyerhoffer resulted in a presentation he gave with her at the 2016 Annual Meeting of the Eastern Sociological Society in 2016: “Colorblind Racism, Social Desirability and Neighborhood Preferences.”

Color-blind racism, he explains, is when people say they don’t see color in others of different races. “They’re ignoring systemic racism,” he says. Meyerhoffer’s and White’s research looks at the idea that people want to live around people who look like them and are like them. That’s not always true, White says. Their research seeks to understand why people live in certain areas.

White’s undergraduate research also explored race: during his senior year at CCSU, his thesis was “African-American Masculinity – A Health Crisis,” which looked at food behaviors within African American men’s households. As an undergraduate at CCSU, White majored in sociology with a minor in psychology. But, he says, he wasn’t always the kind of student he has been at Southern. He played soccer and “came into the university as a student athlete, so I only knew other athletes. I didn’t have a friendship network to support me academically. It’s why I wanted to work with sophomores – I want to help students not make the same mistakes I’ve made.”

In addition to working in NSSP at Southern, White gave a talk entitled “A Tale of Perseverence – Creating Support Systems and Self-Efficacy” at the 2017 Annual Meeting of the Eastern Sociological Society, at a session geared to undergraduates. “I wrote a paper on how I created my own support systems,” White says. “But it also has helped me to believe in myself and believe that I’m able to do graduate work.” He wants to go on to earn a Ph.D. in sociology.

White grew up in Middletown and still lives there with his wife and daughter. “My wife has been awesome in helping support me during my school,” he says. He counts himself lucky to have an amazing family to support him in his academic achievements and goals. “I never thought I’d be doing the things I’ve been doing,” he says.

Jonathan Gonzalez-Cruz is beating the odds. “Graduating college as an undocumented student is the exception — not the norm,” he says.

Statistics verify his words. About 65,000 undocumented students graduate from U.S. high schools every year — and just 5 to 10 percent go on to college, according to the College Board’s 2009 report, Young Lives on Hold. But on May 18, Gonzalez-Cruz will cross the stage of the Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport. Conn., to accept a degree in mathematics and economics from Southern Connecticut State University — with departmental honors in the latter.

Gonzalez-Cruz was born in Mexico City and came to the U.S. with his family when he was 4 years old. Today, the 22-year old is in the U.S. through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. It’s an increasingly precarious position, and as a result, he’s spent his college years juggling — balancing the demands of intensive Honors College courses, two challenging majors, and political activism at the local, state, and federal levels.

He says the undeniable pull toward political activism began the day after Donald Trump was elected president. “I remember that night — realizing that not only my future as an undocumented immigrant was threatened, but also the futures of my brother, my mother, and many of the kids I worked with as a catechism teacher and during summer camps,” he says.

Gonzalez-Cruz [second row, second from right] joins others in support of undocumented students.
Gonzalez-Cruz has felt the anguish of family separation personally. He was only a sophomore in high school when his father was deported to Mexico after a minor traffic stop led to his arrest. He clearly recalls being unable to say goodbye, watching the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) van drive away, and realizing that his father wouldn’t return home.

Despite the heartbreak and turmoil, Gonzalez-Cruz excelled at school, even tackling challenging advanced-placement courses. In 2014, he enrolled at Southern where he was accepted into the competitive Honors College and was awarded a prestigious Presidential Merit Scholarship, which covered full tuition and fees. He immersed himself in the Southern community, mentoring high-achieving, low-income students from New Haven Public Schools through the Gear Up program and serving as an undergraduate teaching assistant.

Then, as threats to DACA became widespread, he made a decision. “I knew there were two pathways in front of me: remain silent and let whatever happens happen, or take an active role fighting for the fate of undocumented immigrants and their families,” he says.

Jonathan Gonzalez-Cruz, ’18, appearing on Fox 61.

Gonzalez-Cruz chose the latter. He joined Connecticut Students for a Dream, an undocumented-youth-led organization. With the group’s help, he led events for undocumented immigrants in the community and also held presentations for educators who worked with this population. Eventually, Gonzalez-Cruz decided to take a more public role, sharing his story with the media to draw attention to the plight of immigrant families. “My involvement centers on immigration because I understand the pain of coming home every night to an empty plate at the dinner table,” he says.

He’s seen numerous triumphs. Lobbying efforts in Washington, D.C., secured the support of U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy, both of Connecticut. In December, he was elected vice president of the Greater New Haven Young Democrats. More recently, the Southern senior helped lobby successfully for passage of a Connecticut bill that allows undocumented students to apply for institutional aid.

“I am so proud that we were able to help get this legislation passed,” says Gonzalez-Cruz, who received the university’s Economics Honors Award in 2017 and 2018. He continues: “As citizens, we should work to make it possible for all students — regardless of their immigration status — to achieve their goals and realize their dreams. When they do, we all win. These students are our future. They are going to change the world.”

Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy signs legislation that allows immigrant students without legal status to be eligible for institutional financial aid at state-run colleges and universities. “I am so proud that we were able to help get this legislation passed,” says Gonzalez-Cruz witnessing the signing, seventh from right.

Gonzalez-Cruz will be among them. He was an immigration law intern with the firm, Krasnogor & Krasnogor, and plans to attend law school — with a goal of working toward immigration reform. In the meantime, he is a top applicant for the highly competitive Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute’s Public Policy Fellowship Program. The final selections will be announced later this spring.

For now, graduation is on the horizon. “It’s not just for me,” he says. “It’s a way to honor my parents and all of the sacrifices they made when they decided to come to the U.S. They gave up their families. They knew they wouldn’t see their mothers, their fathers, their siblings. . . . I can never repay them, but I know this is what they wanted. And I know that none of this would be possible without them.”

Mick Powell is a poet who, she says, “likes revolutionary acts of resistance.” Resistance and revolution can take many forms, and Powell weaves both into her writing through poetic form, language, subject matter, and imagery. “I like that poetry can challenge what we typically think of as poetry,” she says, and indeed her own poems – often provocative and experimental – can push the reader out of familiar territory.

Powell, who graduates this spring with her MFA in creative writing, has just won two major prizes for her work, so her powerful writing is garnering significant attention. Her chapbook, chronicle the body, won the 2017 Chapbook Contest held by Yemassee, the official journal of the University of South Carolina, and her poem “last night I dreamed KJ undead” was a winner in the Winter Writing Contest sponsored by Columbia Journal, based in the Graduate Writing Program at Columbia University School of the Arts. The chapbook is based on the thesis she wrote for the MFA, and the poem she wrote for her friend KJ, who was murdered in the Pulse nightclub massacre in Orlando.

Powell says of her work, “My tendency is to write about bodies and how we use them. Sometimes when we experience violence or hear about it, we forget that both parties are human beings. My call to remember the body is to show that we’re all human.” She shares the stories of people whose stories don’t usually get shared, she says, “sometimes my own stories and sometimes other people’s stories.”

English Professor Vivian Shipley, who was Powell’s thesis adviser, says Powell’s poems are “memorable because they are physical and remind us to think of people who might otherwise be forgotten. What unites her intense and compelling poetry is her knowledge that in spite of the complexity of being human, we cannot allow a world that threatens to drown out song to swallow passion and laughter. Mick Powell’s poems contain a deep understanding of what it is to be human because she has cored them from the heart.”

Like many writers, Powell began writing when she was a child. She grew up in Bridgeport and attended an art high school in Trumbull, where she focused on creative writing, writing mostly fiction while also “dabbling in poetry.” She started a literary magazine at her high school and was the fiction editor. “I definitely thought of myself as a fiction writer then,” she says, but when she went off to college at the University of Connecticut, a poetry survey course she took in her first semester intrigued her. “I became interested in how poets tell stories as opposed to how fiction writers tell stories, “ she says. “Poetry allowed me to explore different forms of narrative.”

With the rise of spoken word and slam poetry, and their accessibility through such online platforms as YouTube, Powell says she became more familiar with these forms. She shifted from writing fiction to writing poetry as an undergrad, but “always knew I wanted to go to grad school. I was especially interested in women’s studies and poetry and found myself wanting to talk about poetry through a women’s studies lens.” She was attracted to Southern because of both the Women’s Studies Program and the MFA program and started at the university in 2016.

Of her prize-winning work, Powell says that the chapbook is a collection of experiences, “a lot dealing with my family, but also asking, how do we navigate in the world, how does the Internet facilitate our interactions with each other? Relationships are very important to me – familial relationships, relationships with ourselves and with the community, as well as love relationships.”

Chapbook judge Aaron Coleman, a poet whose work Powell admires, said of Powell’s collection: “Urgent music and breathtaking self-reflection spill from chronicle the body. …I’m also reminded of all the ways we must work to remember the simple miracle of our bodies, their wounds and healing, in a world that so often refuses to see the body’s – in particular: black women’s bodies’ – trials and complexities. But chronicle the body lives and sings in the midst of our American mess, crafting its own rituals and music. . . Especially in our current moment of unmasking dangerous facades of masculinity, I’m grateful for the brilliant courage we witness here. chronicle the body is a collage of the sacred, mundane, familial, and existential; together, these images, emotions, and stories thrive as one ecstatic whole….chronicle the body’s time has come — as both testament and challenge, this is a book we need.”

As the winner of the chapbook contest, Powell will receive $1000 and 25 copies of her published chapbook. For the Columbia contest, her poem will be published in the journal and she will receive $500.

Currently the dean of students at a social justice high school in New Haven, Powell says that after she graduates she’d like to teach. “I like to talk about poetry, and I like to support people on their journey.”

Read a sampling of Powell’s writing:

“i am thinking of fire forgiveness my mother (and fire)” – published in Apogee, 31 May 2017

Four poems by Mick Powell – published in Crabfat Magazine, April 2018